Monday, November 16, 2009

The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series, Volume 2 DVD Review

The "Star Trek" franchise has lasted for quite some time. What some probably perceived as a passing fad during its heyday has secured its status as a pop culture mainstay. It's touched every known media form and merchandising possibility, and few other properties can claim to have fans so loyal that they've legally changed their names to those of characters.

Paramount has obviously taken notice of all this, for they've released (and re-released) the shows and films on various formats. The original series is now seeing its third DVD release by way of a "Best of" collection, the second volume being the subject of this review.

For those unfamiliar with the series, it tracks the exploits of Captain James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner) as he and the crew of the starship Enterprise embark on a five-year journey during the 23rd century. Their purpose, according to the often-quoted credits voiceover, is "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before." Among the crew members are the level-headed, logical Vulcan Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), the wry and sarcastic Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley), cheery Scotsman Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (James Doohan), token female Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), swashbuckler Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), and young Russian Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig).

Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Kirk (William Shatner) speculate about Khan's mysterious past and the world he came from. Sarek (Mark Lenard) is confronted by some alien diplomats wishing to argue politics as Kirk (William Shatner) looks on warily.

It's easy to see why "Star Trek" has become so revered, mainly thanks to its characters. Of the various space sagas out there, "Star Trek" has been the one credited with the most memorable characters, and it's hard to refute that. Each one represents a distinctive personality type (though, admittedly, Uhura is given the least to work with). The different characteristics, coupled with different ethnicities, ensure that there's always someone an audience member can identify with. The diversity in ethnic backgrounds probably should come across as being self-conscious and politically correct, but somehow it feels far more natural than that.

The plots tend to be hit or miss, and it's here that "Star Trek" accomplishes an odd sort of dual ground. One would expect such an esteemed franchise to be polished and timeless, but that isn't exactly the case. There's a rough sort of campiness in both the presentation and the storylines. This lends to some unintentionally amusing bits, especially during awkwardly-choreographed fight sequences, and yet the series ends up being the better for it. Perhaps it's because so many sci-fi program are polished to the point of being cold and clinical, but the cheesiness somehow makes the show more endearing.

The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series, Volume 2 features four episode selections that Mr. Spock probably wouldn't find very logical. Three have significance in the show's universe ("Where No Man Has Gone Before" is one of two proposed pilot episodes, "Space Speed" introduces the legendary Khan, "Journey to Babel" introduces Spock's parents), but there doesn't seem to be a reason for their order or why these were chosen above other episodes. Note that the versions included here are the remastered ones from 2006. These contain updated visual effects, namely in establishing shots of the Enterprise.

Enjoying their godlike powers, Dehner (Sally Kellerman) and Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) plan on ruling their own planet as a new Adam and Eve in "Where No Man Has Gone Before." Marla quickly and unexpectedly experiences a small sampling of Khan's (Ricardo Montalban) legendary wrath in "Space Seed."

1. 3/1.03 Where No Man Has Gone Before (50:28) (Originally aired September 22, 1966)
The USS Enterprise encounters an energy barrier that gives Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) psychic powers. When his newfound abilities threaten the ship and its crew,

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Kirk is torn between his love for his friend and his duty to his crew.

2. 22/1.22 Space Seed (50:25) (Originally aired February 16, 1967)
The Enterprise crew uncovers an ancient, abandoned ship with occupants still kept alive in sleeping chambers. One of these members, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), is awakened, and his ambition soon makes itself known in less-than-cordial ways.

3. 46/2.17 A Piece of the Action (50:26) (Originally aired January 12, 1968)
The crew arrives at a long-forgotten planet that is now heavily influenced by 1920s Chicago. With several mob bosses attempting to kidnap him and make him give up his high-tech weaponry, Kirk must adapt to the culture in order to outsmart his pursuers.

4. 39/2.10 Journey to Babel (50:24) (Originally aired November 17, 1967)
Spock's father Sarek (Mark Lenard) and mother Amanda (Jane Wyatt) stop by on the way to a diplomatic conference. Things go awry when an ambassador is murdered, and not only is Sarek the prime suspect, but his heart condition requires a rare and complicated surgery.

Kirk gets into the gangster spirit as he holds crime boss Jojo Krakow (Vic Tayback) by the tie at gunpoint in "A Piece of the Action." Even after being married to him for quite some time, Amanda (Jane Wyatt) still can't bring herself to understand the unfeeling ways of her Vulcan husband Sarek (Mark Lenard) and his people.


All four episodes in this collection are presented in their original 1.33:1 broadcast ratios. The results here are quite solid, especially when one considers the age and budget of the material. Colors are often vivid, yet natural, and sharpness is consistently satisfactory. Cleanliness is a bit more inconsistent, as grain levels vary from shot to shot, and a few contain minor speckles and hairs.

These instances weren't enough to cause a major distraction, though, as the episodes on the whole appeared fairly clean.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also very good. What's most striking about them is in the clear quality of the dialogue. These come in quite cleanly and with barely any sort of hissing. Music seems a bit more hollow but still gets the job done. Effects lie somewhere in the middle of the other two layers in terms of quality, coming in rather sharply but not astoundingly so.


Unlike the complete season sets that contain a plethora of extras, this second "Best of" volume has nothing. This is understandable since surely anyone interested enough in supplements would be interested enough in owning the whole series. The disc begins with previews for "Star Trek:" The Complete First Season on Blu-ray and Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection on Blu-ray.

The main menu is a silent still image of the USS Enterprise in space with the episode listing beside it. The only other menu, "Set Up" shows a different image of the ship with the audio and subtitle options.

The disc comes housed in a standard black Amaray case with side snaps. Inserts for "Star Trek" shows and films on Blu-ray, the "Star Trek" online game, and a pamphlet for other CBS DVD shows are included inside.

Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) try to keep Mitchell and his powers at bay in one of the earliest "Star Trek" episodes. The silent, static main menu is at least attractively designed with its image of the Enterprise in exploration.


"Star Trek" may not be the be-all and end-all of science fiction as its legendary status suggests, but it does remain entertaining. The variety in its characters keeps things interesting and palatable, and the level of campiness present throughout actually makes the show easier to embrace. This second volume in the "Best of Star Trek: The Original Series" collection presents its four episodes with pleasing video and audio. There are no supplements as the disc seems aimed at the casual "Star Trek" fan and the simply curious. The list price is somewhat reasonable for those who only wish to own specific episodes, but those new to the franchise are better off renting either this or the volume before it to get a feel for this iconic series.