Star Trek's Next Generation films hit 4K and Blu-ray
By Jim Bray
Paramount Pictures has finally released the quartet of Star Trek: The Next Generation movies, and it's about time.
Now, TNG movies have been pilloried for years as not being up to Trek snuff – and I generally agreed with the pillorying over the years. Now, however, having not seen any of these films for at least a decade, my revisiting the collection has given me a, perhaps, more mellow feel toward them.
Don't get me wrong, First Contact (the second of the TNG films) is still a pretty first-rate Trek outing, but this time around I noticed that Generations, Insurrection and Nemesis seemed to be not as bad as I remembered them, especially Nemesis which, in my original review of the DVD, I said was the (channelling The Simpsons' Comic Book guy) "worst episode ever."
Maybe it's because I recently sat through all the Original Series movies again when Paramount released them onto 4K disc. That's also a motley assortment, from the pretentious and ponderous "The Motion Picture" through the fine "Wrath of Khan/Death of Spock/Save the Whales trilogy," the not particularly outstanding "Final Frontier" and the better but still less than classic "The Undiscovered Country."
Or maybe it's just because I'm older. I actually enjoyed watching all four of these movies, the boxed set of which also contains remastered Blu-ray versions. Sure, the plots may not have been masterpieces, even masterpieces of Trek canon, but I'd argue that even Insurrection and Nemesis are no worse than "The Motion Picture" and "Final Frontier."
I mean, since when aren't there plot holes in Star Trek?
Anyway, it's only logical, and about time, that these Next Generations films made it to the world of UHD 4K, and Paramount has done a fine job of it. Oh, you won't find Dolby Atmos remastering here (all four films offer Dolby TrueHD instead) but I daresay most people with mainstream home theatres won't care. Mine is higher end than "mainstream" but I still haven't upgraded my room and my equipment to handle the extra channels of Atmos and, as much of a nerd I may be, I can't say I've missed it.
Here's a quick look at the four films:
Perhaps Paramount wasn't confident that the Next Generation cast could carry a theatrical film, because this seventh Trek movie is a blend between the original cast and the NG folks. So, we have Kirk getting trapped in an alternate universe thing, keeping him fresh and occupied for the eight decades or so between the original and the "replacement" series. And, surprise surprise, he ends up working with Jean Luc Picard to save the population of a planet being threatened by a guy Kirk helped to save back 80 some years ago.
One of the highlights is the destruction of the Enterprise D, undoubtedly to make room for a new, fancy big screen ship. It makes little sense, but it's pretty neat to look at.
Generations looks and sounds great and its special effects still hold up well.
This is easily the best of the four, and in fact can stand with the best of any of the Star Trek movies, including the reboots (the first of which was excellent). It brings back Trek's best villains – the commie-like Borg from whom resistance is futile and assimilation is the goal. Kind of like today's liberal lefties.
The TNG crew are on their own here, without any Kirk-like training wheels, and they do a great job. The story not only involves the Borg, but it also features a time travel subplot that takes the crew back to the beginning of Mankind's (I'd say Humanity's, but it's more fun to tweak lefties) first contact (see what they did there?) with alien life – a happy accident that actually leads to Mankind's use of the warp drive that opens up deep space and allows for colonization and the eventual formation of the Federation.
The story is first rate, as are the performances (well, I got a tad tired of James Cromwell as warp discoverer Zefram Cochrane, but I often get tired of him), and the production values and special effects do it all justice. The movie looks and sounds great!
Insurrection is kind of weird and illogical, but I'm glad I gave it another chance. This one seems to be fans' least favourite of the four, though I'd still rate Nemesis as that.
Picard and his band of little Star Fleet friends are called upon to prevent the genocide of a group of interstellar Luddites who long ago gave up their home world, their technology, and their politics (well…) to live a pastoral life on a planet that somehow also keeps them from aging and dying.
Naturally, this ability to refrain from snuffing it attracts the attention of a group whose bodies could really use some "next regeneration" and who are determined to partake of the special magic keeping the planet's residents young and vibrant. Except that they aren't interested in just getting better: they want the current residents to die because they hate their guts.
Why that 's the case will come into focus later and, while it doesn't make a lot of sense to me, it does give us the necessary conflict for a drama. We also get to see how corrupt certain folks high up on Star Fleet have become, which kind of makes it a documentary look at today's world, or at least a cautionary tale.
The Romulans make contact with the Federation, hinting that after all these years they want to sue for peace. Yeah, we saw the Klingons do this (and better!) in ST VI The Undiscovered Country and, like Wrath of Khan, it ends with a beloved cast member sacrificing himself/herself/itself to save the ship and its crew. So, yeah, we've seen this all, er, B-4.
We're also introduced to the Romulans' "sister planet" Remus (I still wonder if they have any uncles there) and the uglies who live there and are forced into a kind of existence reminiscent of the kidnapped kids in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Dung, er, Doom.
The nemesis here is played by Tom Hardy, who I usually like, and he's fine here, too. It's the script that's the issue – but as I said earlier, I even enjoyed this one more upon viewing it many years later. Sure, it's weak, but it looks and sounds great, the performances of the main characters are fine (well, most of the crew seems to be around just to qualify for residuals) and, if nothing else, you can go away from a viewing knowing precisely why there were no other Next Generation movies.
Not surprisingly, I watched all four movies on the 4K disc versions and all of them are terrific. I'd always been impressed by the picture of First Contact and Nemesis specifically, but First Contact actually comes off here as the worst of the four.
That doesn't mean it's crap by any means, not at all! All four films offer great blacks, High Dynamic Range and lovely colours. These are definitely the versions to get – and if you haven't yet converted to the wonderful world of 4K discs (which I prefer to downloads), you can partake of the excellent Blu-rays until you upgrade your player.
Audio of all movies is Dolby TrueHD and it's excellent as well, with great surround use and wonderful fidelity.
There are also oodles of extras, with a few (such as commentaries) on the 4K discs but more on the Blu-rays, so all in all it's a great collection.
You also get codes for digital downloads of the films.
Paramount has done a nice job with the Next Generation movies and, for better or for worse, they're worthy of the Trek universe. They're also well worth your time if you're a Trekkie.
Copyright 2023 Jim Bray