Star Trek: The Next Generation is 25 years old this year and the legacy that endures for the show is remarkable considering that most people working on the show didn’t think that it would make it past the first season. Launched in 1987 under the stewardship of Gene Roddenberry, everyone thought it was crazy to try and sell a new crew and a new Enterprise to a skeptical audience who were still in love with Kirk & Co. Patrick Stewart lived out of a suitcase during the filming of the first season because even he thought it would only be a short term acting gig. In fact it went on to spawn a further six seasons and four feature films and is now many fans favorite series out of the whole Star Trek franchise.
We got a taste of the what Paramount had in store for The Next Generation when they released the three episode blu-ray teaser set last year. The love and attention given to each episode was abundantly clear on the teaser set, and it’s here in bucket loads on the 26 episodes that make up the first season blu-ray box set. Don’t think that this is your usual up-conversion from standard def to high def, each episode has been painstakingly reconstructed scene by scene from the original 35mm film negatives, and the result is mind blowing.
The first thing to strike you hard in the face will be the level of detail. I have seen every episode more times than I can remember and I was spotting things Ive never seen before. For example, I never noticed that you can see people moving around in the conference room as the Enterprise flies past the camera in the opening credits, in this new high def version, it’s crystal clear. Be it the creases in the leather chairs, lights on the consoles or the Enterprise itself, the level of clarity in 1080p is remarkable and every little detail will pop out like never before. However, some of props like Geordi’s visor suffer with the conversion to HD and look like a cheap TV prop.
The colours of the uniforms, especially red, are insanely vibrant. Skin tones are clearer with much more contrast and everyone looks less flat. Even Data’s makeup comes to life and you can see that it was far more complex than just painting Brent Spiner off-white.
As well as reconstructing each episode, the special effects have been rebuilt from the ground up. They haven’t been replaced with CGI like they did with the Original Series, the matte paintings and model work are still there but have been rebuilt step by step and no longer look dated. When you see the enterprise, it is not the nice even grey you remember, it’s much darker in tone and similar to the way it looked in Star Trek: Generations. The planets are more life-like and each phaser, tractor and transporter beam looks stunning. I did notice a little grain and I’m surprised they didn’t opt to remove it but it’s not a big issue.
The sound has been upgraded to 7.1 DTS-HD with each episode sounding better than it ever has. You do notice some ”hiss” every so often and sound quality on some episodes is better than others, ”Datalore” sounded quite tinny compared to other episodes. But the team at Paramount really have done an excellent job with the audio, taking into account that the original recordings were basic stereo. The opening sequence sounds really fresh in 7.1 surround sound.
The whole season is presented in 4:3 ratio rather than 16:9 which may disappoint some. But when the series was first shot, it was always framed in 4:3 because that was the standard size of televisions in 1987. If they converted it to 16:9, some of the detail was lost so the decision was made to keep it 4:3. The show looks so good in high definition, the screen ration doesn’t make any difference.
A lot of the extras from the standard DVD release have been repackaged here but you do get a couple of new documentaries including “Energized: Taking The Next Generation to the Next Level” that shows the enormity of the work that has gone into bringing The Next Generation to HD. You also get promos for each episode and a gag reel.
The first season was never the best with most of the cast still settling into their uniforms and trying to build chemistry between themselves. The writing is also a bit hit and miss and again that’s down to the series finding it’s feet. But in HD, even the bad episodes are watchable and it really gives the series a new lease of life. Marina Sirtis made a comment that in HD, each episode looks like it’s been filmed yesterday and not 1987, while some of the ships decor does date the first season, she is spot on otherwise.
This is one of the best conversions to high definition that has even been undertaken, there are a few minor issues like the grain and the occasional ”hiss” in the audio but overall, non of that matters. After you have seen TNG in HD, you will struggle to sit through a standard broadcast. The rest of the seasons will follow with a trailer for Season Two on this box set. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Paramount and CBS continue their excellent work and give Deep Space Nine the same HD treatment.
Star Trek The Next Generation Season One on Blu-ray is available 23rd July 2012 priced £50.99