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page added: 11/27/07



Star Trek: The Original Series
Season One - Remastered - 1966-67 (2007) - NBC/Desilu (CBS DVD/Paramount)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Ratatouille (Blu-ray Disc)

DVD/HD-DVD FormatDVD/HD-DVD FormatDolby Digital PlusDolby TrueHD
Dolby Digital1080p - Analog Full Resolution

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

Program: A-
HD Video (1-20): 17
HD Audio (1-20): 17
Extras: B-


Specs and Features:
1475 mins total (29 episodes total), NR, HD-DVD side: AVC 1080p widescreen (1.78:1 - episodes presented in 1.33:1 full frame with black bars on the sides), DVD side: MPEG-2 480p full frame (1.33:1), 10 HD-30/DVD-9 DVD/HD-DVD Combo discs, Digipack packaging with plastic clamshell case, HD content is All Region, DVD content is NTSC Region 1, HDi Starfleet Access viewing option on 7 episodes (including Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Menagerie, Parts I and II, Balance of Terror, The Galileo Seven, Space Seed and Errand of Mercy), HDi Interactive Enterprise Inspection, 3 high-def featurettes (Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century, Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories and Star Trek Online Game Preview), 10 standard-definition featurettes (Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century, Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories, Star Trek Online Game Preview, The Birth of a Timeless Legacy, Reflections on Spock, Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner, To Boldly Go... Season One, Sci-Fi Visionaries, Kiss 'n' Tell: Romance in the 23rd Century and Trek Connections), standard-definition documentary (the History Channel's Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier), episode previews, 5 special collector data cards, animated film-themed root menus and pop-up menu overlay, scene access (none, but each episode has chapter stops), languages (HD-DVD side): Dolby TrueHD 5.1 & Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 stereo (English), Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 mono (Spanish), languages (DVD side): Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 1.0 mono (French and Spanish), subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish (DVD side only)


"Space... the final frontier"

These are NEARLY the original voyages of the Starship Enterprise, packed with full-on, phasers-firing Trek action. In the 29 episodes you'll find on Star Trek: The Original Series - Season One, you're guaranteed to see William Shatner's ham-handed Kirk swagger, and Nimoy's unflappable Spock arch his eyebrows. Scotty will bitch and moan about his engines, McCoy will remind you that he's a doctor (as opposed to something else), and there are plenty of short skirts and funny-looking aliens (who look surprisingly like humans with painted skin and latex ears). Lots of red-shirts will die on away missions, several computers will be logic-looped by Kirk, and hordes of extras will flood the Bridge just in time to be tossed around during red alerts. If you're anything like me, you simply HAVE to love classic Star Trek. This is, after all, where the legend began.

This first season of the series is pretty amazing when you consider that it contains so many of the show's best episodes. Among the adventures you'll enjoy here are such classics as Balance of Terror (the first encounter with the Romulans), The Galileo Seven (Spock's very own Kobayashi Maru), The Devil in the Dark (PAIN!!!), Space Seed (which gave us Khan... the franchise's best-ever villain) and, of course, the all-time classic... The City on the Edge of Forever (which proves that time travel and Joan Collins really do mix, thanks to the hard sci-fi writing talents of Harlan Ellison, who continues to complain about Star Trek and Paramount to this day). No doubt about it - this show might only have survived for three years on NBC, but it sure as hell didn't take long to find its stride.

I used the term NEARLY original a few moments ago, because the episodes as presented on this set have all been given CBS Digital's new "remastered" treatment. That means that all of the show's exterior effects shots (and some other effects shots as well) have been re-done using today's CG capabilities, while staying largely true to the sensibilities of the original production. The mantra was to make the new shots look as if they'd been done in the 1960s, if only the original production team had CG capability back then. The reason for doing this was simple: the original effects shots simply didn't stand up to HD viewing. They suffered badly from such problems as dust, dirt and grain, matte errors and degradation of the image due to the optical printing process used at the time. The problems were bad enough in standard definition, but were made all the more obvious in high definition.

Now, I'm definitely a film purist. But as was my position on the Star Wars remastered effort, I feel that as long as the episodes are preserved in the highest quality as they were originally, and as long as the changes don't affect story and character, I'm open to new effects. New CG effects can potentially attract a whole new audience to the show, and they give long-time fans reason to go back and rediscover it. On the whole, I've been a fan of Trek Remastered so far. Most of the new shots are quite good, and actually blend in with the original live action footage surprisingly well. Care has been taken to ensure that grain, color and other issues are consistent between the new and old imagery. The new effort isn't without it's problems, however. Some of the effects aren't so good (the Enterprise deploying satellites in Errand of Mercy comes to mind). It's also surprising what HASN'T been done. For example, the end credits still show images of the original effects. Occasionally, as in a shot of the main view screen in Errand of Mercy, obvious hairs on the edges of the frame haven't been removed. Then there's things like the "James R. Kirk" lettering on the tombstone in Where No Man Has Gone Before. The pop-up video commentary reveals that it wasn't corrected to "James T. Kirk" because there were too many shots to fix and the budget and schedule were too tight. Therein lies the biggest problem with Trek Remastered: It sometimes feels the work is being rushed.

Still, as part of this effort, the episodes are actually being legitimately remastered. The video is presented in an AVC encode in the original full frame/1.33:1 aspect ratio, with black bars on the sides of the 1.78:1 HD frame. I can already hear the complaints about that in some quarters, but this is certainly the right way to approach this series for high-definition. The color vibrancy and accuracy is astonishing. TOS was a show that grew ever more bold in its use of color, which in the late 1960s was still new to most TV viewers. The colors simply pop off the screen in HD, just as they should. Contrast has also been dramatically improved, and some print-related defects (scratches and the like) have been digitally cleaned away. Plus, the simple fact of the higher resolution means that you're going to see detail in the image you've never noticed before - even to the extent of spotting flaws in an actor's make-up. All that said, these episodes don't look perfect, nor should they. You're going to see substantial grain at times, shots that go a little out of focus here and there, etc. You're also going to see occasional film flutter and other age related artifacts. But these are mostly trivial. What I found a little more surprising was occasional digital compression artifacting in the fine detail of several effects shots. It's not something most people are ever going to notice. I have the benefit of viewing the episodes on a 110" projection screen, while most people are going to be watching on smaller, flat panel displays. But the artifacting makes me wonder if perhaps these episodes weren't compressed just a little too much to fit on the HD-30 side of these combo discs (there are three episodes on each side of most discs in the set). That said, the important thing to keep in mind here is that this series has simply NEVER looked this good before. And that's nothing to complain about.

The episode soundtracks have also been digitally remastered. Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 is available, along with 5.1 mixes in Dolby TrueHD (the volume of which is a bit lower, so beware if you're switching back and forth to compare the two). The 2.0 presentation most closely replicates the show's original mono audio, but the TrueHD is the clear winner here. In addition to stunning resolution and smooth, wide staging, the 5.1 mix is more atmospheric than aggressive or gimmicky, retaining much of the original character of the show's audio. You'll hear the occasional use of the rear channels for effects and the like, but for the most part the audio action stays front-loaded, as it should. Frankly, where the 5.1 mix shines most is in its presentation of the re-recorded Alexander Courage theme music, with its characteristic WHOOSH as the Enterprise races by to the left and right. These audio mixes aren't going to challenge modern movie surround work, but they're very appropriate to this series, and as such they're very pleasing.

The discs are packaged in a small Digipack with a cardboard slipcase. As you know, these discs are all DVD/HD-DVD Combo format. The good news is that all the discs seemed to work properly in my player, which hasn't been my experience with other Combo discs. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of the Combo format is that there's no disc labeling. That's incredibly inconvenient on a TV series release, because there's no way to tell which episodes are on each disc without referring to the packaging. If these were Blu-ray BD-50 discs, all this content would fit with no problem and you've be able to label the discs as well. But Blu-ray doesn't seem to be in the cards for this series, at least for the foreseeable future, so this is what we're stuck with. There's no booklet included with this release, but to resolve the disc labeling issue, CBS has included 5 slippery plastic "special collector data cards," which have pictures of the crew on the front and a list of the episodes and features included on the discs on the back. I certainly don't see even the most diehard Trekkie going ga-ga over the collectibility of these things. A simple booklet would have sufficed. By the way, the Digipack is held by a clear plastic clamshell case that has a sort of futuristic look to it, as if it were a prop from the show. I actually kind of like it. It's also a lot smaller and more compact than I was expecting, which makes me like it even more.

When you put the discs in your HD-DVD player, you're strangely greeted by a standard definition CBS DVD logo (on several of the discs), which for a moment makes you wonder if you're on the wrong side. Then you go through the usual warning screens in clearly high-def, until you get to the opening CG menu animation. In this you enter a turbolift, which takes you to the Transporter Room. Once there, the menu interface appears which lets you access the various episodes and features on the disc. I actually quite liked the interface, once I got used to it, but the whole turbolift/Transporter animation gets old quick (thankfully, you can skip past it). As the disc waits for you to make your selections, the Transporter keeps beaming in and out characters from the various episodes - it's all a bit cheesy. Anyway, the menu interface allows you to select the various audio and subtitle options, as well as any extra features. On seven of the episodes (Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Menagerie, Parts I and II, Balance of Terror, The Galileo Seven, Space Seed and Errand of Mercy), you can activate an HDi viewing option called Starfleet Access (on the HD-DVD side only, obviously), which lets you view behind-the-scenes video and text trivia. More on that in a moment.

Disc Ten (on the HD-DVD side) offers four additional features in high-def. The first three of these are featurettes. Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century examines the remastering work and the creation of the new effects, featuring glimpses of many effects shots in full widescreen (they're being rendered in both full frame and widescreen), as well as interviews with the production team. The real gold on these discs is found in Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories. Blackburn was an extra and stunt performer on the series, and he appeared in many of its episodes in various roles. While on the set, he often had an old 8mm movie camera at the ready, and we get to see much of that candid, behind-the-scenes footage here, as he reminisces about his experiences. It's extremely cool to see, and there will be more on the Season Two and Three releases. Also on the HD side is a promo featurette called Star Trek Online Game Preview, which plugs the work going into the forthcoming Trek-themed MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) coming from in 2009 from Perpetual Entertainment. Now, I'll be the first person to admit that this looks kind of cool, but did we really need it on the HD-DVD side? This is all the more frustrating, given that several more important extras in this set are ONLY available on the standard DVD side. Again, I'll come back to that.

Disc Ten also features an HDi Interactive Enterprise Inspection in full high-def, that allows you to fly around the CG model of the Enterprise used in creating the new effects. It's fairly easy to navigate, but there's not a lot of depth to it, so it gets boring rather quickly (although seeing little tiny crewmen through the ship's windows is a nice touch). You do get to see a few interesting animations and the like, and there's an optional audio "data" track that will tell you about what you're seeing. Fans aren't likely to learn anything new here, but it's kind of cool nonetheless.

As I noted a moment ago, the Starfleet Access viewing option allows you to view behind-the-scenes video interviews and text trivia while you're watching select episodes. This works fairly well. Unfortunately, instead of doing this picture-in-pictures style, the screen zooms out so that it's as if you're watching two side-by-side monitors on the Bridge. One features the continuing episode video, while the other shows the behind-the-scenes material. The actual behind-the-scenes stuff is quite good. You get to see comparisons of the original effects shots to the new shots, interviews with the new effects producers (including people like Michael and Denise Okuda) and others who have been involved with Trek over the years. Among these are David Gerrold, D.C. Fontana, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens and more... even original guest cast members like Gary Lockwood are interviewed. That's all very cool. Unfortunately, what you don't get to see is any kind of commentary by the original leading cast members, likely due to cost issues. The data trivia files operate similarly to the video, and give you information on such topics as Science, Technology, Environments, Federation Files, Lifeforms and the like. Nearly all of this material is scene-specific, so seeing it in context of the episode is really the best way to present it. The icons for the available options appear on the right-hand side of the screen, in the back bar. You select what you want, and it pops up. If you select video once, and do nothing else, new videos will keep appearing as the episode goes on. If you chose to view a text option, however, you have to go back into video mode again to continue seeing them. The controls and the interface are somewhat clumsy, and they don't always work smoothly (for example, occasionally when you exit the viewing option, the side-by-side video will disappear but the blue screen windows will remain for a few seconds longer). And some of the episodes don't feature as much added content as others. Still, for all its flaws, Starfleet Access is mostly an interesting feature.

As you might expect, the DVD sides of these discs offer the remastered episodes in standard definition resolution. The DVD sides also include the Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century, Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest and Star Trek Online Game Preview featurettes in standard definition. Unfortunately, as I noted, they also include additional features not on the HD-DVD side. Carrying over from the original Season One DVD release are several more featurettes (including The Birth of a Timeless Legacy, Reflections on Spock, Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner, To Boldly Go... Season One and Sci-Fi Visionaries), as well as preview trailers for the various episodes. You also get a pair of extras that previously had only been available on DVD in Region 1 on the Season One Best Buy bonus disc, including the Kiss 'n' Tell: Romance in the 23rd Century featurette and Trek Connections. Completely new here in standard-def is the History Channel's 90-minute Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier documentary. On the other hand, missing from the previous DVD release are the 4 Red Shirt Logs Easter eggs (they MAY actually be here, but I haven't found them), as well as the previous Okuda text commentaries. The fact that most of the previous extras have carried over - and that there's new material as well - is great. The fact that the material is scattered over different discs and is further split between sides is not. It makes trying to access some of this material almost inconvenient enough not to bother with it.

Again, if these had been BD-50 Blu-ray Discs, all of the material could potentially have been included on one-sided discs, whether it was standard definition or high-def. Sticking with the DVD/HD-DVD Combo format, I would RATHER have had the standard DVD side simply include the same DVD content that was released previously - including the original versions of these episodes - so this set could REPLACE the previous discs on your shelves. As it is, most fans are surely going to want to keep both sets, so they can retain the classic episodes as they were originally presented. As far as high-def material, most of what's here is great. I do have one suggestion for future sets, however. After seeing the widescreen versions of some of the effects shots in the Spacelift featurette, it occurred to me that it would be cool for future sets to include some sort of Effects Sizzle Reel, featuring the best of the season's effects work in full high-def widescreen. Just a thought.

In the end, Star Trek: The Original Series - Season One Remastered is a generally good release, but like the new effects work itself, it feels a little bit undercooked. The content producers have obviously worked hard to take advantage of the new HDi interactive capabilities, but whereas in some ways they're reinvented the wheel in interesting ways, in others ways they've just created a clunkier wheel. Still, if the interactive features are a mixed bag, Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest is an extremely cool gem. And there's no doubt that the most avid fans of this show - not to mention those with HD-DVD players and high-def displays - will thrill at seeing their favorite episodes in 1080p in this kind of quality. When this set was first revealed at Comic-Con, the early word from CBS and Paramount was that it would carry the hefty SRP of $217.99. There's no way it's worth that much. Fortunately, Amazon is currently carrying it for the reduced price of $132.95. That's more like it. The set is still pricey, so I just can't recommend it to most people, including more casual Trek fans. But if you can get it on sale, you diehard Trekkers might just find it worth considering.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com
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