HTF REVIEW: Star Trek - The Complete First Season

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Scott Kimball, Aug 20, 2004.

  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

    May 8, 2000
    Likes Received:

    Star Trek: The Complete First Season

    Studio: Paramount

    Year: 1966-67

    Rated: NR

    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

    Release Date: August 31, 2004

    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)

    The Episodes

    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.

    Space Seed
    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.

    The Transfers

    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).

    Special Features

    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
    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.

    Photo Log
    40 or so stills from different episodes.

    “Red Shirt Logs” (easter eggs)
    #1 (4:17)
    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.”

    #2 (1:55)
    Robert Justman talks about a “forced perspective” shot in “The Cage”

    #3 (1:36)
    Robert Justman talks about the casting of Clint Howard in “The Corbomite Maneuver.”

    Preview Trailers are available for each episode, on each episode menu.

    Final Thoughts

    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.
  2. Joseph J.D

    Joseph J.D Cinematographer

    Dec 4, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Nice I only picked up the final disc from the previous collection (The Cage), I will definitely pick these season sets up. Too bad about the vertical jitter problem you mentioned though.
  3. Todd Hostettler

    Todd Hostettler Second Unit

    Jun 7, 1999
    Likes Received:

    Wrong show. [​IMG]

    Glad I stuck to my self-imposed "no double dip" moratorium, and just held onto my original cherry-picked twofer discs. The few so-so eps, such as The Omega Glory and The Gamesters of Triskelion that I originally skipped, I just picked up on eBay for on average of $3 apiece.

    In the end, I'll have slightly less than 30 out of the 40 released volumes. No Spock's Brain or Lights of Zetar... but I think I can deal.
  4. Bill Williams

    Bill Williams Screenwriter

    May 28, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Quite an excellent review, Scott! Definitely looking forward to picking up this set!

    I myself got only four of the 2-episode single discs the first time around, Vol. 1, 8, 34, and 40, so for me it won't be much of a double-dip from the previous DVDs as it will be from the original VHS tapes and the mid-80's telecasts on my local Fox station. I may still keep the original discs, though.
  5. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

    Jan 29, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Great review!!! Thanks!

    While I'm certain I'll pick this up, I'm still waiting to hear what Paramount has in mind for the December box-set release. It's getting painful. (PAIN!)

    However, as I only ever bought one of the original disks, I'm in either way! (Even though I'm a huge fan, I just couldn't justify 40 disks.)

    Look forward to getting this! [​IMG]
  6. Gary Seven

    Gary Seven Grand Poo Pah

    Aug 15, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Lake Worth, Florida
    Real Name:
    I won't be double dipping on this set but I'm curious when season 3 hits whether "The Tholian Web" has been restored correctly. If so, I may be forced to double dip on what is widely considered the worst season.
  7. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

    Jun 3, 1999
    Likes Received:
    I want to hear from someone who has done a comparo with this release and the earlier releases.

    A concern of mine: four episodes per disc as opposed to the earlier releases' two. How might this affect picture quality?

    Frankly, I think the earlier TOS releases are the finest Star Trek has ever looked on a home-video format. They are far better than any of the TNG or DS9 releases. Like film, with sharp color and good contrast.

    In fact, I've seen some episodes on 16mm film ("I, Mudd," "The Man Trap," etc.). I like the DVDs more.
  8. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

    Apr 19, 2000
    Likes Received:

    Since they old discs were single-layered and the new ones are dual-layered, it shouldn't - it's not like they crammed all four shows onto one layer...
  9. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Supporting Actor

    Jun 20, 2003
    Likes Received:
    I'm on the fence so far with these sets. I've also got about 20 of the 2-fors w/ my favorite episodes (hmmm...nothing from season 3, although I enjoyed some of them). The fact that the small problems are still there (I never noticed the jitters in City, but I bet I will when I get a big HDTV!), and the anemic nature of the extras makes me pause. However, that package is cool and would look nice on the shelf.

    Why does Paramount continue to be so sloppy w/ errors? The picture inside the case isn't from season one, is it? Isn't it from Day of the Dove? I bet the pictures of the actors on the discs aren't all from season one, either. And on the BB bonus disk (not that I ever buy Trek sets from BB): Romance in the 24th Century? Oy.

  10. JoSAN

    JoSAN Second Unit

    Aug 8, 2004
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  11. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

    May 8, 2000
    Likes Received:


  12. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    You have been asking the same questions over
    and over again. I can understand why. You
    are a huge fan and you want to know if it is
    worth double-dipping on this set.

    Every review I have read thus far -- from
    THE DIGITAL BITS to Scott Kimball to my very own
    review -- all say the same thing.....

    The difference in picture quality is almost
    negligable. I saw no difference in picture
    quality. Scott and Bill Hunt saw minor
    improvement, with Hunt commenting on a slightly
    sharper picture due to better compression.

    I would bet you play these side-by-side to
    most ordinary spectators and they will find very
    little difference in the picture quality.

    In my opinion, even if someone sees the slightest
    improvement in this new set, it still does not
    justify double-dipping if all you are interested
    in is the transfer quality of the shows.

    Those shows looked awesome in their original
    DVD release and there is very little that could
    be done to improve them today outside of a massive
    Lowry-type restoration to remove dirt and scratches.


    If the supplements (which don't seem that great)
    or the fact that you can free up some shelve space
    are your top priority, then perhaps it is worth

    What I am getting at, based on my personal experience
    and all I have read thus far, the improvement in
    transfer is not enough to justify double-dipping.
  13. Ric Easton

    Ric Easton Cinematographer

    Feb 6, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Of course I bought all of these when Paramount was saying they would not be releasing box sets.

    I'm really on the fence, I love extras, but don't expect to learn anything new from them. Still, the pull is strong. I'm also irritated by the fact that to have the complete extras, I gotta go with Best Buy's bonus discs.

    I suppose I can sell my originals on Ebay in my special packaging. That should save me a few bucks.

  14. Britton

    Britton Supporting Actor

    Jun 3, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Well, I made a post in the Studio/Manufacturer feedback forum about "The City on the Edge of Forever". It probably won't make a difference, but I'd really hate to see this vertical jittering show up whenever this episode is released on whatever future video format there may be. I only hope I didn't come across as too much of a whiner. [​IMG]

    Anyway, here's a link to the forum:
  15. Ric Easton

    Ric Easton Cinematographer

    Feb 6, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Oops, sorry Scott... I forgot to mention... EXCELLENT REVIEW!

  16. Daron

    Daron Agent

    Jul 25, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Scott and Ron,

    Thank you for your excellent reporting on this new set! I just thought of something that could help us determine if Paramount is fixing those mastering problems on the original 40 DVD set for this new release, and I'm wondering if you two could check some of these episodes out to investigate.

    The problems I recall from first season episodes in the original set were:

    1. Use of different opening theme music in episodes 3-13. I believe they used the music from "Where No Man Has Gone Before", with Shatner's narration added, for these episodes... but fans posting on the internet complained on this very message board, so Paramount went back to using the original music from episodes 14 on.

    2. In "The Menagerie" (part 1 I believe) there's a shot of Spock and Pike grabbing an alien plant shortly after beaming down to Talos IV. When Spock grabs the plant, the background sound effect is supposed to stop, then start again when Spock lets go. On the first DVD release, the sound doesn't do that. The DVD producers did fix this later in the same scene from "The Cage" (on Volume 40.)

    3. You may not be able to distinguish this, but also on "The Menagerie" (both parts I believe) the DVD producers used different music in some scenes... music that actually came from a 1980's rerecording of the music sold in record stores!! I thought it sounded great... but purists may not like it.

    Anyway, if you're able to check these out briefly, it could make for an interesting discussion! Some of us are curious about this because we're hoping more serious mastering errors on "The Doomsday Machine", and especially "The Tholian Web" are repaired for the new releases.

    Again, thank you for your thorough reporting (and thanks as well for the in-depth review from Bill Hunt at the Digital Bits.) I am planning to buy these new sets, even though I bought the original 40. I'm just such a fanboy...
  17. Joseph Bolus

    Joseph Bolus Cinematographer

    Feb 4, 1999
    Likes Received:
    * Sigh * ...

    I was hoping for more from the extras ...

    Irregardless, I've just got to have this box, even though I purchased the original two-ep discs ...

    When it comes to Star Trek: TOS "Resistance is Futile!"

    (Oh ... Wait ...)
  18. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

    Feb 15, 2002
    Likes Received:
    First I'd like to offer a big thumbs up to Scott Kimball, Ron Epstein, and Bill Hunt for their various reviews. [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I found this other review several days ago but didn't think it would be appropriate to "scoop" the HTF's official review. Note this review is of the R2 version:

    It appears that, while the shows look better than they have previously (even a tiny bit better than the previous DVDs) there is still plenty of room for improvement. (Emphasis is mine):




    Let's hope that the eventual HD release of this series includes a full video restoration, the original mono soundtracks, fixing of all the miscellaneous errors mentioned by Daron, the true original version of "The Cage" (assuming the season 3 set contains the same reconstructed versions as found on the old discs), and substantial supplements that do this TV show justice.
  19. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

    Apr 1, 2000
    Likes Received:
    So, is the original Desilu logo on the black background with no Paramount copyright on here, or is it the red Desilu logo with the 1978 Paramount copyright plastered on it?
  20. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

    Apr 8, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    David Scarpa
    I still say the price of this set warrants the type of digital restoration done for DS9's Tribble show.

    Also does anyone else would've preferred the type of packaging they released Happy Days with?

    Basically thinpaks with a carboard box, I think I would have

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