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This review is from: Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Next Level (Blu-ray)  [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
I was very excited when I found out that Star Trek: The Next Generation was being converted into blu-ray, and even more so when they revealed how meticulous the conversion will be. This sample gives you a taste of what the brilliant Okudas, and everyone else at CBS/Paramount, are capable of doing. It includes three episodes - Encounter at Farpoint, Sins of the Father, and Inner Light - but it's worth noting that you're actually getting four since Farpoint is a two-parter.
First, a quick word on the episodes. Encounter at Farpoint obviously isn't one of the strongest TNG episodes, but watching it again after quite a long time made me realise just how big a foundation this episode built for the characters (and story direction) we would all come to love over the following seven seasons. Sure, the pacing is a bit scatter-brain and the premise is very TOS-esque, but otherwise it's a joy to watch just for the memories it invokes.
Sins of the Father is, in my opinion, the strongest of the three. TNG did so well to turn the Klingon Empire from pantomime villains to a fully fleshed Alpha Quadrant species and this episode is just one example of it. Picard and Worf always had their best moments in these episodes, and there a fair few tear-jerkers here. Finally, there's Inner Light, which tends to be one of the most lauded TNG stories. Personally, I did find it emotionally devastating the first time around, but it isn't one that I would choose to watch again and again.
Wow, there just aren't enough words to describe the video quality of the episodes... amazing, phenomenal, incredible and mind-blowing would be just a few possibilities. The clarity of the image, vibrancy of the colours and quality of the special effects are all top notch. Sure, there are a few problems now and then, such as a little over-saturation of colour, some graining and blurring (particularly on Farpoint episode), but that doesn't prevent this release standing lightyears above the standard definition episodes we normally watch. The video also allows you to spot intricate details that you won't be able to see normally, and some weaker elements which are less welcome (for example, Data's very obvious stunt double on the holodeck in Farpoint).
The one (very minor) setback is that the newer the episode is, the less you notice the difference. With seasons 1-3 we are bound to be blown away by the difference from our memories of the episodes, but from season 4-7 the quality of the special effects and video generally tended to gradually improve. This means that, although the video is undoubtedly incredible and the special effects will remain a pleasant surprise because we've not seen them that way before, I don't think the difference will be so big as to justify a blu-ray double dip for those later seasons (although most fans will obviously buy them anyway!).
The surround sound is another great success. The hum of the Enterprise engines is ever-present in the ship scenes and beautifully balanced for immersive effect. The other sound effects are equally impressive but the stand out winner is the musical score, which has always been one of Star Trek's strongest elements and really brings the stories to life. A tear came to the eye as old McCoy and Data walked down the Enterprise corridor and the music piped up.
There aren't any except a couple of trailers, but it doesn't really matter.
You might be questioning the true value of paying for a few episodes if you're thinking about buying the full sets anyway. The obvious answer is that these full season blu-rays are not going to be cheap, especially given the the money CBS/Paramount has invested in converting the show and re-doing the special effects. Therefore, it's best to be sure it's worth the dosh... and this release proves beyond any doubt that it most definitely is worth it. For a few quid, why not watch these few episodes in all their hi-def glory, and revel in how amazing it's going to be to sit down and watch the rest!