In the past few years one hugely popular and much beloved science fiction franchise has been tampered with to a significant degree, raising the ire of critics and fans alike. So it’s fair to say the Star Wars rereleases, remasters and Blu-ray releasess were not universally well received. Some (myself included) have even alleged that although the picture quality of the films has been improved significantly, the story has suffered hugely from George Lucas’s "tweaks". So with that in mind, my heart absolutely skipped a beat at the thought of a remastered Blu-ray release of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a series I have adored from a young age – almost to the same degree as Star Wars.
However, judging by this taster Blu-ray, The Next Level, Gene Roddenberry's vision is safe and sound with this new version. From the outset of playing the disc it is clear that care and attention has been taken to ensure that the updating of the effects and the recompositing of the original footage has been done with the hardcore fans in mind, as well as the potential casual viewer (though with this being Star Trek, it is unlikely there are too many in all honesty). The disc’s menu is even designed to look similar to the layout of the ships onboard computer, which is a nice touch.
The next level features three classic episodes, beginning with the feature-length pilot Encounter at Farpoint, the Klingon-centred Sins of The Father and the deeply philosophical The Inner Light. These are inspired choices, as they are not only favourites of the large Trekker (yes that is correct, before you ask) community, but really showcase the excellent and oft-varied writing TNG is well known for, as well as the significant acting chops of the ensemble as a whole, as well as Picard and Worf specifically.
The Blu-ray transfer is excellent in this release. The effects of old have not been altered significantly, but they have been updated and look far more modern than prior to the transfer. The picture is glorious in high definition, with the original footage looking like it could easily have been made in the past few years, that is how smooth the transfer is. Obviously there are some effects and set dressings that have dated, and not even the update and re-mastering process can fix (look out for a few items that are clearly made of foam in and around the bridge), but this is a concession worth making, and to a certain degree adds to the charm of the series, as it is something that is characteristically Star Trek.
In watching The Next Level, it quickly becomes clear why this process is such a lengthy one for the full releases, as it is clearly a huge undertaking to convert the original series to the level of quality required for Blu-ray. However, this single-disc affair offers a clear indication of the quality we can expect from the Season 1 release later in the year, and just how easy it will be to fall in love with Picard, Riker, Data, Worf and the rest of the Enterprise crew all over again. Engage.
EXTRAS A TNG: Remastered trailer, a Series 1 trailer and an iPad app preview