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Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season One

It was a game-changing reboot, and boy oh boy does it look dandy on Blu-ray

Reviewed by Richard Whittaker, Fri., July 27, 2012

DVD Watch

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season One

Paramount Home Media, $129.99 (Blu-ray)

There's a lot of current kvetching about reboots and how they trample on the original, how they are always just a safe cash-in. But when Star Trek: The Next Generation warped onto our view screens 25 years ago, it was a huge risk. Sci-fi was dead on TV, and relaunches went down like the Titanic. Yet TNG changed all that. It took the original series' tales of humans in a void ruled by godlike aliens and enigmas, but changed a key component. This Enterprise isn't a warship, but a flagship. Captain Kirk was an explorer beyond civilization; Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is an ambassador. As an entry point for this new adventure, "Encounter at Farpoint" should be taught in film school as a how-to guide on effective pilot episodes. It doesn't need to tell you that Data is an android, or Worf is a Klingon, or Counselor Troi is an empath. It's all just there, taken for granted and natural. It's big-space opera, but told in little strokes, like how Royal Shakespeare Company veteran Stewart brings a gravitas that makes him an undeniable leader. He's an affable grouch, while his number one, William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), was Kirk's two-fisted heir. In 25 episodes (presented here across seven discs), it wove the fabrics of a universe, one that strengthens what creator Gene Roddenberry had built two decades earlier. There's no rush to bring back fan faves like the Romulans, but when original series veteran DeForest Kelley rattles his old bones across the Enterprise as now-Admiral McCoy, the old and the new are bonded. Sure, there are midseason misfires, like underwritten female parts and the overwritten, bat-eared, villainous Ferengi, and the tranche of featurettes does not gloss over them. Yet the show remains a much-adored morality play, and that has not changed since the original broadcast date. What makes the Blu-ray worth the money is that the restoration makes this TV show cinematic. The producers overshot the show, using film rather than video, and going back to the negatives for a 1080p transfer makes it easier and more sumptuous to watch. Even boy-genius Wesley Crusher (nerd hero Wil Wheaton) is less annoying in hi-def. Considering how laborious that reconstruction was, you can excuse the 20-minute documentary about the conversion. And with the entire cast heading to Austin for the Wizard World Comic Con in October, "boldly going" never looked more beautiful or timely.

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