Much like the special effects in each episode, the appeal of Star Trek: The Original Series has never had much to do with how good the show looked while you watched it. And yet it seems miraculous how good the show looks now that it's in high definition on the newly released Season 1 set. Offering not only the best presentation but the most comprehensive slate of extras ever available for the show, Star Trek: The Original Series—Season 1 (Paramount Home Entertainment, $129.99) is indisputably a must-have Blu-ray.
Ironically, the challenge in reviewing a beloved, familiar series like Star Trek is not poring over every extra and bonus feature, but avoiding the impulse to watch all the episodes back to back and forget about the review altogether. At seven discs and just shy of 1,500 minutes, there's enough material to get lost for a while, and enjoy the trip. But looking just at whether this set is worth the cost of replacing earlier editions, what's important is the presentation of the episodes and the extras that enhance the viewing experience.
First off, the transfers are breathtakingly gorgeous. According to the featurette "Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century," the Blu-ray producers went back—yet again—and cleaned and remastered every episode to maximize the possibilities of high-definition presentation. As a result, the picture quality is sharper, cleaner and clearer, even if that means the makeup on actors' faces is sometimes noticeable. But if that clarity somehow undermines one's suspension of disbelief, they have taken the extra step of redesigning the special effects of each episode with updated computer graphics.
Thankfully, the updated effects are not stricken from the George Lucas playbook—they're purely optional, and are easily removed in lieu of the original shots of the Enterprise. But as a fan of science fiction who occasionally wonders what his favorite shows, series and movies would look like using today's technological standards, I think this option is a welcome opportunity, even if the end result adds little to one's enjoyment of the episodes.
In terms of special features, the set includes all pre-existing extras, including interviews with cast and crew members, retrospective featurettes and promotional materials. New to this library of reference material is the featurette "Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories," in which cast member Blackburn screens footage he shot while on set, and the "Interactive Enterprise Inspection," which allows the viewer to navigate around the Enterprise and examine the various departments and stations on the starship.
Finally, several episodes feature "Starfleet Access" enhancement, which offers picture-in-picture commentaries, photos and background information about the conception and photography. While Mike Okuda's text commentaries have always served an invaluable function even for expert Trek fans, these commentaries provide multidimensional information about iconic moments in the series' history and enhance the conceptual, technical and artistic textures of the show as a whole.
With a MSRP of $130 and so many other versions available to fans, it's tough to recommend this new set without emphasizing the fact that this is truly premium presentation of the show and likely will not significantly change the viewing experience for folks already intimately familiar with these episodes. But as a person who has enjoyed an abiding affection for Star Trek through its incarnations on VHS and DVD, I can confidently say that there is no better way to watch Star Trek than on Blu-ray. Like never before, and thanks to superlative presentation and enhanced bonus materials, this set reminds you what ensured the show's longevity—namely, the fact that its limitless possibilities inspired not only writers, actors and filmmakers, but viewers as well.