While the "Star Trek" franchise seemed to be coming to a close with the end of "Star Trek: Enterprise" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (as well as diminishing returns for the feature films), the franchise will soon reawaken again with a feature film reboot of the "Trek" saga, courtesy of director JJ Abrams. With the new feature film only months away, Paramount has begun to re-release the season sets of the original series, complete with new effects.
These remastered episodes have gone through a significant restoration process. From the press release: "Meticulously remastered from the original camera negative, each classic episode is presented in pristine condition with new state-of-the-art digital visual effects and a new 5.1 soundtrack. The new computer-generated Enterprise is based on the exact measurements of the original model, which now rests in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The refurbished episodes also feature higher quality sound for the famous opening theme. The original score by Emmy® Award-winning composer Alexander Courage has been re-recorded in state-of-the-art digital stereo audio with an orchestra and a female singer belting out the famous vocals. A digitally remastered version of William Shatner’s classic original recording of the 38-word “Space, the final frontier…” monologue continues to open each episode."
The newly produced visual effects are quite fine and most of them do a nice job of "touching up" dated effects. Although there are some exceptions, most of them also blend in reasonably well. The greater benefit of this set is the appearance of the episodes themselves, which look fresher and more vibrant than I've ever seen them before. The effects are a fun touch (although I'm sure there will be quite a bit of debate from fans who aren't keen on new effects worked into the old-fashioned look of the show), but I think everyone can agree those who worked on the remastered presentations did a fantastic job.
Thanks to a cult following that supported the series (obviously far before the internet, the crew of the series had to make an enormous effort on their own to make mass mailings), "Star Trek" extended its run to a third (and ultimately, final) season. The series doesn't exactly start off on the right foot in its final season with "Spock's Brain", a rather silly episode that has some hot alien woman stealing Spock's brain, sending Kirk and the rest of the crew on a mission to not only find it, but find the person with the knowledge to put it back in.
Other highlights include "The Paradise Syndrome", where Kirk and crew have to stop an asteroid from wiping out the inhabitants of a planet; "Spectre of the Gun", where Kirk and the crew find themselves in a Wild West showdown; "Wink of An Eye", where the crew finds themselves in the midst of a race that moves at incredible speed and "The Savage Curtain", which puts the "Trek" crew on a planet that happens to feature famous figures. Overall, this is the weakest of the three seasons, but it's still fun television that presents a handful of winning episodes.
Includes 24 episodes on seven discs, plus two versions of "The Cage": Spock's Brain, The Enterprise Incident, The Paradise Syndrome, And the Children Shall Lead, Is There In Truth No Beauty?, Spectre of the Gun, Day of the Dove, For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, The Tholian Web, Plato's Stepchildren, Wink of an Eye, The Empath, Elaan of Troyius, Whom Gods Destroy, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, The Mark of Gideon, That Which Survives, The Lights of Zetar, Requiem for Methuselah, The Way to Eden, The Cloud Minders, The Savage Curtain, All Our Yesterdays, Turnabout Intruder.
VIDEO: As mentioned, the presentations of these season two episodes have gone through an extensive restoration process, and 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 when compared to the original release, it's a pretty grand difference.
This new release looks crisp, fairly detailed and enjoyably film-like. 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. Yet another element of the presentation that topped the old edition was the color palette, which looked somewhat richer and fresher here than ever before. Overall, I thought the show looked the best it's ever looked here.
SOUND: The second season of the original series is 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. This set supposedly has a new 5.1 soundtrack, but it sounded awfully similar to that of the prior release.
EXTRAS: "To Boldly Go...Season Three" is a 22-minute documentary that has the show's cast and crew remembering some of the highs and lows of the third season. Next, there are two pieces that focus on the characters: "Memoir from Mr. Sulu" and "Life Beyond Trek: Walter Koenig". "Chief Engineer's Log" is a brief featurette that offers an interview with actor James Doohan, who talks about the show's history and his experiences working on it. Professional prop/model maker John Long is featured in "A Star Trek Collector's Dream", as he discusses making replicas of some of the famed "Trek" props and gives viewers a look at some of the various pieces from the show. Rounding out the supplemental section is a gallery of production photos. English subtitles are available for the featurettes. There are previews available for each episode and a booklet included that offers an episode guide.
In a very nifty move, the final disc of the set includes "The Cage", which is the original "Star Trek" pilot, composed almost entirely of different characters (Spock was there) than the final cast. Here, we find it in not one, but two different versions: a restored edition that includes footage that was thought lost, and the original version, with workprint footage. It's a great addition, as it's fun to see this rare piece of "Trek" history.
"Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Part 3" is a 10-minute look at the former "Star Trek" actor's rare home movies. "Collectable Trek" is a 14-minute look at some of the rare memorabilia that was produced during the show's run. "Captain's Log: Bob Justman" is a 10-minute tribute to the late producer of "Star Trek", whose major role in the show is discussed by cast and crew (as well as Justman himself, seen in archive interview footage.)
While these extras are terrific, it is too bad that a couple of text commentaries from the prior set were left off.
Final Thoughts: "Star Trek: Season 3" isn't without some rocky moments, but there are some terrific episodes in this final season, as well. This new DVD set boasts episodes that look better than ever and have some new effects within, as well. Audio/video quality will delight fans, who will also appreciate that not only have most of the extras from the prior set have been carried over, but we get some new bonus features, too. Recommended for fans who haven't already picked up the prior DVD edition.