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DVD Review: ‘Star Trek’ TOS Season 1 (Blu-ray)
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Star Trek: TOS: Season 1
Blu-ray Edition
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei
Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: April 28, 2009

The original Star Trek consisted of three seasons on television in the 1960s and starred William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as his first officer, Mr. Spock. Kirk and his crew of the USS Enterprise were the astronauts of our future, zipping around in a starship, exploring strange new worlds — and find them, they did. Back in the 1960s, whether you liked science fiction or not, every television viewer was drawn to the series by the simple fact that it was in color, a trait not too common at the time. While techicolor drew in audiences, it was the unique storylines and non-traditional methods that have kept the franchise alive for over 40 years.

This Blu-ray edition of Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1 contains digitally remastered versions of all 29 episodes of first season of the original series, which not only cleans up a lot of scratches and scuffs from the original reels, but also looks amazing in high definition. Since the original special effects are outdated in comparison to what’s possible today — even though at the time they were innovative — the episodes have all been enhanced to include alternate, upgraded graphics and special effects. While the themes of Star Trek have transcended generations, this high definition release has an updated look which will attract modern-day audiences without compromising its nostalgia appeal for long-time viewers.

After Ted Turner tampered with all of the old black and white classics and George Lucas ruined the original Star Wars movies with excessive CGI additions, I was really skeptical about the enhanced graphics in this Star Trek Blu-ray package. I grew up watching the original series on television in syndication on the crudest of TV sets and even though I know those shots of the Enterprise are model ships on strings, I still love it. But, for the purposes of this review, I watched the enhanced version of all the episodes and while it took a few views for my old-school eye to get used to it, I must admit that the upgrades are highly worthy.

The great aspect of this Blu-ray edition is that you are not forced to watch the enhanced episodes if you don’t want to, because the original versions are also included separately. The people behind this release aren’t trying to change the past or take away the original experience for you. If you so choose, you can watch the original versions and you can even toggle between the two in midstream. Again, I was very resistant to the enhancements at first, but when I saw the new versions of the Enterprise orbiting a planet, I just couldn’t deny that it looks absolutely beautiful; more importantly, I believe that if the original special effects crew had access to today’s technology, they would have loved to have created these upgraded effects in the first place.

What really won me over to the enhancements were the episodes in the “Starfleet Access” category. In this 7-disc collection, there is one episode on each disc that has picture-in-picture commentary from a host of people involved with Star Trek, from original writers, editors, and actors to the team that worked on the digital upgrades and graphics enhancement projects. It’s much easier to accept the new versions when you have people who are obviously dedicated to Star Trek explain what it was like when the original series was being made and also their rational behind the changes they made now. It’s obvious that the people spearheading the digital upgrade wanted simply to “enhance” the series that’s been so beloved all these years.

Along with the visual enhancements, this Blu-ray package also comes with an audio upgrades of the show’s original theme music and episode soundtrack. Again, nothing is forced upon you — you have a choice to experience the show with its original broadcast in mono or with the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio upgrade.

If you’re a fan of the original Star Trek series, there’s no doubt in my mind that you should own this Season 1 release. It was great fun for me to watch both versions of each episode several time and take in the wealth of bonus features included.

Packaging
I can’t honestly say the only thing I didn’t like about this Blu-ray release was the packaging. Typically, I don’t pay too much attention to packaging and never even bring it up in review, but when a product has multiple discs to sort through, you want it to be easy. In the packaging in my copy, the discs kept popping out on their own and every time I opened the case, discs would fall out. Also, since there is a lot of bonus material, it can be hard to find where the bonus content is because it’s not written on the disc and it’s also not on an insert; instead, it’s underneath the blue plastic casing where it’s difficult to read, especially the one in the back because the seventh disc goes there and the safety holder obscures the writing. Thankfully, you can pull out the cover insert under the plastic, something I don’t really like doing, but at least it’s not pasted down in there. The insert also includes the Stardate for each episode, along with the listing of what’s on each disc.

Bonus Features

Included on most discs are a “Starfleet Episode” — which contains picture-in-picture and pop-up text commentary; an “Additional Data” section, which are the featurettes; and original preview trailers for the non-enhanced episodes. Features in high definition are so noted.

DISC 1

Additional Data: Transporting Trek Into the 21st Century
The crew in charge of the digital remaster talk about the types of challenges they come up against in the process of enhancing the episodes from their original camera negative. We get to see some of the techniques they used to repair scratches, tears, and film warps and what was done by hand. There’s also a few side-by-side comparisons of the original version against the remastered version. They also did a remaster of the TV show’s theme and score by Alexander Courage and re-recorded the original theme using the same size orchestra as the origina. The teams behind the digital enhancements also discuss their process and the ideas behind all of their upgrades, especially the one to the USS Enterprise. If you’re on the fence about digital remasters and enhancements, this feature will surely win you over to it.

Starfleet Access episode – Where No Man Has Gone Before (in HD)
This was the second pilot for the series, which led to the network taking on the show. We see that William Shatner’s Captain Kirk character is developed from the very beginning, unlike some of the other characters, who are still forming, like Spock. While it’s a great story and definitely an enjoyable episode, the crew and set design aren’t the standard versions we’re used to (Spock isn’t wear his usual blue science uniform and Dr. McCoy wasn’t on the show yet); therefore, the enhancements really go a long way on the pilot. What’s really cool is that with everything that could have been chanced, the effects team didn’t tamper with the Gary Mitchell character’s eyes, which had special contacts in them. They left these as is, and it stills holds up today.

DISC 2

No Additional Data or Starfleet Access episodes; only the episode preview trailers.

DISC 3

Additional Data: Reflections On Spock
This is a Leonard Nimoy interview from 2003, interspersed with clips of Spock from the original series. Nimoy talks about how the fans related to his character; how Spock was different from his comrades on the Enterprise and faced prejudice because of his obvious physical differences; and how there was also humor with Spock. Nimoy explains how the title of his novel I Am Not Spock was mistakenly perceived as a dig against the character and Star Trek.

Starfleet Access episode – The Menagerie, Parts 1 & 2:
Audio commentary along with picture-in-picture video commentary, as well as pop-up windows with images and text pertaining to the episodes. We see all the effort that went into enhancing not only the special effects, but also the scenery and sets.

DISC 4

Additional Data: Life Beyond Trek – William Shatner
An older featurette on Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, and what his life and interests have been post-Trek life. Focuses mainly on his life at home with his wife on their horse ranch and the charity work his does involving horses.

Starfleet Access episode – A Balance of Terror
We meet for the first time on the series the Romulans, lead by Mark Lenard, who later went on to a more prominent role as Spock’s father Sarek.

DISC 5

Additional Data: To Boldly Go… Season One
The actors and producers of the original series talk about the extremely low budget they had to work with for the first season and go over certain episodes that stand out to them, like “The Naked Time,” where Sulu gets to go beyond his typical “Aye, aye, sir” dialogue and Spock unwillingly expresses emotion.

Additional Data: The Birth of a Timeless Legacy
The actors and producers reminisce about series creator Gene Roddenberry and his vision for the show; also about the show’s first pilot that was turned down by the network, which did not have any of the original characters except Leonard Nimoy’s Spock. We also learn the story about Spock’s ears and how Uhura almost didn’t make it into the series.

DISC 6

Additional Data: Sci-Fi Visionaries
Older interviews with William Shatner and Gene Roddenbury, as well as other people involved in the original series, about the vision of Star Trek and how the characters gave young viewers at the time characters they could look up to because of their with strong moral fiber who were also exciting and adventurous. What made the series so authentic is that it employed true science fiction writers who had experience writing for television to pen the scripts. The interviewees talk about episodes that stood out to them or that they were a part of writing.

Interactive Enterprise Inspection (HD)
This is a high-definition interactive feature that lets you explore the outer portions of the USS Enterprise using your Blu-ray remote; includes audio commentary similar to the kind you’d hear at a museum or science center. Very cool if you want to learn the parts of this starship and its functions, along with some history on it.

Starfleet Access episode – Space Seed
This commentary is a study on the now-legendary Star Trek villain Khan, who made his first appearance in the Trek universe in this season one episode.

DISC 7

Additional Data: Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories (HD)
A very interesting feature from the perspective of one of the actors who played a small role on the show. Actor Billy Blackburn played the Enterprise navigator on the first season; the White Rabbit in “Shore Leave”; and the close-up shots of the Gorn in “Arena.” Blackburn talks about his experiences working on the show and learning his console, as well as some behind-the-scenes information about how to film the action and effects scenes. We also see clips from the show with him — and there are lots — as well as his own personal on-set videos shot with his 8mm. Best personal video clip: The cast and crew on location in the desert in the early morning waiting in line for their bacon and eggs breakfast and waiting smack right in the middle of the line — Leonard Nimoy in full Spock regalia, ears and all.

Additional Data: Kiss N Tell: Romance In The 23rd Century
Older interviews with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and story editor DC Fontana about all the beautiful women who guest-starred on the series, who many had romances with Shatner’s Captain Kirk. While Kirk got most of the ladies, Spock did have his moments too, like in “This Side of Paradise,” where Spock expresses his emotions by telling a woman he loves her. George Takei, Walter Koenig, and Nichelle Nichols also talk about their respective characters’ potential love interests.

Starfleet Access episode – Errand of Mercy
Kirk and Spock go on a mercy mission to the pacifist planet of Organia, which is about to be invaded by Klingons right when negotiations between the Federation and the Klingons have come to a standstill. When the Klingons do arrive, Kirk tries to sway the peaceful Organians to fight their invaders. The remastering of this episode includes the addition of Klingon ships and an enhancement to the Organians energy beams.

Final Score

Picture Quality: A
Audio Quality: A
Packaging: C
Bonus Material: B+

Verdict: Must-Buy!

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