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19 Things We Learned from the ‘Best of Both Worlds’ Commentary

By  · Published on May 2nd, 2013


With Star Trek into Darkness looming only a couple weeks away, Paramount is unleashing a load of Star Trek discs onto the market. Some of them – like all of the films – have seen high definition before with previous Blu-ray releases. However, the more impressive assortment of choices come from the newly remastered television series. Season Three of Star Trek: The Next Generation is the latest year to get that treatment. However, that season ends in one of the biggest cliffhangers in television history, and that can be frustrating.

To offset any ill will, the two-part season finale and season premiere “The Best of Both Worlds” is also available packaged as a single movie. The remastered version of these two episodes also comes with a commentary track, giving some insight into one of the most popular episodes of the series.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds (1990)

Commentators: Cliff Bole (director), Elizabeth Dennehy (actor, Lt. Commander Shelby), Mike & Denise Okuda (consultants)

1. During the lunch break while shooting the opening scene on the planet’s surface, Gene Roddenberry visited the set and took a picture with the full crew. This was the last picture he took with the full crew of a Star Trek production.

2. George Murdock, who plays Admiral Hanson, previous had played “God” in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

3. Director Cliff Bole previous had worked on the series TJ Hooker, which starred William Shatner. However, the subject of Star Trek was never brought up to Shatner on that show. Later, Elizabeth Dennehy would later work with Scott Bakula, who played Captain Jonathan Archer on Enterprise.

4. The ships on the wall of the observation lounge were all the ships that carried the name “Enterprise,” including a Naval aircraft carrier and all the previous starships. The ships on the wall of the set later were replaced with other replicas because reportedly a producer walked off with them.

5. The letters on the buttons on the consoles in the bridge are initials of people in the production crew.

6. When the Enterprise is hit during battle, the camera and the actors shake to give the illusion of the ship being struck. The production had experimented by actually shaking the set, but when the footage was compared to just the camera and actors shaking, there was not a noticeable difference, so the cheaper option was used.

7. The interior of the Borg ship was expanded from what was seen in previous episodes. However, it was still a limited set. Because the Borg technology has a symmetry to it, Bole shot in one direction and only re-lit the shots differently to make the set look larger than it really was. Additionally, there were fewer than ten actors playing the Borg, but since they all looked essentially the same, he re-used many of them over and over again to make it appear to be many more.

8. Gates McFadden, who plays Dr. Beverly Crusher, often petitioned writers and producers to let her fire a phaser. She finally managed to do that near the end of the cliffhanger episode.

9. During the production, a studio executive who was unfamiliar with Star Trek reminded the cast and crew to “use blanks” when firing the phasers.

10. This was the first time Star Trek did a cliffhanger for a season finale.

11. Near the end of the second episode, Dennehy has a line that says, “Jupiter Outpost 92 reported visual contact.” In order to prevent scripts from being leaked, each person’s script had a different number for the Jupiter Outpost, which could be traced back to them.

12. As an experiment, Bole and Rick Stembach wrote a fake scene for the season four premiere which starts with Picard in the shower surprised when Q (John de Lancie) appears. They “accidentally” left the scene lying around the art department for a few days. Relatively quickly, the scene was leaked on sci-fi online bulletin boards and CompuServe (which was the equivalent of sites like this back in 1990).

13. The hand-held scanner the Borg use on Picard (Patrick Stewart) before he receives his Borg implants is a recreation of the oscillation overthruster prop from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension. It appears in various places throughout the Star Trek series and films.

14. Wolf 359, where the Federation armada is decimated by the Borg, is an actual star that is relatively close to Earth.

15. One of the ships destroyed at Wolf 359 was to be named the Chekov, but the name was changed to the Tolstoy at the last minute to not seem so self-referential.

16. Several set pieces in the lab where Data (Brent Spiner) interfaces with Locutus came from the failed series Star Trek: Phase Two, which was meant to chronicle Captain Kirk’s second five-year mission.

17. The model of the planet Mars used in this episode was originally made for the PBS series Cosmos.

18. The alien race known as the Bolians was named after director Cliff Bole.

19. The episode that immediately follows “The Best of Both Worlds” was “Family,” which dealt with the emotional and psychological repercussions on Picard after his experience with the Borg. Writer and producer Michael Piller wanted more time to work on this script, so several episodes were filmed before “Family” in order to put a finalized script into production.

Best in Commentary

Final Thoughts

“The Best of Both Worlds” (the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, not the Hannah Montana concert film) is widely considered to be one of the best episodes of television history. Even today, it holds up, and it will always hold a special place in the heart of any Star Trek fan.

The commentary, while entertaining and informative at times, would have be helped along with some bigger, more recognizable names in it. The Okudas are knowledgeable enough, though Bole is a bit dull in his delivery. Dennehy is not afraid to speak up, almost to a fault. Early on, she takes control of the commentary and drives discussion. This works at times, but considering that her character Lt. Commander Shelby was a dayplayer for this two-part episode, in essence making her a supporting character, it draws the focus off the bigger elements of the show.

Still, this is worth a listen to for a fan of The Next Generation. The casual viewer won’t get much out of it, though.

Check out more commentary commentary in the Commentary Commentary archives

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