Last September CBS commemorated the 40th Anniversary of Star Trek by going back to the original 35mm films and digitally remastering them for the HD era. The project not only cleaned up the images, but also added brand new CGI to replace the original shots that wouldn’t hold up well to the microscope of 1080p HD. This ‘Star Trek Remastered’ has been seen in syndication, but only in standard definition. Now finally with the release of Star Trek The Original Series on DVD/HD DVD Combo disk you can finally see the remastered show in full HDTV resolution, as it was intended to be seen. Plus the set comes complete with many new special features, many of which take advantage of the interactive features of HD DVD.
The Box Set
Season one comes on a set of 10 disks which are in a jewel case magazine. Because this release is in DVD/HD DVD combination format, both sides of the disc are used; one side standard DVD, the other HD DVD. Because the disks are double sided the set comes with small plastic inserts that look a bit like flash cards which list what episodes and what features are available and for what version (HD side or standard side). The disk magazine and plastic inserts are stored in a space saving paper sleeve, which fits into larger decorative plastic box (see below). The paper sleeve is the same gold color of the 2004 DVD set, so it is likely that seasons two and three will be blue and red respectively. Strangely neither the plastic box nor the paper sleeve have anything written on the spines, making identifying the set later once stored on a DVD shelf a bit of a challenge. Like the previous season boxed sets the episodes are in airdate order rather then the production date order.
Box set contents
You start off in the turbolift and hear Kirk’s voice order it to deliver you to the Transporter room. As you choose the episode, the transporter controls activate and characters from the episode you chose beam in. A TOS-style electronic tablet interface is used to enable features such as Starfleet Access (if available), subtitles, and what version of the soundtrack you want to use. The menus aren’t the friendliest, but as you get used to the way they are set up it isn’t too bad.
Transporter room serves as main menu system
The original filmed content is incredible — the vibrancy of the colors, the detail that can be seen in the fabrics, sets, and faces. On the flip side little issues are much easier to spot now, the zippers on the velour shirts are really obvious, especially on Shatner since he is in front of the camera so much. You can see film grain! (a sign the film has been properly preserved). CBS Digital also did the right thing and in most shots appears to have properly sampled film grain on to the new CG effects so it doesn’t look totally out of place. For most of the episodes the Enterprise CG model looks incredible, but sadly the handful of episodes produced first in the project used a different model which has the same problems in HD that it did when broadcast in SD. If you think you have seen Remastered, you ain’t seen nothin’ till you see it in HD. Lastly, here are the HD DVD tech specs for the curious: the video is in 1080p, compressed with MPEG4-AVC (H.264), in the original 4:3 aspect ratio.
Audio is presented in 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD which is a lossless format, meaning that it is like a ZIP file, you get the same data out as was put in; nothing is thrown away, unlike normal Dolby Digital. A fallback Dolby Digital Plus 2-channel soundtrack is also available. Just like the video, the CBS team remastered the sound mix for the Star Trek Remastered effort, so these are not the same Dolby 5.1 mixes from the older DVDs. The new TrueHD track sounds great, the dialogue is normally very clear and the sound effects are generally well prioritized with respect to the dialogue.
The HD box set has lots of great extra features, many of which are totally new and utilize the functionality only available on HD players.
The Interactive Enterprise Tour 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 an optional voice tour track. You are shown footage of a shuttlecraft leaving the hanger bay, you are then swung around the new CG Enterprise to view key features such as the Impulse Engines, Warp Engines, a view of the Bridge Dome, Phaser and Photon Torpedo area with a fun little ‘launch torpedo’ button that looks the button on the bridge controls, and the Main Sensor/Navigational Deflector.
Seven episodes offer the Starfleet Access option. As the episode plays small icons appear off to the right in the pillar boxing (the black bars on either side of the 4:3 image) a few minutes before the information is due to come up. If you select the icon the episode will shrink to a smaller window and a secondary window with either video commentary from various cast, crew or experts or Star Trek Encyclopedia-type trivia. The interviews discuss both the original show as well as the remastering, including offering some side by side comparisons of some effects shots. This feature is available on “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, “The Menagerie, Parts 1 and 2”, “Balance of Terror”, “The Galileo Seven”, “Space Seed”, and “Errand of Mercy”.
William Campbell talks about Klingons in “Errand of Mercy”
Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century – This is a 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 so you can see a few seconds of the widescreen CGI shots. (This documentary was also shown at the recent “The Menagerie” screenings.)
Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories – Thirteen feature with clips of the show combined with never-before-seen behind-the-scenes video shot by TOS background actor Billy Blackburn. Blackburn’s footage has no sound, but he provides an entertaining running commentary. This is one of the features that really makes this new box set worth it.
See Spock smile in Billy Blackburn’s home movies
As mentioned before, the new Star Trek Season One box set comes on hybrid disks. So flip over any HD disk and you have the same episodes on Standard DVD. Although this is the ‘triple dip’ for Trek on DVD, the show has never looked better and you can certainly tell that it comes from a newly remastered high definition source. The menus are of course not really interactive, and many of the fun special features are just not possible to recreate on the Standard Def side. However, the must-see Billy’s Treasure Chest is included as well as interviews seen on the 2004 box set (including content only available on the exclusive ‘Best Buy Bonus Disk’). In addition there is a preview of the new Star Trek Online game as well as the entire History Channel documentary “Beyond the Final Frontier.” As with the 2004 DVDs, each episode also has the original NBC trailer. Unfortunately the ‘Red Shirt Diaries’ Easter eggs are not in the new box set, in fact there don’t appear to be any Easter eggs.
Even in SD it looks better than the previous DVD release
If you haven’t bought any of the previous boxed sets of TOS on DVD, this is the set to get whether you have HDTV and HD DVD player or not. Even if you have the previous box sets and own an HDTV (and HD DVD player), this set is tough to resist. The remastered series was meant to be seen in HD and looks it. Plus the special features make the $130 street price a bit easier to stomach. For those who are on the fence for the format war it is a tougher call, but Toshiba’s aggressive pricing plus free movie (and free mail-in offer for a Phaser remote) promotions may make that decision easier. For those with previous box sets and no HDTV the high price is really hard to justify even with the improved quality and new features.
Need help with HD DVD players?
See the TrekMovie.com HD DVD Player Buying Guide
Pre-order the TOS-R Season One Box from Amazon for $132.95…ships 11/20