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Blu-ray review: "Star Trek: The Original Series - Season Three"

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Star Trek: The Original Series - Season Three

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The third season of “Star Trek – The Original Series” is noteworthy for the shabby manner in which NBC and Paramount treated Gene Roddenberry and his TV series. The network’s executives didn’t understand science fiction or its abilities to tell socially relevant stories. They believed the genre was either a passing fad or more suitable for Saturday morning kids’ fare.

Believing that “Star Trek” would be a ratings failure and wanting to cut its financial losses, NBC asked Paramount to reduce the show’s already low budget. The rationale seemed to be, “Why throw good money at “Star Trek” if it is not generating advertising income?”

The series’ fate was sealed by a plethora of behind-the-scenes problems. After Season Two, the show lost two of its best writers: producer Gene L. Coon left to work on another series. At the same time, script consultant Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana quit to pursue freelance work. Fontana still contributed The Enterprise Incident and Coon (using the pen name Lee Cronin) wrote Spectre of the Gun and Spock’s Brain, but their absence from the Paramount lot led to a decline in the quality of the show’s scripts.

The death blow came from NBC’s decision move to schedule “Star Trek” on Friday nights at 10 slot instead of airing it on Mondays at 7:30 PM. NBC had promised series creator Gene Roddenberry the Mondays-at-7:30 PM slot, then changed its mind. Star Trek was unceremoniously tossed into the death slot, and Roddenberry quit as line producer.

Veteran producer Fred Freiberger took over and tried to keep the series afloat, but the ratings fell even further and NBC canceled the show in February 1969. The series’ 79th and last episode – Turnabout Intruder – aired on June 3, 1969, just a few weeks before the first astronauts landed on the moon.

“Star Trek" went out not with a bang, but with a whimper, a cold sweat, and a stomach ache. – William Shatner

The Freiberger-produced "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season Three" is considered to be the show’s weakest. While there were some excellent episodes – including The Enterprise Incident, The Paradise Syndrome,The Savage Curtain, For The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, All Our Yesterdays, and Is There in Truth No Beauty? – most were just watchable and some were awful.

The very worst was Spock’s Brain, written by Lee Cronin/Gene Coon.

Other cringe-worthy episodes include The Mark of Gideon, Elaan of Troyius, and And the Children Shall Lead, which guest-starred attorney-to-the-stars Melvin Belli. Belli got the role thanks to his friendship with Fred Freiberger. He may have been a good lawyer, but his acting skills weren’t as Star Trek-worthy as Ricardo Montalban’s.

Ironically, the show's revival in syndication would have been impossible without the 23 episodes that comprise Season Three. Most TV series are bought for syndication if a set number of episodes – usually 100 – are produced. If NBC had canceled the show after Season Two, Paramount couldn’t have sold the 56 episodes to individual TV stations. However, with 80 episodes on hand, the studio managed to offer "Star Trek' in syndication in the fall of 1969.

"Star Trek" Goes Blu

In September 2009, CBS Video released the Blu-ray set of "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season Three." The six-BD set has 23 episodes from the show’s 1968-1969 season and most of the featurettes from the 2007 DVD/HD-DVD set. It also offers exclusive extra features derived from the Comic-Con 2009 event in San Diego, California and BD Live/Mobile Blu content

The 2009 Blu-ray edition of "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season Three" gives viewers the ability to see and hear the show with its original 1960s special effects and mono audio track. The Blu-ray discs also include the remastered CGI effects, and a 7.1 surround sound audio track.

This option of choosing which version to see and/or hear is a boon for two camps of "Star Trek" fans. Purists who want to see the classic show the way they remember it can choose Original Effects. Viewers who want to see the updated effects can choose the Enhanced version.

Packaging

The packaging of the Blu-ray version is sturdier than that of the 2008 DVD set. The " Star Trek: The Original Series – Season Three" BD set sticks to the color scheme introduced in the DVD version. However, instead of reusing the artwork from the "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season Three" DVDs, the Blu-ray package features a stylized Engineering/Ship’s Services division insignia against a red-black background.

The slimmer plastic package comes without an outer cardboard sleeve. The multi-disc jewel box holds six BD discs. Each disc has four or five "Star Trek" episodes and assorted extra features. Every disc has the original Next Voyage previews for each episode.

Some discs also include short “making-of” documentaries on the original show’s production. There are also interviews with surviving key cast and production staff members. However, unlike its Season One and Season Two predecessors, the "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season Three" set doesn’t have any Starfleet Access episodes.

The BDs now have cooler menus and more language options. In the DVD edition of "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season Three," the menus look like the Enterprise transporter room. You can get access to various options through the “transporter control” panel. When an episode is “engaged,” the familiar sound of the transporter beam is heard and the screen sparkles momentarily before the show begins.

The "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season Three" Blu-ray menus are more dynamic. A shot of the Enterprise in orbit over a ringed gas giant is the first thing viewers see. Then the picture changes to depict the main viewer in the starship’s bridge. The various menu options are displayed on separate panels: one for Episodes, one for Communications (Language Options), one for Visual and Audio versions and, when applicable, one for Starfleet Access.

The languages option on the BDs is a vast improvement over the 2007 DVD sets’ somewhat limited capabilities. Though the sound is a bit muffled in the discs’ feature content when compared to that of the extra features, Star Trek: The Original Series – Season Three offers more audio and subtitle options.

Languages: English (DTS-HD High Res Audio), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dubbed: French, Spanish

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season Three Episode List

The following episode list is derived from the Star Trek: Season Three Blu-ray six-disc set, but is arranged in the same chronological order as in the 2008 seven-disc DVD set. The episodes are listed according to their original 1968-1969 airdates instead of their production order. The extra features listed here are for the BD version, although most of them also appear in the DVD edition.

Disc 1: Spock’s Brain, The Enterprise Incident, The Paradise Syndrome, And the Children Shall Lead, Is There in Truth No Beauty?

Extras: Preview Trailers

Disc 2: Spectre of the Gun, Day of the Dove, For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, The Tholian Web, Plato’s Stepchildren

Extras: Preview Trailers

Disc 3: Wink of an Eye, The Empath, Elaan of Troyius, Whom Gods Destroy, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

Extras: Preview Trailers

Disc 4: The Mark of Gideon, That Which Survives, The Lights of Zetar, Requiem for Methuselah, The Way to Eden

Extras: Preview Trailers

Disc 5: The Cloud Minders, The Savage Curtain, All Our Yeaterdays, Turnabout Intruder

Extras: Preview Trailers, Life Beyond Trek: Walter Koenig, Chief Engineer’s Log, Memoir From Mr. Sulu, Captain’s Log: Bob Justman

Disc 6: The Cage (Original Unaired Pilot), The Cage (Extended Version)

Extras: Preview Trailers, Where No One Has Gone Before (Rare and Unaired Alternate Version), David Gerrold Hosts 2009 Convention Coverage, The Anthropology of Star Trek Comic-Con Panel 2009. The World of Rod Roddenberry Comic-Con 2009, Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories Part 3, “To Boldly Go…” Season Three, Collectible Trek. Star Trek’s Impact

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