To boldly go where no man has gone before…
When you look at what the first half of the 20th century brought to humankind — flight, mass-produced automobiles, the harnessing of the atom, television — it’s no wonder that science fiction writers were overly optimistic about the latter half of the century. “The future” would be filled with wild and wondrous things. We would be taking flying cars to our jobs where we worked at computer terminals connected to mainframes the size of office buildings. Space flight would be commonplace. Medicine could cure any ill, and could create supermen in the lab.
In 1967, when the episodes on Star Trek: The Original Series, Volume 12 first aired, the United States’ space program was in the midst of its greatest period of activity. It had been five years since John Glenn had been the first American to orbit the planet. Just three weeks before these episodes aired, a flash fire on the launch pad during a test killed three astronauts of the Apollo 1 spacecraft. It would only be two more years before Neil Armstrong would become the first human to set foot on the moon. It was inevitable that the imaginative writers of Star Trek would think that man would be capable of building ships that could leave our solar system with the crew in suspended animation for the long trek between planetary systems…
Star Trek: The Original Series, Volume 12 contains two episodes from the first season of the show: “Space Seed” and “A Taste Of Armageddon.” If you take a close look at the packaging, you’ll notice that “A Taste Of Armageddon” aired a week after “Space Seed,” but is counted first. Paramount is pointedly organizing the episodes in the order of production rather than by the airdates.
I can see only two reasons you’d want to add this disc to your collection. First, and I think the minor reason, would be to collect a complete set. The major reason would be to possess “Space Seed.” “A Taste Of Armageddon” is a pointless episode, but “Space Seed” has resonance for the entire Star Trek franchise.
“A Taste Of Armageddon” finds the crew of the Enterprise ferrying an ambassador to Eminar VII to negotiate a peace treaty between the planet and its neighbor Vendikar. Captain Kirk received a message from the planet, warning them not to approach, but Ambassador Fox (Gene Lyons of the “Ironside” television show) orders the captain to disregard the warning.
When Kirk and his landing party beams down to Eminar VII, they learn that the two planets are engaged in a war that has been fought for five centuries not by men with conventional weapons, but by computers that declare casualty zones. The residents of those zones must report to disintegration chambers. The reason the Enterprise had been warned away was to prevent it from becoming a target. And guess what? Vendikar targets the ship, and Kirk is given the ultimatum that he must beam down the crew and have them put to death at once.
“A Taste Of Armageddon” is an obvious allegory to the Vietnam War, which was in full swing at the time. Fortunately, the parallels are not drawn in a heavy-handed fashion, but the reference is clear. It calls into question the slaughter of innocent people who march to certain doom because of the arbitrary decisions of government.
“Space Seed” is the only reason you should own this disc. When Harve Bennett, who was slated to produce the follow-up to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, needed to find a compelling story for the second film, he turned to tapes of the original series. It was in the twenty-fourth episode of the series that he found the inspiration for the film’s plot. That film would be Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan.
Whilst proceeding on their merry way, exploring strange new worlds and seeking new life and new civilizations, the Enterprise encounters an “ancient” spacecraft that had not been produced since the late 20th century. Upon boarding the ship, they find that many of the ship’s systems have failed, and most of the crewmembers are dead. Around seventy people have survived in suspended animation for the ship’s 200-year journey. The first person revived is a mysterious man who is reluctant to give information about his journey but is very eager to learn about the Enterprise. They later learn that he is Khan Noonian Singh (Ricardo Montalban), the leader of a band of super-humans that had endeavored to conquer the Earth in the late 20th century. Khan had led his band of followers to the stars when their reign on Earth had toppled.
Khan finds an ally in the Enterprise’s historian, Lt. Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World). McGivers is fascinated with the strong military leaders of Earth’s past, and having one stand in front of her is more than she can bear. She easily submits to his demands, and delivers the crew of the Enterprise into his hands. Fortunately, no one is harmed in the coup. Kirk sentences Khan and his followers (including Lt. McGivers) to banishment on Ceti Alpha V, an uninhabited world.
Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan (also reviewed today) picks up fifteen years after the end of “Space Seed.” Ceti Alpha V has turned into a hostile desert world. Khan’s followed have dwindled down to a handful, and his wife (McGivers) has died. He manages to escape the barren planet, commandeers a starship, and seeks to exact his revenge on Kirk.
Each of the Star Trek episodes have been digitally remastered, and they look as good as a television show from the 1960s can hope to look. The image is sharp and detailed with excellent color fidelity and no bleeding. The only problems with the image are inherent to the source material. The picture overall is a little grainy, particularly noticeable in special effect model shots, and can have a few blips caused by dust on the negative. The audio has been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1. Keeping with its mono roots, sound is mostly restricted to the center channel. Directional effects are used for starship fly-bys during the opening credits, and infrequently throughout the episodes. The purist in me would rather have seen the mono tracks cleaned up and utilized, rather than an unnecessary remix. The only extra is the “preview trailer” for each episode.
I find it most annoying that Paramount has chosen to release the Star Trek episodes on such a protracted schedule, and that they are only placing two one-hour episodes on each disc. Fox can put twenty-three episodes of The X-Files on seven discs in one box set, with plenty of extras, and only charge $149.99 for it. Paramount, on the other hand, releases one season (twenty-nine episodes) on fourteen discs over the space of a year at $19.99 per disc. That will put you back $299.85 for an entire season, and you’ll have to wait until some time in 2002 to have the entire series (at Fox’s current pace, all seven current seasons of “The X-Files” should be released in that period). The Trekkie contingent of the DVD community should be enraged.
Consider purchasing Star Trek: The Original Series, Volume 12 only if you want to own Khan’s original appearance. Otherwise, send a message to Paramount and ignore their half-hearted efforts.