The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series

Actors: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Sharon Acker, David Hurst
Anton Leader, David Alexander, Don McDougall, Gene Nelson, Gerd Oswald
AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Number of discs:
DVD Release Date: May 12, 2009
Run Time:
201 minutes




Last year when Fox released a special "Best Of" DVD to coincide with the release of the big screen X-Files - I Want to Believe movie, they brought out a double-disc set containing eight episodes in all.

Either it's a case of the recession getting to everything - or Paramount being world-renowned skints - but this Best of the Original Star Trek series DVD is a skimpy one-disc affair with a mere four episodes. A pity - since there are a lot of great episodes of the iconic 'Sixties TV show that can easily bear the "best of" moniker.

Be that as it may, the four episodes found on this DVD can definitely be counted as the original series' best episodes although some trekkies may complain about this or that episode being excluded.

First off we have The Trouble with Tribbles, the famously comic episode in which the Starship Enterprise is overrun by cute alien fur balls called tribbles. Even though William Shatner as Kirk comes across as pompous and smug at times, it is justifiably regarded as one of the best Trek episodes of all time.

If die-hard trekkies were put off by Zachary Quinto's overemotional Spock in J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek reboot, then they should check out Amok Time. In this episode Kirk and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is pitched in a fistfight to the death because . . . it's Vulcan mating time! Yup, you read that right.

The highly-regarded time travel tale City on the Edge of Forever is penned by grumpy science fiction luminary Harlan Ellison and set in Depression-era New York. In this episode Kirk falls in love with a young pre-The Bitch Joan Collins.

It however comes to light that unless Collins' character dies in a traffic accident that America will not enter WWII and Nazis will overrun the planet - how's that for a conundrum for the young starship captain! In Balance of Terror audiences are introduced for the first time to the Romulans - evil Vulcan look-alikes.

THE DISCS: In the spirit of things it should come as no surprise that these episodes are culled from the 2007 "remastered" HD reissue in which Paramount has added new effects to replace some of the old ones in the original series. They mainly entail shots of the Enterprise and similar outer space images, though a few new landscape shots appear as well.

Paramount took steps to keep them as close to the original shots as possible - same angle, same duration and so forth - but the "improved" CGI imagery looks as clunky and fake as the original effects did.

They'll probably age just as poorly - much like the CGI imagery in E.T. and similar endeavors - while simultaneously costing the shows a measure of their nostalgic charm. (The full-season Blu-Rays offer the option of seeing either the new effects or the original . . . a far more preferable policy which would have been very welcome here.)

WORTH IT? Re-watching these episodes one realizes why this show engendered such a cultish following. Unlike many TV shows it actually has an acute understanding of the science fiction genre. The show boasted some good writers and at times even bothered hiring some bona fide science fiction writers such as Harland Ellison for scripting duties. (It is telling that all four episodes on this DVD are taken from the first two seasons of the show and not from the poor third - and final - season.)

One alas also realizes why this DVD - which is aimed at luring curious newbies on a budget to this cult, er, franchise - has its job cut out for it. There is a reason why Paramount decided to give Star Trek a youthful reboot: unless you grew up watching these episodes as a kid it is unlikely that you will be won over to the trekkie cause by this handful of episodes.

Star Trek has dated badly. Not just the fashions, clothing and special effects (which were pretty cheap to begin with), but also the show's innocent 1960s sensibility, in particular its ?gee shucks? brand of humor.

RECOMMENDATION: Recent on-line polls have shown that many self-confessed trekkies now prefer newer Trek incarnations such as Next Generation and Voyager (!) to the original Enterprise crew of Spock, Kirk, Scotty, Sulu, et al. It's a sad indication of how important modern audiences consider slick production values (special effects, sets, etc.) to be nowadays.

Needless to say this DVD is not for them, but for more open-minded hard sci-fi fans of a certain bent. And of course for ageing Trek fans on a budget nostalgic for these old episodes. Hardcore fans probably already own the complete season box sets.



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