Blu-Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One

Created By Gene Roddenberry
Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby and Michael Dorn

For fans, the torturous wait is finally over and they can now gaze in amazement at Star Trek: The Next Generation’s first season in glorious high definition. The amount of work that’s gone into remastering the series visually is absolutely stunning, but the big problem with the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is that it’s very much a show still trying to find its feet.

Premiering way back in 1987, The Next Generation had an almost impossibly high bar to climb over, following in the footsteps of the original Star Trek – a show that quickly became an iconic pop culture juggernaut beloved by geeks worldwide. Set around 80 years after the adventures of Kirk and crew, The Next Generation charts the intergalactic journey of the USS Enterprise D. With scholarly tactician Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) at the helm, the Enterprise and its culturally diverse crew of humans, Klingons, Androids and Betazoids explore the cosmos to find new life and undiscovered civilizations.

(Click images to enlarge)

From the outset it was clear that The Next Generation would be a much different show than its predecessor. After all, the producers hired a then-unknown Patrick Stewart – a classically-trained, bald, British Shakespearean actor – to captain the Enterprise in place of the looser, hammier William Shatner. Hiring an actor of Stewart’s calibre and background quickly sets the trend for how the show’s tone differs from The Original Series. The pilot especially feels like it’s something that could have been performed on a stage, with plenty of theatrical performances and ponderous dialogue (and even troublesome trickster Q popping up in full Shakespearean costume) where Kirk would simply beam down to a planet, judo chop things and sleep with alien women. The Next Generation quickly proves itself to be a more restrained, intellectual sci-fi counterpoint to the campy, two-fisted adventure of The Original Series.

But fans will attest that the series didn’t truly hit its stride until a couple of years in, and the show’s less-than-stable beginnings are clear across Season One. Every show needs a little time to find its footing, but while the pilot episode does an impressive job of introducing the main cast, telling a self-contained story and setting up season-long story arcs, early episodes still show those growing pains. There’s plenty of uneven character work (Stewart is fantastic, but the Picard of the pilot is far more of a prickly curmudgeon than in later episodes), awkward performances and clunky, exposition-filled dialogue as actors slowly get to grips with things and the writers get a proper feel for the show’s tone and strengths.

(Click images to enlarge)

Uneven beginnings aside, Season One still sows the seeds of the impressive, intelligent sci-fi series that The Next Generation would grow into, introducing some great characters and with a wide selection of standout episodes to outweigh the clunkier ones. Stewart and Brent Spiner are on top form from the first episodes, making Picard a fascinating new breed of Starfleet captain far removed from James T. Kirk, while inquisitive android Data quickly becomes one of the show’s best, most intriguing characters.

Pilot episode ‘Encounter at Farpoint’ weaves an enjoyable standalone story which introduces Q, an omnipotent trickster and the series’ best villain, skillfully played with mischievous energy by John de Lancy. Q also makes a welcome return to screw with the Enterprise crew again in ‘Hide and Q’. The Next Generation’s first season unveils one of the Star Trek universe’s coolest pieces of sci-fi technology – the holodeck – which paves the way for ‘The Big Goodbye’, a great episode in which Picard gets trapped inside a virtual recreation of a 1940s noir story. Data-centric episode ‘Datalore’ provides a great vehicle for Brent Spiner, while ‘Skin of Evil’ ups the stakes and lets audiences know that it ain’t just disposable ‘redshirts’ who can meet a grisly death in Star Trek anymore as the Enterprise crew lose a core member to a deadly tar monster.

There’s more than a few duds amongst the first season’s 26 episodes, but thankfully the good-to-great ones largely outweigh the clunkers. It’s very much a show still finding it’s sea (or space) legs, but the seeds of The Next Generation’s full potential are there to see, and for fans especially, seeing the promising beginnings of a landmark sci-fi show is a great deal of fun.

(Click images to enlarge)

Despite the season not being the strongest, naturally fans won’t really care and will be much more interested in how well the high definition remastering treatment worked out. They’ll be pleased to know that the visual upgrade is an absolutely stunning acheivement. The amount of work that’s gone into bringing The Next Generation to Blu-ray is nothing short of monumental. The original episodes were originally edited on standard definition videotape – materials that prove a useless source for remastering into high definition – so the Blu-ray team had to unearth the original film negatives and miniatures, scan each individual reel, re-render and recreate most effects shots and essentially reassemble every episode from scratch.

The staggering effort alone is impressive, but the payoff is revelatory; as this year’s sampler set hinted at, the difference between the old DVD/TV recordings and the Blu-ray’s high-def transfer is night and day. The clarity and detail of close-up shots of the cast is utterly amazing and the remastered effects are nothing short of astonishing, with the work sunk into fly-by views of the Enterprise making even the mundane establishing shots of the ship cruising through space a wonder to behold for fans.

Of course, the insane amount of new clarity afforded to the show’s visuals shine an unfortunate light on a lot of the dated practical effects, like prosthetic age make-up that ironically hasn’t aged well at all (a cameo from DeForest Kelley as Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy is especially glaring). Still, the high def treatment ranks right up there with classic TV remastering jobs like the Twilight Zone Blu-ray sets, and for Next Generation fans it’ll be an absolute delight to discover the show in such phenomenal new detail.

(Click images to enlarge)

The visuals aren’t the only bit of painstaking tinkering that’s been done to upgrade the show for Blu-ray. Along with the original audio tracks, there’s 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks for every episode. Unfortunately there are some issues with the updated tracks, with the centre channels incorrectly mapped, leading dialogue to appear weighted to the front right. If you don’t have a 5.1 or 7.1 setup, it won’t pose a problem, but Paramount Home Entertainment have already set up a replacement program for any customers affected. It’s a shame, but infrequent issues aside, it’s an impressive upgrade.

There’s also a great selection of extras, too, and while many are simply ported over from the DVDs, the new additions are incredibly enjoyable, substantial and in-depth looks at both the show and the Blu-ray upgrade process.

  • Energized! Taking the Next Generation to the Next Level
  • An in-depth, 25 minute HD behind-the-scenes look at the process of reassembling and remastering the show in high definition.

  • Stardate Revisited: The Origin of Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • An enjoyable three part, hour-and-a-half HD documentary which charts the progress of the show from conception to beloved cult hit.

  • Promos
  • An absolute tonne of promos (all in Standard Definition), from episodic ‘Tonight on The Next Generation!’ ads to a short promo that aired before the premiere to give viewers a quick introduction to the new cast and concept.

  • Gag Reel
  • Exactly what it says on the tin – 8 minutes of the cast flubbing lines and joking around (in SD, taken from the older TNG DVD sets).

(Click images to enlarge)

  • The Beginning
  • Another feature carried over from the old DVD sets (also in SD), providing an older look at the process of getting the show made, clocking in at 18 minutes. Naturally there’s a lot of overlap with the ‘Stardate Revisited’ documentary.

  • Selected Crew Analysis
  • A 15 minute look at the casting process as the actors talk about their characters (SD, previously seen on the DVD set).

  • The Making of a Legend
  • Copied over from the older DVDs, this 15 minute feature offers a look at the prop design and construction of the new Enterprise as the crew define TNG’s signature look and feel.

  • Memorable Missions
  • Another DVD retro holdover, this time a 17 minute chat with the cast and crew about their favourite episodes and moments on the show.

It’s a stellar, unmissable set that’s like Christmas come early to Next Generation fans, and the icing on the cake is that there’s more to come (fire up the Blu-ray and the first thing you get is a teaser for an upcoming Season Two set), and the show only improves from the first year’s sometimes shaky beginnings.

The Season:

The Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One is out on Blu-ray in the UK now.
Click here to order the Blu-ray from