Finally, Star Trek is coming to high definition. And not, thankfully, just as a post-treatment package with the minimum done to get it on the blu-ray shelves. The upcoming first season (and the six following) were created thanks to HD masters, which CBS formed from the original uncut film negative – all 25,000 plus film reels of it – cutting the episodes together exactly the way they originally aired. The visual effects were all shot on film and will be painstakingly recompositioned, not upconverted from videotape. The newly cut film will then be transferred to true high-definition with 7.1 DTS Master Audio.
Strictly speaking, this is no more than a taster of what is to come when the TNG blu-rays eventually arrive in their full season format, but it works as an advert for those upcoming releases, even if it might grate for some to buy the four episodes included twice. That concern shouldn’t rule out to many though, because this sampler disc represents a monumental moment in the history of the show – this, as far as I am concerned as an avid Star Trek fan as well as a massive supporter of HD, is year one of the shows home release life.
The over-riding dilemma facing this Paramount concerning this disc would have been striking a balance between chosing three episodes that represent iconic enough choices to carry the weight of expectation from fans, as well as entertaining at the same time as showing off the technology, and not annoying fans too much who will eventually be forced to shell out for them again. For me, the answer would have been simply to release the feature-length pilot as a stand-alone disc to show off the technology, at a very low price to encourage sales, along with perhaps a behind the scenes look at how the transfers were created.
But CBS chose instead to include the pilot with two other apparently randomly chosen episodes – The Inner Light and Sins of the Father, which are neither particularly essential episodes, nor are they the worst. It is perhaps best to view them only as suitable for showing off the technology and uplift in image and sound quality, so it doesn’t necessarily matter which episodes were actually chosen to be included here.
If you were forced to identify a trend in the episodes, it is definitely one of transition and development: the pilot remains somewhat stunted, with characters glued to their positions and unable to really express themselves in the environment of the ship (something that continued throughout the entire first season), but then we see in “The Inner Light” a greater commitment to character, as Worf and the Klingon culture both enjoy considerable fleshing out, and then in “Sins of the Father” you get the sense of a show more committed to deeper writing.
As a showcase of the series, there would definitely have been better choices of episodes, but the teaser isn’t so much meant to sell the show – it is here to allay the fears of fans who want to see whether the blu-ray treatment will do justice to Gene Roddenberry’s legendary creation.
- Encounter at Far Point
- The Inner Light
- Sins of the Father
There has obviously been a lot of work put into getting the most out of the masters: the series was originally shot on film and then transferred to videotape, which was used to edit episodes together. The uplift in quality in effects is immediately obvious from the first moment the Enterprise drops into view during the first – the good ship has certainly never looked so impressive in early episodes, and there is an evident increase in the amount of detail visible, even in the opening credits.
There remains an obvious film grain, which is particularly evident in wider shots and duller background colours (especially on the bridge), and which causes something of an issue when any Starfleet uniform – resplendently coloured and far brighter than on the DVD and original broadcast versions
Facial textures and detail are great – even if Captain Picard looks a damn-sight older than I ever remember – and it is a massive uplift in image quality over the originals, with almost every aspect of the image’s texture and detail markedly improved.
This has obviously been a labour of love, and it is wonderful to see such fine results, with this teaser release definitely going some way to allay the fears of those fans who felt a cost-effective transfer might not be a possibility, and that CBS might be forced into releasing something unworthy of the Star Trek name.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level is available to buy now.