Close, but not quite as good... by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
The first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was awesome on Blu-ray, and I was very excited to continue with the series. I still can't believe how awesome the special effects shots look, or the regular filmed shots, either. This is also the season where many fans felt the show was really starting to find itself. The core crew wasn't complete, as Gates McFadden wasn't in the second season, but the storytelling had gotten better, and the characters were more developed; Riker had a beard, Worf had a position, and Whoopi Goldberg was slinging drinks in 10-forward. Oh, and those crazy cube-people made an appearance as well.
This 5-disc set includes all 22 episodes from the second, shortened season (due to the writers' strike):
Disc 1 (3:47:49)
The Child (45:31)
Where Silence Has Lease (45:44)
Elementary, Dead Data (45:39)
The Outrageous Okona (45:31)
Loud as a Whisper (45:24)
Disc 2 (3:01:45)
The Schizoid Man (45:29)
Unnatural Selection (45:14)
A Matter of Honor (45:28)
The Measure of a Man (45:34)
Disc 3 (3:47:31)
The Dauphin (45:30)
The Royale (45:29)
Time Squared (45:30)
The Icarus Factor (45:30)
Disc 4 (3:47:19)
Pen Pals (45:29)
Q Who? (45:29)
Samaritan Snare (45:30)
Up the Long Ladder (45:26)
Disc 5 (2:16:30)
The Emissary (45:31)
Peak Performance (45:30)
Shades of Gray (45:29)
We all know how much work went into restoring the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation for Blu-ray (tons), and in an effort to speed up the releases, CBS outsourced some of the work to a third party. Well, the results aren't good, and certainly not as good as the first season. The effects shots, while looking better than DVD, don't look as good as the first season that CBS did themselves. I think Dark Horizons has a good article that explains the issues, but it can be summed up with this: poor compositing on special effects shots, and too much Digital Noise Reduction (DNR). The first season was missing a single scene, about two minutes of video, that had to be upconverted, but this season is upconversion-free; they were able to locate all the original material. I noticed that some shots have quite a bit of noise in them; this occurred with similar shots throughout an episode - like bridge shots in one episode, turbolift shots in another, which leads me to believe the shots were too dark initially, and they had to bump them up later on. These are problem areas on the DVDs as well, so it's a source-material problem, and not an issue with the BD release. There's a chapter after the opening of each episode, and each disc has a "play all" option.
The video quality of this is a huge upgrade from the DVDs, but the effects shots are a step down from the first season.
Unlike the quality of the video, the audio matches the first season. The side and rear surrounds aren't that noticeable in their use, but are used for the hum of the ship, and other atmospheric sounds. The bass sounds awesome on this release, providing a nice bit of punch when needed. There are also German, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese audio tracks, and subtitles in English, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish. Wow!
1988 On-Air Season Two Promo (1:08)
A short promo for the second season of the show. Listen to the pronunciation of "Data."
Energized! Season 2 Tech Update (7:56)
Michael and Denise Okuda, along with Dan Curry, talk about some of their experiences during the second season of the show, along with the challenges of the HD restoration.
1988 Reading Rainbow Segment with Levar Burton (17:03) Reading Rainbow went behind-the-scenes of Star Trek: The Next Generation; watch it here. This was a lot of fun to watch, and was shot during the first season.
2012 Reading Rainbow iTunes Promo (1:36)
Levar Burton introduces the Reading Rainbow app, available on the iTunes App Store.
Departmental Briefing Year Two: Production (17:32)
We hear from various members of the Star Trek crew covering production, writing, costumes and music. Created for the DVD set.
A Measure of a Man - Extended Episode (57:35)
Reconstructed from the original cut of the episode (which ran very long), this is the HD extended version. You can also watch the original episode featuring a hybrid of HD footage and original shots from a VHS tape (55:50). Also available is an optional commentary track by Melinda Snodgrass (episode writer), and Mike & Denise Okuda.
Gag Reel (10:30)
A long gag reel for the second season.
Inside Starfleet Archives: Penny Juday Star Trek Coordinator (17:33)
Penny Juday has the job millions would love; she's in charge of the props for the Star Trek franchise. Penny gives us a tour of the giant warehouses that hold everything from the massive Enterprise models to phaser rifles and Klingon disruptors. As she puts it, "I have a hobby for a job." This was produced for the DVDs.
Selected Crew Analysis Year Two (13:46)
Cast members reflect on the changes their characters go through in the second season. This was produced for the DVDs.
Q Who? Commentary
Rob Bowman, Dan Curry and Mike & Denise Okuda provide commentary on "Q? Who." It's so nice to have commentary for a Star Trek episode!
Deleted Scenes (8:02)
There are deleted scenes on a single episode, "Up the Long Ladder."
Departmental Analysis Year Two: Memorable Missions (16:33)
Cast and crew share their memories of: "Loud as a Whisper", "The Icarus Factor", "Up The Long Ladder", "The Dauphin", "Elementary, Dear Data", "Manhunt" and "The Measure of a Man". This was created for the DVD set.
Mission Overview: Year Two (14:43)
Cast and crew talk about the second season of the show, focusing on: Diana Muldaur, Whoopi Goldberg, Ten Forward and Gene Roddenberry. This was created for the DVD set.
Reunification: 25 Years After Star Trek: The Next Generation (1:01:53)
Gold. Pure gold! The main cast members are reunited for the first time at the Calgary Expo, and they sit around and talk about their experiences on the show. This was great to watch; I wish I could have been there to watch the panel discussion they had for the public.
Making It So: Continuing Star Trek: The Next Generation (1:21:29)
Just like "Stardate Revisited: The Origin of Star Trek: The Next Generation" in the first season, this is another information-packed documentary featuring interviews with a ton of cast and crew. Top-notch stuff.
Part 1: Strange New Worlds (39:28)
Part 2: New Life and New Civilizations (42:01)
I'm bummed that CBS Digital can't do every one of the TNG sets themselves, because the quality of this one isn't to the high standards that they set with the first season. At least we know the third season will be back to the quality that was set with the first season, and hopefully season 4 will be farmed out to a company that puts more effort into it (it's been said that the company that worked on this set won't be working on any others). With that said, the quality of the bonus material is as good, or possibly even better, than the first season. I loved the cast reunion piece; it showed a level of interaction you'd never see on the screen. You could also see what a bond the cast has, even years after the show has wrapped. I also really enjoyed the two part "Making It So" documentary, and the extended episode of "The Measure of a Man," which many feel is one of the strongest TNG episodes created. It's also great that all the bonus material from the DVDs is included on this set as well.
The season 2 set may not be perfect, but it's a lot better than the DVD sets. The new bonus material is excellent, and I eagerly await the third season of the show on Blu-ray.
Also, fans of ST:TNG may be interested in the digital version of the 90s pinball table, which will be coming to The Pinball Arcade soon. I shudder to think how much money I spent on that machine (it was hundreds of dollars). If you're interested, read more on PinballArcadeFans.com