On July 24th, the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation will be released on Blu-ray. To offer a taste of the revamped audio and video, CBS has released a Blu-ray sampler (Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level) well ahead of this Tuesday’s release. The disc contains three of the better next generation episodes from the seven season series: Encounter at Farpoint (the premiere), Sins of the Father for those who love Klingons and The Inner Light, one of the best written episodes of the series. Here’s a closer look at the Blu-ray sampler as well as how to see a couple of season one episodes on the big screen.
Thankfully, the show has been fully remastered, instead of a simple transfer to Blu-ray. The original film elements of the Next Generation were originally shot on film but were transferred to video tape for editing and post-production. The end result was fine when you were watching on a 13″ Zenith color TV back in the late 80s and early 90s (as I did). On today’s high resolution TVs and home theater sound systems, that low-resolution version does not hold up well. That same low-resolution version is available on most streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. Just like with Star Trek: The Original Series, I expect that we’ll eventually see this remastered version hit the streaming services.
Where the Blu-ray sampler stands out is its sound quality. Remastered into 7.1 channel DTS-Master audio, the remixed audio is theatrical quality. You do still have the option to listen to the original stereo track but I don’t see any reason why you would. The full orchestral music benefits the most from the remix. Special effects are also better with photon torpedos and explosions coming from all parts of the room.
There’s also a significant improvement in video quality with the episodes now in 1080P resolution at 24 frames per second. While Star Trek: TNG was shot on high-resolution film, it was in a 4:3 aspect ratio not letterbox. However, as I’ve watched the disc, it hasn’t really bothered me (the black bars are on the sides instead of the top and bottom, I guess I’m used to it). The most noticeable improvement is in the exterior space shots. There’s a lot of detail that can be seen on the models of the Enterprise and other ships. In Sins of the Father, you can now see people walking around at the base of the Klingon capital building. Sometimes, TV shows filmed in the pre-HD era don’t hold up well when they are made available in high-def or are blown up on a big screen. The interior sets of the Enterprise hold up well and don’t look fake in HD. You can actually read the displays and labels on the consoles and computer screens. The only exception I noticed is when we see Geordi take off his visor in Encounter at Farpoint. In HD, it’s pretty obvious he’s wearing contact lenses to hide his pupils.
Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing episodes such as Yesterday’s Enterprise and the Best of Both Worlds. Both episodes have great battle scenes that should benefit from the remastering. Alas, I will have to wait till seasons three and four are released and no dates have been supplied yet.
Finally, as an alternative to the Blu-ray sampler, two of the remastered episodes will be shown in theaters, tomorrow, July 24th. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the showing will feature the remastered episodes Where No Man Has Gone Before and Datalore. Follow this link for where and when to see it in your area. In the Boston area, there will be 7 PM and 10 PM showings. Enjoy the video preview and still shots. Kaplah!