Blu-ray Review: Star Trek – The Next Generation, Season One
Paramount Pictures and CBS Home Entertainment deserve major kudos for showing true respect to a beloved television franchise. First, they did a major restoration on all three seasons of Star Trek: The Original Series. By cleaning up the film, and recreating the visual effects where necessary, the studio brought the series not only to an established fan base, but to those who would finally discover the Star Trek phenomenon, because of their interest in HD quality home entertainment.
In bringing seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation to Blu-ray, Paramount announced that they would completely remaster the original film elements; redoing the special effects where necessary to make them look better for high definition viewing. All the hard work and expense has resulted in episodes that look and sound better than one could have ever imagined.
It’s hard to believe now, but when Star Trek: The Next Generation was launched in 1987; few believed it would be a success. Even Gene Rodenberry, the man who created the original Star Trek and launched TNG, didn’t seem overly confident about the new series’ prospects. Heck, Patrick Stewart took on the role of Jean-Luc Picard, believing that the show wouldn’t last a full season. Having run for seven seasons and spawned four films, it’s safe to say that TNG turned out to be a big success.
Most fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation will likely agree that the first season isn’t the series strongest. The series was still struggling to find a tone, and the actors didn’t always seem comfortable as their characters. Even so, the first season still manages to provide some great episodes, episodes that are reminiscent of the original series, but also allowed TNG to carve out its own identity, appropriate for a new generation of fans.
Season One introduces most of the main characters, and setting them up for future plotlines and story arcs. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is the firm, but even handed Captain of the ship; Commander William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is the captain’s right-hand man; Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) wears an odd looking device over his eyes that allows him to see as he helps run the ship’s physical operations; Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) is an Android who possesses the thinking ability of a computer, but is programmed to act human; Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn) is a Klingon officer who struggles with the customs of being a warrior versus the comparatively calm personality of humans; Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is half-Betazoid and has psychic powers which help her sense disturbances and the general well-being of the crew; widow Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) the ship’s doctor, has a young son named Wesley (Wil Wheaton) who is much smarter than anyone on the ship wants to believe.
Written by Gene Rodenberry, the series pilot “Encounter at Farpoint,” does a fine job of introducing the main characters, and the impressive Galaxy Class vessel with many modern improvements. If you can overlook the stiffness of some of the actors—in the special features Marina Sirtis admits to being nervous, saying her screen tests are regularly better than her performances—this two parter is still solidly entertaining.
While there are certainly a handful of clunkers to be found during TNG’s inaugural 25-episode season, every fan is bound to have some favorites. I haven’t seen TNG since it originally aired, and the episodes I remembered most were “The Naked Now,” which explores sex in space, as the crew is exposed to a communicable containment that causes them to feel drunk. Episodes like “The Battle” and “Heart of Glory” are what great science fiction storytelling is all about.
Encounter at Farpoint (Parts 1 and 2)
The Naked Now
Code of Honor
The Last Outpost
Where No one Has Gone Before
Lonely Among Us
Hide and Q
The Big Goodbye
Too Short a Season
When the Bough Breaks
Coming of Age
Heart of Glory
The Arsenal of Freedom
Skin of Evil
We’ll Always Have Paris
The Neutral Zone
Restoring this season was a huge undertaking. All I can say is, some amazing work was done here. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the difference between the DVD release and this is night and day. Detail is simply stunning, colors are bright and bold. Fans will notice small details they’ve never seen before. There’s a nice, natural film grain, solid black levels, and crisp texture throughout. TNG looks like it was filmed six months ago, not 1987.
Each episode features a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix; the added punch sharpens music cues and sound effects, but it also creates a pleasing ambiance for scenes inside the ship as well. Dialogue is crisp and clear, LFE is notable at times and the score never fights for attention. The original 2.0 Stereo mixes are included, but they’re presented in lossy Dolby Digital instead of DTS-HD Master Audio.
Optional DD 2.0 dubs are provided in German, Spanish, French and Japanese. Optional subtitles are provided in English (SDH), German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.
The six disc set includes new material specific to the Blu-ray as well as recycled archival content from previous DVD releases. Additionally, thirty-two second episode previews are optionally available before each episode. Those episodic promos are the only things available on all discs. The rest of the special features are on discs one and six.
- Energized! Taking the Next Generation to the Next Level (1080p, 23:46): Star Trek experts Michael and Denise Okuda, Producer Rick Berman, Eugene Roddenberry, VFX Coordinator Sarah Paul, and others discuss the process of transfering the show to high definition. Audiences are shown the Pennsylvania storehouse where the original film elements are located, taken behind the scenes and into the process of reviving the original film elements, and shown the process of recreating visual effects.
- Introduction to the Series (1987) (480p, 2:45, archival): An introduction to the new Enterprise and her crew.
- Promo #1 (480p, 1:36, archival): See Introduction to the Series (1987).
- Promo #2 (480p, 0:36, archival) See Introduction to the Series (1987).
- Promo #3 (480p, 0:37, archival) See Introduction to the Series (1987)..
- Season One Promo (480p, 4:07, archival): Revisiting season one, with clips from various episodes.
- Stardate Revisited: The Origin of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Part 1: Inception (1080p, 28:09): A combination of new high definition footage with standard definition video segments from the series’ inception. This piece covers a wide variety of topics, beginning with the process of convincing Gene Roddenberry to revitalize Star Trek. Inception examines the process of developing the series and ideas for it, including Enterprise and prop design, character development, and casting Patrick Stewart over Stephen Macht for the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, etc. Interviewees include Rick Berman David Gerrold, D.C. Fontana, Andrew Probert, John Dwyer, Michael and Denise Okuda, and Herman Zimmerman.
- Stardate Revisited: The Origin of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Part 2: Launch (1080p, 32:13): Actors Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, Michael Dorn, Denise Crosby, and Marina Sirtis assemble to recall their auditions for the show’s lead roles. Among the topics discussed: Worf’s expanded role, the pronunciation of “Data” and the evolution of the Data makeup, the role reversals for Sirtis and Crosby, Sirtis’ costumes and makeup, and Geordi’s visor.
- Stardate Revisited: The Origin of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Part 3: The Continuing Mission (1080p, 32:42): This third segment opens with a look at the efforts to create the most seamless set design and model work possible. It examines cast chemistry and positive fan reaction to the series. Also discussed are the conflict in the writers’ room, Roddenberry’s contributions to the scripts, and Denise Crosby’s decision to leave show. To be continued on the season two Blu-ray release…
- Gag Reel (480p, 8:10).
- The Beginning (480p, 18:01, archival): A retrospective overview piece that examines the process of getting the new series off the ground, the series’ themes that remain then and now, production design, model work and visual effects, developing the pilot episode, casting, and Roddenberry’s vision for the future.
- Selected Crew Analysis (480p, 15:18, archival): The process of casting the primary roles, character arcs and traits, character physical alterations, and cast amity.
- The Making of a Legend (480p, 15:27, archival): A look at set and ship design, special effects construction, Michael Okuda’s contributions to set design, prop construction (including Geordi’s visor), makeup application, and the series’ music.
- Memorable Missions (480p, 17:04, archival): Cast and crew discuss some of the season’s episodes and their memories of working on them.