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Boldly explore "Star Trek: The Original Series - Season One" on Blu-ray or DVD

Star Trek: The Original Series - Season One

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Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One

Nimoy began playing "Star Trek" role 50 years ago in "The Cage"
Nimoy began playing "Star Trek" role 50 years ago in "The Cage"
Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

On Thursday, September 8, 1966, NBC premiered Gene Roddenberry’s "Star Trek" by airing The Man Trap, the sixth episode produced by Desilu Productions but picked by the network for broadcast instead of the show’s second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before.

Roddenberry started working on "Star Trek" in 1963. The energetic writer-producer developed his concept of “Wagon Train to the Stars” and cast Jeffrey Hunter as Enterprise captain Christopher Pike, Majel Barrett as executive officer Number One, and Leonard Nimoy as the half-alien science officer, Mr. Spock.

By 1964, Roddenberry and Desilu Studios filmed the series' first pilot, The Cage, and offered it to the three national networks. ABC, CBS, and NBC turned Roddenberry down. NBC, according to "Star Trek" lore, said the show was too cerebral. The network also nixed the idea of a female executive officer and wasn’t too keen on “the guy with the ears.”

Luckily, Lucille Ball, the first woman to own and run a studio (Desilu), interceded on Roddenberry’s behalf and convinced the network to reconsider. NBC needed a science fiction show to compete with CBS’s "Lost In Space," so the network commissioned an unprecedented second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before.

However, the show underwent radical changes between the first and second pilots. Jeff Hunter was no longer available. The network wanted changes in the series’ format, and sets and costumes were updated. Now the revamped "Star Trek" had an almost all-new cast led by William Shatner and was more action-oriented. The only holdovers from The Cage were Leonard Nimoy and Majel Barrett (who was recast as nurse Christine Chapel), and the Enterprise.

At first, the show’s setting was somewhat vague and undefined. Though it was later assumed that "Star Trek" takes place in the 23rd Century, some early episodes suggest that the Enterprise’s five-year mission could be set in either the 22nd or 24th Centuries. The Enterprise’s operating agency, Starfleet, was not established until the show’s 15th episode, Court Martial. The United Federation of Planets, the show's galactic version of the United Nations, was not mentioned until Episode 23, A Taste of Armageddon. George Takei’s Lt. Sulu is the ship’s physicist in Where No Man Has Gone Before but is the third officer/helmsman in the rest of the series. DeForest Kelley’s Dr. Leonard McCoy replaced Paul Fix’s Dr. Mark Piper after NBC picked up the series.

Even the actors’ performances took time to be developed. Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, known for his pursuit of logic and reserved emotional state, shows more human emotions in early episodes of Season One than in later installments.

Because "Star Trek" aired at a time when most television dramas were episodic and could be rebroadcast “out of sequence,” any continuity the show has is subtle and not always by design. This often makes "Star Trek: The Original Series" a bit disorienting to watch.

The makers of "Star Trek" worked hard to give the franchise a coherent sense of continuity, starting with the 1979-1991 feature films and continuing with the four TV spin-offs.. In retrospect, even the disjointed continuity of "The Original Series" holds together well once viewers understand the show’s characters and situations.

"Star Trek’s" first season features some of the series’ best stories and guest characters. Balance of Terror, for instance, introduces the formidable Romulans in a clever update of the 1957 sub-vs.-destroyer WWII movie The Enemy Below. In this episode, viewers learn about the close link between the logical and peaceful Vulcans and the warlike Romulans. Additionally, guest star Mark Lenard returned in Season Two’s Journey to Babel as Spock’s estranged father, Ambassador Sarek.

Other outstanding first season episodes include Court Martial, Shore Leave, The Menagerie Parts I & II, The City on the Edge of Forever, and.Space Seed. (Space Seed stands out because Ricardo Montalban’s performance as Khan Noonian Singh inspired producer Harve Bennett and writer-director Nicholas Meyer to make 1982’s "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan".)

Though the series featured good scripts and a well-chosen ensemble multi-ethnic cast, it was not a big hit for NBC. Its fan base consisted of mostly young, educated and middle-class viewers who loved the show’s mix of sci-fi adventure and clever social commentary, but the ratings were consistently low. Ordinarily, the show’s basement-level ratings would have resulted in its swift cancellation, but contrary to Gene Roddenberry’s claims, NBC was keenly aware of the show’s demographics and kept it on the air during the entire 1966-1967 season.

The Remastered Edition: The Season One DVDs

For "Star Trek’s" 40th anniversary in 2006, CBS Video, the entity that inherited the franchise from Paramount Home Video, gave the The Original Series a digital makeover to make it visually compatible with its various movie and TV series spin-offs.

The live-action planet and space station sets still look stage-set, the costumes still have that 1960s Buck Denton/Day-Glo vibe and the Enterprise corridors are still much wider than their movie and later TV series’ incarnations.

There is, however, some degree of “bringing 'Star Trek' forward into the 21st Century” by the judicious replacement of the limited stock footage of Enterprise (and other spacecraft) flybys, planets and space stations.

Additionally, in some of the live-action sequences there are now subtle visual and audio enhancements that add more drama or help clarify some plot element that seems a bit vague.

For instance, in John D. F. Black’s The Naked Time, the Psi-200 organism that drives the Enterprise crew to near-insanity is seen and heard as it enters its victims. Phaser beams and photon torpedoes are now more consistent with those in later movies and spin-offs.

Finally, the background matte shots of planet sets not shot outside the Desilu lot were redone to give them a more realistic appearance.

To their credit, the digital artists did a good job. There are more shots of the Enterprise and other ships to replace the limited number of stock shots. The CGI ships and space stations are only upgraded to give the show the look the producers would have given it with a better effects budget. The planets and other space objects now have more detail and realistic features (cloud formations, subtle terminators, and city lights on “night sides”).

Any flaws present in the 35 mm original negatives (scratches, dust particle damage) that would be noticeable on high-definition TVs have been digitally removed. Moreover, additional extras were digitally added to show that the Enterprise has a crew of 430 men and women albeit subtly and not in every episode.

The Packaging – The DVDs:

"Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One’s" 10 DVDs come in a neat-looking plastic “clamshell” outer shell that holds a cardboard box that contains a hinged multi-DVD jewel case. The Season One set is color coded yellow to represent the Enterprise’s Command division. The art on the cardboard box features The Enterprise Four (Spock, Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty) on the left, the Starfleet delta insignia in the center, and the Starship Enterprise on the right. A discreet pocket in the back of the box holds a set of five collector’s cards which list all the episodes and extra features.

The design is nice; the artwork is well done and the dimensions of the packaging make storage convenient and less space-consuming than older, bulkier box sets.

However, the plastic clamshell casings and the cardboard inner boxes are fragile and require careful handling.

Furthermore, the DVD holder's colored cardboard box is not terribly sturdy. Handle it with great care so the edges don't get dog-eared and the flaps don't fall apart. I

Even though the 10-disc DVD set of "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One" has much to offer, it does have its limitations.

In 2007, CBS Video released "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One" on dual-format discs. At the time, Paramount Pictures was one of the studios backing Toshiba’s HD-DVD, which was competing with the Blu-ray Disc Association’s rival format. Thus, the upper side of the Season One discs have HD-DVD content; the lower side holds the DVD content.

Handling the Season One discs requires more care than standard DVDs. Remember that the “up” side of the dual-format disc is the HD-DVD half. Place it upside down on a standard DVD player tray and the HD-DVD content won’t be shown. Also, keep in mind that HD-DVD discs are not compatible with Blu-ray players.

Because the Season One discs are dual-formatted, they lack the easy-to-read labels found on most DVDs. This means you have to be careful when handling any of the Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One discs. Read the tiny DVD identifier (Disc 1, Season 1 and so on) at the center of each disc carefully before choosing an episode to watch.

Another weak point of the DVDs is that they lack English-language subtitles. When you access the discs’ main menu and select Communications, you can choose either French or Spanish subtitles. You can only activate English closed captions by using a standard DVD player.

The weakest point of the 2007 set is that the DVDs’ storage capacity limits viewers to watching "Star Trek" in its 21st Century remastered edition with its updated visual effects shots.

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One - The Blu-ray Version

Fortunately, the Blu-ray edition of "Star Trek: The Original Series" gives Trekkers the ability to see the show with its original 1960s special effects. This includes a mono audio track which mimics the original broadcasts’ sound. The 2009 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. Younger or casual Trekkers who are familiar with the 11 theatrical movies or the four spin-off series can choose the Enhanced version.

In April 2009, CBS Video released the Blu-ray set of "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One" to coincide with the premiere of director J.J. Abrams’ "Star Trek" feature film. The seven-BD set has 29 episodes from the show’s 1966-1967 season and most of the featurettes from the 2007 DVD/HD-DVD set.

Perhaps because the studio received many negative reviews about the flimsiness of the DVD boxes, CBS Home Entertainment did an extensive redesign of the packaging. "The Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One" sticks to the color scheme introduced in the DVD version. However, instead of reusing the artwork from the "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One" DVDs, the Blu-ray package features a stylized Command division insignia against a gold-yellow background.

The blue plastic box holds seven BD discs. Except for Disc Two, which holds five episodes, each disc has four complete "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 about the 2006 digital makeover project and the original show’s production. There are also interviews with surviving key cast and production staff members.

Five of the seven BDs feature Starfleet Access episodes. The Starfleet Access option allows you to watch pop-up information boxes about characters, races, ships, or 23rd Century tech. Picture-in-picture commentaries from Mike and Denise Okuda and other production staff veterans present bits of trivia, history, and humorous anecdotes. While the Starfleet Access feature is available in only a few episodes, it is a welcome extra.

The BDs now have cooler menus and more language options. In the DVD edition of "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One," 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 One" Blu-ray menus are more dynamic. A shot of theEnterprise 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 One" 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

For "Trekkers" who don’t own a Blu-ray player, the 2007 DVD release of Star Trek’s first season is still a nice addition to their video collections. Despite its fragile packaging and lack of multiple viewing options, the 10-disc set is a good way to enjoy the updated version of Gene Roddenberry’s classic series.

On the other hand, the Blu-ray edition is the perfect reason to upgrade from DVD to HD format. With the first season of the original series on Blu-ray, "Star Trek" fans can experience the best of both worlds.

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One Episode List

The following episode list is derived from the "Star Trek: The Original Series - Season One" Blu-ray seven-disc set, but in the same chronological order as in the 2007 10-disc DVD set. The episodes are listed according to their original 1966-1967 airdates instead of their production order.

Thus, in both sets, Where No One Has Been Before (the series’ second pilot episode) is Season One’s third show rather than the first.). However, the DVDs’ content capacity limits each disc’s episode count to three, spreading out Season One’s total of 29 among 10 DVDs.

Furthermore, most, but not all, of the extra features from the DVD set have carried over to the Blu-ray version. For example, the Trekkers Connection featurette included on Disc Eight of the DVD set is not included in the Blu-ray edition. Neither is Disc 10’s Star Trek Online game preview. By the same token, the Blu-ray’s Starfleet Access features and the interactive inspection of the USS Enterprise are not available on the DVD set.

Disc One: The Man Trap, Charlie X, Where No Man Has Gone Before*, The Naked Time

Extras: Preview Trailers, Spacelift: Transporting Trek Into the 21st Century, * (Starfleet Access Episode)

Disc Two: The Enemy Within, Mudd’s Women, What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Miri, Dagger of the Mind

Extras: Preview Trailers

Disc Three: The Corbomite Maneuver, The Menagerie Part I*, The Menagerie Part II*, The Conscience of the King

Extras: Preview Trailers, Reflections on Spock, * (Starfleet Access Episodes)

Disc Four: Balance of Terror*, Shore Leave, The Galileo Seven, The Squire of Gothos

Extras: Preview Trailers, Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner, * (Starfleet Access Episode)

Disc Five: Arena, Tomorrow is Yesterday, Court Martial, The Return of the Archons

Extras: Preview Trailers, “To Boldly Go...” Season One, The Birth of a Timeless Legacy

Disc Six: Space Seed*, A Taste of Armageddon, This Side of Paradise, The Devil in the Dark

Extras: Preview Trailers, Sci-Fi Visionaries, Interactive Enterprise Inspection, * (Starfleet Access Episode)

Disc Seven: Errand of Mercy*, The Alternative Factor, The City on the Edge of Forever, Operation—Annihilate!

Extras: Preview Trailers, Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories, Kiss ‘n’ Tell: Romance in the 23rd Century, * (Starfleet Access Episode)