Star Trek: The Original Series (Season One) - HD DVD Review
4 out of 5 stars - The Show Itself (has an average rating of 8.6 on IMDb)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars - Video Quality (1080p in AVC MPEG-4 on 10 discs)
3 out of 5 stars - Audio Quality (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 / Digital Plus 2.0)
4 out of 5 stars - Bonus Materials (include Picture-in-Picture & more)
Rated: - NOT RATED
Year: - 1967
Length: - 24 hours 25 minutes
Studio: - CBS / Paramount
The Show Itself was a science fiction television show created by Gene Roddenberry. The first season of the show (29 episodes) originally aired from 1966 - 1967 on NBC. The show was considered extremely innovative and imaginative for it's time. "Star Trek" (The Original Series) told the story of a ship ("The Starship Enterprise"), it's Captain "James T. Kirk" (played by William Shatner), his second officer "Mr. Spock" (played Leonard Nimoy), the rest of his crew of over 400 and their "5 year mission to boldly go where no man has gone before." At the time of the show's conception space travel by NASA was really starting to bloom and the was definitely a growing interest in the space program from the general public. This show worked as a great device for doing such and went on to inspire many people to become astronauts or work for NASA. The technical term for a fan of the "Star Trek" series (and/or franchise) is called a "Trekkie." They're usually made out to be total nerds but you'd be surprised who actually likes these shows.
The first season of the show (out of the entire three seasons that aired) included 29 episodes as mentioned before but they all really had a decent story to them individually. Almost all of these episodes appear to be well rated over at TV.com as I noticed while doing research for this Review. So this is definitely a great point in the show's history as far as good episodes (with good stories) goes. This series went on to inspire many "Star Trek" films and other shows. Shatner was in his acting prime back in these days, he had been doing episodes of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone" that are classic themselves and then really established himself as "Captain Kirk" which made him pretty much an immortal icon to the sci-fi world.
The original series really was brilliant in it's original form and this release has some controversial new "visual effects" improvements that some fans claim really alter the viewing experience way too much from it's original state. Yes this is a new version of this original show that is "like you've never seen or experienced it before" but is that a good thing? I'll begin to explain more about that later below. Overall this is a decent HD DVD release but does have a pretty high price tag to go with that 10 disc HD DVD Combo Format box set. I can only recommend this to fans of the show who aren't going to complain about the new restoration.
Video Quality on this release is 1080p in AVC MPEG-4 which comes to you in a ten disc HD DVD Combo Format box set. The opposite side of each disc contains the standard definition DVD counter-part. At the time of writing this Review I'm not sure totally but I believe these are all HD-15's (15 gigabyte Single-Layered HD DVD's). This really comes as no surprise if so considering two things, first that the show is only in 1.33:1 (4:3 Fullscreen) aspect ratio and that each disc contains 3 (roughly hour-long) episodes. The video quality to be in the original aspect ratio that it aired on NBC in primarily 1966-1967 (for this season) is now really somewhat cool to behold with it's amount of detail present in this new High Def transfer. I will say it's a somewhat decent restoration but not the best, the whole process and video transfer could have been better. But I'll focus on the positive aspects of the video quality here like, the black levels are very solid and even the flesh tones come across somewhat nice. The color is definitely consistent but does seem a tad bit off to a degree. It doesn't seem to have the total right tone that shows did with the rich vibrant colors they did back in the late 60's when color was first being used on television shows.
Yes there is an obvious amount of film grain and noise present throughout but it's to be expected with dated material such as this. I didn't find this bothersome, it in fact really helps try to keep the retro feel. That is somewhat despite all the new "visual effects improvements" they've added which don't really make for the best visual blend and I'll begin to explain why. Like I earlier mentioned, they took the original camera negatives of the show and remastered the video. They also went to a great extent of work with "state-of-the-art technology" to redo the show's visual effects (namely the show's intro with the external shots of the "Enterprise" and such) into an odd (but what they did try to make seamless) blend of computer animation and remastered video. The real problem is that the blend doesn't totally look right as the new computer animated scenes lack the film grain of the restored live-action portions of the show.
I can honestly to a degree understand why "Trekkies" are going to be upset by this release but I think you should remember the phrase, "you can't please everyone" in a case such as this. I don't totally feel the blend of the restored original footage and new visual effects blend perfectly (especially in High Definition). I seriously doubt though we'll EVER see this show come to HD DVD in it's total original form. Be happy with what you get here, which if you're a real fan of the show I'm sure you will somewhat be pleased with this purchase (depending on how much you have to pay for it).
Audio Quality on this release is in Dolby True HD 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 (two channel Mono). Honestly when you really begin to think about this "logically" as "Mr. Spock" would say, this probably wasn't the best material to try to put into a 5.1 mix. I'll now begin to explain why I believe so and why I actually prefer the Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 over the TrueHD 5.1 mix. First off, aside from the show's intro (with the newly re-recorded theme song) you're not going to notice any real large amount of dynamic range or rear channel presence hardly at all in the TrueHD 5.1 mix.
However with the Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 track it comes through as really how it was intended to be heard. I just feel the 5.1 was an overkill here and don't see the need for it. Sure Star Trek's whole idea is about technology but that doesn't mean we have get a really only mediocre 5.1 mix as a result. Now perhaps in the future when I'm using a stereo receiver able to fully handle the TrueHD format I might say otherwise but until then I'll stick with the 2 channel Mono track and give this a "3 Star Rating" for audio quality.
Bonus Materials * "Starflet Access" is an on-screen graphical interface (similar to Universal's "U-Control" in ways) that allows the viewer to access Picture-in-Picture video commentaries that feature comparisons of the original to the newly restored footage as well as interviews, episode specific trivia, an encyclopedia of sorts of "Star Trek" information and more. The only real complaint I have that is that this feature is only available on 7 of the 29 episodes included in Season One. The episodes that include "Starfleet Access" are listed below: "Where No Man Has Gone Before" "The Menagerie, Parts 1 & 2" "Balance of Terror" "The Galileo Seven" "Space Seed" "Errand of Mercy" Located on Disc 10 (Side A - HD DVD) you'll find the following bonus materials presented in 1080p High Def AVC MPEG-4 video with Dolby Digital Plus sound: "Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century" (20 minutes) is a pretty decent documentary on the new visual effects used that are so controversial to the fan base of this show. This features interviews with folks like the Senior Vice President of CBS/Paramount (David Lafountaine), members of both the restoration and the visual effects processes. This gives you a nice behind-the-scenes look of how this release (controversial as it may be) came to be. The entire recording session of the newly re-orchestrated theme is included in this documentary. This is really worth checking out if you like the new "visual effects" version. "Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories" (13 minutes) is pretty self explanatory thanks to the subtitle except I guess it would help that you knew Billy was a regular "extra" on the show who usually ending up playing the navigator. He shares with you his experiences of being on the set and even shows us some of his old home movies he recorded while on the set. This proves to be pretty informative but nothing truly breakthrough. This is though definitely worth watching to fans of the show. "Interactive Enterprise Tour" is a computer animated 3D simulated model of the "Starship Enterprise" presented in High Def that allows the viewer to explore both the exterior and interior of the ship. Complete details, photos, audio recordings are present for each section of the ship. This is pretty impressive and totally worth checking out to fans of the show.
- Review written by Justin Sluss