Wednesday, January 03, 2001

Star Trek: The Next Generation

NOTE: This review is of the ORIGINAL, 2002-2004 *collection* of boxed sets of each of the show's 7 seasons, NOT the *newer*, "all-in-one-green-green-box" 2007-released set. That NEWER set is said to be of *significantly* INFERIOR quality, both in packaging and in dvd quality. Also - for technical reasons, THIS TELEVISION SERIES MAY *NEVER* BE RELEASED IN A *GENUINELY* HIGH-DEFINITION, BLU RAY FORMAT (although Paramount has been engaging a variety of companies' expertise to *investigate* if it can be accomplished in an affordable and technically achievable manner, SO far Paramount's answer is "NO").

As anyone considering buying this set (obviously) already knows that they enjoy watching Star Trek The Next Generation, I won't bother to review the show itself but rather this particular collection of DVD boxed sets. As far as the show itself goes, suffice it to say that even though the original airing of the last episode in the last (7th) season occurred in 1994, at least as of 2009 it was *still* rated as the most-watched science fiction television series even in RERUN syndication. Star Trek The Next Generation is arguably not only the best of all of the Star Trek television series, but is also considered by many to be the finest science fiction television series IN GENERAL produced to date.

First, the packaging of this set - it's absolutely FABULOUS! I cannot POSSIBLY overstate how GOOD the packaging is. Each season is packaged in its own box. Within each box is a well-crafted dvd "holding case" that FOLDS OUT to display all of that season's dvd's. Each dvd is held tightly in place, and when the set's folded up it fits PERFECTLY into the season's larger box. The boxes are of TREMENDOUSLY high quality, clearly manufactured to the highest standards. The boxes are made of VERY heavy-weight, well-fitting paper/cardboard but with some sort of polished and plasticized exterior finish to ensure exceptionally long life. The graphics and color scheme reflect the original design schemes of the tv series itself. Imprinted on the interior of each box's front cover is a listing of that season's/set's dvd's and the title of each episode on each dvd (including special/bonus features). Between the quality of each season's exterior box and the interior dvd holding case, the packaging will protect the dvd's - and the packaging's printing - pretty much FOREVER.

Also - Within EACH season's box is a fold-out brochure that lists each episode of that season's set by title, original airdate, "Stardate" (!), and disc/dvd number, as well as a brief description of that season's special/bonus features. The first season's brochure also includes an introduction to the collection by Executive Producer Rick Berman and a photo and brief description of the show's regular characters. Subsequent seasons' brochures include brief but interesting notes on that particular season, and a few little-known but interesting facts about the show and/or its characters. The final season's boxed set brochure includes a message from Mr. Berman thanking all fans for their continued loyalty to the series. Each season's fold-out disc case has a special sleeve for long-term safe storage of that season's brochure, and the sleeve can also accommodate that season's boxed set's external packaging information sheet if you wish to safely store it there.

The physical dvd's - Again, EXCELLENT manufacturing quality. The imprinted label of each dvd is graphically matched to the series' design, and color-matched to that season's dvd color scheme. Each has imprinted on it the season number, disc number, and the title and official episode number (!) of each episode on that disc. Each disc is held tightly in its place in the dvd holder and is appropriately *thick* so that it will not bend excessively when pulled off of its holder. Each disc's holder has a plastic push-button "spindle" that when pushed in makes releasing the disc very easy, and each spindle's "prongs" are thick enough that they will not break off upon repeated use.

The series' AUDIO quality - Each dvd has both a regular, 2-channel stereo track and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track, selectable from each EPISODE'S main title screen OR your dvd player's audio control buttons/menus, whichever you prefer. The audio quality is EXCELLENT in EITHER format. If your a/v setup doesn't include Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround capability but your dvd player and/or tv has a "simulated" surround setting and/or an enhanced "stereo separation" setting (sometimes referred to as "SRS" or the like) you'll still get EXCELLENT audio quality out of the 2-channel audio track with no audible background "hiss" or distortion; the musical and audio effects' soundtracks consistently sound clear and distinct, with very good frequency distribution and dynamic range. There is no "audio commentary" track for any of the episodes.

The series' VIDEO quality - Is generally EXCELLENT, particularly given the manner in which the television series was filmed, composited and transferred from film to video to begin with. The episodes were apparently given a "lite" restoration. The episodes are presented in their original standard-definition "full-screen" aspect ratio. As such, picture quality is best when you have your dvd player set to "up-convert" to 420p and connected to a high-definition tv (preferably a plasma or an lcd that has full-array LED backlighting with local dimming, due to the importance of black level depth and retention in this particular television series). When you have such a tv set and dvd player, color balance from scene to scene and episode to episode is generally very good, as are the collection's inherent contrast and black levels. When your set's color, contrast, brightness and sharpness settings are set correctly, many of the scenes and shots actually look as if they're in high definition - no kidding! BUT - there are also many (brief) moments when the series' age and *original* manner of film-to-video transfer are evident with momentary shots that appear more blurred and slightly grainier. But overall, video quality is very good to excellent.

Overall, *this particular* set's video and audio quality is CONSIDERABLY better than anything you're likely to get from any OTA, cable or satellite channel for sure!

DVD program structure -

When you first load a dvd, once you get past Paramount Home Video's copyright screen you're presented with a brief but BEAUTIFULLY-presented video collage of the series' main characters set against a stunning starfield background, the Enterprise then dashes across the screen, while the series' musical theme plays. You're then taken directly to the dvd's main title ("root menu") screen while the musical theme continues (in a loop, of course). Each dvd's main title screen has colorful, animated graphics that are beautifully rendered and consistent with the series' general graphic design scheme; it also includes a rotating sequence or collage of brief scenes from each of the episodes on that dvd. Episode titles and their original episode numbers (!) are presented for playback selection, but their is no option to have all episodes on the disc automatically play sequentially. Once an episode is selected you can then choose from "Engage" (play), "Communications" (selection of which version of stereo audio you want, and whether or not you want subtitles - English is the only language available), "Chapter Log" (the episode's chapter markers), or "Return" (to the dvd's root menu).

Each season's set has its bonus features on its last disk; most are quite good, informative, and add value to the set.

And each episode on each and every disc plays back PERFECTLY, without ANY skips, stalls, freezes or breakups.

In summary, in spite of this being an older dvd set without a few of the more "advanced" features that most newer dvd's in general offer (such as multiple language subtitles and sequential autoplay of all episodes on a dvd), *this particular*, older studio release is an INCREDIBLE and the BEST collection of all 7 seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation, FAR superior to the newer single boxed set in virtually ALL respects. Given that the (albeit inferior) newer boxed set has been out now for awhile, in all likelihood this older yet SUPERIOR "boxed-by-season" set will continue to be available ONLY until distributor warehouse and retailer supplies are exhausted. Consequently, some retailers are offering this particular complete set for over $1,000!!! Here on Amazon you can get it, as of this writing, new for $249.99 - with free Super Saver shipping - via newbury_comics (a very reputable retailer) with "Fulfillment By Amazon" but as of this writing they have only 12 of these sets left available... Oops! Make the 10 now (although they may be able to get more that's not really likely, and other retailers have stock left but at significantly higher prices due to its declining availability).

This TRULY is a SPECTACULARLY BEAUTIFUL "Collector's Edition" set that *NO* STNG fan will want to be without. I have a number of "Collector's Edition" TV series dvd sets, but THIS one is BY FAR the most STRIKINGLY beautiful set of them all - if I had a locked vault to store it in, believe me I'd do so - it's THAT beautiful of a set.

Given the VERY real likelihood that a Blu Ray set will not be forthcoming in at least the foreseeable future if ever at all, and that this OLDER collection is a FAR superior set and package than the newer one, if you want the BEST STNG collection and DON'T order this one VERY soon you *WILL* regret it. So order it, and order it NOW!!!


6/16/2011 UPDATE: Be sure to read the COMMENTS posted to this review for the latest on this series' anticipated Blu Ray release!


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