Star Trek: The Original Series: Season One (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 12 Min Read

Review by: Daniel Pulliam

Plot: What’s it about?

The year was 1966. This was the tumultuous decade of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and a little thing called the Apollo program. In short, “Star Trek” arrived at just the proper point when American pop culture was quite literally primed to embrace it. People were war-weary and uncertain of what the future held for the country?or the world. And yet, even in the face of so much upheaval, there was also an almost limitless optimism that was also beginning to take hold. As we began to look toward a journey to the moon and to the exploration of space, we necessarily began to see the human species in a new and quite different way. I didn’t grow up in the sixties, but I can imagine that these conflicting events spurred a conflicting sense of self in all of us. It might possibly have been one of the best decades to live through if one were to test whether they were an optimist or a cynic. Were we on the verge of destroying ourselves as a nation and as a people ? or was this just the first transformative step of a new and brighter future for all of mankind? Looking back now, it’s rather hard to imagine just how overwhelming that sense of disillusionment must have felt 43 years ago. Or perhaps not so much.

I would guess that one person who made a definitive decision about the eventual progression of the human species around this time was Gene Roddenberry, and out of that almost infectious certainty of better days to come came “Star Trek”. What might seem to some today little more than a campy, hokey series was, at the time, quite the personal statement of just what those better days might someday entail. It envisioned new technological achievements, matched by an evolution of our sense of community, exploration, and self-discovery. Indeed, unlike the slew of series that succeeded it, The Original Series showed us humans who had most (if not all) of the answers. Gene created something special out of what was ? at times literally ? just a series of cardboard sets and (arguably) cardboard acting. If Trek doesn’t fill us today with the same sense of wonder and awe that it must have instilled in those who tuned in for that first season so many years ago, it’s likely again a mere reflection of the times we live in today. We’ve lost much of that sense of ourselves that Roddenberry tried so expertly to channel into his most successful creation, and that’s the real tragedy ? and the real legacy ? of a show that’s still watched and adored by millions.

“Star Trek” would go on to last a mere three seasons on network television. It’s a testimony to the spirit infused into it by each and every person who had a hand in its creation that it continues to endure more than four decades later. It may be a bit silly in some respects, but it’s only that way when you view it with the world-weary eyes so many of us see things through these days. The darker reality becomes, the more reward I find in revisiting these episodes, if only to remember how brilliant a future we could all have should we choose to fully embrace it as a people. We obviously won’t find ourselves travelling around in starships or debating logic with Mr. Spock, but we can all aspire to something more – just as the (still) diverse crew of the USS Enterprise did all the way back in 1966. There’s far more to see here than questionable props and silly-looking costumes. It’s a look back at a future we once thought ourselves capable of achieving. It’s a vision that simply never gets old. Perhaps that’s why “Star Trek” has remains as relevant today as it ever was. Just ask J.J. Abrams.

Video: How does it look?

Paramount brings us “Star Trek” in a gloriously-realized 1080p transfer. Thank God this series, unlike its immediate successors, was edited entirely on film. Pillarboxed on both sides to accommodate the series’ original 4:3 television composition, “Star Trek” undoubtedly looks far better here than it did when it first aired, and not just because our displays are so much better, either. A great deal of loving care has been afforded these restorations, and that care is evident in virtually every frame. Colors are particularly vibrant and strong without a hint of bleeding. Detail is likewise striking and eye-catching on a surprisingly regular basis. Things like clothing textures, individual strands of hair, and yes, even the sometimes less-than-convincing makeup on the actors’ faces are on full display here in high definition. Blacks are also notably strong, giving the entire show a real three-dimensional pop missing even on many, more recent transfers. Obviously, the newer effects shots are going to look cleaner and crisper than everything else, but it’s hardly distracting enough to mention. And while the occasional piece of dirt may crop up now and again, I really can’t find much fault with an otherwise stellar presentation. This is the kind of visual treat that will make you throw away your DVD’s and never think twice about the decision, and it’s a great indicator of the benefits that a format like Blu-ray can offer. While “Star Trek” is never going to look like something made in the 21st century, this series of transfers does one heck of a job doing the 23rd century proud.

Audio: How does it sound?

Likewise, the audio presentation for “Star Trek” is outstanding. While I’m not set up for 7.1, I was able to hear the DTS-MA track in 5.1, and it is really outstanding. Directionality is terrific, as is transparency. Obviously, the exterior Enterprise shots are what give your sub the most of a workout, but I was equally impressed at the quieter moments, the new mixes filling the sound field with an ambience not always felt on television or even feature films. Now, these tracks aren’t going to stand up to your latest and greatest action film (like ? ironically ? “Star Trek”), but for what they are, they truly are revelatory. Once again, this is an easy deciding factor when choosing to upgrade over the current DVD versions as this leaves those earlier editions in the dust. About the only issue I have with the audio is that it seems to have been mastered at an extremely low level. I had to increase the volume on my receiver about 10dB higher than I have it set on any other title to get the sound up to a comfortable listening level. It’s not a huge problem, but I do hope that Season 2 will correct the issue. An uncompressed PCM 2.0 Mono track is also available for purists who want to hear the audio as it was originally broadcast, which is quite a nice touch.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The first disc contains a “Starfleet Access” feature for the episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. This includes many Trek experts appearing throughout the show in a picture-in-picture window to discuss all aspects of the production. There’s also a text-based pop-up trivia track. Next is “Spacelift: Transporting ‘Trek’ Into the 21st Century”, a 20-minute featurette that looks at the restoration process that was used to clean up the video, score, and visual effects of the series. A trailer for the new “Star Trek” film is also housed on the first disc. Disc 3 also has a “Starfleet Access” feature, this time for “The Menagerie, Part 1” and “The Menagerie, Part 2”. Also on Disc 3 is the 12-minute “Reflections on Spock” in which Leonard Nimoy talks in-depth about his most famous screen character. On Disc 4 we have another “Starfleet Access” for “The Balance of Terror” and “Life Beyond ‘Trek:’ William Shatner” a 10-minute featurette centering on Shatner’s love of horses. Disc 5 contains two featurettes. The first, “To Boldly Go…Season One”, runs about 20 minutes and features the cast and crew sharing anecdotes about making the first season. The second, “The Birth of a Timeless Legacy”, runs 25 minutes is a look at how “Star Trek” was originally conceived and executed. On Disc 6 we get another “Starfleet Access” feature for “Space Seed.” Another featurette, called “Sci-Fi Visionaries” looks at the success of Trek within the science fiction genre. Also on this disc is the “Interactive Enterprise Inspection” feature which takes viewers on a tour of the inside a shuttlecraft and exterior the USS Enterprise. Disc 7 contains a “Starfleet Access” feature for “Errand of Mercy” and “Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories”, a 13-minute featurette that contains much previous-unseen behind-the-scene footage. Rounding out Disc 7 is “Kiss ‘N’ Tell: Romance in the 23rd Century”, which takes a look at the women of “Star Trek”. Also, every disc contains the original broadcast trailers for that disc’s series of episodes. BD-Live functionality is also included, with a few featurettes only accessible online. All in all, this is a pretty fantastic lineup of features sure to please even hardcore Trekkers.

Disc Scores