Star Trek: The Complete Third Season
Year: 1968 - 1969
Length: 22 Hours, 29 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0
Subtitled in English, and Closed Captioned in English
Special Features: Episode trailers, featurettes, text commentaries, galleries, etc
Expected Street Price: $100 USD
Too much network politics, a last minute change to an undesirable time slot, and a slash in the production budget conspired to cause a shakeup in the production crew of Star Trek in the summer between its second and third seasons. Gene Roddenberry would step back from day-to-day production duties, remaining on as a somewhat detached executive producer.
Fred Freiberger came on as the new producer, and inherited a dozen finished scripts that couldn’t be filmed as written with the new budget constraints. This resulted in a change in the look of the show, as corners needed to be cut. It also resulted in farming out new scripts, in a rush, to writers who were less than intimately familiar with the series.
Cast and crew could see the slide, and there was nothing that could be done. The network brass at NBC never really seemed to take a liking to the series - and when Laugh-In’s George Schlatter balked at a thirty minute change in schedule for his show during the hiatus, NBC moved Laugh-In back to the 8:00 PM Monday slot, and Star Trek got the dreaded 10:00 PM Friday slot. Back in the days before the Tivo or VCR, this meant a certain death for a show whose core audience is anywhere but home on a Friday night.
Truth be told, the show would have died without the schedule change anyway. Though the change of time slots was the last straw that caused Roddenberry’s departure, he likely wouldn’t have lasted another season, regardless. Constant battles with the network were wearing him, and the show, down long before the change to Friday nights.
Star Trek was just a little ahead of its time. The quest for space exploration was beginning to catch on with the American public, which surely would have pulled in a larger audience, given time. And, if the networks had looked at demographics in those days, instead of raw numbers, they would have realized that the show appealed to a sector of the public that had money to spend - an important note for advertisers.
It wasn’t meant to be. This, the third season of Star Trek, would be the last... but it wasn’t long before it was discovered that the idea still had legs. The show was followed by an animated series in the seventies, a hit movie series, and four more television series.
This, the third season of Star Trek, certainly has its problems - most of which were borne out of politics and budget. These issues had a direct and dramatic impact on the quality of the show, allowing for a season of largely forgettable episodes, and some episodes you only wished you could forget. Thankfully, there are a few semi-precious gems, as well.
The episodes that signaled the end of the series include: Spock’s Brain, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, The Lights of Zetar, and The Way to Eden. Certainly, there are more episodes in this season that fans love to hate, but these are the bottom of the barrel for me.
This isn’t to say that Star Trek couldn’t occasionally hit one out of the park... or at least, get to first base. The better episodes of season three include: The Enterprise Incident, Spectre of the Gun, The Tholian Web, Wink of an Eye and All Our Yesterdays.
Included in the third season set are two versions of the series pilot: The Cage. The original, reconstructed version combines footage from Gene Roddenberry’s black and white work print and color footage from season one’s The Menagerie. The “Restored Version” is a “restored full color presentation” that “includes footage long believed to have been destroyed. The result is Star Trek’s series pilot the way it was shot and meant to be seen.” While I consider myself a Trekkie, I would have defer to Paramount’s word on which is the definitive version.
I’m convinced that all three seasons of Star Trek were authored for DVD at the same time. The audio / video quality in this, the third season, is virtually the same as the previous seasons. Not that that is a bad thing.
The transfers are in the original, 1.33:1 aspect ratio. They are sharp and detailed. Grain is variable, as on the original film elements, and shows up with great frequency on optical effects shots. There is no overt evidence of sharpening artifacts.
The colors are variable, ranging from vibrant and deeply saturated, to slightly muted, from one episode to the next. Dust and scratches are present to a minor degree. You’ll notice the dust much more in the multilayered optical effects shots.
The 5.1 remix is well done. Stereo and surround effects are fairly subtle, as they should be. The music sounds excellent with the additional channels. The subwoofer comes alive during key sequences. Dialog is always crisp and clear. There is a occasionally touch of hiss audible at higher volume levels, but it isn’t to the point of distraction.
Unfortunately, the original monaural soundtracks are missing, as in seasons one and two.
Text Commentaries on Select Episodes
Michael and Denise Okuda provide text commentaries on:
The Savage Curtain
These commentaries provide insight into production design, guest casting, visual effects, etc. One of the interesting things about these commentaries is that they point out continuity errors in the episodes, as well. My only wish is that commentaries were provided for fan favorites: The Enterprise Incident and The Tholian Web.
To Boldly Go... Season Three (22:36)
This featurette focuses on the campaign to save Star Trek, the episodes Spectre of the Gun and Plato’s Stepchildren (which included television’s first interracial kiss), and the ultimate demise of the series. Included are comments from Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Bjo Trimble, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig and Robert Justman.
Life Beyond Trek: Walter Koenig (10:58)
Koenig talks about how he got involved with Star Trek, and the unusual way he found out he won the role. He talks about his work after Trek, including the film Moontrap and the series Babylon 5. Koenig talks about his collecting hobby, and shows off his collectibles. His collections include Star Trek memorabilia, “Big Little Books” and comic buttons.
Chief Engineer’s Log (6:11)
I found it quite touching that James Doohan, in obvious ill health, took the time to be interviewed for this featurette. He has such a love and respect for Star Trek, its legacy, and its fans. Here, he reminisces about his character, his favorite episodes, his “other voices,” and what the franchise and its fans mean to him. This may be a short featurette, but it is my favorite. Mr. Doohan is a class act.
Memoir from Mr. Sulu (8:42)
George Takei talks about the opportunities and fame that Star Trek has given him. He talks about his involvement in the Japanese-American Museum, where he serves as Chairman of the Board. He recalls his childhood experience in a Japanese Internment Camp in Arkansas, and speaks of his visit to the camp years later.
Star Trek’s Impact (9:03)
Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry talks about his favorite moments from Star Trek, and what the series and his father’s vision mean to him.
A Star Trek Collector’s Dream Come True (7:06)
Model maker John Long talks about how his opportunities to make Star Trek prop replicas based on the actual props led to a job in the industry.
This gallery has dozens of wonderful Matt Jefferies drawings.
Red Shirt Logs
01: William Shatner talks about “perspective.”
02: George Takei talks about Sulu’s quest for the captain’s chair.
03: George Takei talks about the 25th Anniversary Star Trek Celebration
04: Leonard Nimoy talks about moving on to Mission: Impossible
05: Bjo Trimble talks about “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”
06: Bjo Trimble talks about “Elaan of Troyius”
This DVD set completes the hat trick, and does so in style. The most interesting featurettes are those of Walter Koenig, George Takei and James Doohan. I appreciate the wonderful Matt Jefferies Production Art Gallery - though it really would have been special for a paper copy of some of this artwork to have been included on the inserts throughout the seasons. I also appreciate the fact that two versions of The Cage were included. As far as the other featurettes go... they really aren’t anything special.
Most importantly, however - we now have all of Star Trek’s original series on DVD, in the best quality possible.