I have, of course, bought this before in DVD format, which on digging through the Losing it archives, I was mildly surprised to learn was ten years ago. A couple of years after that, I did some muttering about the plans to remaster classic Trek and upgrade the effects. So when the Blu-ray sets initially came out, I wasn’t in any hurry to buy them. Well, I’d have to check the dates, but it’s quite possible that the initial release came before I actually had a Blur-ray player, which would account for at least part of my lack of urgency.
But a few months ago, I began to consider the possibility of getting the set. Well, that was until I looked at the prices. Now it’s usual for box sets to be priced quite high when they’re first released, but this usually falls quite a bit afterwards. But looking around showed prices of £60 or more for one or more of the three seasons. That struck me as more than I wanted to pay, so I didn’t do that. Then I spotted this on Amazon – all three seasons for a not unreasonable £80 including delivery. So I ordered it. And then noticed that it was coming from Australia
It’s not the distance or delay that’s the issue – it’s the usual thing of buying from outside the EU. I was expecting to get a customs bill of £mumble + VAT, which would have made the set less of a bargain. But it seems the customs guys must have been having a “be nice” day, and I got my parcel in a quite reasonable time without extra charge. Your experience may vary, of course…
So, what do we have here? Well, all the episodes of the original series which can be watched either in “just nicely remastered” form or “nicely remastered with enhanced effects” form. And that’s the key – if they’d only issued the enhanced version, I’d still be muttering about messing around with classic material, and so on. But as you have the option of ignoring and never ever ever seeing the improved versions, there really isn’t anything to object to.
So yeah, I watched the improved versions. Apparently with appropriate pressing of remote control buttons you can toggle between old and new effects, but I didn’t bother with that. The new effects were overseen by people who’ve worked on various Star Trek shows, and were done in an interesting way. New effects could only be inserted where there was an existing shot – no extensions, no extra scenes, no Kirk shot firsts, oh, sorry, that’s something else, isn’t it? Anyway, what’s generally been done is replace models with high-def CGI ships, make phasers look better, make planets look more planet-y, and well, generally make it all look nicely shiny and more detailed. The original series tended to reuse the same shots of the Enterprise (filming was expensive, so if you had a perfectly good progress shot, you’d keep using it), so here they’ve taken the opportunity to show the ship from more angles and in much more detail.
Special features are largely recycled from the DVDs – no bad thing, as some of the interview subjects are no longer with us. Additional material includes some “Starfleet Access Episodes” on the first two seasons – these show the episode with an in picture video commentary from Mike Okuda and others, where they talk about the new effects and how they decided what to enhance. It would have been nice to have more of these, but never mind.
That all-time favourite episode The Trouble With Tribbles gets special treatment, given a disk of its own which includes the Starfleet access stuff, an audio commentary from writer David Gerrold, plus its sequel from the animated series More Tibbles, More Troubles, the gloriously silly Deep Space Nine cross-over episode Trials and Tribble-ations, and two documentaries.
And on the final disk of the third season, you’ll find the original pilot episode (the one with a completely different cast apart from Leonard Nimoy), presented in suitably remastered form, and also in an archive 1986 version where it’s introduced by the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Gene Roddenberry. At the time, large parts were in black and white, and quite apart from Gene’s interesting intro, it’s worth seeing if only to remind yourself how far restoration and remastering has come.
The set is well worth watching, especially if you haven’t seen the original series in a while. Or if you’ve somehow never seen it. But I’d watch for a good price…
 Which I may get round to one day