The original voyages of the Starship Enterprise get more than a simple digital buffing with the newly “remastered” collection. The iconic bridge crew is at the helm – manly yet amiable Captain Kirk (William Shatner), unemotionally logical yet unfailingly loyal Vulcan science officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy, with elf ears and the Vulcan equivalent of a page boy cut), country doctor in space Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), who has a penchant for prodding Spock into debates about logic and emotion, Chief Engineer Scotty (James Doohan), navigator Lt. Sulu (George Takei), communications officer Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), and Ensign Chekov (Walter Koenig), who joined the cast in the second season to provide the show with a heartthrob – and the episodes are complete and intact. What’s new are the enhanced special effects and sound effects, all redone with digital technology designed with a retro-look; the producers have been careful to match the look and style with the rest of the show. It’s a change that may upset die-hard Trekkers and offend purists, but I have to say that I don’t mind the effects overhaul. In a side-by-side comparison, the differences are startling, but in the context of the shows the new footage is well integrated into the existing footage, matching the style and sixties color scheme while giving the ship a more substantial, solid feel.
And then, of course, there are the episodes. Season One opens with Man Trap, a classic Trek story of alien encounters and interstellar morality with a cast of characters in the early stages of narrative evolution. As the actors settled into the characters and the writers settled into the universe, the series developed into the iconic show still beloved by so many, with such season highlights as Balance of Terror (a battle of wits and strategy with the Romulans, in their first series appearance), Shore Leave (an amusement park of the mind, scripted by Theodore Stugeon), Arena (Kirk versus the lizard man in a macho battle to the death, adapted from the famous Fredric Brown short story), Devil in the Dark (one of the episodes that shows Roddenberry’s desire to twist stereotypes and create unexpected, peaceful resolutions to alien clashes), and the award-winning City on the Edge of Forever, scripted by Harlan Ellison). Other favorites include Mudd’s Women, which introduced interstellar conman Harry Mudd (played by Roger C. Carmel and still one of the favorite guest characters), Miri (“Bang, bang, on the head!”), The Corbomite Manuever (a deadly stand-off with an alien ship), and Space Seed (with Ricardo Montalban as a genetically engineered superman; the episode inspired Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).
Season Two, considered by most fans the best of its 3 season run, opens on the classic Amok Time (where Spock goes into… well, he goes into heat and gets into a battle to the death with Kirk in his sex-frenzied blood-lust), Mirror Mirror (where a transporter accident sends an away team into an alternate universe with a fascist Federation), Journey to Babel (which introduces Mark Lenard as Sarek, Spock’s estranged father), and the fan-favorite episode The Trouble With Tribbles. In other highlights, Roger C. Carmel returns in I, Mudd, Scotty is inhabited by the spirit of Jack the Ripper in Wolf in the Fold, the roaring twenties rule in A Piece of the Action, Nazis rule in Patterns of Force, and Robert Lansing is time-traveler Gary Seven in Assignment: Earth, the season finale and pilot proposal for a series that never happened.
Highlights from the third and final season of the series include The Enterprise Incident, where Kirk’s rash detour into Romulan territory and his struggle with Spock over command masks a deeper motive, Day of the Dove, which pits them in hand-to-hand conflict with a Klingon warship led by Kang (Michael Ansara, who reprises the role in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Plato’s Stepchildren, which features what has been noted as the first interracial kiss on American network television, and The Tholian Web, where Spock takes the helm while Kirk is lost in the inter-dimensional space). Frank Gorshin, his face painted white and black, declares war on his mirror image in Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, McCoy falls in love in For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky, Yvonne Craig (aka Batgirl) dances the hoochie koo in an insane asylum in Whom the Gods Destroy, Spock plays the lute for a band of galactic hippies in The Way to Eden, and in the series finale, Turnabout Intruder, Kirk’s body is taken over by a madwoman, and he winds up in hers, giving that old ham Shatner an opportunity get in touch with his feminine side. The fact is, this show became so iconic despite it’s run of a mere three seasons, most episodes have some tug of the fans for one reason or another. Along with the 26 episodes of the third and final season are two versions of the original pilot episode The Cage, with Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike and Majel Barrett as his Number One. The original was thought to be lost and reconstructed from the two-part episode The Menagerie (which recycled footage from the otherwise unused pilot) with a B&W work-print footage filling in for lost scenes for release on home video, with an introduction and afterward by Gene Roddenberry. Later the complete, restored, full color version was discovered and broadcast on TV in 1988: the way it was originally meant to be seen. Both of these are on the DVD.
Each season includes various featurettes, interviews, galleries of stills and art and other supplements, plus a new series of featurettes exclusive to the “Remastered” sets: “Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest” with series extra Billy Blackburn sharing remembrances, memorabilia and home movies from the set (think of it as a “Memories of a Star Trek Extra and Spear Carrier”). With the release of the “Season Three” set this week, the entire series is now “remastered” and has been collected in a three-pack. Curiously the “Season One” set is the previously-released HD/DVD combo version, but only the DVD side of the discs will be of any use to most viewers (HD is already a dead format). The only real complain I have is that the new season cases are awkward creations, a cheap plastic set of DVD leaves dropped into a cool-looking case with recipe cards in place of a booklet. It’s too bad that Paramount didn’t take the opportunity to redesign a sturdier, more efficient, easier-to-use “Complete Series” box set for the release. Instead, what they offer are the three season releases shrinkwrapped together.
The only other caveat I have about this set is my suspicion that Paramount has yet another release in the cards: how long, I ask you, before it’s refurbished once more for a Blu-ray release? That seems like the final frontier for this continuing home video voyage.