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Star Trek: The Next Generation — Season One (Blu-ray Review)

2 Aug, 2012 By: John Latchem

$129.99 six-BD set
Not rated.
Stars Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, Denise Crosby.

To hear the show’s creators describe it in the new Blu-ray retrospective documentary, the debut of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1987 represented something of a paradox. Everyone involved wanted “Star Trek” to return to the small screen, yet no one thought it would succeed.

As executive producer Rick Berman pointed out, the show had three strikes working against it from the beginning: TV sequels rarely worked; sci-fi TV shows rarely worked; and the model of first-run syndication proposed for the new show had yet to yield any true successes.

And yet, somehow, the show not only succeeded, but changed the landscape of science-fiction on television and led to the creation of three additional “Trek” spinoff series.

The early results were not encouraging. The first season of “TNG” ranks among the least-memorable seasons from all the “Trek” shows, a shaky start that mostly eschewed character development for archetypes plugged into the kind of morality plays for which the original series had been known. It wouldn’t be until season two when the show started to understand its potential. But a lot of the trademark elements of that success are present here, beginning with the beautiful new Enterprise-D starship.

Watching the episodes again with the benefit of hindsight yields something of a strange sensation. Some of the flaws of the early episodes are almost legendary, as are plot holes that really stick out once the show further developed its mythology and the array of fictional technologies at its disposal.

Most of the focus for this new Blu-ray, deservedly so, has been on the upgrades to the visual effects (a process spotlighted in its own featurette). While the effects had been fine at the time, they hadn’t aged well compared with subsequent efforts from both this show and others. This high-def remaster of the original film elements is a welcome upgrade in that regard that instantly gives the episodes a new oomph. Beyond the immediate benefit to these episodes, the upgrade should really build anticipation for the seasons to come. The disc also includes the old DVD extras, and episode promos.

And then there are the “what might have been” moments revealed in the new bonus materials on the Blu-ray. How Data was originally conceived of as having bright pink skin, or how creator Gene Roddenberry wanted the balding Patrick Stewart to play Capt. Picard with a wig. And this was only after Stewart got the role because Roddenberry’s first choice, actor Stephen Macht (who aptly describes his arrogance as part of the look back), didn’t want to read for the part. Macht subsequently entered the “Trek” universe years later with a guest role on spinoff “Deep Space Nine.” Many fans might know that Marina Sirtis as Counselor Troi and Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar were originally cast in the opposite roles before being flipped (because it was felt that Sirtis could project more empathy, which judging by these early episodes translates to best approaching orgasm during any scene with an emotional context).

In the “who knew?” department, Klingon character Worf was added to the “Encounter at Farpoint” pilot script almost as an afterthought, but between “TNG” and “DS9,” Worf would go on to appear in more “Star Trek” episodes than any other character. No. 2 on that list would be Chief O’Brien, played by Colm Meaney in “Farpoint” as a nameless crewmember before earning a name in season two and going on to become one of the franchise’s stalwart characters throughout “TNG” and “DS9.”

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