Rumor has it that Paramount people refer to "Star Trek" as "The Franchise". It's rather appropriate that "Star Trek" doesn't even have to be known by its own name given that it has resulted in five TV series, ten movies, lucrative merchandising, a theme attraction at the Las Vegas Hilton, and a pop culture phenomenon. However, at one point in time, "Star Trek" looked like it was bound to be remembered as an interesting failure.
During the mid-1960s, Gene Roddenberry, a war-time pilot and one-time policeman, pitched an idea to Paramount about a western set in space. Roddenberry and Co. needed two tries at making a pilot episode before Paramount greenlighted "Star Trek" and sold the exhibition rights to NBC. The show lasted three years and was canceled due to lackluster ratings. What saved "Star Trek" from extinction was syndication, as fans and newbies alike powered "Star Trek" re-runs to unprecedented ratings among syndicated shows. Fan-started conventions indicated that people were willing to spend their own money in order to celebrate a series that they loved. Therefore, Paramount and Roddenberry went to work on "Star Trek: Phase II", a series that eventually became "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (Robert Wise, 1979). It took ten years after the end of "Star Trek: The Original Series" before another "Star Trek" program was seen by the public, but the franchise has been going strong since then. In fact, there have been times when two shows were on the air simultaneously, and there have been times when a movie appeared in theatres while there was a show on TV.
Paramount originally released "Star Trek: The Original Series" on forty individual DVDs with two episodes each. A low MSRP of $14.95 meant that you could get each DVD for about $10.00, but that still meant that you would pay about $400.00 for Seasons 1, 2, and 3. Now, after releasing "The Next Generation", "Deep Space Nine", and several seasons of "Voyager" in complete-season box sets, Paramount is re-releasing "The Original Series" in box sets, too. Each set will cost about $100.00, so the final cost of buying the box sets is about $300.00.
The new "Star Trek: The Original Series" Season 2 box basically offers everything that the previous single-disc releases of the show did. The box sets of "The Original Series" also include featurettes that were not seen on the individual DVDs. Therefore, the box sets are better values than the individual discs, though it's really up to you if you want to make the "upgrade" if you already have the forty DVDs. Me? I have to admit that it's nice getting "The Original Series" in box sets like the other TV shows in the franchise.
Disc 1: "Amok Time", "Who Mourns for Adonais?", "The Changeling", "Mirror, Mirror".
Disc 2: "The Apple", "The Doomsday Machine", "Catspaw", "I, Mudd".
Disc 3: "Metamorphosis", "Journey to Babel", "Friday's Child", "The Deadly Years".
Disc 4: "Obsession", "Wolf in the Fold", "The Trouble With Tribbles", "The Gamesters of Triskelion".
Disc 5: "A Piece of the Action", "The Immunity Syndrome", "A Private Little War", "Return to Tomorrow".
Disc 6: "Patterns of Force", "By Any Other Name", "The Omega Glory", "The Ultimate Computer".
Disc 7: "Bread and Circuses", "Assignment: Earth".
In "Star Trek: The Original Series", which began in 1966 and ended in 1969, Captain James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner) commands the Enterprise, a starship exploring the galaxy. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is Kirk's half-Vulcan/half-human second-in-command. (Vulcans are a people who devote their lives to living with pure logic.) Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley, a regular in TV westerns) is the cantankerous doctor who's always protesting that he's a doctor and not something else ("I'm a doctor, not an engineer!"). Rounding out the cast are James Doohan as Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, George Takei as Hikaru Sulu, and Nichelle Nichols as communications officer Nyota Uhura. Grace Lee Whitney played Yeoman Janice Rand for a year, and Walter Koenig joined the cast as Ensign Pavel Chekov in Year Two.
If you've read my review of "Star Trek: The Original Series" Season 1, then you know that I have reservations about the franchise's apparent sexism when Gene Roddenberry was still alive. However, I've already ground that axe, so I'm going to accentuate the positive with this review. It was daring and ultimately highly influential that Roddenberry introduced a Russian character at the height of nuclear tensions between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. Season 2 furthers Season 1's examination of humanity's attraction to fascism and strong authority figures ("Patterns of Force", "Bread and Circuses"). The show's interest in Earth history and mythologies enriches its own stab at immortality. Finally, there's "The Trouble With Tribbles", responsible for the franchise's occasional forays into cutesy-land but also responsible for an amusing look at the light-hearted side of intergalactic intrigue.
The 1.33:1 (full-frame on 4:3 monitors) video transfers aren't very good. No one bothered to restore the film elements, so while the show looks fairly sharp and clear, it is not clean. In fact, in some special effects shots and stock footage (footage that was re-used several times for generic moments), you can see a lot of dust, fading, and general disrepair.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio tracks are pretty impressive. You can hear space vessels zoom around your home theatre, and there is a surprising amount of bass presence during explosions. While music can sound a tad wobbly sometimes, dialogue is always clear and sharp. In fact, the actors' voices don't sound thin the way that others' voices do with TV shows and movies from the pre-1975 era.
You can also watch the DVDs with DD 2.0 surround English tracks. (I'm not sure if they're the show's original audio presentations, however.) Optional English subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.
On Disc 1, there's a text commentary for "Amok Time". On Disc 4, there's a text commentary for "The Trouble With Tribbles". On each disc, you'll find a preview for each episode. These previews were the only extras on the original forty discs.
The remaining extras are all found on Disc 7. "To Boldy Go..." is an overview of Season 2. "Life Beyond Trek: Leonard Nimoy" allows the real Spock to talk about his passion for photography. "Kirk, Spock, & Bones: Star Trek's Great Trio" looks at what made the three characters such a great team. "Designing the Final Frontier" reveals how sets, costumes, and other effects are crafted. "Star Trek's Divine Diva: Nichelle Nichols" is a close look the actress who played Uhura. "Writer's Notebook: D.C. Fontana" shines a light on a key writing contributor. "Production Art" and a photo gallery provide additional glimpses of behind-the-scenes work. Finally, you'll find four Easter Eggs if you move your remote cursor around the menus.
The discs are held in square plastic trays that are bound together like the pages of a book. The tray-book is enclosed within a cardboard slipcase. There's a fold-out booklet that provides information about the episodes, tricorders, and the Andorians. Everything is housed inside a plastic shell that looks like a prop from The Original Series.
In my review of the "Star Trek: The Original Series" Season 1 box set, I wrote that Kirk, Spock, and Bones may be the best characters in the whole franchise. Season 2 confirms that analysis, what with upgrading Deforest Kelley to the opening credits and with an added emphasis on how close the characters are. In fact, it's very moving to see Spock take Bones as one of his comrades-in-arms during the season opener. This is probably The Original Series' strongest year.