Star Trek – The Original Series (3 DVD
Sound: C+ Extras: B Episodes: B+
The original Star Trek series started roughly in
1965, but officially debuted in 1966 to ratings that were never strong, but to
interest that kept growing long after the NBC network gave up. Many know the story of how the pilot was the
rough basis for the show, then the legendary changes were made and the classic
line up arrived. What many do not know
is that the reason the show really got picked up was because the owner of its
production company backed it so strongly.
The production company was Desilu and the head of the company was
co-founder Lucille Ball. Yes, Lucy made
the series possible as much as creator Gene Roddenberry, who she knew was talented
and lobbied for all the way.
Each year, CBS had to do a brand new contract with Lucy to
keep her show going, as she would only sign per-season contracts. There was always money in each for her to
develop new pilot projects. If CBS
passed, she could take them anywhere she wanted. NBC wanted to work with Lucy like anyone and took on the
pilot. As with other shows from her
company, she wanted them smart and with low budgets that made them
possible. Roddenberry originally
developed the idea of the transporter room so money did not have to be spent
for the characters to travel from place to place, plus, it made the story go
faster, especially in the hour-long timeslot.
Add teleplays by Roddenberry and some of the most talented writers of
the day and the smartest Science Fiction/Fantasy show since Rod Serling’s Twilight
Zone was on its way.
Paramount has issued the entire series in three DVD sets,
one per season, and each in a different color snap-together case to look like a
piece from the show’s production design.
They open down the middle as a matter of fact and is one of the best DVD
case designs to date. Television’s
first truly multi-cultural crew spend five years aboard The Enterprise on a
mission of scientific discovery, humanity, and contact with new parts of space,
even if the show’s three seasons fell one year short. It has had dozens of imitators, several belated spin-off series
and is endlessly referenced from its well-earned place as Pop Culture icons,
but it has never been equaled or outclassed.
This is because Roddenberry had a great vision of the future and even
today is still ahead of his time, as evidenced by how all the spin-off Trek’s
have lost their way, to the point that the visually dark Enterprise is
kept on life support by being shot on digital High Definition and the Nemesis
film that questioned the soul of the franchise now went over the heads of
fans. These originals could not have
been reissued at a better time. The
episodes are as follows, listed as simply as possible for easy reference, as
this is a show that has been chronicled to death. This is in the order they appear on each set:
Episodes – Season One:
The Man Trap – The great salt monster episode; the
creature takes the substance out of humans and has to be stopped.
Charlie X – The great brilliant lost boy (Robert
Walker, Jr.) with powers show is an early classic. Abraham Soafer guest stars.
Where No Man Has Gone Before – Great personal story
adventure that made this show a classic.
Gary Lockwood and Sally Kellerman guest star, and that is Hal Needham as
Lockwood’s stunt double.
The Naked Time – Funny, smart show as disease makes
crew lose inhibitions.
The Enemy Within – Bold installment in which Kirk’s
split considers man’s duality.
Mudd's Women – The first of two great shows with
Harry C. Carmel as comic nemesis Harry Mudd, a space pirate.
What Are Little Girls Made Of? – Terrific android
tale focusing on Nurse Chappel. Michael
Strong and Ted Cassidy guest stars.
Miri – An interesting parallel earth tale with
empowered children. Kim Darby is the
Dagger Of The Mind – Medical quackery show with a
twist. James Gregory guest stars.
The Corbomite Maneuver – Great military strategy
show. Clint Howard guest stars.
The Menagerie Part I and II – The classic about
Kirk’s predecessor, Christopher Pike.
Malachi Throne guest stars, using footage from The Cage. Two versions are in set three.
The Conscience Of The King – Shakespeare show with
murder plot. Barbara Anderson guest
Balance Of Terror – The Romulans arrive for battle
in this classic. Mark Lenard, who later
plays Spock’s father, is the head of the Romulans here.
Shore Leave – A simple break turns into a deadly
game on a rigged planet. Perry Lopez
The Galileo Seven – The famous title shuttlecraft
is used when Enterprise has trouble.
The Squire Of Gothos – The powerful Trelane wants
the crew to stay… forever.
Arena – Kirk must rough-it and be creative to fight
a giant alligator man The Gorn by hand.
Vic Perrin guest stars.
Tomorrow Is Yesterday – The Enterprise makes its
first trip to the 20th Century.
Court Martial – Kirk is up for trial, but someone
has tampered with digital evidence.
Elisha Cook Jr. guest stars.
The Return Of The Archons – The USS Archon is
discovered and it is not pretty. Sid
Haig guest stars.
Space Seed – The classic original show with Ricardo
Montalban as Khan. Madlyn Rhue also
A Taste Of Armageddon – A computer kidnaps and
kills people in cyberwar to save city buildings. Barbara Babcock guest stars.
This Side Of Paradise – Spores have a bizarre
effect on all that is happy… at first.
Jill Ireland guest stars.
The Devil In The Dark – Creatures that go through
solid rock threaten others. Ken Lynch
Errand Of Mercy – The Klingons cause potentially
deadly interference with a new Federation inductee.
The Alternative Factor – A two-in-one man, one is
form the anti-matter world. Richard
Derr guest stars.
The City On The Edge Of Forever – Pretty much the
greatest show ever, as Kirk falls in love with Sister Edith Keeler (Joan
Collins) when they go back in time, only to find out she must die or the Nazis
will win World War II!
Operation: Annihilate! – Flying parasites attack
Kirk’s family back home, then go after Spock.
Amok Time – Complications ensue during Spock’s
Who Mourns For Adonais? – The Greek Gods intercept
Enterprise in alternate world. Leslie
Parrish guest stars.
The Changeling – Robot Nomad thinks Kirk created
it, so it will destroy earth.
Mirror Mirror – A parallel Enterprise with crazy
copies of crew surfaces. Barbara Luna
The Apple – Evil force with children control
elements of planet; Enterprise must die.
David Soul guest stars.
The Doomsday Machine – Planet-eater has angry
Commander take over Enterprise to stop it.
William Windom guest stars.
Catspaw – The crew encounters a planet with voodoo
I Mudd – Harry Mudd returns as the “god” of a
Metamorphosis – Warp drive inventor Zefram Cochrane
(Glenn Corbett) is found alone on a cloud planet.
Journey To Babel – Spock’s parents (Jane Wyatt,
Mark Lenard) board the ship for diplomatic mission, but it will not be so
simple a journey.
Friday's Child – Klingons try to convert planet of
natives ‘til Enterprise shows up. Julie
Newmar guest stars.
The Deadly Years – Romulans and aging disease are
an unexpected one-two punch.
Obsession – A deadly vampire cloud returns and Kirk
Wolf In The Fold – Scotty is framed for murder, so
Spock becomes detective. John Fiedler
The Trouble With Tribbles – All time, one of a
kind, comedy classic with furry invaders.
The Gamesters Of Triskelion – Kirk, Uhura &
Chekov caught on death game planet.
A Piece Of The Action – A planet based on 1920s
gangsters is visited by Kirk and Spock.
Vic Tayback guest stars.
The Immunity Syndrome – A gigantic single-cell
monster is on the kill for Enterprise.
A Private Little War – Planet Kirk returns to goes
from peaceful to killer.
Return To Tomorrow – Bodyless creatures want
android bodies, so they take over some Enterprise crew with permission, but
that turns out to be a mistake. Diana
Muldaur guest stars.
Patterns Of Force – Aliens take up the ways of Nazi
Germany and have the atom bomb.
By Any Other Name – Kelvans form Andromeda plan to
turn humans into salt blocks. Barbara
Bouchet guest stars.
The Omega Glory – Deadly dehydration virus turning
people to dust must be stopped.
The Ultimate Computer – War games computer goes bonkers
in good show.
Bread & Circuses – Arena battles on planet of
Assignment: Earth – Potential spin-off show with
Gary Seven (Robert Lansing) on mission to save human race is not bad, but
series never materialized. Terri Garr
plays his assistant.
Spock's Brain – An evil force steals it and Kirk
wants it back. Not bad.
The Enterprise Incident – The Enterprise tangles
with Romulans again, with Spock’s loyalty questioned when he denounces Kirk and
The Paradise Syndrome – Kirk’s memory is erased as
an asteroid heads for earth.
And the Children Shall Lead – An evil force (played
by famous attorney Melvin Belli) controls children to take over
Enterprise. Brian Tochi, Caesar Belli
and Pamelyn Ferdin are among the child actors.
Is There In Truth No Beauty? – The ambassador
“what’s in the box?” show. Diana
Muldaur guest stars.
Spectre Of The Gun – A trip back to the Old West
spells High Noon for Kirk & Co., but especially Chekov.
Day Of The Dove – Alien force causes Enterprise to
clash with Klingons. Michael Ansara and
Susan Howard guest star.
For The World Is Hollow & I Have Touched the Sky
– McCoy gets a fatal disease and the crew race to save him, while an asteroid
heads for The Enterprise. Kate
(Katherine) Woodville and Byron Morrow guest star, later to be reunited in the Primal
Scream episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker five years later.
The Tholian Web – Two Federation ships, including
Enterprise, are trapped by enemy plot as sister ship USS Defiant is dissolving
Plato's Stepchildren – Powerful psychokinetic
beings take on Enterprise in classic that features TV’s first interracial kiss
and the crew being forced to sing and dance.
Wink Of An Eye – Something is in the water from
another planet and it is making The Enterprise crew disappear one by one. Kathie Browne (the late Mrs. Darren McGavin)
stars as the alien female interest.
The Empath – Classic show in which two powerful
beings capture Kirk, McCoy and Spock with severe experimentation in mind. Kathryn Hays and Jason Wingreen (the voice
of Boba Fett) guest star.
Elaan Of Troyius – The Enterprise escort a royal
bride for a marriage that is supposed to bring peace between two rival
civilizations, but there will be those who do not want the wedding to happen,
and will kill to stop it. Then The
Klingons show up!
Whom Gods Destroy – Kirk and crew go to a prison
colony to deliver a wonder drug, but the real wonder is a former Starfleet
Captain, who has taken over the colony and has the ability to change form at
will. Yvonne Craig and Keye Luke guest
Let That Be Your Last Battlefield – Classic episode
dealing with racism and genocide that boldly went where no TV show had gone
before. Frank Gorshin guest stars.
The Mark Of Gideon – Kirk beams to The Enterprise,
only to find it deserted, while the version of the ship that retains the crew
hunts for him. Richard Deer guest
That Which Survives – Enterprise malfunctions and
the energy surge resulting sends the ship flying an insane distance away. Only one mysterious woman might be able to
correct it, but she may have other plans.
Lee Meriwether, so great here, guest stars.
The Lights Of Zetar – A female Starfleet officer
goes to an empty planet, only to have her body taken over by the spirit of one
in a ghost population of a long dead race.
The Enterprise crew is next.
Requiem For Methuselah – The crew’s quest for a
cure to a deadly fever brings them to a planet that has the resources for the
cure, but there are strings attached when Kirk goes romancin’ where he should
The Way To Eden – Members of the U.S.S. Aurora hunt
for the mythical planet of the title, when their ship explodes. Fortunately, Enterprise was in pursuit and
beams them aboard. Too bad they have gone
crazy and want to continue the search.
Skip Homeier and Charles Napier guest star.
The Cloud Minders – Enterprise searches for
materials for another disease cure, only to find a society divided by clouds,
where the rich and powerful live. Can
Kirk and company overcome this division to get the cure? Jeff Corey and Fred Williamson guest star.
The Savage Curtain – Abraham Lincoln shows up out
of nowhere and is beamed aboard The Enterprise. An evil alien genius follows them and wants to put Lincoln up against
other evil geniuses. He must beat them
all or the ship will be annihilated.
Barry Atwater and Lee Bergere guest star.
All Our Yesterdays – A planet about to be consumed
by its sun becoming a supernova will be evacuated by The Enterprise, but everyone
is gone, except its librarian. The
reason is a time machine, which takes Spock back to early Vulcan and threatens
to keep him there infantalized and complacent. Mariette Hartley and Ian Wolfe guest star.
Turnabout Intruder – The final original show is one
of the boldest, when an evil female scientist changes bodies with Kirk, then
tries to take over the ship. Though not
totally consistent, it is still very daring even today.
plus two versions of The Cage, the original pilot
of the show recycled to some extent for The Menagerie. One is the “restored” version, the other,
the original cut with introduction by Roddenberry himself. The latter print is partly in black and
white in parts throughout, indicating the footage not used in The Menagerie.
Though producers changed over the seasons and Roddenberry
started to distance himself from the show by the third season, it remained
remarkably consistent and there was much more the series had to offer had NBC
been more supportive. Too bad another
network did not pick it up. Douglas S.
Cramer, later responsible for the hilarious Wonder Woman with Lynda
Carter, is likely another reason. Best
of all, Desilu was such an incredible production company that a creative,
innovative gem like this could thrive without too much trouble. Some great writers (including names like
Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, plus
regulars like Jerome Bixby, Gene L. Coon, D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold) and
underrated directors (Herb Wallerstein, Joseph Sargent, Joseph Pevney, Leo
Penn, John Meredyth Lucas, Vincent McEveety, Don McDougall, James Goldstone,
Mark Daniels and then-unknown James Komack) were a rare combination and
gathering of talent few shows have been lucky enough to pull from. Today, this would be practically impossible
on network TV and slightly possible with cable. Otherwise, the flight of talent is to feature films, but network
TV was king then and the number of solid journeymen directors was at a peak.
The full frame 1.33 X 1 images were originally produced in
a richer color than is often here, something that is slightly dulled or
slightly faded in many cases when looking at some of these newer prints that
sacrificed richness for detail. The
schemes that are color consistent and the 1960s style is a bit off in those
cases, but many will not notice.
Turning your TV color up a bit to compensate for this might help. Wink Of An Eye is one of the
exceptions in looking like the shows all should. The two main cinematographers on the show were Al Francis (a TV
veteran who debuted as a cameraman with this show and another Desilu classic,
the original Mission: Impossible) and the legendary Gerald Penny
Finnerman. Finnerman also lensed
original M:I shows, as well as many episodes of Kojak, the
underrated TV version of Planet Of The Apes, Quincy, Night
Gallery, Salvage 1 and Moonlighting. He even directed episodes of those last
three shows and knew how to push the visual limits to make a show work,
especially with TV in mind. Together,
they created a look and world for the show that had never been seen before and
continues to be one of the most visually unique TV series ever made. The sound, as was the case on all previous
versions of the episodes issued on home video, are here monophonically,
realized in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound in this case. The shows also debut here with Dolby 5.1
mixes that are mixed. Part of the
problem that some of the older monophonic audio is placed so dead center in the
center channel that it defeats the purpose of the remix. Some of this is also at lower volumes than
it should be and is more compressed than the original sound was. Kirk’s famous opening words are too flat,
though some would prefer not to have him in the front three speakers. For High Definition release, these mixes
will have to be upgraded and made more seamless, but they are still better than
the original mono. The combination is
still the best the episodes have been presented to date, though fans will argue
than the PCM 2.0 Mono sound off of the old 12” LaserDiscs have moments of
fuller and clearer sound and they are right.
Extras are available on all three sets. The first Yellow set offers subtitled text commentary by
Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda on Where No Man Has Gone Before, The
Menagerie Part I, The Menagerie Part II, The Conscience of the
King, plus you get the featurettes The Birth of a Timeless Legacy; Life
Beyond Trek: William Shatner; To Boldly Go... Season One; Reflections on Spock
and Sci-Fi Visionaries. From the second
Blue set there is To
Boldly Go... Season Two; Life Beyond Trek: Leonard Nimoy; Kirk, Spock &
Bones: Star Trek's Great Trio; Designing the Final Frontier; Star Trek's Divine
Diva: Nichelle Nichols; Writer's Notebook: D.C. Fontana; Production Art; and a
Photo Gallery. The third Red set has To Boldly Go...
Season Three; Life Beyond Trek: Walter Koenig; Chief Engineer's Log; Memoir
from Mr. Sulu; Star Trek's Impact and A Star Collector's Dream Come True (by a
fan and now professional maker of Trek props who is cool enough to discuss Mego
Trek toys, for which a whole section could have appeared on one of these DVDs
and another for the early Remco toys to boot).
All episodes come with preview trailers on all three sets. That Paramount came up with a way to make
new supplements after all that had been said and done on this show is amazing,
but here it is. DeForest Kelly is
already gone. For others, this may be
their last testimony on the show.
The show is criticized for its dated visual effects, but even
the poorest ones are charming and never as obnoxious as most of the bad digital
effects we see today. Even the spin-off
series stuck with model work until very recently. Besides the archetypes of the characters, there is the
overacting, the TV violence fight scenes, Shatner’s patterned speech and his
sleeping around the universe.
Sometimes, the endings, resolutions and personal moments can even get
corny, but what remains is amazing if you catch it. Besides the classic production design, great color schemes, great
gadgets, classic costumes, groundbreaking creatures and underappreciated sound
design and music, at the heart of the shows are very smart, deep pontifications
of existential existence that people dismissed at the time too often as comic book
double talk. In real life, Having Spock
as the unemotional voice of reason, McCoy as the one who grasps science but
puts humanity first and Kirk as the somewhat dysfunctional leader who needs
both to guide him to survive is one of the greatest triads in all of television
history. They are the moral center of
the show, surrounded by other good, moral people trying to do the right thing;
a vision of a better future considered light years away during The Cold War, The
Space Race, Vietnam and vital social movements. The series remains way ahead of its time and it is this vital
core all imitators miss. Like the other
great, ambitious, underrated and simply fun shows that followed in its place,
like U.F.O., Space: 1999, Ark II, Jason Of Star Command,
Space Academy, and TV version of Logan’s Run among others, this
first Star Trek was launched as the big screen saw Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville
(1965), Francois Truffaut’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). In this way, these works launched a grand
cycle of intelligent Science Fiction like nothing we had ever seen before, and
when the first Star Wars arrived, Trek came to the big screen to
complete its original mission.
Before those films, Paramount and Filmation did an
animated version of Star Trek, while the live action show hit
syndication and was an unprecedented commercial success. It has been ever since. The animated series DVD set up next, marking
the last little-seen chapter of the classics’ TV reign when we return.
- Nicholas Sheffo