Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Star Trek Next Generation - Season 1 Blu-ray
Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn. Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton and Denise Crosby
I'm not going to give an exhaustive guide featuring a synopsis of every episode in this set. Instead, I'll be focusing on the audio and visual presentation, and the overall quality of this first season.
For those of you who might not know, Star Trek Next Generation (STNG) ran for seven seasons, spawning 176 (mainly) 45-minute episodes, and five movies featuring the crew. This first season made its debut with a 92-minute episode, Encounter at Far Point, which introduced the new crew, and gave audiences a glimpse of a new entity named Q (John de Lancie).
Before I talk about the merits of the show, there's an important piece of information that you need to be aware of if you are considering a purchase. The initial pressings contained several audio issues on three of the discs. Paramount offers free replacements without the need to send in the defective copies. In order to avoid having to do that, look carefully at the set before you buy it. Corrected copies have a yellow bar code on the back and the red Star Trek symbol on the spine.
Let's talk about the show.
I believe STNG to be the strongest of the five live action series set in the Star Trek universe, and it's not close. The original Star Trek has a certain nostalgic value and it was the first of it's kind. Voyager is enjoyable, and ranks second in my list. Enterprise is watchable, but without the same level of interest. Deep Space Nine is a show that I could never get into, despite multiple efforts.
STNG holds the top spot in my rankings because it has the best acting, the most convincing relationships, the strongest characterization, and a large number of well-written stories. However, my memory of the show proved to be imperfect. I know what STNG eventually becomes, but this first season is quite weak for the most part. I can imagine many fans of the original series giving up on this crew before STNG developed into the wonderful series it became.
What's wrong with it? The acting in the early episodes is nowhere near as good as in later seasons. People rarely refer to each other by their first name, and it's odd to hear Troi refer to Riker as Bill rather than Will. Data uses contractions when he is not supposed to be capable of that, but such oddities become less frequent as the season progresses. Denise Crosby is totally wrong for the tone of the show and stands around grinning in early episodes. Riker spends most of his time striking a pose, rather than acting in a believable manner.
The first good episode is the fifth one in the season, Where No One Has Gone Before. It was directed by Rob Bowman, who had a hand in 13 episodes during the show's first four seasons. Bowman was also involved as producer and/or director in 92 episodes of The X Files, so I am not surprised that he was responsible for the first standout episode.
Other good entries in this inaugural season include The Battle (Bowman), Hide and Q, Datalore (Bowman again), 11001001, When the Bough Breaks, Home Soil, We'll Always Have Paris, Conspiracy, and The Neutral Zone.
Despite the faults I have mentioned, Season 1 is a must-own for fans of the series. It gives important background information about the characters, such as Picard's attitude toward children, and we see the crew gradually becoming used to each other. I mean that both in terms of the scenario on the ship, and the type of chemistry that the actors developed.
Most of you are reading this because you want to know whether the Blu-ray is worth the upgrade. My answer is a resounding yes. The show is presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and it looks spectacular in 1080p. If you thought that Star Trek looked good, this will blow you away. As with the original series, Paramount has given STNG the DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio treatment, and the audio matches the excellence of the visuals.
With more than three hours of special features, STNG shines on Blu-ray. I never expected to see shows this old looking so good. You probably won't even notice the two seconds of footage that could only be presented in standard definition.
Video presentation 4.5/5
Audio presentation 5/5
Overall score 4/5
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