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Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 3 (1968-1969)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/15/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/7/2009

This review is aimed at the casual Star Trek fan. For I'm sure that there's not much that I can say about Star Trek: The Original Series Season 3 that will affect the purchasing decision for a true Trekkie. You either already have the shows on DVD or you plan to buy this new set. No, this review is meant for folks like me, those who like, but don't love Star Trek, and have an overwhelming curiosity about the show.

Given the long history of Star Trek, through the many films and TV series, many may have forgotten exactly what went on in the original show. The show debuted in September, 1966, and chronicled the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), oversaw the doings of the Enterprise, along with his second-in-command, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), a half-human/half-Vulcan being who was known for his impeccable logic. In the second (aired) episode, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley) joined the crew and became Kirk's trusted confident. On their many missions, the crew of the Enterprise encountered many bizarre aliens and often found themselves in mortal danger.

As is probably the case with many casual Star Trek fans, I only caught episodes of the show in syndication and viewing this boxed set was the first time that I'd ever seen the original shows in any kind of order. Viewing these shows in marathon fashion points out many patterns and misconceptions about the show. For one thing, Captain Kirk has a reputation for being a ladies' man but he rarely has time for romance in Season 3. One also quickly notices that aside from Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley, the cast of Star Trek isn't that consistent, as series regulars Lieutenant Uhurua (Nichelle Nichols), Lieutenant Sulu (George Takei), Chekov (Walter Koenig), and Mr. Scott (James Doohan), aren't seen at all in some episodes. And while the show couldn't have drama without some sort of turmoil, you'll soon learn to accept the fact that the Enterprise is a piece-of-s*&t which breaks down every week.

However, viewing all of Season 3 will also demonstrate why Star Trek is so enduring. For one thing, the show isn't about outer space. Series creator/producer Gene Roddenberry and his crew were geniuses at having most of the episodes deftly mix science-fiction with another genre, such as a murder-mystery, a court-room drama, or an action-adventure to A) save on the budget that it would take to create multiple outer-space special effects and B) make the show more accessible to more viewers. (Heck, even my wife, who swore that she wasn't going to watch this with me, got involved in a few of the shows.) The other thing which makes Star Trek work is the writing. Despite the low-budget sets and over-the-top acting, this is basically good sci-fi which is written with intelligence and heart. The main characters have unique personalities (which seem so clichéd now) and we begin to care for them. Yes, Shatner appears to be in a totally different TV show at times, but that can be very endearing in some scenes. And while the show is a bit rough around the edges, the special effects must have been very impressive at the time. As someone who’s only had a passing interest in Star Trek in the past, viewing this set has given me a newfound appreciation of the show.

One of the more questionable aspects of this Blu-ray release of Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 3 is that the shows can be viewed with the original special effects intact, or with newly created special effects. The question here is "Why?". Watching the revamped shows, we are treated to a show which was clearly made in 1966, combined with shots of a computer generated Enterprise flying by. This makes no sense whatsoever. Devoted fans of the show will most likely hate these changes, while the changes aren't enough to draw in viewers who are turned off by the dated look of the show.

Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 3 goes where no Blu-ray has gone before courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. This six-disc boxed set contains all 24 episodes from the show's third season. The shows are framed at 1.33:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear. First of all, the colors look fantastic. Star Trek, has always been known as a colorful shows, and the reds, blues, and greens all look great here. For a forty-year old TV show, there is a nice amount of depth and detail here. The image shows some grain at times, but it's kept to a minimum and defects from the source material are scarce. The Disc contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Typically when we get a newly created surround sound track which is stepping in for a mono track, the results are disappointing at best. That's not the case here. The surround sound and subwoofer effects are actually pretty good. Just listen to the Enterprise whipping by in the opening credits. The stereo effects are nicely done as well and the in-show music sounds great.

The Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 3 Blu-ray Disc set contains several extras. Each episode is accompanied by a "Preview" of that show, and these are spread across the first five discs. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 6. The Disc contains two versions of "The Cage", the unaired pilot for the show (which was edited into "The Menagerie" in Season One) -- a regular version (63 minutes) and an extended version (71 minutes), which contains an introduction by the late Gene Roddenberry. This is an interesting inclusion, but most fans probably already have this. The selling point (besides being a Blu-ray) of this set is a rare and unaired alternate version of "Where No Man Has Gone Before", the unofficial pilot for the show. Running 52-minutes, this contains some minor differences (the opening titles and theme music are different, the show is broken up into "acts") from the show which aired, but it will certainly be of interest to fans. This show was transferred from recently found film. The show looks good, but it show some grain and minor defects from the source material. "David Gerrold Hosts '2009 Convention Coverage'" (19 minutes) has "Trouble with Tribbles" writer attending a Star Trek con (which was apparently part of Comic-Con) and showing us the sights, sounds, and visiting actors from the show. "'The Anthropology of Star Trek' Comic-Con Panel 2009" (4 minutes) has an actual anthropology professor discussing how the show reflects real life. "'The World of Rod Roddenberry'" Comic-Con 2009" (7 minutes) has Gene Roddenberry's son talking the show and his projects. "Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories Part 3" (11 minutes) has an extra from the show sharing his thoughts and his own footage. "'To Boldly Go...' Season Three" (22 minutes) is a mini-documentary which gives an overview of the season. It contains comments from the cast & crew, who reminisce about the show. "Collectible Trek" (14 minutes) shows off some memorobilia from the series. "Star Trek's Impact" (9 minutes) has Rod Roddenberry discussing how the show has effected his life and the comments which he has received.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long