Judge Dan Mancini will never wear a red shirt again.
Our reviews of Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1 (Blu-Ray) (published May 6th, 2009), Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 2 (Blu-Ray) (published September 16th, 2009), Star Trek: The Original Series: Season Two (Remastered) (published August 22nd, 2008), Star Trek: The Original Series: Season Three (Remastered) (published November 26th, 2008), Star Trek: The Original Series: Season One (published September 27th, 2004), Star Trek: The Original Series: Season Two (published November 2nd, 2004), and Star Trek: The Original Series: Season Three (published January 26th, 2005) are also available.
Unless you've spent the past few decades marooned on Ceti Alpha V ("Buried alive!…Buried aliiiive!), you already know that Star Trek is about the voyages of the starship Enterprise, its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilization, to boldly go where no man has gone before [cue bongos]. The Enterprise is captained by the adventurous James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner, Boston Legal), whose brashness is tempered by the cool logic of Vulcan first officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy, Invasion of the Body Snatchers ). Rounding out the crew is grumpy ship's doctor Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), chief engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan, Loaded Weapon 1), helmsman Hikaru Sulu (George Takei, Mulan), navigator Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig, Drawing Down the Moon), communications officer Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols, Snow Dogs), and a seemingly endless army of red shirt ensigns ready to sacrifice their lives in the name of good drama.
The series ran for three seasons from 1966 to 1969, for a total of 80 episodes (a surprisingly brief run considering its enormous pop culture influence). The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series is a slim, single-disc release containing four episodes from the series—two from the first season and two from the second:
• "The City on the Edge of Forever"
• "The Trouble with Tribbles"
• "Balance of Terror"
• "Amok Time"
Selecting a paltry four episodes to represent the best of Star Trek is an impossible task to say the least, but this disc makes a decent show of it. The satisfying slate of episodes provides a solid primer on Trek. We get clashes with Klingons and Romulans, space stations, a trip to Vulcan, time travel, alternate history, and plenty of screen time for McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu, all on a single disc that runs a little shy of four hours. Sure, I'd prefer that the set contained "Space Seed" (with the first appearance of Khan) or "Mirror, Mirror" (with the evil goatee-wearing Spock) instead of "The Trouble with Tribbles," but there's something to be said for the latter's inclusion. It's a fine representation of the show's more comic episodes; plus, it's a refreshing change of pace from the more serious drama (and occasional pontificating) in the other three episodes on this disc. The inclusion of "The City on the Edge of Forever"—an episode famed for both its quality and the controversy surrounding its writing (Ellison was so angry about D.C. Fontana's rewriting of his original screenplay that he wrote an entire book about it)—is a no-brainer. "Balance of Terror" and "Amok Time" are worthy because of the former's space battle (which feels a lot like a fight between cold war era submarines) and the latter's introduction of Pon farr (not to mention the plodding combat music during the throwdown between Spock and Kirk). The set suffers from a notable absence of a wheelchair-bound Captain Christopher Pike, doomsday machines, Orion slave girls, Harcourt Fenton Mudd, and a young Clint Howard in a bald cap, but such are the hazards of four-episode Best of collections.
The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series contains the 2007 remastered versions of the episodes. The image quality throughout is astoundingly good. Colors are vivid and black levels are rock solid. Detail is excellent. Isolated shots contain heavy grain, but that's about the only flaw you'll find. The original optical effects shots have been replaced with digital effects that are more expansive but demonstrate an amazing sensitivity to the aesthetics of the original shots. Instead of intrusive digital inserts, the new effects look like perfectly executed practical effects from a time when perfectly executed practical effects were impossible. Combine the beautifully restored original material with the stellar new special effects and Star Trek has never looked better (the Blu-ray release notwithstanding)—not even when the show originally aired back in the late '60s.
Audio, too, has been upgraded to an expansive Dolby 5.1 mix. Dialogue and effects are crisp and clean. The opening theme song is spectacular. The mix spreads throughout the entire soundstage, while directional panning makes the most of swooshes as the Enterprise zips across the screen.
There are no extras.
If The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series' purpose is to whet one's appetite for the recent Blu-ray release of the series' first season as well as for J.J. Abrams' feature film reimagining, mission accomplished. I don't often buy television shows on DVD, but the beauty of the video and audio transfers on this DVD made me want to see how gorgeous Star Trek must look in high definition; and watching the old Kirk, Spock, and Bones on the small screen made me eager to check out the new Kirk, Spock, and Bones on the big screen.
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