As I’ve just recently jumped back into doing this blog, it seems only right to report on last evening’s nationwide Star Trek: The Next Generation theater event in celebration of the release today of the completely remastered Season 1 on Blu-Ray.
First, a bit of background: Star Trek:TNG premiered in 1987 – 25 years ago if you can believe that! I know I can’t!! So, it is altogether fitting that the Blu-Ray release of its first full season should coincide with such an important anniversary. Because of the significance of the 25th anniversary, as well as the great difficulty in remastering the shows, and the immeasurable (potential) improvement in the quality of the visuals and audio, a “one-night-only” theatrical screening of two remastered first season episodes was planned for the eve of the release – which happened to be last night.
The screening provided fans an opportunity to celebrate by enjoying TNG on the big screen; an opportunity which would not have been possible but for the remastering, a process which gave motion picture quality to television shows that had been previously mastered onto video tape. In addition to the two TV episodes, the screening also included a pair of documentaries and a preview of the forthcoming Season 2 Blu-Ray set.
Although not every theater was showing it, the screening was running in 7 or 8 movie houses within 10 miles of me. In addition, because this was a nationwide event, tickets were available in advance through Fandango and Fathom Events. So, I went online and acquired the tickets for my wife, my son, and myself and I was flabbergasted at the $12.50 apiece price tag! That’s more than I paid to see The Dark Night Rises on a Saturday night!
In any case, we got to the theater about 15 minutes before showtime and easily found seats. In fact, I was a bit disappointed as I would have expected a larger turnout. By the time all was said and done, the theater was at only about 50-60% capacity; further validation of my recent feeling that the excitement that once surrounded the Star Trek franchise is waning significantly. I also didn’t see fans in Trek uniforms or other costumes, which was a bit of a let down. Although, at least, my son and I donned Star Trek T-shirts. One positive note, however, the event started precisely at the advertised time of 7:00 PM. So, the assembled crowd, which consisted mostly of young adult males and middle-aged couples, didn’t have to sit through 20 minutes of unrelated movie previews.
Up first was a documentary on the technical challenges of remastering the NextGen TV episodes. It was interesting to say the least, as a great deal of detail was revealed about the painstaking nature of the project and some of the hurdles that CBS Digital had to overcome to get it done at all. There were interviews, effects montages, and before & after comparisons to show the extreme improvement in visual and audio quality that resulted from the remastering effort. I do wonder if the overall length of this documentary could have been trimmed a bit – just to keep from losing the interest of any non-hardcore fans who might have been in attendance. Still, it was informative and enjoyable.
Next, it was time for the TV episode “Where No One Has Gone Before”, an imaginative story, even if it comes across as somewhat silly in its execution. I think that is the case, though, with many of the 1st season TNG scripts – they could have benefited from just a little bit more polishing before being filmed. Although, it should be noted that this was a show that was still trying to figure out what it wanted to be at that stage of the game. In fact, so much of the 1st season came across as either an homage to the original series or a vehicle for the young Wesley character to save the ship that a good deal of story substance was lost along the way. This episode is no exception. Also, I must say that, while it was visually stunning, the remastering did serve to make some of the show’s makeup and set-construction weaknesses really stand out. Furthermore, I was less than pleased with the audio balance – dialogue being buried by soundtrack music and effects which are far too loud by comparison – a difficulty which seems to plague far too many DVD and Blu-Ray releases.
After the first episode concluded, another documentary was shown, this one focusing more on the history of the show. Again, there was heavy emphasis on interviews and old footage, including some bloopers and early wardrobe & makeup tests which elicited laughter from the crowd. I liked this second documentary even better than the first – every regular cast member was interviewed as well as a number of the writers and production crew – it really provided a very loving overview of the history and impact of the show.
The second episode to show was “Datalore”, the last episode of any Star Trek television series in which Gene Roddenberry received a writing credit. While the visual quality was just as good as the previous one, the difficulties with the audio were also slightly less noticeable. It is my sincere hope that these deficiencies arose from the slight difference between the Dolby system used in theaters and that used for audio reproduction in homes. If that’s the case, I look forward to the purchase of my own Blu-ray player and the TNG discs to inaugurate it. Anyway, the experience of seeing Brent Spiner flex his acting muscles in this dual-role was enjoyable and entertaining, even if the episode itself suffered from numerous inconsistencies and weak plot points.
Finally, the evening concluded with a preview of the Season 2 Blu-Ray set which looks really incredible. Not only is the remastering as good as the Season 1 set, but the second season saw the show and its actors really come into their own. Some of my favorite episodes were produced in that season!
All in all, it was very entertaining to see TNG on the large screen and to take part in the shared oohs & aahs, occasional laughter,and, of course, applause of the crowd. In that regard, this was no different than being at the premier of Star Trek The Motion Picture 33 years ago. The same can be said of attending a Star Trek convention. Being among other fans who feel as strongly about their beloved show as I do makes me feel like part of some exclusive club in which only really cool people can be members. I look forward to renewing my membership in that club when I pony up the dough for the Blu-Ray sets.