Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 1

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 1 (1988)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Patrick Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn
Extras: The Beginning Featurette, Mission Profiles Featurette, Memorable Missions Featurette, Making Of Featurette

I think Star Trek fans are fortunate that Paramount has reconsidered its policies and instead of releasing TV series two episodes at a time have now opted to make them available on a per-season basis. Not only will your wallets undoubtedly profit from this new approach, in a way it also makes more sense to release these episodes as the unit that they are rather than individuals. Coming in a nicely packaged box set that contains 7 DVDs, "Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 1" is a release fans of the series have been awaiting for a long time. Reason enough for us to give it a check-up.

It is always hard to successfully establish a new series and it is certainly all the harder if you have some big shoes to fill. Such was the case with "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Fortunately the series quickly established itself as a worthy sequel to the original "Star Trek" series. While the early episodes – presented in this Season 1 set – still nicely recall the greatest moments and the atmosphere of the original series, some of the themes very quite different, managing to keep up with the changing times and world-views. A new cast and a new set of characters – which where very unique and individual – also added renewed appeal to the show, making it an overall success that lasted for many years. With less technical limitations than the original series, "The Next Generation" was oftentimes able to create more visionary scenarios and daring encounters, which helped the overall series.

On this box set we find all 26 episodes that ran on TV as the series’ first season. They are presented in chronological order, four episodes per disc.

All 26 episodes of the box set are presented in their original <$PS,fullscreen> aspect ratio. The transfers are meticulously clean and no signs of damage or other blemishes are evident anywhere. The image is sharp and offers a great deal of detail throughout, making the series a pleasure to watch, especially after you have gotten used to experience it in the shoddy broadcast quality provided by your cable operator. Still, the image is not without its flaws, in part due to the age of the material and the state of technology. Effect shots are often clearly visible as such as the image quality has deteriorated from optical print process runs and poor color timing at times The picture shows signs of grain on occasion and in scenes involving the bridge, reds seem to slightly overwhelm the overall image. All that notwithstanding, the image is beautiful and allows you to experience the series like never before. Colors are generally strong and vivid which are balanced by solid blacks and good highlights. The compression is generally well-done, although video noise and grain, combined with heavy camera movement sometimes do result in slight <$pixelation,pixelation> artifacts and fuzzy edges – the latter are especially noticeable during the episodes’ opening credits.

The episodes are all presented in full bitrate <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio with optional <$DS,Dolby Surround> versions in English. The <$5.1,5.1 mix> has been created for this DVD release and it is surprisingly effective. The sound elements seem to have been in great shape as they decry their age, creating a solid and robust sound presentation with a wide frequency response and astonishing dynamics. The surround channels are engaged frequently and quite aggressively at times, giving the episodes a lot of "drive." Dialogues is also in good shape, never sounding harsh or unnatural and always remaining understandable and well-integrated. The audio tracks are supplemented by English language subtitles.

On the seventh disc of the set you will also find some bonus materials to accompany the Season 1 episodes. "The Beginning" is a short featurette exploring the origins of the series. Gene Roddenberry shares his thoughts as to how it came together and how he pitched the idea to Paramount, and how it all got entangled in budget issues and such.

"Mission Profiles" is a 15-minute feature about the cast. Featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage it is an interesting feature that allows non-Trekkers to learn a bit more about the tribulations the cast and the series’ characters went through before things finally fell into place.

The starship Enterprise is, of course, one of the stars of the series and the feature "The Making of a Legend" shows viewers how the ship had been revamped for this new show and how the models were built. It also sheds some light on the set and production design as well as the series special effects, all of which had to be created on a shoestring budget.

In "Memorable Missions" cast members talk about their most memorable moments of the show from that particular first season. It is exciting to get the cast’s point of view as they elaborate on some of the greatest episodes of the season.

The fist season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" makes an impressive debut with this box set, which also includes a fold-out featuring very brief cast info and an episode listing. The bulky silver packaging with the unmistakable Star Trek logo on the front is getting fans into the right mode from the moment they pick it up. It has been carefully been put together and offers a great presentation of the series with some nice bonus materials, just the way the fans love it. There is no reason to hesitate, Paramount has done it. After the somewhat sluggish – not to mention horrible expensive – release of the original Star Trek series, they have listened to what people had to say and make "Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 1" a great release. Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the series or just a casual viewer, this DVD set is perfect and great to have handy, as it easily allows you to watch the episodes one after another, or pick one whenever you have a little bit of free time. "All stations buy!"