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Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: The Original Series, Season One

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The Show

Out of all the various iterations of the Star Trek franchise over the years, the original series that debuted in 1966 is perhaps the purest encapsulation of Gene Roddenberry’s intention – a science fiction world and plots as a means to exploring the nature of humanity. It’s not difficult to see why the original series often struggled with ratings and was frequently on the chopping block for cancellation – there’s a cerebral element to many of the show’s episodes that doesn’t shy away from exploring a character’s inner demons or the internal struggle of opposing natures.

Starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, Star Trek is often immensely entertaining and thought provoking. This first season set provides a great glimpse at the evolution of the show – earlier episodes are more straightforward in nature, with simple chase and destroy whodunit-type plots, but as the series progresses, both Kirk and Spock have to wrestle with their share of personal issues. Kirk struggles with being both a decisive and compassionate leader, exemplified in episodes like “The Enemy Within,” where the two sides are literally pitted against one another when a beaming error creates a second Kirk. Spock deals with the battle of his Vulcan nature and his human nature against one another, and the mysterious quality this gives him is often used to keep the audience guessing about his true intentions, such as in “The Menagerie.”  Other than Kirk, Spock, and the chief medical officer, Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), the rest of the characters are rather flat, but the interaction the scripts develop between the three more than makes up for it.

More than 40 years later, the show holds up extremely well. Small, campy elements can be found in every episode, from the often hilarious costumes to the sly, womanizing side of Kirk to the garish set colors that are utterly ubiquitous, but these elements only add to the enjoyment. At the center of most episodes is a solid script grounded in characters more than science fiction outlandishness.

I’ve always come down strongly on the Star Wars side in the ultimate battle of sci-fi franchises, but getting acquainted with the origins of Star Trek has given me a respect for the series and the melding of thought and entertainment that was so deftly pulled off by Roddenberry and company.
The Star Trek Season 1 Blu-ray set includes all 29 episodes from the first season on seven discs.

The Blu-ray Disc

Star Trek is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The remastering process that took place for these episodes several years ago has left us with an image that belies its age. For the most part, these episodes look fantastic, with extremely sharp detail and a bold color palette. The image is almost always crisp and clean, with blacks, skin tones, and colors looking distinct. The prints have been cleaned up nicely, with only small occurrences of dirt or damage showing up occasionally. The gaudy color scheme of both the uniforms and the sets is a strong visual attraction, with greens and reds especially vibrant.

Strangely, there do appear to be some shots that were not remastered or cleaned up at all, showing a huge contrast between the preceding and following shots. This takes place in several episodes, including “Mudd’s Women” and “Miri,” and apparently, it’s just an oversight. Seeing these fuzzy, distorted, and pale images only reinforces how well the visuals have been improved.

Also included are enhanced visual effects, which were recently created and most often replace exterior shots of the Enterprise, as well as images on the monitors inside the spacecraft. Smaller details like phaser blasts have been enhanced as well. In a great move by the distributors, every episode can be viewed either with the enhanced effects or the original ones, and it can be switched in-episode by virtue of the angle button.

Initially, I found the new effects to be slightly cheesy, especially close-up shots of the Enterprise, but the digital facelift grew on me as the episodes progressed. Purists will want to stick with the original effects, and fortunately, they can.

Speaking of purists, the audio defaults to the original mono 2.0 mix, but also included is an impressive 7.1 DTS-HD mix that is far more dynamic than the original. Dialogue and sound effects come through the front channel crisply, while the subwoofer gets a fair amount of work from spaceship blasts and often the dramatic score. The mix is consistently distinct throughout.

Special Features

There are a number of featurettes included, spread out among the discs. High def extras include a look at the process used to upgrade the visual effects – full of plenty of entertaining interviews with the geeks responsible – as well as an enjoyable interactive tour of the Enterprise that uses much of the new digital effects work and a selection of old home movies.

Standard def features include featurettes on Spock, Kirk, and the legacy of Star Trek. Six episodes have the option to turn on Starfleet Access – an in-episode trivia track with picture-in-picture interviews. A trailer for each of the episodes is also included.

The Bottom Line

The first season of Star Trek has never looked better – this is an extraordinary Blu-ray upgrade that is well worth the affordable price tag for fans.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.