When I'd first heard that Paramount and CBS Home Video were giving Star Trek an HD makeover, complete with a newly orchestrated score and shiny CGI effects, I have to admit I was a bit disconcerted. You see, the original Star Trek was, is, and will probably always be, my very favorite television series, and the thought of someone tinkering with something I held so dear just bothered the hell out of me. When I saw snippets of the finished product, however, I was floored by the seamless way in which the new effects blended with the original footage, and, of course, loved the new HD transfer. It was like seeing the show with a whole new set of eyes, and I anxiously awaited the relaunch of the series that defined my childhood. Sadly, this new and improved Trek only aired at 1:30 AM on Monday mornings in my neck of the woods, apparently in an attempt to draw in the coveted meth addict/insomniac demographic.
Thankfully, the entire remastered first season of Star Trek now comes to Blu-ray in glorious HD, loaded with extras, affordably priced (okay, maybe it's not so affordable, but for 29 hours of classic sci-fi goodness, it's worth every penny), and, most importantly, available for me to watch whenever I damn well please, with no hastily manufactured stimulants or sleep disorders required.
With 29 episodes in the collection, it'd take pages to cover them all, so I'm just going to point out a few personal favorites, starting with the series' "second pilot" (the first pilot -The Cage - was rejected by studio and later recycled to form the two part The Menagerie) - Where No Man Has Gone Before. One will instantly notice that the costumes (female crewmembers actually wore slacks rather than mini-skirts), the crew (no McCoy or Uhura) ,and Spock's look and entire demeanor (what's are you shouting at, Nimoy?) are quite different than in subsequent episodes. This confused audiences in 1966 all the more as the network opted to air this episode third, despite obviously being meant to serve as the viewer's introduction to the series, while The Man Trap - a McCoy-centric episode not meant to be seen until late in the season - served as the series' debut! With continuity mix-ups like that, is it any wonder the show almost got cancelled that first year?
The aforementioned The Menagerie is a minor miracle of resourcefulness , frugally combining footage from the original pilot with a bit of courtroom drama, as Spock (Nimoy) faces a court martial for hijacking the Enterprise and abducting his former Captain, Christopher Pike (Jeffery Hunter). The footage from The Cage is presented as a "transmission" from an alien race, and viewed at Spock's trial. It's all very clever stuff, and this sort of ingenuity-by-necessity is found throughout Trek's entire run as it seems their budget was trimmed from episode to episode. Lack of funds account for some less than impressive special effects (watch for puppeteer's feet in The Devil in the Dark), but effects weren't what made Star Trek great. What made Star Trek great were the contributions from some of Sci-fi's best writers and creator Gene Roddenberry's extraordinary, singular vision.
Episodes like Harlan Ellison's award winning and heart-wrenching The City on the Edge of Forever showcase the series raw emotional power while lighter fare, like the fan-favorite Shore Leave exhibits the show's playful side. There's also the tongue-in-cheek The Squire of Gothos, in which the Enterprise encounter Trelane (William Campbell), an omnipotent dandy whose penchant for posh 18th century culture make for some very funny exchanges between he and the hilariously irritated Kirk.
With everything from the funny/sexy Mudd's Women and the creepy android-themed What Are Little Girls Made Of? to the space battle tactics masterpiece, The Corbomite Maneuver, there's really not a bad episode in the lot, as the roster of first season episodes reads like a virtual "Best of Trek". Heck, I'd be happy as a clam watching these on a fuzzy UHF channel like I did when I was a kid. Seeing these classic episodes with enhanced effects work and a gorgeous HD renovation is just icing on the cake, baby
Star Trek beams onto Blu-ray with a completely overhauled look and sound that is nothing short of breathtaking. The faded out colors and scratchy prints of old have been replaced by a wonderfully rich and vibrant transfer that is brimming with detail and surprising depth considering its origins. The new effects shots (consisting mostly of CGI vessels, planets, and the occasional touch up or recreation of the series' oft-used matte paintings) manage to look stunning without sticking out, while the original footage has been cleaned up, color corrected, and sharpened up considerably. There's still a few artifacts and evidence of print damage on occasion, but, given the daunting task of remastering an entire television series under a somewhat tight schedule and with a relatively small budget, the results here are nothing short of miraculous.
The new 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio track is just as impressive as the video upgrade, with the meticulously recreated score (culled from the original sheet music and performed by an orchestra consisting of the same amount of musicians using the same instruments as that of the original orchestra from the 60's) sounds remarkably lush and full. The opening credits theme, in particular, has never had such depth and fidelity. Dialogue is crisp and clear, with nicely implemented surround effects creating a true 360 degree aural experience that rivals the best audio tracks I've experienced on Blu, while bass response is strong and satisfying. In addition to the new visual effects work, new sound effects have been added to compliment certain scenes, including the nearly subsonic hum of the Enterprise engines, tweaked phaser/weapons sounds, and stealthily integrated ambient noise that make this Trek experience as much a delight to the ears as it is to the eyes.
Star Trek - Season 1 boasts an impressive selection of extra goodies, most of which focus on the painstaking task of remastering the series, with a few others offering a nostalgic look back at the early days of Trek. A great picture-in-picture commentary option is available on six episodes (two of which are both parts of The Menagerie), offering a really in-depth and fascinating look at the changes, additions, and tweaks using comparison shots, interview snippets, and behind-the-scenes footage detailing virtually every facet of each episode's respective makeover. There's also a great featurette entitled Transporting Trek into the 21st Century which offers a more generalized look at the processes used over the course of the entire season.
Other featurettes include interviews with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in Life Beyond Trek and Reflections on Spock, a look at the Trek phenomenon in The Birth of a Timeless Legacy, and a fantastic collection of rare photos, clips, and "home movies" culled from Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest. Rounding out the featurettes are To Boldly Go...Season One, and Kiss and Tell: Romance in the 23rd Century. As with the previously released DVD collections of the series, promotional clips for each episode are also included, as is an interactive tour of the USS Enterprise.
My personal favorite extra isn't really an extra at all, but rather the ability to watch either the enhanced version of each episode or the original (also in HD). This is made even cooler by the fact that one can switch between both versions "on the fly" (using the angle button on your controller) to see the differences between the new FX shots and the clunky classic bits.
For a lifelong Trek fan like myself, this collection is the stuff of dreams. I had disc one in my Blu-ray player within five minutes of finding this set on my doorstep, and I spent nearly a week combing over everything this wonderful set has to offer. The picture quality is beyond beautiful, the audio is extraordinary, and the extremely generous amount of extras offer hours of extended entertainment, making this one an absolutely essential purchase for Trekkers as well as anyone who appreciates great science fiction. Star Trek Season 1 Remastered gets my highest possible recommendation.