..

STAR TREK:  THE ORIGINAL SERIES
Season Three: Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, James Doohan, Walter Koenig
Creator:  Gene Roddenberry
Audio:  DTS HD 7.1, Original 2.0 Mono
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  1349 Minutes
Release Date:  December 15, 2009

“Let me get this straight…you’re gonna PAY me to kiss Nichelle?”William Shatner, Star Trek Memories

Shows ***

It doesn’t seem as widely remembered today, but in actuality, Star Trek was cancelled after only two years on the air.  Only an energetic letter writing campaign from the fans delayed the inevitable for another season.  However, the suits that made the decisions about such things were convinced that Star Trek really didn’t have an audience, and they set about to prove it…by positioning it in the “kiss of death” time slot; Friday nights at 10 PM.  As George Takei remarked, “Our audience was intelligent, hip and with it.”  And those were exactly the kind of people who were NOT home watching television at ten o’clock on a Friday night.

The swan song year of the original series had other problems as well.  Creator Gene Roddenberry continued to experience frustrations at how network producers wanted to steer the program.  The budget had been lowered yet again, which, coupled with big raises for stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy left little for production design.  And once the fatal time slot had been announced, there seemed little hope for the future of the show.

Still, considering the weight of such issues, the final season produced some of the show’s most memorable and popular episodes.  One of my favorites was always “The Enterprise Incident”, in which a seemingly unbalanced Kirk (Shatner) takes the Enterprise across the Neutral Zone into Romulan territory and into certain destruction…but he and his First Officer Spock (Nimoy) have a method to their madness.

Other fan faves included “Spectre of the Gun”, which has our heroes facing down a simulation of the gunfight at the OK Corral, but with very real consequences on the line.  The colored backgrounds and shoddy facades for sets were born out of the budget problem, yet the look in conjunction with the idea of the show actually worked favorably.  “Day of the Dove” has an alien intelligence bringing a war between the Enterprise and the Klingons dangerously close.  “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” is one of Dr. McCoy’s (Kelley) finest showcases.

Unfortunately, the year also boasted a couple of episodes many involved would probably like to forget.  “The Way to Eden” has the Enterprise overrun with alien hippies.  “Elaan of Troyius” has Kirk and company trying to tame a barbaric female in time for a (hopefully) peace-producing marriage.  And one of television’s most prolific series ended on a decidedly peculiar note, as Captain Kirk switches bodies with a woman who has designs of power in the final episode “Turnabout Intruder”.  Watching William Shatner going PMS on us was kind of entertaining in its own way, but hardly the stuff of Star Trek lore.

Gene Roddenberry always believed science fiction could channel the human condition, and two of the third year’s most intriguing episodes dealt squarely with the issue of race.  “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” has the Enterprise becoming a temporary home to a war between two races who are literally half black and half white…the only difference is which side of their bodies are which, but it’s enough in their eyes to merit a fight to the death.

And “Plato’s Stepchildren” earned a place in history by offering us television’s first interracial kiss.  While “Battlefield” was a fictionalized comment on racism, “Plato’s Stepchildren” offered nothing fictional…the social comment was all in reality, as network executives sweated over the idea of Kirk and Uhura (Nichols) locking lips in prime time!

But sadly, no amount of controversy or social relevance was going to save Star Trek from the fate of so many other shows.  Once season three was over, the cancellation was official…there would be no last minute revival this time.  But of course, one era of history always gives way to another.  Reruns of the original series in syndication would bring about an ever growing fan base.  Conventions popping up across the country became major cultural events.  And soon, the too-early retirees of the crew of the Enterprise were back in business on the big screen.

And Star Trek would continue on through the years in the form of movies, various TV shows, books, comics, merchandise and more.  But thanks to Blu-ray, Trekkies can always go back to the beginning and reminisce how it all started…with a vision, a ship, a plucky crew, a crotchety doctor, a placid Vulcan, and a captain who always managed to save the day.

Video ***1/2

The restoration and preservation of the classic shows continues to impress…the new digital transfers service the series well with good coloring and generally clean prints with only an occasional telltale sign of aging.  The updated special effects shots (you can watch the shows with them or without them) are a continued plus for me; adding a little more pizzazz to the visual style while not taking the shows out of their original 1960's elements.

Audio ***

The 7.1 mixes for the shows are a treat.  They didn't overdo it; in fact, the added space is most noticeable during the opening credits (along with a newly recorded version of the theme).  As for the shows, the mixes are tasteful.  Spoken words remain clean and clear, and dynamic range minimal, with the only surround effects coming from the occasional whooshing spaceship and such.

Features **

Not quite as much for the last go-around this time.  The menu screens continue to be cool, but the only real features are an alternate, unaired version of "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and more clips from Billy Blackburn's treasure chest, which has home movies and memories from the third and final season.  Each disc contains the original TV previews for the episodes.

Summary:

All good things eventually come to an end, but the beauty of Star Trek is that endings always seem to lead to new beginnings.  The Original Series Season Three marked the end of one chapter of the franchise, but one needs only to look back on the legs it’s shown since then to marvel at how far Gene Roddenberry’s vision would go from there.

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com