Tribbles rule as the original Trek TV series hits Blu-ray

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

Following the successful release of season one in April prior to the theatrical debut of J.J. Abrams' franchise relaunch, Paramount Home Entertainment is offering Star Trek The Original Series: Season 2 on Blu-ray a few weeks before its release on home video.

In both cases, the release schedules aren't merely understandable, but warranted—the season-one set provided a foundation for the series' origins, reintroduced the characters and set them up for a cinematic reinvention, while the season-two set provides an expanded universe of adventures that reflexively capitalizes on Abrams' film and reminds fans of the many ways in which the director preserved the franchise's core character story concepts.

But more than serving as marketing fodder for future releases, Star Trek The Original Series: Season 2 is an effective reminder of the power of creator Gene Roddenberry's visionary ideas, now made even clearer and more compelling thanks to sterling presentation and a spectacular collection of bonus materials.

The seven-disc set includes all 26 season-two episodes, as well as high-definition versions of two episodes from later Trek series, "More Tribbles, More Troubles" (from Star Trek: The Animated Series) and "Trials and Tribble-ations" (from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and of course an expansive slate of extras. Remastered via the same process as those in season one, all of the episodes look really great—quite frankly, almost better than anything should look given the age and quality of the original materials—and they've been packaged with optional computer-enhanced special effects to make the interstitial space sequences look more detailed and spectacular. After two sets, I can appreciate the decision to include these versions as an alternative for savvier modern viewers, but am grateful the set producers didn't deem them the "only" way to watch Trek in the 21st century.

It seems redundant to review the episodes themselves, since most folks are already familiar with the ones they like and have no doubt deconstructed the Original Series countless times in the four decades since it was first broadcast. But "Amok Time" and "The Trouble With Tribbles" both bear mentioning because of the way they are treated in this particular set; specifically, each is presented as a "Starfleet Access" episode, where, in addition to watching the episode by itself and with enhanced effects, you can check out interview footage and background detail about their original conception, straight from the mouths of their creators.

(It should be noted that "Starfleet Access" episodes automatically present each show with enhanced effects—but, generally speaking, if you're watching all of the extra content you probably already know the episode backward and forward already, so it's a minor inconvenience at worst.)

"Tribbles" actually gets its own individual disc, which packages the other "Tribble"-related episodes from other series as bonus material, while David Gerrold presides over all three as commentator. He tends to be a little too self-congratulatory, but he examines why it is that the original episode seems to spawn so much debate among Trek fans, and he discusses the myriad ways in which he really tried to create something fun and unique that still managed to preserve the basic concepts of the show as well as the character details that fans knew and loved.

"Amok Time," meanwhile, is such a good episode that it almost requires no additional examination. But as not just iconic but truly classic Trek, the episode is a glorious encapsulation of everything that made the show great. (Suffice it to say it's as powerful now as ever—I was more invested in that 45 minutes of programming than in almost any episode of a new TV show I've seen this year.)

Otherwise, the set also features all of the bonus materials from the standard-definition sets that were released a few years ago, as well as another installment of "Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest," which unveils behind-the-scenes footage as Blackburn offers recollections of his experiences on the show. But whether as a companion piece to the season-one set, a preview of coming attractions before Abrams' film arrives on Blu-ray or simply the next stop en route to a complete Trek collection, Star Trek The Original Series: Season 2 manages to make boldly going where many have gone before seem like an all-new, exciting and even more bold experience.