Star Trek: The Complete First Season
Length: 24 hours, 21 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English; English Dolby Surround
English subtitles; Closed Captioned in English
Special Features: 5 featurettes, Text commentary on 4 episodes, Original trailers, Photo gallery, Easter eggs
Expected Street Price: Around $100 USD
As a Star Trek fan, I have long been dismayed at the cost of collecting my favorite television show in the best consumer video medium available. Between the high cost of the two-episode discs, the agonizingly slow release schedule, and the amount of space required to store all the discs, I took a pass on collecting this series in it’s initial DVD release. Oh, the pain, the pain...
To be fair, in the early days of DVD, studios never thought to release television shows by the season. Who knew that there was such an eager audience awaiting expensive boxed sets?
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment broke the season barrier on DVD with the release of X-Files season one. The show flew off of store shelves, even with a price tag exceeding $100USD for the season. TV on DVD was changed forever.
Fans of the original Star Trek have had a long wait. That wait is over. Finally, a chance to see Kirk’s swagger, Spock’s arched brow, McCoy’s crankiness, Scotty’s protestations about over-taxing his engines... all in one season set. Okay, okay... bring on season two!
Star Trek: The Complete First Season beams to a store near you on August 31, 2004.
Star Trek: The Complete First Season arrives on DVD in some fancy packaging. About the size and shape of your average tricorder (I can only imagine), this rugged plastic, golden box contains a set of 8 discs, packaged in jewel-case sized page-bound digipaks. The entire package takes up the same amount of shelf space as a 7-disc set of Star Trek: The Next Generation. When I first saw photographs of this set, I feared a severely oversized package. On the contrary, this set takes up a minimum of shelf space.
The outer plastic shell seems very rugged. It is hinged at the bottom and splits open the long way, down the center, to reveal the paper-sleeved digipaks. The cover art of the digipak sleeve can be viewed through a small window on the front of the box, and the words “Season One” can be viewed through small windows on either spine.
The outer case opens up very easily, revealing the sparse vault-like interior. There is no artwork inside, once the digipak and inserts are removed. The interior is entirely utilitarian in nature.
The sleeve on the digipak fits rather snugly, making it a challenge to remove and replace at first... though it does seem to loosen up with use. Given that the cover art on the sleeve is integral to the outer packaging design, it would have been nice if a more durable plastic sleeve was used, such as a smaller version of that which was used on DS9. For me, this is the weakest link of the package design - and the most vulnerable to damage.
A two-sided, six panel, jewel-case sized fan-fold insert is included, which has a capsule review of each episode, and some Star Trek history.
As for the disc art, each disc has a headshot of a principle cast member, along with original airdates and stardates for each episode on the disc.
All in all, the packaging is attractive, inventive, and space conscious. Kudos to Paramount for coming up with an unusual design that is attractive, durable and small. They would have scored a bulls eye with a more durable inner sleeve.
Menus and Navigation
Here’s an area where, no matter the design, some people will be unhappy. I’m talking about menu animations. These animations are well done, and ride that fine line of an animation which takes too long to get out of the way. From the moment the menu fades in (after the copyright screen) until you can make an episode selection, twenty unskippable seconds will have passed. Compare that to about twenty-five seconds for a TNG menu. If the entire animation could be skipped by hitting the “menu” key, I’m sure that few would complain.
The animation from the episode selection screen to the next screen is only five seconds, and shouldn’t be an issue for most people.
The menu layout is logical and easy to navigate, with a main menu that lists the episodes vertically, in airdate order, but also provides the production number for reference.
Once you click on an episode title, you’ll be brought to the episode screen, which is simply laid out on a graphic of the Enterprise bridge console. The “Play” option is highlighted by default.
Other options on the episode screen include Communications, Chapter Log, Preview Trailer and Return. Those episode that feature a text commentary offer the option to turn the feature on or off after you select “Play.”
The only variance from this layout is on disc 8, in the Special Features menu. There are three easy-to-find easter eggs, called “Red Shirt Logs,” which can be accessed from this menu.
See a 684KB Quicktime capture of the menus in action (3fps)
What matters most isn’t the packaging, or the menus, or even the special features. What we really want is the episodes. The classic, original Star Trek is illustrative of the rare sci-fi television show that didn’t have to rev up for a whole season before delivering quality episodes. Some of the finest episodes of the series’ run appear right here, in season one.
For this review, I screened: Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Naked Time, The Enemy Within, Tomorrow is Yesterday, Space Seed, and The City on the Edge of Forever. That’s six episodes, and I didn’t see half of my “favorites.”
It is beyond the scope of this review to give a summary of each of the episodes. I imagine that most people interested in buying this set are intimately familiar with the episodes, anyway.
Here is a list of the episodes in season one, in broadcast order, as they appear on DVD:
Disc One: The Man Trap, Charlie X, Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Naked Time.
Disc Two: The Enemy Within, Mudd’s Women, What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Miri
Disc Three: Dagger of the Mind, The Corbomite Maneuver, The Menagerie Part 1, The Menagerie Part 2
Disc Four: The Conscience of the King, Balance of Terror, Shore Leave, The Galileo Seven
Disc Five: The Squire of Gothos, Arena, Tomorrow is Yesterday, Court Martial
Disc Six: The Return of the Archons, Space Seed, A Taste of Armageddon, This Side of Paradise
Disc Seven: The Devil in the Dark, Errand of Mercy, The Alternative Factor, The City on the Edge of Forever
Disc Eight: Operation Annihilate!, Special Features: The Birth of a Timeless Legacy, Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner, To Boldly Go... Season One, Reflections on Spock, Sci-fi Visionaries, Photo Log
If I had to pick three favorites... well, it would be a tough choice. Here are three possibilities:
Balance of Terror
Humans have never seen a Romulan in person, despite skirmishes with the race over the years. The Enterprise, in pursuit of a Romulan ship that had made incursions into Federation space, makes a startling discovery about this enigmatic race. The episode features guest star Mark Lenard as a Romulan captain, before he took on the role of Spock’s father, Sarek.
The Enterprise encounters the S.S. Botany Bay, a twentieth century Earth sleeper ship. Only after reviving the leader from his suspended animation do they discover that he and his crew are a renegade band of genetically engineered humans... who intend to take over the Enterprise.
The City on the Edge of Forever
After an accidental overdose causes McCoy to become mentally unstable, he leaves the ship and passes through The Guardian of Forever, a time portal on an alien planet. After going through, he inadvertently alters the timeline. Kirk and Spock go back to stop him, in 1930’s Earth.
For those of you who have (or have seen) Paramount’s previous two-episode releases of the series, by all appearances the video and audio quality is identical in this season set. I was unable to do a side-by-side comparison, but that seems to be the case, and is the consensus of those who have previewed the set.
For those of you who haven’t seen Star Trek on DVD, read on for the details.
The transfers are in the original, 1.33:1 aspect ratio. They are remarkably sharp, especially when comparing them to transfers of newer Star Trek series. The only notable exception to the sharpness is the intentional use of soft-focus photography that is well-known on Star Trek, and the occasional accidental off-focus camera negative. Grain is variable, as on the original film elements, and shows up with great frequency on optical effects shots (no surprise there). There is no overt evidence of sharpening artifacts.
The colors are beautiful, vibrant and deeply saturated, but are slightly variable from one episode to the next. The red channel sometimes seems slightly oversaturated by my eyes, and this is verified when looking at a chroma histogram of some still captures. It’s hard to fault the high saturation, since saturation was pushed purposefully at the request of NBC when the series was shot, in an effort to show off new color television technology. While the saturation pushes the limits of some displays, it is rare that channels are actually clipped.
Dust and scratches are present to a minor degree, but the prints were nicely cleaned before the transfer. You’ll notice the dust much more in the multilayered optical effects shots. Short of digital removal of these artifacts, there is only little room for improvement in this area.
Unfortunately, an issue that cropped up on the last release of the episode, City on the Edge of Forever, is still present in this release. There is some vertical jitter present intermittently throughout the episode. The jitter is minor, but tolerance for such a defect varies by person. I can see it clearly on my 32” display, and found it a bit of an annoyance. Furthering this annoyance, this defect has spoiled one of the most loved episodes in all of Star Trek. Why couldn’t this have happened to Spock’s Brain instead of this classic episode?
That one defect aside, the video on this season release is impressive, and stands up well against many more modern TV on DVD releases.
There are two tracks available for your listening pleasure: a Dolby Digital 5.1 English remix, and a Dolby Surround English remix. Unfortunately, the original monaural tracks are not included.
The 5.1 remix is quite well done, only calling attention to itself occasionally. Stereo and surround effects are fairly subtle, as they should be. You’ll hear the Enterprise whoosh by in the opening credits, which is kind of cool... and the music takes on new life with the additional channels. The one thing that caught my attention was the LFE track. Mostly silent, the subwoofer comes alive during key sequences (explosions and the like). While the LFE isn’t overpowering, it is so unexpected for me to hear low frequency response while watch classic Trek episodes, that it gave me an occasional start. I may have to consider viewing the rest of these episodes with my subwoofer powered off, to more closely approximate the way it’s supposed to be. At least, it’s not the way I remember watching Star Trek in early syndication runs in the 1970’s.
I would have been happier if Paramount had included restored mono tracks as an option, but the 5.1 track delivers good fidelity without overdoing the effects (for the most part).
Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda these episodes:
Where No Man Has Gone Before
I watched this episode with the commentary on. Those who are familiar with Okuda’s text commentaries know what to expect, here. This text commentary felt a little “watered down” compared to some others that Okuda has done, probably, in part, because he didn’t have the first-hand knowledge that he had with his commentaries from the other Star Trek discs. There are some interesting factoids in here, amongst the obvious “Captain Kirk is played by William Shatner” type of comments. It’s worth a look.
The Menagerie, Part 1
The Menagerie, Part 2
The Conscience of the King
The Birth of a Timeless Legacy (24:14)
This featurette tells us how Star Trek began - and how it almost died twice before it ever aired. Featuring archival interviews with Gene Roddenberry, and new interviews with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Justman, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, James Doohan, D.C. Fontana, and others.
The featurette begins with a meandering monologue by a laryngitis afflicted William Shatner... but stay tuned, it gets better...
Leonard Nimoy talks for a couple minutes about his ears.
There is discussion of the two pilots for the show and selling the show to the network. Star Trek got a greenlight on a second chance after being rejected by NBC once - almost unprecedented for the time. We learn about the changes in casting and style that were made in order to get the show on the air.
It was good to see some of the minor cast members involved in this, though they don’t get much screen time. They do each have very relevant contributions to the documentary.
DeForest Kelley is not forgotten... D.C. Fontana speaks about him for a bit.
It’s an interesting documentary, although many serious fans will learn little that they didn’t already know.
Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner (10:27)
Unless you like horses, you will probably have little interest in this fluff piece about Shatner’s love for the animals, and his involvement in riding and reigning competitions. Shatner does most of his talking from atop his horse, and demonstrates some moves.
“To Boldly Go”... Season One (18:59)
Most of this featurette involves cast and crew reflecting on the episodes of season one. Leonard Nimoy, Robert Justman and William Shatner talk about the gamble that DesiLu took in making this series, and the fact that the entire shooting budget wouldn’t pay for the catering for many of today’s television shows.
Brief discussion is made of NBC choosing The Man Trap as the first show to air, and how few shows were complete at the time the decision was made.
Justman talks about running seriously behind on scripts for the season, and so the “envelope” show, the two part The Menagerie was written quickly to fill the gap, using a large amount of footage from the unseen pilot.
Ricardo Montalban and William Campbell are interviewed about their contributions as guest stars, and mention is made of Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever.
Reflections on Spock (12:13)
Leonard Nimoy discusses his character, Spock, in depth. Much of this piece is centered around his controversial and much misunderstood book, “I Am Not Spock,” and how the misperceptions in the book endangered his future in the franchise. Nimoy also mentions his followup book, “I Am Spock.”
Sci-Fi Visionaries (16:39)
D.C. Fontana, John D. F. Black and others talk about Star Trek’s famous writers, including: Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, George Clayton Thomas, Gene Roddenberry and others. The producers of the show sought out famous name sci-fi writers during the first season, in hopes they would draw in a loyal viewership.
40 or so stills from different episodes.
“Red Shirt Logs” (easter eggs)
George Takei defends his honor with the sword... sets us straight on the rumors on the convention circuit. An amusing story involving he and James Doohan while filming “The Naked Time.”
Robert Justman talks about a “forced perspective” shot in “The Cage”
Robert Justman talks about the casting of Clint Howard in “The Corbomite Maneuver.”
Preview Trailers are available for each episode, on each episode menu.
Paramount has put out a nice boxed set here, with innovative packaging and good A/V quality on the episodes. The special features are interesting, for the most part... though a bit lacking in substance. Most Trekkies will want to check them out, but few will really learn anything new. If only those elusive blooper reels could have made there way in as a special feature...
Every Star Trek fan deserves to have Star Trek in their DVD collection. I recommend this season set without reservation to Trek fans who haven’t purchased a significant number of the previously released discs.
For those who have collected all or most of the previous releases on DVD, I really can’t see an overly compelling reason to upgrade. Yes, the special features are interesting, the packaging is nice... but the meat of the set is the episodes themselves, and they are apparently unchanged from the previous releases.