Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Best of Both Worlds (UK - BD)
Chris assimilates the stand-alone BD release of one of Trek's best episodes
The powerful cliffhanger, The Best of Both Worlds Parts 1 and 2 have been fully restored in brilliant 1080p HD and seamlessly edited together into one feature-length presentation… and the crew of the Enterprise is asked: How do you stop an unstoppable foe? The Enterprise team discovers the devastated remains of a Federation colony as an ambitious young officer joins the crew to confirm the presence of the deadly Borg. Soon after, Borg drones abduct Captain Picard, mutilating him horribly as they assimilate him into their collective. Commander Riker must take over as Enterprise captain as Starfleet braces for an all-out battle to defend Earth. But the Borg’s power proves overwhelming, and resistance is futile. Will Riker be forced to destroy his former captain to save Earth and the Federation? (Taken from the PR.)
Star Trek: The Next Generation holds a very special place in my heart. Although I grew up watching re-runs of the original Star Trek I was never really a big fan of Roddenberry's creation until the 1980s series arrived. Its utopian vision of the future, coupled with impressive special effects and wonderfully crafted stories really struck a chord, and actually made me more appreciative of the earlier television series and motion pictures. Granted the first couple of seasons were shaky, often featuring episodes that were little more than rehashes of those found in the original series, but there were a number of diamonds in the rough. Chief among these was a second season episode entitled Q Who, in which the malevolent (or perhaps mischievous) entity known only as 'Q' transports the Enterprise to a distant galaxy where it encounters a race of beings known as the Borg. These creatures were unlike any Star Trek villain I'd seen before; a techno-organic race unconcerned by political conquest or wealth, instead focussed solely on 'improving' themselves by assimilating other races and cultures into their 'collective'. The crew's attempts at diplomacy fail and they face destruction at the hands of this implacable enemy, with only Captain Picard's last-minute plea for assistance from Q saving them from certain doom. It was a fantastic episode made all the better by the promise that, having been made aware of the Federation's existence, the Borg would be coming.
Viewers would have to wait until the third season finale for their next glimpse of the Borg, who arrived in advance of Starfleet's predictions and began assimilating various colonies. Of course the Enterprise was dispatched to investigate and faired little better against them than their last encounter, but in a stunning twist Captain Picard was abducted and altered into Locutus, a being intended to facilitate the assimilation of Earth by way of his advanced knowledge of Starfleet protocols and tactics. This turn of events thrust a reluctant Commander Riker into the Captain's chair, forcing him to confront his personal demons, a situation made all the more difficult by the presence of an ambitious young officer named Elizabeth Shelby, who clashes with Riker at every turn. The episode's final moments, in which Riker is faced with the impossible decision of killing his former Captain and mentor, still ranks as one of the most exciting televisual moments I've ever experience.
The wait for the conclusion was a long one, and while not as exciting as the opening act things were wrapped up satisfactorily and, more importantly, convincingly. The events of The Best of Both Worlds would also have far-reaching consequences, not only for Picard and the Enterprise crew, but the series and indeed the franchise as a whole, with the Borg going on to become one of the most popular adversaries in Star Trek history. Picard would continue to struggle to live with his violation at the hands of the Borg throughout the show's run and the best of the Next Generation feature films, First Contact, allowing Stewart to explore the full range of his character's emotions. The Borg would also become one of the principal players in Star Trek: Voyager, especially in the latter seasons, sporting a new, even more striking visual design based on their movie appearance.
I don't think it's possible to overestimate the importance of The Best of Both Worlds. It was probably the defining moment in the show's history and this Blu-ray release sees both parts edited together into one feature-length episode, allowing for a seamless, cinematic presentation to rival some of the big-screen outings.
I don't own any of the individual seasons of Star Trek on Blu-ray, but I have seen the Next Generation sampler disc so I had a rough idea of what to expect from this release. Remastered from the original film elements and recompositied with enhanced effects, it's no exaggeration to say that the high-definition version of The Best of Both Worlds wipes the floor with any televised showing, DVD release, or streaming version of the show I've seen. Detail is simply astonishing, revealing minute details that simply were not visible in standard-definition. The Enterprise herself looks marvellous - you can almost see the individual seams in the model - and interior sets are also hugely impressive, particularly those of the cavernous Borg vessel. Elsewhere you'll swear you can see the stitching in characters' uniforms, while the relatively primitive Borg make-up effects hold up surprisingly well under the scrutiny of HD. In fact the Borg make-up actually looks much better than I remember, calling to mind visions of Giger's alien with its bio-mechanical design. Colour is also incredibly vibrant, not to mention far more stable than in standard-definition. Gone are the smeary reds of the command uniforms, and for the first time you can really differentiate between the various pastel shades of the Enterprise bridge. The aforementioned enhanced effects are done in such a way as not to draw attention to themselves, instead subtly improving a number of scenes without appearing incongruous with the original elements.
However, there is one fly in this otherwise unblemished ointment in the form of a fleeting loss of fidelity just after the hour mark, an unavoidable side-effect of three seconds of missing film elements. During those three seconds you will definitely notice the difference in quality between the restored high-definition footage and the up-scaled standard definition material that temporarily replaces it, but it passes quickly enough and is soon forgotten. Other than that this is a very impressive video presentation that actually looks better in motion than the screen captures below suggest.
The Best of Both Worlds offers a choice between newly remastered DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio and the original Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio. Curiously my amp identified the latter as being surround encoded, but I couldn't hear a peep from the rear speakers even after pressing my ears against them during one of the livelier moments. Anyway, while it's nice to have the option of a 2.0 track most people are going to want to listen to this episode in full 7.1 as it's a very respectful mix that doesn't try to do anything flashy, but as with the video before it subtle enhancement is on offer. Opening up the soundstange allows for a much more immersive experience, with things like the the Enterprise warping through space passing from the front to the rears with a satisfying whoosh. Little touches such as the gentle throb of the warp core, or the various bleeps emitted by the ship's computer really add to the overall atmosphere now that they are heard from every direction. Space battles are also given a new lease of life thanks to the directionality afforded by the additional channels.
The only minor issue I had with the 7.1 track was the dialogue, which I found a little too low in the mix for my tastes. I was able to compensate for this easily enough by upping the centre channel volume a little bit, after which dialogue sounded much better. I was particularly happy with the way in which the chorus of Borg voices sounded emanating from every speaker, mirroring the theatrical and later television appearances. Oh, I tell a lie, there was one other minor disappointment - the lack of the 'cliffhanger' music at the end of the first part of the story. Obviously this this is because the two halves have been stitched together, but I really missed the dramatic 'dun dun dun' musical score after Riker gives the command to fire on the Borg cube. Other than that, I was very happy with the sonic elements of the release.
- Audio Commentary: This entertaining and informative track features director Cliff Bole, actress Elizabeth Dennehy, and Trek experts Mike and Denise Okuda discussing the episode in great detail, sharing many behind-the-scenes memories.
- Regeneration: Engaging the Borg: This is a fairly lengthy featurette that takes a retrospective look at the ground-breaking two-parter and its place in television history. Many of the principal cast appear to discuss their roles, including Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, and Elizabeth Dennehy. The featurette also examines some of the new CGI enhancements to the existing effects sequences.
- Gag Reel: A surprisingly amusing collection of flubbed lines and goofs, mainly from Michael Dorn who seemed incapable of making it through a scene without tripping over his tongue or cracking up. It's also supremely enjoyable to hear Patrick Stewart swear, even if it is bleeped out!
- Episodic Promo Part 1: A standard-definition TV promo for the first episode.
- Episodic Promo Part 2: A standard-definition TV promo for the second episode.
Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of the most consistently enjoyable television shows I ever had the pleasure of watching, and this Blu-ray presents one of the best story arcs in the show's history with never before seen audio-visual quality. Honestly, the captures on this page simply do not do the image justice; the old DVD release looks like mush by comparison. Sound, too, is given a fantastic boost by the respectful remix, and while the supplemental material is limited, it is very informative. If like me you're not willing to stump up the cash for full seasons of a show you've already owned on multiple formats this Blu-ray is the perfect opportunity to get your hands on a couple of classic episodes without breaking the bank. Just be warned that it might weaken your resolve against buying those full seasons!
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 29th April 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Aspect: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono German, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Spanish, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono French, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Italian, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Japanese
Subtitles: English, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish
Extras: Audio Commentary, Featurettes, TV Spots
Easter Egg: No
Director: Cliff Bole
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Genre: Action, Drama and Sci-Fi
Length: 86 minutes
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