Set decades after Captain James T. Kirk's 5-year mission, a new generation of Starfleet officers in a new Enterprise set off on their own mission to go where no one has gone before.
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We've finally reached the final season of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'. When it was first announced that the series was coming to Blu-ray, and that it would be completely remastered from its original film elements, many of us went bonkers thinking of the possibilities. The first couple releases started out with a few hiccups, which were quickly remedied after complaints from reviewers and consumers. After that it's been pretty smooth sailing as Paramount has released one season after another at a steady clip. It's hard to believe that we're already at the end of the run. This is the last season of 'ST: TNG' to transfer to high definition. In a day and age where older television seasons are still hit and miss when it comes to the Blu-ray format, it's nice to see Paramount and CBS follow through with every season.
The seventh season doesn't quite live up to the classic nature of 'ST: TNG's earlier seasons. By now the show has solidified who the characters are, their motivations, and their relationships with one another. Watching the crew learn and grow in the early years, all the while facing some of the most challenging and though-provoking science fiction scenarios, was a real treat. Season seven meanders through its episodes on its way to a final episode that comes at the right time. Too many shows nowadays are run into the ground long after their expiration date is up. The seventh season of 'ST: TNG' showed that the show had run its course and that it was time to hang it up for good. Sure, the show spawned four major motion pictures after completing its run, but that speaks to its immense staying power and popularity. In fact, the whole idea of bringing these seasons out on Blu-ray, with completely remastered visuals and reworked effects is due to the fact that its fans are still as rabid as ever. While the show ended when it should have, its reputation will live on for years to come.
Perhaps one of my personal favorite episodes of the final season is "Lower Decks." We've spent so much time over the past six seasons getting to know each main character intimately, that it's a fun departure from the norm to see an episode about the behind-the-scenes crew members of the Enterprise.
It's also enjoyable to watch the show make a transition into steering viewers to 'Voyager' by playing up the Cardassian presence. Ratcheting up the tension between Starfleet and the highly dangerous race gives everyone a good segue into the show that for all intents and purposes took the baton from 'Next Generation.'
There isn't much more to say about season seven. This feels more like a cumulative review of the situation. Many of us never thought the moment would come where we saw every 'Next Generation' season on Blu-ray. Most of us never fathomed that that release – if it came at all – would come complete with full restoration from original film elements and a reworking of some of the show's effects in order to keep them in line with the original show, but also make them shine in a high definition world.
Season seven might not be the best the show has to offer, final seasons rarely are. However, seeing this entire series get released – while acknowledging the bumps along the way – is a fantastic achievement for the format and television. Think of how many shows only have one or two seasons on Blu-ray, only to keep releasing on DVD. Think of how easy it would've been for Paramount and CBS to stop after the first couple technical kerfuffles with the first few seasons. Yet, they powered through, released all of them, provided some fantastic extras along the way, and restored some of the best science-fiction television we've ever had on the small screen.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a six-disc set, which comes complete with 50GB Blu-rays. Discs 1, 3, 4, and 5 all have five episodes. Disc 2 has four episodes. The sixth disc contains one episode and a whole load of special features. They're all packaged in a case that mirrors that of previous season releases, only this time with a purple theme. Each disc has its very own hub to be stored in. Inside the front cover is a printed version of the episode list, which discs the episodes are one, the special features on those discs, and the episode Stardates. A slipcover is provided which matches in design with the rest of the releases, so they all look uniform on your shelf.
As we've progressed through the seasons we've seen the video quality stay steady. It's become a little better with each season release, and now with the final season it looks quite superb. The 1080p transfer of season seven from its original film elements looks stunning in high-def. It really does. The entire season is framed, like the rest, in the show's original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
With these new seasons I'm always impressed to see the upgraded visual effects. Season seven is no slouch in that department either. Many of the exterior shots of the Enterprise, other ships, and the planets they frequently encounter look crisp and detailed. The blackness of space is absolute. The stars offering the only pinpricks of light in an otherwise inky night. These exterior shots rarely, if ever, feature any sort of noise or artifacting that may distract the viewer's attention.
Inside the Enterpirse detail is just as engaging. There are times where we get a few shots here and there that harbor noticeable noise, but it's to be expected. These aren't scrubbed free of every bit of noise, which is good. It looks cinematic. It looks lifelike. The decision not to scrub until waxy is a great one.
Color is strong and only wavers slightly in a few scenes. You'll notice, like in other seasons, that there are a handful of scenes where solid colored Starfleet suits might flicker a bit in color shade, but again it's nothing to get too concerned about. It's something that's happened in other seasons, and it only happens here infrequently.
Facial detail is top-notch. It still amazes me how much detail comes through on these Blu-rays compared to the show's original broadcasts. It's light years ahead. Everything from the leather adorning Enterprise furniture to the soft cloth appearance of the uniforms is perfectly presented. In the end it's as good of a sendoff as anyone could expect.
Yes, ever since the sound snafu with the first season it's easy to get a little apprehensive with each new season release. Fortunately, the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix doesn't harbor any of the ills that plagued the first season when it was released. Quite the opposite. It's a fully engaging audio mix that completely envelops you. With all the beeps and boops piped to the side and rear speakers you'll feel like you were right there on the bridge with Picard.
The show's iconic music is boisterous and full of low-end excitement. Same with the show's multitude of effects, explosions, and action. The sub-woofer is quite busy during much of the season. The rear channels hold a lot of ambient like-you-were-there sound as the characters make their way around the bustling Enterprise, among other places. The side channels offer a great dynamic to the listening atmosphere. As the Enterprise zooms from one side of the screen to the other the sound travels seamlessly from side to front to other side. It's all part of its enveloping feeling.
Dialogue is clearly defined. Directionality is well prioritized without many lines getting lost in the fray. There may be one or two extremely soft whispers that get drowned out by the surrounding noise, but they weren't egregious enough to make specific note of. This is another great audio track. Fans will be more than pleased.
We made it folks. The final season of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' is out! It comes complete with some really great audio, strong visuals, and a wide array of new special features. As with its predecessors, season seven is very highly recommended. It may not be the very best the show had to offer, but considering that it stayed so good, for so long, season seven has quite a few gems to be savored.