Created by Gene Roddenberry
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and Grace Lee Whitney
- Running text commentary on four episodes by Trek experts Michael and Denise Okuda
- “Birth of a Timeless Legacy” featurette
- Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner
- “To Boldly Go…” featurette
- “Reflections on Spock” interview with Nimoy
- “Sci-Fi Visionaries” writer feature
- Original preview trailers
- Photo log
Released by: Paramount
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: It’s freakin’ Star Trek…own it.
There’s really not much I could say by way of an introduction to this one, folks. Long before the franchise had to resort to showering Vulcans to attract viewers, before falling so far as to rip off the laughable Lost in Space for series ideas, there was James Tiberius Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise, on their five-year mission to explore strange new worlds. Every legend begins somewhere, and for Star Trek, this DVD set shows us that beginning.
[ad#longpost]For those that (like me) have only ever seen the show in its endless syndication, viewing the series in original broadcast order is an eye-opening experience. The interaction of the various crew members reveals a surprising depth of character development over the course of the first season. Seeing Spock, Kirk, and McCoy at the beginning of their friendship lets the viewer appreciate just how subtle some of the writing and acting in the original series was. It’s also fascinating to see the series in its early stages, before many things about the universe were set in stone. For example, the crew’s uniforms change nearly every episode on the first disc, but by mid-season, the familiar uniforms are pretty standard.
The first season has some true classic episodes as well. “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “Tomorrow is Yesterday” cement the time-travel trope that would be common to the Trek franchise for decades. “Space Seed” introduces the man who would arguably be the greatest Star Trek villain ever: Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban). Despite the later cosmetic alterations, the introduction of the Klingons in “Errand of Mercy” and Romulans in “Balance of Terror” are historic must-sees for any fan of things Trek. There are a few episodes, especially early in the season, that don’t quite live up to expectations, but on the whole, the season is incredibly solid sci-fi television. Having become accustomed to the “Season Three Swing,” wherein later franchises didn’t really find their legs until three seasons into their run, it was refreshing to see a Star Trek show that hit its stride pretty early, and stayed on pace throughout.
Paramount has cleaned up the video, remixed the sound in Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 Surround, and packaged the entire first season of the show on eight discs. The shows have likely never looked better since initial broadcast (maybe not even then), and they have certainly never sounded this good. Extras are as good as we have come to expect from Trek TV boxed sets, though arguably these sets should be even more loaded than the others on the basis of sheer historicity.
Of the featurettes, “Birth” is a relatively quick look at the making of the series, from concept to pilot to casting and development. “To Boldly Go” gets more specific with particular first season episodes. “Reflections on Spock” is exactly what you think it is: new footage of Nimoy discussing the role. “Sci-Fi Visionaries” talks about Roddenberry’s strategy for doing a real sci-fi show that tried to be serious, mostly through the use of real sci-fi writers. And the Shatner featurette is rather sad, actually. I mean, I’m glad the guy likes horses and all, but what does that have to do with anything?
The text commentaries by the Okudas are excellent, though it’s a shame they are only present on four episodes. I’m not sure why one wouldn’t put these trivia-hound treasures on each and every episode. I’d rather have had that than Shatner talking about how he loves horses, honestly.
For any sci-fi geek out there, ownership of this set is damned near required to maintain a certain dork credibility. While there are many who will argue the Star Trek versus Star Wars dichotomy and pick one camp or the other to support, there’s really no excuse for anyone who claims to be a fan of sharp sci-fi storytelling to miss out on this one.