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First Impressions of Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level on Blu-ray

The "Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level" sampler disc comes out on January 31st and TrekMovie got an early review copy. Closer to release, our home video editor Matt Wright will be doing a more detailed review with more technical stuff, but I wanted to share my initial thoughts on this major project in the world of Star Trek. 

 

First Impressions of Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level on Bluray

The Star Trek in HD project is being done just in time for the show’s 25th anniversary in 2012. I can still remember my excitement sitting down to watch the premiere in September 1987 – and yelling at everyone in the room to "Shut up! Star Trek time!" I felt a twinge of that enthusiasm as I put the four-episode "Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level" disc into the Blu-ray player, but there was also a bit of trepidation.

Since the release of the original Star Trek series on Blu-ray, I have noticed that my other Trek DVDs felt a bit less satisfying. Watching the shows on an HD TV made them feel a bit dated, and this seemed especially true of TNG. It was even worse catching episodes playing in syndication and the transfer available streaming on Netflix was no better. After years of hearing how difficult it was going to be to bring the show into the HD future (and possibly impossible), I was concerned that this Blu-ray wasn’t going to cut it. However, shortly after "Encounter at Farpoint" started playing, all my concerns were put to rest. 


Blu-ray image: The USS Enterprise-D "Encounter at Farpoint" (Click to Enlarge)

If anything, the remastering of Next Gen into HD is even better looking than the original Star Trek. The colors are more vibrant, but not jarring. The details are astounding and make you want to keep on pausing to make sure you don’t miss anything. This goes for both the live action shots, as well as the remastered visual effects shots. Unlike the original series in HD, this time CBS have remastered the original filmed effects, and then used CGI much more sparingly (primarily replacing effects which were originally done on video). In the end the effects shots, especially of the Enterprise and other space scenes, are just astounding and really bring the show into the 21st century (or 24th century).

Of course some will say that the show was never meant to be seen at this level of definition, and there is an element of truth in that. Like with the original series in HD, sometimes you will see more detail than intended. So some of the makeup can seem a bit much (especially Spiner’s Data) and sometimes you can see rough edges or other less than 24th century perfection to set dressings or props. However, these are minor and in a way part of the fun of reviewing the show in HD, as is trying to spot little details in the famed Okudagrams.


Blu-ray image: Brent Spiner as Data from "Encounter at Farpoint" (Click to Enlarge)

Also worth highlighting is the sound, which has been remixed in 7.1 DTS-HD. I was surprised at how much this (combined with the updated looks) created a more cinematic experience. However, if you want to listen to the original stereo audio, you have that option as well. 

As for the four episodes in the set, you get the two-part pilot (“Encounter at Farpoint”), one of Ron Moore’s great Klingon episodes ("Sins of the Father"), and Patrick Stewart’s acting tour-de-force in "The Inner Light." It is hard to get any two fans to agree as to what four episodes are most worthy, but these are certainly a good selection and show off the HD transfer quite well.

By the way, the 13 seconds of "Sins of the Father" that had to be upscaled (because original clip couldn’t be found) was apparent, but not too bad. However, it did highlight what a monumental task CBS has taken on to go into the vaults to find each little film element and reassemble them for the HD transfer. My hat is off to them for taking on this complex (and expensive) project. Bringing TNG into the HD world will ensure that the show lives on and will be appreciated by more people in the future. I suspect that over the coming decade, it will become harder and harder to sell standard definition shows into syndication and they will also be less and less appealing to younger audiences who expect everything to be in HD.


Bluray Image: Klingon skyline from "Sins of the Father"

As for special features, that isn’t what this teaser disc is all about. The only new thing was a trailer for the Season 1 Star Trek TNG Blu-ray set, which does appear to have some new special features. You also get a couple of previously released promo spots (one for TNG Remastered, and one for the Star Trek PADD iPad app

All in all, watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-ray makes me feel like a kid again. I just can’t wait to review the entire series in HD. The first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-ray can’t come soon enough (it is promised for later this year). Until then, it is worth picking up "Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level" sampler disc, which you can pre-order from Amazon for $14.99.

POLL: Picking up TNG Blu-ray sampler?

[poll=685]

 

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John from Cincinnati
January 20, 2012 5:47 pm

What about a coupon for the first season for those who buy the sampler disc?

Justin Olson
January 20, 2012 5:51 pm

Good stuff Anthony.

Did CBS happen to give you 1080p versions of these two images:

SFC3
January 20, 2012 5:51 pm

I wasn’t expecting special features.

rm10019
January 20, 2012 5:52 pm

Looking so good, can’t wait for the disc to show up!

"Check the Circuit!"
January 20, 2012 5:54 pm

It’s too bad we have to sit through the first 2 seasons before getting to the good stuff.

captain_neill
January 20, 2012 5:57 pm

Sounds great. Next Gen is one of my all time fav shows and I can’t wait to see it in HD.

rm10019
January 20, 2012 6:08 pm

Thanks Anthony, fun sharing your memories of that day in 1987! I took a trip with my brother to a friend’s place in NJ because it was airing one day earlier there!

Saw DeForest Kelley the next day at a convention and got to thank him for doing the pilot!

Aqua
January 20, 2012 6:08 pm

This is wonderful.

On another note, it’s incredible that Enterprise isn’t out on Blu-Ray, especially since it was filmed on HD and is still broadcast that way.

January 20, 2012 6:10 pm

I ordered it even though I don’t have HD. I consider it a vote for getting Star Trek back on TV!

Phil
January 20, 2012 6:11 pm

“Of course some will say that the show was never meant to be seen at this level of definition…..” Yeah. it’s best to leave the science a bit on the fuzzy side here…

On the other hand, the model of the big E-D (Ed?) looks really good…

Hat Rick
January 20, 2012 6:33 pm

Star Trek: Everything Old is New Again!

:-)

Commdore Mike of the Terran Empire
January 20, 2012 6:37 pm

Thanks Anthony. It will be fun reading your Take on all 7 seasons of TNG>
Back in 87 when Tng forst came on I had my VCR ready and i was on Pins and needels waitinf for the show to start. I kind of feel that way again with Tng H.D Will be a lot of fun.

Commdore Mike of the Terran Empire
January 20, 2012 6:44 pm

While the 1st season of Tng was ok. It did have a couple of Great Eps. Arsenal of Freedom,Skin of Evil and The Neutral Zone and Conspiricy are ones I am really looking forward to on Blu-rey.

Commdore Mike of the Terran Empire
January 20, 2012 6:44 pm

It will be interesting to see Lt. Remick’s Head Explode in H.D Lol.

Rekkert
January 20, 2012 6:45 pm

Anthony, according to images available at blu-raydefinition.com some space shots were replaced by a digital Enterprise made by the great Tobias Ritcher (who has confirmed it here: http://www.scifi-meshes.com/forums/showthread.php?77687-NCC-1701-D-USS-Enterprise/page8 )

Apparently while they prefered to keep the original shots, some were just not available or didn’t looked good enough on HD (this last bit seems to be mostly true about the shots where the inferior 4ft model was used).

Sebastian S.
January 20, 2012 6:58 pm

Looks beautiful.

Kind of makes me wish I were as passionate about the show as I used to be, but sadly I’m not. Even if I had a BR machine (my wife and I are this close to getting one), I’m not sure I’d plunk down that kind of money to watch a show I’m simply not that crazy about anymore…

Now, if they restore DS9? You got a deal! ;-)

Dr. Cheis
January 20, 2012 7:07 pm

Ah, so only the video effects are being redone in CG. I was confused about that for a long time. It’s too bad they couldn’t do that sort of thing with TOS. The old painted phaser beams were hard to look at.

Pensive's Wetness
January 20, 2012 7:09 pm

it beats wasting money on Star Wars 3D…..

sean
January 20, 2012 7:14 pm

#17

All I see are a bunch of people saying they *think* it’s Richter’s work, I don’t see him confirming it anywhere.

Craiger
January 20, 2012 7:22 pm

Still wish all the Trek series would be remastered in 1080p 16×9 with no black bars.

Rekkert
January 20, 2012 7:33 pm

#21

He only hinted it (most likely he can’t confirm it yet because of some legal stuff), but he was the one that posted the pictures. Besides, on the next page a guy (who was apparently pretty bored) counted the lit and unlit windows on the ship and they matched those of Tobias model, that had a different pattern than the original model.

http://www.scifi-meshes.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=92457&d=1315058449

danielcraigsmywookiebitchnow
January 20, 2012 7:50 pm

20 well if you dont want to “WASTE” money on Star Wars 3D thats your loss, Phantom menace looks stunning in 3D.

JP
January 20, 2012 7:51 pm

#15: I think you’re the only person in the universe who thinks “Skin of Evil” is a great episode :P

danielcraigsmywookiebitchnow
January 20, 2012 7:58 pm

22 what part of respecting the artists intent do you not understand?
it seems like every Trek TNG Bluray article your going on about wishing they would have changed the aspect ratio of the show.
The show was shot and composed with 4X3 in mind, adjusting the aspect ratio from 1.33:1 to 1.78:1 would alter the mood and setting of scenes from the way the Director and Director of Photography intended.

Its just as bad as cropping a 1.78:1, 1.85:1, or 2.35:1 aspect ratio movie to 1.33:1 in the SD era.

Nope you just want something that fills your screen, without any regard to how it will alter how that scene looks and plays out.

They adjusted the the aspect ratio ever so slightly to 1.34:1,but if they would have done anymore than that, they would have risked ruining the artistic intent of the talented film makers who shot and framed specificly with 4X3 in mind.

DeShonn Steinblatt
January 20, 2012 7:59 pm

I don’t like it when you can see every little flaw. Spoils the magic.

Rekkert
January 20, 2012 8:10 pm

#28
I know that Anthony, and I know (and applaud) that they really are trying to keep the style, it’s just that as I never read even a single line about the CGI on this site I might point it out.
Sorry, and definitively looking forward for the interview!

Red Dead Ryan
January 20, 2012 8:17 pm

Good review, Anthony!

This makes waiting for the next Trek movie a bit easier. We’ve had TOS Remastered released on Blu Ray a couple of years ago, and now we’re getting TNG Remastered as part of the 25th anniversary of the show!

Justin Olson
January 20, 2012 8:24 pm

Here’s Tobias Richter’s own animation of his CGI model (be sure to select 1080p):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZlUa_araWY

Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire
January 20, 2012 8:27 pm

#25. I said great Ep for season 1. It was a good ep.

Rocket Scientist
January 20, 2012 8:38 pm

31. Justin Olson: Thanks! I’m not the Enterprise D’s biggest fan, but that just brought a tear to my eye!

CarlG
January 20, 2012 9:08 pm

@31: I hate that guy, he’s too frigging talented, it’s not fair! :)

January 21, 2012 12:24 am

Blu-ray.com has their review up, with screenshots.
(720p resized screenshots if you’re not registered (it’s free), 1080p screenshots if you are [all .jpg, though, so not QUITE Blu quality)
http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Star-Trek-The-Next-Generation-Blu-ray/30189/#Review

January 21, 2012 12:35 am

It sure does look like Tobais’ work. I’m really glad they used his models, since he does an amazing job. I’m not surprised he was brought in. We know Doug Drexler was consulted with, and Doug has had Tobais contribute to the Ships of the Line calendars, so there is an existing relationship there.

captain_neill
January 21, 2012 2:18 am

The effects work they did with the remastering of TOS was brilliant and the new effects added a freshness and opened the doors to what can be achieved. We were able to see what was only implied.

Howver, going back to the orginal film and taking away the ‘video haze’ to the episodes which was apparent more so in the really early episodes, is r ealy exciting. I feel like I am going to see Next Gen the way it was when it was first shot.

ANd since Next Gen is more recent I am glad they are keeping the model shots and looking forward to seeing them in the detail they should have been in.

Jeff
January 21, 2012 3:54 am

Your review makes me wonder if the missing 13 seconds from Sins Of The Father was on purpose to highlight the difference of video to HD, thus validating the effort they are putting into this. I would not be surprised if these ‘missing’ seconds are integrated when that season is released. Looking forward to the sampler and the full seasons!

Jack
January 21, 2012 3:59 am

So, yeah, it’s remastered, but I agree that the new effects work needs to be clear in these articles. I’d got the impression from recent stories that the effects hadn’t been touched.

Bart
January 21, 2012 4:09 am

It looks like Tobias Richter has been quite busy lately :) It appears his CGI Enterprise-D is being used in TNG remastered. Perhaps they will also use his latest work for the episode ‘The Measure of a Man’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zszr74Z6jg&list=UUeoXnh_AMvp1JvP1YRN3UgA&index=1&feature=plcp

This is the existing shot:

Now that would be awesome!

New Horizon
January 21, 2012 4:41 am

>39. Jack – January 21, 2012
They’ve said in pretty much every story that the existing effects were being recomposited from the original filmed elements and only replaced by CGI when absolutely necessary.

>40. Bart – January 21, 2012
Personally I don’t find replacing physical models with CGI awesome. If they still have access to all of the original film elements, I would much prefer to see the physical models rather than a CGI replica.

spock
January 21, 2012 5:16 am

They didn’t put any extras on the disc??? Too bad they didn’t have any promo stuff, like they released to the web for TOS when it was being worked on.

JeanLuc
January 21, 2012 7:05 am

Finally… the 4 foot model (the ugly-prise) is history.

That shot from Season 5 shows the classical approach of the 4 foot model… it’s redone in CGI with the GENERATIONS CGI model of the Enterprise which itself is based on the 6 foot model used in the first seasons!!!

That was my hope, that they would finally correct that!!! The series will have one coherent Enterprise from episode 1 to episode 178.

Thanks for that. That made my day!!!

Trek Or Treat
January 21, 2012 7:16 am

Shoot.

I had myself convinced that I didn’t need this upgrade… that my dvd’s were just fine. But now I want this bad.

(sigh)

Alex
January 21, 2012 7:47 am

Those shots do NOT look like the model was replaced by CG.. not at all.

New Horizon
January 21, 2012 8:01 am

43. JeanLuc – January 21, 2012

Sorry to disappoint you, but they’re not replacing all of the 4 foot enterprise shots. They did the one with the bird of prey and the one with the enterprise dropping out of warp. There are pictures of the 4 foot still being used in the episode.

Craiger
January 21, 2012 8:05 am

#26, Their was only one other article that I posted in so what’s your problem with me posting in both? It’s not like they had four articles on this subject and I posted in them.

Also if they had HD back then I am sure the Director would have shot in 16×9 HD in the 1:85:1 aspect ratio.

Kirk, James T.
January 21, 2012 8:08 am

Already pre ordered mine for £6.99(!!!!!) on amazon.co.uk – can’t believe I get four episodes for just £6.99!!!!!!!!! Looking forward to it however, I’m gonna get the DVD box set too just because thats the original.

TNG has always been “my” Star Trek and I’m looking forward to it becoming as iconic as TOS over the next decade.

January 21, 2012 8:13 am

Glad the CGI is minimal. I think models look better anyway, even old ones.

Laughing Man
January 21, 2012 8:16 am

And it is for sure CGI, cuz someone else on another site counted the windows that were lit and not lit, and the two 1701-Ds do not match up. So the 1701-D and the BOP in Sins of the Father are with out a doubt new CG shots, but they dont take you out of it, because they are near exact recreations of the original shot.

January 21, 2012 8:20 am

@48
Ordered mine too, on the 14th of December… Really looking forward to viewing it so that I can decide whether I want to get the full seasons on BR.

Hell, who am I kidding? Of course I will want them!

But I will most likely be prepared to wait a while (ie price drops) to get them.
Unless they will be superbly priced from the outset that is.

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