Hmmm. What have we here? Is it a Cunning and Evil Plot to make fans buy new copies of something they already have? Well, that might be part of the commercial justification for the project, but in this instance, it might just be worth it.
Star Trek: The Next Generation started in the late 1980s, long before DVD, never mind HD TV, and was accordingly made for the TV standards of the time, specifically the US standard of the time, which means that when you look at recordings on modern equipment, it doesn’t look as good as you might hope. I’ve got the original DVDs (the first issues in those big plastic boxes that were considered essential for expensive collector’s editions in those far off days), and while they’re nice to have, the picture quality isn’t significantly better than it was on VHS, because of the quality of the material used.
But, and this is a very big but, while it was edited and mixed to late 80s video, it was actually made on film. Visual effects shots were composited (that’s the technical word, apparently) from separate film shots and layered (or however it works) to build up, for instance, a sequence of a starship (a model) orbiting a planet (probably a painting) firing energy weapons (animated, perhaps). And the interesting thing is that the majority of all the original film negatives still exist.
So, what they’re doing is quite interesting. Take the original film, reassemble all those effects shots and master the whole thing for 1080p and put it on BluRay. Oh, and remix the sound up to 7.1 while they’re at it.
The usual boxed sets will start appearing later this year, but in a crafty bit of marketing, this low-priced sample is now available. It contains the opening double-length Encounter at Farpoint and two more popular episodes – Sins of the Father, in which Worf starts to deal with his Klingon heritage and The Inner Light, in which Picard lives a whole extra life.
My first impressions from watching a couple of episodes last night are Yes, they’ve done a remarkable job on this. By going beyond the usual restoration to making it better than it was at first, but without succumbing to the temptation to “improve” the effects, they’ve made something that’s going to be very tempting when those sets start appearing.
It’s presented in the original 4:3 ratio, as it should be – yes, this means black bars on the sides of wide screens, but I’d much rather that than having the image distorted by stretching, squeezing or (horrors!) cropping.
As a low-priced sampler, this is excellent. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s a voucher in the box for £5 off the season one box, which provided you remember to send it off, makes this a real bargain.
 Though the smart move would be to wait a while and watch the prices drop, as generally happens