In 1966, Star Trek set out to boldly go where no series had gone before, beginning a three-year mission that led to a franchise that would last decades. Here at last is the first season of the original series all in one box, 29 episodes in their original broadcast order. That means starting with "The Man Trap," and soon followed by "Where No Man Has Gone Before," the second pilot filmed and the first one starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk. The many highlight episodes include "Balance of Terror" and "Errand of Mercy" (introducing, respectively, the Romulans and the Klingons), the two-part "The Menagerie" (which recycled footage from the original pilot, "The Cage," which featured Christopher Pike as the captain of the Enterprise and is not included in this set), "Space Seed" (introducing Ricardo Montalban's Khan character), and "The City of the Edge of Forever" (written by sci-fi giant Harlan Ellison and considered by many the best-ever episode of the series).
The first-season DVD set is supplemented by 80 minutes of featurettes incorporating 2003-04 interviews with Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, other cast members, and producers, and some 1988 footage of Gene Roddenberry. The longest (24 minutes) featurette, "The Birth of a Timeless Legacy," examines the two pilot episodes and the development of the crew. Slightly shorter are "To Boldly Go... Season One," which highlights key episodes, and "Sci-Fi Visionaries," which discusses the series' great science fiction writers (most famously in "The City of the Edge of Forever"). Shatner shows off his love of horses in "Life Beyond Trek," and, more interestingly, Nimoy debunks various rumors in "Reflections of Spock." As they've done for many of the feature-film special editions, Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda provide a pop-up text commentary on four of the episodes filled with history, trivia, and dry wit. It's the first commentary of any kind for a Star Trek TV show, but an audio commentary is still overdue. The technical specs are mostly the same as other Trek TV series--Dolby 5.1, English subtitles--but with the welcome addition of the episode trailers. The plastic case is an attempt to replicate some of the fun packaging of the series' European DVD releases, but it's a bit clunky, and the paper sleeve around the disc case seems awkward and crude. Still, the set is a vast improvement both in terms of shelf space and bonus features compared to the old two-episode discs, which were released before full-season boxed sets became the model for television DVDs. --David HoriuchiSeason Two
The most famous episode in franchise history, "The Trouble with Tribbles," is one of the highlights of the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series. A deserved classic, the humorous story centers on an ever-expanding mass of furry creatures that memorably rain themselves down on top of Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and into the middle of a Federation-Klingon showdown. It inspired one of the most memorable episodes in the spin-off series Deep Space Nine, "Trial and Tribble-ations." Also in the second season, the Vulcan culture of Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is fleshed out in "Amok Time" (in which Spock is faced with the possibility of killing his captain and friend) and "Journey to Babel" (introducing Spock's father, played by Mark Sarek, in what would turn out to be a long-recurring role). A new character, navigator Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), was introduced; his Monkees haircut was intended to appeal to the younger audience, but he was also a Russian, which at the height of the cold war reflected Gene Roddenberry's optimistic vision of a more enlightened future. Other social-commentary opportunities presented themselves in "The Omega Glory," "The Doomsday Machine," and "Assignment: Earth," the last also one of those periodic opportunities to scrimp on the budget by time-traveling to an earlier version of Earth. Another example was "A Piece of the Action," a comic episode set in the Roaring Twenties and memorable for, among other things, Kirk's teaching a made-up card game called Fizzbin. In other significant episodes, "I, Mudd" saw the return of the bounder from season 1, "The Changeling" was the original inspiration for the first Trek feature film a decade later, "Wolf in the Fold" (penned by the author of Psycho) provides an example of the series' great writing, and "Mirror, Mirror" introduced the concept of the parallel universe inhabited by vicious, amoral counterparts of the regular crew, another theme later borrowed (more than once, and to good emotional effect) by DS9.
On the DVD
The remastered episodes are the highlight of the 2008 second-season release; like in season one, the reworked visual effects might irk purists but are an improvement overall, and some of the space exteriors are very exciting. It's not in high definition, however; season one was released in 2007 on two-sided combination HD DVD and standard DVD discs, which are now obsolete. Season two mimics the packaging, but is only standard-definition DVD, not Blu-ray. The picture, while obviously not high-definition quality, is still much improved over the 2004 DVD release. Special features here mostly mirror that 2004 set: 80 minutes of featurettes ("To Boldly Go" season recap, " Kirk, Spock & Bones: The Great Trio," "Star Trek's Divine Diva," "Designing the Final Frontier," and "Writer's Notebook: D.C. Fontana"), though missing from this set are the text commentaries on two episodes, the Red Shirt Logs, the production art, and the photo gallery. There are two new featurettes: "Star Trek's Favorite Moments," in which cast members of later Trek franchises and fans recall certain episodes, and "Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest, part 2," in which a Trek extra tells stories and shows some of his on-set home movies. And because season 2 includes "The Trouble with Tribbles," the set includes two bonus episodes: "More Tribbles, More Troubles" from the Animated Series and "Trials and Tribble-ations" from Deep Space Nine. Conveniently, all three Tribble-centric episodes are on the same disc, and include the bonus features from the earlier DVD releases (the commentary by writer David Gerrold on "More Troubles" and the two featurettes--"Uniting Two Legends" and "An Historic Endeavor"--from "Tribble-ations"). The bonus episodes were not remastered, and you can tell the difference when comparing the original Tribble episode on this set with the grainier footage that was used in the DS9 episode. A minor annoyance is that the discs are one-sided but appear to be two-sided, as if they had been designed for combo HD DVD again before a late change. That means the info on the disc is restricted to a ring around the middle, rather than a full label that could have listed the episodes on each disc; as is, they're only listed on the glossy "collector's data cards." And once again, the plastic shell is clunky and the disc spindles are way too tight. All in all, it's a nice package, especially if one doesn't already have the other Tribble episodes, but it feels like it's floating in a standard-definition limbo, stuck in the transition between HD DVD and Blu-ray. --David Horiuchi
Saved from the brink of cancellation by its loyal fanbase, Star Trek's third and final season rewarded them with a number of memorable episodes. Tight budgets and slipping creative control, however, made it the series' most uneven season, though it did have some of the coolest episode titles ("For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky," "Is There in Truth No Beauty," "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"). Some of the best moments involved a gunfight at the OK Corral ("Spectre of the Gun"), a knock-down drag-out sword battle with the Klingons aboard the Enterprise ("Day of the Dove"), the ship getting caught in an ever-tightening spacial net ("The Tholian Web"), TV's first interracial kiss ("Plato's Stepchildren," and it should be easy to guess who participated), Sulu taking command ("The Savage Curtain"), and Kirk's switching bodies with an ex-love interest ("Turnabout Intruder").
The 2008 DVD set benefits from the same remastering given to the other two seasons, though only the first was released in high definition (the now-defunct HD DVD format). Still, the episodes are substantially cleaned up to the point where they look quite good, rather than jarringly fuzzy to the modern viewer. And there are some new visual effects that are well-done, and obtrusive only to the strictest fans. Compare, for example, the dramatic close-up of the green-glowing U.S.S. Defiant in "The Tholian Web" with the original effect, which had the ship floating in a green haze. New bonus features are 11 more minutes of rare footage from extra Billy Blackburn; "Collectible Trek," a 14-minute discussion of rare Trek items, filmed in 2004 with the rest of the bonus content but not included on the previous DVD set; and the newly filmed "Captain's Log: Bob Justman," an affectionate nine-minute tribute to the series producer. Otherwise, the set retains almost all the special features from the 2004 set, including the features on Walter Koenig, George Takei, and James Doohan (who died the following year), plus the two versions of the series pilot, "The Cage," a restored color version and the original, never-aired version that alternates between color and black and white. Starring Jeffery Hunter as Captain Pike, Leonard Nimoy as a relatively emotional Spock, and Majel Barrett (the future Nurse Chapel and Mrs. Gene Roddenberry) as a frosty Number One, this pilot was rejected, but a second was commissioned, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," now considered the "official" beginning of the series. But "The Cage" is very recognizably Star Trek with its far-out concepts (telepathic aliens collecting species samples), sexy humanoid women, character development, and of course cheesy costumes and special effects. Footage was later reused in the season 1 two-parter, "The Menagerie." --David Horiuchi