Rumors of a possible high-definition transfer for Star Trek: The Next Generation have been rife on the internet ever since the Original Series was remastered in 2006. That project saw all 80 classic episodes brought firmly into the 21st century with all new special effects and a stunning remastering of the original film.
Star Trek fans have been asking if the same treatment will be given to The Next Generation, and recent rumblings from CBS Paramount confirm that Captain Picard and crew are about to join the original crew in glorious high-definition.
The Digital Bits site reported back in July that sources at Comic Con had confirmed CBS were working on a high-definition transfer for The Next Generation and that 4 'test episodes' were being worked on with the aim of releasing a 'sampler blu ray' sometime in 2011.
On September 2, LeVar Burton, TNG's Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge, tweeted that he had stopped by CBS Paramount Television City to 'see how the TNG conversion to HD for Blue Ray was coming along...'and followed up his tweet with the hashtag #mindblown.
Now, the Digital Bits has confirmed through sources at CBS Paramount which episodes will be featured on the blu-ray sampler disc:
'The disc will include FOUR episodes, two of which will include Encounter at Farpoint, Parts 1 and 2. We're told that the other two should be The Inner Light and Sins of the Father...'
These episodes would certainly provide a diverse cross-section from the show. Unlike the Original Series, episodes of TNG were all edited on video making a high-definition transfer impossible without going back to the original film and creating new special effects.
The four sample episodes are all quite different in terms of their special-effects content and presentation style. The pilot, 'Encounter at Farpoint' would seem to present the biggest challenge for the remastering team. The episode is special-effects heavy, featuring such memorable scenes as the first saucer-separation, Q's energy 'net' and the spaceborne lifeforms at the end of the pilot. Watching this episode on DVD, I have always been struck by the poor quality of the transfer. The picture is incredibly soft, colours are poorly displayed and washed out and there is very little detail visible in the presentation. The transfer to HD for the pilot should represent a huge jump in terms of quality and perhaps be the most noticeable out of the four chosen episodes.
'Sins of the Father' is, from a cinematography standpoint, very murky and dark in it's presentation - a key hallmark for most Klingon episodes. Hopefully a high-definition transfer will bring out much of the detail which is lost in the standard definition release. Whilst not special-effects heavy, 'Sins of the Father' does feature some iconic matte paintings of Qo'noS. It will be interesting to see how this 'regular' episode is remastered and whether or not similar techniques are used that were employed in the remastering of some of classic Star Trek's famous matte paintings.
The final episode, 'The Inner Light' is arguably the most popular of the four. A long-term fan favourite, this episode is constantly seen in top-10 polls for the show. Again, this fifth-season episode isn't especially special-effects heavy, however it does feature a few notable shots involving the Kataan-probe. The cinematography in this episode is also quite unique. Much of the episode's plot takes part on the planet surface and is filmed in a 'washed out' style to depict the growing presence of the supernova. The difference between standard and high definition will probably be far less notable with this episode than the previous three.
You can remind yourself how the episodes look at the moment in our extensive collection of screencaps from the DVD releases of the show. Check out screencaps from the sampler-disc episodes with these links:
- 1x01-1x02 'Encounter at Farpoint' (Parts 1 & 2) DVD Screencaps
- 3x17 'Sins of the Father' DVD Screencaps
- 5x25 'The Inner Light' DVD Screencaps
The Digital Bits reported in its September 12 bulletin that the sampler blu ray is set to be officially announced on September 28, TNG's 24th anniversary. The anticipated U.S. release date will apparently be around December 6.
Update (Sep 26): The German portal for Amazon, Amazon.de has released cover artwork for the TNG sampler blu ray. The artwork describes the disc as 'Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Next Level, A Taste of TNG in High Definition'. Click the thumbnails to view the images in high resolution detail. Hopefully these are only provisional versions of the artwork as the image of the Enterprise-D seems to be back-to-front here (check the registration number!). Further update - these were indeed provisional shots, the packaging has now been updated and the Enterprise has been reversed to the correct angle! Corrected packaging is shown.
Only two days now until the expected announcement from CBS Home Entertainment on the details of the sampler disc - stay tuned to TrekCore for all the latest news as we get it!
Update (Sep 27): The Digital Bits reports that an official preview trailer for the sampler disc may appear online tomorrow. Hopefully we'll soon have confirmation of the TNG remastered project from CBS!