“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 mix-ups 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.
Season three might have been the end of the original Star Trek, but it was certainly the beginning of something much larger than anything you will find in these discs. After over 500 hours of Star Trek out there, it isn’t over yet. The end really was just the beginning.
The Enterprise Incident: Spock and Kirk set out to steal a Romulan cloaking device. Spock has to seduce the Romulan Commander while Kirk masquerades as a Romulan. Good stuff.
Spectre Of The Gun: Sure, the story’s been done already a half dozen times, but look at how good the characters are in this one. It’s Star Trek and good old time Western shoot ‘em up. And Chekhov gets the girl this time.
The Tholian Web: Maybe one of the best Treks ever. Kirk’s final orders are one of the more tender McCoy/Spock moments. The Tholians should have been used more. They finally did show up on Enterprise.
For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky: A great McCoy episode, to be sure. The title is also one of the best lines spoken in a Trek episode.
Requiem For Methuselah: Shatner overacts badly here, but it’s one of the most original Trek episodes made. I did sense a bit of Forbidden Planet here, which is likely intentional, as Roddenberry has often credited that film as a major source of inspiration for Trek. Louise Sorel is also the most attractive of Kirk’s women.
All Our Yesteryears: I’m not sure why I like this one so much. I just do.
Spock’s Brain: Imagine Spock on a remote control device being led around in search of his brain. Wait a minute. You don’t have to.
And The Children Shall Lead: Didn’t we see the same episode in Miri? God, this one is awful.
Plato’s Stepchildren: Yes, I know this one is historic for having the first interracial kiss on television, but honestly, this one is severely bad. The Plutonians move the crew around like puppets. Too bad they couldn’t have exercised more control over the writers.
The Empath: Kelley considers this one of the show’s best. I know he plays a doctor, but that’s no excuse to self medicate. I love the late DeForest Kelley dearly, but this episode was slower than maple syrup poured on an Arctic stack of pancakes.
The Paradise Syndrome: Good enough story, but Shatner’s acting here is particularly ugly.
Is There No Truth In Beauty: Apparently not. Diane Muldaur and a shiny alien that makes you crazy. That’s like asking Aunt Esther the title question.
Turnabout Intruder: The episode that killed Trek. ‘Nough said.
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. 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.
You get all of the final season episodes on 6 Blu-ray discs. Each disc is BDLive capable. So far, there was only the content from the first two seasons available, but I suspect there will be much more.
The other extras can be found on the final 2 discs:
Life Beyond Trek – Walter Koenig: (10:49) SD Koenig shows us his remarkable collection of books and buttons. He talks about Trek’s impact on his life and his few other ventures into television and film. There must have been some rights issues as some of his collection appears blurred out.
Chief Engineer’s Log: (6:02) SD The late James Doohan talks about Trek and his own life. He explains how he lost his finger, something he and the Trek people worked hard at hiding over the years. I hadn’t known until I met him here in Tampa for a small gathering and shook his hand. It’s a bittersweet 6 minutes, as Doohan is quite frail and ill in the interviews. This was done very shortly before his death.
Memoirs From Mr. Sulu (8:33) SD: George Takei talks about his experiences on Star Trek. He also talks a lot about his Japanese heritage and time spent in a World War II internment camp. Trust me when I tell you these 9 minutes do not adequately cover the man’s topics. I’ve seen him speak on the matter extensively, and if you get the chance, so should you. It appears he’s still campaigning for the Captain Sulu television series he has been working for since I first met him in the early 90’s.
Captain’s Log – Bob Justman: (9:35) HD Like Matt Jeffries, Bob Justman was one of the moving forces behind Star Trek. He was responsible for bringing everything together and within budget. His influence can be felt through to today on the franchise, and this 9 minute feature is long overdue and is inadequate to do the late Trek production designer credit.
Where No Man Has Gone Before: (52:22) HD This is the second pilot for Star Trek. It eventually found its way as the third aired episode of the series. This is the unedited pilot version that was later edited to be an episode. The music is different. Each commercial break is marked by acts, as those Quinn Martin Productions were known for. It’s a very sweet extra, indeed.
The Cage: HD This is the original pilot. Every Trek fan knows the story by now. It is presented here for the first time with those new enhanced f/x.
David Gerrold Hosts 2009 Convention: (19:25) HD The Tribbles scribe shows us behind the scenes of the world of Star Trek conventions. Most of us have been to these, and he certainly finds the most bizarre stuff.
The Anthropology Of Star Trek: (4:14) HD A community college professor talks about Trek’s influence on our culture and development.
The World Of Rod: (7:14) HD Rod Roddenberry leads a 2009 Comic Con panel to tell us how much he respects his father’s dream and how it is currently being cared for.
Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest – Rare Home Movies And Special Memories Part 3: (10:53) HD 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. It’s part two, likely because the HD-DVD version contained the first in this series.
To Boldly Go – Season 3: (22:28) SD There’s talk about Roddenberry’s highly publicized departure as cast and crew examine the final year of the original show. The letter writing campaign is discussed, although Shatner, being his egomaniacal self, dismisses the letters as any significant impact on rescuing the show. This runs about 22 minutes.
Star Trek’s Impact: (8:54) SD This 9 minute feature is somewhat disappointing. Roddenberry’s son talks about Trek as though he had been actively involved in its creation, seeming to take credit for its themes and ideas. Phrases like “the Roddenberry philosophy” turned me off quite a bit. The feature really doesn’t even cover what the title implies it will.
Collectible Trek: (14:21) SD From action figures to authentic props, there’s no shortage of Trek paraphernalia out there. Anyone who has been to a convention has seen most of this stuff.
With the original series finally finished along with the films on high definition, what’s next for the franchise? My sources tell me that The Next Generation will be making it to Blu-ray at some point. The real question is whether we’ll see an f/x make-over as we did here, or if they’ll be satisfied to just remaster what is already there. I’m told there are factions on both sides of the argument. Here’s hoping that we’ll see Picard, Data and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise D sooner rather than later in high definition. Anything else would be “illogical”.