To boldly go where no man has gone before…
How many people aren’t familiar with “Star Trek“? For a show that only lasted three seasons, it has spawned as loyal a fan base as you will ever find. For you Luddites out there, “Star Trek” chronicled the adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise. The Enterprise was led by Captain James Kirk (William Shatner), his Vulcan first officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and ship’s doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley). Many centuries ahead of us, they travel the universe, exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations.
Paramount has embarked on an adventure of their own: releasing every single “Star Trek” episode on DVD in their production order. The result will be forty discs containing all 80 episodes of the series. Only ten discs have been released so far, comprising most of the first season, so it’s going to be a long time before “Spock’s Brain” is available.
I’m not old enough to remember “Star Trek” in its original run. Like other twentysomething sci-fi fans, I watched it in syndication. I’ve seen all but one of the original episodes (I even know which one I haven’t seen — “Wolf In The Fold.”). At one point in my life, I would have been considered quite the Trekkie. However, each of the follow-up series successively lowered my esteem of the entire franchise. It’s been years since I’ve seen “Star Trek” in any of its incarnations. I sprung at the chance to review this disc, because it contains one of my favorite episodes.
Star Trek: The Original Series, Volume 8 contains the series’ only two-part episode, “The Menagerie.” That’s not the remarkable fact about the episode — it contained footage from the unused pilot episode of the series, “The Cage.” In “The Cage,” Captain Kirk was not in command of the Enterprise; the captain was Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter). In fact, the only crewmember who would move on to the regular series was science officer Spock, and that fact figures into the plot of “The Menagerie.”
The Enterprise is summoned off its appointed rounds by a message sent by the ship’s former captain. When Kirk and company arrive at the starbase, they discover that Pike was involved in an accident that has left him disfigured and paralyzed. (So disfigured that another actor, Sean Kenney, played him. I supposed it wasn’t necessary to pay Jeffrey Hunter to come back to the show when all the character was called to do was sit in a chair with a blank look on his face.) The base commander, Commodore Mendez, informs Kirk that there’s no way Pike could have sent the message, and the base records show no message being sent to the Enterprise. Suspicion falls on Spock, who is the only person on board with the computer skills to doctor the logs to look like a message had been received.
No sooner does everyone suspect Spock then he earns their mistrust. He forcibly takes control of the starbase communication center and transmits falsified directives to the Enterprise. He then kidnaps Captain Pike, takes the helm of the ship and sends it on its course, leaving Kirk onboard the starbase. Mendez notifies Kirk that it appears Spock is taking the Enterprise to Talos IV. Cue suspenseful music. In the enlightened 23rd century, there is only one crime that will bring the death penalty: piloting a starship to Talos IV. The reason why is unknown, though the only other ship to visit the system was the Enterprise, under the command of Captain Pike.
Kirk and Mendez pursue the Enterprise in a shuttlecraft. When the shuttle is dangerously close to running out of fuel, Spock halts the Enterprise and allows the shuttle to dock. He then turns himself in for mutiny and demands an immediate court-martial. At the trial, he presents interesting evidence in his defense: the filmed record of the Enterprise’s first visit to the cursed planet. (The filmed evidence is the footage that was taken from the unaired pilot.) It details how the ship was lured to the planet by the Talosians, a malevolent race with great psychic powers, how Pike had been captured and nearly forced to mate with a human woman (oh, the horror!), and how the crew of the Enterprise rescued Pike. I’m not one for spoilers, so for the rest you’ll just have to watch for yourself.
Each of the “Star Trek” episodes have been digitally remastered, and I can say that 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 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. It’s presented at a high 448 kbps bitrate. Keeping with its mono roots, sound is mostly restricted to the center channel. Directional effects are used for starship fly-bys and for occasional sound effects (such as uses of the teleporter). The Talosians’ telepathic voices are also projected through the surround channels, giving the illusion that they are in the character’s head. I did not observe any use of the LFE channel. The only extra is the “preview trailer” for each episode.
I can’t think of any drawbacks to the disc. The retail price is $19.99US (and is considerably cheaper online), which is entirely reasonable for close to two hours of entertainment. The disc is single-layered, so it would have been nice if they had made the disc dual-layered and included four episodes rather than two. Also, there’s no background information on the episodes or the series included on the disc. The liner notes give some trivia tidbits and synopses of the episodes, but it would have been nice if a little of the plethora of information about the show had been put on the disc.
Fans of the show are encouraged to pick up this disc. “The Menagerie” is one of the best episodes of the entire series, and the DVD presentation is the best media on which to view it.
Is it just me, or does the crease in the back of the Talosians’ heads make them look like…well, like butt-heads?