Just watched Farpoint and half of Sins of the Father. And, like everyone else, I'm blown away by the colors and clarity of the restoration. It is like watching a totally new show in a way.
The effects (except for that "energy beam" shot and the opening of SotF) are remarkable and a testament to the work of the crews that built those models and the geniuses who shot them. It's another example proving where CGI just doesn't hold up when compared to actual photography.
Like the Star Wars films where I can watch the first three films and not be thrown out by the model work, and yet the FX in the special editions and the prequels all look dated and obtuse after only a few years.
Seeing TNG restored, I actually prefer the sharper, more bold look of Farpoint and the first season when compared to the muted lighting of the later seasons... I don't know, in HD something about it just looks slicker and more feature film like. That being said, Farpoint still reeks of 80's cinematography with the odd camera angles and moves.
The main thing that stood out for me though (besides noticing that Troi, Picard, Tasha, and Beverly all seem to have been directed to become teary-eyed during their impassioned dialogue at one point or another during the episode) is how fresh the actual Farpoint story seems today.
Yes, some of it is executed poorly and the characterizations are typical of any cast trying to find their legs, but what I'm talking about is the story itself.
The concept and ideas behind it - putting humans on trial for the crimes of their civilization and a people who capture a space creature and force it into slavery are so "high-sci-fi" -- a kind of simple, yet evocative storytelling that doesn't really come around too often today.
This pilot, for all it's surface flaws, is effectively a perfect example of what Star Trek is - and why Trek has always stood alone in the type of stories only it can do well. The storytelling is straightforward and so earnest... and yet you buy into it because it is all so believable - the writing isn't cynical and it doesn't try to outsmart you or wink at you with gloss or pop culture references like so much of today's "important" sci-f does.
This particular episode is so Roddenberry. Which is why, watching in through now, it reminded me of TMP. And while it's certainly not the most exciting or engaging of Trek episodes, it has that air of trying to push the limit of what we can imagine -- while at the same time making a not so subtle statement about humanity. There is a sense of wonder to it all - and the characters portray that without any cynicism.
So much entertainment today (especially modern sci-fi) pretends to be important when it's really just clever plotting wrapped up in style and a cool factor. And while some of the best stuff today takes their cues from more character based episodic drama, there is a serious lack of shows that stretch the boundaries of big ideas.
It's interesting to take a new look at this old show and be reminded again why Trek, when done right, has such staying power.
And a nice touch that they credited DeForest Kelley. I remember watching this scene when it first aired in 87 in my parents bedroom, being pulled out of the giddy awe of seeing a new shot of the Excelsior model to utter speechlessness when McCoy appeared.
Those pre-internet days where you could actually be surprised are really missed...