Star Trek TNG on Blu-ray – Make it so!

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 18th September 2012.

It’s hard to believe it was twenty five years ago when the catch phrases, “Make it so” and “Earl grey, hot”, entered the lexicon of geeks around the world. That’s right, Star Trek: The Next Generation made its debut in 1987 and this year, to celebrate a quarter century of “boldly going where no-one has gone before” the complete first season has been given a high definition makeover for a must-have blu-ray release.

For Aussie Trekkers (not Trekkies), the first time TNG appeared on our screens was not on broadcast television, but in video stores. I still vividly remember having to wait for my monthly fix of two episodes to arrive at my local rental outlet on VHS. I wasn’t a big fan of the original series. Despite my adoration of all things Shatner, the adventures of Kirk, Spock and crew in their low tech, cheap looking Enterprise did not fit in well with a mind that was already inundated with the sophisticated special effects (at the time) of the original Star Wars trilogy. I have the same affliction with early Doctor Who episodes. Send all abuse letters care of the CWD, thanks.

TNG was a completely different case. I was completely sold on this vision of the future, where bold explorers toured the universe with a code of ethics almost as stiff as their ridiculous starched, clearly uncomfortable uniforms. Actually, it wasn’t even as elaborate as that. The genius of Gene Roddenberry’s vision is that there actually is a future for man. Enough of the geek philosophy… I know it’s just a TV show, but it is a really good one.

Starting with TNG, the Star Trek universe expanded with the debuts of spin-off series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, followed by Star Trek: Voyager. Trekker fandom in Australia peaked in the early nineties and for a while, I was a big enough fanboy to be attending Trek Conventions in my very own red jumpsuit uniform. Please don’t tell anyone about this. I would hate to lose my credibility. No-one would take my columns about The Village People seriously if they knew.

I still recall having a bingle in my friend’s car on our way to a convention at Darling Harbour. Having to stand on George Street calling the NRMA in full Starfleet uniform was an interesting experience. I guess that’s why they invented the transporter beam.

Anyway, back to the blu-ray release. Star Trek: The Next Generation Season One looks absolutely pristine in high definition, as if it was filmed yesterday (or stardate 66178.3). The detail is stunning, with minute joins in the prosthetic makeup of the aliens and flaws in the set construction and painting now obvious.

Originally shot on film, the restoration process has involved locating the archived master reels, an extensive cleaning process to bring the footage to high definition standards, and then a complete episode rebuild. The special effects have been re-composited from the original film elements and look brilliantly sharp.

 

As with most long running shows, TNG Season One is a little bit of a mess. Characters are yet to be established and are quite inconsistent. The tone isn’t quite right. That comes in by Season Three or Four. I guess at the time of production, the cast and crew had no idea that the show would be a hit.

I don’t really consider myself a Trekker anymore. Besides, my uniform no longer fits. However, I still consider TNG to be one of the best TV shows ever. Remastered on blu-ray, you now can experience the series with a visual clarity that wasn’t possible twenty five years ago. Regardless of whether you are a casual Trek fan or fluent in Klingon, this box set is a must-buy. “Make it so!”

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 01:02  Leave a Comment  
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TV: sometimes a decent ending is Lost

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 15th June 2010.

The long awaited finale to Lost has finally aired. After six brain busting seasons, dedicated Lost fans were decidedly mixed on the ending, which apparently closed many storylines, but not all. I say apparently, because I must admit that I have never seen a single second of Lost. Not because I don’t think I would enjoy it. I’m actually looking forward to starting on season one, episode one real soon. I’ve been avoiding Lost in fear that it would be axed without an ending.

As a fan of serialised television drama in general, there is nothing more gut wrenching than seeing your favourite characters disappear without a trace. After hours and hours of adventures, quests and trials and tribulations, the least a long running TV show owes its audience is a decent farewell.

The recent announcement of Flashforward and Heroes meeting their maker means that I can save myself the time and effort required to keep up with their convoluted mythology. With so many unresolved storylines, I can walk away from the mysterious blue hand markers and superpowered comic book characters knowing that I don’t have to care anymore that saving the cheerleader might also save the world.

Even more painful is when a series is cancelled on a cliff hanger. My Name is Earl concluded after four seasons with the words “To Be Continued” on the screen. Ouch!

Of course, great shows that only survived one season before getting the chop can still be enjoyed and mourned at the same time. Knowing that you only have fourteen or so episodes to spend with memorable characters can be a bittersweet experience but at least you haven’t outlaid hours of staring at the idiot box. The excellent but short-lived Joss Whedon show Firefly and Judd Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks are well worth your time and do not end with cliff hangers.

A well written finale can be sad but truly satisfying. After eleven seasons and running longer than the actual Korean war, M*A*S*H bowed out with the superb two and a half hour Goodbye, Farewell and Amen. From its premiere in 1983 until it was surpassed by the 2010 Super Bowl, it was the most watched television broadcast in US history.

Star Trek: The Next Generation concluded with the well written All Good Things. Bringing back Q, the complicated villain from the very first episode, Captain Picard and crew came full circle in a series that actually may have surpassed the Shat-tastic original.

Seinfeld did something similar, except they brought back practically every memorable character from its nine season run. The final lines of the show are actually from the very first conversation of episode one. In nine years, nobody developed or learned anything. Perfect.

There have also been several clangers, which only served to kick sand in the face of their loyal fan bases.  Millennium, created by The X-Files’ Chris Carter, was axed in 1999, a year short of its namesake upon which its apocalyptic mythology was building towards. Can’t think of an ending? Just have the main character drive off into the distance in a yellow pickup truck. Thanks a lot Mr Carter!

Also frustrating was Quantum Leap’s finale. After 96 episodes of Dr Samuel Beckett leaping through time and rewriting history’s wrongs, fans hoped that “his final leap would be the leap home” as the opening narration of every episode reminded us. Of course, the final episode concluded with the words “Dr Sam Beckett never returned home”. Um, can I get those 96 hours back please?

Despite the volatility of the television marketplace, where ratings mean everything, I think all fans deserve the chance to say bon voyage or “till we meet again on DVD” to their favourite shows. Now if only I could find out how Doug Mulray’s Naughtiest Home Videos ended?