Just in time for First Contact Day on Wednesday, the four Star Trek: Next Generation movies have been newly rescanned and released in 4K Ultra High Definition. The films are being released today in a new boxed set edition as well as individual releases. This review covers the new boxed set.
Seeing The Next Generation crew “graduate” to the silver screen, like The Original Series crew did before them, was a momentous occasion for a Trek fan in 1994. Generations didn’t quite live up to the hype, but it sure did look nice, showing just how great the Enterprise-D sets could appear with more cinematic lighting. The new 4K HDR transfer gives the moody Enterprise interiors a bit more room to breathe, and the harsh sunlight of Veridian III looks a little bit more natural than before.
The sophomore outing for the crew, First Contact was an instant success, setting a high bar for future Trek movies. The next film, Insurrection, is enjoyable in the spirit of an expanded episode of TNG, but not exactly blockbuster status. (Screenwriter Michael Piller’s Fade In: The Making of Star Trek Insurrection documents all the changes the plot went through to get to the average outing we ended up with.)
First Contact and Insurrection were both directed by Jonathan Frakes with cinematographer Matthew Leonetti. Both films look great and both have similar gains in this new 4K transfer. Arguably, First Contact is the best-looking of the 4 films. Insurrection started to use more CGI, so it has a few softer or less convincing shots here and there. Where the two films really shine (pun intended) is in the natural lighting when our characters get off the ship. The new HDR dynamic range also helps with small things like the specular highlights from sweat beads in the hot and humid (39.1ºC) Borgified sections of the Enterprise-E.
After Insurrection didn’t reach the heights of First Contact, the future of the TNG film franchise was mulled over by Paramount leadership, stalling the cadence of Trek film releases. Eventually, Nemesis was released in 2002. The film desperately wanted to say something about roads not taken, age, mortality, and sacrifice for comrades, but it just didn’t land (for a number of reasons that are well-known to Trek fans). Sadly, this ended the TNG cast’s time on the silver screen. Nemesis comes to 4K looking as good as it ever has. The darkly lit throne room scenes are a bit better refined in HDR, but it’s not a massive difference. For those wondering, the dune buggy chase on Kolarus III is just as blown out as ever since that was an intentional style choice.
The Ultra HD Blu-ray set
The boxed set comes with a large 8-disc flipper case inside. The four Ultra HD Blu-ray versions of the movies are in the front half, and then in the back half are the four movies on standard HD Blu-ray discs. The Blu-ray discs are based on the same newly restored versions of the films, just in 1080p. The Ultra HD movies are also sold individually. And new versions of the 1080p Blu-ray movies are also available, sold individually, for those who haven’t made the leap to 4K/HDR.
The short version: These four movies look great. The wider color gamut of Ultra HD allows for richer colors; for example, the deep shades of the departmental colors in the uniforms. It’s especially noticeable in Generations, where the later season TNG uniform is still used. The films also benefit from a restrained HDR grade that helps retain details in the extremes (dark/light) of a scene.
Unlike the TOS movies, the TNG movies fared a bit better in their older 2009 versions. The older versions still leave quite a bit to desired, with too much grain reduction at times and certainly too much sharpening applied, which makes them look a bit too digital. Those versions might have looked pretty good in the early 2000s when they were first created, but as TVs have gotten larger and better quality, they’ve started to look pretty ragged. Thankfully, the new 4K scans of the original 35mm films freshen them up and make them as engaging as ever, with skin tones and skin texture looking noticeably more natural now.
|NOTE: The screenshots included in this article are down-converted from 4K and HDR, so they’re not a perfect representation—they may appear darker on your screen than they will when watching the movie on a proper HDR display—but still give a good idea of the subtle improvements that give these latest editions a more filmic quality. Staring at still frames of a motion picture isn’t exactly how a film is intended to be watched, so take these as a general demonstration of the changes.|
The audio mixes are effectively the same excellent lossless 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mixes that were released with the previous Blu-rays; however, this time it’s presented in 7.1 format. I will say I’m slightly disappointed they didn’t remix the movies in Dolby Atmos, but that isn’t a deal-killer by any means. The mixes were great in 2009 and still sound great on a modern surround system.
Having a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos system, I can attest that the audio tracks work very nicely via Dolby Surround Upmixer (DSU) to fill out a room (this is a technology to extrapolate Dolby Atmos-like sound from a traditional surround soundtrack). Doing a rewatch of the four films, I was quite engaged by both the video and audio.
As is common practice, the Ultra HD Blu-ray discs have minimal special features to allow maximum space for the 4K video. The majority of the extras are found on the standard Blu-ray discs. This set carries over pretty much all of the special features from the 2009 versions of the movies, which in turn carried over most of the DVD features from before. I recommend you check out our review for more. (A full list of special features can be seen below)
There’s only one noteworthy feature missing: “The Captain’s Summit,” made for the original series 2009 boxed set and not released again. The summit included the Next Generation cast, so I had some small hope it might be included in this TNG boxed set. It’s understandable why “The Captain’s Summit” feature isn’t there, as it was a specially commissioned documentary that was included as a separate bonus disc, but it sure would be nice to make it available to people who don’t have the 2009 set.
The four Next Gen movies have never looked better. For fans who enjoy these films and want to have them in the best possible format, this is a must-buy. Fans need to vote with their wallets. Releasing the movies only to digital is relatively easy and low cost for Paramount (the remastered First Contact has quietly been available in digital for a year now), but physical media requires time and effort since it is a physical product. Showing the studio that fans want Trek movies on physical media is important.
Streaming rights come and go and vary by region, so the only surefire way to collect these movies in 4K to keep as your own is on disc. And at least for the US version of the set, it comes with a code for a digital copy of each movie, so you can have your handy digital version while also showing your support for the disc format.
Ultra HD Blu-ray
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Full list of features
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