Written by Musgo Del Jefe
What an intimidating task. Star Trek is the franchise by which all other franchises are measured. Since Star Trek: The Original Series debuted in 1966, there's been five other series and ten movies (with the eleventh in production). That doesn't even take into account the number of books, games, comics, theme park rides, college courses and conventions that this series launched. The Star Trek franchise has always been on the cutting edge of technology - making their product available on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and now HD-DVD, ahead of other competitors. This new package is impressive but it's expensive too. Does it "boldly go" where no previous release has gone before?
In the interest of full disclosure, I first caught Star Trek during syndication runs of the original series in the ‘70s. It was a Sunday night staple for me on our local CBS station. It laid the groundwork for my future fandom of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. I've been a casual fan of all the succeeding TV series and the films. But I've always moved forward with the series, rarely taking time to revisit the past. This release let me take a look at the series through eyes that have seen the characters and themes age 40 years.
What strikes me most is how little "sci-fi" that most of the Season One episodes are in this "sci-fi" series. Or should I say, how little "space" is involved in this "space drama." I think that's the core strength of any successful drama - the characters take precedence over the setting. This first season is not merely a "Monster Of The Week" show. That type of show is only as good as the "Monster/Alien" and as this show devolved into that towards the end of Season Three, it lost its heart.
Many of the Season One episodes have the feel of Twilight Zone episodes, a series that ended in 1964. The idea of a Twilight Zone series with a dramatic thread connecting the episodes isn't far from set-up of the series. The series has one static setting, The Enterprise, each week and a fluid setting, whatever planet they are exploring. That consistency of characters interacting with new characters allows a depth that true anthology series can't approach.
In "The Naked Time", we see all the elements come together effectively. The crew is set to pick up scientists from a planet that is about to explode. The exploding planet sets a time constraint on the episode. The scientists are found dead on the planet but crewman Joe carelessly becomes contaminated on the planet with a strange liquid (a plot device that The X-Files would lift directly from this series). Once back aboard the Enterprise, Joe acts irrationally and after infecting Lt. Sulu and other crewmembers, he is relegated to sickbay. One of the infected crewmembers, Lt. Keven Reilly declares himself the Captain and storms the Engineering room, locks everyone else out and starts pushing buttons randomly.