Paramount // 1987 // 1183 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 24th, 2002
I'm sure that there were many tears shed when the original Star Trek series left the air decades ago. No more Spock. No more Captain Kirk. No more Bones. What would viewers do? Well, I'll tell you what they did: they waited until 1987 to watch Patrick Stewart helm the new show Star Trek: The Next Generation. The series, created by original Star Trek scribe Gene Roddenberry (who passed on during the fifth season), became a hit with fans and lasted seven seasons on the air. In fact, the crew of the new Starship Enterprise was so well liked that in 1994 Paramount dismissed the old Star Trek crew and let the newbies take over theStar Trek movie franchise. With the inception of DVD Paramount has been quietly releasing all of the original Star Trek episodes on discs containing two episodes each (blah). In 2002, Paramount finally got the hint and decided that for the second series they would put together a package containing all of the episodes from each separate season. Here now for your viewing and reading pleasure is Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season One on DVD.
"Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise..."
Ah, such familiar words. Let's go back to the days when old bald men ran starships, Klingons were lieutenants, and androids roamed the skies with yellowish skin and blank stares. In 1987 came Star Trek: The Next Generation in all its '80s glory: Cheap suits. Big hair. Flimsy sets. This is nostalgia like you've never seen it before!
Contained on this seven-disc set are all 26 episodes to the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, including the hour long premiere episode "Encounter At Farpoint." The rest of the episodes, in no particular order, include: "Angel One," "The Arsenal Of Freedom," "The Battle," "The Big Goodbye," "Code of Honor," "Coming of Age," "Conspiracy," "Datalore," "11001001," Haven," "Heart and Glory," "Hide and Q," "Home Soil," "Justice," "The Last Outpost," "Lonely Among Us," "The Naked Now," "The Neutral Zone," "Skin of Evil," "Where No One Has Gone Before," "When the Bough Breaks," "We'll Always have Paris," "Too Short a Season," and "Symbiosis."
I'm not what you'd call a Trekkie. I have a far greater love for other TV shows than I do Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's not that I don't like the show. I actually have a warm spot in my heart for the little bugger. In fact, I often feel that it's an indelible part of my youth. If I may be reminiscent and indulgent for a moment, I spent many a summer in LaValle, Wisconsin, at my family's lake house. It's a beautiful place that has become a fond memory from my childhood days. I've actually spoken of moving there sometime and opening up my own used bookstore...but I digress. During those long summer nights, I'd often sleep on the basement couch which seemed to be the most comfortable thing on the planet. Back then (and still to this day) we didn't receive cable at the house. This meant that I was forced to choose from a grand total of five different TV stations. Late at night, three of those stations went off the air. Via the other two stations, I had two options: a fuzzy, badly produced promo for steak knives, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Guess which show I chose? To make an already long story short, my formidable nights were spent watching the cast of Star Trek: TNG ride around space in all their glory.
Since those nights in Wisconsin, I haven't seen Star Trek: The Next Generation again save for the three movies released over the last eight years (with Star Trek: Nemesis due in theaters during late 2002). While watching this seven disc set, I was struck by the flood of memories this show brought back -- it was my personal weeping hankie from the past. Oh, all right...so the show didn't bring back that many memories. But it did remind me that the 1980s were a time when cheese was all the rage. And Star Trek: The Next Generation is a big hunk of smelly gouda. This isn't to say that the show is bad -- in fact, I kind of enjoyed watching it after all these years. It's just that there are certain aspects of the show that look unbelievably dated. The biggest of these are the special effects -- from cheap looking CGI effects to sometimes laughably absurd aliens, Star Trek: The Next Generation is a show that certainly has a lot of wrinkles around its eyes. A few friends have noted that the cast often looks like they've joined some kind of freakish pajama party -- their red and blue jumpsuits look as if they're either getting ready to crawl into bed or go deep sea diving in the Antarctic. And the effects! In one episode, a small, pinkish earwig-type creature scuttles across the floor, up a man's pants and into his mouth. This was the subsequently followed by another creature bursting out of his chest that looked like a cross between E.T., a worm, and my sphincter. This entire sequence was done with such shaky stop-motion animation that it literally had me laughing out loud.
It's also obvious that this is the first season of the show -- characters and writers often feel as if they're struggling to find themselves and their characters. Of the major players the best is Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Picard was such an enormous presence and talent on the show that he often felt like the glue holding the crew together. Let's be honest, he spoke like a Shakespearean actor and had the annunciation of Tony Randall. He deserved his top-billing status. Jonathan Frakes as Picard's sidekick Will Riker brought a bit of smirk to his role which I think was needed to give the series some levity. Likewise for Brent Spiner's portrayal of the animated machine Data. In later years Data would end being one of the most popular characters on the show, which also became the case in later Next Generation movies. LeVar Burton, best known at this point in his career as the Reading Rainbow and Roots guy, is great as the sight-impaired Geordi La Forge. Other standouts in the cast included Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf (who often derived comedy from many "fish-out-of-water" situations on the show) and Marina Sirtis as the telepathically enhanced counselor Troi. And what review would be complete without mentioning the great John De Lancie as the egotistically superior being "Q"? De Lancie hams it up and chews the scenes like a true professional Star Trek villain.
Ah, but not everyone on the show were standouts. The two biggest examples are Denise Crosby as security officer Tasha Yar and Wil Wheaton as young Wesley Crusher. For my dollar, neither of these characters added much to the show. Denise Crosby (an actress that will always be the wife from Pet Sematary to me) plays her character WAY over the top, usually mixing anger, rage, and every other emotion known to man into one single line of dialogue. Wil Wheaton as Wesley just comes off as a snotty little kid. Maybe the world just wasn't ready for a child on the Star Trek series...
For this reviewer, Star Trek: The Next Generation is somewhat of a loop into the past. It didn't make for spectacularly great television, but it was entertaining (albeit hokey) and above all, fun. It's a testament to the series that the second incarnation of the show went on to take over the Star Trek film franchise. My only quibble -- where's the Tribbles? [Editor's Note: They wouldn't make a reappearance until Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I just proved I'm a very big nerd.]
Each of these 26 episodes is presented in their original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. Overall, I was impressed with how good these episodes looked. Each of these episodes were shot on film, then transferred to video because of the effects, and as such often times sport some muted colors and a softness in the image. However, I give a lot of leeway to these transfers due to their age, source materials, and budget. The colors are generally bright with blacks being mostly solid and well saturated. The overall crispness of the picture is sometimes diminished, though most of these episodes appear far better than most fans will expect.
The audio is presented in a newly mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix. These episodes were originally recorded in Dolby Stereo and had obvious limitations. Paramount has done a fine job of remixing these tracks with some nifty new sound effects in the rear speakers, as well as the front and center channels. While the bulk is mainly focused in the center and front speakers, Star Trek: The Next Generation still sounds clear and crisp with only a small amount of distortion in a few minor scenes. Also included on this disc are English captions, as well as the original Dolby 2.0 soundtrack for you purists out there.
Though this seven-disc DVD set doesn't include a mountain of extra features, viewers will find a few supplements that should make them happier than a Klingon in heat. First off, the entire thing is packaged in a huge fold out case not unlike the X-Files discs from Fox. However, this slip case comes in a handy silver bookcase-like cover with an insert collectible booklet (original air dates, episode log, etcetera). While I found this packaging to be a tad bulky, overall it's better than some of the flimsy Warner stuff that's on the market.
All of the extra features are located on the last disc in the set. The first feature is an 18-minute documentary titled "The Beginning." The gist of this feature is a brief overview of the series which included interviews with almost all of the cast, as well as Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. This is a fairly in-depth look at the beginning of the series, including some cool behind-the-scenes footage, and a somewhat emotional retelling of how Gene Roddenberry almost lost his family because of the workload from the original series.
"Selected Crew Profiles" is a look at the characters on the show, how they came to be, how the actors got their parts, etcetera. Personally I found this to be the least interesting of the extras, though fans of the series will no doubt get a kick out of learning about their favorite characters. These interviews are mixed with both old and new footage of cast and crew interviews. One fun tidbit: actors Marina Sirtis and Denise Crosby were actually originally slated for each other's respective roles.
"The Making of a Legend" is a broad overview of the sets, the construction, the effects, the new Enterprise, the music, etcetera. Basically, all the technical aspects of the series. I always love watching these little documentaries about the seemingly little details that go into making the effects. For instance, did you know that the original effects for "beaming down" a person in the original series were done with swizzle sticks? Cool.
Finally, there is "Memorable Missions," a collection of recollections by the cast and crew about their favorite moments and episodes. This was a rather unusual feature that included stories about flubs, black gunk, and sewage plants. Watch the feature to find out what the heck I'm talking about.
If you're a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, chances are you went out and bought this set faster than I can type the word "Spock." Paramount has certainly put forth a considerable amount of effort into making this a very complete first season on DVD. While nothing on this set is perfect, this is still the best Star Trek: The Next Generation has ever looked or sounded, and the extra features should give some added insight into the production and stories of the show.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season One is free to go! Live long and prosper!
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 1183 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "The Beginning" Documentary
* Selected Crew Analysis
* "Making of a Legend" Documentary
* Memorable Missions
* Companion Booklet
* Official Site
* Wil Wheaton's Official Site