Star Trek: The Next Generation Season One Blu-ray review
|REVIEWS - BLU-RAY REVIEWS|
The first season of TNG gets a stellar transfer and out-of-this world extras for Blu-ray...
A quick confession before we begin. I was never a huge fan of the original Star Trek series from the sixties, and while I have grown to appreciate it over the years, it never felt like it was mine in the same way that The Next Generation does. The reason for this is because the first season of TNG, which has just materialised on Blu-ray, began while I was in my teens, and I followed it religiously, watching each episode as it was originally transmitted, and then again and again by way of my friend Al's vast VHS collection of the original releases.
That said, my last viewing of a Next Generation episode was a good decade ago, during which time Blu-ray has become an accepted, nay essential, part of any serious television and movie fan's viewing experience, and so when the news originally broke that TNG was to be remastered in glorious high definition it was music to my (not at all pointed) ears. My only reservation was whether they would be able to really do this iconic show justice with their restoration efforts, not because of the cost restraints but due to the quality of the original source material, or whether the best we could hope for was a lovingly upconverted version of the previous DVD releases.
Thankfully, due to a number of factors that we will come to momentarily, I'm happy to report that not only does this Blu-ray release do The Next Generation justice, it positively knocks my wildest hopes and expectations out of the park and halfway to the Gamma Quadrant. You see, not only have the episodes been treated with the highest levels of respect, something reflected in the bold decision to present them in 1.33:1 television aspect ratio rather than the perhaps expected 1.78:1 widescreen aspect (the very logical and ultimately correct reason for which is explained in one of the two new documentaries), they've actually been rebuilt from the ground up using the original 35mm film negative.
"...you could be watching something that was filmed this year, such is the crispness of the visuals on offer...the detail on screen is jaw-dropping to the point that no matter how many times you may have seen these episodes over the last quarter of a century, it's like discovering them for the first time all over again."
Given that the originally-aired episodes were edited on standard definition videotape, this means that for the first time we are actually seeing the shows as they were shot, and the difference in quality and definition will stop you in your tracks more effectively than half a dozen phasers set to stun. Put aside the late eighties hairstyles and occasionally dodgy wardrobe choices (even back then, in which universe did anybody think that the guy in the Starfleet dress looked cool?) and you could be watching something that was filmed this year, such is the crispness of the visuals on offer. From the celestial jellyfish of Encounter At Farpoint to the majesty of the Crystalline Entity, the detail on screen is jaw-dropping to the point that no matter how many times you may have seen these episodes over the last quarter of a century, it's like discovering them for the first time all over again.
I don't propose to discuss the episodes themselves in this review, as anybody who is even slightly tempted by this Blu-ray release will have, I strongly suspect, a more than passing knowledge of the good (Datalore, 11001001), the bad (Angel One, Justice) and the ugly (Code of Honor), but even the weaker first season episodes look fantastic and are worth at least one more chance. If this box set purely comprised the 26 remastered Season One episodes I'd be saying that it's darn near indispensable, but as well as replicating the features that previously appeared on the DVD releases, and including the now legendary eight-minute gag reel in all its fifty-third generation VHS quality, this set boasts two absolutely brilliant new documentaries.
"I'm happy to report that not only does this Blu-ray release do The Next Generation justice, it positively knocks my wildest hopes and expectations out of the park and halfway to the Gamma Quadrant."
The first is a twenty-minute look at the restoration process, called Energized: Taking the Next Generation to the Next Level, and includes interviews with just about everybody involved with the whole process, including artist Max Gabl, lead compositor Eric Bruno and legendary Trek alumni Mike and Denise Okuda, as well as Sarah Paul and Kiki Morri, who managed to source all but 2 seconds of the more than 1100 hours of Season One 35mm film and surely deserve some kind of galactic commendation. There is also footage of the original upconversion attempts, using scenes from The Best of Both Worlds that highlights the vastly superior results that have been achieved by scanning the original negatives for the remastering process.
The second new documentary, a feature length presentation called Stardate Revisited, split into three parts, includes interviews with just about anybody and everybody ever connected with TNG and delivers a surprisingly candid and open history of how the franchise came into being. Highlights of this for me were a new interview with Denise Crosby and a funny and very honest segment with actor Steven Macht, who was actually the initial preferred choice for the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard but who turned it down before the powers that be decided to go with Sir Patrick Stewart (after demanding that he lose the wig that had been provided for him to audition in).
"...possibly one of the greatest television Blu-ray box sets yet released."
These almost two hours of new material are pretty much worth the price of admission to this Blu-ray release on their own, but coupled with the two dozen and two beautifully remastered episodes of Season One and we've got possibly one of the greatest television Blu-ray box sets yet released. Considering TNG has many more episodes vastly superior to the offerings in this debut season, this first collection has set the bar for future releases incredibly high, but having seen the unashamed love for this series from the team involved in this restoration pouring out in the new documentaries, I'm confident that they will continue to clear it. Simply put, this box set is superb enough to make even the most demanding of Trek fans happy, and would quite possibly even make Worf declare himself to be a merry man! Should you buy it? Make it so.
Rating – 5 out of 5 for everything!
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