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STAR TREK: ORIGINAL SERIES
Season Two: Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig
Creator:  Gene Roddenberry
Audio:  DTS HD 7.1
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  1307 Minutes
Release Date:  September 22, 2009

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

“A fat tribble?”

Shows ****

To me, the single most significant aspect of the second season of Star Trek was adding DeForest Kelley’s name to the opening credits alongside William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.  It showed that the writers and creators had come to recognize the three way relationship between the three actors’ characters as a key dynamic in the Trek universe.  I’ve always thought of Mr. Spock (Nimoy) and Dr. McCoy (Kelley) as being like the two voices on either shoulder of Captain Kirk (Shatner).  The former represented cool logic and a straightforward, factual approach to duty.  The latter represented emotion, feeling, and gut reaction over logic.  Kirk reflected both sides, and as such, the essences of Spock and McCoy both made up the essence of the Captain.

Like its premiere season, which seemed to show no trouble getting out of the starting gate, the second year was filled with great moments and many memorable episodes.  The clear, unique vision of Gene Roddenberry married with some talented writers and crew members, and came to fruition with a great cast that made their characters as real to us as family.  It was the interrelation of all of the characters capped by the trio of main stars that allowed both drama and comedy to work with full function.

The second year saw plenty of both.  Fan favorites like “The Trouble With Tribbles” and the return of our favorite interstellar scoundrel in “I, Mudd” showed that Star Trek could be just as funny as it was fantastic.  Other episodes like “Who Mourns for Adonais?” and “The Apple” accentuated the fantasy.

The culture of Vulcan and Mr. Spock got further exploration in a couple of key episodes.  “Amok Time” brought the Enterprise and the viewing audience on their first trip to Vulcan so that Spock could placate a ritual mating urge.  “Journey to Babel” introduced Spock’s parents and gave us a first glimpse at our science officer’s life growing up, as well as bringing the great Mark Lenard, who guest starred as a Romulan in the first season, into the fold as Sarek, who would be a recurring character in Trek lore for years until his demise somewhere in The Next Generation.

Some looks at Earth’s past are included, such as the fun “A Piece of the Action”, which finds Kirk and company on a planet that modeled itself after prohibition era gangster life in America, or “Bread and Circuses”, where ancient Rome (sort of ) came alive, or in one of the more striking episodes “Patterns of Force”, which showed a world patterned after Nazi Germany.

Other of the year’s best episodes include the popular “Mirror, Mirror”, where members of the Enterprise are transported to an alternate universe, where the Federation is a warmongering organization and where the Enterprise crew is comprised of savage versions of themselves.  “The Changeling” finds the ship at the mercy of a seemingly indestructible robot bent on “perfecting” things by destroying them.  “The Gamesters of Triskelion” is a good action packed episode that has Kirk fighting for his ship’s life, while “The Deadly Years” has Kirk, Spock and McCoy aging rapidly.

Perhaps the year’s most odd offering was the season finale, “Assignment: Earth”, which was actually designed to serve as a pilot for a new series Gene Roddenberry had in mind featuring a new character called Gary Seven.  It never grew into the new show he had hoped for, so as a singular Star Trek episode, it’s always felt a little strange and out of place to me.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot…the second season added a new crew member to the bridge:  the plucky young Russian Chekov (Koenig), originally introduced as a Davy Jones-like youth designed to appeal to a younger demographic.  It worked, but thankfully, Chekov quickly grew from a poster boy to an integral part of the Enterprise crew and a popular character with all Trekkies.

As well as the first two seasons went, it’s amazingly hard to believe in retrospect that the show only had one more year of life left.  Season Two proved that the formula that made Star Trek work was no fluke, and that with terrific, likeable characters and an imaginative creative staff, the skies were indeed the limit.

Video ***1/2

I continue to be impressed with the way the Original Series is looking on Blu-ray, particularly with the option of the newly enhanced special effects.  As I've stated before, I wasn't sure how the purist in me would react to tinkering with the old Enterprise shots we knew and loved, limited though they were, but the design team has done an exceptional job of updating the shots in ways that are beautiful, sharp, crisp, clear, and not a distraction.  The Enterprise still looks like herself, only more detailed and real.

As for the rest of the series, the high definition remastering brings out the colors with a new vibrancy and clarity.  There is some noticeable grain here and there, particularly when certain shots have been blow up a bit in the editing process, but overall, this Blu-ray represents a cleanness and a purity not seen in forty years.

Audio ***1/2

The DTS HD 7.1 remixes continue to be striking...you can opt for original mono, but like with the updated effects, you won't want to.  These mixes are tastefully done, delivering the dialogue and music nicely, but opening up in some of the bigger sequences for some subwoofer punch and nice uses of the surrounds.  I love how a photon torpedo launching goes from front to back with swiftness and smoothness.  A superior effort!

Features ***1/2

Each of the seven discs come with original episode trailers.  The first disc also features Starfleet Access to "Amok Time", a special Blu-ray feature that allows picture in picture access to addition interviews and information, such as the updating of the special effects.  There is also a second volume of Billy Blackburn's home movies, showing some cool behind-the-scenes footage of the cast and crew in action.

Disc four is dedicated to "The Trouble With Tribbles".  It has that episode from season two, available with Starfleet Access mode, plus the animated series episode "More Tribbles, More Troubles".  Both of these are available with commentary from writer David Gerrold.  There is also the Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations", along with a pair of documentaries on updating the little fur balls for the modern series.  Rounding out this disc is a panel discussion on bringing the series to Blu-ray, along with talks on the updating of the special effects (most impressive in "The Doomsday Machine".

Disc five has "To Boldly Go", a look back at season two, while disc six has the featurette "Designing the Final Frontier".

The seventh disc has all the remainder of the features for season two.  “Life Beyond Trek” takes a new look at Leonard Nimoy, who discusses among other things his photography hobby.  “Kirk, Spock and Bones” looks at the dynamic between the three main characters. 

Nichelle Nichols is focused on in “Star Trek’s Divine Diva”, while the great screenwriter D. C. Fontana is profiled in “Writer’s Notebook”.  Lastly, some favorite moments are looked at and discussed.  And the discs are also equipped the ability to access extra online contant with BD Live and Mobile Blu, for your portable device!

Summary:

Star Trek fans can continue to rejoice as Paramount keeps rolling out the original series in complete season box sets on Blu-ray.  Season Two was a banner year for the show, and Trekkies can now experience it time and time again in the comforts of their living room in glorious high definition sound and picture with the episodes looking and sounding better than ever.

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