The previous releases of Star Trek on HD formats have all featured a stunning image, so it is pleasing to say that season two on Blu-ray continues the trend. The image is 1080P and presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio that preserves the image as it should be seen, and places black borders on the sides when viewed on a Widescreen TV.
As we have seen before, what is immediately obvious is the amount of restoration work that has gone into the print. Although there is the occasional sign of damage, these are very infrequent. On the whole, the pristine level of the transfer is a complete revelation. As an interesting insight into the amount of work they must have put in, try watching an episode with the original effects shots. When you see the state of the print in these scenes it makes you realise just how much work has gone in here.
The level of detail is quite simply stunning, and although this does reveal some of the inherent faults with the make-up and effects work - it is hardly a fault of the transfer that the standards of the time do not pass scrutiny when the resolution is ramped up this much. Just look at the weave on the uniforms, the skin detail present on the faces (in particular a close-up of Spock during “The Trouble With Tribbles”), and the level of detail in the props. I had never realised, for example, just how much work had gone into the Tricorders and Phasers. Of course, the aforementioned inherent faults are also magnified. The join on Spock's ears, the polystyrene nature of some of the scenery. These are all visible, but I do not see this as a negative but more as a testament to how fantastic this transfer is.
Perhaps the most blindingly obvious improvement next to the detail level is the saturation of the colours. The sheer vibrancy and vividness of these is eye popping, especially if you have grown up with re-runs on TV. The colour of the uniforms, of the background lighting used, and of the blinking lights on the console really shine.
One pleasing aspect of this transfer is that there doesn't seem to have been any artificial methods used to reduce the grain levels. Grain does appear quite frequently, but I have always preferred this in my transfers. To me, it gives a pleasing organic feel and it is good to see that they have not gone to ridiculous lengths to remove it here. Even so, it is not as prevalent as you might expect. It is never distracting.
It is really hard to imagine anything else they could have done to improve this transfer. It is quite simply heart warming that Paramount thinks so much of the franchise that they are prepared to level this much care and attention on the release. It is clear that the restoration has been done with love and respect, and it should also be mentioned that the new effects produced for the release do not in any way seem out of place. In fact, such is the remastering quality that it is the original effects shots that jar and contrast with the rest of the video. Watch the original effects at least once to see the difference, but the quality and care used means that the new effect versions will be the de facto ones for all but the complete purists.
Again, like season one, this set warps onto Blu-ray with a DTS HD 7.1 soundtrack. Like the previous blu-ray, and unlike the original HD DVD release, you can also chose to watch with the original mono sound.
I am normally very sceptical of full on surround mixes taken from mono information. However, it soon becomes clear when comparing the two side by side that, like the video, a great deal of care and attention has gone into the audio in this release. It would appear that the effects have been completely re-recorded in places. Although purists may shudder at this, when the release sounds this good I do not have a problem with it at all.
The first thing to notice is just how wide the stereo separation is at the front. The track is allowed to breathe, and passing crewmen in the corridors can clearly be heard walking across to the left and right. The dialogue is always incredibly clear and precise, and always well anchored.
The rears are used discretely, and never falsely, opening up a very realistic listening experience. When they are needed, for alarm klaxons or phaser fire, then they are used well with superb directionality from both the left and right.
Surprisingly, the sub also gets a good workout when needed as well. Again, the key word is subtle. It doesn't boom unnecessarily, but when it is needed for explosions it is utilised well.
Overall, this is just about as good as I can imagine Star Trek ever sounding. It is a superb mix that really helps bring the aged show to life for a new age.
There is such a plethora of extras here that all I can do is really go through them disc by disc. So prepare yourself for Trek extra overload.
Disc One contains a Starfleet Access segment. Throughout the set, this is the term used for Picture in Picture content. For the purposes of this review, and for the reader's convenience, I am going to use the term PiP track. So, on disc one the PiP track is for the episode Amok Time. This is an informative track that contains interviews as well as pop up trivia facts. Personally I wouldn't want to sit through these more than once, but they are certainly a valuable addition to the episodes that they match with. This disc also contains the second part of Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest (in HD). Billy was an extra that appeared on many episodes over the series run and documented events with his own camera. The first part is on the season one box. I find this a fascinating extra as we get valuable footage of unguarded actors at work and at play. The disc is rounded off with episode previews.
Disc Two contains only trailers and BD-Live functionality.
Disc Three is the same as disc two, as it contains only trailers and BD-Live functionality
Disc Four is the disc I was really looking forward to, and which also disappointed me. Keen readers would have noticed in my episode guide that this disc only contains one episode. That is because it is the tribbles disc. I have never understood the popularity of this episode. Give me City on the edge of Forever over the blasted annoying tribbles any day. But the reason I was looking forward to this disc is that it contains the legendary Deep Space Nine Episode Trials and Tribbleations in HD! Or so they say. For the uninitiated, Deep Space Nine is arguably the best Star Trek series ever made, and possibly one of the biggest influences of the recent BSG reboot. This episode sees the crew going back in time and interacting with the original episode. Now, there is nothing wrong with this episode at all - but the presentation is awful. Billed as HD, it is actually an upscale. Straight after watching it, I dug out my DVD of the episode and that actually looked better. Something has gone seriously wrong here and even the remixed DTS soundtrack cannot help it
Disc Four continues with two Documentaries about the making of Trials and Tribbleations. These are the same two that are on the original DS9 DVD and are presented in SD and pretty poor quality. Don't misunderstand me - it is fantastic that Paramount have seen fit to include this superb episode as an extra. But they really shouldn't be billing it as HD. Far better served is an episode of the animated series More Tribbles, More Troubles. This receives a much better transfer and is an excellent example of how good the animated series could be. There is also a commentary accompanying the TOS episode with the writer that is very illuminating, a PiP track for the TOS episode, and a documentary about how they put together the whole Blu-ray set and the advantages it offers over previous releases. The disc is rounded off with trailers and BD-Live functionality. I may not like tribbles, but if you do this disc is likely to put you in tribble heaven.
Disc Five contains the documentary To Boldly Go....Season Two. This is a 20 minute SD documentary looking at the issues that the season deals with, and also looks at some episodes in more detail, including (of course) Tribbles. I am going to try and get to the end of this review without mentioning those damned fur balls again. Despite some repetition from other extras on the set, this is an interesting one stop shop for an introduction into the season and is well worth watching. There are also trailers and, yes, BD-Live functionality.
Disc Six contains one SD documentary Designing the Final Frontier, again running around 20 minutes. This one looks at the set design across all three season and is, in the words of an eminent science officer, Fascinating. Well worth your time. Oh, and there are trailers and BD-Live functionality too.
Disc Seven is the final disc, and contains possibly the biggest complement of extras in the set aside from the Tri........disc four. Unfortunately, all the extras here are in SD. We start with the 20min documentary Star Trek's Favourite Moments which features various fans, cast and crew recalling their favourite episodes and the influence Star Trek had on there lives. This has some interest but is probably a little too self serving to be of more than cursory interest. Much better is Kirk, Spock, and Bones : Star Trek's great trio. This is a very interesting look at the relationship between the iconic characters - the very reason, I would suggest, that the show was such a success. Then we have Life Beyond Trek : Leonard Nimoy where Mr. Spock talks about his life beyond the series, and Star Trek's Divine Diva : Nichelle Nicholls where the actress looks at her character. Finally Writers Notebook : D C Fontana looks at the role of the writer within Star Trek. Oh, and there are trailers too. And as a bit of a surprise the disc also contains BD-Live functionality.
It should be noted that there are also some Mobile Blu featurettes that can be accessed, it would appear, by iPhone users. These are four extra featurettes. I have had trouble getting these to work, but I do have an iPhone so if I can get it to communicate successfully with my Blu-ray player then I will update this segment of the review. This feature is likely to rather annoy non-iPhone users though.
OK, if you hate Star Trek then nothing I am going to write here is going to make you want to pick this up. But then again, you are probably not reading this anyway. The rest of you, I have absolutely no hesitation whatsoever in giving this set the highest recommendation possible.
The series itself is arguably the most important in the forty year history of the franchise, laying down rules and introducing characters that will have a pivotal part to play many years down the line. The episodes themselves are a nice mixture of action, comedy, and allegory - and you even get a lot of people's favourite episode which contains Klingons, grain, and some furry things.
The set has received the same loving attention as the previous season - the effects have been upgraded (although you can watch with the originals should you wish), the print looks absolutely gorgeous, and the sound mix has also received a revelatory upgrade.
The extras package is exhaustive and generally very interesting, with one slip over the quality of the included DS9 episode. But it would be churlish to dock marks for one oversight when the rest of what is included is so good.
The icing on the cake is the price point, buy from decent suppliers (such as Axel) and you will be paying a fraction of what HD-DVD owners paid for season one. Anyone with a remote interest in Star Trek, Sci-Fi, or iconic television should really be adding this to their collection. It's another loving Star Trek set from paramount, and is worthy of a place in your collection.
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