Volumen 11 Volumen 12

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson


Paramount, standard 1.33:1, languages: English DD 5.1 [CC], subtitles: English, single side-single layer, 16 chapters, Original Broadcast Preview Trailers, rated NR, 100 min., $19.99 ea., street date 5/23/2000.

Studio Line

Volume 11: Tomorrow Is Yesterday (Episode 21 / Stardate: 3113.2 / Airdate: January 26, 1967) The U.S.S. Enterprise hurled back in time! When a black star sends the U.S.S. Enterprise backward in time to the 20th century, the starship is spotted as a UFO. Air Force captain John Christopher's jet is accidentally destroyed, and Kirk is forced to beam him aboard. How can Kirk return the pilot to Earth, yet still manage to return to the future without changing history?

The Return Of The Archons (Episode 22 / Stardate: 3156.2 / Airdate: February 9, 1967) Group mind control threatens the U.S.S. Enterprise crew! When the U.S.S. Enterprise visits Beta III to learn what happened to the U.S.S. Archon a century ago, Kirk and company find a planet of blissful people controlled by "Landru," an omniscient ruler. Landru absorbed the Archons into "the Body" -- a fate that awaits Kirk's crew unless he can find a way to destroy Landru. And he'd better hurry -- the U.S.S. Enterprise is being pulled from orbit!

Volume 12: A Taste Of Armageddon (Episode 23 / Stardate: 3192.1 / Airdate: February 23, 1967) The U.S.S. Enterprise is declared a war casualty! Kirk is warned not to approach Eminiar VII, but Ambassador Robert Fox (Gene Lyons) insists they continue on course to establish diplomatic contact. There they learn that war has raged between Eminiar VII and nearby Vendikar for 500 years -- a war fought by computers! Whenever a "hit" is proclaimed, citizens dutifully march to desintegration machines. When the computer declares the U.S.S. Enterprise "destroyed," Kirk and company are taken hostage, and ordered to face death!

Space Seed (Episode 24 / Stardate: 3141.9 / Airdate: February 16, 1967) Meet the original Khan! The U.S.S. Enterprise encounters the S.S. Botany Bay, a 20th century Earth "sleeper ship" adrift in space. The leader of the surviving crew, Khan Noonian Singh (Ricardo Montalban) is revived and immediately plots to take over the U.S.S. Enterprise! A product of the 1990s race of genetically engineered "supermen," Khan has extraordinary powers, both mental and physical. Will they prove too much for Kirk? This episode led to the sequel movie Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan.

Picture/Sound/Extras Volume 11 & 12 (C/B/D-)

To quote a character from another famous series with "star" in its title: "Yippee!" Yes, we've received more Star Trek: The Original Series DVDs, and I'm darned happy about it. When I first began this on-going series of reviews, I felt some ambivalence toward the task; I wanted to do it but I lacked a lot of passion. As additional DVDs appear, however, I find myself more interested in the series and more excited about the continuation.

The only disappointing aspect of these reviews is the knowledge that it'll be another month and a half until the next batch arrives. (July 11 looks to be a big day for Trek fans: four more ST:TOS episodes and the greatly-anticipated DVD release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Yippee again!)

This latest bunch of DVDs prepares us nicely for that big day; it features four strong episodes, including the one that prepares us for Star Trek II. But I'm getting ahead of myself; that information will have to wait for the appropriate DVD. So without any further ado, here are my impressions of the newest ST:TOS DVDs.

(Please note that the DVDs present the shows in the order in which they were filmed; the broadcast number provided indicates where each episode falls within that line.)

Volume 11: "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" and "The Return of the Archons"

"Tomorrow Is Yesterday" (broadcast 19th) presents what I believe was the first-ever time travel episode of Trek. In this one, the Enterprise is sucked into a "black star" and gets zipped back to the late 1960s. They're spotted by military planes and ultimately need to transport an Air Force captain (Roger Perry) aboard the ship. The dilemma becomes one of deciding what to do with him, since it seems problematic to send him back to Earth when he knows so much about the future.

The fun of this story is watching the crew work through this problem. The plot becomes rather convoluted at times - as is almost a given for time travel stories - but it provides a lively and creative background for the show. You know that eventually a workable and satisfactory solution will be found, but the pleasure comes from piecing our way through the options along with the crew. Some aspects of the time travel plot trip things up from time to time, but for the most part, "TIY" offers a delightful episode.

I found it interesting to note just how much of this show presaged Star Trek IV. This occurs in the obvious ways - both involve time travel to then-contemporary parts of the 20th century - but also enters the equation in some less evident aspects of the show. The technique used to travel back to the crew's present is essentially the same in both "TIY" and STIV, and both also concern the possibility of altering the future through corruption of the past. (STIV treats this much more cavalierly, especially during the "transparent aluminum" scene.)

Normally I don't come down too hard on the effects of ST:TOS; they look weak by our standards, but seem serviceable for the most part. Those of "TIY", however, appeared especially bad, even by mid-Sixties standards. This occurs mainly because the effects folks had the challenge of depicting the Enterprise against a blue sky; previously, it had appeared in front of the blackness of space. The experiment doesn't work, as the "Earth's atmosphere" Enterprise looks tremendously fake and never seems to move, even when we're told it's cruising at an incredible rate.

Frankly, these poor effects were the worst part of the episode and did the most to harm it. Happily, they couldn't kill it; warts and all, "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" offers a very strong Trek show.

"The Return of the Archons" (broadcast 21st) provides about three-fourths of a good episode. During those parts, we're treated to a nice detective story as Kirk and company attempt to get to the heart of an omniscient being called "Landru" who controls a population of outwardly-blissful but zombie-fied people. Most of the show moved at a nice pace and kept me interested and curious, but the ending completely collapsed.

This occured because too much of the story happened for no apparent reason and remained left unexplained. Early on we see an chaotic event called "Festival", which is the only time in which the calm disappears. It's clear that Landru controls this, but why? Maybe I blacked out and missed something, but this aspect of the story is never explained and never made sense to me.

Plenty of other parts of "TROTA" go similarly by the wayside, though this doesn't present a problem until the ending. That's when the preceding carelessness causes the story's fissures and the climax fizzles. I still found enough of "TROTA" to like to make it worth watching, but that ending left a bad taste in my mouth.

More bad special effects also mar this episode. The Enterprise is back in outer space - where more flaws can be hidden - but some problems still appear, such as when the ship is being affected by Landru; the expected impact of the attacks seems nonexistent. I also noted some poor use of fake rocks as Kirk and friends attempt to escape the insanity of "Festival"; they bounce harmlessly off the fleeing crew men and don't seem terribly heavy.

Perhaps some may think it's unfair of me to come down so hard on the effects of the last two episodes considering the then-current state of technology, but I don't do so consistently; my other Trek reviews lacked these criticisms. I only mention the problems with the shows on Volume 11 because they seem weak even compared to other episodes of ST:TOS.

Volume 12: "A Taste of Armageddon" and "The Space Seed"

"A Taste of Armageddon" (broadcast 23rd)

Trek doesn't have a great record for predicting the future - as we'll see in "Space Seed" - but "A Taste of Armageddon" (broadcast 23rd) - does sort of foreshadow the invention of the neutron bomb.

A diplomatic mission sends the crew of the Enterprise to Eminiar VII, a planet that's supposed to be "off limits"; Ambassador Fox (Gene Lyons) insists that they ignore that status in an attempt to establish diplomatic contact. Inevitably, it turns out there was a good reason this planet was on the "stay away" list: they've been at war for 500 years with another planet called Vendikar.

Also inevitably - since it's Trek - this is no ordinary war. Instead of normal weapons attacks, this fight occurs through computers which simulate effects and then report casualties. Anyone who would have been hit in a real attack then has to report for "disintegration".

This reminded me an awful lot of the "clean wars" the neutron bomb was supposed to allow; the participants in this conflagration stick with the technique since it "only" kills people and allows the infrastructures of society to continue. The warring factions don't suspect the price they have to pay for such "progress", and it's up to our crew to teach them.

"ATOA" offers a fast-paced and dramatic episode of Trek. Of course we know that our heroes will escape annihilation, but this show makes it even more interesting than usual to watch how it occurs. I found the program to provide unusually thought-provoking material as well, since it concerns the nature of warfare itself and depicts the drawbacks to apparently "civilized" forms of battle. "ATOA" kept me involved and stimulated from beginning to end; it's a strong episode.

"Space Seed" (broadcast 22nd) has the biggest reputation of these four episodes, and is one of the best known of all 79 Trek shows since it connects to 1982's film STII. Overall, "SS" presents a good program but I must admit I found it a little disappointing, probably because of the high expectations its history engendered in me.

In "SS", the Enterprise encounters a derelict ship from the 20th century with faint signs of life aboard. These turn out to be its crew, most notably including their leader, Khan (Ricardo Montalban). McCoy revives Khan (and eventually the other survivors) and we slowly see his story unfold and learn of his quest for power.

"SS" works well overall, and proceeds at a nice clip. As with many Trek episodes, much of it is predictable - let's see a show of hands for anyone who thought Lt. McGivers (Madlyn Rhue) would last for more than just this episode - but it's fun to see how the events unfold. As with James Bond films, the most enjoyment from Trek revolves around how our heroes will escape apparently impossible situations. "SS" is a minor disappointment in that regard; I don't want to reveal the climax, but I thought it lacked cleverness and ended the tale on a bland note.

The show's finale also revealed one of the worst stunt doubles I've yet seen. Oh, he's a fine stunt man, but he looks little like William Shatner, and the guy appears on screen in many shots that make it absurdly obvious we aren't seeing Shatner; they did a terrible job of cutting around his face and hiding his true identity.

Despite some flaws, I liked "Space Seed" and I'll probably think more highly of it when I watch it again. I can't recall if I ever saw this episode prior to the release of the DVD, but if I did, it happened so long ago that it's irrelevant; for all intents and purposes, I viewed "SS" for the first time tonight. It's a good episode, but the Khan connection demands that it be great, and it doesn't quite reach that level.

(As for the event "SS" predicted that never happened? A world war in the 1990s. I guess you can't win them all!)

These Star Trek episodes appear in their original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1; because of those dimensions, they have not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions.

In regard to picture quality, both volumes present images that pretty closely match those seen on prior ST:TOS DVDs. That means while they look much better than one might expect, their overall quality seems fairly average when compared to other programs from the time period.

Sharpness usually looks pretty good, but quite a few scenes appear fairly soft, especially during "SS". The show's directors loved to use soft-focus on the lead actresses, and since Madlyn Rhue gets a lot more screentime than typically afforded these one-show wonders, that means we see a lot of that kind of image. Oddly, a fair amount of softness affects other scenes as well in all the episodes; somewhat wide shots appear hazier than they should. In general, focus is not an issue and most of the scenes look pretty clear, but many don't seem as crisp as they should.

Moiré effects are mainly a concern during "A Taste of Armageddon"; the interiors of Eminiar and the clothes of some of its inhabitants often feature lots of thin horizontal lines, which can strobe slightly. To be honest, however, this concern seemed less significant than it could have been, and the shimmering appears fairly minimal. The other three episodes have very brief instances of moiré effects, but not to noteworthy degrees.

Jagged edges pop up occasionally during moving images. Outer space shots of the Enterprise in flight display the most problems in this regard; the edges of the ship often present that "serrated" impression. Other than those times, however, "jaggies" seem of little concern.

Print flaws appeared less apparent than on many of the prior Trek DVDs. Frankly, the shows look surprisingly clean. Grain seemed most problematic during "Tomorrow Is Yesterday". This occurred primarily because of the extensive use of stock footage; we find those kinds of shots of fighter planes and other military components and they appear in bad shape. Though the rest of the episode looks much cleaner, I still thought it seemed grainier than most other Treks. The other three display intermittent grain - still most prominent during effects shots - and some light speckling at times but largely were clean.

Colors reflect the high-intensity hues seen on the other DVDs; Trek played up the fact it was a "full color" show and many of the tones go for bright and bold colors. While these sometimes seem quite brilliant, they come across as blotchy and vague much of the time; the intensity appears too much for the film to handle and the result looks decent but uncertain. Black levels appeared unusually good during these DVDs, as I witnessed some deep and dark tones, mainly exhibited through the clothing of characters. Trek generally stays too brightly-lit for shadow detail to be much of an issue, but when those situations occur, the images seem appropriately heavy but not overly opaque.

Despite these criticisms, I remain happy with the picture quality of the DVDs. I'd guess they received some rough treatment over the years - it clearly took a lot of time before Paramount realized how valuable a franchise it was - so it's remarkable they've held up so well. Objectively, they present a lot of problems, but subjectively, they seem very good.

My praise for the newly-mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks of all these episodes is much less equivocal. Put simply, they sound absolutely great. For material the age of Trek, these mixes really do sound good.

This audio comes from original monaural tracks. The soundfield remains pretty heavily oriented toward the center, but it has been opened up quite a bit. Many sounds come from the front right and left channels, and we also hear occasional activity from the rears. The surrounds often give off some good ambient information - like the hum of the Enterprise - and split surround usage occurs on occasion, such as when the ship flies by or when a phaser blast heads to one side. No one will mistake these tracks for recent efforts, but the effect works quite well.

Even more pleasantly surprising is the good quality of the sound. Dialogue appears very clear and reasonably warm and natural, with absolutely no intelligibility problems. Music seems a bit flat but generally nice, and effects come across quite well for the most part. Although some distortion can interfere with effects, they're usually very clean and they even boast some good bass at times. Whoever remixed these suckers deserves a serious pat on the back; the results are fantastic.

The audio on Volumes 11 and 12 seems less involving than what I heard on some of the prior efforts but it remains terrific for the material. None of the four episodes offer any standout sound, although "TIY" comes close; some of the fighter jets fly past realistically and largely lack distortion. The other three shows seem good but not especially encompassing. Of course, I shouldn't ignore the "spoiling" factor; I've come to expect strong audio from these DVDs, so I get harder to please. When I try to examine them objectively, I award the soundtracks of these DVDs solid "B" ratings.

The only genuinely unsatisfying part of these DVDs stems from their lack of supplements. Each disc offers four "original broadcast preview trailers." These are one-minute ads that offered viewers a glimpse at what would happen on next week's show.

On each DVD, two of these trailers are readily found; when you highlight a particular episode from the main menu, the preview appears as an option on the next screen. However, in addition to ads for the two shows found on that DVD, trailers for the episodes on the next disc also appear. To see those, highlight and click on the Starfleet insignia at the top of the main menu. When you do that, you will gain access to all four trailers.

Other than these trailers, the DVDs are virtually devoid of extras. Each disc's booklet contains a few pictures, some trivia and production credits in addition to a DVD checklist; that beats a kick in the head but doesn't offer much extra value. The continuing nature of the series makes it harder to add in supplements - there'll be forty DVDs in all, and that would require a lot of content. Still, I can't help but feel something could have been added, whether interviews or publicity stills or even just talent files for guest stars; the world of Trek seems to wide to include so few extras.

Some of my past recommendations have been tepid because of a weak episode here or there, or due to a single DVD that includes two fair but unspectacular shows. This time my job appears easier. Volume 12 gets a strong recommendation, as both episodes included are very good and hold up well; it's a "must buy" for any Trek fan.

As for Volume 11, it still merits a look because of the excellent "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" but loses points for "The Return of the Archons", or at least for that show's last third; the first parts of that episode are pretty good, but it fades badly at the end. Nonetheless, I think Volume 11 also would find a happy home in your collection.

Related Sites

Current as of 6/5/2000

DVD MovieGuide: Star Trek - The Original Series--Visit our special coverage of the series on DVD. The section includes full sypnosis of each episode, reviews, recommendation to the best sites, and more.
Amazon.com--Purchase the Vol. 11 and Vol. 12 DVD at special discount.
Reel.com--Purchase the Vol. 11 and Vol. 12 at special discount.

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