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THE BEST OF STAR TREK
Original Series

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig
Creator:  Gene Roddenberry
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  None
Length:  201 Minutes
Release Date:  May 12, 2009

“Do you know what you get when you feed a tribble too much?”

“A fat tribble?”

Shows ****

The Best of Star Trek?  Well, that’s a title destined to start more arguments than it solves.

The original series of Star Trek has inspired loyalty in generations of fans and spawned an entire science fiction empire that is continuing on to this day.  It only ran for three seasons, but fans know the workings of those shows inside and out.  How do you narrow it all down to four episodes and label them the best the program had to offer?  How do you not include “The Menagerie” amongst your picks? 

Well, I suppose the obvious answer is that “The Menagerie”, as classic as it is, is a two part episode, which would leave you with only two other selections.  That being said, I’m grateful that my own personal favorite leads off the collection:  “The City on the Edge of Forever”.

Star Trek was no stranger to plots involving time travel, and “City” was one of their best, and remains for many fans a high point in the history of televised science fiction.  In it, Dr. McCoy (Kelley) goes mad after an accidental injection of a controversial drug, beams down to a planet the Enterprise is orbiting, and ends up going through a gate back in time to pre-World War II earth.  Something he does there disrupts the timeline, altering all of history and leaving Captain Kirk (Shatner), Mr. Spock (Nimoy) and crew stranded on the planet.

Their only hope is to go back, find McCoy, and stop him from doing whatever he did to change history.  Their path to the past leads them to Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), a Depression-era social worker who might be the most perfect match Kirk has ever come across.  But as Spock begins to piece together McCoy’s unraveling of history, it begins to appear that the fate of all humanity might just hang on the fate of Edith.  What will be the ultimate cost of making everything right again?

“The Trouble With Tribbles” is another good choice; a perennial fan favorite for its humor.  Little purring fluff balls are actually beginning to threaten a major grain supply, and Kirk has to deal with them and the menacing presence of the Klingons as well.  The ending is a keeper.

The Klingons weren’t the only threat to the Enterprise… “Balance of Terror” brings them face to face with the Romulans for the first time.  We also learn they are a kind of sister race to the Vulcans, making Spock’s very presence on the ship a source of great concern.  Can Kirk keep his crew united against the real threat facing his ship?

Lastly, fans always loved it when the logical Spock showed a bit of out-of-character emotion.  A good pick for that might have been the surprising “The Naked Time”, but this offering went instead for “Amok Time”.  We learn that Vulcans have a mating ritual that really sets the males off balance, and for the sake of his friend, Kirk arranges for Spock to visit his home planet in order to do…well, whatever Vulcans in heat do.  But there is a twist, when Spock’s mate picks Kirk to battle with his friend and first officer as part of the courtship.  Best Man is one thing, but this is a little out of hand…

These are the choices…excellent episodes all, but there’s no point complaining about which episodes should have made the cut and which shouldn’t have.  For first time viewers, these give an excellent overview for the show and what it represented, and for fans…well, we’ve seen all the episodes many times over already, so why not just enjoy these selections as a perfectly suitable cross section of Star Trek?  It’s a much easier and more fun way to go.

Video ***

The old shows have held up well, and have been remastered once or twice over the years.  The colors are bright and well contained, and for the most part, the images are clean and clear.  A few space shots show a touch of grain, but nothing alarming considering the age of the program and the limited special effects of its day.

Audio **

The 5.1 audio delivers well…not a lot of demand for the rear channels or subwoofer, but the dialogue and effects are cleaned up nicely.  Dynamic range is minimal, but no major complaints.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

Frankly, I wouldn’t have wanted it left up to me to name the four Best of Star Trek episodes, so I’m grateful my only responsibility is to critique someone else’s decisions.  Really, I can’t say I take issue with the ones chosen to represent the original series.  This is a good modest introduction to Gene Roddenberry’s classic creation, and if these episodes make you hunger for more, well…all the better.

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