How could the show that gave us a vision of futuristic world only be shown in the standard definition of the past? Why wasn’t Star Trek: The Next Generation being broadcasted in High Definition on cable? The live action scenes with the cast was shot on 35mm film in 1987. They saved time and money in post-production by finishing episodes on video. They didn’t have to create special effects that went beyond the demands of a normal TV broadcast. The standard def was good enough for the DVD sets. But like a satellite on orbital decay, ST:TNG seemed destined to burn up as science fiction fanatics demanded shows that push the envelope of their massive 1080p TVs. Would the show be destined to be stuck on digital subchannels that don’t mind showing vintage video?
Luckily the original 35mm footage wasn’t junked to save vault space. This meant that the producers could go through the entire post-production process to create a high definition version of the show. They could rescan the 35mm footage to bring a higher resolution to the cast. They could redo the Special Effects to be state of the art for 2012 and not 1987. They could remix the soundtrack to fill the surround speakers. But could they do it right? Or would it turn into an interstellar muck? Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level proves that the people behind the re-post production effort are doing it right. The sampler includes the pilot movie and two episodes as a taste of what’s coming on Blu-ray in the coming years.
“Encounter at Farpoint” launched the show. It let viewers know that this wasn’t going to be a clone of the original series. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) wasn’t a hunky stud like Captain Kirk. Picard didn’t need a rug on his head to brave new worlds. William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) didn’t have the cold logic of Mr. Spock. Data (Brent Spiner), an android, supplied the “what are these human emotions” angle. The pilot movie introduced the recurring character of Q (John de Lancie). He’s a God-like being that wants to put humanity to a test through Picard and his crew’s actions. The new version of the pilot movie looks so much better. The spruced up special effects really improve the visuals. The space creatures have real details to their tentacles. They didn’t go George Lucas with the new effects. Nothing looks too flashy in the 21st Century visuals just a bit more realistic. The same is true for the episodes “Sins of the Father” and “The Inner Light.” There are a few seconds of “Sins of the Father” where they couldn’t find the original negative. Things don’t look bad, but it’ll be better if they can locate the missing film can.
The higher resolution allows the costumes and set design work to be fully appreciated. There’s a lot of work that was lost in the blur of pixels nearly 25 years ago. The Blu-ray is like watching a masterpiece painting get an expert cleaning. Things that were obscured now shine. Patrick Stewart’s face is a new frontier. Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s legacy will be reconsidered and upgraded thanks to The Next Level.
The video is a pillar-boxed 1.33:1 so you see the full frame of the original broadcasts. The upgrade to 1080p elevates the show and really does make it futuristic. The audio is a freshly mixed English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, This will give you sound system a good workout with the noises from beyond our atmosphere. There’s also the original English Stereo Surround for purists. There’s a few dub tracks including French Mono, German Stereo, Castilian Mono and Japanese Mono. The subtitles are English, French, German, Castilian, Japanese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Next Level Promo (1:13) is a quick demo of the remastering.
Star Trek Padd – iPad App Promo spot (0:33) is a quickie ad.
Star Trek – The Next Generation teaser promo (1:38) lets us know season one is on the way.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level delivers on the promise that ST:TNG is a complete update of the series. The show does look better in high definition. Even Riker’s beard looks more convincing in Blu-ray. This a fine sampler for fans eager to see a glimpse of the future.
CBS DVD presents Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level. Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton,Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner. Contents: 3 episodes on 1 Blu-ray. Released on DVD: January 31, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.