Just what can you possibly write about Star Trek that hasn't been written before? When a franchise has been around as long as this one has, when it has become as omnipotent as this, it is so difficult to say anything new. So difficult to tell you anything you don't already know.
Like Spock at the end of The Wrath Of Khan, Star Trek has been dead on several occasions. Everyone knows the story of the original series by now. How a young hack called Gene Roddenberry had a vision of a new TV Sci-fi series he famously described as a “Wagon-Train to the stars” after a well known Western series of the late sixties. How he made a pilot episode which was famously described as “too cerebral” by the network. Despite their misgivings, however, he was given the unheard of chance to make a second pilot - and the result was that Star Trek sold as a series.
Declining ratings, however, meant by the third series the drop off in quality was noticeable and the show was pushed to a graveyard slot before being cancelled completely. It was to be nine years before the success of another film you may have heard of meant that the in development Star Trek Phase 2 reboot series (yes, they were rebooting franchises even then) was redirected onto the silver screen. The result was a series of ten movies and an astonishing 25 seasons of television, before the truly abysmal run of Insurrection and Nemesis, accompanied by the awful TV series Enterprise killed the franchise a second time.
Yet here we are in 2009 with Trek experiencing a resurgence. The truly fantastic cinema reboot (if my fellow reviewer doesn't give this a ten out of ten I'm going to run him through with a Bat'Leth), and the release of the movies on Blu-ray means that yet again the franchise appears to have resurrected itself.
I would posit that one of the reasons why Star Trek has been such a hit on home formats over the years is not just the quality of the material, but also the quality of the presentation. Paramount may have released the material more times than I have had hot dinners, but it can never be denied that they do always present the packages with a lot of imagination and effort. Thus it is with the HD releases of the original series. I am sure that you are all aware by now of the quality of the first set - and I am pleased to say that this second set in many ways is just as good, if not even better.
You don't really want me to go through the characters do you? You are aware of how well written they are, how well they interact? You know their names, and their roles by now? Of course you do - it is testament to the franchise. Everyone knows the crew of the original Enterprise 1701-D. So let's look at the quality of the series as a whole.
Season two of the original series was most certainly not the most ground breaking of the whole franchise. The viewers of season one had already got used to a multi-ethnic crew and had been introduced to the weighty concepts behind Roddenberry's vision. Indeed it could also be argued that a lot of the classic episodes appeared in that first run. City on the Edge of Forever is just one example of that. Yet I would argue that season two is perhaps more vital to the future of the franchise than season one. My reason for arguing this is as follows. Many building blocks of the franchise are laid during season two - blocks that were still vital throughout all of the later movies and TV series. For example, the parallel universe that was later to become one of the most fascinating facets of Deep Space Nine first appears here, as does the Vulcan mating ritual Pon Farr. Chekov is introduced for the first time, a brave move for a series that was being shown at the absolute height of the cold war. Zephrame Cochrane, Sarek, and Matt Decker (father of The Motion Picture's Will) are all introduced during this season.
In addition to these landmarks, many other similarities with later Trek see their origins here. One episode The Changeling is most definitely an early version of The Motion Picture, and the concept of visiting periods of Earth's past is made real twice, in an echo of many later Next Generation and Deep Space Nine episodes. All of this means that the knowledgeable Trekker will have great fun spotting the early influences here.
How about the more casual viewer though? Is there enough here to attract them to this set? Well, no TV series ever gains this kind of power, this kind of influence without being quality - and sometimes it is easy to forget just how far ahead of its time the original star trek series was. Yes, it dealt with weighty themes - but it was also extremely technically advanced. The set allows you to watch the shows with the original 1960's special effects, and it is amazing even now just how advanced they were. Admittedly the effects do rather show their age now but they still do pass muster even in this day and age. True classics manage to resonate with viewers despite any deficiencies due to age, and the Original Series certainly manages this.
But as already mentioned, Star Trek is a cerebral show. It may feature state of the art (for the time) effects, and also plenty of action - but it was a series that intended to hold a mirror up to the turbulent times of it's existence and this it most certainly did. The issue of race was a major one during the sixties and this theme is dealt with frequently during the show, but also issues of arms control, personal obsession, innocence and guilt, personality defects, and many other issues are also dealt with. Star Trek at its best has always been an allegorical show - and plenty of episodes have a deeper meaning than are immediately obvious. This gives the show plenty of re-watch value.
I have already mentioned the effects, and how they look a little dated these days. Well, like the season one set, Paramount have really pushed the boat out and give you the opportunity to watch the shows with updated special effects should you want to. What is so impressive about this is not just that they are done well, but also that they fit in so well with the show. You get so lost in what you are watching you never for one moment stop and go “wow - that looks so amazing”. It DOES look amazing, but it is so well integrated that at no point does it ever take you OUT of the show you are watching. They have also upgraded the sound to a 7.1 mix whilst allowing you to listen to the original sound should you wish.
Star Trek is, and always will be, an important and timeless show. Part of television history, it deals with weighty themes within a sci-fi setting. Paramount have treated the series with loving attention, bringing it to Blu-ray with great care. Anyone with anything more than a passing interest in sci-fi should really be adding this to their collection. There will be a whole generation now who have never seen the original series, and if you are one of these people then you really do owe it to yourself to add this to your collection. It really is a superb box set of classic television, both of historical interest but also brought bang up to date with new effects. It is still as relevant to today's viewers as it was a frightening 40 years ago, and that is why it is worthy of purchase.
Full Episode List (not including extras - * means PiP content)
Disc One - Amok Time* - Who Mourns For Adonais? - The Changeling - Mirror, Mirror
Disc Two - The Apple - The Doomsday Machine - Catspaw - I, Mudd - Metamorphosis
Disc Three - Journey to Babel - Friday's Child - The Deadly Years - Obsession - Wolf in the Fold
Disc Four - The Trouble with Tribbles* (also with audio commentary)
Disc Five - The Gamesters of Triskelion - A Piece of the Action - The Immunity Syndrome - A Private Little War
Disc Six - Return to Tomorrow - Patterns of Force - By Any Other Name - The Omega Glory
Disc Seven - The Ultimate Computer - Bread and Circuses - Assignment : Earth
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