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Star Trek: The Next Generation - 20th Anniversary Complete Series - DVD review

by Keith McDuffee, posted Oct 4th 2007 10:24AM
st: tng complete series dvdsIf you're even mildly a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you've no doubt heard of the recent release of the 20th anniversary edition of the complete series DVD set, complete with new bonus features. First you probably said to yourself, "holy crap, that was 20 years ago?! Get outta my yard!" You also likely groaned when you read the price tag of 400 smackeroos, which even for die-hard trekkies is a big pill to swallow.

I was lucky enough to recently get a look at what this new DVD set. Is it really better to have the entire series in an all-in-one case? Are the bonus features worth the price itself? Well, I'll tell you my thoughts, at least. (See here for a gallery of packaging images.)

The packaging

The box itself is certainly eye-catching and would make any self-respecting sci-fi geek (are sci-fi geeks self-respecting?) drool with envy. However, upon opening the package, I was immediately struck at how fragile it felt. The fragility of the box was proven to me when I noticed one of the green cases holding the DVDs themselves had a small crack in it. Not something someone wants to see when they shelled out serious cake for this set, and something I'm sure is apt to happen more as people order this online.

The cases cases themselves feel as though they have a tendency to dislodge DVDs from their holders, which could mean scratched discs galore. Luckily everything in this set was set in nicely, though there was one time I opened a case and a disc popped out and slid across the plastic. Aieee!

Inside the main case are three smaller green cases, as you can see in the photos. Each case holds 2-3 seasons, though the outside of each case is totally void of any markings to tell you what seasons in contains. It's more difficult to locate an episode than it should be.

The DVD art

Each DVD lists what episodes it contains along with its air date and stardate, which I found very cool. If there are special bonus features on that DVD (most are on the last disc of each season), those are listed as well. Each season has a different character emblazoned on its respective DVDs, with the bonus disc containing the Starship Enterprise. With respect to Wil, who I believe said he felt he got the shaft for not being put on one of these DVDs, I'm not sure who they should have sacrificed in order for him to have a spot. These are characters who, to the best of my knowledge, appeared in many episodes of every season. Don't take it personally, man.

The Bonus DVD

There's nothing new to mention regarding the normal DVDs. It's all seven seasons, including some season-end features, called "Mission Logs", found in what you'd get if you purchased each set individually. The new Bonus DVD is what's new here, so let's get to that.

The Next Generation's Impact: 20 Years Later
John de Lancie (Q) narrates this feature, though I have one nitpick; what seemed like his cue card reading was a little distracting, though it may have been something else distracting him. There are some interesting tidbits of behind-the-scenes info here that I haven't heard before. For example, did you know Troi was originally going to have three breasts? How about that Robin Williams was originally going to be cast in a role? Then one ultimate question is asked of cast and crew of the show: What would have happened if there was never a Next Generation?

The Next Generation's Legacy: 2007
Ah, our own Wil Wheaton's shining moment. I'm very glad Wil got a place on this set, and it's an incredibly fitting one at that. Wil takes us on a trip to some locations in this country where the fictional technology of Star Trek has made its way to becoming non-fiction. I can't think of anyone more fit for this feature.

Star Trek Visual Effects Magic: A Roundtable Discussion
I liked this feature a lot. It's as though you're sitting in with some of the effects guys from TNG (Howard Anderson, Robert Legato, Ronald B. Moore, Dan Curry), who are just reminiscing about how they used to do things for the show. The start off a little stiff, then quickly get more comfortable with each other and have fun. They talk transporter effects then and now, different rigs used, going CGI vs. models and, most interesting, how the art of what they're doing is much more important than "the trick."

Select Historical Data I
A few items discussed here, like the how the creature in the episode "Galaxy's Child" was conceived and created. Well, conceived in the mind, that is. Also some ship designs are discussed here.

Inside the Star Trek Archives
These selections came from the fourth season primarily and discussed some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that went on that year, including hiding Gates McFadden's pregnancy, the editors winning an Emmy, the legacy of Dixon Hill and "strange reunions."

Intergalactic Guest Stars
They couldn't cover every guest star on the show, but there were a few I didn't remember or know about, like Kirsten Dunst (from "Dark Page") and Famke Janssen ("The Perfect Mate"). And who could forget Ashley Judd ("The Game")? Others profiled: Commander Sela (Denise Crosby) "Hugh" Borg (Jonathan Del Archo) from "I, Borg", Captain Morgan Bateson (Kelsey Grammer) from "Cause and Effect". Plus some notes about Ronald Regan's visit to the set.

Alien Speak
Vulcan, Klingon, etc. The writing, the speech, who came up with it all, why and how. Did you know James Doohan came up with Klingon when the first Trek movie was being made? Neat fact.

Select Historical Data II
From the sixth season, some subjects discussed: Gowron ("Reunion", "Rightful Heir"), musical directions, working with Geordi's Visor and the transition to in the eyes for the movies, extra help on the set, the origin of some sound effects (the door "squeak" is actually a tennis show squeak recorded) and some of the editing challenges.

Inside Starfleet Academy Archives: Sets and Props
More from the sixth season. We get some commentary from set director James Mees on some pieces being used more than once. We also get a few "Brain Teasers." For example: In the episode "The Emissary", the probe that delivers K'ehleyr has its origins in which Star Trek films?

Special Profiles
Now we get to some of the final season details. Though Q was in several seasons, he's profiled here. John de Lancie reveals that his character's name came from Roddenberry's tribute to friend Jane Quarton. Lwaxana Troi is also profiled here.

Dressing the Future
The final feature from the disc, which is OK if you're into facts about the wardrobe and all. Marina Sirtis & Robert Blackman, costume designer, discuss the more interesting aspects of the wardrobe. For example, I'm sure many trekkies already know this, but the uniform colors all had specific meaning: Red = command, gold = tactical/security, blue=science. I hadn't ever thought about that before.

The Poster

Yes, there is a sort-of poster included in the set, but it's not exactly poster size. It lists each season along with a basic plot summary of what occurred in that season. Basically you can hand this to anyone who's never seen the show and they'd get caught up on a gist of what the show was about and what happened each year. A cool collector's item, but not one I'd so quickly throw on a wall.

Verdict

If the price tag hasn't scared you away already, then what might deter you from getting this set? The crackable packaging might scare you off a bit, if you're even interested in keeping it all in the original case (I'm pretty sure you'd want to). I highly recommend checking your set out as soon as you get it and make sure there's nothing wrong with it before it's too late to make an exchange.

The Bonus DVD aside, I'd probably prefer to have each season in its own case where I can easily grab the whole set and find the episode I want with ease. Sure, it's not as cool looking as this set, but it's functional. The Bonus DVD is a great addition, though for me it's a watch-once affair. Unlike the episodes themselves, I don't see myself having a moment when I'd like to watch the bonus features repeatedly.

If you own all of the seasons already, I'd say you're not missing enough to go through with purchasing this set. I recommend finding a friend who does or will own this set and borrow their bonus DVD to watch. As great as those features are, it's not worth paying $400 for. For that I'd await an inevitable hi-def version to be released -- you know it's coming.

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Eric B.

I bought these sets within the first few years they were released (never paid more than $80 a set, though) and I am kind of envious that this set exists at the price it is being sold at. You have to figure there's probably 130 hours of material on this set, and if you take DeepDiscount.com's current twenty percent off sale, the set costs $223 - shipped. That's about a dollar and twenty-five cents an episode - or $31.85 a season on average.

November 17 2007 at 2:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DPP

"Wil [Wheaton] takes us on a trip to some locations in this country where the fictional technology of Star Trek has made its way to becoming non-fiction. I can't think of anyone more fit for this feature."

Hmm, a man hosts viewers on a televised tour of various sites of interest for an informative cultural learning experience...

Wouldn't the obvious choice of Star Trek actor have been not Wheaton, but LeVar "Reading Rainbow" Burton?

October 12 2007 at 9:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jason

The way I see it, there are two elements that contributed to the original prices being so high.

First, TNG was one of the first examples of entire seasons of a show being released on DVD. Before, any releases of TV shows were usually one disc at a time (see the first releases of TOS). The market hadn't yet settled on what would be the "acceptable" pricing for these (I believe the X-Files seasons were around the same price when they came out). Since then, the standard of ~$40 per season has developed, and the pricing for TNG has dropped accordingly (though still above the average, it's not as overpriced as, say, HBO's DVDs).

Second, Paramount knows it's core Star Trek audience will buy a lot of big releases even if the initial price is way too high. I know, we were there getting all the TNG & DS9 sets within the first week of release throughout 2002 and 2003. It was worth it for me, especially since I hadn't really gotten into DS9 until the 3rd season (I'll admit I preferred the more action-based Trek of TOS/TNG at the time, but I was 6 when DS9 started. Cut me some slack!).

Anyway, the higher margins of that pricing means that Paramount can afford to target the niche market of hardcore fans and still rake in the cash. Now, with the cost of most seasons being lowered closer to the average market price, I think there will be an uptake in sales, and profits.

Honestly, I don't see these sets ever selling for $20-25 new; heck, you can't get too many other season sets for that price, and Star Trek isn't "just another show". And even more rare are non-current shows selling for such a low price. Paramount thinks they can charge a premium price (though now it's more in line with the average price), and they were rewarded well. Now they're aiming for the midrange of the market.

Based on the way the market handles TV DVDs, I would call TNG's current pricing acceptable. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion of how much a season of television should cost. Some base their views on the quality of production (i.e., the Sopranos sets are worth paying 70-100 bucks because every ep. looks like a mini movie), others look at quantity/length of episodes (TNG had 26/season except for only 22 in the 2nd season, and every episode was 44-47 minutes long, giving you nearly 20 hours of programming per season).

For some, it's simply setting their own arbitrary price point (example: why is $20-25/season your magic price?). The truth is that every price is arbitrary in a way, then it adjusts based on supply & demand.

I'm not defending Paramount for the gouging they've done, and I agree with your comment that they've focused too much on the hardcore fanbase instead of the mainstream market. On the other hand, by staggering the price changes over several years, they're able to extend the life of steady sales for the show. Their plan may not be as arbitrary as you think.

October 04 2007 at 7:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Oreo

Star Trek was hugely overpriced, and it's a shame, great show.

October 04 2007 at 7:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
brian.stuart

But Jason, you're talking about the price being better than really overpriced. Doesn't mean its not still overpriced and putting off slightly more casual fans who'd love to have these DVD's but don't want to be paying twice what other series cost on DVD. They should have been $40-$50 to begin with and cut down to $20-$25 for the complete series release. I don't get why Paramount is so committed to the arbitrary price point they came up with the Star Trek series. Its just not supported by the market and is still keeping this release hard-core fans only.

October 04 2007 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jason

I don't plan on buying the set as we've already got all the separate season sets, but I don't think the $400 pill is that big a deal. Think about it: at $400, the cost is about $57 per season. Compare that to the MSRP of about $140 per season when the original sets were released, though you could find them most places for ~$100. Huge difference.

Plus, I just checked Amazon, and they're only asking $304.99 for this set, or exactly $43.57 per season. At that rate, it's on par with most single season sets. For fans who haven't picked up any TNG dvds yet, I think this would be a pretty good deal.

And if you still want the separate season boxes and don't mind sacrificing the new extras, Amazon's got that package for $309.99.

Thanks for the review. The only new extras I had any interest in were those with Wil and maybe the VFX stuff. It seems like the rest is superfluous, certainly not worth shelling out for the entire series again. Ah well, guess I'll have to find someone with this set so I can check those out myself.

October 04 2007 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andrew Timson

I wouldn't be too sure on that "inevitable HD version"—TNG was edited entirely on video, so that the final versions of the episodes don't exist at a quality higher than that of DVD.

While the show itself was shot on film, and probably even the effects shots, they'd have to go back to the original elements and edit them back together again. Assuming that they even exist anymore.

October 04 2007 at 11:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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