On Tuesday the Second Season of the digitally remastered Star Trek The Original Series finally makes it to Blu-ray. The new set lets you choose to watch Star Trek in HD, with the original or new digital effects, and is full of special features. Find out how it stacks up in our review below.
Review: Star Trek: The Original Series – Season Two Blu-ray Boxed Set
Season Two of Star Trek starts off with the memorable look at Spock’s home planet in “Amok Time” and keeps going with “Mirror, Mirror,” “The Doomsday Machine,” The Trouble with Tribbles,” and may more beloved episodes are from Trek’s second season. Here again CBS gives us the option to view the original effects of the more recent digital version.
[note: all images in the review can be expanded by clicking on them]
Just like with Season One, the new BD packaging features an outer sleeve which protects the inner disk case. Both feature the same box art. The new set fits perfectly with Season One and the recently released TOS movie set (and presumably the TNG movie set, which we will be reviewing later this week).
CBS continues to use the compact 7-disc case that they used for Season 1
As with season 1, the episode listing is actually on the reverse side of the cover art inset, and not on the disks themselves. 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 second half of the list, so it’s a minor inconvenience, but you can just pull the insert out to get to the episode list.
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:
- Episodes (selecting an episode lets you choose which version to watch)
- Starfleet Access (the picture-in-picture commentary version of an episode)
- Additional Data (any extras on the disc as well as the classic previews for the episodes are here)
- 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 Video Transfer
As we’ve raved about before in our TOS-Remastered reviews, the digitally remastering of the original live-action filmed content is incredible. Star Trek was one of NBC’s front runner TV series used to show off the benefits on color television, and it really shows here with the vibrancy of the colors, and there is a ton of detail that can be seen in the fabrics, sets, and actor’s 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. Here are some screenshots showing the live-action transfer.
And what about those new digital special effects shots that have been such a hot topic? They have never looked better. Here are some images of both versions to compare:
The great thing about these Blu-ray sets is the seamless branching, so you can choose which way you want to watch, with the original effects, or the new.
CBS has done an amazing job with the sound on the Blu-ray set. Audio is much harder to restore and squeeze extra clarity from as compared to film, so it is quite a testament to the technology we have today that these discs sound as good as they do. 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 engineer’s booth when they made the Blu-ray discs.
Just like Season One, the audio is 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. However, the purists are again considered, as CBS included the mono track as well. It can accessed by choosing Communications in the main menu and then selecting Audio Options.
The season 2 Blu-ray set contains many of the excellent interviews and features from the previous DVD sets, with the exception of the “Red Shirt Logs” Easter eggs (which will likely appear on BD-Live later, as they did for Season One).
These are all directly ported over in standard definition from the previous DVD sets:
- Star Trek’s Favorite Moments — Cast and crew from other Trek shows discuss their love of TOS
- Writer’s Notebook: D.C. Fontana — D.C’s memories about moving from Gene Roddenberry’s assistant to staff writer
- Life Beyond Trek: Leonard Nimoy — Nimoy talks about what he’s doing now (taped circa 2003, pre-JJ Abrams Star Trek), his photography, etc.
- Kirk, Spock & Bones: Star Trek’s Great Trio — Various people pontificate on “the trio’s” chemistry
- Star Trek’s Divine Diva: Nichelle Nichols — Nichols discusses her career prior to Trek and her singing, acting, and dancing abilities.
Also included are the original previews aired on NBC in the ’60s for each episode.
Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest
This season Disc 1 holds the home movies made by Star Trek background actor Billy Blackburn. Blackburn narrates over clips from the show interspersed with his own home movies shot on location and on the sound stage. Billy’s behind the scenes information really helps fill in the blanks about what went on behind the scenes in regards to both the production and the personality aspects.
(click to enlarge)
Season 2 introduced those pesky Tribbles which have shown up in nearly every version of Star Trek since. The Blu-ray set celebrates the furry creatures with an entire disc, disc 4 of the set to be exact. It contains “The Trouble with Tribbles” and included as extras are the two TOS-era companion episodes: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and the incredibly popular Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations”. They are both labeled as “HD” on the box and in all the PR material. The Animated Series was indeed made on 35mm film so it was possible for it to be scanned in at 1080p for HD use. 1080p makes the flaws and budget constraints that were already obvious on the DVD release of TAS even more obvious. But at least it seems to actually be an HD transfer.
However, the same cannot be said for the DS9 episode. It was already well known that the Deep Space Nine episode would not actually be in high definition because of the 1990’s post-production workflow being done on video tape. But a well-done upconversion can look pretty decent. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. It seems that the video engineer responsible for the 480i (SD) to 1080p (HD) conversion phoned it in that day. The video is incredibly soft and suffers from some serious interlacing artifacts (something that should have been taken care of when it was reprocessed into 1080p) and analog video noise.
Also included on the Tribbles Disk are the two documentaries about the making of the episode from the DS9 DVDs which appear to be normal standard definition presentations without any of the issues that plague the main episode.
Apparently there are a dozen Easter eggs spread throughout the 7-disc set! So far I’ve only had the chance to find the obvious three “Easter eggs” that use the same method as the first season. They aren’t hard to miss. On the discs listed below the red button has no text next to it, arrow over and select the red button anyway. All three are short clips from other interviews.
Disc 5 — D.C. Fontana talks about going to dinner with Nimoy and Shatner during a production meeting and showing a Vulcan neck pinch in a public restaurant.
Disc 6 — David Gerrold reminisces about seeing a colorful commercial on TV about Star Trek, being really intrigued with the series premise, and being able to be on set to see The Man Trap being filmed.
Disc 7 — Charles Washburn (assistant director on TOS) talks about working on TOS and the racially integrated nature of the show compared to the multiple other shows he had worked on.
Star Trek: TOS on Blu-ray
Disc 4 includes a new HD interview lead by book author (and TNG script author) Marc Scott Zicree who interviews CBS Digital’s Niel Wray, Mike and Denise Okuda, and Dave Rossi all discuss the features of the new Blu-ray discs and the production of TOS-R in general.
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. For season two “Amok Time” and “The Trouble With Tribbles” are Starfleet Access enabled.
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. CBS used BD Live quite well in Season 1, they have added more features and video featurettes since I first reviewed Season 1. You can get an idea of what’s available and sign up for an account if you decide to save your custom made Trek trivia quizzes or upload your own photos by visiting: http://startrek.cbs-bdlive.com (NOTE: most of the information pertains to the Season 1 set’s BD Live portal).
Season One BD Live Interface (example)
The Star Trek interface took less than 2 minutes to download, and then about 1 minute more to load up the Java environment on my Panasonic BD35 player. The main menu offers two choices: the Star Trek Season 2 portal or the main CBS BD-Live Community portal.
At press time the Season 2 option seemed to be inactive. The CBS BD-Live Community portal was also rather lacking in options that were enabled. A couple of Star Trek quizzes were available and that’s about it. The most interesting sounding function “CBS BD LIVE Movie Nights” was disabled. This is quite a let down as CBS did a great job with the Season 1 BD Live portal.
Mobile-Blu — Extras for your iPhone
This is a new ability that CBS added to Season 2. Thanks to BD Live (Blu-ray Internet access) you can have the Season 2 discs send extra featurettes directly to your iPhone. It can also load a remote control application to let you use your iPhone as a remote for the discs while you watch them in your Blu-ray player, which is pretty cool. More details on setup and compatibility are at the Mobile-Blue site: http://www.mobileblu.com
See the full list of extras in the Season 2 Press Release for Mobile-Blu content.
As I said in the Season One review, this is the ultimate edition of a beloved classic, whether you’re a purist or like the new tweaks. The remastered series was meant to be seen in HD and looks it. Both the audio and video are fantastic. 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 generally more complete) versions.
Star Trek Season 2 Blu-ray comes out tomorrow, Tuesday September 22nd. You can order it now from Amazon.