Review – TNG Complete Series DVD Box Set

It seems strange now to think that Star Trek: The Next Generation first debuted some 20 years ago, but there it is – there’s no denying it. I was in college at Wisconsin when the first episode, "Encounter at Farpoint," appeared on the air. I’d been watching reruns of The Original Series for as long as I could remember, so at the time it was a thrill just to have Trek back on the air. The sets, the ships, the technology – it all seemed so sleek and futuristic back in 1987. So it’s somewhat shocking, all these years later, to realize just how dated The Next Generation seems today. Unfortunately, of all the Trek TV series – including The Original Series – this is the one that’s suffered most the passage of time.

Part of this is due to the fact that The Next Generation was produced at a time when television production – and particularly post-production – was transitioning from analog to digital. So while the live-action footage itself was shot on film, much of the post work and special effects were composited digitally. What this means is that the show has an overly digital look to it – a patina of artificiality – that, combined with the pajama-style uniforms and electronic musical scores, really cements this show in a particular time period.

Still, for all its problems, these seven seasons contain some of the truly great Star Trek stories. Seasons One and Two of the show were largely uneven, though there were a few stand-out episodes, including "Q Who?" (the debut of the Borg) and "The Measure of a Man" (beautifully representative of everything Trek stands for). Thankfully, the show really hit its stride in Season Three – arguably the single best season of the series – which offers several of its best episodes, including the spectacular "Yesterday’s Enterprise" and the best cliff-hanger Trek has EVER mounted… "The Best of Both Worlds, Part I". Along with "Part II," which started Season Four, these are easily my three favorite hours of this series. Unfortunately, with but a few exceptions, the final three seasons of this show were also terribly uneven, filled with the sort of clichéd plots and techie-solutions that all too often weigh this franchise down. The two-part series closer however, remains to this day one of the best TV finales of any show to date. "All Good Things" involved the entire cast, tied up the character threads nicely and really delivered an emotionally satisfying resolution. Fans and TV critics alike gave it well-deserved high marks.

The new set
This new complete series box set from CBS and Paramount offers the exact same discs that were included in the previous DVD full-season box sets, right down to the same menus and special features. The only thing that’s different about them here is the artwork on each disc. The video quality is generally decent – certainly better than the original broadcasts, and in the original 4×3 full frame aspect ratio. As I noted before, all the episodes (particularly the early seasons) have a slightly digital look due to the post-production process used at the time, along with a slight softness that comes from having been finalized in analog format. However, color and contrast are excellent. The audio is remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1 from the original stereo. The soundfield is surprisingly active and ambient, with nice directional play for effects. Dialogue is clean and centered, balanced nicely with the music. There’s good low frequency as well. The A/V quality isn’t especially noteworthy, but it’s certainly solid enough.

Given that these discs are the same as those previously released, all of the original special features (mostly behind-the-scenes featurettes included on Disc Seven of each season run) are included here as well. But you do get some new bonus material too, all included on the last disc of the set – Disc Forty-Nine.

New features
You’ll find a trio of newly-created retrospective featurettes, including ‘The Next Generation’s Impact: 20 Years Later,’ ‘The Next Generation’s Legacy: 2007’ and ‘Star Trek Visual Effects Magic: A Roundtable Discussion.’ The new featurettes are presented in anamorphic widescreen video, and they’re surprisingly substantial. Each runs at least 25 minutes, so you get about 80 minutes of new material in all. 20 Years Later is hosted by actor John de Lancie (who played "Q" on the series), and offers recent interviews with many people who worked on the show. 2007 is hosted by Wil Wheaton (better known to fans as TNG’s Wesley Crusher). It looks at today’s space technology and Trek’s influences upon it, and includes a visit to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. The Roundtable Discussion features a chat between Trek FX vets Dan Curry, Rob Legato, Ron Moore and Howard Anderson (creator of the original TOS transporter effect). All of this is good stuff. There’s also a new Easter egg (the only one in the entire set) that’s a nod of thanks to the DVD producer, Stephen R. Wolcott. This material alone would be cool enough… but surprisingly, that’s not all you get here.


New bonus disk (click to enlarge)

Something I really appreciate, is that this bonus disc also contains ALL of the featurettes that previously were only available to American fans on exclusive bonus discs packaged with the original DVDs at Best Buy stores (though the European DVDs included them from the outset). The practice of creating Best Buy-exclusive DVD bonus discs on Trek TVD releases began with TNG: Season Four (though previous seasons did offer bonus CD-ROM content). It continued with Seasons Five, Six and Seven, and all subsequent Trek complete season DVD releases (you can find a complete list of all such bonus discs – and Easter eggs as well, broken down by series – here at Star Trek.com). The specific featurettes included here are as follows:

  • Select Historical Data I (S4 bonus disc)
  • Inside the Star Trek Archives (S4 bonus disc)
  • Intergalactic Guest Stars (S5 bonus disc)
  • Alien Speak (S5 bonus disc)
  • Select Historical Data II (S6 bonus disc)
  • Inside the Starfleet Archives: Sets and Props (S6 bonus disc – incorrectly listed as Inside the Starfleet Academy Archives on this set’s packaging)
  • Special Profiles (S7 bonus disc)
  • Dressing the Future (S7 bonus disc)

This new set also includes a fold-out guide to each season. I have to say, the new packaging isn’t much to speak of, but it’s certainly better than the original DVDs. All 49 discs are contained in a series of 3 green plastic binders – similar to the ones used for the later Deep Space Nine and Voyager DVD sets. These sit inside a silver-gray plastic holder, and a thin, clear plastic box slides over them to keep them securely together. Again, it’s not the best packaging ever, but I think it’s an improvement over the original cardboard boxes. It also takes up a lot less room on your video shelf. Here’s what it looks like…

 

Bottom Line

The new set carries an SRP of $455.95, but Amazon is selling it now for only $304.99. Keep in mind that each of these season sets originally sold for well over $100 each, so you’re definitely getting a better deal. Amazon also carries a bundle of all seven original season sets packaged together for just $309.99 (down from the SRP of $520.98), but again you don’t get the bonus disc or the new packaging. The bottom line is that if you already own these DVDs, this set’s very existence and low price is probably somewhat irritating. But if you don’t and you’ve always wanted to have them, the new set is almost a steal.

There’s talk that Star Trek: The Next Generation may soon be given the same "remastered" treatment by CBS Digital that The Original Series has received, to update the effects and bring the show into the high-def era. It was hinted at Comic-Con this past summer that tests on the series have already been done. I hope this is true, because this series REALLY needs updating. It’d be a helluva lot of work – CBS would have to rebuild each of these episodes almost from the ground up – but I think the result would be worth the effort.

In any case, there can be no doubt that Star Trek: The Next Generation – warts and all – once revived this franchise (though it remains to be seen whether it can be revived again). When it was good, Star Trek: The Next Generation was very good indeed. As such, it remains a must-have for any Trek fan on DVD.

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Complete Series
20th Anniversary Edition – 1987-1994 (2007) – Paramount

Program Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/B+

 

Bill Hunt is the Editor of TheDigitalBits.com, the finest site for all your digital media needs.
Article is also available at TheDigitalBits

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I love TNG….it stands up as well as the first series.

Both are dated, and both are still great.

karanadon

first? woohoo rock on star trek!! may there be much much more!!

Michael Hall

Episodes like “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “The Inner Light” were as good as anything TOS ever did. And while the first and last seasons of TNG were indeed wildly uneven, I would still maintain that the ratio of good to bad episodes was roughly the same for both shows. “All Good Things” was a helluva lot better series finale than “Turnabout Intruder,” for sure.

Happy birthday, TNG.

billy don't be a hiro

I love The Digital Bits. That there is one classy outfit.

Jawinka Smith

Interesting. I always look at TOS as extremely dated. I grew up watching TNG, so maybe that’s why I don’t think it’s dated itself.

billy don't be a hiro

The original Star Trek didn’t have a “series finale” – it just got cancelled. So its hardly fair to compare the two.

Paul Martin

Would I get told off for thinking ‘What you leave behind’ was the best series finale? Just my opinion folks! I enjoyed how it gave time to show each character and where they were going, and plenty of time to mop up the tears!!

CmdrR.

3- “All Good Things” was a helluva lot better series finale than “Turnabout Intruder,” for sure.

“All Good Things” was a helluva lot better series finale than most series got, except possibly the moving finale of Family Matters “Urkel’s Skin Clears Up.”

TNG was uneven. All Trek has been uneven. Find me a show that’s lasted 7 years and been all good. Doubt you can. You can make fun of later Treks, but each has brought at least SOME good episodes.

As for remastering… hmmm. Talk about uneven. I love the idea. The execution really, really needs to slow down. Why not one or two per month? What exactly is the rush? It would be so nice to see duplicate starships changed out, most of the planets given more dfinition, and digitally fluttering stuff (especially in seaons one) smoothed out. It would be oh so nice if they could get the E-D’s weight and lighting issues solid before they released anything.

Maybe I’m just dreaming. Personally, I’ll watch the reruns, even with the old stuff in em.

Sean4000

Looks a little dated, eh? Nothing CBS-D couldn’t screw up…..I mean fix up!

DavidJ

Actually I really liked Season 6. There were a lot of fun, change-of-pace episodes in there (Tapestry, A Fistful of Datas, Relics, Ship in a
Bottle…), which was refreshing after the rather dull Season 5.

Unfortunately the show went downhill again in Season 7 (which is one MORE reason to hate Generations, I guess).

Paul Martin

A fistful of datas…. the blue screen of death for the holodeck!

CmdrR.

*gasp* *wheeze* *cough* — Just learned they’re remaking Knight Rider. Had to come in and get a breath of Trek. *gasp*

I AM THX-1138

#12
Possible end of civilization.

TNG rocked. Although, I don’t need all that x-tra behind the scenes stuff. Cool for movies, but for my series boxed sets, one viewing and I never watch them again. I sure hope Shatner’s in it, though.

(I may end all posts with this just to be annoying. Err, more annoying)

jonboc

There are some great episodes that showcased the series and it’s potential. These episodes, like Inner Light, Measure of a Man, Yesterday’s Enterprise, etc. I would love to have on DVD. Sadly, they were the exception rather than the rule and the hundreds of other mediocre entries of the series I don’t ever care to see again. Now, if they would just come up with a “best of TNG” on DVD, I would buy that.

Michael Hall

#6–agreed that it isn’t “fair” to compare those last two shows head-to-head, but that wasn’t the point.

Rod Serling once said of the “Twilight Zone” that of the episodes produced, one third were great, one third were okay, and the remaining shows were crap. In his case I think that estimation is a little over-harsh, but I think those ratios apply pretty well to TOS, TNG, and DS9 when you look at each series as a whole. (Unfortunately, the last two Trek series don’t fare so well, but I certainly agree with #12 that even they had their great moments and were not, as many seem to believe, thoroughgoing failures.)

#7, I’d have to say that overall I was fairly disappointed with “What You Leave Behind.” The wrap-up of the Dominion War was well-done if not inspired, and the storyline Odo’s and Kira’s romance was wonderfully resolved. But the stuff with the Prophets was just a total loss (sorry).

Ron

This review is very familiar. Almost as if I read it yesterday on a different site :-)

Gonna hold my breath for the HD widescreen versions of TNG.

Done by ILM!

::::::holding breath:::::::

1 one thousand, 2 one thousand….

Kevin

Although I’m not interested in this set, I thought I would comment. I really feel that only the first three seasons of TNG look dated. The first season being the most obvioulsly dated. Big hair, lots of make-up, you can tell you’re watching an eighties TV show. You can also tell by watching TOS from the behives, miniskirts and psychodelic look that it was filmed in the 60’s. But I really feel that by the end of the third season, it didn’t look much different latter Trek… well the resolution may need a little work.

Mike D

Paul, I definitely agree that “What You Leave Behind” was the best finale thus far. I think it’s because of the finality. I liked “All Good Things,” but it didn’t have the kind of finality I was looking for. The DS9 production staff did have the advantage of not having to leave things open-ended for possible movies, I suppose – that might have been part of what hindered the Next Gen staff. Then again, I’m in a slightly different age group then a lot of the posters seem to be – I really grew up with DS9 (and Voyager as annoying background noise), not Next Gen, so I might be biased.

Either way, both completely and totally outclass “Endgame,” and just make “These Are The Voyages” look even more embarrassing than usual.

On another note, I hadn’t watched Next Gen in years (wasn’t too fond of the “let’s all be friends” approach), but now I keep catching it on G4 – it’s still pretty quality, though the effects definitely need heavy remastering. Yes, it was uneven, but even in the later seasons it was better than most of the stuff out there. Hands down, though seasons three and four were the best. It seems to hold up the best when I watch one episode at a time, whereas I find DS9 is best watched in marathon format.

I AM THX-1138

Harry, Garth, help me with #19. I’m afraid I’m behind the curve with that one and hate to feel left out. If you could be so good, old Dolphy, and give a fellow a boost.

Jason

Chances are pretty good that there are film masters around for TNG, primarily for international distribution. I know there are for “Babylon 5.” So probably the HD cleanup would not be horrendous — if there are film masters, they can scan those in, and then the only clean-up will be involving all the video effects. And there are LOTS of those.

Harry Ballz

Sorry, I don’t speak dolphin!

That’s why I could never understand Flipper when he said,
“Ak,..ak,ak,ak…ak,ak…..ak,ak,ak,ak,ak………”

I never knew if he was laughing or crying!

toddk

box set bonus disc blah blah blah, anyways I have to say that endgame was a fantastic ending to voyager and yes the prophet thing with ds9 was kinda lame (even though i got it) these are the voyages had brief moments of greatness, but alas fell flat. I remember my roomate commenting after the enterprise finale, He said ” what no speech????????” (regarding archer walking up to the podium)

Marvin the Martian

I own a lot of the TNG episodes on laserdisc (most of which I picked up for $1.99 apiece used at Amoeba Music here in Los Angeles), and I have to agree that the early episodes look very dated. Even some of the sets–primarily Sickbay–look downright cheap (in episodes like “The Neutral Zone,” it is very obvious that Sickbay is merely the Observation room redressed, as the plastic overlays on the windows are poorly done).

Still, I have a fondness for the first season, and wonder why episodes like “The Arsenal of Freedom” and “11001001” don’t get more love from the fans. Both have great character moments and an engaging plotline.

As far as endings are concerned, it may be unfair to do so, but I view The Undiscovered Country as the final swan song for TOS. Yes, it’s unfair to compare a big-budget film against the finales of the other series, but if you ignore that factor, the storyline is a good one with which to send off the crew.

“…All Good Things” is a classic, and deserves high praise. It’s far better than Generations, but I think most TNG fans would think that. I have to be honest and say that I never really got into DS9, Voyager or Enterprise, but amongst those three, I can’t understand why anyone would enjoy the DS9 finale unless they were a total diehard. I found the episode (which I saw for the first time on the Captain’s Log Fan Collection DVD set) to be extremely boring overall, the final battle sequence notwithstanding. The scene in the holodeck just drags on *forever* and it seems like the episode doesn’t really get started until 45 minutes in. Voyager’s “Endgame” was much more engaging, and thought that was a nice way for that series to go out. And I can understand that if you’re a big Enterprise fan, you would be deeply insulted by “These are the Voyages,” but setting aside the fact that it’s a holodeck story set within the TNG universe, it’s well-told and interesting (although Trip’s death is still gratuitous and unnecessary).

So, for me, the finales rank as follows:

1. TNG
2. TOS (Undiscovered Country)
3. VOY
4. ENT
5. DS9… by far.

Buckaroohawk

“11001001” is my favorite episode of the first season of TNG, and “Arsenal of Freedom” is pretty good, too. Still, Season 1 also gave us “Code of Honor,” “The Battle,” and “The Big Goodbye.” Just goes to show you that it takes a show a while to find its stride.

If CBS-D does end up remastering TNG, they’d better make the Enterprise-D look really big. The true size of that ship was never well represented during the show’s run.

Michael Hall

“11001001” was by far the best episode of TNG’s first season IMO, even though “The Big Goodbye” got all the attention (and the Peabody award) for exploring basically the same themes. (Can’t say I have much love for “The Arsenal of Freedom” though, in spite of its well-intenioned message about the evils of the arms trade that I thoroughly agree with.)

OR Coast Trekkie

Wow we go from DVD sets to talking about series’ finales.

TNG still has some great sets and some great effects, even 20 years later. But I grew up on TNG so folks in their 50’s gotta bear with me.

#23
Flipper jusst didn’t have the Dolphin Translator invented by Jonathan Brandis from Se Quest DSV. So “akakakakaka” menas “Jonathan Brandis, how can you be on this show, if you’re supposed to be in The Neverending Story 2?”

seangh

TNG ran the gamut and had shows that everyone could enjoy. I’m from the SAn Francisco, so I was tickled when they did the 3-4 series finale premiere focusing on old San Fran (cant remember the epidodes names) with Guynan from the past and Samuel CLemens and all that – fun stuff.

I enjoyed some of the off-beat and more dramatic shows, like “The Drumhead” where the focus was squarely on character drama and less on the techno-babble. I particularly hated all the technobabble episodes = gave me a headache.

While I drifted in and out of TNG when it ran initially, I found it satisfactory when taken as a whole. Sure there were some dogs, but let’s not forget it was the hightest rated hour long syndicated drama for many years.

I agree with #17 – I’d like to see it remastered as I don’t have a burning need to have this set at this time.

I also agree with the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 rule – seems to hold true for many series (except Heroes)

James

I was born sept 28 1979…..destiny

Had to post this re/the “good episodes” discussion; from FUTURAMA:

Fry: Mr. Nimoy, I came as soon as I heard what happened centuries ago. I can’t believe your show was banned.

Nimoy: I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

Fry: You know. 1966? 79 episodes, about 30 good ones.

ENTERPRISE’s finale could have gone a million ways better, but I still think it should have ended with an old Archer, remembering the days that transpired years before, and the story could have been sparked by a reporter asking, “what really happened on that mission to bring the ENTERPRISE home?” and then we go into the show.

The show’s actual ending — the epilogue/last act — should have been Archer stepping off a TOS era shuttlecraft (though we don’t see it fully) and walking into a large reception hall, where he’s given a standing ovation. We see other members of the NX ENTERPRISE crew, aged appropriately. The scene is capped with an ensign (in WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE Federation uniform) telling Archer, “it’s time, sir” and he walks over and presses a button on a decorated console.

The shot shifts to an external view of the room, which is on a space dock, and we see a champagne bottle cascading through zero G (now you know what’s coming); music crescendos and we see it crash against the smooth unmarred grey thermocoat “bow” of the USS ENTERPRISE, NCC-1701.

Close up of Archer, smiling. An official walks up behind him and says, “Admiral, I’d like you to meet Captain Robert April, who will be giving the ENTERPRISE its shakedown cruise; this is his First Officer, Christopher Pike”. We don’t hear the introduction, but we see a young Vulcan standing next to Pike. Could it be Spock? No way to know.

The camera pans back out of the room, across the drydock, and then turns to face the ENTERPRISE, and we hear Archer give the “Space…the Final Frontier…” speech.

Lots of missed opportunities in TREK history. I still believe that YESTERDAY’S ENTERPRISE should have been shelved and held for the first film (which would still be called “GENERATIONS”) but tied it in with the 1701-A and the Khitomer conference of STVI.

freezejeans

I was a sophomore in college when TNG debuted in 1987, and totally put off studying and everything else to watch it :) Can’t believe it’s been 20 years. Oy. Seems like that’s a great DVD set, though.

Funny, I was recently watching the individual boxes on the DVD, after a while and I was surprised how it did not got dated. Being an illustrator myself i´m still amazed how confident, how elegant all the set designs are. I think the running word is “confidence” and “hope”. Take realistic “dirty” movie sets like “Alien” and its derivatives. It takes guts to be clean, to be “the good guys”.

It also had this “Jacques Cousteau” thing on the air, the french explorer, documentarist, etc. Now we´re surrounded by “Terrorism Exploitation”,
with shaking cameras and let´s kill the foreign-looking guy of the week.
Hope this ends quickly.

Recently i also found a way to play the 1995 computer game “Star Trek: The Next Generation: a Final Unity” on Windows XP, and what a delight it was. How clever, how engaging it was. It was not about hurting, or hitting people, for once, it was about helping others. Hope writers find this kind of inspiration again.

I AM THX-1138

Again, Chinny, where are you coming from? I don’t know whether to agree with you, argue with you in a thread derailing tirade, or ask you to please snuff the blunt before typing. I can function in a tiny bit of Spanish but prefer American-style english as that’s right in my wheel-house.

Ooh, I’ve got it! Have you suffered some blunt head trauma? AP, could you send over a medic to Dolphy’s house and have a look-see?

trektacular

TNG only started to suck when, like Voyager and Enterprise after it, Brannon Braga took over.

mrssuperg

If you are a true Trek fan…none of it sucks…..was around when it all began…..

Kev-1

Does it have those great “On the next exciting episode of Star Trek (pause) The Next Generation!” promos?

Sean4000

I remember those. Staaaaaar Trek …The Next Generation!

Kuvagh

37: Let’s not start trying to disqualify people from “true” fanhood. If you like all 10 feature films and every single episode of the 5 TV series, good for you! You’ve sure got a lot of material to enjoy.

Personally, I see where trektacular is coming from. When I think of late TNG, I think of episodes like “Masks,” which for me had the same vibe as Voyager. Voyager never gelled with me. As a result, I quickly got to the point that I would only occasionally tune in so I could see cool stuff which Rick Sternbach and the rest of the art department were making for it. As far as Enterprise goes, I was so turned off by the first few episodes that I never deliberately tuned in again. I recall flipping channels past it once as they were rehashing the Klingon court story from STVI and shaking my head.

Lendorien

My question on this is… is the image quality better than the individual box sets? That to me is the clincher. I might be willing to invest in this, but not if the image quality is as crappy as the original releases.

JJK

Another painfully dated aspect of TNG’s first couple of seasons was the synthesized background music, which seemed to punctuate every other line of dialog. Thankfully, the synthesized music was eventually phased out in favor of more symphonic scores as the series progressed.

Characterizing improved a lot after season 2 as well, as the actors seemed more comfortable with their characters and delivered more nuanced performances. Many of the earlier perforances were embarrassingly overwraught and melodramatic.

And, of course, good riddance to one of the most ill-conceived characters in Star Trek history… Dr. Pulaski!

Jake

Pulaski was not as ill-conceived as Neelix(or proto-Jar Jar as I call him)

If you are a true Trek fan…none of it sucks…..was around when it all began…..