Monday, June 24, 2013

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Season Three - 1989 [Blu-ray]

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner
Created by Gene Roddenberry
Saved by Michael Piller

After a disappointing Season 2 release on blu-ray, Season 3 of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," often cited as the season that saved the show and thus the future of the franchise, warps into HD with much better results.

Gone is the soft, bland image of Season 2 - restored at the hands of an outsourced company that thought the show should still look like 1988 - and back again is the warm, filmic and exciting visual palette of Season 3. The detail on display in these episodes is, again, truly incredible. While occasionally the sets or props will look cheap, much of the show is actually quite well done even these decades later. The main areas of the Enterprise, such as the bridge, Captain Picard's ready room or the engine room all look amazing.

There are a few standout restoration moments worth mentioning here. The first is an episode called "The Enemy," in which the Enterprise answers a distress call from a Romulan ship crashed on a harsh, barren world. La Forge (Levar Burton) becomes trapped on the surface with a Romulan survivor. Previously, on TV and on DVD, a lot of the episode was practically unwatchable. Shot in dark cave sets with lots of dust floating around the air because the planet is supposed to be inhospitable, in SD this episode looked as murky as can be. But in HD, it's a revelation. Detail is crisp and clear, even in the deepest, darkest shadows. The muck on characters' clothing, the wounds and grime on their skin are all crystal clear. It's like watching the episode for the first time.

Enough cannot be said about the quality of the restoration work on the special effects in this season, some of which are huge. From the opening episode, "Evolution," which has shots featuring the Enterprise in front of a twisting stream of stellar matter, to the asteroid belt in "The Booby Trap," to the space-combat in "Yesterday's Enterprise," to the new orbital shots in "Deja Q," it all looks incredible. The Enterprise reappears in all her glory in this season, no longer washed out and dull as it was in Season 2.

Further, there aren't so many glaring errors in the new composites, either. The ship doesn't disappear partially in the frame, or have misaligned lighting passes or any of the other nonsense that plagued the previous set. Colors are bold, lighting is fantastic and subtle. It's great. This set is a joy to watch.

And then, of course, there's "The Best of Both Worlds," one of the show's biggest and most famous episodes. Don't miss it!

All is not super rosy, however. There is a noticeable drop in quality over the course of the season. This is not the fault of the restoration; rather, it's the fact that the show's visual style was changing. Things start out looking really amazing on the first disc, with much of the live-action photography looking very, very stunning and film-like. By the final batch of episodes, however, the lighting on the show has grown flatter, which robs the production of some of its glory. It still looks incredible for a show of this age, it's just a shame that the actual production is becoming somewhat lackluster.

If you're a fan of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," you owe it to yourself to watch these high-definition versions. There are so many great episodes in this season, and they've been lovingly restored. It's incredible.