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Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1(TV) (1987-1988)
Space... The final frontier... These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: To explore strange new worlds... To seek out new life and new civilisations... To boldly go where no one has gone before!
For more about Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1 and the Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1 Blu-ray release, see Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 19, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis
» See full cast & crew
Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1 Blu-ray Review
Boldly going where only three episodes have gone before.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 19, 2012
Welcome to the 24th Century.
"Star Trek: The Next Generation" on Blu-ray may not be the accomplishment of the impossible, but it's certainly an accomplishment of the improbable. Since Blu-ray's inception -- and particularly since the stunning Blu-ray debut of the classic 1960s "Star Trek" -- fans have wondered about and hoped for TNG to make its way to Blu-ray. Talk of time and cost prohibitions in remastering and recreating special effects originally intended for broadcast in standard definition in the 1980s and early 1990s, created on low-res video, dimmed the glimmer of hope that were the original film elements, elements which would allow at least the bulk of the show -- pretty much anything not in some way dependent on a visual effect -- to be relatively easy to bring to Blu-ray. The Original Series was only three seasons long and "the" "Star Trek" to preserve, if one were only going to see one series live on for future high definition formats. TNG might be a fan favorite, but the undertaking would be astronomical to repurpose and recreate all of the visual effects and keep the integrity and original appearance of each episode perfectly intact.
Fortunately, Trekkies are a pretty influential bunch, always with wide-open wallets and eager to consume anything and everything "Trek," including costly season Blu-ray releases. On the other end is Paramount, a studio that seems to understand its Trekkie fans and that puts some effort into supplying what the marketplace demands. Finally, word had it that Paramount was undertaking the unthinkable and making TNG suitable for Blu-ray, ready for high definition, primed to dazzle fans. A three-episode sampler showed not just how great the series looks on Blu-ray and with its special effects reworked for high definition, but what a labor of love it must have been to recreate the necessary elements, to boldly bring to light a remarkable undertaking that has reshaped but in no way sacrificed the integrity of the original TNG episodes, resulting in a series and a Blu-ray release suitable for the next generation of fans and beyond.
It's certainly not the finest season of "The Next Generation," but season one is still home to some fabulous episodes, episodes that both hearken back to classic stylings of the original series but that also blaze a new forward-thinking arc appropriate for a new generation of fans and a fictional Enterprise crew alike. The superficial differences are easy to spot -- the holodeck, insignia communicators, a bigger but sleeker ship -- but at its core this "Trek" remains the same, shinier and more streamlined and maybe even with a better all-around cast of characters than the original triumvirate of Kirk-Spock-McCoy, separated as the obvious key players in the original, with the likes of Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov playing second-fiddle. The same might be said of Picard-Riker-Data, but even through season one audiences are treated to character-specific episodes and deeper character studies that go beyond almost anything found in The Original Series. But it's that same core that really makes "The Next Generation" such a wonderful show. That "Trek" core is comprised of two main elements: Sci-Fi exploration and wonderful cast chemistry. Just as Kirk and Spock and Bones just felt like longtime friends -- one another's friends and the audience's friends, too -- the entire TNG cast demonstrates a sense of family and togetherness that's not just a reflection of Starfleet and the mission of the NCC-1701-D, but also the unique cast camaraderie and the fantastic writing that shapes them all beyond what even a show of this level of scrutiny, this much burden on its shoulders, needed.
Season One obviously introduces most of the main characters and sets them up for future recurring plot lines and arcs, but it's clear the show was still finding its stride, even with all of the important pieces in place. There's the expected mixture of good and bad episodes, episodes that stand out for their storytelling prowess and smarts and those carried by the cast alone. There are episodes that might have worked better later down the line in a more established TNG and those that would just fall flat no matter the circumstance. Season one does find some recurring themes, chiefly Wesley Crusher's intellect and his knack for seeing things and saving the ship, if anyone will give him the time of day in a crisis situation, anyway. Season one also introduces "The Traveler," a character who will ultimately shape Wesley's future beyond any Starfleet classroom or first-hand experience aboard a Galaxy-class starship ever could. Wil Wheaton's performance is unsure and clunky -- it never improves to any drastic extent until he's no longer a regular on the series -- but the character is superb if not lightly cliché. Uneven though the performance may be, Wheaton becomes such a face of "Star Trek" that it's impossible to envision another in the role, or the part lost altogether.
Denise Crosby's Tasha Yar is the other season one highlight character for obvious reasons. A character built on an aggressive back story, a woman shaped by years of hardship and hate but given a soft underbelly and played with an even keeled gentleness matched by firmness and toughness equalled only by Worf makes Yar a character difficult to watch depart, but with the show's unparalleled success in future seasons, one just cannot imagine the character or actress present for more than a good cameo or two down the line, those episodes, in fact, some of the best the series has to offer in later seasons. The series does however miss out with too little of John De Lancie's "Q" character, introduced only minutes into the series and arguably the best villain "Star Trek" has ever seen on the small screen, at least beyond the inimitable Khan. Audiences are treated to a couple of Q episodes in season one -- the critical one will come in season two -- and one can only wonder what might have been were he more of a regular, as an antagonist, eventual protagonist, something in between, or merely a crutch used to enhance some of the lesser episodes. De Lancie's performance is stellar, as good as anybody else on the show or in "Trek" history, an underutilized asset but an asset at least. Lastly, there's the mess of the Chief Engineer role muddling up the works, a surprise to see the series go forward without someone in the "Scotty" part. While LaForge would ultimately settle into the position and settle into it naturally, Season One goes through without an identity at such a critical station, the closest it ever comes being the part-timer "Argyle," a flat character who simply never takes off.
Season One highlight episodes include:
Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Ultimately, the Blu-ray releases of these "Star Trek: The Next Generation" seasons will be defined by their video presentations. Lossless sound aside and any additional content merely added bonuses, the meat of these releases, and the highlighted element, will be the picture quality. Paramount teased audiences with the dazzling sampler disc referenced above, and the good news is that the stunning picture quality carries over to every season one episode. All warts are minor and all of the goodness magnified. This is a resplendent presentation, and with an entire season's worth of content to gaze upon rather than a select trio of episodes to critique, it's clear that Paramount's all-in with these titles, that the sampler disc was no fluke (not that anyone expected it to be), that TNG fans are in for a real treat, that the step up from the DVD releases is ridiculously high. Suddenly, even the worst episodes are worth watching all over again. All of the little details are clear (and in some cases a little too clear and well-defined), and all of the special effects dazzle in high definition. Indeed, as to the latter, this model of the Enterprise has never looked so good. It always appeared darker both inside and outside in Generations, leaving behind the ultra-bright episode stylings for a more toned-down, shadowy look that reinforced mood and hid some of the imperfections that are all-too-evident in some shots on this Blu-ray. The detail is so fine that audiences will catch bad and good alike: seams in carpet, wear and tear on the floor below the view screen, creases in the leather chairs around the bridge, the smooth texture and lines of the wraparound wooden tactical console station, and all sorts of fine little visual nuances around the ship's interior. On the outside, the level of detail on the Enterprise just might take fans' collective breaths away. Never has the ship been so clear, so well defined, so smooth, so even. The deflector array, before an identifiable shape and color but always a bit unstable and wavy around the edges, is now remarkably crisp and smooth, perfectly detailed and precisely colored.
The fun doesn't stop there. Whereas several of the Next Generation movies fared somewhat poorly on Blu-ray, offering smoothed over photography and uninspiring details on characters and uniforms, the first season features just the opposite. Audiences will appreciate the natural complexity of Data's makeup, the perfection of Worf's headpiece, the surprisingly cheap-looking (in HD) LaForge visor, and the facial makeup on the ladies. Natural lines offer a nice texture to faces, and the Starfleet uniforms appear complex and lifelike, so much so that little imperfections, frays, uneven lines, and all sorts of little touches are evident. Colors are fabulous as well. The mustard uniforms in particular appear much more balanced here, the bright red command uniforms are stable, and Wesley's wild clothes -- an orange sweater and the infamous light gray top with the rainbow shoulders -- hold up nicely. The natural, easy-on-the-eyes hues around the bridge look great, and the LCARS readouts offer stable and evenly-colored text and, of course, effortless sharpness. The detail does reveal the relative phoniness of props; close-ups of various consoles and devices disappoint a bit, but likely because they were really only intended to hold up on small low-def TVs, not the scrutiny of Blu-ray. Some planet side shots don't fare quite as well, though the usual collection of matte paintings and fake rocks are easy enough to spot. Grain is less pronounced on away missions as well; "Justice" appears smoother in that regard, but never is fine detailing betrayed. In fact, that world's grasses and structural details impress as much as anything aboard the Enterprise. Every episode is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, preserving the show's original broadcast integrity. The series looks at home in this format, with the film textures and revamped special effects both dazzling even with the black bars appearing on either side of HD displays. On the down side, there are a few lightly soft shots here and there, a touch of banding (evident, for example, along the background in the scene Data first unearths Lore), and a handful of white speckles, an example of the latter coming across LaForge's station on the bridge at the 3:37 mark of "The Last Outpost." Yet those are real nitpicks. Season One looks absolutely fantastic; every fan owes it himself or herself to see just how remarkable this looks. (Note: The episode "We'll Always Have Paris" contains two seconds of SD video unconverted to HD).
Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Fans dazzled by the wonderful video presentation might briefly overlook the audio presentation in the very early goings, but it doesn't take long to recognize the excellence of Paramount's wonderful DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack. This is a very full, even track, one that absolutely places the listener aboard the Enterprise, whether on her bridge, in the engineering section, or elsewhere. The track enjoys the steady, low engine rumble that blends into the environment like a white noise, but it's a crucial detail that truly defines the listening experience. Various bleeps and bloops are expertly placed around the bustling bridge, while the heavier pulsating rhythm of the warp engines in engineering float into the stage with good power and tight bass. Down on planets, light ambience -- whether the sound of vast emptiness on barren worlds or the bustle of a thriving alien city -- nicely penetrates the listening area and does well to place the listening audience into whatever environment each episode may have in store. Music plays with vigor and clarity, a combination that earns the presentation high marks. The opening title theme music is nothing short of a revelation; it's full, absolutely clear and clean, and totally immersive. The back channels carry a good bit of the load; there's no real distinguishing between the front and back, but the total sense of encirclement, combined with the swooshing of the Enterprise zipping from one corner of the stage to the next, proves an exhilarating combination. General music through the episodes enjoys pinpoint accuracy and smoothness. The track plays all of the major sound effects with wonderful precision and clarity. Phaser fire, torpedo launches, the jump to warp speed, and all sorts of episode-specific sound effects -- such as the Enterprise hurtling through space at before unachieved speeds in "Where No One Has Gone Before" -- are precisely placed in the stage and presented with the utmost definition. Hand phasers cut through the stage with regularity. Even the sounds of the holodeck, whether idyllic nature patterns or the bustling recreation of 1940s San Francisco in "The Big Goodbye," enjoy wonderful precision. Needless to say, dialogue is accurate, center-focused, and always intelligible. Don't overlook this soundtrack in favor of the video. This is everything the series' audio presentation should be, and then some.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
First, a note on the packaging. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" comes housed in a basic, no-frills case that packs in six discs in almost the same dimensions as a single-disc Blu-ray release. The slipcover is generic, identical to the case's artwork save for slightly-raised letters and graphics on the front. In other words, it's nothing special, nothing to set the release apart from anything else on the shelf, easy to overlook alongside the thousands of other titles at the store. One would think that for a show of this magnitude, a show of this sort of critical acclaim, historical significance, large fan base, high collectibility, and cost -- not to mention all the hard work that went into remastering it for Blu-ray and the frenzied anticipation for the release -- that Paramount/CBS would have done something a little more special; even the DVD releases came in a fancy-looking open-up box. But it's too late now; it would be more disappointing to change in midstream, for season one to mismatch future releases. Now, uniformity is preferred. It simply seems like a missed opportunity to complete the release.
As for the supplements, this six-disc set energizes fans with a large collection. There's 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 ahead of every episode. These comprise the only "extras" on discs two, three, four, and five. Below is a breakdown of what's included on discs one and six, excluding the episode promos:
Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ultimately, it's just how well it all comes together right off the bat that paved the way for "The Next Generation" to enjoy a seven-year stretch of success. Even if the uniforms would need some tweaking, even if Dr. Crusher would come and go and come again, even if Riker hadn't yet grown in the beard, it's clear early on -- beyond the first handful of episodes which are largely forgettable -- that the series didn't only show promise, but promised greatness. The fantastic writing, cast chemistry, every last little detail comes together for that rare television success, and sustainable success at that. The revamped special effects are wonderful -- the Enterprise looks good enough for feature film duty and, indeed, is as pretty here as it was in Generations -- a real testament to the quality of work, the passion, the need to get this done, and to get it done right. Paramount's done a great job on this set. The picture quality is superb, the audio excellent, and the supplements unbeatable. Trekkies will want to buy it immediately, fans of great Blu-ray and television should buy it quickly, and anyone who's ever wanted to jump into "Star Trek" may as well jump in when the getting's good. I only wish my father were alive to see our favorite episodes looking and sounding like this, and while memories of watching the show with him on the old console television will never fade, this set is like seeing "The Next Generation" again for the first time, and it's so good it's suitable for both remembering the good times and beaming up new memories for and with a new generation of fans yet to be made. The effort is much appreciated, Paramount (and getting to work on "Deep Space Nine" would be too!). "Star Trek: The Next Generation" Season One is a no-brainer for inclusion near the top of 2012's "best of" list and the release earns my highest recommendation.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Other Seasons
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This week, Paramount Home Media Distribution addresses one of the most egregious absences in its Blu-ray catalog; the distributor is releasing Season One of Star Trek: The Next Generation. While die-hard Trekkers often disparage numerous elements from the sci-fi ...
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