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Star Trek: The Original Series Season One Blu-ray Review

The newest Star Trek movie releases tonight courtesy of JJ Abrams and an action-packed plot, so it’s safe to say Star Trek mania is at an all-time high. Leave it to Paramount, then, to finally give home audiences what they’ve been clamoring for since HD-DVD died: Star Trek: The Original Series Season One on Blu-ray.

Paramount, as you’ll recall, was one of the original backers of the HD-DVD format, and Star Trek: The Original Series Season One was one of the pre-eminent HD/DVD combo disc releases when it came out in late 2007. Since that time, Blu-ray owners (ourselves included) have been wondering why Paramount was dragging its feet on the Blu-ray release. Well, JJ Abrams’ new Star Trek movie is the reason. After all, who doesn’t want a good marketing tie-in? But even without taking the tie-in into consideration, Star Trek: The Original Series Season One on Blu-ray proves that Paramount’s dilly dallying was worth the wait. The series has never, ever looked or sounded as good as it does on Blu-ray.

Fortunately, although Paramount spent considerable energy remastering the video and audio — not to mention the special effects — the studio has also left the original broadcast intact, though with a little bit of “next-gen” sweetening to help the series not completely show its age. The restoration began by scanning the original film prints frame by frame into a computer, then thoroughly cleaning them to remove cracks, dirt and other unwelcome blemishes. In addition, the colors were considerably brightened resulting in more saturated colors adding a lot of pop to the picture. This restoration is clearly evident on the VC1-encoded 1080p 1.33:1 transfer, which not only pops with a bit more color, but also seems a bit brighter and to have gotten an extra dose of noise reduction.

Purists may say that the enhanced version of each show — which can be selected in mid-episode but still reverts to the beginning of that episode rather than picking up where the viewer left off — goes a bit too far. Me? I think it’s an incredible addition and love every minute of it. Purists can simply choose the original broadcast version and be done with it. Among the visual updates are a rebuilding of almost all exterior Enterprise shots, tweaking the matte paintings, adding lasers, adding a new cargo bay door to the underside of the ship and filling-in empty space with distant galaxies and nebulae. But even when the CGI is new, all the effects are either animated to move and act like original models or somehow just “fit” with the original CG vibe.

Interestingly enough, the biggest difference between the original and remastered versions is actually the audio. Yes, the video effects are obviously new, but you quickly grow accustomed to seeing those new effects. The Blu-ray uncompressed audio, however, really makes all the difference on the enhanced versions, because it incorporates the surround channels with wonderful effect.

On the enhanced versions, the audio seems a bit quieter from the center channel than it does on the original broadcast versions, probably because Paramount wanted to make sure their surround additions were noticed. The surround channels are mostly noticeable in the introductory sequence (the remastered score sounds incredible) and during flight scenes. On the original versions, however, the audio on the whole seems somewhat louder, but it does not include any surround channels or outdoor ship-flight audio. For people leaving the theater after watching Abrams’ Star Trek, the enhanced version’s audio is definitely the way to go.

The seven-disc Blu-ray set of Star Trek: The Original Series Season One is packed with a total of 24 hours and 20 minutes of episodes and bonus features. Paramount and CBS created a new Star Trek The Energy RC-Micro home theater system delivered the sound for this portal exclusive to BD-Live that will be accessible from all Star Trek Blu-ray releases, including (we hope) the complete motion picture library releasing later this summer (we truly hope to bring that review to you as well). The coolest thing about this feature is not the content itself, but a simple pre-load screen that alerts you when new content is available.Included here are picture galleries, videos, cast and crew descriptions, and daily reports from FEDCON, Europe’s largest Star Trek convention. The feature even tells you how many megabytes of new data are available.

The Star Trek online portal resembles an Enterprise console screen and includes links for Cast, Creative Staff, Characters, Database (Aliens, Ships, Technology, Science and Medical, Places), Photo Galleries, CBS BD-Live Community, Exclusive Star Trek Bonus Videos, and More CBS Paramount Trailers (all for DVDs). If these could not fit on the seven discs allotted for the actual show, then offering a download option is a great way to deliver the content and draw new Blu-ray owners into the world of BD-Live.

The following extras were on the flip side on the HD-DVD release, and appeared before that on DVD, so they’re actually quite old:

  • The Birth of a Timeless Legacy
  • Reflections on Spock
  • Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner
  • To Boldly Go — Season One
  • Sci-Fi Visionaries
  • Kiss & Tell: Romance in the 24th Century
  • Trek Connections
  • Episode Preview Trailers

High-definition special features available on almost every episode include Data Bookmarks (re: standard bookmarking with a Trekified name) and a picture-in-picture feature, Starfleet Access. With the click of a button, viewers can open up a split-screen image when available with the showing running on the left and interviews, information, etc. displaying on the right. This effect nearly fills a 16×9 screen which is a creative way to expand upon the original 1.33:1 image. The supplemental information is broken down into science, technology, personal files and genesis, i.e. creating the new CGI effects. There are so many intricacies of the show and restoration spoken about by numerous experts that the material is almost overwhelming to take in.

Starfleet Access is available on the following episodes:

  • Where No Man Has Gone Before
  • The Menagerie, Part 1
  • The Menagerie, Part 2
  • Balance of Terror
  • The Galileo Seven
  • Space Seed
  • Errand of Mercy

The remaining special features are placed on side “A” hidden underneath additional date for the final episode, Annihilate. I had to explore quite a bit and even back out to the new CGI transporter pre-menu screen to look around for them.

Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century (20:06) is an in-depth look at the painstaking process of restoring Star Trek. It delves deep into the why and how Paramount tinkered with history. This should be the first stop for angry purists as I guarantee it’ll ease their nerves a bit. The real gem buried near the end is an uninterrupted front row seat of the entire re-recording of the opening score.

More relevant for hardcore Star Trek fans is Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories (13:20). Billy is like the utility infielder of the Star Trek universe, stepping into an assortment of oddball roles and creature costumes when called upon. Much of this short featurette revolves around current-day Billy reminiscing from a plush chair. There are several minutes of home video snippets he snapped from the sets sure tickle Trek fans’ nostalgia bones.

The next high definition special feature is an Interactive Enterprise Inspection with or without an informational Data Track. In short, viewers board a shuttle and exit the new CGI Enterprise’s hangar bay, circle the ship up-close, then hover in place away from the ship. From here, any one of the following ship’s areas can be visited: Shuttlecraft Control Room, Starting Coordinates, Shuttle Hangar Deck, Bridge, Phaser Banks/Photon Torpedoes, Impulse Engines, Warp Nacelles, Main Sensor/Navigational Deflector, Ion Pod, Intercoolers, or Equipment Bay Doors. The inspection is moderately fun, but would work better if the viewer had complete control over steering the shuttle around the ship themselves.

Regardless, there is nothing to really complain about with Star Trek: The Original Series Season One finally appearing on Blu-ray Disc. Not only does the show look and sound fantasic, but the stories live up to the nostalgic hype that lives on in our collective memory. If you’re planning to see JJ Abrams’ Star Trek this weekend, by all means pick up Star Trek: The Original Series Season One on Blu-ray. It’s the perfect and timely companion piece to the all-new theatrical experience.

Amazon has Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1 on Blu-ray for half of what it cost on HD-DVD. Go buy it now.

Score: 9.5

— Jonas Allen

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