There are folks out there who still don’t see the point in buying any Blu-ray of a film or series made prior to The Matrix, people for whom anything that didn’t make generous use of digital effects is simply not worthy of a full HD transfer. They fail to see the benefits that 1080p resolution offers a beautiful piece of film, representing the film’s original grain structure in exquisite detail. Now imagine trying to convince these same folks that a 25-year-old television series, edited on video no less, could also make for a worthwhile Blu-ray release. Fortunately for us, CBS Home Entertainment has provided a perfect demonstration of just what Blu-ray can do for older works in the Blu-ray releases of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Because where these Blu-ray and previous DVD releases are concerned, there is absolutely no comparison.
The Blu-ray releases of TNG mark perhaps the most stunning improvement over previous releases I have ever seen. Originally shot on 35mm film then transferred to video, on which it was edited and finalized, TNG was frankly never meant for HD. After all, video doesn’t convert to HD so well. It simply doesn’t have the information necessary to accommodate a 1080p transfer. So CBS went back to the original, 35mm film elements and cut them to correspond to those original video edits (this is a condensed version of the restoration process, a more complete chronicle is discussed in the special features on the Season One Blu-ray). As a result of this bold (and expensive) return to the original elements, TNG has NEVER looked as good as it does here on Blu-ray!
This week, CBS added two new titles to their line of TNG Blu-ray releases: Season Three and a standalone release of the two-part Borg story, “The Best of Both Worlds.” Season Three, of course, is where the series really hit its stride, collecting many of the greatest episodes in the entire series, including “The Best of Both Worlds: Part One,” which serves as the cliffhanger season finale and, many would argue, the best episode of the series. There are other series classics here as well, including the time travel-centered “Yesterday’s Enterprise” as well as “Sins of the Father,” in which Worf goes on trial before the Klingon High Council for his father’s supposed crimes. It also collects “Booby Trap,” which is one of my personal favorites, given that the characters’ ingenuity, particularly Geordi’s, is highlighted by the overall simplicity of its premise– the ship is caught in a trap from which outright fleeing is impossible. What’s more, the relationship Geordi develops with a holodeck projection of Leah Brahms, one of the Enterprise’s designers, has a terrific payoff in Season Four’s “Galaxy’s Child.”
“The Best of Both Worlds” Blu-ray features the two-part story comprised of the Season Three cliffhanger and the Season Four premiere edited together into a seamless, feature-length presentation. This story finds the Borg headed straight for Earth and the Enterprise charged with stopping them. Only, Capt. Picard himself is abducted and assimilated by the hive-minded enemy, leading to an epic confrontation between the Federation and perhaps the most dangerous “race” in the universe. Although the story arguably stumbles a bit in its second half, there’s no denying the iconicity of this particular narrative in the overall scope of the TNG mythos.
So if you’ve yet to make that upgrade to the TNG Blu-rays (which are absolutely mandatory– just open a new tab and pull up some side-by-side comparisons if you don’t believe me), there is no better time than now, with the availability of Season Three and “The Best of Both Worlds” on Blu-ray. For not only do these releases collect some of the series’ best episodes, but they’re also jam-packed with exciting special features. Those on the Season Three Blu-ray include:
-a reunion of the series’ key writing staff moderated by Seth McFarlane (in HD);
-a behind-the-scenes look at the making of some of the key episodes in Season Three (in HD);
-a tribute to series writer and Deep Space Nine-creator Michael Piller (in HD);
-a hilarious gag reel, also fortunately presented in HD;
-“Archival Mission Logs;”
-the scenes David Rappaport completed for his role in the episode “The Most Toys,” a role Saul Rubinek played in the final episode;
-and SD episodic promos that you have the option of viewing before each episode, which really highlight the improvement this release represents over the previous DVDs.
Special features on “The Best of Both Worlds” incude:
-commentary with director Cliff Bole, Mike & Denise Okuda and co-star Elizabeth Dennehy;
-a documentary about the storyline featuring brand-new interviews with the cast and crew;
-and another terrific gag reel, featuring material exclusively captured during the filming of these two episodes.