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June 15, 2009
Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1
Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1MWilliam Shatner

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Original effects (top), new special effects (bottom).
So how do you tackle reviewing such a massive Blu-Ray set? Well over the last couple of weeks I have sat down, watched every single episode (primarily due to my love of the franchise), written massive amounts of notes, and now try to condense it down to a more manageable size for you to read through. It's a massive undertaking, but this is a massive release for Paramount, Star Trek fans and the Blu-Ray format.

I am a Star Trek fan. I've watched every series; The Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise and while each has its pros and cons, I would happily re-watch any series again. But what started this obsession? Well, when I was you young lass (going back a number of years now) my family used to visit one of my dad's friends in Essendon every month or two. While my dad and his friend played Snooker, we always had the TV on and more often then not at around 10.30pm reruns of the original Star Trek would be aired. It was here that I was introduced to, and fell in love, with sci-fi, and a universe filled with strange creatures, new worlds, and one Starship captain named James T. Kirk.

With that in mind I was overjoyed a few months ago to hear that Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1 would be coming to Blu-Ray. It's been a while since I'd seen these original episodes, and knowing that they would be presented in 1080p was a joy. To hear that we would be receiving new visual effects as well was the icing on the cake. But then, to hear that the Blu-Ray set would include both the original as well as the remastered visual effects via seamless branching took this release to a whole new level again.

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NCC-1701 the Starship Enterprise.
So what do we have on this set? Well Star Trek: The Original Series - Season One comes to Blu-Ray as a 7-disc set and contains all 29 episodes from that season (it does, however, omit the first Pilot episode "The Cage", which never aired in the 1960s). Each disc contains four episodes (except disc two which has five) and they are presented in their original TV airing order. By that I mean the episodes are not presented in sequential order according to the Star Trek timeline (or Stardate). The third episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was actually filmed as the (new) pilot episode but was the third episode on TV. How does this affect things? Well for one the episode didn't include DeForest Kelley as Dr McCoy, so you may wish to switch around the viewing order of the first couple of episodes.

In terms of the actual episodes Season One is probably the best of the three seasons that were produced with some of the highest rated episodes (you can see what episodes are on each disc in the Extras Section below). The standout episodes for me include "Space Seed" which is where Kirk first encounters Kahn (who would later feature in the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn), "Balance of Terror" where the Romulans are first introduced in the series, "The Menagerie, Part I & II" which sees Spock on trial for mutiny, "The City on the Edge of Forever" which sees the crew transport back to the 1930's, "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" where Captain Kirk cloned on Exo III, "The Enemy Within" in which a transporter malfunction splits Kirk into two and creates a "good" Kirk and "evil" Kirk thereby causing chaos on the Enterprise, and finally "Errand of Mercy" which introduces the Klingon race.

It's the original Star Trek crew...
One question which I am sure most of you want answered is how well the new visual effects fit into the series? The answer is, remarkably well. When recreating the visual effects the filmmakers remained as faithful as possible to the original content. The opening sequence for example sees exactly the same pattern of stars in the sky as in the original visuals. It took one of the visual effects artists a week to recreate that starfield alone! Backgrounds have been touched up, and the Enterprise has been turned into a CG model to be filmed from multiple angles (in fact, my only niggle about the new visuals is that the Enterprise has more of a metallic grey rather then white look to it). I watched many of the episodes with the visual effects in their original and new versions, and after a while was quite happy to leave the discs running with the new visual effects. There are plenty of comparison shots around this review so you can see the difference for yourselves.

All-in-All Star Trek: The Original Series - Season One provides just as much entertainment now as it did when it first aired in the 1960s. Sure the dialogue is amusing in parts - and I don't mean intentionally - but the storylines, and friendships portrayed are timeless. As the strongest season, this is well worth picking up.

Star Trek comes to Blu-Ray using the VC-1 codec in the shows original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 which means you will see black bars on the left and right of the screen (assuming you have a widescreen TV). This preserves all the original image from the original airing. If the Blu-Ray producers had converted to widescreen, some of the image would have had to be cropped out. The right decision was made. The new visual effects are also presented at 1.33:1 to fit in as seamlessly as possible with the entire episode unlike the recent XBox downloadable versions which switched between 1.33:1 and 16:9 for new and old footage.

The great thing about this show is that it was filmed on 35mm film, meaning that the original negatives have been scanned in for the HD-DVD and this Blu-Ray release. The resultant image is one that is amazingly sharp in places with so much fine detail that you can see the stitching on the clothes, the smallest knobs and dials on the bridge controls, and even the powdery makeup on Spock in the earlier episodes which gave him a more yellow skin tone. Being remastered, the colours and shadow detail on this new release is vastly superior to that in the original release (you can see a screenshot further down demonstrating this).

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The effects have been redone, and remain as faithful as possible to the original episodes.

So is it perfect? Well in a way yes (as we've already discussed), but in other ways no. When the TV series was originally filmed for some strange reason whenever close up shots were made of female actors they were shot with a soft focus, resulting in a distinct lack of detail when compared to the other 1080p visuals on this disc. Unfortunately there is no way to remedy this and, it could be said this is how the filmmakers original shot the footage, and intended it to be viewed - although on a standard definition TV and for the original airing viewers would have struggled to see the difference. There were also episodes where the image quality wasn't as pristine as we expected with the occasional moments of dirt and damage to the negative and some image instability.

Despite these minor flaws we can assure everyone that you have never seen Star Trek look so good. Given that these episodes are now over 40 years old it's remarkable how good the quality is to this day. The new visual effects are integrated well, but purists can in a matter of moments flick over to the original visual effects as well.

Leonard Nimoy as Spock in Star Trek Season 1.
Did you see the summary box at the top of this review? DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1! No, that is not a typo. When remastering this release there has been quite a bit of effort going into remasting the audio. So much so that the original opening score was re-recorded to add more liveliness to it - despite being exactly the same in terms of the actual score and music. Newer technologies have allowed for better, and more accurate recording techniques and this really shines through. We must also point out that the Blu-Ray release even ups the HD-DVD release which 'only' had a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track, although to be honest, the extra two channels don't add too much to the mix.

As you are likely well aware these TV shows are very much dialogue driven and despite the age the dialogue is crystal clear for each of the episodes. The music score can be a little muted in places (except the opening music which is re-recorded) but there is nothing here that will make you look at your setup wondering if it's still working as it should. As with the video this is a top-notch release.

If you're not a fan of the remixed audio you will be glad to hear that these discs include an English Original 2.0 mono soundtrack which retains the original audio in mono sound. Beside that we also have German, Spanish, French and Italian 2.0 Mono soundtracks on this disc as well. Subtitles are provided in Danish, German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Suomi, Swedish and English for the Hearing Impaired. No issues were noted while sampling the English subtitle track.

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The bottom image shows the improvements to colouring after the episodes were remastered.
The extras are spread across all the discs in the set, and to make it easy for you to find where everything is we've decided to break the set down into the discs, with the episodes on each disc also listed. This really is quite a complete package with only a couple of omissions from the previous DVD sets - the primary ones being the omission of the text commentaries on the episodes 'Where No Man Has Gone Before', 'The Conscience of the King', and 'The Menagerie Part 1 and 2' and 'Beyond the Final Frontier' History Channel documentary which appeared on the HD-DVD set, the latter being quite a big omission. Most of the extras are ported from the original DVD release with the big inclusions being the PIP "Starfleet Access" on several episodes.

Disc One (The Man Trap, Charlie X, Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Naked Time): The big feature on this first disc is Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century (20:10/HD) which is a fascinating look at how the DVD producers brought the visual effects and audio up to scratch for this Blu-Ray release. The other big extra feature on this disc is Starfleet Access on "Where No Man Has Gone Before". This featurette is a picture-in-picture commentary which includes interviews with the filmmakers (both the original and the people working on the new visual effects for this release) and historians, images from the production, pop-up trivia about production and theories or items in the episodes, and details about the production. Previews (4:12) for the four episodes are also included and while pretty poor in quality are a great way to see how each episode was promoted. Finally we have the 2009 Star Trek Trailer (2:08/HD) which, while promotional, fits in to this release as the new movie also features the original crew.

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While these images are in widescreen, the series is presented in 1.33:1, as it should be.
Disc Two (The Enemy Within, Mudd's Women, What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Miri, Dagger of the Mind): Given that this disc is the only to include five episodes there wasn't much room for extras, and indeed all we have here are Previews (5:15) for each of the episodes. Actually there is also an Easter Egg on this disc with a promotional claip showing some of the visual effects work (3:42), which is sadly only in Standard Definition (even though the visual effects were done in HD for the final product).

Disc Three (The Corbomite Maneuver, The Menagerie Part 1, The Menagerie Part 2, The Conscience of the King): There are a couple of impressive extras including Reflections on Spock (12:03) in which Leonard Nimoy discusses playing the role of Spock, the way it has changed his life, and the controversy over his book "I am not Spock". Previews (4.12) for the four episodes are included as well as Starfleet Access PIP tracks on both episodes of "The Menagerie".

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Planets look a lot more realistic now.
Disc Four (Balance of Terror, Shore Leave, The Galileo Seven, The Squire of Gothos): The first extra on this disc is Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner (10:18) which looks at Bill Shatner's life on his ranch and his love for horses. Recorded in December 2003 this takes place before his resurgence in Bostal Legal, and focuses more on his horses, then what he's actually doing in the entertainment industry. Previews (4:12) for each episode are included on this disc, as well as another brilliant Starfleet Access on "Balance of Terror".

Disc Five (Arena, Tomorrow is Yesterday, Court Martial, The Return of Archons): There are a couple of extras on this fifth disc. To Boldly Go... Season One (18:49) looks at making the first season of the franchise with a restricted budget, limited sets and a rather rushed production schedule. The actors talk about some of the more important episodes. Next up is The Birth of a Timeless Legacy (24:05) which looks at the impact of the series and how it has stood the test of time with a retrospective look including a look at the original unaired pilot episode called "The Cage" and the rare opportunity to create a second pilot episode. Finally the disc also contains Previews (4:12) for the four episodes on this disc. If you're keen this disc also contains an Easter Egg with a very amusing Promotional Clip advertising the remastered series.

At the Helm of the Enterprise.
Disc Six (Space Seed, A Taste of Armageddon, This Side Of Paradise, The Devil In The Dark): Sci-Fi Visionaries (16:30) look at the science-fiction element of Star Trek and hiring the right writers to work on the scripts. Interactive Enterprise Inspection (HD) is a great virtual tour of the outside of the Enterprise presented in HD. Previews (4:12) are again included for the four episodes on the disc, and Starfleet Access PIP is presented for the episode "Space Seed".

Disc Seven (Errand of Mercy, The Alternative Factor, The City On The Edge Of Forever, Operation: Annihilate!): The final disc in this set follows a similar pattern to the others, although it does connect to the web for BD-Live if your player is capable. First up is the featurette titled Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories (13:23/HD) which is hosted by one of the actor who played the navigator Lt Hadley during Season One with reminiscing about the filming and his other roles in the season (including the White Rabbit). Next up is the amusing Kiss 'N' Tell: Romance In The 23rd Century (8:24) which looks at Kirk's romantic streak in the TV series - be they human or not! Previews (4:12) are contained for each of the four episodes on this disc and again we have another brilliant Starfleet Access PIP commentary track this time for the episode "Errand of Mercy". Finally BD-Live allows you to connect online to download more videos, images and information about the TV show.

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Original visual effects (left) and redone visuals (right). Impressive...

Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1 on Blu-Ray is a prime example of how so many more shows should be treated on the format. The audio and video far surpasses anything ever seen in prior releases and while not perfect, for a show over 40 years old the end result can only be described as exceptional. The discs contain a number of well produced extras which will take up several more hours of your life. No need to debate this one, this is an essential purchase.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Paramount. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.