Just in time for the theatrical release of J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek reboot is this introductory DVD to the original television series featuring four classic episodes. (It should be noted that these are the recently remastered versions, which include updated special effects shots.) Opening the set is “The City on the Edge of Forever,” an episode that may be the most acclaimed by fans and critics alike. In a crazed state due to a medical mishap, Dr. McCoy beams down to a planet where he enters the “Guardian of Forever” doorway and is taken back in time to 1930s Chicago. Kirk and Spock follow him, and the bulk of the episode takes place in the distant past where they must find McCoy and adapt to their surroundings, with Kirk inevitably falling in love and facing a dilemma about altering the past. As a character study and a morality tale, the episode is certainly a cut above the rest of the series, though it’s strange that such a classic Star Trek episode barely features the Enterprise or stays in the 23rd century.
A light-hearted episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” is easily the funniest of the original series and a perennial fan favorite—so much so that it was revisited for an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While on a tedious assignment to protect a shipment of grain, Captain Kirk must contend not only with an annoying undersecretary, but also a group of Klingons and hundreds of furry pests with a penchant for procreation.
“Balance of Terror,” which contains the first appearance of the Romulans in Star Trek, features a strategy-filled dogfight between the Enterprise and a Romulan bird of prey. Successfully maintaining suspense, the episode doesn’t immediately show what a Romulan looks like until 15 minutes in, and when they’re finally revealed to look almost identical to Vulcans, this starts an intriguing conflict between Spock and another member of the crew who believes he might be supporting the enemy. Interestingly enough, this is an episode that could not exist in the alternate timeline featured in the new Star Trek movie because the premise here is that humans have not encountered any Romulans in 100 years and neither race has seen the other before. The villain Nero in the new Abrams film, which is set shortly before this episode takes place, is a Romulan.
Last on the disc is “Amok Time,” a Spock-centric episode that reveals a good deal about Vulcan culture and Spock’s conflict with his human half. It’s worthwhile viewing for those who have seen the Abrams film. Plus, who won’t enjoy seeing Kirk and Spock in a climactic gladiatorial face-off? Though these classic Star Trek episodes can be a bit silly by modern standards, they laid the groundwork for some enduring characters and provide a good sampling of what to find in all three seasons of the original series.
Colors are bright, details are sharp, and Uhura has never looked better in these newly remastered prints. While the footage does show its age, this is probably as good as it will ever get. Sound is full and punchy thanks to the restoration work. The new CGI effects are sometimes distracting, but overall they are tastefully done to complement the '60s footage.
As if proudly announcing its status as a promotional DVD, the only "extras" on this disc are ads for the latest Star Trek Blu-ray releases. They're even conveniently linked to in the main menu in case viewers want to rewatch them after sitting through them at the start of the DVD.
A solid sampler of the original series for those curious about the original Enterprise crew before J.J. Abrams's latest reimagining.