Star Trek appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the old Trek transfers looked pretty good, these new ones showed notable improvements.
I saw a definite step up in terms of sharpness. Only a smidgen of softness ever materialized through the shows. Instead, they almost always looked crisp and well-defined. Jagged edges and shimmering remained minor, and edge enhancement created no significant concerns.
More improvements came from the quality of the source material. I thought the old DVDs could be a bit dirty at times, but the new ones seemed very clean. Grain remained somewhat heavy, but that stemmed from the original prints. A few minor defects still cropped up, but these were quite minor and rarely became a distraction.
Colors looked very good. “The Original Series” went with a dynamic palette, and the DVD made the tones seem lively and bright. These seemed tighter than during the prior discs, as the hues looked distinctive and full. Blacks also appeared dark and dense, while shadows looked clear and smooth. Objectively, I didn’t think the visuals were quite impressive enough to make it to “A”-level, but they easily earned a “B+”. The episodes presented very nice transfers that were significant improvements over the old DVDs.
As for the remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks of all these episodes, they seemed very similar to those heard on the prior releases. And that was fine with me since they sounded great. Because I grade audio on an age-related curve, don't confuse the "B+" of these shows with a "B+" for a more recent production; the two don't compare. However, for material the age of Trek, these mixes really did sound fantastic.
The audio came from the monaural tracks of the original. The soundfield remained pretty heavily oriented toward the center, but it opened up quite a bit. Many sounds came from the front right and left channels, and we also heard occasional activity from the rears. The surrounds often gave off some good ambient information - like the hum of the Enterprise - and split surround usage occurred 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 effects worked quite well.
Even more pleasantly surprising was the good quality of the sound. Dialogue appeared very clear and reasonably warm and natural, with absolutely no intelligibility problems. Music seemed a bit flat but generally nice, and effects came across quite well for the most part. Although some distortion could interfere with effects, they're usually very clean and they even boasted some good bass at times. Whoever remixed these suckers deserves a serious pat on the back; the results were very positive.
To summarize in terms of comparisons with the old DVDs, I thought that the audio remained essentially the same; they re-recorded the theme song, but the rest seemed identical. The new package did present considerably improved visuals. The new discs looked sharper, brighter, cleaner and better defined. I felt pretty impressed with these updated transfers.
When we look at the extras here, what you find will depend on your system. This 10-disc set comes as a combination SD-DVD/HD-DVD package, and some of the supplements are available only to those with HD-DVD playback capability. I’ll look at the SD-DVD pieces first and then relate what HD-DVD exclusives appear – and what seems to have gone missing from the prior Season One set. I’ll note new extras with an asterisk, so if you don’t see a star, the component appeared on the old release as well.
On DVD One, we find a new featurette called *Spacelift: Transporting Trek Into the 21st Century. This 20-minute and six-second piece mixes show clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from CBS/Paramount Senior VP David LaFountaine, CBS/Paramount TV HD Mastering Director David S. Grant, CBS/Paramount Mastering Executive Consultant Ryan D. Adams, digital colorist Don Freeman, digital restoration artist Mark DiMambro, visual effects artist Michael Carter, author/soundtrack historian Jon Burlingame, conductor Greg Smith, VFX line producers Michael Okuda and David Rossi, associate producer Robert H. Justman and VFX associate producer Denise Okuda.
“Spacelife” looks at clean-up work done for the new transfers, audio elements and the re-recording of the music, and the updated visual effects. Inevitably, this kind of program comes across as self-congratulatory since it relates how wonderful the new work was. That attitude did exist, but I didn’t mind it since the show offered good info about the changes made for these DVDs. The details about new effects are especially useful since we get some good comparison shots.
DVD One opens with an ad for the Twin Peaks boxed set. This also appears in the Previews area along with a promo for various Trek series
For a look at the show’s creation, we head to DVD Two’s The Birth of a Timeless Legacy. It fills 24 minutes and 13 seconds as we see show clips, archival materials, and interviews both recent and older. We discover notes from creator/executive producer Gene Roddenberry, producer Robert Justman, associate producer John DF Black, secretary Mary Black, story editor/writer DC Fontana, and actors William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, James Doohan and Nichelle Nichols. We mostly get general production notes about the series’ start, shooting two pilots, casting and recasting, character development, and various bits of trivia like the creation of Spock’s ears. Trek fans won’t find anything revelatory here, but it’s a fairly decent overview of the series’ beginnings.
During DVD Three’s Reflections on Spock, we take 12 minutes and 12 seconds to get more notes from Nimoy. He talks about the reasons for the character’s popularity as well as the public perception that he hates the role. That latter topic informs much of the program as he explains his attitude and discusses his book I Am Not Spock, which he believes is the main reason for the misperception. Nimoy continues to be interesting and open as he helps make this another good featurette.
Next we get DVD Four’s Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner. In this 10-minute and 27-second piece, we hear from the actor and his wife Elizabeth as they chat about their mutual love of horse riding. Horse trainer Danny Gerardi also offers some comments about Shatner. On the surface, a featurette about Shatner’s hobby sounds pretty dull, but in reality… well, it’s actually just as boring as I thought. Maybe somebody out there’s interested to hear about how much Shatner loves horse, but I’m not that person, and I found nothing compelling in this featurette.
DVD Five’s To Boldly Go… Season One presents an 18-minute and 59-second featurette. We find more information from Nimoy, Justman, Shatner, Takei, John DF Black, and actors Ricardo Montalban and William Campbell. We get some particulars about the episodes “Man Trap”, “The Naked Time”, “Devil in the Dark”, “The Menagerie”, “Space Seed”, “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “The Squire of Gothos” as well as remarks about the series’ fight sequences. It’s a very good program, and Nimoy presents the best information of the bunch. He presents great details about some shows plus some funny anecdotes. I also like the notes from the guest actors, and all of that adds up to a fine featurette.
As we move to DVD Six, Sci-Fi Visionaries fills 16 minutes, 39 seconds. Shatner, Roddenberry, Fontana, Justman, John DF Block, and Mary Black. They discuss the desire to use noted science fiction writers instead of just TV writers, the manner in which scripts were developed, the notions behind the series’ concepts, and character issues and growth. The Blacks dominate this one, as they offer lots of good notes on the writers’ side of things. It’s a compelling and informative discussion.
Shifting to DVD Seven, we come upon *Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories. This 13-minute and 22-second collection provides comments from actor Billy Blackburn along with his reminiscences about working on the series as tertiary character Lt. Hadley and other parts; Blackburn also played roles like the White Rabbit from “Shore Leave” and the Gorn from “Arena”. We also get to see some of the silent 8mm film Blackburn shot on the set. The actor provides some interesting notes about his time on the series, and the footage proves fun to see.
Two components pop up on DVD Eight. *Kiss ‘n’ Tell: Romance in the 23rd Century goes for eight minutes, 34 seconds as it features Shatner, Fontana, Nimoy, Nichols, Takei and actor Walter Koenig. “Romance” looks at the various love interests across Trek. We get some minor insights from those involved, but the show’s too brief to prove terribly involving.
*Trekker Connections runs three minutes, 57 seconds. It provides a “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” style game in which you need to connect Trek actors. It’s moderate fun at best.
No SD-DVD extras appear on DVD Nine, but DVD Ten includes two pieces. A documentary called *Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier lasts one hour, 29 minutes and 58 seconds as it includes info from Nimoy, Nichols, Takei, Justman, Mike and Denise Okuda, producer Rick Berman, CBS/Paramount TV executive VP Communications John Wentworth, writer/producer Brandon Braga, Christie’s International Managing Director Lisa King, Christie’s COO Andy Foster, Christie’s Director of Iconic Collections Cathy Elkies, Christie’s Head of Entertainment Memorabilia Helen Bailey, production designer Herman Zimmerman, Christie’s art handler Alec Bennie, Star Trek: Enterprise associate producer Dave Rossi, costume designer Bob Blackman, makeup designer and supervisor Michael Westmore, Christie’s art handlers Ian Wilkie and Alec Bennie, Christie’s art photographer Stephen Arnold, series creator’s son Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, Christie’s business manager iconic collections Ginette Lospinoso, Christie’s auction administrator Kate Brambilla, and actors Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew, Jonathan Frakes, Avery Brooks, Marina Sirtis, Garrett Wang, and Armin Shimerman.
If you expect a concise history of Trek from “Frontier”, you’ll leave here disappointed. The show gives us some basics about the various series and elements such as costumes and makeup, but the vast majority of the program examines a big Christie’s auction of Trek props. Some of our glimpses of these pieces can be fun, but the emphasis on Trek praise and happy talk gets old. I like some of the series-related comments such as the actors’ notes about costumes, but there’s not a lot here to keep us interested over 90 minutes.
DVD Ten also features a *Star Trek Online Game Preview. During this three-minute and 27-second clip, we hear from art director Greg Faillace, concept artist Robert Brown, concept artist John Eaves, and executive producer Daron Stinnett. They tell us what to expect from this upcoming game and we see concept art designs. That means no actual glimpses of game play, which is too bad, because it’d at least be moderately interesting to check out how the thing will look. As it stands, this is a dull ad.
Returning from the prior discs, we get preview trailers for each of the 29 shows. Each of these provides a minute-long teaser for the show in question. As you might expect, they’re spread across all 10 DVDs.
What goodies will the HD-DVD folks find that the SD-DVD peons can’t access? Seven episodes feature “Starfleet Access”, a kind of interactive commentary. Apparently it uses video footage and other elements in a form of picture-in-picture setting. I believe those programs are the only HD-exclusive elements here.
What components from the old Season One set go missing here? In addition to a 40-still “Photo Log” and some Easter eggs, we lose four text commentaries. Or maybe not – it’s possible that the text material appears during those HD-DVD elements. However, since I’m one of those SD-DVD peons, I can’t say either way. I think it’s a lame omission to drop already-existing text commentaries from the SD side of things.
Easily one of the most popular and important TV series of all-time, Star Trek started well and presented a good initial batch of shows, as evidenced on this Season One set of The Original Series. All 29 episodes pop up here, and while some of them fare less well than others, they offer a fine conglomeration of intriguing and inventive science fiction. The DVDs give us strong picture quality along with very solid audio and a decent roster of extras.
The Original Series remains my favorite of the Trek programs, and I definitely recommend this Season One package of the show. The question becomes who should buy this pricey release. If you lack any prior “TOS” release, this one is probably the way to go. It’s more expensive than the old Season One set, but it provides definite picture improvements and is the best version of the series.
Are those visual improvements worth an upgrade for those who do own the old package? Probably not, especially if you only have SD-DVD capabilities and don’t plan for that to change soon – or ever. I do think the new set looks better, but the old episodes were acceptably attractive, and this release costs too much for me to advocate a re-purchase given the decent quality of the old one. If you can make use of the HD side, though, it becomes significantly more appealing. Overall, this is a nice release, but the high cost makes it more difficult for me to offer a whole-hearted recommendation.
To rate this film visit the original review of STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES (SEASON ONE)