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Paramount Studios presents
Star Trek: The Original Series—The Complete First Season (1966-1967)

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.”
- Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: August 29, 2004

Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols
Other Stars: Robert Walker Jr., Gary Lockwood, Sally Kellerman, Burce Hyde, Jim Goodwin, Roger C. Carmel, Majel Barrett, Kim Darby, Morgan Woodward, James Gregory, Clint Howard, Jeffrey Hunter, Arnold Moss, Mark Lenard, Bruce Mars, William Campbell, Roger Perry, Joan Marshall, Percy Rodriguez, Ricardo Montalban, Gene Lyons, Jill Ireland, John Colicos, Robert Brown, Joan Collins
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sci-fi violence)
Run Time: 24h:00m:00s
Release Date: August 31, 2004
UPC: 097360509243
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A+AB+ B-

DVD Review

What can be said about Star Trek that isn't repetitive? When Gene Roddenberry’s strange, wonderful “wagon train to the stars” showed up on NBC, it was the beginning of a legend. As I sit here trying to conjugate my thoughts about the most influential pop culture phenomenon toemanate from the vacuum tubes of 1960s television sets, I find it difficult not to merely repeat old conclusions. Though I grew up on Picard, with Kirk mixed in via reruns, do not fear: I have seen every Original Series episode, and have great admiration for it. Chances are you are not completely unfamiliar with the exploits of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and crew. Consequently, this review will not be a rehash of episode synopses and evaluations; for such information, look to dOc’s previous reviews of Paramount’s single disc Original Series releases.

Instead, I will endeavor to address what makes Star Trek stand out—the characteristics and effects that have endured. This analysis will be split between the three seasons slated to be released before the end of the year. I see a clear breakdown into three areas of importance: character development, technology and science fiction storytelling. Before we get too far out into the cosmos, let’s begin with the basics: the characters and deep-rooted relationships that quickly formulated during Star Trek’s landmark first season, creating a group of unforgettable human beings, and even one Vulcan, who voyaged each week to thrill us with adventure, imagination, and to teach us something about ourselves.

Forget about Kirk’s affinity for torn shirts and clinging, beehived Yeomans. Put aside McCoy's Southern charm and Vulcan-directed insults, effortlessly deflected by Spock, who frequently takes such comments as compliments. These three men create a triad of friendship that is immediately apparent on screen. Each of these individuals personify an important aspect of humanity: Kirk is a combination of the fallible hero and the swaggering Horatio Hornblower, commanding with authority, respect and the proper amount of humility; his trusted confidant Spock is the logical one, constantly battling his human half, looking for the peace and mental discipline provided by his sacred Vulcan precepts; Doctor McCoy is a man of science and biting criticism, but his care and warmth for both Kirk and Spock are undying. Joining this group are Sulu, Uhura and Scotty, whose diverse ethnic backgrounds make a clear, positive statement about the future of race relations.

Against these beacons of humanity are the numerous adversaries of the good ship Enterprise. As with the main crew, Roddenberry's clear intention was to pick one aspect of humanity and manifest it in an alien race, providing a commentary on our own faults and strengths. The Klingons, first seen in Errand of Mercy, personify our barbarism and thirst for violence. This is done with a sense of honor and occasionally, deception; the Romulans, introduced in Balance of Terror, are the isolationists. They too are bestowed with a sense of duty and honor, though they represent the violent, emotional half of their Vulcan ancestors; Khan of Space Seed is the superhuman dictator—a genetically enhanced Napoleon that represents our will to rule and the danger of science unchecked; The Squire of Gothos is our childish, immature self, engrossed in selfish pursuits with no regard for others' needs or desires. Star Trek is at its best an essay on humanity, partially revealed in its characters, and later, in its plotlines. These subtexts arrived at a time in the nation's history when war and uncertainty were the policy of choice.

How does the Original Series stack up to the new series? Well, in my opinion, it stands alone. I for one think it’s unfair to compare it to new incarnations of Trek. It contains everything Star Trek stands for and is simply superb science fiction. It’s hard for me to be impartial about grading such a force; it is a television show, yes, but it’s something special to me, and hopefully, its lessons will continue to resonate back from its fictional future, and throughout the years to come.

Here is a breakdown of the 29 classic episodes included on this set, presented in broadcast order:

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, City on the Edge of Forever
Disc Eight: Operation--Annihilate!, Special Features

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The image quality is simply outstanding. Taken from the digitally restored masters created from the original 16mm film elements, these transfers look identical to the previous releases. Indeed, these are the same transfers, four of which are spread over each dual layered disc. There may be some slight improvements in sharpness due to advances in compression technology, but if they exist, you’ll be hard-pressed to spot them. Colors are rich and bold, while contrast and detail are spot on. The occasional print defect does show up, especially during rushed, composited special effects shots, but these are simply marvelous transfers that blow away any pre-DVD presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 5.1 remixes do a fine job of enhancing the original monaural audio tracks without sacrificing some level of integrity. These are by no means flashy mixes, delegating most audio to the front. Surround activity is limited to the occasional sound effect, starship flyby or ambiance. LFE is surprisingly powerful at times, further immersing the viewer. The soundstage is nicely widened by these mixes, though I do wish the original mono tracks were preserved on this release. A Dolby Surround track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 203 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
29 Original Trailer(s)
3 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
8 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Text commentaries by Michael and Denise Okuda
  2. Photo Log
Extras Review: The real reason you’re probably reading this review is to learn whether or not this set is worth an upgrade from Paramount’s 40 previously-released DVD volumes. Well, it all depends on your appreciation for snazzy packaging, more shelf space and mediocre featurettes. Here’s an in-depth look at what this set has to offer.

First, let’s begin with the eye-catching package Paramount has concocted for this special re-issue. The exterior is a very thick, golden yellow plastic shell that resembles the shape of a tricorder. The show’s title and command insignia are boldly displayed on the front, covered in chrome, while the spine and back are also imprinted with the distinctive emblem. The command-colored shell (later sets will be blue and red, representing the uniform colors of science/medical and engineering, respectively) splits in half vertically, swinging open via a hinged bottom. Inside is a stack of plastic, jewel-case-sized disc trays that are bound like pages of a book and encased by a rather flimsy sleeve that shows Kirk and Spock on the front, with “Season One” on the spines. These elements show through the small window openings in the outer plastic case when closed. There is also an identically sized fold out booklet that functions as an episode guide, an informational pamphlet on the Romulans and an advertisement for other Trek boxsets. All in all, this set takes up about as much shelf space as a Next Generation season set. This is an attractive, modestly-sized box that will certainly hold up well. It’s about time we Region 1 fans get a plastic boxset—other regions have had the sturdier packaging since the release of TNG.

Now, the menus. Each Trek boxset has had an elaborate opening animation, and this is no exception. The forced opening begins with the Enterprise zooming away from us, the show’s title and Captain Kirk’s legendary voice over. The Enterprise returns, zooms toward us, and the “camera” is thrust into the bridge, pans around, and settles in the Captain’s chair. The episodes display on the viewscreen and the sounds of the bridge fill the air. Upon selection, we tilt over the navigation/helm console, which contains the usual options, along with a button for a preview trailer (one is included for every episode). The setup menu takes us to Sulu’s helm viewer, while the chapter selection menu flies us over to the navigational readout. When play is selected, we fly toward the viewscreen and warp into space. Well designed, though I do wish the opening animation could be skipped.

The first extras encountered are a series of text commentaries by Michael and Denise Okuda. These commentaries are accessible on the episodes Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Menagerie Pts. 1 & 2 and The Conscience of the King. When you hit play on the corresponding episode, an option will appear, asking you whether or not to engage the text commentary. This time around, trivia bits appear on semi-translucent pop up boxes—an improvement over the solid, obtrusive boxes on the first season of Voyager. These are fun, humorous reads, though they offer little new information, and include such obvious bits as “Nichelle Nichols plays Uhura,” etc. Nice, but where are the audio commentaries?

Next is a series of five featurettes, found on Disc Eight. These are similar in quality to the featurettes found on the previous Trek boxsets: interviews intercut with episode clips and somewhat blurry photos. First is The Birth of a Timeless Legacy (24m:13s), which discusses the origins of the show. Archival interviews of Gene Roddenberry and James Doohan are interspersed with new comments from cast members William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and producers such as D.C. Fontana, Robert Justman, and John D.F. Black. Roddenberry has some great comments about the two pilots for the show and how the studio simply did not understand what he was trying to do. He promised cowboys and indians in space. When he got the money and some good actors, he just “went ape.” Naturally, the studio was upset. Nimoy also gives some interesting anecdotes about his famous ears.

Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner (10m:27s) delves into Shatner’s passion for horses. He discusses competitions he has participated in, some horse-related charity work and shows some riding techniques. His comments on his “union” of sorts with horses mirrors his interview on “becoming one with the mountain” for Star Trek V. He still has the flair, folks.

”To Boldly Go”...Season One (18m:58s) explores individual episodes from the first season. Comments continue from Shatner, Justman, Nimoy and others as they talk about budgetary restraints, and NBC’s choice for the first episode to be aired, The Man Trap. Black also talks about using scenes from the original pilot The Cage for the two-part The Menagerie, and how these two scripts helped save the show from going off the air after only a few episodes. William Campbell (Trelane) and Ricardo Montalban (Khan, of course) also appear. Finally, arguably the best classic episode, City on the Edge of Forever, is covered.

Reflections on Spock (12m:12s) features Leonard Nimoy discussing not only his character, but the controversy surrounding his book “I Am Not Spock.” Many fans saw this title as negative, indicating Nimoy wanted to distance himself from Trek when actually the contrary was true. Nimoy sets the record straight, paving the way for his possible follow-up, “I Am Spock.”

Sci-Fi Visionaries (16m:39s) covers the producers’ desire to bring in the best science fiction writers to work on Star Trek. Many came forward, including Richard Matheson and Harlan Ellison. There is an interesting story told about Ray Bradbury, who rejected the offer of writing for the show in a most gracious fashion.

You will also find a Photo Log of 40 images from various episodes. Finally, there are four Red Shirt Logs, or Easter Eggs that are easily found on the last disc: George Takei talks about his swordplay (04m:17s); Robert Justman talks about an old-school visual effects technique used in The Cage (01m:55s); John J.F. Black shares a memory of William Shatner (2m:21s); Justman returns to talk about Clint Howard’s memorable appearance as Balok in The Corbomite Maneuver (1m:35s). Tranya, anyone?

There are some interesting bits here and there, but once again, this set could have been so much more. Audio commentaries on key episodes are a must, as is some more archival material from the series, such as original concept art, etc. How about an interactive guide to the Enterprise? I’m sure these items exist or could be created. It’s great to see this series released in season increments, but I still feel as though this was somewhat thrown together.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Paramount’s re-release of the original Star Trek has its ups and downs. This is an attractively packaged set that continues the franchise's tradition of rather mediocre extras, but contains some of the best science fiction television ever created. This is where it all began. Buy it for Kirk, Spock and McCoy, not for Shatner’s horse riding skills.

 


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