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Star Trek: The Original Series
The Complete First Season

review by Zach B.

 

 

 

Not Rated

Running Time: 1461 Minutes

Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols

 

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $134.99

Features: Text Commentaries by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda, Preview Trailers, The Birth Of A Timeless Legacy, Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner, "To Boldly Go..." Season One, Reflections On Spock, Sci-Fi Visionaries, Photo Log

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections, Chapter Index (7 Chapters per episode), 8-Disc Set

Released: August 31st, 2004

 

 

Before the theme park ride, the merchandise, the REALLY huge fan base, the conventions, the movies, the spin-off shows and everything that goes with a phenomenon of pop culture, there was the series that started it all. Simply titled "Star Trek," who knew way back in 1966 that a prime-time science-fiction program on NBC would become a franchise that's still running over thirty-five years later (and would still be the butt of jokes involving nerds and middle-aged guys who still live with their parents)? As clichéd as it is to say, here goes: a big part of entertainment history was born.

Perhaps sometimes its hard to predict or realize what will become major successes, but from the get-go "Star Trek" didn't seem like it. Its widely known that the crew of the original starship Enterprise only gained incredibly popularity AFTER the show's three-year run on NBC when it went into syndication. The show was even lucky to survive a third season - NBC wanted to cancel it, but heaps of fans wrote in to support the show (fans of underappreciated series are certainly loyal, and yes, sometimes a network can be swayed).

For those of you unoriginal with the classic series, the premise is simple enough: the Enterprise crew is summoned by the United Federation Of Planets on a five-year mission to discover new worlds, creature, civilizations and all that jazz. The main crew consists of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Vulcan Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), engineer Scotty (James Doohan), doctor Leonard McCoy (the late DeForest Kelley), communications officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and the man at the helm Mr. Sulu (George Takei). The actors were all excellent in their roles, and there was a definite comradetie between them. They've gone on to be parodied of course (Shatner is still mocked for his hammy and pause-filled delivery), but Shatner made a fine captain who was courageous and was a true leader and Nimoy's intelligent-but-emotionally stiff Spock definitely made a mark. The actors all fit well, and it's clear they really relished their roles and played them to their fullest.

I'm not much of a "Trek" fan myself, but I have started to really appreciate (and gain tolerance for) the franchise as a whole in the past few years after reviewing sets for the spin-off shows and the feature films. There's a lot to enjoy about the original series, particularly in how it transcends genres. It's easy to dismiss the series for science-fiction fans only, but I disagree - the show's characters are well-developed and the stories are often dramatic and have elements the viewer can identify with. In a way, it's very possible to consider "Star Trek" a groundbreaking show (other than what it's spun off into) - it's clear a lot of the episodes paralleled what was going on in the world at the time. The 1960s was certainly a turbulent decade, and in its own ways, "Star Trek" did make sense of it - race relations, war and ultimately keeping an open mind and themes of humanity.

After Paramount released the episodes of the original series on forty DVD volumes, they've gone back to milk the cow again - but don't worry, this eight-disc set now features quite a bit of extra features and some really snazzy packaging. Featuring all twenty-nine episodes from the first season, this is quite the nice (and pretty much definitive set). With the show's next (and last) two seasons due out in the last quarter of 2004, it's going to be an expensive fall if you're a fan of the original series (not to mention the other "Star Trek" DVDs Paramount has planned as well).

 

All the episodes are presented in 1.33:1 full screen, and for a show that's over thirty-five years old, they look really great. It's true the episodes look a tad bit grainy, and the source prints are far from clean - dirt pieces, blemishes, scratches and other annoyances are on the episodes and do pop up. But the transfers have a fresh-looking, slightly sharp quality to them that makes looking at them quite appealing. Detail is pretty good, fleshtones look very decent and the colors are really well saturated, as there is a richness in the hues. The image quality of the first season does not look disappointing or messy in the least bit, and certainly hold its own.

 

All the episodes have been remixed in English 5.1 Dolby Digital, and they sound pretty fine. Don't expect anything too dynamic or powerful though - the mixes are pretty much mono sound elements placed apart. It does end up creating a surround effect, but it's never really discrete and sometimes it sounds a bit artificial. The tracks do create an ambience though and have a pretty high fidelity, and do work for the most part. Dialogue is easy to hear, the sound effects (such as the beaming and action scenes, as well as the noises of the Enterprise) sound decent and kick in the rears sometimes. Most impressive though is the music - it uses the speakers the best, and fills them appropriately and with the right amount of power. The episodes probably didn't need 5.1 mixes, but they don't ruin the show per se or overdo it - so it's a nice little touch. English Dolby Surround tracks for the episodes, as well as English subtitles and English closed captions are also included.

 

The original volumes of the series were pretty much featureless, so kudos to Paramount for giving what the fans love: supplements. The features on this first season collection due give a good overview of the show, those behind it and a glimpse of pop culture history being born. First up, and spread across the discs are Text Commentaries by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda. The Okudas have authored Trek books, and have provided text commentaries for "Star Trek" movies on DVD. While I'm sure there are those of you who would have loved audio commentaries, this is a good as it gets - on select episodes, change your subtitle stream and facts about the episode and the show in general will pop up quite often. There's a ton of trivia to be had here - which I'm sure some of you are familiar with, and some of you aren't (such as myself). Very enjoyable overall - the text commentaries are on "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (disc 1), "The Menagerie Parts ! and II" (disc 3) and "The Conscience of the King" (Disc 4). Also, each episode has a Preview Trailer - which gives a glimpse at the episode (I assume these must have aired on TV before the shows ran to give viewers a taste of the next adventure).

Other than that, disc eight houses the rest of the extras (all with optional English captions). The Birth Of A Timeless Legacy divulges into the creation of one of the most important and memorable science-fiction franchises of all time. William Shatner rambles on a bit, but Leonard Nimoy and archive footage of Gene Roddenbury give more clear thoughts on the series: its origins, how it was different, setting up the "Trek" universe and what it all meant. Also giving thoughts are producer Robert Justman, associate producer John Black, secretary Mary Black, George Takei, James Doohan (in an archived interview), story editor/writer D.C. Fontana and Uhura herself Nichelle Nichols - all who help tell the story of how "Star Trek" was made and what it expanded into. The featurette lasts a little over twenty-four minutes, and with the interviews, is accompanied by a ton of still photographs and footage from the show. For some really solid history on the show's humble and fascinating beginnings, this is worth a watch.

Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner gives us a ten-and-a-half minute view at one of Shatner's other interests: horses. That's right, Shatner goes on about his love of horses and even shows off some of his own at his ranch (oh, and we get to see him ride - at the ranch and with clips from "Star Trek: Generations"). Needless to say, Captain Kirk sure loves these animals - even at times feeling he and a horse can become one while riding. You see, celebrities are just like regular people too.

"To Boldly Go..." Season One lasts about nineteen minutes and takes a gander at the show making best of what it had: the network not always supporting it and limited budgets. Nimoy, Shatner, Justman, the Blacks and Takei all reminisce about their favorite episodes from the first season, what made them work so well and some stories behind them - even Ricardo "KAAAAHHHHHHHHHN!" Montalban chimes in on his classic character and actor William Campbell talks about his work on the show. Well done.

Reflections On Spock lasts twelve minutes and twelve seconds gives a focus on... yes, you guessed it William Shatner (just kidding - Leonard Nimoy of course). Nimoy warmly remembers his character, and discusses how complex and timely the character was in people relating to Spock's struggle in being "different." Nimoy is rather candid, pointing out he was in conflict with Paramount and why he wrote two different books (I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock). Nimoy has plenty to say and has lots of great comments and stories to all back it up. He comes across really well here for what is the most intriguing and I think best feature on the set.

Sci-Fi Visionaries gives a look lasts a little under seventeen minutes. Filled with clips from the show, this featurette focuses on how the show broke ground when it came to telling science-fiction stories. Shatner gives his usual gusto, and an archived interview with Roddenbury gives a further glimpse at his vision. D.C. Fontana points out how the show brought in science-fiction writers to begin with and then focused in on television writers. The points of good sci-fi writing are discussed, as is a focus on writing for television and capturing an audience. John Black and Robert Justman also get their say in all this. Insightful, discussion-worthy stuff here - that means it's worth viewing. Finally, there's a Photo Log with stills from the show.

So what's missing here? Some of you may be disappointed to discover that the Shatner-less original pilot "The Cage" is not on the set (but clips of it are shown in the "The Birth of A Timeless Legacy"). D'oh! Perhaps it will be a future surprise in one of the next two sets? (Or not.)

 

The price may be a little steep, but you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck with this set. The extras are plentiful and put together quite well and the episodes look and sound quite nice. If you spent all your hard-earned money on collecting the series originally on DVD a few years back... well I hate to say it, but looks like you're going to have to do it all over again. No worries though - if you're a "Star Trek" fan then this set is well worth it.