The Original Series
Studio: Paramount/CBS DVD
US Rating: Not Rated
Film Length: 3 hrs 21 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish & Portuguese Mono
Subtitles: English, Spanish and Portuguese
Review Date: May 2, 2009
The Show - 1/2 out of
For the great majority of Star Trek fans, it all began with the original series. Episodes featuring the legendary crew of Captain James T. Kirk and his top-notch officers repeated on the BBC in England and I was hooked from a very, very early age.
It is hard to imagine someone interested in this review not being familiar with the set up of the show, but just in case there are new fans out there (welcome!) here’s a quick summary.
A Starship crew in the 23rd century travel the stars on a five year mission to “boldy go where no man has gone before” – encountering fascinating worlds, creatures large and small, malevolent God-Like beings, fantastic technologies and a beings of infinite diversity in infinite combinations. The show premiered on NBC on September 8, 1966 and ran for two seasons before facing the axe. A then unprecedented letter writing campaign by dedicate fans managed to get it on the air for a third season before NBC officially gave up on the show in 1979 after (and fans will debate me on this) 79 episodes. Star Trek is an exceptional show and clearly ahead of its time when it launched. While the sets and costumes may have become dated the essence of the show remains intelligent, thought-provoking and representative of a hopeful and important future.
This enduring show survives for a rich set of reasons, from the captivating and diverse cast, clever and grandly-themed stories and a knack for creative creature make-up, visual effects and a sense of fun and adventure. This absolutely is one of the very best television shows ever made. The original series was rich with superb writers, drawn from a pool of noted science-fiction authors, such as Harlan Ellison, and Richard Matheson. It was also acknowledged by critical awards – being nominated a number of times including for Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, and winning for creator Gene Rodenberry’s two-parter, ‘The Menagerie’ and Ellison’s ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’ (included in this set).
After the series was cancelled, it found a new lease on life in syndication and would have even made it back to the small screen (Star Trek: Phase II) if the space adventure Star Wars hadn’t done so well, prompting Paramount Pictures to greenlight a big screen adventure, Start Trek: The Motion Picture, which brought back the entire crew - William Shatner as Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, James Doohan as Montgomery Scott, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, George Takei as Hikaru Sulu, and Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov.
And now the incredible world of Star Trek is on the cusp of a regeneration with the release of the new film which tells the never before told story of how this talented crew came together. For those out there who have found a new interest in this universe, this collection of 5 of the original series’ very best episodes is a teaser to introduce you to the show that started it all. These episodes contain the superb remastering work done by as CBS Television Distribution under the watchful supervision of Mike Ouda, a technical consultant on the subsequent Star Trek series (and a fine protector and advocate of the Star Trek world). The visual effects have been updated and look terrific. All the live-action footage was scanned from its original 35mm film elements in high definition and is just great. Overall, this show is as fresh and engaging as ever and the stories, though clearly much more explicit with messages and explorations of moral decisions than you find in today’s television landscape, are what help drive this series into the status of legend.
1: The City on the Edge of Forever – Captain Kirk and Spock use the ‘Guardian of Forever’ to travel back in time and restore the time line when a sick Dr. McCoy disrupts it – Great science fiction moral dilemma plotting and a good guest star turn by Joan Collins help make this one of the very best of any Star Trek series.
2: The Trouble with Tribbles – Memorable episode with a genuine smirk throughout as the Enterprise, docked at a space-station along with Klingons, become entangled with the warrior species when tensions flare and a brawl breaks out – but all is not as it seems. Meanwhile, Uhura purchases a small, seemingly innocent furball that manages to propagate and threaten the Enterprise. This is one of the lighter episodes, with a playful, fun score by Jerry Fielding that, while may not deserve to be in the top four here, certainly is one of the top episodes.
3: Balance of Terror – A terrific episode that peers at the decision and weight of war. As Kirk and crew in the Enterprise play cat and mouse with a Romulan war bird, the threat of war with Earth’s ancient enemy if the situation is not handle the right way creates a distinct sense of unease on the federation’s flagship vessel. This brilliant episode feels like Run Silent, Run Deep in space is a solid character study and also quite sympathetic of the enemy as we see the Romulan commander pause to examine his species conquering ways.
4: Amok Time – An uncharacteristic abrasive and emotional Spock must return home to Vulcan to perform the Pon Farr mating ritual. This is an exciting episode revealing details of the Vulcan Homeworld and culture, but is most beloved for its fight ‘to the death’ scene between Kirk and Spock (as humorously recreated for Ben Stiller’s Cable Guy and subject to other pop-culture references). This episode also has one of the show’s most distinct musical pieces as Kirk and Spock battle.
The remastered episodes are shown correctly framed at 1.33:1. For episodes that are now 40+ years old, they look fantastic. Star Trek was always a colorful show with gold, red and blue shirts brightly indicating rank and position on the crew and a command bridge lit up with what seems like a thousand points of light. The new visual effects are clean and high quality, but not out of place in the show – it oddly compliments the distinctly 60’s feel of the show without overpowering it. The remastering team showed good judgment in restraint in what to update. These episodes display some of the better vibrancy the series offered and some of the flatter, greyer colors as well (the pre-WWII America from ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’ is still muted in tone).
Clearly Blu-Ray is the best way to go to enjoy this show, but for those curious enough to want to sample a fairly good assessment of this shows ‘best’ episode (I would have picked at least two others) but aren’t ready to invest in the full season sets, this is a good presentation to have on DVD.
This set does not come with the original mono audio option, which is a shame, but the English 5.1 audio track is quite generous. Dialogue is clear in the center channel – not as full or deep as more modern shows, but still a solid presentation. Music, which is quite dominant through the show, unlike subsequent Stat Trek series which used it less as an emotional leader and more as a traditional (though exceptional) dramatic underscore, is clear and strong in the front speakers. The sounds of the turbolift and other effects are used well around the speakers, though this isn’t a particularly active surround sound.
No extras - just previews of Star Trek: The Original Series Season One on Blu-Ray, Star Trek The Original Motion Pictures and Charmed.
I am not completely sure who the target audience of this release is. Any genuine Star Trek: The Original Series fan will no doubt seek to own complete season sets (and would have long-ago pre-ordered the Blu-Ray season one which is receiving high praise). So I can only surmise that this release (and the accompanying Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation) is for completists and new fans to the Star Trek universe.
So if this really is for new fans – it provides a fairly good sampling of the shows range and certainly offers up episodes that have resonated beyond just the fans and have, in various ways small and large into the pop-culture lexicon and into the science-fiction consciousness.