Star Trek: The Original Series - The Complete Series
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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. Their mission is to explore strange new worlds, to seek new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before!
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(IMPORTANT UPDATE: YouTube (as of 2015) now features episodes of the original series, side by side comparing the original footage with the new CGI versions. If you are not aware of the differences, be sure to watch these YouTube clips (look for TrekkieChannel) and read this review, so you know exactly what you are getting before you buy. Hopefully they are still up.)
There is plenty of confusion about which versions of the Star Trek Original Series are on which sets on DVD. Adding to the confusion is how Amazon lumps all of the reviews and comments for all of the different versions together. Having researched this for myself, here is what I have determined:
IF YOU WANT TO SEE THE OLD VERSIONS as seen on network and in syndication from the 1960s to the early 2000s with the original (Matt Jefferies) special effects and space shots, and original opening credits, you want the set that comes in the RETRO EGG boxes (colored in the colors of the uniforms: mustard yellow, sky blue, and red). These are the versions that long time fans remember. The original footage was cleaned up (a first round of "remastering" years ago) but kept intact. The 1960s special effects, which were state of the art at the time, are intact. In the classic exterior stock shots, the Enterprise is blue-gray. Depending on the shot, the nacelles of the ship (the "exhaust pipes") have either the bulb or vents. The opening credits are the originals: the Enterprise---with the vent nacelles---heads for the right side of the planet, then shifts to the left. The music is orchestral only for the first season episodes, with the woman's worldess vocal for the second and third seasons.
IF YOU WANT INDIVIDUAL EPISODES OF THE OLD VERSIONS, look for the versions sold in 2-episode cases. The (ugly) packages of these feature photos of the cast members on the covers, with a Star Trek in a florid funky type going vertically up the front of the boxes. Type in the name of the episode you want in the search window. Only the old versions of the episodes are sold separately this way.
For those who can accept nothing less than the original episodes as they were, stick to the above.
IF YOU WANT THE NEW REMASTERED VERSIONS WITH NEW CGI EFFECTS, you want the set that is packaged in the RECTANGULAR BOXES WITH SILVER TRIM, or this box set (white with black Starfleet insignia, gold/blue/red contrails across it.) The footage has been remastered (a subsequent round of remastering in 2006-7). These versions, which began being sold in 2007-8, come with the completely new exterior space shots by the CBS special effects team of Michael Okuda, replacing all of the Jefferies original stock shots. Some of the new CGI shots mirror the old ones, but some are completely new (the ship from different angles, new closeups, etc.), but "in the spirit" of the old. All space shots were redone. The Enterprise is gray. The nacelles of the ship are shown with the bulb (but the bulb is "unlit"). The angles of the Enterprise orbiting is different. Many scenes on the planet (background, etc.) have been redone, some even reshot. The opening credits are completely new, using new CGI. In the opening, replacing the shot of the ship going to the right, then left of the planet is a shot of the ship going wide to the right of the planet. The music is redone, with a new vocal. Currently, only these remastered episodes are showing on syndicated TV, the old ones are off the air, nowhere to be found. These remastered ones are also the ones sold via Amazon direct HD.
VERY IMPORTANT: there are cuts and edits in these versions, apparently designed by the powers that be to speed up the narrative. The problem is, these cuts wind up damaging the narrative. Newer fans will likely not know the difference, but long-time fans will definitely notice scenes and important bits of dialogue painfully missing---and be incensed. This series was so good that it can withstand these cuts, but they still should not have been made at all. They stupidly destroy a number of memorable classic scenes, some of them extremely important. In some cases, the cuts are so bad, the narrative almost makes no sense. For instance, in original and correct versions of The Ultimate Computer, Richard Daystrom's psychology, M5's "issues", and Kirk's reaction to automation unravel gradually, and tension ratchets up step by step, while in the revised versions, every plot development is abrupt. In "For the World is Hollow...", so many scenes are missing that that the high priestess falls for McCoy suddenly and for no apparent reason. In "Assignment Earth", the comedic antics of Teri Garr's Roberta Lincoln are cut, as are some priceless jokes in "Piece of the Action". There are many examples like this. These cuts are a big problem with the remastered versions for those who remember, and reason enough by itself to be cautious about owning them. (This is why I give the remastered set 3.5 stars instead of 4.)
My take on the new CGI: it is a mixed bag and a tradeoff. Positives: You get some "pretty" new space shots, up to what is supposed to be contemporary sci-fi TV/film standards, that replace the often repeatedly used familiar stock footage of the ship. Okuda did a decent job and many of the new shots are reasonably consistent with the old ones---where the team replicated the originals.
However....Negatives: the new CGI is largely disappointing. The effects are video game quality, but not up to the standards of the Star Trek films, which were bigger budget projects, and therefore much more realistic. They are also not up to modern sci-fi film standards at all. Some of the new shots try to get too cute and wind up being unconvincing, and worse, ruin the flow of the narrative. Surprisingly to me, the new CGI Enterprise and other ships are less realistic-looking than those in the original Jefferies footage, which was shot using actual large models. The movements in the old shots were those of large vessels with some weight. By comparison, on some critical episodes like The Doomsday Machine, involving a lot of ships-in-space action, the new effects look flimsy and too video gamish, movements too cheap looking. Small time. Certain new space shots are thoroughly boring. For example, the barrier at the edge of the galaxy, a shimmering dish of energy in the original, is nothing more than a garden variety cloud in the new versions. Bottom line, "prettier" but not necessarily better than 1960s vintage, and definitely not an improvement in story telling.
Surprisingly, the new CGI is less interesting than the original effects, and can make no sense. Balance of Terror and Doomsday Machine, the space warfare episodes that should have been tailor made for new CGI, are flimsy and video-gamish. In Elaan of Troyius, a Klingon ship pursues the Enterprise. In the original version, you see shots of the Klingon warship, then the Enterprise. Very simple. In the new version, you get a shot of the two Enterprise nacelles with the Klingon in the distance. Why do I want to see the nacelles and a blur? In the original, you see the stock shot of the Enterprise firing phasers, which never gets old. In the new one, the ships jump around and look fake.
One of the few episodes that benefits from new CGI is Tomorrow is Yesterday. The sunlit Enterprise pursued by the jet, and new sequences of the Enterprise sling-shotting off of the sun are great. Sadly there are few others.
Overall, the series as a whole, however, is so good that even with the new cuts and less than convincing effects, it remains a compelling viewing experience.
IF YOU WANT SOME OF THE REMASTERED EPISODES BUT DO NOT WANT A FULL BOX SET, look for The Best of Star Trek:The Original Series volumes 1 and 2. Each box contains four episodes. Volume 1 contains "Balance of Terror", "City on the Edge of Forever", "Trouble with Tribbles", "Amok Time". Volume 2 contains "Space Seed", "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "Piece of the Action", "Journey to Babel".
So for DVD, these are the choices you face. But if you have Blu-Ray, you don't have to decide.
THE BLU-RAY SET OFFERS BOTH OLD AND NEW VERSIONS OF THE EPISODES IN THE SAME SET, and apparently even lets you toggle between the two. Of course, you would need a Blu-Ray player.
I hope this helps.
A few FYI's: These are complete episodes and not the shortened versions mostly commonly seen in syndication in recent years. Also, the episodes are in their original 4:3 ("old television") ratio. There *will be* black bars to the right and left of the image on your widescreen television. This really can't be helped since television wasn't widescreen in the 60s. Nor in the 70s, 80s, and 90s for that matter... (If you absolutely hate that, you can change the settings on your television to *stretch* the image to fit. Why you would want to do this is beyond me... but some people really hate those blacks bars and would rather watch shorter, wider crew members on the Enterprise...)
Most of discs contain four episodes each, with one particular episode per disc having a third option to view with a visual/audio/pop-up commentary referred to on the disc as "Starfleet All-Access Pass" featuring Michael and Denise Okuda. There are also hours and hours of extra features and documentaries spread out on the discs throughout the entire set.
If you've been waiting to buy the series in one fell swoop... well... swoop on in. A lot of love and care has gone into this set!