“Space…The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its 5-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before !”
Paramount was bold indeed when they undertook the remaster project of the original series. Not only did they clean up the prints, but they took the decidedly risky option of redoing most of the f/x shots from the original prints. We all know just how cheesy the old work looked when compared to today’s computer abilities. You could see a box around spacecraft that allowed the obvious cutout to maneuver through a cardboard star field. There were often mixups where phaser shots would be used for photon torpedo commands and the opposite. The planets often utilized matte paintings that look somewhat ridiculous now. We forgave these flaws with a complete understanding of the limitations the crew had at the time. While Star Trek showed us computers that were remarkably similar to the PC’s we use today, down to the floppy drives of our own yesteryear, the use of computers to create f/x was still many years away. So Paramount decided to “fix” these “flaws” and make much of the show look like it might have had it been produced today. It was a serious risk because of the extreme possessiveness fans have for these kinds of shows. Just ask George Lucas how much fans like their sci-fi tinkered with. The project encompassed a few years, and the results are quite attractive. But how do they stand up for the fans?
I have heard very little complaint about these efforts. Most of the shots appear to be identical in scope to the originals, and with a few exceptions don’t appear to detract from the rest of the show. It helps that the restoration process itself has made even the original material look quite fresh, but more about that in the video portion of this review. I have to say I was about as skeptical as anyone when I first heard of this enormous undertaking. I knew that if they didn’t get the right people, there would be too much of a temptation to show off. I’m glad to report that every shot is respectful and not as overpowering as it could have been. There is a lot of respect paid to the source material, and the f/x appear to blend in almost seamlessly. You might even find yourself unsure if a shot is new or old, particularly planet-side additions. There was more than one occasion I had to dust off my old laserdisc collection and make some side by side comparisons. To me, those moments of uncertainty said more about the project than anything else. Imagine if we had gotten some George Lucas wannabe on this project. There would have been so much effort spent to dazzle us that the simplicity, and yet genius, of these episodes would have been lost. I’m happy to report the results are something I think Roddenberry himself would have approved of.
I have to admit that this second season might well be the best season the original show had. The series finally figured out that the lead trio was a gold mine of wonderful moments. It is in these episodes that Star Trek found its most important tent pole. DeForest Kelley was added to the front credits in recognition for his value in the show’s chemistry. The show’s executives figured out that it wasn’t just about Kirk and Spock, but McCoy as well. As one of the cast members would remark in the set’s features, Bones was the glue that bound the other two together. Sadly, his passing closed the door to any future appearances with the other two. He was the quietest of the Trek actors over the years. He didn’t get the press and applause the others actively sought. I’ve now met all of the original actors with the exception of Kelley. In hindsight I never met any of them at all.
The second season contains some of the best… and worst … of Star Trek:
Amok Time: Sci-fi great Theodore Sturgeon penned one of the most important episodes in the Vulcan mythology. Nimoy also gave us the famous “Live long and prosper” Vulcan hand gesture in this episode, based on a Jewish blessing he once observed as a child. Who can forget the Kirk and Spock battle? The scene along with its familiar music has been parodied a thousand times since. Finally who can forget that wide smile…just for a second, when Spock sees Kirk is still alive?
Mirror Mirror: Spock with a beard. That’s what I never forgot from the early days of seeing the episode. The Mirror universe was once the potential script for a film that never materialized. The world did make itself rediscovered in DS9 episodes and one of the best Enterprise arcs for that show’s entire run. We often wondered just what kind of an Enterprise that Kirk did encounter when he returned.
I Mudd: Roger C. Carmel created one of the most endearing bad guys in Star Trek history with Harry Mudd. His return in the second season is a highlight indeed.
The Trouble With Tribbles: Do I really have to talk about this one at all? A recent poll finds that this single episode is the most remembered of all of the incarnations of Star Trek. There are over 600 hours of Star Trek in one form or another, and Tribbles beats them all for enduring.
Journey To Babel: Outside of Nimoy himself, no one has given the Vulcan mythology more than D. C. Fontana. Here she gives Spock parents. Mark Lenard would go on to star in several of the films, once even as a Klingon. He would develop a close relationship with Picard in another generation. The murder mystery is almost forgotten.
A Piece Of The Action: Mobsters and Star Trek. How can you go wrong? This was another episode once considered to be followed up in a film. I really would have loved to see how that would have played out. Who can forget Kirk’s driving? When Kirk decides to get into character, it’s Shatner gold. Ask him, he’ll tell you himself. As kids we struggled to learn the game fizzbin, except when it was dark…on Tuesday.
The Omega Glory: I used the last 5 minutes of this episode in my honors American Government classes as a teacher. It’s priceless and quite appropriate for today when Kirk admonishes White Cloud for speaking the “sacred words” so badly and without meaning.
The Immunity Syndrome: A giant space cell. Are you kidding? Someone was really running out of ideas here. It does manage a touching Spock/McCoy moment, but it is the dumbest episode I’ve seen.
The Gamesters Of Triskelion: OK, so it features the only appearance of a porn star on a Trek episode. If that’s a highlight, you really have to worry. Of course, Kirk needs to teach her about love. When they fight on the patterned floor, no one ever even follows the rules. You can see combatants touching each other’s color all the time. They needed to put up a lethal force field. That would show them. Finally Kirk gets out of it by placing a bet?
The Apple: What’s with the white hair? The god looks like the entrance to an Expo show I once attended. Kirk conviently forgets about that pesky prime directive… again. Another episode where Kirk has to give some love lessons.
The Deadly Years: A pretty good episode at times, but get a look at that makeup. I know this was the late 60’s, but look at Planet Of The Apes or the earlier Universal Jack Pierce works. This looks like they spilled liquid latex over their heads.
Patterns Of Force/ Bread And Circuses: Aren’t these the same episode?
Return To Tomorrow: Good episode. Ugly? One word. Diana Muldaur. She’s Aunt Esther ugly.
Each episode of the series is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. You get a very sweet 1080p image arrived at through a VC-1 codec. Colors jump out like they have never before. I noticed details that I’ve been missing for over 40 years. I’ve seen these episodes hundreds of times, and I couldn’t help feeling like I was actually seeing them for the first time. Reds were particularly blazing for the first time ever. The new f/x shots blended in perfectly and exhibited an appropriate picture quality. The f/x were clear and clean, but yet made to look like the original film stock. I saw sashes on the guards in Friday’s Child I never knew existed before. Each has their own color, and they really have color. Gone are some of the print flaws from earlier releases. The transfers are very clean. If for no other reason, you need to see Star Trek in a form that was never possible before even in first run broadcast. These episodes leap at you at warp speed.
The DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track is an awesome upgrade here. Again the key is that it does not impose itself as a distraction. The surround mix is negligible enough to fit in with what we remember while adding more on the dynamic side rather than any kind of aggressive mix. When the ship appears for the menu screen, you’ll hear sub response that I just never connected with the original show. The dialog has been obviously enhanced by the new mix with good results. The iconic incidental music is better than ever before. You get everything you’re used to, but better, in this audio presentation.
This 6 disc set contains a few extras to be found spread throughout. You get the original “next week on Star Trek” promos that were packaged with the episodes on laser. These are not remastered, so if you want to see what a truly remarkable job was done here, just check out these promos. Each disc is BDLive loaded. Paramount has done a superb job of continually providing BDLive content. Keep your eyes out for some sweet specials.
I will break down each disc for you and talk about this wealth of extras in some detail.
As for the resolution: Each maintains a VC-1 codec and at times the bit rate appears to enter HD territory, but they look pretty much like SD transfers.
Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest – Rare Home Movies And Special Memories Part 2: (12:07) That’s a long name. Billy was for Star Trek what in baseball you’d call a utility player. He appeared in many episodes in a variety of roles, usually not speaking. He often could be found at the helm when Chekhov or Sulu needed a break. He wore monster masks and often appeared as background aliens in many episodes. During his time on the set he took a lot of 16mm footage that supplies some rather nice moments for fans. You get to see costume and makeup tests, because Billy was also the test dummy for the show.
This entire disc is dedicated to Tribbles.
Star Trek Animation Episode – More Trouble More Tribbles: (24:13) The crew meet up with Cyrano Jones and Klingon Koloth again along with more tribbles in this, the first animated episode.
DS9 Episode – Trials And Tribbleations: (45:30) This was, of course, the DS9 episode that took that crew back in time to interact with the events of the original episode. It was an anniversary tribute.
Trials And Tribbleations – Uniting 2 Legends: (16:53) The DS9 cast and crew mostly glow about how cool it was to revisit the original show. The clips are from the time of the episode production as most of the actors are in character costume and makeup. It’s a love fest for about 17 minutes.
Trials And Tribbleations – An Historic Endeavor: (16:32) This overlaps considerably with the previous feature and is simply more footage and sound bites.
Star Trek TOS on Blu-ray: (10:04) Niel R. Wray, Denise and Michael Okuda, and Dave Rossi all worked on the f/x remaster of these episodes. They gather and talk about the new f/x and the toggle option available on these Blu-ray releases. David Gerrold, who wrote the famous Tribbles episode, joins for the last 3 minutes, and he’s brought along a few furry friends.
Boldly Go…Season 2: (19:32) Cast and crew are featured in interviews from around 2003-4. The center of talk is, of course, the second season episodes. Favorites and fond memories are explored. Shatner has an obvious head cold and sniffles himself through the footage.
Designing The Final Frontier – Matt Jeffries: (22:19) Matt Jeffries was the man responsible for much of The Enterprise’s original design. His name lives on in the “Jeffries Tube” which describes work spaces were ship’s wiring and engineering work is done to this day. Even at NASA the term has caught on for crawlspaces on spacecraft. This is intended more as a tribute to Matt than anything else, and is well deserved. Most of you fans know this stuff, but it’s nice to revisit many of the set design tricks like soda cup lids on display panels.
Writer’s Notebook: (7:35) D.C. Fontana is featured here. She was once just a secretary to Roddenberry but became invaluable to him in writing Star Trek. She ended up the script supervisor and is most responsible for Vulcan lore. She talks mostly here about working around various script problems in her years at Star Trek.
Star Trek’s Favorite Moments: (17:10) Cast and crew from the other versions of Star Trek talk about their earliest memories of the original show and its influence on them.
Life Beyond Trek – Leonard Nimoy:(12:02) This is one of the most intimate Nimoy clips I’ve ever seen. He talks about his photography and some basic philosophical stuff. It’s a bit morbid as he shows us that he carries around a countdown clock that based on actuarial tables, tells him how many days, hours, and seconds he likely has to live. At just under 12 minutes, this could have been much longer and still been great.
Kirk, Spock, and Bones – Star Trek’s Great Trio:(7:10) I’ve always said this was the heart of Star Trek. It’s also nice to see Kelley get so much credit here. A very nice tribute.
Star Trek’s Divine Diva – Nichelle Nichols: (13:04) She was the strongest black female character on television in her time. She was once implored by Martin Luther King himself to remain on the show when she considered leaving after one season. We get a nice look at both Nichols the actress and her alter ego: Uhura. She talks about the character’s back story and how the name evolved.
I keep looking forward to these releases. It’s kind of funny that I have more anticipation for a 40 year old television series on high definition than some of the f/x marvel blockbusters. Star Trek just got it right. It was always about characters. Everything else was just icing on the cake. Season 3 will not be long to follow this release and I look forward to having the complete series in high definition. There will also be many great BDLive events that I’m sure will make this purchase even more of a value for your money. You can count on us to keep you posted when these events are announced. Once the films and original series are completed, my sources tell me to look for The Next Generation to start sometime late next year. There is even some word at the Paramount Rumor Mill that these episodes might also get an f/x upgrade and even be converted to widescreen. It’s all rumor right now, but Paramount has a lot of Star Trek to churn out Blu-ray revenue from. So, even without the upgrades I’m confident that The Next Generation will soon make it to Blu-ray. “To deny the facts would be illogical.”