Well it's finally here and all the concerns about a repeat of the problems experienced with the first season release can be addressed.
The first season of the restored high definition version of Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST: TNG) is a triumph Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season 1 [Blu-ray][Region Free
]; yes there were the well documented `technical issues' but putting them to one side surely nobody who has seen any of it can deny the stunning visual and audio quality.
I grew up watching the series on television and subsequently spent a small fortune buying them all on VHS and DVD Star Trek the Next Generation: the Complete Seasons 1-7 [DVD
], but the huge improvements in these new Blu-ray versions completely justifies purchasing them once more in my opinion.
I'll start with a quick season overview before moving on to details of the set itself.
The second season of ST: TNG ran from 1988 to 1989, and due to his growing popularity following transmission of the first season, Lieutenant Commander Data played an increasingly central role, much as Lieutenant Commander Spock did from the original series. Many of the best episodes centred around the wonderful character that Brent Spiner bought to life, such as "The Measure of a Man", "Elementary, Dear Data" and "Pen Pals".
Lieutenant Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) was promoted to chief engineer, he had frequently shown his technical knowledge as the first season went on and this felt like a very natural progression for the character; I suppose I must not forget to mention young Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), yes he was there and in my opinion he was just as annoying!
The beard made its first appearance on Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), and Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn) reacquainted himself with K'Ehleyr, who would one day provide Worf with his son Alexander.
The fantastic Diana Muldaur came on board as a replacement for Gates McFadden and played the ships new chief medical officer Dr. Katherine Pulaski, I think she was a great addition and it's a shame her character only stayed for the one year, it would have been most interesting to see how her character could have evolved.
The Enterprise's beautiful counselor, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), continued to be an underused character although she does have some memorable moments with her mother Lwaxana, played brilliantly throughout the season by original series veteran Majel Barrett.
And last, but most certainly not least, we have the peerless Patrick Stewart in his role of Jean-Luc Picard; he built on his work from the first season and further convinced us of his superb leadership qualities, at the same time showing us that along with his intelligence and wisdom he was also an incredibly brave and courageous warrior.
We were once again treated to an appearance from Q (John DeLancie), and we had our first meetings with Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan and the Borg, really showing what the show was capable of producing.
The full list of 22 episodes featured on this Blu-ray box set are:
1. The Child
2. Where Silence Has Lease
3. Elementary, Dear Data
4. The Outrageous Okona
5. Loud as a Whisper
6. The Schizoid Man
7. Unnatural Selection
8. A Matter of Honor
9. The Measure of a Man
10. The Dauphin
12. The Royale
13. Time Squared
14. The Icarus Factor
15. Pen Pals
16. Q Who
17. Samaritan Snare
18. Up the Long Ladder
20. The Emissary
21. Peak Performance
22. Shades of Gray
This was the shortest season of ST: TNG, with all other seasons having 3 or 4 more episodes, and this was due to a writers strike at the time in America.
This is the season that the show really started to take shape; yes, the first season certainly had its moments and laid down many of the important foundations that led to the show's success, but it could be a bit 'hit and miss' with respect to the quality of episodes and several of the stories were copies of ones from the original series.
The second season is far more consistent, it has a much more cinematic feel to it, and it includes some episodes that can stand proudly with the best from the entire cannon; The Measure of a Man, Time Squared and Q Who spring to mind and there is also Peak Performance, one of my personal all-time favourites.
This set is 5 discs, the first season having 6, with the discs having a combination of between three and five episodes and extra material.
The extras featured are largely in line with those in the first season collection, and there are also some really fascinating additions:
1. Episodic Promos
2. 1988 On-Air Season Two Promo
3. Energized! Season Two Tech Update (HD)
4. 1988 Reading Rainbows segment with LeVar Burton
5. 2012 Reading Rainbow iTunes Promo (HD)
6. Archival Mission Log: Departmental Briefing Year Two: Production
7. The Measure of a Man (HD Extended Version)
8. Audio Commentary on 'The Measure of a Man' with Melinda Snodgrass and Mike & Denise Okuda
9. The Measure of a Man (Hybrid Extended Version)
10. Gag Reel
11. Archival Mission Log: Inside Starfleet Archives: Penny Juday - Star Trek Coordinator
12. Archival Mission Log: Selected Crew Analysis Year Two
13. Archival Mission Log: Departmental Analysis Year Two: Memorable Missions
14. Deleted Scenes: The Icarus Factor, Up The Long Ladder
15. Audio Commentary on 'Q Who' with Dan Curry, Rob Bowman and Mike & Denise Okuda
16. REUNIFICATION: 25 Years after Star Trek: The Next Generation (HD)
17. MAKING IT SO: Continuing Star Trek: The Next Generation (HD)
18. Archival Mission Log: Mission Overview Year Two
The extras on this season two set really are excellent, with the two main features running to nearly two and a half hours long.
For me though the most intriguing extra is an extended HD version of the episode 'The Measure of a Man', considered by many to be one of the very best episodes of Star Trek ever.
This is the first time it has ever been made available and is actually a first cut of the episode, featuring deleted scenes and alternative camera angles that were thought lost; it has been found, cleaned up, reconstructed in high definition and has even had new two new visual effects added to integrate the original and the new material.
I would say that although this new version of the episode is probably no better than the original, which is no bad thing, as a long time fan who has seen the episode countless times it is really fascinating seeing it in this new cut.
Both the extended version and the original "network" cut of the episode are included in this Season 2 Blu-ray box set, so you will be able to compare and decide for yourself which one you think is best!
The featurette entitled `REUNIFICATION: 25 Years After Star Trek: The Next Generation' has been specially produced for this set; it features all the main cast members sitting round having a chat about their memories and experiences; it is just over an hour long and it really is fantastic, it is great fun and the cast clearly enjoy the reunion! It reminded me a lot of the excellent featurette 'The Captains Summit' available on the Star Trek Movie Boxset Star Trek: Films 1-10 Remastered Special Edition Box Set [Blu-ray] [2009
The picture quality is once again simply stunning; but, BUT...... not consistently so.
My initial thoughts were that this second season is as much of a triumph as the preceding one, and for large parts it is.
The textures on the fabrics and other surfaces look almost good enough to touch, the detail on faces and hair also make you realise just how poor the VHS and DVD versions are, and the special effects shots do look far sharper.
However, following on from comments from other reviewers I have looked at the season in more detail and also compared it directly to the Season One (S1) release and I have to admit that some of the criticisms are correct.
On closer examination the effects shots just aren't as impressive as they are in S1, some scenes have varying degree's of clarity and the more I have watched the more I notice a 'fuzziness' with the black areas on screen.
I think the problem for me was that it's been a while since I watched the S1 Blu-ray and I have never before seen footage from S2 on a Blu-ray (I had seen footage prior to release but this was via the internet), so on initial viewing it does look tremendous; it's not until one casts a more critical eye over it that it's inconsistencies are apparent.
I would have thought that the advantage with the second season is that much of the original material has actually been preserved better than that from the first season and so the HD image should be even more astonishing; my thinking therefore followed that the team responsible for its remastering should have had an 'easier' job of things?
I have heard rumours that the team that worked on S2 were different from those who worked on S1; if this is indeed the case I hope this problem is corrected for S3.
Fortunately the sound is once more brilliant, 7.1 DTS-HD in English, and it is such a strange experience hearing these episodes in this way having spent years listening to them in just stereo, there are sounds I never noticed before and it gives me more of an appreciation for just how much detail the makers of the show went into.
The audio is also available in English Stereo Surround, French Mono, German Mono, Italian Mono, Japanese Mono and Spanish Mono.
There are subtitles provided in English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish.
In summary ST:TNG is a landmark television series and season two was when things really started to 'click'; there are two ways to look at this release in my opinion.
Is it as impressive as the S1 release? No it isn't; there are inconsistencies in the transfer and it overall has less of the 'wow' factor.
Is it the best the S2 has ever looked? YES! Despite the aformentioned inconsistencies it still does look amazing at times and that coupled with the remastered audio makes the viewing experience a fantastic one.
I would say that if someone is having doubts over the purchase because of criticisms then they should try and watch an episode from this set and compare it to the same one on DVD; the difference will speak for itself.
When I first reviewed this set I gave it 5 stars, but having taken on board others concerns and then rewatching it and comparing to the previous season I have decided to lower my score to 4.
Ideally I would probably give the set 3 1/2, but this is not possible; the set is better than a 3 in my opinion so thus the 4!
Roll on Season Three!