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Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Two Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Neil Middlemiss, Dec 2, 2012.

  1. Carabimero

    Carabimero Screenwriter

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    For me it has nothing to do with what real planets look like. It has to do with CBS setting the bar extremely high in season one and the work on season two, in my opinion, falling short of that. I don't expect a replacement program, but I am happy to know a new contractor will do season 4. It is what it is.
     
  2. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Screenwriter
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    Neil, thanks for a great review. I've spent a couple of nights going through the set myself and I appreciated your summary.

    A couple of production notes about TNG Season 2 that don't really get discussed much in the documentaries on the set: The big guy in the room for that season was Maurice Hurley, who had previously come up writing on multiple series including Miami Vice with Joel Surnow. (He would write again for Surnow on 24) It is interesting that he is not part of the discussion of the year other than tangentially when he was at the center of what was happening. The departure of Gates McFadden as I understand it was a bit more involved than what they mention - they're still not being quite as candid as we might think. (I have a feeling they may discuss more of it in the 3rd season piece) It's true that she was let go, but it wasn't just for having discussions about the script quality - the whole cast would have been in the same boat. It's significant that Hurley left at the end of the season and that things stabilized shortly afterward. It's also notable that Hurley did contribute a couple of scripts after his departure, although I can guarantee those would have been rewritten to a large extent by the writers on the series at the time. And it's notable that Hurley did contribute a proposal for Generations, although it was rejected in favor of the one presented by Moore and Braga.

    I recall that the effect of the 1988 WGA Strike was that it totally derailed the momentum of Season 2 from what Hurley was trying to set up. Hurley's original plan was to have brought in the Borg earlier as a payoff to the damage discovered in "The Neutral Zone" at the end of Season 1. When the strike ended, Hurley and the writers had to scramble just to come up with a few scripts to get things going, let alone establishing any new arcs. By the time "Q Who" rolled around, the season was already 2/3 over - and even then there was a scramble as it had been meant to come up as the 2nd half of "Time Squared", which would have explained the premise of the earlier episode as a manipulation by Q. If anything, the uneven nature of Season 2 speaks mostly to me of the writers scrambling, not always successfully, to stay ahead of the production machine of the show. In some cases ("Measure of a Man", "Q Who"), you got amazing episodes. In many others, you could see them running out of steam right in front of you. I happen to like the episode "Contagion" but it's painfully obvious now that the script was rushed - there's enough material in it to make a good 2-parter, but they instead tried to cram everything into the one part, which leads to a lot of mystifying choices.

    As I recall from the time, the final episode of the season, "Shades of Gray" was actually less a casualty of the writers' issues than it was of the fact that they were overbudget. When they looked at the numbers, what they could afford to get the season done on budget was a 3 day episode (down from the 7 days they normally took) where they would have to use a lot of clips to pad out the running time. This had worked in the past when the original series incorporated the entire original pilot into an "envelope" to make "The Menagerie" and thus get two episodes for the price of one. This approach wasn't what happened with "Shades of Gray", which is a truly painful clip show. Thankfully, when the same issue came up in Season 4, they were able to figure out a very cheap courtroom episode with very few VFX, very little makeup needs, very little set building needs and a reduced schedule - but the result was "The Drumhead", which actually stands as a solid episode in its own right.

    One last note regarding the quality of the various Blu-ray sets: I would wait to assess what will happen with Season 3, regardless of which company's name is put on the work. As I understand it, the first season took a fair amount of time and expense, and the set is a gem as a result of that work. I don't know that the intent is to go to those lengths for the subsequent seasons. I would think it more likely that Season 2 will be more typical of what you will see - meaning that some episodes will get a bit more attention than others, and hopefully there will be more interesting interviews and deleted footage. (The gag reel here, which looks to me more like just a collection of fun blown takes and footage, is the sort of thing I'd be very happy to see pop up in the later collections.)
     
  3. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    I have a few thoughts I wanted to post about the Season Two set.
    As has been widely reported, this season used different film stock. I've only seen The Child and Where Silence Has Lease. There were several scenes on the bridge that looked incredibly grainy, yet other shots look to have far less grain as has been mentioned in Neil's review. There were some similar shots in the first season and some whole episodes that way. Particularly, Skin of Evil was extremely grainy. I'm looking forward to see how the Holodeck sequence in Elementary Dear Data looks next.
    My impression of The Child's remastering is many. You can really see the skin textures of the actors so clearly now! Marina Sirtis I always thought looked very different in the second season. They really used a white make-up on her face. Diana Muldar certainly looks older then she did in her 1968 Star Trek appearances, I could see a lot of lines in her face. Data's make-up finally looks as metallic as it did in the films. You can really see skin tones on Riker and Picard.
    I could see the edge of a panel that had a small chunk broken off during the scene in the cargo hold as they try to figure out why one specimen was in danger of breaking containment.
    Where Silence Has Lease looked better as far as film stock goes. I didn't see any scenes with overly grainy shots, no pushing of the exposures perhaps on darkly lit scenes.
    One big impression though is that the quality of the cinematography just isn't up to the high artistic standards used on TOS. I understand Jerry Finnerman turned down the job to do TNG. that's too bad because I think this series suffers for it. Shots lack any mood in the lighting. The higher resolution and image quality is great, but it makes the lighting issue worse. That's another reason I'm curious how Elementary Dear Data looks. I think the series improves from here on the lighting.
    The music is still allowed to be expressive and that's a good thing!
    I enjoyed the look back with the Reading Rainbow episode, I'm glad that was included! I figure the only reason the Star Trek only parts are included is because of clearance rights with the children used and the books they discuss. And probably people only wanted to see the Star Trek parts!
    Onward to the next episodes!
     
  4. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Screenwriter
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    The lighting issues were taken care of in the 3rd season when they replaced Ed Brown with Marvin Rush as the DP. As soon as you see the first 3rd season eps, you'll see a night and day difference in the look of the sets - which take on a much more consistent, vibrant look all the way through the midpoint of the 6th season. After that, Jonathan West took over, and while his stuff didn't look as off as Brown's, it was never quite at the level of Rush's work.
     
  5. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Agreed Kevin, Regarding the later season cinematography.
    I was also thinking how awful it will be when Season Three is released, there will be a long wait for Season 4! Unless they plan to release them together. :)
     
  6. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Producer

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    Watched the cast reunion last night and it was great. Nice to see the whole cast together and talking honestly about the show. Very impressed so far at the blu-rays and their extras.
     
  7. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    Yeah, I really enjoyed the Gates McFadden material.
     
  8. The Obsolete Man

    The Obsolete Man Screenwriter

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    After watching the first two discs, these are my thoughts...
    The effects aren't as impressive as S1. Of course, S1 was done in-house by CBS/P, and I'm betting that was meant to be the first hit the dealer gives for free (so to speak) to get you hooked.
    Now, not to say the effects work on S2 is horrible. For the most part, it's very good, but it certainly isn't up to the standard set by S1. There are definitely some shots where the Enterprise looks horrible... In the opening scene of The Child and the final scene of Unnatural Selection, for example, the Enterprise looks like a badly rendered CGI effect . But it's still way better than the old versions.
    But the thing that has impressed me most so far is the hourlong Measure of a Man. It's a shame we only got 3/4ths of the episode in 1988, because there isn't really a moment of filler in the 57 minute long version. Before, it was a very good TNG episode, maybe one of the best of the series. Now, it's definitely one of the best of the run.
    I can only hope there are more episodes out there that had extended cuts that can be restored in this manner. This one was definitely worth it.
     
  9. Jason_V

    Jason_V Producer

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    Yep, that's it. CBS intentionally "degraded" the quality of S2. Because, ya know, once everyone bought S1, there's no reason to continue making stellar product. Consumers will buy anything. I mean, come on. This is a terrible argument. We know what happened (outsourcing) and I think we know why (the schedule). Therefore, at least some of the blame for this has to be on us, the consumers. Why?

    When the original release schedule was announced, there was talk about how long it was going to take to get TNG done and on the market, not to mention DS9 and Voyager afterward. Only 2 seasons a year? Oh no! We want everything now, now, NOW on our schedules and forget about whatever work goes into it. Well, here's the result: something people are not happy. I'm not saying you were one of those people, Shane, for the record.

    This is now the second time someone has likened to TNG on BD to a drug and various entities (first it was Amazon, and now CBS themselves) to drug dealers. Can we not make this analogy, please?
     
  10. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    I've seen 4 episodes so far from S2. The Child, Where Silence Has Lease, Contagion and A Matter of Honor. Oh yeah, and Elementary Dear Data.
    Each one looked great to me, except for the earlier comments I made about the amount of noise during the live action sequences. The clarity is so good, you can see the quality of the sets. And they were not that great looking! The damaged and quality of workmanship of the set pieces. :). I don't think they were thinking they would ever be under the scrutiny of HD, so I know they were made good enough. So that makes the quality of the artists of TOS that much better. The Original Series stands up to HD much better in my eyes. Not to put TNG down, it is a TV show shot on a budget and under the gun to meet a deadline.
    Regarding Contagion, it's an episode I've seen several times on the SD DVD. I thought the effects looked great. The destruction of the Yamato appeared to match the original shots, except in HD. The Child didn't look CGI to me, at least nothing obvious jumped out at me. If you are seeing deficiencies in the model work, I would think its a result of the photography from 1988.
    I saw a Matter of Honor today and I don't exactly recall the original look of the effects as I haven't seen the DVD of this episode in a while. But to me, the planet shown as the Starbase looked okay and the model work of the ships close-ups showing the bacteria eating away at the hulls of both ships looked quite good.
     
  11. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Screenwriter
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    I wouldn't say that CBS intentionally degraded their work for Season 2, but it's pretty clear that there are limits to the budget and time they can spend on the remaining seasons. The first season absolutely got more attention given to it, and that attention shows in the final product on those Blu-rays. Season 2 wasn't degraded, but they clearly didn't spend anything like the time or effort they put into the first year. I expect the later seasons to be more similar to Season 2 in the overall look.
     
  12. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Producer

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    I have to say WOW!!! I have always loved this series, and going through season 2 again on Blu-Ray has allowed me to re-visit some of my favorite episodes of the series. Looking and sounding like it does, I'm just overjoyed. This is spectacular entertainment. Just watched "The Dauphin" last night........presto! A new favorite episode. Don't know why I've never thought much about it, but what's not to like. Very well written, and often very funny episode(the scene at ten forward between Riker, and Guinan had me in stitches) that explores the highs and lows of first love(wesley Crusher). Season 3 can't come fast enough for me.
     
  13. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    I enjoyed S2 a lot more than I anticipated, there are a lot of memorable episodes here. The extended cut of "Measure of a man" was very nice to see. It was also interesting to see actors from series I hadn't recognized before - Mädchen Amick and Carel Struycken (Twin Peaks) and then there's Suzie Plakson, who is hot as either Vulcan Lieutenant Selar or Klingon K'Ehleyr. I can't say I noticed any glaring FX issues, and while there were a few scenes here and there that exhibited more grain structure than others, overall I'm pretty happy with this. I agree that S3 can't come soon enough.
     
  14. Gary Seven

    Gary Seven Grand Poo Pah

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    I too am really enoying this set... just watched the extended Measure of a Man and really enjoyed it. It will be the only version I watch from now on. The extended version expanded on why Data was not thought to be sentient, which I never really understood in the original version. This version I could more easily buy it. Another thing I noticed was how pained Riker was throughout the adversarial process. Since alot more shots were included duing the proceeding, you could see the trouble he was having throughout.
    I have read Melinda's Star Trek novel Tears of the Singers many, many years ago and enjoyed it. I never understood why Paramount never took advantage of the great writers doing the novels... A.C. Crispin, Diane Carey, Margaret Bonnano (well, I know why Margaret would not want to do it), Peter David, Diane Duane to name a few. Enterprise later did this with Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Judith Reeves-Stevens toward the end of its run and the stories were much much better. Unfortunately it was too late for that series. These and many other authors wrote these novels for four decades and never had to resort to a "reboot" to keep things fresh. A pity the JJ Abrams ST movies did not leverage that talent either.
     
  15. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    The Measure of A Man extended cut was very interesting to see! It's not an episode I know backwards and forwards, so it wasn't clear to me which scenes were new. Though the shot of Picard next to the window on the Starbase didn't look that super. :) So that gave that scene away. It was I treating to see the video tape version, though I couldn't watch it very far given its quality. What surprised me are episodes that I never really liked that much before, I found very watchable. Such as The Schizoid Man, Time Squard, The Icarus Factor and I've gained a new enjoyment for The Royale. I haven't summed up the strength to watch The Outragious Okona. I'm saving Q Who and The Emissary.
     
  16. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    I see on Trekmovie that the third season is projected to arrive in April.
     
  17. The Obsolete Man

    The Obsolete Man Screenwriter

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    Are they projecting three seasons for release next year, or only two? An April release says to me that it'll be three (April, July/August, Christmas), but I can't recall what the plans for having the series complete on DVD are.
     
  18. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    I don't recall if there is a specific schedule and if it was ever made public. Perhaps they are still guaging interest. Hopefully season One and Two has been selling at an acceptable rate. Something must be working, Enterprise is coming now so that's good news all around for Star Trek on blu-ray.
     
  19. Jason_V

    Jason_V Producer

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    The schedule has informally been two per year. They may still be holding to that with S3 in April and S4 November-ish and potentially all four seasons of Enterprise thrown in there.
     
  20. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    Although I'd prefer they came quicker, if waiting means a better end product the make it so. I would not be surprised to see three seasons this year though if they are spaced 4 months apart.
     

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