Star Trek: Picard — Season 3

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Sci-Fi;
$39.99 DVD, $43.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Patrick Stewart, Jeri Ryan, Michelle Hurd, Ed Speleers, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Todd Stashwick, Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut, Michael Dorn, Amanda Plummer, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Mica Burton.

This is the season “Star Trek” fans have been waiting decades to see — a return to form for a franchise that hasn’t been operating at its optimum potential for far too long.

The 1990s was a bit of a golden age for “Star Trek.” The decade began with the final adventures of the crew of the original series, and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” becoming one of the most popular shows on television. With Rick Berman taking over primary production duties from franchise creator Gene Roddenberry, who died in 1991, spinoffs such as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager” continued the franchise on television while the “TNG” cast moved onto the big screen.

With the turn of the century, however, the Berman era of the franchise had trouble maintaining its momentum, and prequel series “Enterprise” was canceled just as it was establishing its identity.

J.J. Abrams’ reboot movies briefly sparked some renewed interest in the franchise, but it and later series such as “Star Trek: Discovery” didn’t seem to resonate with longtime fans.

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The third season of “Picard” plays like a mix between an eighth season and a fifth movie for the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” crew, the majority of which were mostly absent from the “Picard” series for its first two seasons as star Patrick Stewart wanted to veer away from the series being a “TNG” retread.

The main change from a creative standpoint is that the season was overseen by executive producer Terry Matalas, a veteran of the later years of the Berman era, providing a link to that classic run that had heretofore been lacking.

The season reunites the cast of “TNG” for a 10-episode arc that connects story threads dating back 30 years from several of the shows and movies. It also brings in a variety of guest stars to wrap up a few more dangling plot threads in a satisfying way that both plays to the strengths of the performers and propels the primary story. Matalas also introduces a few new characters that are memorable and effective in all the ways that most of the characters introduced for the first two seasons were not.

For viewers not keen on sitting through the lackluster first two seasons to get to this one, the third season mostly stands on its own (aside from being primarily a sequel to the Berman era), while still picking up on the most relevant developments from the series’ first 20 episodes (mostly, that the aging Picard transferred his consciousness into a synthetic body, and that an alternate reality offshoot of longtime nemesis The Borg arrived to make peace with the Federation).

The season features a healthy dose of the good kind of nostalgia, building toward a climax that rekindles the feeling of being immersed in peak 1990s “Star Trek” while giving the “TNG” crew the sendoff they never really got before.

This is a story about the dichotomy between experience and youth that works much in the same way that made Top Gun: Maverick so effective, and even parallels that film’s appeal to sentimentality in a way that should leave older fans both excited and misty eyed.

The music also is terrific, a melodic love letter to the thematic history of “Star Trek,” with numerous homages to the works of franchise stalwarts Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner and other composers.

The Blu-ray offers some great extras, but also some baffling choices. The episodes are presented with the “previously on” recaps of previous episodes. And a brief shot of the Enterprise-D at the beginning of the finale episode is an alternate visual effect; a more-elaborate visual effects shot appears on the streaming version. The shot that appears on the disc was used briefly in the streaming version in Europe before being changed to match the U.S. version, which leads one to wonder how it made it to disc if it wasn’t an outright quality control mistake.

Extras on the Blu-ray include some fun audio commentaries on select episodes; a Q&A panel with the cast and production team from an Imax screening of the finale; the insightful “The Making of the Last Generation,” “The Gang’s All Here,” “Rebuilding the Enterprise-D” and “Villainous Vadic” featurettes; some good deleted scenes on a handful of episodes; and a gag reel.

Originally published as a streaming review May 1, 2023.

Horror Films ‘Satan’s Little Helper’ and ‘The Kindred’ Headed to Blu-ray Oct. 25 From Synapse and MVD

The horror films Satan’s Little Helper (2004) and The Kindred (1987) are available on Blu-ray Disc Oct. 25 from MVD Entertainment Group and Synapse Films.

In Satan’s Little Helper, 9-year-old Douglas Whooly (Alexander Brickel, Palindromes) is obsessed with the handheld video game Satan’s Little Helper, and annoyed that the attention of his big sister Jenna (Katheryn Winnick, TV’s “Vikings” and “Big Sky”) is being distracted by her new boyfriend Alex (Stephen Graham). These two concerns collide on Halloween, when Douglas witnesses a serial killer in a devil mask (Joshua Annex) posing his victims like outdoor All Hallow’s Eve displays. Not comprehending how real the carnage is, Douglas becomes this Satan’s little helper — and that’s very bad news for Alex, for his mom Merrill (Amanda Plummer, Pulp Fiction, Netflix’s “Ratched”), and ultimately for their entire town. Satan’s Little Helper, written and directed by Jeff Lieberman (Squirm, Blue Sunshine, Just Before Dawn), combines grisly killings with savage humor and satirizes the way video games can seize hold of young minds. Bonus features include audio commentary from director Jeff Lieberman; a vintage behind-the-scenes featurette; “The Devil and the Details: Making Satan’s Little Helper“; “Mister Satan’s Neighborhood,” a tour of the filming locations with Lieberman; and the promotional trailer.

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Academy Award-winning screen legends Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night, Duck, You Sucker) and Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire, Planet of the Apes) star in The Kindred, a tale of a genetic experiment gone wrong. Hunter is Dr. Amanda Hollins, a molecular scientist who calls on her son John (David Allen Brooks) to eliminate all evidence of her genetic experiments — most specifically her “Anthony Journals.” Dr. Philip Lloyd (Steiger), an acquaintance of Hollins who is familiar with her experiments, wants to continue her studies no matter the cost. John heads to his isolated childhood home with a group of friends to uncover his mother’s research and destroy it all. There’s something else in the house, however, something watching and waiting — a tentacled creature born from the desire to alter human evolution. A 1980s “creature feature” utilizing all practical special effects, The Kindred also stars Amanda Pays (TV’s “The Flash,” “Leviathan”) and Talia Balsam (TV’s “Mad Men,” “Homeland”). The release features a new 4K high-definition remaster of the unrated version of the film and a new 5.1 English stereo surround remix (original 2.0 mono theatrical mix also included). Bonus features include audio commentary with directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter, moderated by horror journalist Steve Barton; the new 52 minute documentary “Inhuman Experiments — The Making of The Kindred“; a compilation of creature effects artist Michael McCracken Jr.’s never-before-seen on-set footage (18 minutes); a still gallery and original storyboards; the original theatrical trailer; an original video promotional trailer; and TV spots.