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review by Zach B.
Running Time: 841 minutes
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby
Retail Price: $139.95
Features: The Beginning, Selected Crew Analysis, The Making Of A Legend, Memorable Missions, Collectible Booklet
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Stereo, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections, Chapter Index (Approx. 8 Chapters per episode), 7-Disc Set
Released: March 26th, 2002
It's only been fifteen years since "Star Trek: The Next Generation" debuted in syndication and after airing for seven seasons, it still carries a loyal fanbase. But let's be honest here, "Star Trek" will always forever be part of popular culture and every different series that bears the "Star Trek" name will always have a loyal fanbase. "Star Trek" is just something that many people recognize (and is stereotyped with science fiction lovers and nerds) and just really enjoy. Even if you're not a fan, surely you've heard of the captains, the technology and other more "mainstream" things the franchise brings (Phasers, Klingons, etc.)
Too bad for me is that I've never been a giant "Star Trek" fan. I've never really gotten into this moneymaking franchise that has spawned theatrical films and different series. I've seen parts of episodes here and there, but that's about it. However, with the release of this first season, it was a chance to get into it. While "Star Trek" is still not my thing, after viewing some episodes I have to say I'm more of a fan that I originally was.
Arguably, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is the most successful and most popular series from "Star Trek." Yes, it has the feature films (a new one is due out in fall 2002), the merchandising and everything else with it. But perhaps why this series is the most popular with fans is that the late creator of "Star Trek," Gene Roddenberry, did help greatly to create this show. "The Next Generation" branches off into new areas of the "Star Trek" universe with new technology and characters, but keeps the spirit of the original show. Perhaps that's why it works.
I guess the show succeeds the way it does is because the writing is there and gives the fans what it wants. It has interesting science fiction plotlines, deals with space and has a good deal of tension and character development. While I wouldn't know, people tell me that the first season of the show is one of the more "weaker" seasons. Let's be honest here... not every show is incredibly strong the first season. Take many sitcoms for example. But that's the point of episodic television... characters need time to grow and develop. Just like story arcs. The first season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" sets up the premise, the characters and gives a good idea of what's to come. If you like science fiction and like paying attention, not to mention pretty strong writing, then "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is for you. But let's be honest here: there are people who simply won't get into the show, won't like it or won't understand it. But the show has been off for a bit, so all the fans have been sorted out, but I'm sure each day it finds new fans.
Since this is the first season, it must be noted the budget limitations. I find a lot of the effects laughable... they just seem so out of place. This isn't a movie, it's a show from the late 1980s that was just starting out. Animation, camera shaking, smoke... jeez. It's actually pretty funny. Still, the sets are decent. But the show does rely on its acting, and the show does have a rather strong cast. Patrick Stewart has a lot of grace and dignity as Picard. Stewart is a classically trained actor who does a really good job here. Johnny Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brett Spiner, Michael Dorn and more are also quite good. The show's directing and writing is pretty strong as it shows the characters and creates plotlines that people have been enjoying for years.
So that's it. I'm not a "Star Trek" convert after watching the first season, but I do enjoy it more and have more respect for it. This is a great first season DVD release which I'm about to get into. And just in case you don't know, these are the episodes you'll find in this set. That's right, all 26 from season one: "Encounter At Farpoint (parts 1 & 2)," "The Naked Now," "Code Of Honor," "The Last Outpost," "Where No One Has Gone Before," "Lonely Among Us Justice," "The Battle," "Hide And Q, Haven," "The Big Good-bye," "Datalore," "Angel One," "11001001," "Too Short A Season," "When The Bough Breaks," "Home Soil," "Coming Of Age," "Heart Of Glory," "The Arsenal Of Freedom," "Symbiosis," "Skin Of Evil," "We'll Always Have Paris," "Conspiracy" and "The Neutral Zone."
No widescreen here my friends (obviously). Of course, this is a television show and all the episodes are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. These are actually pretty strong transfers that won't disappoint. There are some marks on the print here and there, not to mention they are a tiny bit grainy (but not much). They are also somewhat muted as far as colors go and there is some slight noise and shimmering here and there. But despite those flaws, there is decent color saturation and the transfers retain a good level of sharpness. These episodes are about fifteen years old, and do look quite good for what they are. I was pretty impressed with the quality of these, and I think you will too.
Sporting English stereo AND newly created English 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes, the audio is fantastic on all the episodes of the first season. The English stereo tracks are fine and are straightforward, but for a more encompassing experience, the Dolby Digital 5.1 remixes can't be beat. I'm never too impressed with most movie 5.1 remixes, and from the TV series that have made it to DVD and have been remixed, I can safely say that "Star Trek: The Next Generation" was a lot better than I expected and the best television remixes I've heard yet. They are somewhat artifical, but that's part of the fun. Be it murmurs from people in the background, the Enterprise zooming through space or weapons blasting off, there is good bass use here and fine surround effects that really bring you in. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, while there is a good balance between that, sound effects and music. The opening theme sounds pretty lovely. Complete with high fidelity and a lot of strength, the 5.1 mixes are booming and are quite enjoyable. If you need them, there are English subtitles and English closed captions.
It's not jammed pack, but compared to some recent season sets I've viewed, "Star Trek" The Next Generation" has a good deal of supplements. All of the extras are on the seventh and last disc. First off, we have The Beginning. Lasting about eighteen minutes, this is a good watch about the show. The footage here is old but enjoyable (a first toast by the cast, making the set and on-set bits are some highlights). Anyway, Gene Roddenberry, supervising producer Robert Justman, Patrick Stewart and more talk about creating the series and making it. Clips from the show are also included. Roddenberry discusses the original idea. But this is mostly mix of old footage with some new. Again, a good watch about making the show and if you're a fan of the series.
Selected Crew Analysis lasts a little over fifteen minutes and is pretty cool watch. Supervising producer Rick Berman, Stewart, Gates McFadden, Frakes and more talk. Basically, this is more older footage but is still quite interesting. A lot of this is about casting the show. There's a lot on some last minute changes, the intense casting process and the actors building personal relationships with themselves and their characters. There's a nice human touch to this.
The Making Of A Legend has more interviews with Stewart, Frakes, production designers and more. There is talk about the syndication of not working with a network as far as budget goes, and how visual effects, sets and the like were created. Even though I find the effects laughable, it's amazing how so many gush about them. There is talk about using effects and what it takes to make all this. Clips from episodes are also included. This lasts a little over fifteen minutes.
Finally, Memorable Missions lasts a little over seventeen minutes and in addition to show clips, we get to hear from the cast and crew about their favorite episodes and moments from the first season. These are mostly new interviews and the production stories about them are fun to hear.
Finally, the packaging is really neat (you may need a table to spread it all out) and these sets will look cool on my shelf. Also, the foldout booklet inside the set is pretty cool too.
Paramount is truly releasing "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in a superb way. While I do wish for more supplements, it must be said that how they're approaching releasing seasons (more or less every other month so we a whole series run in a year) is revolutionary, and other studios should take notice and follow suit. The presentation is fantastic, the setup on the DVDs is nice and these boxed sets look pretty damn cool. "Star Trek" fans, you'll surely buy this so I don't even tell you that you have to. Best of all, the sets are reasonably priced too.