Sunday, December 20, 2009

Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 3 – Blu-ray Review

The Enterprise is on her final high definition mission for the small screen as Season Three of the iconic series warps onto Blu-ray. Oddly, the end of the series offers much of the beginning, including a rare, newly discovered cut of the pilot episode.

The Starship Enterprise was charged with a five year mission to explore new world but it would only last for three seasons on NBC before going dormant till the series of movies revived the franchise.

She’s piloted by her valiant crew Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner), her science officer and second-in-command the Vulcan Spock (Leonard Nimoy), her chief medical officer the crusty Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley), chief engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan), communication officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), helmsman Sulu (George Takei), and navigator Chekov (Walter Koenig).

It’s ironic that this last set of the original series would rely so heavily on the beginning of the series. However, season three is not known for having the best episodes of the series as it starts off with the silly “Spock’s Brain.”

One of the best entries might be “Let that be your Last Battlefield” with Frank Gorshin as a half black, half white alien who hates his counterpart whose difference is that the colors are on the opposite side. Reminding me of the big and little enders of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, this episode shows the futility of prejudice and hatred as well as reflecting current trends in society.

Season two saw the possibility of cancellation of the series and a well organized letter writing campaign had NBC make an on-air plea to stop sending letters and that a third season would be indeed airing. The caveat would be that the network would move the show from its Monday night slot to a less appealing Friday night slot.

The lesser ratings produced by this move would pretty much seal the fate of the show and season three would be the last to air. We all know that the series would become a cultural phenomenon with many aspects of the show entering the lexicon of even those that have never seen the show.

I’d wager that the familiar “Beam me up Scotty” will get some recognition from about everyone you utter it to. Season three continues to offer you the classic versions of the show, digitally re-mastered to near perfection, as well as new redone special effects. The set allows you to choose which version you want to watch.

The set is also housed in a smaller Blu-ray case so it might look smaller next to the earlier two seasons if that matters to you.

Star Trek is presented in a 1080p high definition transfer (1.33:1). Special features on all discs offer you standard definition previews of each of the episodes on the discs. Other special features are standard definition unless noted.

Disc five has the 11 minute “Life beyond Trek: Walter Koenig” in which the actor talks about his career and his love of collecting. The 6 minute “Chief Engineer’s Log” has the late James Doohan frailly recounting his career and life in his final interview. The 8 minute “Memoir from Mr. Sulu” has George Takei recalling his career and his involvement with highlighting the culture of Japanese Americans.

The 9 minute “Captain’s Log: Bob Justman” (high definition) pays tribute to the late producer of the original series. Disc six could be called the “pilot” disc as we’re given the show’s two pilots. “The Cage,” the first pilot shot for the show, is presented in three different high-def versions (an extended version with color and black and white footage, the original color version, and an enhanced special effects version).

The series’ second pilot, “Where No Man has Gone Before,” is also presented in high-def in a 52 minute, recently unearthed, alternative version. This version features a different intro narrated by William Shatner and is broken into “act” breaks.

The 19 minute, high-def “David Gerrold hosts 2009 Convention Coverage” has the author conducting interviews at a convention. The 4 minute, high-def “Anthropology of Star Trek” has Professor Daryl G. Frazetti speaking on how Trek impacts society. The 7 minute, high-def “World of Rod Roddenberry” has Gene Roddenberry’s son attending Comic-Con 2009.

The 10 minute, high-def “Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest” is the third installment of extra Blackburn’s home movies. The 22 minute “To boldly go… Season Three” has the cast looking back at the third and final season. The 14 minute “Collectible Trek” looks at the merchandise made from the show. The 9 minute “Star Trek’s Impact” has Rod Roddenberry speaking on the impact the show had on him.

It may not be the best season of Star Trek, but our voyage onto high definition has come to an end. There are still some rousing moments to be found, but other seasons have the more classic episodes. We end with the beginning as we’re given some cool looks at the pilots that started the series. It would be illogical not to complete your collection. Live long and prosper.