Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 1

STUDIO: CBS/Paramount | CREATOR: Gene Roddenbery | CAST: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton
BLU-RAY RELEASE DATE: 7/24/2012 | PRICE: Blu-ray $129.99
BONUSES: documentaries, featurettes, promos, gag reel, more
SPECS: NR | 20 hrs. | Science fiction | 1.33:1 fullscreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 | English, French, Spanish, Danish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Content | Audio | Video | Overall

It’s hard to believe it’s been a quarter century since “Encounter at Farpoint,” written by Gene Roddenberry, was broadcast and it launched a new generation of Star Trek (and the now-defunct UPN television network, to boot). As was the case with the original science fiction TV series when it arrived on Blu-ray in 2009, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 1 received a meticulous restoration in order to take full advantage of the high definition format. And despite the fact the new Trek came some 20 years after Kirk and company made their debut, TNG‘s original film elements were no less in need of attention. A straight standard-to-high-def up-conversion yielded lackluster results.

Star Trek: The Next GenerationSo CBS Video personnel searched through 2,500 cartons and pored over 30-50,000 reels of film to find each of the 50-70 film elements comprising each episode, then re-scanned each element as though starting from scratch. Certain effects had to be entirely recreated. Trek gurus Michael and Denise Okuda, scenic art supervisors for the series and the “eyes and ears of the fans,” oversaw the entire process to help ensure the content remained faithful to what originally aired. The painstakingly achieved results are all clear on the screen, as the colors, detail and resolution are quite breathtaking, far exceeding what fans saw on television and the DVD release of the series. There’s eye candy to be found in each of Season 1’s 25 episodes. That’s not even mentioning the new 7.1 DTS track, a dramatic improvement over the original analog stereo mix.

Extras are strewn across all six discs of the set, but the highlight is a three-part, 96-minute retrospective on the concept and launch of the series that includes recent interviews with almost everyone remotely involved in the series. The casting, production design, sets, music, budgetary concerns and challenge of resurrecting the franchise for television are all covered, much of the information coming from executive producer Rick Berman and Gene Roddenberry’s son, Rod. There are also vintage featurettes on the production and, in the great Trek tradition, a blooper reel (which also serves to illustrate the vast difference in quality before and after the restoration). Every episode is also accompanied by a promotional spot. Disc 1 includes a 23-minute documentary on the restoration process.

During its seven seasons, Star Trek: The Next Generation became a beloved and faithful part of the Trek canon, overshadowing the original series for many. This Blu-ray set, and those to follow, will prove to be an eye-opening experience for those fans.

 

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About Gary

Gary Frisch has been contributing laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray reviews to Video Business magazine, Home Theater Magazine, Home Theater Buyer’s Guide, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater and the DVD Guide for more than 14 years. He still has a collection of more than 40 laserdiscs, along with a working auto-reverse LD player, but thinks Blu-ray is da bomb and anxiously awaits the original Star Wars trilogy so he can buy it for the fifth time.