Judge Eric Profancik has officially seen heaven.
Our reviews of The Best Of Star Trek: The Original Series (published May 12th, 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.
Boldly go. Again.
On November 21, 2006, when The Verdict published my review of Star Trek: The Animated Series, I thought I was done writing about Trek. There was nothing left to release on DVD, Nemesis was a box office bomb, and there wasn't a new series on television. Star Trek was dead.
Two and a half years later, Star Trek is reborn with the new J.J. Abrams' movie and the restoration of The Original Series (TOS). As a pureblood Trekkie, I couldn't be happier. As much as I love to gush about my passion, I have to wonder, what do I have left to say?
Facts of the Case
Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner, Boston Legal), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek (2009), Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelly, Bonanza), and the intrepid crew take the U.S.S. Enterprise to begin her five year mission, boldly going where no man has gone before.
This review is not about the stories. No. After 40 years, if you need details about the episodes, plots, morality tales, friendships, and so forth then you should go back and read our reviews of the DVD releases—not to mention tell me what hole you've been living in. No, this review is about the discs—those lovely, glorious Blu-ray platters, serving up a delicious new bounty of the classic original series.
Let's get the conclusion out of the way:
Paramount and CBS have set the bar very, very high with this set. It is a spectacular release that breathes new life into a 40-year-old show. The episodes look beautiful and sound better than ever. If they do this with all of the series and all of the movies, I am doomed. I had no intention of replacing my double-dipped DVDs with the new Blu-rays as I figured it just wouldn't be worth it. I was so wrong. If they clean up and restore everything like this first season, it would be stupid of me not to spend a couple thousand more dollars in upgrading my collection. Without a doubt, this Blu-ray release is the de facto standard for bringing "old" television back to life. If you think something from decades ago cannot look good on Blu, then you need to see this.
There are not enough superlatives to go around, as I have not been more pleased with any other Trek release.
Now how did I get to such lavish praise? Simple, I put the disc in and hit play, and what I saw and heard was amazing. I had watched the restored and enhanced episodes on my local ABC station (Sunday mornings around 1:30 am—such respect…when it wasn't pre-empted for an infomercial—respect, indeed!) and mildly enjoyed watching it for the new effects. Yes, it looked nicer and cleaner, but the broadcast was in standard definition so I couldn't get the full measure of the work. For someone who has watched the show ad nauseum for years, I finally saw things on Blu that I had only heard about. From little nitpicks to seeing costume seams and threads to full out realizing the true color of the uniforms, this set shows it all in remarkable clarity. Oh yes, there's grain—of course there's grain in this stuff because of the source—but all the dirt, cracks, creases, and whatnot are gone. On the audio side, it is a quality upgrade to a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix. In all truth, it's not the most powerful, aggressive, or impressive mix out there; but no other Trek television release sounds this good. Every scrap of dialogue is clear, every beep from a bridge button is true, and there isn't a moment of hiss or distortion anywhere. While it is a 7.1 mix, most everything comes from the front and center with just an infrequent thump from the subwoofer and an occasional panning shot to the surrounds. Nonetheless, it's great.
Much trepidation brewed in the hearts of Trekkies when we heard that the-powers-that-be planned to insert new, enhanced effects into the episodes. How dare you change a single hair anywhere? What's wrong with a classic? Would you do such a thing to Casablanca? Of course it turns out all that worrying and fretting was for naught as the new effects make the series seem so much more real, allowing you to believe in it all the more. Sure, some of the effects are really bad; but that adds to the cheesy '60's feel. But those are few and far between and the vast majority of the new effects fit seamlessly into the episodes, enhancing them yet never overpowering the moment.
Yes, this Blu-ray set is all about the technical details; and they are magnificent.
With the special features we hit our first negative on the set. Why? Because most of the material on this release is a direct port of what was on the DVD release. On the one hand, that's great: double dippers don't lose anything in the transition; on the other hand, that's bad: there's little new material to supplement the set. Additionally, all of the ported material is old, from 2003 or earlier. I know there can't be much left unsaid, but did anyone try to get new stuff from the original cast? George Takei (Sulu) always seems ready to talk.
Here's a quick rundown of the bonus items, disc by disc:
• Starfleet Access: "Where No Man Has Gone Before": This replaces the Michael and Denise Okuda text commentary in the DVD release. Starfleet Access provides a video commentary by the Okudas in the bottom right corner of the screen (it doesn't run continuously) and also provides a fact/trivia video track (also not continuous) in the lower left corner. Overall, these work well and are interesting, though it gets a bit much when both tracks are on at the same time.
• Preview Trailers: The original trailers for each episode.
• "Reflections on Spock" (12:03): From the DVD release, an honest featurette briefly covering Nimoy and his life not being and being Spock.
• Preview Trailers
• "Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner" (10:18): From the DVD release, Shatner talks about his horses. Boring.
• "The Birth of a Timeless Legacy" (24:07): From the DVD release, this recounts the origin of Trek.
• Preview Trailers
• Interactive Enterprise Inspection: A new feature allowing you to use a virtual shuttlecraft to fly around the Enterprise and check out the ship in all her digital glory. It's a fun feature but doesn't feature enough inspection points.
• "Sci-Fi Visionaries" (16:30): From the DVD release, a discussion of the great writers used on the series with special focus on professional science-fiction writers.
• Preview Trailers
• "Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories" (13:23): From the DVD release and still my favorite, extra crewmember Billy Blackburn shares a few minutes of his personal home movies and lots of stories about his life as an unknown on the Enterprise.
• "Kiss 'n Tell: Romance in the 23rd Century" (8:24): From the DVD release, a look at the hotties from the show and who hooked up with whom.
• BD-Live: Currently there's not much material available and most of what is there is text-based information on the crewmembers, technology, and so forth. Three exclusive clips are available for download, and they are all short (around 2:00) but also really good. Each download is available in HD or SD, needing around 50 or 20 MB respectively. "Filming the Galaxy" has Bob Justman talking about those infamous colored skies, "Saving the Show" has D.C. Fontana describing the fan loyalty in keeping the show from cancellation, and "The Sounds of Star Trek" brings D.C. back for a quick word on the ambient noises of the bridge that helped brief it to life.
There are also a couple of cool Easter Eggs hidden in the set.
Not included from the original DVD release: All Okuda text commentaries and the Photo Log.
All in all a great technical set…and worth mentioning is that this season contains a lot of great episodes. Without this season, there'd be no Khan!!!!!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I love this set but nothing is perfect. Here are a few gripes:
• The Original Series DVD sets had the coolest packaging of any Trek release. Featuring the bright basic colors and awesome clamshell design, not only did they protect the simple discs inside but they also looked brilliant. The Blu-ray release is incredibly dull and boring, featuring a cheap, plastic blue sleeve with a cardboard cover. I wonder why Paramount and CBS decided to be so lame? Even the worst of the original DVD releases, The Next Generation, at least had a modicum of style. Additionally and worse, my set is already cracking on the spine.
• While the overall menu interface is simple and clean, I don't like the way the episode lists are presented. I feel all the episodes for each disc should be on one list and then have additional options from there. I don't like having one episode per "page."
• You have the option of using your angle button to switch between the original effects and the enhanced effects versions of the episodes but only during an SFX shot. I would like to be able to switch anytime I want, especially considering the brevity of some of those scenes and the inherent lag of angle switching.
• I wish the BD Live items could be streamed and not downloaded. I hate using my hard drive on my PlayStation 3.
• You can't skip any of the warnings at the beginning of each disc. When will Paramount stop this?
Simply put: Buy this set. If you have a Blu-ray player and any inkling of appreciation for Star Trek, you really need to have this release. Even if you don't have a player, buy it and be prepared for when you do. This is a top-notch release that will rank high in the "Best of the Year" lists. Thank you, Paramount and CBS for making me want to spend even more money on these television series.
Long live an optimistic vision of the future!
Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1 is hereby acquitted of all charges. All parties are free to continue crafting superb Blu-ray releases.
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