There’s no two ways about it: this disc demonstrates an incredible improvement in picture quality for this 25 year old series. The details that can now be spotted in the modelwork of the Enterprise, for example, and in the various matte paintings have been indiscernible previously. You can now see the filaments on the tendrils of the creatures that appear in Encounter at Farpoint. But, of course, as with any HD rendition, you can also see the flaws – a matte painting designed to demonstrate a bustling city looks far more like a snapshot at this level of detail, since your eye expects to see movement. It’s a trade-off, and on the whole, it’s worth it.
Where this project will hit problems, I suspect, is demonstrated by the minor alterations that the Next Level team have had to make for whatever technical reason. The remastering of the original Star Trek series attracted a great deal of criticism for adding details to the canon – changing the name of a shuttlecraft, or giving a wide-angle view of Vulcan that matches later shows. Purists – and there are a great many of them among the Trek fan community – often could not see beyond those minor changes and regarded the episodes as almost heretical.
The changes here aren’t so drastic – a few model shots and planet vistas, so far – but the producers have admitted that some larger scale ones may be necessary, depending on the availability of the raw materials. While we’re by no means getting into George Lucas reworking every frame of the first Star Wars territory, it will be a shame if the baby is thrown out with the bathwater on this project too by fans.
As far as the content of this disc goes, we’ve got Encounter at Farpoint, which is instructive in just how different a show The Next Generation was at the beginning. Sins of the Father contains a 13 second upgrade of the original effects (and sadly, it shows) but the Blu-ray shows the intricacy of the Klingon make-up. The Inner Light is simply one of the best TNG episodes, and while some fans may query the inclusion of Sins of the Father, there can be few who will deny this classic Picard story its place on the disc.
Verdict: The full seasons will start appearing later this year, and judging by this sampler, they will be well worth getting. 8/10