I know what you’re thinking: You love classic ’60s Star Trek, but you’ve seen it — and bought it — over and over. First you taped it off the air, even editing out commercials, while chafing at the minutes you lost from increased ad breaks. Later you picked up single-episode VHS tapes, as sale-priced as you could find them, but still averaging $10 or so. Finally you got all three seasons on DVD when they debuted in 2004, and at under $70 each. At last!
Yet you still haven’t seen and owned Star Trek at its best — not until you’ve glommed its first season on its new Combo HD and Standard DVD.
Yes, it’s pricey, costing $132.95 on amazon.com when marked down from an SRP of almost $195. But how much did those first 29 episodes cost on individual VHS tapes?
Besides, any previous release of Trek is like a horse and buggy compared to the new set’s Ferrari. This is what fans — if not purists — have been waiting for since Paramount began enhancing the show for renewed syndication months ago.
Purist? I’m not one. I love what George Lucas did with his original Star Wars trilogy in Special Edition form. (Well, most of it, anyway.) I also love what the late Bob Wise did six years ago when reworking Star Trek: The Motion Picture for a Director’s Cut DVD. And I’m a defender of ST: TMP in large part for the enormous improvements it offered for the first time in music and special effects.
Now such light-years advances are an even bigger part of ’60s Trek’s refitting for syndication and DVD, from painstaking cleanup of the original negative to faithful re-recording of Alexander Courage’s theme to the most important change of all: creating new footage for virtually all effects shots.
The Enterprise need never again look like a wooden model photographed from fixed points of reference. Now, thanks to CG creativity, it can look state-of-the-art, swooping at varied angles and even disgorging satellites from a bomb-bay door as it orbits what look like true planets, with elaborate land masses and cloud covers, not globs of green or orange. Old mattes also have been replaced with far more vivid settings, while minute details have been added, such as giving Kirk’s lizardlike Arena foe blinking eyes.
Such work is assessed on a 20-minute disc-one featurette, Spacelift: Transporting Trek Into the 21st Century. It was previewed recently at theaters showing special screenings of the rebooted two-part episode The Menagerie (a sellout, here in Houston). In effect, that served as an infomercial for the new DVD set, but no matter. If those 20 minutes don’t convince you of the love and care which went into this project, nothing will. The creative types show true reverence and enthusiasm for Gene Roddenberry’s vision, and say they only enhanced the effects because that’s what he’d have done if he had the capability 40 years ago.
Sure, Trek still comes down to the stories and characters. That’s why we love it. That’s what sets it apart. But for a show shot on a relative shoestring and with limited resources in its day, getting this kind of facelift — or “spacelift” — is a remarkable upgrade, providing the series a vibrant new look and an invigorating new life. In fact, for me, this is what purists really should be about: savoring a favorite show in its finest form imaginable. Forty-one years after its bold birth, Star Trek has achieved this.