As should now be expected with these Star Trek BD re-designs, the original 1.33:1 image has been transferred (via VC-1) with superb results and the colours brought magnificently to life. Detail, as always, is clean, crisp and occasionally revelatory, although there are often shots that seem to revert back to the grainy, softened look that you would expect from this vintage, though these are only few and fleeting when compared to the majority of what is, overall, a grand presentation of a TV show from the late sixties.
Colours are, as you would hope, excellent. There is a textured quality to the mustard, red and blue jerseys of the Starfleet crew, and all other costumes, no matter how daft they may be, are bright and offer crisp delineation - no smudging or smearing. Alien skies are thick and devoid of banding. Sets have a typical "just-painted" appearance, but everything looks smart and vibrant. Skin-tones, despite the masses of make-up slapped all over them, are natural. Eyes and hair look fine too ... and just look at the black bits between Nimoy's Vulcan molars! Phaser beams and glowing entities have a real sci-fi radiance and planetary hues can be cold, arid or lush, but always authentic.
The level of detail is often amazing, though it can also be very unflattering, bringing, as it does, some of the spots lurking under the makeup on the, otherwise, luscious ladies. But have a look at the amount of wayward hairs that are now apparent, things that would never have been noticeable at all without a hi-def transfer. Thus, the new clarity afforded the image can be a double-edged sword. We know about the seams, joins and loose bits in the sets, especially on the Bridge, that are all much more apparent in 1080p, but this image is still utterly remarkable in its clarity, warmth and detail. Edges are smartly rendered, without any undue enhancement. Grain remains, and has even been blended into the new FX footage. Blacks are uniformly exceptional and help to provide a deep sense of dimensionality to the image that brings the show to life. Contrast is finely balanced, as is the testing combinations of hues that often decorate the picture whenever a full landing party beam down to a planet's colourful surface. Damage is few and far between, although I did spot some little pops and flecks here and there. Funnily enough, you can see unwanted things on the viewscreen or video monitors much more readily than ever before - and, somewhat similarly, you can even now spot a persistent fly that is attracted to Shatner in one sequence (however, I've forgotten what episode it was now!).
In short, these shows now look magnificent. Whether you prefer the enhanced versions or the originals, the hi-def makeover is stunning to behold. A major thumbs-up!
Well, Paramount and CBS furnish with Star Trek with a now-familiar DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio makeover, but you will find that full immersion inside a wide soundfield is not quite what you get. Surround activity is minimal to say the least, with only the rushing of the Enterprise , front to back, really making any impact. Although, I have to say that this whooshing flyby does sound good. The surround channels do carry some detail over, but they are mainly used to help provide a greater presence to the track, even by doing seemingly nothing, they appear to be extending the depth of the track.
But whatever you don't get from the generous-sounding idea of 7.1 for vintage Trek, the frontal array provides plenty of clarity, clean definition of dialogue and much more presence to the voices, their various and distinctive timbres - Nimoy's “plasticy” techno-purr, Doohan's super-enhanced brogue, Kelly's dog-like grumble, the Shat's hesitant, pseudo-Shakespearean space patois - having much more detail and resonance than they could ever have achieved on TV. There's a sharpness and vibrancy to the phaser-effects, be they the handheld versions or the big Starship batteries. The odd rumbling of landscapes, mind-warped or pulverised by blasts, have a little bit of energy to them, although the impact and weight of those polystyrene boulders is, of course, greatly exaggerated anyway. And the musical scores for each episode come across well, with warmth and some limited by agreeable dynamics.
I didn't spend too much time flicking between the mono and the lossless surround tracks, preferring, on the whole, the extended presence of the DTS-HD MA. But one curious thing that I did notice was in the episode “Wink Of An Eye” which had a humming background noise in the surround track that didn't seem present in the original track. There was also an instance where the mono track made clear the little electro-chirp that the Scalosian neck-mounted communicator made when activated that was absent on the lossless option. But, to be honest, I didn't make a painstaking comparison between the two alternatives anywhere else. I should state, though, that both audio tracks are very clear and enjoyable and fans of the original mono should be very happy with the reproduction that can be experienced here, as far as I could tell.
Each disc carries the original and the revamped episodes with seamless branching between the two. All discs are BD-Live enabled and Mobile-Blu functionality, but the main features and docs are to be found on Discs 5 and 6.
One of the major extras that this sets showcases is, of course, the series' original pilot episode "The Cage," which is found on disc six, and is made available in three versions: a special extended cut with black and white footage intermixed with the more familiar colour elements, the full-colour version with the original special effects, and then, just for the sake of completeness, the full-colour version with those newly enhanced visual effects. Now this is exactly what the fans want. I may not be the biggest admirer of this story - whilst it remains great SF, it has little of the fun and charm that characterised what would follow - but it is hard not to be smitten by the sheer historical indulgence that CBS and Paramount bestow us with. Re-patched as The Menagerie in the aired TV show, the story sees us in the company of Jeffrey Hunter's Captain Pike as he falls prey to the keen observational studies of a group of aliens who want to assess his reactions to a range of manipulated scenarios. Nimoy's Spock is here, but with an unconvincing and ill-fitting characterisation that was, pleasingly, altered for the ensuing series.
A wonderful touch is the inclusion of the second pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before” in its original unaired, and slightly extended form (52.22 mins) and presented in 1080p with a DTS-HD MA 2-channel track. With an alternate Captain's Log intro, the quaint commercial breaks (sans commercials, of course) and a little bit more footage thrown into the mix, it is great to see this classic episode in its former glory. One of the strongest stories of the show, this is fine science-fiction with a powerful emotional core and some cool set-pieces.
“To Boldly Go ...” (22.28 mins)The Season Three overview is a typically nice, though slightly perfunctory affair. The downslide is duly referenced and Spock's Brain gets some justified slagging-off, but Nichelle Nicholls labours the point about that kiss with Kirk for what seems like forever until the historical event that it was becomes very old and tedious very quickly.
In Life Beyond Trek: Walter Koenig (10.49 mins), we meet the ever-charismatic Chekov, who recounts how much he relished the chance to get off the Enterprise and get the girl in Spectre Of The Gun, as well as showing off his collection of pin-back badges, comic-books and just about anything that carries an image of his immortal Starfleet character, even a great pinball machine! He discusses the various projects that he has been involved in since the series and the movies ended and cracks a few little jokes along the way. It's fluff, Jim, but not as we know it.
Chief Engineer's Log (6.02 mins) has a frail James Doohan recounting how he also provided alien and computer voices for the show as well as his immortal Scottish brogue. He shows us his bullet-blasted hand, courtesy of D-Day, his favourite stories and how his interaction with a devout fan curtailed her attempt at suicide.
A Message From Mr. Sulu (8.33 mins) is a surprisingly heartfelt meeting with good old George Takei (now Joe Swash's best buddy from the jungle) in which he discusses, besides his experiences on Trek, how the legacy of the sacrifices made by Japanese-Americans during the Second World War influenced modern-day America and his own ideology. Promoting the cultural heritage of these brave and patriotic men and women who fought for the America they loved despite having been interred into camps by the frightened society that once embraced them, Takei brings the strong emotional respect he has for his own past to the fore.
Captain's Log: Bob Justman (9:35 mins) has us in the company of a roster of Star Trek actors and crew members, who fondly recall the contributions of the renowned long-time series producer and his operating style, commitment to the show and sheer, all-round approachability. Clips of the man, himself, are also included.
Then we get a series of features that concentrate upon the phenomenon that Star Trek has become and its cultural impact. Esteemed Trek writer David Gerrold hosts some '2009 Convention Coverage' (19:25 mins) that features him interviewing cast members from the original and TNG shows, including Chase Masterson, Robert Picardo, Nichelle Nichols and Nana Visitor, and we get to meet some of the fans. The Anthropology of Star Trek Comic-Con Panel 2009 (4:14 mins) features Anthropology Professor Daryl G. Frazetti from Lake Tahoe Community College, who endeavours to expound on how Star Trek has made an impact on our lives and it reflects upon society and society reflects upon it. 'The World of Rod Roddenberry' Comic-Con 2009 (7:14 mins) has us in the company of David Gerrold once again as he fronts a piece featuring Gene Roddenberry's son amongst others to analyse how the visionary elder statesman mused on the human condition with his colourful mirror-image of Star Trek.
And no Star Trek boxset would be complete without an instalment of Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories which, in this case, runs for 10:53 mins and offer another collection of rare and highly amusing behind-the-scenes footage all caught on camera by the show's most celebrated extra.
Then we have Collectible 'Trek' (14:21 mins) which places us in the hands of Paramount's "Star Trek" archivist Penny Juday, and others, who concern themselves on the expensive and massively nostalgic world of collecting and archiving collectibles and props/costumes from the show and the films that grew out of it.
Star Trek's Impact (8:54 mins) lets us hear from the Rod Roddenberry, again, as he delivers his thoughts on the groundbreaking and influential series and the impact that it has had upon his life.
All the episodes feature their original TV previews as well ... which is nice.
Overall, this is another great package that most fans may already have seen, but that makes a welcome addition to this boxset and offers lots of nostalgic food for thought.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” And so ended the final voyages of the Original Star Trek. But was the third season such a chore? No, of course not. The good episodes were very good - marrying character with clever SF in the style that only Roddenberry's creation could muster, and master, and even the bad ones were still able to transport you into that colourful, and exciting yet cosy vision that made Star Trek such a conceptual revelation and a sheer joy to watch. Several stories stand out and the easy-fit assuredness of the cast in their roles provides ample opportunity to savour that essential chemistry. Plus, as I made abundantly clear in the review, this season boasted the best gals in the galaxy - sixties sass and proper curves all round. And, hey, at least there is nothing here that is as bad as the appalling Season One clunker, The Alternative Factor!
By now we know what to expect from these tremendous BD boxsets - tip-top transfers that accelerate from their SD counterparts as Warp Speed, plentiful features, the ability to watch the shows with their original effects and hear their original soundtracks as well as their revamped, enhanced editions with seamless branching, and smart menus.
If you've bought the first two seasons on BD, then you already know that you're going to pick this up to finish off the set. But, if you are, however, still sitting on the Federation fence over this often dismissed series, then I would urge you to take the plunge. It doesn't match up to the historic debut season and nor does it match the exhilaration, social incisiveness and consistency of the second, but it is Star Trek, when all said and done - and you can never turn your nose up at more adventures with Captain Kirk and Co.
2009 has been the year of Star Trek. See it out with Season 3. Often dumb, but still highly recommended.
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