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Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Next Level(TV) (1987-1992)
The sampler disc will include both parts of the series premiere "Encounter at Farpoint", the Season Three episode "Sins of the Father" and the Season Five episode "The Inner Light".
For more about Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Next Level and the Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Next Level Blu-ray release, see Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Next Level Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 20, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 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, The Next Level Blu-ray Review
Beam aboard a promising sample of things to come.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 20, 2012
To boldly go where no one has gone before.
This will a different sort of review than the usual, for this release is itself a little out of the ordinary. Normally, television shows simply appear on Blu-ray with minimal-to-moderate fanfare, but this is no ordinary television show; just ask any Trekkie. Fans have long requested high definition presentations of Star Trek: The Next Generation as a followup to the hugely successful remastered Blu-ray releases of the original series, but with those requests came realizations that simply porting existing elements to Blu-ray would at best be an exercise in futility. Though originally shot on film, the series' special effects were created on lower-resolution video, suitable for both the standard definition broadcasts of the 1980s and 1990s and lower resolution DVD releases but which would necessitate a costly and timely recreation of said effects suitable for the high definition standards of today. Paramount has listened to requests and performed what can only be a labor of love, undertaking all of the necessary steps in presenting "The Next Generation" on Blu-ray. The result is a trio of episodes -- the debut "Encounter at Farpoint," the third season's "Sins of the Father," and the fifth season's "The Inner Light" -- that have been selected to be the first available for public scrutiny and screening, with all seven complete seasons to follow. Rather than a full review, this will be, like "The Next Level" sampler, a tease of things to come, focusing primarily on the picture and sound quality of the episodes with only brief commentary and episode synopses included.
With the release of "The Next Level," Paramount has taken "The Next Generation" to a place few thought it would ever go, to a continuum that places on trial the old reshaped as the new, presenting a long-buried but much-loved show that yearns to escape its former limitations and display its glory as it was meant to be seen and relish in the great joy and gratitude of Star Trek's favorite series finally remastered and reworked for high definition broadcast. It's only fitting that "Encounter at Farpoint" is amongst three, seeing how its story of transition and discovery, in a way, parallels the series' journey to the wonders afforded to it on high definition from the visual limitations of television and DVD. "Farpoint," the first piece of the "Next Generation" puzzle, is one of the better episodes in a shaky, stride-searching first season, and was a logical starting point and frame of reference to translate to high definition. "The Inner Light" is perhaps the most praised episode within the entire Trek universe, and it comes as no surprise to see it chosen as one of the three. "Sins of the Father," itself a premiere episode, does not disappoint, though fans might rightly wonder why one of the series' more popular action-oriented episodes -- "Q Who," the first part of "The Best of Both Worlds," or "Yesterday's Enterprise" -- did not make the cut, but ultimately, this is a "sampler" at heart and not a "best of" collection. All will arrive in due time, and if this sampler is any indication -- and it is -- fans couldn't have asked for much better. The reworked special effects are marvelous, too, easily one of the top highlights in the package. They have not been re-imagined; they appear authentic to the original elements, with no liberty taken to "enhance" or "reshape" them other than to update them into HD-quality visuals. Fans will be pleased, and that's an understatement. Below are brief synopses for the episodes, followed by what most everyone's been waiting for, a glimpse at the high definition video and audio presentations.
"Encounter at Farpoint"
Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is the captain of the newly-christened U.S.S. Enterprise, the Galaxy Class vessel en route to the mysterious Farpoint station to study its energy-creating powers, a scientific anomaly which the local Bandi people wish to share with the Federation, though they are not a member. Suddenly, a powerful being emerges on the bridge. It calls itself "Q" (John de Lancie) and orders Picard to turn the vessel around and leave what they do not understand alone. Picard refuses, leading Q to briefly demonstrate humanity's inhumane past for which he places Picard on trial. The Captain, flanked by Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner), Lt. Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), and ship's Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), withstand Q's repeated attacks and broker an agreement: allow them to demonstrate humanity's advancements vis-à-vis the Farpoint mission. Q reluctantly accepts, confident in Picard's inability to prove mankind's betterment. With time running low, the crew -- including the newly-boarded Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden), Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), and Lt. LaForge (LeVar Burton) -- must learn the secret of Farpoint and prove man's capabilities or suffer at the hands of the enigmatic, egomaniacal, and seemingly all-powerful Q.
"Sins of the Father"
The Enterprise is taking on a temporary new first officer, a Klingon named Kurn (Tony Todd). He brings with him a strictness and absolute adherence to protocol to which the crew is largely unaccustomed. He treats his human officers with contempt, but handles fellow Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) with kid gloves. The reason: Kurn is actually Worf's brother, and the true purpose behind his visit is to inform Worf of the Klingon Council's decision to posthumously dishonor their family name by naming their father as a traitor who played a part in the Khitomer massacre, an unprovoked Romulan attack that left many Klingons -- including their father -- dead. Worf chooses to defend his family's honor against the charges laid by Duras (Patrick Massett), a family rival and a man currently in high standing in the Klingon political landscape, knowing that a defeat will lead to his execution. Kurn stands with Worf as his Cha'DIch -- or "defender" -- but does not reveal his true bloodline. Worf, with help from his Starfleet friends aboard the Enterprise and with his Captain at his side, must defend his family honor or risk both his life and a delicate peace in the process.
"The Inner Light"
A mysterious object approaches the Enterprise. Suddenly, Captain Picard loses consciousness, collapsing on the bridge. He awakens at his "home" and is called "Kamin." He's cared for by his wife, "Eline." But this isn't the holodeck, a vivid dream, or a memory of anything from his past. This is a very real, very tangible world. He knows nothing of who he is or from where he's come in this new environment, still believing himself to be Captain Jean-Luc Picard. All on this mystery world of "Kataan" assume his foggy memory is but a temporary setback following a bout with a nasty illness. As years pass and Picard finds no signs of his starship in the heavens above, he settles into his new life as Kamin, accepting his fate and building for himself a new life on what he discovers to be an ill planet. Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew races to find a solution to its Captain's condition in the moments following his collapse.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Next Level Blu-ray, Video Quality
This Blu-ray sampler of Star Trek: The Next Generation offers three episodes that nicely display the sort of quality fans can expect from future, full season releases. The opening double bill episode "Encounter at Farpoint" is certainly the weakest of the bunch, as great as it may look. Blacks tend to be a bit murky and yield rather poor shadow detail. Generally, however, colors are stable and handsome; the three-color spectrum of uniforms -- red, light blue, and mustard -- enjoy more balance and authenticity than has ever been seen before in "TNG" home video or broadcast presentations. The neutral, light colors around the ship, including the leather seats on the bridge, also take on a very natural, welcoming shade. Fine detail is strong, but not quite extraordinary. The Worf makeup holds up very well under the scrutiny of high definition; there are no evident seams or signs that Michael Dorn is actually human, not Klingon. Facial detail is only fair, but creases in the leather seats, seams in the bridge's carpeting, and the texture of the uniforms are all nicely presented. The added clarity of the 1080p resolution allows for some sharper information that reveals small details even dedicated viewers might have missed before. For example, the drug dispensers on the 21st century soldiers who appear in the courtroom sequence (the same uniform worn briefly by Q on the Enterprise bridge) in "Farpoint" actually say "Army." Likewise, the restored Enterprise, seen in various exterior shots, sports some obviously green panels. "Farpoint" does retain a light grain structure, in addition to infrequent but obvious white speckles and a few instances of blocking, usually as seen on solid surfaces appearing in shadow.
Shot several years later and when the series had settled into its routine, "Sins of the Father" sees a slight, but noticeable, improvement over "Farpoint." The image is generally more stable and film-like. Grain remains, as do light speckles, but fine detail is a touch more crisp, colors are hair more natural, and clarity far more impressive. Whether in the bright Enterprise sets or the lower-light halls of Qo'noS, the improvements are often clear. It's simply a case of the episode reflecting all the visual goodness of "Farpoint" but with a little more in the way of the sort of results that fans were hoping for, subconsciously, maybe, engendering a renewal of the raw excitement that "Farpoint" had rightly or wrongly diminished, albeit only slightly diminished. This episode also features approximately thirteen seconds of "missing" footage that's presented here from upconverted video. The segment appears at roughly the 30:40 mark -- a scene on the bridge between Riker and Crusher -- and it's almost a good thing it was left in, if only as a brief comparison for just how amazing these episodes now look in high definition. The upconverted material is soft, undefined, and shockingly lacking in detail. Hopefully future season releases will offer more in-depth side-by-side comparisons as supplements, because this is a real eye opener (see screenshot #39 in this review for a look at this scene). Lastly. "The Inner Light" offers much of the same, even through its rather unique stylizations that see it take on an almost dreamlike appearance in its many Kataan-based sequences. Grain is perhaps a hair sharp throughout the episode while speckles are all but absent. This transfer does handles both uniform and set pieces nicely aboard the Enterprise while also revealing Kataan's unique clothes, structures, and natural elements with crisp, high definition ease. In short, these aren't the sort of transfers that make the show look like it was made yesterday -- because it wasn't -- but its handful of nitpicky faults aside, this is nothing short of an amazing revelation.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Next Level Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The good news is that all three episodes sound great. The "bad" news is that these DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack won't blow anyone away. Still, fans will appreciate the vast boost in clarity, spacing, and general immersion Paramount's DTS track provides. The title theme offers up superb clarity that allows listeners to pinpoint some of the finer little details within. It's a borderline revelation, featuring superb crispness and definition, even in the highest of notes. It also heavily engages the surrounds, almost to a fault, but there's no question that this is very much an immersive presentation of the show's hallmark theme music. Likewise, Picard's voiceover narration -- "to boldly go" and such -- is absolutely natural and focused in the center. The show itself comes alive like never before. The heavy, sometimes deep hum of the engines naturally surrounds the listener in most every scene aboard the Enterprise. The bleeps and blips scattered about the bridge enjoy good clarity and precise placement, ditto sliding turbo lift doors, the sum total effect practically transporting the listener to the set. Additional, episode-specific effects range from strong to weak. The chaotic courtroom scene in "Farpoint" features superb ambience and immersion, from a heavily clanking gong to the general din of the nearly violent crowd. Later in "Farpoint," explosions come across as rather shallow and lacking in power. External shots of the ship swooping around the galaxy, however, are quite involved and enjoyable. Dialogue is steady, perhaps a touch shallow in a handful of spots but generally accurate and crisp. Much like the video, things tighten up a bit beyond "Farpoint," though not by leaps and bounds. "The Inner Light," for instance, features wonderful planet ambience that takes full advantage of the 7.1 presentation, surrounding the listener in pleasing daytime and nighttime sound effects. This is certainly not a reference-quality presentation, but it is quite the marked improvement over the DVD soundtracks.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Next Level Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Only three brief "teaser" supplements are included. More will come with season sets.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Next Level Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The wait is mercifully over. For many, anything and everything "Star Trek" will always be the holy grail of home video. It took some doing to get Star Trek: The Next Generation ready for primetime on Blu-ray, but the end results are simply spectacular. The refurbished special effects look great, and are seamless to boot. The picture quality ranges from "very good" to "outstanding," and the 7.1-channel lossless soundtrack is consistently strong. This specific release is, truthfully, really only aimed at the diehards; all three episodes will again be included as the season sets roll out, so buying now only serves to whet the appetite. Recommended for "Trek" completists and the series' most dedicated fans who won't mind a trio of duplicate episodes sitting on the shelf next to the season sets.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Other Seasons
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Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Next Level Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Star Trek: The Next Generation Blu-rays Scheduled for 2012 - September 28, 2011
Startrek.com has announced that CBS and Paramount will give Star Trek: The Next Generation its Blu-ray debut in early 2012. A sampler disc containing three remastered episodes will hit stores in January followed by a Season One set to be released later in the year. ...
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