Space. The Final Frontier. The U.S.S. Enterprise embarks on a five year mission to explore the galaxy. The Enterprise is under the command of Captain James T. Kirk. The First Officer is Mr. Spock, from the planet Vulcan. The Chief Medical Officer is Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy. With a determined crew, the Enterprise encounters Klingons, Romulans, time paradoxes, tribbles and genetic supermen lead by Khan Noonian Singh. Their mission is to explore strange new worlds, to seek new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
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