Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1

Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1 (1966)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols
Extras: Featurettes, Starfleet Access, Enterprise Inspection Tour, BD Live

Over the years "Star Trek" has become one of the main staples of Paramount Home Entertainment as the studio released the various shows from the franchise on DVD in numerous incarnations. "Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1" even got the HD-DVD treatment two years ago, presenting the show in high definition for the first time. and yet, I think nothing could have prepared fans of the show for this Blu-Ray set, because it simply blows everything else out of the water.

"Star Trek: The Original Series" is the cult TV series that started it all, of course. The U.S.S. Enterprise and its crew or on their mission to explore other worlds and encounter some of the most unexpected creatures, planets and intergalactic phenomena. We get to know iconic characters such as Mr. Spock, Captain Kirk, Bones, Scottie, Zulu and Lt. Uhura among many additional ensemble cast members. And, of course ,we get to meet a large number of throw-away cast members who never manage to survive the 45 minute running length of their respective episodes. No harm done, though, because that's what makes the show so great.

Having fond memories of the show from my own childhood – I was glued to the TV screen every week to see another cool episode – I am always surprised how well the show holds up despite its age and the obvious production limits. The cast and imaginative stories still have the same magical charm they had over 40 years ago and keep pulling me in, every time I revisit the show.

As for the production values, the Blu-Ray release we have here has done away with much of that also. Some time ago, CBS and Paramount have actually reworked the show and redid many of the special effects shots form the show with high end digital ones. As a result, the USS Enterprise no longer looks like a small Revell model, the outer space effects no longer look like underwhelming optical effects. Instead the show puts the pedal to the metal and gives us some glorious images that are much more contemporary and reflect much more closely today's knowledge and view of outer space. These new shots make a world of a difference, I can tell you that, and while the Blu-Ray version includes both the original and the digitally enhanced versions of the episodes, there is no question for me, which ones I am viewing. The original versions are there more for archival purposes for me rather than for actual viewing, but I know purists and hardcore fans of the show may disagree with me. Therefore it is good to know that Paramount has made it easy for fans to switch between the viewing modes. So simply, in fact, that you can actually switch between viewing modes on the fly using the "Angle button on your remote control to directly compare the two versions.

Apart from these digital effect shots, the show has also been cleaned up and the image quality you will see on this release is absolutely staggering. Belying the show's age and underlying production limitations entirely, "Star Trek: The Original Series" looks better here than some current TV shows look on their respective releases. I know it is hard to believe but you have to see the incredibly clean, sharp and vibrant image that Paramount is dishing out here. It is hard to describe, but the producers of this Blu-Ray disc have managed to breathe new live into this show like you would not believe it.

To drive the point home even further, the release also features a brand new 7.1 channel DTS HD Master Audio track. This is remarkable in so many ways, because no TV show I know has ever been given a discrete 7.1 treatment, let away a presentation in lossless master audio quality. Originally produced in mono, all of the show's audio elements have been cleaned up, reworked, massaged and remixed for this track, creating an incredible experience yet again. I did notice that the volume is a little on the low side, but other than that, you better ready yourself for the ride of your life. Of course ,the show's original mono audio track is also included to make sure the episodes are available in their original, unaltered form for posterity.

Arriving on no less than 7 discs, the Blu-Ray Disc set also contains a number of great extras, such as picture-in-picture commentary via the Starfleet Access mode. When watching any episode in this mode you will now get to see trivia bits, interview snippets, and other useful information and clips on the screen as you view the episode.

Also included are other featurettes, some of which are presented in standard definition – as they are culled form previous releases, while newer ones appear in high definition. One of the center pieces is "Spacelift" which gives you a look at the impressive update the show has received with its 21st century digital enhancements. But also Billy Blockburn's Treasure Chest, featuring truly rare gems of footage, is well worth checking out.

In addition to all the bonus features found on the disc set, including the Enterprise Inspection Tour that was part of the HD-DVD version also, the release has a BD Live section. Out of all BD Live features I have seen so far, this is clearly the most advanced, making great use of the technology underlying BD Live. It is fashioned in such a way that waiting times are minimized by cloaking downloads with interactivity so that you don't even notice that you are waiting. The system, for example, pings the BD Live server and retrieves update information that is then displayed on your screen almost instantaneously. Without weighty downloads you can immediately hone in on features you are most interested in and go from there. Online you will find a host of additional features that will undoubtedly be expanded even further as time goes by and more season box sets are being released.

While this is a spectacular release of course, there are two things that do stick out as a bit of a disappointment, perhaps. The first one is the packaging. The show had been repackaged in very cool cases twice in the past, each of which make nice presentation pieces on a bookshelf. Here now we have a simple Blu-Ray case that is thicker than usual but nothing special overall. I would have loved to have a packaging that is every bit as intricate and impressive as the previous ones were. It is but a minor quibble, though, as one look at the sow on your TV screen will make you forget that in a heartbeat.

The other gripe one could have is the lack of certain bonus materials that were part of the numerous previous releases of the episodes on DVD before. There were numerous vignettes and full length documentaries that were part of those releases that sadly did not make it on this set. Hopefully we will see these included in the upcoming season 2 and 3 sets that should make their way to stores in the coming months.

"Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1" is simply awesome on Blu-Ray. It is a notable improvement over any of the previous incarnations the show has seen – including the HD-DVD version – and if you're a fan of the show, you simply have to get this Blu-Ray version, there is no way around it. I would even go as far as saying, if you don't have a Blu-Ray player yet, this release alone should be incentive enough for you to get on board. That's how cool it is!