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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Star Trek The Original Series - The Complete Second Season
Star Trek The Original Series - The Complete Second Season
Paramount // Unrated // August 5, 2008
List Price: $84.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted August 13, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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Please note for the purposes of this review. Images on the left are from the original DVD release from 2004 and images on the right are from 2008 Remastered Edition.

The Show:

Ah, to boldly go where no man has gone before. Actually, we have been here before, kind of, so I suppose it's not that bold of a trip. Star Trek: The Original Series was released for Standard Definition DVD back in 2004. Like the Star Trek DVDs that came before and after it fans did one of two things with the series: they either gobbled it up or they complained about Paramount's ridiculous price and shoddy packaging.

It has been four years since the original Trek came out and there are some changes afoot. As far as the DVDs are concerned there are still some highs and lows but we'll get into the a little bit later. For now we'll talk about what the original series has been up to since this is a slightly different version than you may remember.

You may or may not be aware but the classic original Star Trek underwent a facelift a couple years ago. In 2006 Paramount dusted off the original negatives of the series and gave Michael Okuda the ultimate goal of revitalizing the show for the digital age; a daunting task by anyone's standards. I mean, you'd really need to have nerves of steel to tamper with an icon such as Star Trek that is adored by millions across the globe.

When I first heard about the project I must admit that I was skeptical about the whole thing. Why mess with a classic? After seeing the continuous tampering by George Lucas with the original Star Wars trilogy I had envisioned a bizarre presentation where Kirk shot first or Zachary Quinto's face was digitally grafted over Leonard Nemoy's ala Return of the Jedi's final Anakin scene. Thankfully the end result of Okuda's project was much subtler, easy on the eyes, and not very Lucas-esque. In other words as long as you approach the series with an open mind for special effects and aren't bothered by the fact that the Enterprise is now CGI then you'll be pleased enough by the effort.

If the idea of this project turns your world upside down and makes the green blood in your veins boil then don't worry; the original is still out there. What the Remastered Edition brings to the table is a slew of slick looking shots of the Enterprise whether it's orbiting a planet or facing off against an alien force. Not only that but the picture quality has been kicked up a notch and random special effects such as phaser fire looks much crisper now than it did forty years ago. The plots, stories, and dialogue remain unaltered though so in between these nifty new effects you still technically have the same classic Trek.

This Remastered Edition hit the HDDVD scene about a year ago with a hybrid release that supported both standard and high definition formats. The first season came with a somewhat hefty price tag but for lovers of Trek it proved to be a worthwhile endeavor. Though the second season disappoints with only standard definition support (where's Blu-ray love Paramount?) it's still a tempting treat to snack on. The main reason this season is so successful has nothing to do with Okuda's touchup but rather the episodes themselves, which arguably offer some of the best moments in Roddenberry's franchise.

The second season features 26 episodes of classic Trek though in all honesty there are some highlighted episodes that stand out apart from the others. The season starts out strong with "Amok Time" which gives a nice look at Spock's culture as the series finally explored some of what made Vulcan's tick. To make a long story short this episode features Spock going through a mating ritual of sorts known as Pon Farr. The problem with Pon Farr is that it completely disintegrates the control Vulcan's have over their emotions and if Spock can't satisfy his body's natural course he'll die due to the imbalance. This leads the Enterprise on a trip to Spock's homeworld and we meet his fiancé, T'Pring. What happens next is a battle to the death between Kirk and Spock. This allows for some fun play between the characters and some nice development for the Vulcan officer.

A few episodes after "Amok Time", there is "Mirror, Mirror" which definitely should make the list of any Trekkies' discussion of the original series. After all, "Mirror, Mirror" was the episode that spawned the popular Mirror Universe which allowed the show's producers to take some liberties with the characters and do some devious things. Uhura, McCoy, Scotty, and (of course) Kirk all wind up in a parallel dimension where up is down and Spock is an evil bastard with a beard. What's not to love?

"The Doomsday Machine" is another successful notch in the second season's belt. This episode pits the crew of the Enterprise against a machine which can destroy whole planets and then some. Harry Mudd comes back this season with "I, Mudd" which is a fun outing where Mudd returns with some androids. Along the same lines a character known as Cyrano Jones would do Mudd proud by introducing Kirk and company to the loveable Tribbles in the classic "The Trouble with Tribbles". The second season's strength continues with "Journey to Babel" which introduces Spock's father and some other episodes such as "Assignment: Earth" and "The Gamesters of Triskelion" which offer some solid adventures for our intrepid heroes.

At the end of the day this is a season the stands as one of the most historic as far as the Trek universe is concerned. It forged new paths for the franchise, took plenty of chances, and it offered some of the most memorable elements in science fiction history. In all frankness the season and show speak for itself. The real question about this Remastered Edition is whether or not the new special effects alter enjoyment of the series. It really depends how you look at it I guess but I approached it with an open mind and walked away just as entertained. Upgraded visuals and some snazzy effects thankfully don't get in the way of the great science fiction.

The DVD:

Packaging:

Now that we're done talking about how great this season of Star Trek was it's time to discuss the terrible job Paramount did with the packaging. While it's true that you may be paying for the show itself there's some part of the collector in you that wants a nice looking set, right? Sure the collection may look great in theory but considering the inner plastic is very weak and offers no protection it's really a crapshoot whether or not you'll land a set that's in good condition. My DVDs actually came with the plastic spindle inside the case loose and two floating discs. Bits of the shattered plastic fell from the mother case like jagged snowflakes and I am not alone with this problem. Reviewer Das Monkey had a somewhat similar experience with his first season set and people all across the web are reporting the same issue. I have also done hunting in stores only to find that one out of every three seemed to have damage inside. What's the deal Paramount?

Not only does the crappy DVD case cheapen the product and lead to questions about Paramount's quality assurance practices but the discs themselves are featureless with no artwork. Some type circles the inner part of the disc but other than that all you're going to see is a silver surface reflecting your disappointed expression back at you. This was understandable with the combo HDDVD release but considering this set is strictly standard definition it definitely doesn't look right. This set's structural design is a failure all around despite the otherwise attractive aesthetics.

Video:

We've already discussed at length about how the first season of Star Trek: The Remastered Edition hit store shelves with both HD and SD presentations. With the death of HDDVD that option was out and unfortunately Paramount didn't spring for Blu-ray support. That means you can expect the standard definition image to be lacking in some senses if you grew accustomed to watching the episodes in full 1080p. However, I must say that this set offers video quality that outshines the 2004 release in just about every way so it's easier to overlook the lack of high definition support.

I'm sure that by now you have noticed the differences in quality between the screenshots from the 2004 release and 2008's. It's important to keep in mind that the remaster project didn't simply involve going in and tinkering with some of the special effects. Okuda and company went through and overhauled the series from top to bottom. The end result is a show that looks significantly more vibrant than its age should allow and in all honesty the vision of the original series has never been better. It's quite evident that a great deal of effort went into producing this edition and that alone definitely makes it worth upgrading over the 2004 DVD set.

When judging the Remastered Edition of Star Trek it's important to remember where this show's roots are. The image quality here isn't sparkling and it's not without flaw. There is a fair bit of grain, some digital artifacts can be spotted at times, and there is some dirt scattered throughout. With that being said the picture is simply much more solid all around with warmer colors, deeper shadows, richer textures, and sharper details. If you're coming from the 2004 release you'll be astounded but if you're picking this up after experiencing the series in 1080p you'll probably be minutely disappointed.

Audio:

Star Trek: The Original Series Remastered Edition is presented on DVD with English Dolby Digital 5.1 as its main track (Spanish and French mono offerings are available as well). The sound quality is very good all around and in many cases it's a noticeable step up from the 2004 release. The audio is much crisper and cleaner than before and the rear channels have much more use this time around. The difference in sound between the original DVD release and this one isn't quite as dynamic as the video quality is but it's definitely better all around. From the sound of a phaser's fire to the chirp of Kirk opening his communicator the audio is simply sharper here.

Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles are included as well.

Extras:

2004's DVD release of Star Trek's second season offered up a decent assortment of supplemental features and thankfully 2008's Remastered Edition is no different. One of the special features is new but the rest is already part of your collection if you own the original DVD release.

The only new special feature is "Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Features Part 2" (12:03). This extra is interesting and entertaining as it offers a glimpse at the production of the show from someone other than one of the main cast members. Blackburn found himself at the helm of the Enterprise quite often and as an extra somewhere on the set in costume just as frequently. This featurette recounts some of his experiences working on the show and he retells some amusing stories and shares some interesting memories.

On the first disc the second feature is a repeat pulled from 2004's DVD. "To Boldly Go...Season Two" (19:18) offers up detail about the season as a whole with commentary from the stars and some of the production team. If you haven't seen the featurette before then you'll be reasonably entertained as there is some nice insight and personal retrospective. The opening disc houses other content from the 2004 release such as "Designing the Final Frontier" (22:13), "Writer's Notebook: D.C. Fontana" (7:22), and "Star Trek's Favorite Moments" (16:57). Each of these offers something interesting from production sketches to personal favorite bits of the franchise from the many stars of the Trek universe.

In order to find more content you have to skip all the way to the fifth disc with "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode. Inspired moments from this episode influenced other pieces of the Star Trek franchise and included here are "More Tribbles, More Troubles" from Star Trek: The Animated Series and "Trials and Tribble-ations" from DS9. The Animated episode has an optional audio commentary from David Gerrold which provides some nice information about the show and concept.

Skipping a few more discs will land you on the eighth with offers the last of the Remastered Edition's bonus content which is ported over from the 2004 release. "Life Beyond Trek: Leonard Nimoy" (11:49), "Kirk, Spock, & Bones: Star Trek's Great Trio" (6:56), and "Star Trek's Divine Diva: Nichelle Nichols" (12:51) all present a fine look at the actors and characters that made Star Trek so iconic. These are well and good but I think the biggest thing to make note of while looking at the bonus content for this release is what's not here. The first season of the Remastered Edition included some really enjoyable material about the remastering project and then some but those simply aren't included for the second season. It makes the follow up release feel somewhat lacking due to the mainly rehashed bonus content from the 2004 edition. It's also worth noting that while this release ports over most of the features from the original DVD there are still some missing such as Okuda's textual commentaries.

Final Thoughts:

Star Trek: The Original Series Remastered Edition is a fun way to experience Kirk's Enterprise and it shouldn't be missed by anyone who holds Trek close to their heart. At first I was put off by the knowledge of new special features being added to the series but the end result is so much more than that. The show had a facelift and the overall presentation has been kicked up a notch to help shake off the forty year old dust. Not only does the second season have that going for it but the fact that most all of these episodes are classics among classics is a statement within itself.

If you enjoyed the first season's HDDVD release you may be disappointed by the lack of high definition support but the quality here is still much better than 2004's release. Look forward to a Blu-ray release at some point but it's also worth mentioning that this version of Trek is probably going to be the only one shown from here on out. If you want the authentic experience then hold onto the original DVDs as well.

While the quality of the episodes, new content, and presentation quality is exemplary it is worth noting the terrible Paramount packaging job. You're paying a premium for Star Trek and while the set may look nice on the shelf chances are good you're going to get some breakage. This design simply doesn't withstand any kind of movement during shipping and over time the flimsy plastic will undoubtedly break more per usage. We can overlook that to highly recommend the show due to the overall quality but you really have to shop around in order to find a set that is intact.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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