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Review – Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1 – Blu-ray [UPDATED]

Back in September 2006 CBS commemorated the 40th Anniversary of Star Trek by going back to the original film and digitally remastering the series for the HD era, cleaning up the images and adding new CGI special effects. Previous HD-DVD & DVD releases were available with only the new. But now thanks to the benefits of Blu-ray, fans have a choice (original or CGI), and can see Trek in 1080p.

 

Season One of Star Trek holds many favorite episodes, a classic commander versus commander in deep space battle in The "Balance of Terror," the tour de force of acting seen in "The Devil in the Dark," we see Kirk’s word put to the test in "Court Martial," and more. And now, finally, we can see it in HD, with the choice of ‘seamless branching’ between the original effects, or the new digital effects. 

 

Review: Star Trek: The Original Series – Season One Blu-ray Boxed Set
[note: all images in review can be expanded by clicking on them]

Packaging
Thank you CBS/Paramount! Gone is the clunky clear acrylic box of the DVD sets. Not only is it in keeping with how other Blu-ray boxed sets have been packaged it is also much more environmentally friendly, using far less plastic. This is the same type of packaging other studios have been using, such as with Warner and their recent ultimate Blade Runner release.


The new thin Blu-ray case versus the older DVD packaging.

 
The case open with 7 Blu-ray discs.

One little annoyance about the new packaging is that there isn’t an insert that lists the episode titles, all the papers seen in the picture above are advertisements. The episode listing is actually on the reverse side of the cover art inset. Since the Blu-ray case is translucent you can see through it to the printed list of episodes, of course disc 7 is in the way of the 2nd half of the list, so it’s a slight inconvenience.


Left: The episode details as they appear in the case.
Right: The backside cover insert pulled out.

Navigation and Options
Once again CBS took this new release as an opportunity to improve upon the past releases. The rather clunky menu system from the DVD releases has been scrapped and a brand new menu system that uses the motif of being on the bridge and looking at the viewscreen to engage the episodes and choose options. There are four options to the left by blinking colored lights:

  1. Episodes (selecting an episode lets you choose which version to watch)
  2. Starfleet Access (the picture-in-picture commentary version of an episode)
  3. Additional Data (any extras on the disc as well as the classic previews for the episodes are here)
  4. Communications (chooses which soundtrack/language you’d like and controls over subtitles)

A small scanner screen pops up on the right which shows you the options. The viewscreen flashes by with the specs of the Enterprise and snippets of the episodes on the disc while the console lights up.

TIP: You can always toggle between the Remastered and Original Effects by using the angle button on your remote (if it has one) or by bringing up the interactive pop-up menu while the episode plays and toggle it with the little film camera icon.


The menu (click to enlarge)
NOTE: The interactive menu text is missing due to issues with the screen capturing process

Unlike the older menu system you don’t have to choose an episode first and then arrow through a cumbersome groups of options. On the HD DVD release if an episode had the Starfleet Access option you’d have to move through lots of options and toggle it on and then go back and hit play. Here when you choose Starfleet Access is simply lists the episode(s) on the disc that have the feature available, selecting the title launches it with the commentary. If you choose it from the normal Episodes menu then it plays without commentary, much more straightforward!

The Video Transfer
As we’ve raved about before in our TOS-R reviews, the original live-action filmed content is incredible. Star Trekwas one of NBC’s front runner TV series used to show off the benefits on color television, and it really shows here — the vibrancy of the colors, there is a ton of detail that can be seen in the fabrics, sets, and faces. 

Tech. Specs: CBS gave the Blu-ray release a brand new video encode at 1080p, compressed with VC-1, with pillar boxing to preserve the original 4:3 aspect ratio.



These shots show how the HD transfer makes the show look better than ever

Now to the question on everyone’s mind, how do the original special effects hold up? As one might guess, it really depends on the shot. The “planet of the week” shot which was constantly being optically reproduced in different tints is pretty bad. The other special effects that were shot specifically for an episode can be better. The matte lines and other optical garbage that ended up in the shot are blatantly obvious at 1080p when they occur. This release makes it clear why CBS chose to create the new digital effects for the shows transfer to HD, however it is still great to see the original effects in HD and they should be appreciated by the ‘purist’ fans.


Comparison shots show new effects usually work better in HD


…but this comparison (original on left and new digital version on right) shows that even the original iconic matte paintings hold up well to 1080p

For the curious here is what the DVD of TOS-R looks like upscaled to 1080p. Notice the blurier details in the background, Mike and Denise Okuda and the others further back are pretty clear in the HD version above, while in the SD version they are harder to make out.

Audio Quality

CBS has an amazing job with the sound on the Blu-ray set. It’s quite a testament to the technology we have today that these discs sound as good as they do. Audio is much harder to restore and squeeze extra clarity from as compared to film (which has lots of rich detail that can be recovered). The audio is stored as DTS-HD Master Audio which is a lossless compression (think of it like a ZIP file for the audio), which means this is as good as it will get. It sounds just like it sounded in the sound engineers booth when they made the Blu-ray discs. The audio is amazingly clear, with dialogue well prioritized, it is never drowned out by other sound effects. Another well designed touch is the sense of ambiance mixed into the surround channels. When on the bridge you are engulfed in the sounds of ship. As mentioned before, this is well done and can be rather subtle so it never detracts from the dialogue. 

One of my favorite episodes, and a great test of classic Trek audio, is
"Balance of Terror." The clear metaphor of submarine warfare is continued in the audio cues. It also includes portions of most of the common orchestral themes that were used in season 1. Music is mixed in nicely and envelops the viewer when it is fitting to do so. The handling of the proximity phasers is one that has been tweaked throughout the life span of Trek on DVD. In the first Star Trek DVD release (the one with 2 episodes per volume) the sound mix had an aggressive low rumble as the proximity phasers exploded in a depth charge like way. When I got the first season of TOS-R on HD DVD/DVD I was disappointed that the phaser charge now had nearly zero LFE (low frequency effect) use. This new mix has a brief low rumble as the charges go off, which is more fitting to the new CG effect.

Special Features

This Remastered set contains many of the excellent interviews and features from the previous DVD sets, with the exception of the “Red Shirt Logs” easter eggs. It also has the original previews aired on NBC in the ’60s for each episode. There are even more than we discuss here, you can see a full list of the features in our press release article.

Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest
Like the HD DVD version before it, disk 7 contains a featurette based on home movies made by Star Trek background actor Billy Blackburn. Blackburn narrates over clips from the show, as well as his own home movies shot on location and on the sound stage. This special feature alone is why the newer TOS-R sets are really worth considering.

 


(click to enlarge)

Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century
Disc 1 includes Spacelift, which is documentary that we’ve seen much of in STARTREK.COM video clips when TOS-R first was brought to syndication. The crew of CBS and CBS Digital wax poetic about TOS and their project. It is in widescreen and you can see a few seconds of the widescreen CG shots CBS Digital made in case of widescreen versions (This documentary was also shown at the “The Menagerie” screenings held in late 2007).

Blu-ray Exclusives

Picture-in-Picture Commentary
Blu-ray can mix two video feeds at once, on episodes that are listed under Starfleet Access a running commentary starts in the lower right hand corner of the screen. It will come and go as scenes come up that have commentary associated with it.


Picture-in-Picture commentary example (click to enlarge)

BD Live  – Online Extras
BD Live is an optional component to Blu-ray that allows for extra content and interactive features to be downloaded or streamed over a high-speed Internet connection. You must have a BD Live (also called Profile 2.0) player and the requisite 1GB (or more) of flash memory connected to your player for download space. Most BD Live extras from the movie studios have been underwhelming to say the least, usually it is simply a portal for the movie studio to pitch more DVDs, Blu-ray discs and upcoming theatrical releases to you from the comfort of your remote. Slowly the movies studios have started to branch out and actually provide bonus content of real value. For example Warner Bros. The Dark Knight had a live chat with director Christopher Nolan and DreamWorks Animation added a bunch of featurettes available for Kung Fu Panda. The good news is that CBS is heading in the right direction with their TOS portal.

The Star Trek client is only 4MB and took less than 2 minutes to download, and then about 2 more to load up the Java environment on my Panasonic BD35 player. It loads an interface that has a menu to choose from various categories:

  • Cast – Quick biographies of the cast
  • Creative Staff – Quick biographies of the producers, etc.
  • Characters – Quick biographies of the characters.
  • Database – Text-only alphabetical order descriptions of various sub-categories: Aliens, Ships, Technology, Medicine and Science, and Places
  • Photo Galleries – A few low resolution photos of aliens and the crew from season one
  • Extra Videos – This is the good stuff, there are 3 videos up at the time of the writing. Filming the Galaxy with Bob Justman, Sounds of Star Trek with D.C. Fontana, and Saving the Show with D.C. Fontana. As you can figure out from the titles, these are extra behind the scenes featurettes. Each runs about 2 minutes and can be downloaded in so called “SD” (~20MB) or “HD” (~50MB) quality. I tested both quality levels, go for the HD version.

Even More Extras
On disc 6 you can find the Interactive Enterprise Tour which is fun, but is only about 10 minutes worth of content; it consists of pre-rendered paths with a navigational control that pops up to pick locations along with a voice tour that explains what each area does. You are shown pre-rendered graphics of a shuttlecraft leaving the hanger bay (you are supposed to be in it), you are then shown around the Enterprise to view key features such as the Impulse Engines, Warp Engines, Shuttlecraft Hanger Desk & Control Room, the Ion Pod, Equipment Bay Doors, a view of the Bridge Dome, Phaser and Photon Torpedo area with a fun little ‘launch torpedo’ button, and the Main Sensor/Navigational Deflector (check out the little maintenance guy in a space suit).

Easter Eggs
There are two “easter eggs” in the set, both are little extras about TOS-R. They aren’t hard to miss. On both discs the red button has no text next to it, arrow over and select the red button anyway. On disc 2 is a TOS-R “sizzle reel” a best-of CBS Digital’s CG work, in a huge bummer, the reel is only standard definition, as I recall this reel has been available on web for a while. On disc 5 is a TOS-R preview, this is the goofy “Remixed, Remastered, Re-energized…” advertisement that we covered a while back presented here in 1080p. Thanks to our friend Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits for pointing these out!

Lastly, Disc 1 starts with the first version of the trailer for the new Star Trek (2009) movie.

Bottom Line
This is basically the ultimate edition of a beloved classic, whether you’re a purist or like the new CG. The remastered series was meant to be seen in HD and looks it. Both the audio and video are fantastic. If you waited, like I did, for the inevitable Blu-ray release of TOS-R, we got a treat because it includes both versions for a complete collection. You’ll love how gorgeous Star Trek can look and how awesome it can sound (proper surround sound and subwoofer required!).

If you’re happy with how the standard definition sets look upscaled from standard DVD, well then I’d say stick with it for now, but I would think about putting the Blu-ray edition on a birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc. list and start to replace them with the  high definition (and more complete) versions. Also Trek fans with HDTVs should bear in mind that there are a number of additional Blu-ray titles coming out this spring and later in the fall/winter.

The hardest call is for those who bought the HD DVD / DVD hybrid set for Season One and a HD DVD player. There really isn’t enough here to justify the ‘double HD dip’ unless you are converting your library over to solely Blu-ray.

The Star Trek Original Series Season One on Blu-ray comes out April 28th. You can pre-order it now at Amazon.  


Amazon pre-order: $72.99 [discounted $129.99]

 

Coming up Next: TOS movies Blu-ray set
The next Star Trek release is the Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection coming out May 12th. The set contains each of the TOS era feature films in HD with many new special features, including new audio commentaries and new featurettes. There is also a seventh bonus disk called Star Trek Summit,’ which is a new 70-minute roundtable featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, and Jonathan Frakes, moderated by Whoopi Goldberg. Look for that review in a couple of weeks.


Amazon pre-order $93.99 [discounted from $139.99]  

Here is a preview of the ‘Star Trek Summit’ special feature, which comes on an extra disk.

 

 

More upcoming Star Trek DVD and Blu-ray titles…

Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy [Blu Ray & DVD – May 12]
 

      

Best Of Star Trek – TOS & TNG [DVD – May 12]

      
 

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest
KJTrek
April 21, 2009 4:09 pm

I definitely getting close to buying a Blu-ray player, if only for this!

First?

April 21, 2009 4:13 pm

Wishing I had a Blue Ray player. sigh

Liam Dillon
April 21, 2009 4:14 pm

Buy again, episodes I bought on tape, then dvd, then on Blu-Ray – of course it’s more, better, clearer, Blue (no it’s not). Looking forward to watching both these and the movies in glorious 1080p

Jim
April 21, 2009 4:15 pm

This is definitely what I’ve been waiting for re the remastered edition. Perfect timing, obviously, with the film coming out. Now for the films . . .

General Martok
April 21, 2009 4:15 pm

I WANT!!!!!!!!!!

ThePhaige
April 21, 2009 4:17 pm

I want to see more of that round table with Whoopi……

April 21, 2009 4:19 pm

Wonder if they play well on the PS3?

April 21, 2009 4:19 pm

It’s times like this I wish I had a Blu-Ray player. When it is time to upgrade these will be 1st on my list.

Torchwood
April 21, 2009 4:20 pm

I want too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! but alas, no bluray or hi def tv :(

Driver
April 21, 2009 4:23 pm

Still a good $300 for one of the better BD palyers, like Panasonic. The prices will fall come Thanksgiving/Christmas.

I am not Herbert
April 21, 2009 4:23 pm

Yeah… I’m going to wait until the cost of Blu Ray players / disks drops more…

…but these do look like a great addition to the collection. ;-)

screaming satellite
April 21, 2009 4:23 pm

these new sets are avaliable as DVD only too arent they? does the DVD only have both versions of each ep or just the Remarstered?

Joseph Coatar
April 21, 2009 4:25 pm

Great price on that amazon pre-order! Finally a reasonably priced Star Trek set!

Joseph Coatar
April 21, 2009 4:27 pm

#7
Doesn’t everything?

Drew
April 21, 2009 4:32 pm

COOL!

Banging One of Baltar's Chicks!
April 21, 2009 4:32 pm

FINALLY!!!

It has now been justified why I actually bought a Blu-Ray player to begin with!!!

Oh GODS I can’t wait to see this in Blu-Ray!!!!

Did they clean up the films too or just do a clean HD transfer? Also is there anything on these Motion picture films that weren’t on the 2 disc DVDs?

DarthDogg
April 21, 2009 4:33 pm

I dont think Patrick Stuart was quite getting what Johnathan Fakes was trying to say to him about reconcidering signing his name on body parts. Thats OK though, im sure the Shat was followin along quite fine.

Cant freakin wait to get this. Damn my brokeness right now.

Brian
April 21, 2009 4:33 pm

Can’t wait for it to arrive!

Brad
April 21, 2009 4:34 pm

So all of the epsiodes are in 4:3? I would have sworn that I watched the remastered series in 16:9 when it was played here in Hi-Def. Please let me know if the remastered episodes can also be watched in 16:9 in wide screen, without the black sidebars.

John from Cincinnati
April 21, 2009 4:34 pm

My only complaint about this set is the episodes are in broadcast order. I prefer them in production order.

DavidJ
April 21, 2009 4:37 pm

Can’t wait to get this.

Although I still find it irritating that A) there’s no Cage, and B) they’re listed in airdate instead of production order. : (

M33
April 21, 2009 4:42 pm

#21 I Completely Agree!!

DavidJ
April 21, 2009 4:42 pm

19

Well at least you get BLACK side bars. On my plasma TV they’re gray for some retarded reason.

ScottDS
April 21, 2009 4:47 pm

#16 –

The films were cleaned up (we’ll find out to what extent in a couple weeks) with special attention paid to Star Trek II since the negative was in terrible condition.

The Blu-Ray discs of the films are missing the text commentaries but each film will include a picture-in-picture “Library Computer” feature instead.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is missing the audio commentary and three featurettes. In addition, only the THEATRICAL VERSIONS of Star Trek: TMP, II and VI are included. No Director’s Edition of TMP, no extended TV version of TWOK, and no Special Home Video Version of TUC (which means no Col. West).

Also, Star Trek VI will be presented in its originall 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Previous widescreen releases have been opened up to roughly 2:1 (the film was shot in Super 35 so there was extra room to open it up).

Fo more info:
http://www.thedigitalbits.com/mytwocentsa165.html#startrekannounce
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_35

Brian
April 21, 2009 4:49 pm

#23-

You’re getting grey sidebars for one of two reasons…either A) the black levels on your tv are incredibly high and you need to set it up properly or B) your TV uses grey bars in 4:3 mode to avoid burn-in.

#19

What you saw in 16:9 were the new fx, probably on XBox Live. TOS was shot in 4:3….if it were reconfigured for 16:9 everyone’s heads would be chopped off because it wasn’t composed for that aspect ratio in the first place.

Ran
April 21, 2009 4:49 pm

My BluRay DVD and Plasma TV have ordered me to get this… Although I will wait for the director’s cut for the movies.

Julio Scissors
April 21, 2009 4:49 pm

Those Billy Blackburn extras were the best part of the DVD set. Loved ’em!

Joseph Coatar
April 21, 2009 4:50 pm

Wal-Mart.com has a lower price on the 6-disk motion picture set: $79.86
http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=10927492

Aragorn189
April 21, 2009 4:50 pm

Sounds good. I’m a little slow on the high def and blu ray upgrade for financial reasons (college students don’t get much disposable income and I have yet to buy the rest of the Star Trek series. I have TOS, TAS, and the Movies). Probably once I have more disposable income, I’ll consider upgrading to Blu-Ray. But until that time, I’ll stick with my DVDs as they are more economical.

April 21, 2009 5:17 pm

“it is still great to see the original effects in HD and they should be appreciate by the ‘purist’ fans.”

“Bottom Line
This is basically the ultimate edition of a beloved classic, whether you’re a purist or like the new CG”

Gentlemen,…I shall consider it. This is probably the thing that gets me to get Bluray. Shhhh….don’t tell my wife. This’ll probably be like when I got the piano. She came home and there it was.

April 21, 2009 5:17 pm

Now can somebody recommend a good player. I don’t know anything about it.

April 21, 2009 5:22 pm

31 Andy get a playstation 3 its upgradeable, wireless, you can download content including Star Trek DAC for the PS3 it is by far the best Blu-Ray on the market for the money

Aaron R.
April 21, 2009 5:25 pm

“The hardest call is for those who bought the HD DVD / DVD hybrid set for Season One and a HD DVD player. There really isn’t enough here to justify the ‘double HD dip’ unless you are converting your library over to just Blu-ray.”

Excactly… this pissed me off cuz i wasted my money basically.

HesDeadJim
April 21, 2009 5:27 pm

I have a question…

I didn’t grow up watching TOS, I started with TNG and worked backwards…

For those of you who DID, and who are excited about seeing the original series remastered with CG, were you really sitting there back in the 60s or 70s and thinking “Man, these effects look like crap, I can’t wait until the technology gets better so that this can be re-done!”

Its just strange to me, I never understood why one would improve on something like visual effects…now films aging, becoming splotchy, thats one thing, but CG

I don’t get it

I guess I am alone

DJT
April 21, 2009 5:29 pm

Well, I, for one, am getting the trilogy. I am looking forward to the commentaries.
TWOK – Nick Meyer and Manny Coto
TSFS – Ron D. Moore and Michael Taylor
TVH – Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci

The Last Maquis
April 21, 2009 5:30 pm

I figured it out!! I know What I’m Going to do….finally, I don’t own anything on Bluray at all, I have DvDs They look great but to have to buy it all again for BR I don’t think so, However I have yet to Buy any Trek on DvD SO if I get a Bluray Player, I’ll just Buy only Trek On BR, this TOS collection will be the first, But I want DS9 on Bluray Too damn it!!

Captain Cameron goes Berserk!!
April 21, 2009 5:32 pm

DS9 on BLU-RAY!!

Oregon Trek Geek
April 21, 2009 5:49 pm

34– As a kid growing up on Trek reruns in the mid 70’s, I didn’t have any complaints about the effects. By the time Star Wars came out, it started to become apparent that the TOS effects were dated.

That’s why when TMP came out, we were all relieved to see Trek with (comparatively) perfect ILM-quality effects.

I’m wondering if The Cage is in the TOS Blueray package? Did they remaster The Cage?

Will
April 21, 2009 5:52 pm

I like that it’s finally on Bluray but I’m bummed that they didn’t do something more interesting for the packaging.

Personally, I think they should come in TOS Tricorder themed boxes.

vice1986
April 21, 2009 5:54 pm

I wont buy them, I already have season 1 and 2 on HD/DVD. Even on the standard DVD version (S2), the picture looks really good and the DD 5.1 is pretty decent as well. Watching season 1 in HD I notice alot of shots are rather “fuzzy”, so I myself don’t see a huge difference between the HD and standard DVD versions if you put it in context of the whole thing. It’s good that its out on blu-ray now though.

April 21, 2009 5:59 pm

FINALLY!! The original series, with the original effects, and in 1080p! AWESOME!!

Can’t wait for seasons 2 and 3 to be released. Thanks for the review, Anthony!

DeBeckster
April 21, 2009 6:03 pm

Are they the complete episodes? Or are they edited like they were when they were aired on television?

DavidJ
April 21, 2009 6:36 pm

34

For me the issue has never been the QUALITY of the original FX, just the incredible lack of VARIETY.

Even as a diehard TOS fan, it gets a bit frustrating seeing the same handful of ship shots used again and again in every episode. With the new FX, it’s a bit easier to buy that the crew are exploring a totally different environment and area of the galaxy each week.

doubting thomas
April 21, 2009 6:42 pm

still waiting for a proper restoration with modern sound and visual effects

jonboc
April 21, 2009 6:45 pm

#46, the lansdscape of the Shore Leave planet is always nice to look at. Plenty of nice colorful shots to choose from there. Of course, Sherry Jackson’s Andrea, from What Are Little Girls Made Of?, isn’t so bad to look at either.

Nice write up. I own the HD set and the standard DVD set…but they aren’t on the same disc. Guess I’m in for the blu ray for the convenience and the new sound mix.

DarthDogg
April 21, 2009 6:56 pm

#36, 37

Oh dont worry, THE SISKO shall return to us, and when he does, he shall be Blu. look it up, its in the Bajorin profficies!

Joe Atari
April 21, 2009 7:02 pm

Has anyone determined if the mono audio tracks are truly the *original* broadcast mono tracks? I think previous DVD sets had Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0, the latter of which was simply downmixed from the “sweetened” 5.1 tracks. I don’t think the original broadcast audio has been available since tape and laserdisc, but it would certainly be nice to have here along with the non-remastered effects.

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