Premièred by Visual & Audio Communications Incorporated Star Trek: the Next Generation - the Best of Both Worlds Written by Michael Piller
Originally released as the season three finale and season four première, Star Trek: the Next Generation – the Best of Both Worlds was re-released cinematically as a feature-length single episode. Often considered the best two episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation, The Best of Both Worlds featured the most famous cliffhanger of Star Trek history (and the first for Star Trek: the Next Generation), and the first to end a season – in-which Captain Picard is assimilated by the Borg, designated their leader, “Locutus”, and declares war on Humanity. Now promoted to Captain, Riker commands Lt. Worf to “fire” on the Borg. We cut to the famous blue text of the Star Trek: the Next Generation logo, which declares that the episode is “TO BE CONTINUED…“.
The cliffhanger was imagined by writer Piller, who need a strong ending for an episode with the Borg that would invite the audience back to watch the next season. Other writers had been sceptical to write Borg episodes due to their lack of personality, but that’s what appealed to Piller on the basis of character being what Star Trek: the Next Generation is all about. The idea of a spokesperson for them was regularly suggested, but it was Piller who decided Picard should be assimilated, leading to the cliffhanger ending. Picard’s fate also meant that Riker became the protagonist, with the Human character drama now revolving around whether he should replace Picard or leave. The character of Cmd. Shelby was brought-in to challenge Riker by being a second potential replacement for Picard. Riker had regularly declined command opportunities previously, and this also allowed Piller to investigate his true motivations, and whether he really is fit to be captain. The way his character development was written came to resemble Piller’s own indecision over whether to renew his one year writing contract. Preferring emotional exposition than science fiction dialogue, this was a large contributor in the decision Piller eventually made, which was to stay and write part two for season four. And the result was a cliffhanger that became famous not just within the Star Trek franchise, but within popular culture. Writer Ronald D. Moore claims that this was the moment the public considered Star Trek: the Next Generation a legitimate series, rather than an imitator of “the Original Series”, especially since average ratings were increasing. So much so, that there was talk of Patrick Stewart ending his contract, and Picard being killed-off, to be replaced with Riker and Shelby. This was the largest contributing factor to part two’s high-ratings. To keep the resolution secret, a fake teleplay was written, which was then leaked, revealing that Picard’s Borg assimilation had been a prank by the Q Continuum, known for its tendency to do such things. The true plot of part two hadn’t been considered by Piller, who wanted to make sure his contract was renewed before thinking about it. As such, part one’s cliffhanger was written without any plans as to how it would be solved. Even when writing it, Piller struggled for a while to find a solution his the seemingly unsolvable cliffhanger, which eventually came to him as being that the Borg’s collective strength is also their weakness. This is why Councillor Troi determines that Picard’s fighting-through his Borg programming. That said, despite Picard being liberated from the Borg, Piller admits to feeling part two being a let-down from the build-up of part one:
If you look at it as a two hour movie, it’s really quite effective. As an episode by itself, I don’t think Part Two really has a lot of character stuff.
Staff writer Rick Berman said:
It was a lot of fun to be able to stretch the format and do something that was two hours as opposed to one.
This two-part episode fared well with critics, and currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 7M Pictures’ Kevin Carr said:
One of the biggest disappointments one might come by while watching this season on Blu-ray is that it famously ends with a cliffhanger episode. While the Blu-ray set will leave you hanging, Paramount has also released a stand-alone Blu-ray of “The Best of Both Worlds” two-part episode. The season three finale is edited seamlessly with the season four premiere to make a 90-minute movie. It’s nice to watch that story in that manner, allowing the viewer to find a sense of closure on one of the greatest cliffhangers in television history.
Groucho Reviews’ Peter Canvese said:
The novelty of being able to watch this classic [Star] Trek story without interruption, and the exclusive extras, make this an enticing proposition for Trekkers.
And it’s true. These two episodes do work together, but separately there’s a disconnect between them that’s too obvious for it seem like a real story. But that cliffhanger is still the show’s most powerful moment, because it shows how easily someone can fall from honour.