One of the most beloved television shows of all time, "Star Trek" became a lasting success, spawning seven feature films (including the classic, "Wrath of Khan") and multiple TV spin-offs, books and more. While the feature films did start to run out of steam with "Star Trek: Nemesis", the franchise is being rebooted with director JJ Abrams' "Star Trek", which is currently in theaters.
Although a couple of the most widely known episodes of the series come in the second season, the first season of the series certainly provides terrific entertainment, following the early adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Vulcan first officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), chief engineer Scotty (James Doohan),chief medical officer Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelly), officer Sulu (George Takei) and communications officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols.) Chekov (Walter Koenig)'s first appearance was in season 2.
Included in this "best of" are 4 episodes: "The City on the Edge of Forever", "Trouble With Tribbles", "Amok Time" and "The Balance of Terror". Occasionally parodied ("The Cable Guy"), "Amok Time" is a powerful episode where Kirk races to the planet Vulcan in order to save Spock from being forced to participate in a mating ritual. However, the tables turn and Spock is suddenly forced to fight Kirk in a battle to the death. The memorable "City on the Edge of Forever" is a highlight from season one (written by famed author Harlan Ellison, this episode sees Spock and Kirk following an unhinged McCoy back to the 1930's to keep him from altering the future.) Finally, season 2's famed "Trouble With Tribbles" is the legendary episode where the Enterprise becomes overrun with the furry creatures of the title. Although owners of the season sets (whether in Blu-Ray or DVD) already have these episodes, the set is a good sampling of episodes for those new to the original series who want to check out some of the best it had to offer.
"Star Trek: The Next Generation" really had succeeded in its first few seasons - with the budgets increased in season four and the cast experienced in working with one another, the show really began to hit its peak. Season 4 definitely started off on the right foot with "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", a conclusion to the cliff-hanger from the prior season, where the crew of the Enterprise found themselves in a race against time to keep the Borg from getting to Earth.
What made the series compelling was not only the writing (which was occasionally fantastic, with interesting plots such as the Data-on-trial "Measure Of a Man" from Season 2), but the performances. While William Shatner's performance as Kirk was richly entertaining, Patrick Stewart really created a far more commanding and complex character in Picard. There will always be the arguement over who was a better captain - Kirk or Picard; personally, I think they both had their merits. Shatner played against the campy surroundings in the original series well, but had the chance to be a bit more dramatic in the feature films. Stewart was a captain for, literally, the "next generation" - he is a more commanding presence and created a more complex character.
"The Best of Both Worlds" (Parts 1/2) and "The Measure of a Man" are included on the "Best Of" for "The Next Generation", as well as "Yesterday's Enterprise", an excellent time-travel episode that has a rift in the space-time continuum brings the Enterprise-C 22 years into the future, where it encounters the Enterprise-D, now at war with the Klingons. Well-acted and smartly written, this exciting episode is one of the best from season 3.
Both of these "Best Of" volumes (with four episodes each) are available separately.
VIDEO: "The Next Generation" episodes are presented in their 1.33:1 full-frame broadcast aspect ratio. Sharpness and detail are quite pleasing; while a few minor instances of softness are seen, the picture is otherwise crisp and detailed.
Edge enhancement did not appear on this release, but there were still a few little rough edges - a tiny speck here, some slight grain there and a trace or two of pixelation. Yet, none of these flaws really caused much concern and only appeared very briefly. Colors also were vibrant on this release, appearing consistently well-saturated, with no softness or smearing. Black level was also solid, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural.
The "Star Trek" episodes are presented here in 1.33:1 full-frame by Paramount Home Entertainment. Taken from the original camera negative, these presentations are impressive and certainly a leap over the prior release. Sharpness and detail aren't extraordinary, but impressive for the era.
While there were a couple of minor specks seen at times throughout the episodes, I was pleasantly surprised at how crisp and clean the show looked here. While some minor grain was seen at times, it is likely an element of the original cinematography and actually adds to the show's "film-like" look here. The color palette also looked somewhat richer and fresher here than ever before. While not without a few minor issues, I thought the show looked wonderful on this release.
SOUND: As with the prior "Next Generation" releases, Paramount has remastered the show's shoundtracks in Dolby Digital 5.1. While certainly not hugely active presentations, the ship flyovers and other sound effects are smoothly offered by the surrounds. While the audio didn't show the level of improvement that the video quality did, the soundtracks for these episodes did seem fuller and more dynamic than those for the releases of the prior seasons. Dialogue, sound effects and music remained crisp and clear, while solid low bass was also occasionally present.
The episodes of the original series are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound quality is generally very good, considering these are repurposed soundtracks of a show that's over thirty years old. The audio was mainly focused from the front channels, although there were certainly some moments where the surrounds kicked into gear with sounds of the Enterprise, some various sound effects or other ambience.
While the amount of activity was pleasing, considering the show's age, also very enjoyable was the audio quality. While these soundtracks definitely don't sound like more recent audio productions, the show did sound quite good. Some minor distortion was heard at times, but dialogue, music and sound effects were largely crisp and clear.
Final Thoughts: Fans who own the season sets for both shows already have these episodes. These "best of" sets are a fine sampling of both shows for those new to both shows who want to see some of the best each "Trek" series had to offer. Again, these would not be necessary for those who already have the season sets.