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 3 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: "Spock's Brain", "The Enterprise Incident", "The Paradise Syndrome", "And the Children Shall Lead".
Disc 2: "Is There in Truth No Beauty?", "Spectre of the Gun", "Day of the Dove", "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky".
Disc 3: "The Tholian Web", "Plato's Stepchildren", "Wink of an Eye", "The Empath".
Disc 4: "Elaan of Troyius", "Whom Gods Destroy", "Let That BE Your Last Battlefield", "The Mark of Gideon".
Disc 5: "That Which Survives", "The Lights of Zetar", "Requiem for Methuselah", "The Way to Eden".
Disc 6: "The Cloud Minders", "The Savage Curtain", "All Our Yesterdays", "Turnabout Intruder".
Disc 7: "The Cage--Restored Version", "The Cage--Original Version".
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.
The ratings for Years 1 and 2 of "Star Trek" were so bad that Gene Roddenberry moved off of the Paramount lot and began trying to sell other shows to the TV networks. NBC actually canceled the show, only to receive thousands of fan letters asking for a renewal. NBC put the show back on the air at Fridays at 10 PM. Without Roddenberry's passion and without a time slot that actually had sizable numbers of viewers, Season 3 signaled the end of "The Original Series". Even fans consider Season 3 to be a serious low point--laughable episodes, uninspired acting, recycled sets and props, etc. To be fair, there were additional moments of fun with the Klingons and the Romulans, and there was that historical interracial kiss between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols, but "The Original Series" needed an early death--it had to get off the air before additional damage could be done, and it had to get off the air so that the phenomenon could begin.
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 6, there are text commentaries for "The Savage Curtain" and "Turnabout Intruder". 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 3. "Life Beyond Trek: Walter Koenig" yields the floor to a shy, often-in-the-background co-star. "Chief Engineer's Log" features old and recent interviews with James Doohan. "Memoir From Mr. Sulu" showcases George Takei, someone who's very active in the Asian-American community. "Star Trek's Impact" takes a hagiographic look at the franchise's influence. "A Star Trek Collector's Dream Come True" examines how props are made. "Production Art" provides additional glimpses of behind-the-scenes work. Finally, you'll find six 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, Engineering departments, and the Klingons. Everything is housed inside a plastic shell that looks like a prop from The Original Series.
The Extras for Season 3 are surprisingly candid in their coverage of what went wrong business-wise with "Star Trek". However, no one directly criticizes the episodes themselves. A lot of blame is directed at various people and groups, but this set really should've looked at what went wrong internally, too.