Star Trek: The Original Series - Season Two (Blu-ray)
Studio: Paramount/ CBS Home Video
Rated: Not Rated
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio; English, Spanish, French Mono 2.0.
Subtitles: English SDH; Spanish, French, Brazilian, Portuguese
Time: Approximately 21 hrs 50 min.
Disc Format: 7 SS/DL BD 50’s
Case Style: Double sized keep case with inserts.
Original Air Date: 1967-1968
Blu-ray Release Date: September 22, 2009
Since Paramount/ CBS have maintained the quality and consistency with the first season Blu-ray of Star Trek: The Original Series, I will be maintaining parts of that review here.
A couple years ago, Paramount and CBS announced there had been a restoration effort conducted on the original Star Trek series which aired between 1966 and 1969. The restoration included adding in new, updated effects for many of the scenes with the ships and alien worlds. While these scenes were not changed, they were enhanced into digital effects from the original optical elements. Besides these refurbished elements, each episode was being remastered in HD and going through a restoration process to make the episodes look better than even when they aired. Examples of the enhancements included using new space images inspired by the Hubble space telescope and design differences of the Enterprise between some of the initial episodes to account for its size changes. The original theme was re-recorded with a live orchestra and soprano singer to take advantage of the current technology and quality. Paramount/ CBS are now releasing these 26 re-mastered season two episodes on Blu-ray.
The discs contain “Starfleet Access” for select episodes which can be enabled in the menus. This feature will grant you, “…security clearance to explore Starfleet Command’s database” and it covers various topics including science, technology, and personnel files. These are all combined into running audio and visual commentaries from Michael and Denise Okuda, story editor and writer D.C. Fontana, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, David Gerrold and others. This is a great feature and I just wish it was on all of the episodes. The “Starfleet Access” feature is available on Amok Time and The Trouble with Tribbles, which is a significant decrease from the Season One set, unfortunately.
The “Communications” option on each disc allows you to choose your audio and subtitle options. The Blu-ray’s automatically default to DTS-MA for the new effects versions of each episode and I doubt you’d want to listen to the Dolby Digital 2.0 or Spanish mono track, the latter of which can be pretty funny if you jump over to it. One thing I noticed is when you choose the episodes without the new effects it defaults to the 2.0 Dolby Digital track. Paramount/ CBS have kept the same menu screens making them streamlined and visually exciting. As you highlight the episodes, it gives you the option of watching the selected episode with the enhanced or the original effects. You can also switch between the two by hitting the angle button or a camera prompt on the pop-up menu. The original broadcast episodes (without the new effects) are in HD as well.
Since we are dealing with a seven disc set, I have decided to go through each disc one by one to describe the contents, including listing the episodes on each disc, the bonus features, and any anomalies in the audio or video presentation. If I don’t note any specific differences in a given episode, it should be taken as conforming to the presentation I describe in the audio and video sections of this review. The episodes are presented in airdate order; the menus denote Stardates, but not the actual air dates or production numbers. Each individual episode comes in at approximately 50 minutes. You can see what is on each disc on the inside of the packaging label. The BD’s are in a double Amray keep case that has individual pages holding the discs.
I have chosen to leave out the descriptions of the individual episodes, but this information, and much more, can be found on various Star Trek sites. I would link you to the official site but it doesn’t have synopsis of Season Two or Three. All of the episodes contain a preview trailer of the given episode and they do not appear to have gone through any type of re-mastering.
Most of the bonus features that were on the previous SD-DVD Season One box sets have been carried over, with many of the interviews dated from 2003. The exceptions I noted were the text commentaries by the Okuda’s (but replaced by the “Starfleet Access” feature)
Let’s see what’s out there!
Disc One contains the following episodes: Amok Time, Who Mourns for Adonais, The Changeling and Mirror, Mirror.
Starfleet Access for Amok Time.
Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories Part 2 (12:07, HD): Billy Blackburn, a frequent extra and stand-in on the show, talks more about his memories of the show and presents some of home movies.
Disc Two contains the following episodes: The Apple, The Doomsday Machine, Catspaw, I, Mudd and Metamorphosis.
Disc Three contains the following episodes: Journey to Babel, Friday’s Child, The Deadly Years, Obsession and Wolf in the Fold.
Disc Four spotlights The Trouble with Tribbles by itself, giving us Starfleet Access and an Audio Commentary by David Gerrold. The disc contains our first glimpse of other Star Trek series in HD (sorta) as we are given the first episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series- More Tribbles, More Troubles(with an Audio Commentary by Gerrold from the DVD set) and Episode #503 of Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Trials and Tribble-ations. The DS9 episode appears to be an up-convert from the original DVD, not a new HD transfer, whereas the ST: TAS episode appears to be an HD master, perhaps done when the DVD set was released in 2006. Trials and Tribble-ations: Uniting Two Legends (16:53, SD) is a vintage piece where the DS9 creative team (including a young Ronald Moore) and cast discuss the episode. Trials and Tribble-ations: An Historic Endeavor (16:32, SD) continues from the previous piece focusing more on how the effects pulled off the illusion of mashing up the two series. Finally, there is Star Trek TOS on Blu-ray (10:04, HD) that has Marc Zicree, a Star Trek: The Next Generation writer, interviewing Niel Wray (VFX Supervisor), David Rossi (VFX Producer), Gerrold and the Okuda’s about the new BD sets.
Disc Five contains the following episodes: The Gamesters of Triskelion, A Piece of the Action, The Immunity Syndrome and A Private Little War.
To Boldly Go…Season Two (19:32, SD): the cast and crew of the show discuss the stories and characters of Season Two.
Disc Six contains the following episodes: Return to Tomorrow, Patterns of Force, By Any Other Name and The Omega Glory.
Designing the Final Frontier (22:19, SD): art direction and set design are highlighted here.
Disc Seven contains the following episodes: The Ultimate Computer, Bread and Circuses and Assignment: Earth.
Star Trek’sFavorite Moments (17:10, SD): cast and crew members from all of the other series talk about why the show has lasted and some of their favorite episodes.
Writer’s Notebook: DC Fontana (7:35, SD): Fontana discusses her role on the show and describes the give and take of the writing process.
Life Beyond Trek: Leonard Nimoy (12:02, SD): Nimoy discusses his photography, his countdown clock and his other interests outside of Spock.
Kirk, Spock & Bones: Star Trek’s Great Trio (7:10, SD): Shatner, Nimoy, Fontana and others ruminate on the dynamic of the three and why it worked so well.
Star Trek’s Divine Diva: Nichelle Nichols (13:04, SD): Nichols discusses her career and what life was like before and after Star Trek.
Enhanced Visual Effects Credits.
This set introduces a new feature where you can port over bonus features to your cell phone, or, more specifically, the iPhone (us poor Pre users don’t get it yet!). Entitled Mobile Blu, it gives you content to go available exclusively in this format. You need to download the Mobile Blu app from the Apple App store, install it on your phone and then when the disc is in, the two communicate via your network and download the content. Discs One through Four respectively each have Mobile Blu pieces: Writing Spock, Creating Chekov, Listening to the Actors, and Spock’s Mother. You can also use your phone as a remote for your player. Again, since I don’t have an iPhone I couldn’t try it out, so you’ll have to respond to this thread once you get it working and let us know how it is. This is featured on each disc.
BD Live: as was the case with the First Season set, the BD Live content was very minimal at this point prior to street date. There were only a couple of questions from users and I’d expect once street date hits there will be more content. One interesting, or maybe scary, thing I found was a button to hit that would show other online users accessing this material. A map of the world popped up with the two Star Trek: The Original Series and three sets of CSI each denoted by colored pin points. The world map was then populated by these dots to show who was watching what and where. I appear to be the only one in Las Vegas to be watching this set while a whole mess of people are watching CSI all over the world. I’m not sure if BD Live is sending out a signal or the discs themselves do this when inserted into the player.
As I rate the episodes, as forward thinking as they may be, they still bear the marks of their time. While they don’t sport the sleekness in the look of the show or the storytelling of the later Star Trek series, this is still where it began and set the stage for everything thereafter. The stories, while campy at time, still show a decent amount of fun, creativity, romance and excitement to keep you interested.
The extras are somewhat lighter than what was in the first set. While I don’t think Paramount/ CBS skimped on them, I just don’t think there is a whole lot available due to the intervening years. Disc Four really goes out of its ways to showcase the Tribbles in all of their glory and that disc helps boost up the rating. The rest of the extras on the other discs, specifically Disc Seven, are fairly superficial.
The Episodes: ****/*****
The Extras: ***.5/*****
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the 1080p signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.
Each of the episodes is presented in their native 1.33:1 aspect ratio and they are encoded in the VC-1 codec. Past reviews of season one have caused some controversy in regards to the graininess of the original masters. Some noted video noise in addition to the grain, but in my inspection of the episodes, I find there to be more grain than video noise or artifacts. That is not to say there is not some video noise noticed. This grain is also very inconsistent from episode to episode and scene to scene sometimes. It can be very heavy at times, but then much lighter; it never completely goes away, but it lessens. From a normal viewing distance, much of this graininess, again, lessens and it does not detract from the viewing experience. The new effects shots do show a minor amount of video noise which I believe is also contributing to the graininess of the overall picture. In some of the “Starfleet Access” segments there is a comparison of the original effects shot to the new digital shots and it is obvious the new shots are clearer. The new digital opening credits show a minor amount of noise and this may also be on purpose to maintain consistency with the rest of the image.
When I watched some of these episodes broadcast over my local TV affiliate, I was only able to see them over standard definition channel so I didn’t get to appreciate how good these new masters now look. Paramount/ CBS has done an excellent job in restoring the episodes by going back to the original negatives. I have watched this show in re-runs for many years and I don’t ever remember them looking so bright, clear and colorful. Colors are lush and bold showing excellent variations in the costumes and sets. I noticed the green tinge to Spock’s makeup and the inconsistencies to it that seemed to be an error of the make-up of the time. Black levels are also excellent maintaining good shadow delineation and detail. Detail and sharpness fluctuates but it is overall good. I also noticed some good dimensionality to the new effects images, making the Enterprise seem to hang among the stars.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the Playstation 3 to the Denon 3808CI.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 tracks provide a crisp and bold sound while also presenting a good soundstage. While the audio is not on par with more current releases, what is available from the original recordings has never sounded better. The musical cues, which come off as flat and blaring on the SD-DVD Dolby Digital track, sound more musical and natural here. The surrounds provide a good soundstage that allows the music and environmental effects to place you in the center. LFE’s are minimal but present. I recently upgraded my system to 7.1 and while it wasn’t a night and day difference coming from 5.1, it seeks to enhance the atmosphere of the episodes with minor amounts of surround information.
Paramount/ CBS have put a great deal of effort into re-mastering this series and they did the show and the new work proud by showcasing it on these seven Blu-rays. The transfers are excellent, graininess aside, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen and heard them presented so well. The extras are great as well, even if they aren’t as abundant as the previous season one release.