Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1 Review
Before I start this review, I thought I'd point you in the direction of Mark Davis' review of the Region 1 box set. There's little point in repeating everything he said in his review so for a more in-depth look at the series and its origins, pop across and read that first. I intend this to be more of an in-depth look at the Region 2 box set and how it compares to the Region 1 counterpart.
However, instead of jumping straight into the technical aspects I will say that now looking back over the first season in this box set it is far stronger than I remember. Granted, the first dozen or so episodes are plagued by slightly wooden acting and ropey special effects (by today's TV standards), but the quality of writing and the production values were are easily as strong here as in later seasons. It also goes to show just how little later seasons and spin-off series pushed the envelope of what could be achieved - Voyager in particular and with the exception of Deep Space Nine.
There are some great episodes here - my favourites are almost certainly 'Conspiracy' (which is still crying out for a follow-up to this day) and 'The Neutral Zone' which reintroduces the Romulans and also hints towards the existence of a very powerful but then undiscovered alien force (hmm, I wonder who that could be?)...
There are a number of weak episodes as well, no doubt about that, and Mark has picked exactly the same three episodes in his review to give this dubious honour as I would - '11001001', 'Code of Honor' and 'Symbiosis'.
It's a bit odd for one of my reviews to mention packaging, but the packaging for Star Trek: The Next Generation has been the subject of huge amounts of debate on various forums and newsgroups. Having now seen both Region 1 and Region 2 releases, I have to say I prefer the latter. Paramount have made a real effort to impress here with the discs being presented in a cut-down digipack within a strong outer plastic shell that suits the series perfectly.
On it's own, the picture quality on the Region 2 set is good. It's nice and sharp with good colour levels. However, there has obviously been some fairly major digital restoration work to sharpen up the NTSC source for this release and this does at times give the picture a very slightly artificial look. I don't think this is as a result of the NTSC-PAL conversion as the Region 1 set suffers similarly. Compared to recent showings of the series on TV, this is light-years ahead although I did notice a few minor picture dropouts during the pilot episode and the credit sequence appears slightly 'juddery' (surprisingly the episodes themselves are fine in this respect).
When viewed side-by-side on the same equipment, the Region 1 picture appears a little more vibrant while the Region 2 is a little more natural. This could be more down to the way different sources are displayed on my equipment rather than major NTSC/PAL differences and I couldn't really say either picture looked better than the other.
The remixed English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a major improvement over the limited Pro-Logic sound the series has previously had. Channel separation is good - especially in the exterior shots, and every speaker gets its fair share of action. Bass levels are good while dialogue is firmly locked to the centre speaker.
My only criticism is the lack of a 2 channel English option, but it's a minor point and does not affect my scoring for the sound element of this review. I didn't notice any of the pops or crackles that Mark mentions in his review on either the Region 1 or 2 releases although I may not have been listening closely enough so I'm not saying they're not there!
There's very little to choose between either release as far as sound goes. Although I think the Region 1 release does deserve recognition for including the 2-channel track - not enough to make it a more tempting purchase however!
This is a direct copy of Mark's review - there's nothing more to say really on the extras as they're identical for both box sets and my opinion matches this exactly...
"The extras are an interesting package. They are all on the seventh disc and consist of 4 featurettes totalling 65-minutes. Normally the term “featurette” is enough to make me want to run screaming however these are pretty good.
The Beginning. This 18-minute piece covers the conception and thoughts behind TNG and how it came about. It has interviews with all the cast and crew including Roddenberry. The interviews are a mixture of new and archive footage. They include behind the scenes shots of the model work and also some interviews with ILM about their work on the series. There is a lot of information imparted here, which will be new to some of us.
Selected Crew Analysis. This 15-minute section covers each crewmember and how their characters developed. It starts by talking about their auditions and how they came to get the parts they did. Then it moves onto the characters they play and how they approached them and indeed how they changed their approach as the season went on. Again this covers the entire cast but some characters get more screen time than others. Stewart, Spiner and Sirtis get the lion’s share of this piece. This is well put together and a fascinating piece to watch.
The Making of a Legend. Here we have a very tight 15-minutes that cover all aspects of the Production Design of TNG. We talk to the visual effects men, the model makers, the makeup people, the painters and even the people who make the tea (maybe not the last one). There is a huge amount of information packed into this piece. The standouts for me are the pieces on the visual effects where they show you how the lack of CGI made the optical effects work even more inventive. This is my favourite piece and I just wish it could’ve been longer.
Memorable Moments. This piece, lasting 17 minutes, shows the cast and crew’s favourite moments and scenes from the first season. Highlights are Frakes’ encounter with black slime, Crosby’s final bow and Armin Shimerman’s memories of the first Ferengi appearance. This is another excellent piece that shows a bit of the lighter side of TNG, which is arguably missing from the other featurettes.
Overall the extras are an above average package. An hours worth of extras may not seem like much but when you watch them you realise that Paramount have to ration out the extras between 7 boxsets. If there is an hour on each set that will give us 7 hours of extras in total, which isn’t to be sneezed at. Two black marks spring instantly to mind. Firstly that there are no commentaries and I would have thought that at the very least there would be one on the pilot. Secondly the featurettes, whilst very good, seem a little tight in places and could have had more in them. They skated over certain areas that could have been covered more extensively. "
All in all this is a very strong package for a very strong series. Even now, the first series of ST:TNG is still head-and-shoulders above a lot of modern television including certain later Trek spin-offs. Sometimes, the first series is looked on unfavourably in comparison to later seasons but it features strong writing talent and is hard to fault. The DVD box set is a triumph - a few more extras may have been nice and a slightly cheaper price point would have been preferable, but in all there's little to complain about.
There's hardly anything to choose between the Region 1 and Region 2 releases - in fact, the major difference is the packaging and surely you wouldn't let that influence your decision of which region to buy, would you? (I'd go for Region 2!)