Review - Star Trek TNG Season 1 (Blu Ray)
Every Trekkie (or Trekker) and many a garden variety geek have a story about how they fell in love with Star Trek. For some of us, it was watching the smooth as silk Captain Kirk go hand-to-hand with a deadly Gorn while for others it was the great big family aboard Voyager, lead by mother hen Captain Janeway. For myself, my initiation into the world of Star Trek came in the guise of 1987's Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Before I give you the sweet, sweet details on the Blu Ray release of Star Trek: TNG season 1, let me regale you with my origin story and the reason that this release has me so excited. While I remember watching TNG in the late 80's, I never really fell in love with the characters and stories until a particularly difficult time in my life which for quite some time left me emotionally and physically scarred.
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Star Trek has always had a chequered history here in Australia in relation the consistency of screening times. For some reason, it would air sporadically and at various hours and on various days. There never seemed to be any particular pattern to its schedule and while frustrating, stumbling across an episode or two was like finding buried treasure.
In 1993, at the age of 12, I was involved in an accident in which 3 of my fingers were cut through, severing the tendons, arteries and nerves. During the long and incredibly painful recovery period I was on a mix of pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications. One of the side effects of these meds and the pain from the injury was chronic insomnia, a condition that was made slightly less arduous by frequent visits from Captain Jean Luc Picard, William T. Riker, Deanna Troi and the gang. Because I struggled to sleep, my father moved a spare TV and VCR into my room. That tiny black and white idiot box wound up being a constant source of amusement and I would record tape after tape and watch them back to back. If I somehow missed an episode during my 2 hours of sleep per day, I knew that I had plenty more where that came from. For 3 months I couldn't attend school and for another 6 I went through physical therapy 3 times a week. For a very long time I was missing any form "normal" childhood. For that long stretch of time, and beyond, Data, Geordi and Crusher were the closest thing that I had to friends. Star Trek: TNG kept me company through all of the hell that I was forced to endure. I raise all of this because while I make every endeavour to make my review unbiased, it probably won't be.
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Reviewing the storyline of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1 is an extremely difficult task. From an outsiders perspective, the story lines may appear dated especially with regard to topic. Star Trek has always done a great job of covering a multitude of topics with a deft touch. The subject of humanity and its varying degrees are covered in "Datalore" while the future of sexuality and the inextricable nature of carnal desire is explored in "The Naked Now". Such topics may be somewhat less taboo by today's standards and therefore pack less of a punch than they did on release. That said, these are such fun stories that do a great job of introducing a cast of characters that are as likable now as they were then. Unfortunately, the instability and revolving door of season 1 staff writers is evident and no overarching story arc presents itself until well late in the first season and toward the beginning of season two (enter, the Borg!).
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For some reason, even on a teensy black and white TV, the production values of TNG were always a highlight. Everything from the costume design to the special effects and creature creation still hold up well. Originally shot on 35mm film, CBS Digital have painstakingly transferred the original negatives into 1080p images in the original 4:3 ratio. While it's unfortunate that the release is in 4:3 and not the more cinematic 16:9, it was never shot with the letterbox format in mind. CBS Digital have also re-rendered a number of special effects such as the jellyfish creature from "Encounter at Farpoint" and, of course, the Enterprise NCC 1701-D gets a new paint job as well. The picture quality is nothing short of incredible. Instead of settling for a simple HD upscale, CBS Digital have gone back to the source and delivered a full remaster. When I initially heard this fact, I was concerned that the high definition picture would give away too many trade secrets such as sloppy paint jobs or caked on make up. Full credit goes to the original cast and crew of TNG for producing a series that was as high a quality in 1987 as anything released today and just as much credit goes to the CBS Digital crew for polishing a gem that, after 25 years, was looking a little bit dull. Not only is the picture sharp but the colour, brightness and contrast have all been balanced. Just to round things off, the sound has also been remastered into Dolby 7.1 surround and DTS HD.
Obviously, Star Trek: The Next Generation means something special to me. So while it seemed that Star Trek: TNG Season 1 on Blu Ray was destined to get two geeky thumbs up, if done wrong, it would have suffered a fate worse than death - the wrath of a geek. Luckily, this is the complete package. A fantastic series full of action, adventure, drama and a smattering of romance which has been faithfully remastered and collected into the package that it was always intended to be.
Star Trek: The Next Generation season 1 on Blu Ray borders on perfection in every single aspect, the complete package and the perfect Fathers Day gift.
Star Trek: The Next Generation season 1 on Blu Ray is available Australia-wide from today.