July 23, 2012

Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season One

Among the fond memories of my childhood are watching reruns of he original Star Trek series with my father. When it came to movies, music, and television, I was generally left on my own to discover what I liked, but Star Trek was a different story. I may not have the encyclopedic knowledge of the die hards, but that makes my fandom no less valid. When 1987 rolled around and I came to learn that a new series of Star Trek was being developed, I was rightfully excited. Star Trek: The Next Generation was a welcome addition to the television landscape.

While there was definite excitement for new Star Trek, I am sure there was a lot of uncertainty in the project. Sure, the movies had been successful and they were coming off the most successful one (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), but the idea of new Trek wit a completely new cast and knowing what the fan base was like had to force them to entertain some questions. Fortunately, they soldiered forth and the result was a very successful syndicated series that ran for seven seasons and even spawned films and sequels of its own. In some ways it can likely be considered to have surpassed the original series.

It has been a lot of fun revisiting these old episodes. It has been quite some time since I have watched any of them. Sitting there watching Captain Picard and the rest of the crew brings back memories of my younger days when I would eagerly look forward to new episodes each week. I would watch hem with my dad, enjoying every second of it, even the lesser episodes still as something to offer that was different from the rest of television.

Watching these first season episodes now also offers new perspective. This first season was as much a time of discovery for the creative staff as it was for the fans. The episodes generally had good stories, where the issues lay was with the characters. It seemed early on that they were attempting to somewhat replicate the dynamic of the Original Series. Not exactly, of course, but Picard was initially portrayed as a more hard edged fellow with a severe dislike for kids and Data is clearly meant to be a Spock replacement. However, the deeper into the season, and series at large, they started too get a better handle on just who these characters were. It is interesting to go back and watch some of this early development.

Among the early episodes, I think the episode "The Battle" is a stand out. This episode is a good example of the creative team getting a grasp of what this new show was. The story is a Picard-centric and as the alien race known as the Ferengi returning a starship called the Stargazer to Picard. The ship was an early command for our captain. It brings back a lot of memories and then we learn the Ferengi are not doing this to be kind, there is some mind control at play. To see Patrick Stewart's performance as Picard in this episode is intense and a good sign for how good this show was to get.

Seriously, this is a joy of a show to revisit. It is a lot of fun and this new high definition transfer looks pretty spectacular.

The series has now arrived in high definition with the release of the show's first season on Blu-ray. It is making the most of its arrival, coming packed with featurettes, documentaries, and vintage promos and commercials. On top of that, the episodes have gone back to the original 35mm elements and been put through a remastering process, and the result looks really after good. The episodes all sport much improved colors and contrast, skin tones are accurate, and all of the effects shots appear much sharper, better defined, and are much more pleasing to watch on the screen. It should also be noted that the original ratio of 1.33:1 is maintained, there was no attempt to force it into a widescreen frame.

The image is not all great, there are a few moments where grain/noise is pretty evident, but nothing to really take away from the good remastering work. I noticed in some of the doorways and hallways as the characters walk through them. I did not experience any appreciable issues during the main sequences on the bridge and such. This is a minor nit as this is by far the best the series has ever looked.

This positivity goes for the sound as well. Each episode has been remastered with a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. They sound quite good. They are not the most active surround tracks, but he upgrade in sound quality is noticeable. The score and effects seem to have been enhanced and the dialogue sounds nice and crisp. Also included are the original Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo tracks.

So far as the extras go, the are primarily limited to the fist and last disk. With that said, their are episode promos on each disk. When you go to select an episode, you will be able to go straight to the show or you can watch the promo that went with it (the "Next time on..." bit).

Disk one has a 23-minute featurette on the remastering process. It is pretty fascinating to see how they went back to the original film and scanned them to get all the available resolution and the work and effort that went onto finding all of the necessary elements, piecing it all back together, and filling in the holes where things were missing while never losing sight of the integrity of the show.

On disk six the first section of material is titled Stardate Revisited: the Origin of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This section is broken into four segments. The first segment is called Inception and covers the series announcement and its early development and is told through vintage video interviews with a variety of people including Gene Roddenberry. The second part is called Launch. This part has old test footage and some outtakes from the set along with new interviews with cast members, including Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes. It is rather interesting to listen to these cast members talk about their early thoughts and experiences. The third section is called The Continuing Mission and talks about the production of the series. The final bit is a gag reel, these are always fun to have.

The second section of featurettes is the Mission Logs. This collection of featurettes takes further looks into the fist season of the series. We get plenty of behind the scenes footage and vintage interviews of he show being shot and discussions of the characters. It is all pretty interesting to see this old footage.

Bottomline. The show has made a nice transition to high definition and it arrives in a very nice package that is a definite upgrade over previous incarnations. If you are a fan, you need this set.


Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season One on Blogcritics.

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