Way back in late 1987 and early 1988, I’d spend my Saturday nights belly down on the basement carpet, head inclined towards the TV as Star Trek: The Next Generation aired. The Enterprise flew, Picard gave orders, Riker led Data and Yar on away missions. Geordi did cool stuff with his eyes, Worf was a Klingon in the background, and Wesley got into trouble. In later years, I’d sort of realize that the show’s first season was pretty rough in terms of story telling, but there was a magic that hooked me.
A few months ago, I became aware that CBS was remastering Star Trek The Next Generation for a Blu Ray DVD release. Going back to the original film negatives, and doing whatever it is they “do” to remaster something. As a promotion ahead of the season-by-season Blu Ray release, CBS (which, I don’t know, owns the right to Paramount DVD releases, I think) put out a sampler of the work they’d been doing, a single disc release with three episodes: the premier episode, Encounter at Farpoint, which introduced the show’s concept, the ship, the crew, and Q; Sins of the Father, from the third season, where Lt. Worf returns to the Klingon Empire to answer charges brought against his long deceased father; and The Inner Light, where Picard lives an entire lifetime on a dead world (and learns to play a flute).
I did not expect to see a huge quality difference between my regular The Next Generation DVDs and the Blu-Ray episodes. I queued up Encounter at Farpoint and was completely blown away by the opening: the planets glowed, the Enterprise was so sharp and detailed. And then the episode began, and the first shot of the Enterprise is a belly-shot: the camera is moving in reverse, then begins elevating. The Enterprise is moving towards the camera, and our initial view is her belly: the underside of the stardrive, and the saucer, and the ship moves forward until the camera passes over the top of the saucer.
The Enterprise looked absolutely amazing. I popped out the Blu Ray, threw in my DVD disc, and there was absolutely no comparison. The clarity was noticeable on interior scenes, too — uniform colors popped, Data’s eyes glowed (well, not really), the carpet of the bridge looked like it needed a good vacuum.
Sins of the Father was not entirely complete – the crew in charge of updating the footage was unable to find thirteen seconds of the original footage. It’s from when Crusher is on the bridge briefing Riker about a second survivor of the Khitomer attack. CBS wound up “up converting” the original DVD for this sequence, and it’s very noticeable.
In fact, I think maybe that’s why they included this episode on the disc. So that anyone who saw it would have a very visible indicator of the lack of quality on other formats. Surprisingly, the DVD quality is worse than Netflix streaming: I suspect this is because Netflix streaming cuts the corners off the film, whereas my TV stretches the show. I’m sure I could adjust this fairly easy on the menu settings of my TV, but blah.
There’s no set release date for TNG Season One — just sometime this year. From what I’ve seen, though, I think I’ll probably pick it up.
(No – seriously – it’s fucking amazing.)