When the Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection was released on Blu-ray in May 2009, I was convinced there could be no greater offense to the Trek franchise as a whole than Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Recently, however, I received the Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection, and I feel obligated to offer an apology to William Shatner's feature directorial debut, because there are at least two other Trek movies that are worse than that film.
But while I admit that I generally prefer the Original Series to almost any of the franchise's subsequent iterations, I recognize that the Star Trek of later series was a product of a different time and place—both on screen and off—which is why the new Blu-ray collection doesn't hold the same automatic appeal as its predecessor but will nevertheless satisfy fans of the Next Generation show and film series.
Picking up where the Original Motion Picture Collection left off, the new set collects the final four films featuring the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast—Generations, First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis. In addition to offering new bonus features on each individual film, the set comes with an 80-minute bonus disc that adds several featurettes and documentaries. Unfortunately, despite this new wealth of content, there's little new information or material that will necessarily improve any of the films' wildly uneven quality, possibly making this set a mere stopgap for fans waiting to buy individual copies of their favorite installments.
One of the major shortcomings of the Original Motion Picture Collection was its inclusion of only the theatrical versions of Star Treks I-VI, which meant that audiences didn't have a choice as to which cut they could watch in high definition. Since the theatrical cut is the only version in official existence of any of the Next Generation films, thankfully fans won't lament the same problem here; in fact, the only thing that's missing is the original DVD releases' invaluable text commentaries, which provided remarkably in-depth and interesting information while you watched each movie. Instead, each film boasts a new audio commentary, as well as the "Library Computer" feature, which allows viewers to explore the characters and creatures of the Trek universe via a database of background information and detail.
Sadly, not all of the commentaries do their films justice, even if some of them suit their comparative quality. In particular, the commentary by Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis on Insurrection is excruciating, primarily because they offer almost no information or perspective on the movie (owing in no small part to Sirtis' admission she hadn't seen the film since its premiere); but even Michael and Denise Okuda, the writers of the absent text commentaries, fail to provide more than banal technical information without touching upon each film's respective place in the Trek canon.
The thing that I think is missing from this set in particular is that there is very little commentary about the real difference between the Original Series and Next Generation and subsequent series—specifically, how each of them comments upon the time in which it was created, both in terms of the general cultural atmosphere and in the attitude audiences had about Trek at that particular moment in the franchise's history.
For example, the Original Series was conceived in and ultimately persevered through the end of the Cold War, and as a result the characterizations were of men and women of action, whereas The Next Generation seemed to be (both on TV and in film) more about diplomacy and mediation, neither of which necessarily lends itself to the same kind of dramatic rewards, at least on the big screen.
This seems key to the dwindling success of the Next Generation movies—well, that and their often dubious quality—and yet it's never explored or addressed. Not to mention, as suggested above, that at the time these particular movies started, not only was there less interest in the Trek movie series than on TV, but those series could consistently match or surpass the visual and technical virtuosity of almost anything on the silver screen, Star Trek or not.
That said, each disc mostly preserves the available and already expansive bonus materials from previous editions and throws in a whole bunch of other stuff, the best of which is the four-part interview with Brent Spiner about his experiences on each film. But, again, it seems like this set in particular will perhaps appeal more subjectively than its predecessor, just because only die-hards really like Insurrection and Nemesis and, quite frankly, Generations really isn't very good, especially if you're a fan of Kirk.
Overall, this is a well-constructed set and will unquestionably meet the needs of folks wanting an all-purposes collection of these pre-Abrams Star Trek films; but as a person who loves the series and wants to see it explored as thoroughly and thoughtfully as possible, it would appear that The Next Generation Movie Collection leaves lots of space available where no one has gone before—but should.