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Netflix Review: Star Trek – The Original Series (Remastered Edition)
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Netflix Review: Star Trek - The Original Series (Remastered Edition)Star Trek – The Original Series
Remastered Edition
Netflix Streaming
DVD | Blu-ray
Created by Gene Roddenberry
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Grace Lee Whitney, Majel Barrett, Jeffrey Hunter, Roger C. Carmel, Ricardo Montalban, Joan Collins, Robert Lansing, Terri Garr, Kim Darby, James Daly
Paramount
Originally Broadcast: September 08, 1966

Several weeks ago, I reviewed the first couple of seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation for our Netflix Review feature here at Geeks Of Doom. I had an enjoyable time delving into some nostalgia that I decided to take a step back further and dive into the original series of Star Trek, complete with the remastering and updated visual effects throughout all three seasons, encompassing the good (classic memorable episodes), the bad (Spock’s Brain and Season Three), and the Ugly (Space Hippies).

Commencing in 1966, Gene Roddenberry‘s creation would eventually become a franchise revered and followed by millions of fans worldwide. Despite this, the history of the original series would become affected by budgetary constraints and poor ratings in archaic scales, limiting the primary voyages of the USS Enterprise to three seasons only.

As is prevalently known, Star Trek follows the voyages of the Enterprise, on its peaceful mission of exploration into unknown areas of the galaxy – attempting to meet and contact new civilizations, and represent the interests of the Federation. Lead by Captain Kirk (William Shatner), and accompanied by First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley) among many others, the team aboard the starship would become known in-universe as legendary historical figures trailblazing their way into the unknown – and create such an element of veneration associated with the ship that the name Enterprise would be assigned to the Federation’s future flag ships.

The crew of the Enterprise embarks on numerous adventures across the three seasons, some of which connect to the movie series, and also establish basic benchmarks that would be either referenced or resurrected in future television series. The first season introduces many standalone adventures, though as time progresses into the second and third season, there is a minor effort to establish some continuity and mild references to overarching elements of the series.

The initial two seasons of Star Trek are highly revered as classics among fans, and many sci-fi followers also. The writing of these two seasons, on the whole, and in general terms, is surprisingly strong – especially when reassessing the show after not having viewed it for some time. The second season shows some significant efforts made to character development – and more important for the history of the franchise, development of the rapports between characters. The concepts explored are of the classic Sci-Fi variety, though the seeds set in these early episodes would create some of the most memorable television episodes of all time.

Season One contains the first pilot ever made, entitled The Cage. Revisited in The Menagerie, the original version of The Cage features Spock, and Majel Barrett as Number One. Chronologically, the episode is set many years ahead of the captaincy of Kirk, and has Jeffrey Hunter playing Christopher Pike, in command of the Enterprise. What is incredible in review, is how well this pilot (as a standalone story) stands up to the test of time.

Netflix Review: Star Trek -  The Original Series (Remastered Edition)

In the wake of the pilot, the series kicks into its main run for Season One. I found myself somewhat dismayed at the first three episodes – while good, they seemed to lack the impact of the pilot, though I concede the point that it was early days for Roddenberry and his cast and crew. The first show to truly kick into gear is The Naked Time, famous for Helmsman Hikaru Sulu (George Takei) running shirtless across the ship and attacking the crew with his fencing sword. While the scene is amusing, it is elemental to the overall plot, and the episode plays exceptionally well even today.

Other classics from the first season include Richard Matheson‘s The Enemy Within, a rather unique and challenging approach to Star Trek. Mudd’s Women introduces a character that will have repeat appearances in The Original Series and The Animated Series, though we all stand gratified that the creative team in later years decided to bring back Khan for Star Trek II, instead of Harry Mudd (Roger C. Carmel).

Speaking of Khan, his episode, Space Seed, still stands tall as I remember it. Ricardo Montalban provides a great performance, which would be eclipsed by his reprise in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan many years later. Miri also stands out for me as a highlight from the first season, with a wonderful guest performance from (the then very young) Kim Darby.

It is, though, the penultimate episode of Season One that rules above all other episodes: The City On The Edge Of Forever. Perhaps my love of this episode is biased because of highly enjoying it during my youth, but revisiting it was an extraordinarily satisfying experience. All the main characters have settled into their roles nicely by this stage, with some very solid performances – and Joan Collins‘ performance as Edith Keeler is wonderful, memorable, and luminous. Coupled with the concept of time travel, it makes for one of the most enjoyable Star Trek adventures ever conceived.

Season Two is perhaps the strongest of all three. With all the main characters firmly placed, the creative team clearly wanted to develop the interrelations between the crew of the Enterprise a little further, which helps bolster the cohesion of the episodes.

Amok Time kicks off the season, complete with the iconic fight music that would become both standard for the show and satirical in future parodies. The Mirror Universe is introduced with Mirror, Mirror – a delight to see Spock with his evil goatee once more. The classic Trouble With Tribbles also happens in this run, as does A Piece Of The Action and Patterns Of Force – both referencing 20th century culture.

Netflix Review: Star Trek -  The Original Series (Remastered Edition)

Not everything is brilliant though. Season Two had some floppy pieces delivered as well. Assignment: Earth, which closes the season, introduces intergalactic spy Gary Seven (Robert Lansing) – the final episode was masked as a pilot for another series Roddenberry was developing. The results are less than stellar, with a misguided attempt to take the focus away from the Enterprise characters and onto Gary Seven and his stupid cat. I will admit it was attention-grabbing seeing a very young Terri Garr though.

Additionally, The Ultimate Computer overuses the “Kirk talking a computer to death” theme, and the spookiness of Wolf In The Fold is overcome by ridiculous assertions that should have seen the episode titled Jack The Ripper In Spaaaaaace!!!!1!. Despite my criticisms of these singular episodes, Season Two is unquestionably the strongest season of the series, delivering some brilliant episodes that would have future ramifications for the “canon” and expanded universe(s) of the Star Trek franchise.

Season Three on the other hand, is utter shit. The problems faced by the filming crew were amplified during this season, with significant budget cuts. This is often pointed to by fans as a suitable excuse for the poor quality of the season. I point out that this contention is baseless and not at all consistent with other examples. Doctor Who, as one example to highlight, experienced extremely low budgeting through its classic run – but managed to maintain a solid run for 24 years. On top of that, when it was canceled in the late 1980s, it was clearly the production management, led by John Nathan-Turner that had jumped the shark.

No, Season Three is riddled with problems NOT because of the budget, but because of the poor leadership and judgment of the production crew and the creative teams behind the scenes. Leonard Nimoy has expressed many issues he has had with this season over the years, and all expressions seem to point towards production judgments rather than budget restraints. Sorry – the budget issue is something the hardcore fans love to cling onto as an excuse to justify the poor results of Season Three.

To emphasize, the opening episode of the season sets the tone for everything wrong with it. Entitled Spock’s Brain, it follows the story of an alien race who, quite literally, steals the brain from Spock’s body, while the Enterprise senior crew and the zombified Spock with robotic head piece chase down the misplaced grey matter. The entire episode is an embarrassment to watch. The season is also riddled with problematic and ham-fisted campy “movement” acting, where the chief actors are told to portray their minds being controlled, or physically portray something retarded. The direction is inadequately done in these moments, and the results are, quite simply, laughable. It is at these moments where Star Trek ceases to be a Sci-Fi story with significant lessons to be portrayed on humanity and morality; and it becomes a comedic travesty that is nothing more than a sorry parody of what it should have been.

Netflix Review: Star Trek -  The Original Series (Remastered Edition)

There are a few exceptions to my contentions on Season Three. The Tholian Web is an intriguing episode, with Kirk caught transdimensionally, and the Tholians weave an incredible energy web around the Enterprise. However, it’s not this outline that makes this episode – it is truly the wonderful acting between Nimoy and Kelley, as their characters wrestle between the merits of logic and emotion.

Requiem for Methuselah is likewise notable. Shatner’s performance is campy towards the end, but it is guest star James Daly that steals the show as the immortal human responsible for many elements of human history – a concept re-explored in many other science fiction narratives. The Cloud Minders addresses the issues associated with segregation and apartheid – a brave move by the creators during this era of time; and All Our Yesterdays is a nice foreshadowing to the holodeck that would emerge in The Next Generation.

That being said, Season Three’s poor results are no more evident than in the craziest episode ever made: The Way To Eden. Essentially, the tale shockingly mirrors Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which might explain why the film sucked as well. The concept is that the Enterprise takes on board a group of “Space Hippies” who take over the ship to find a planet called Eden. The presentation is ludicrous, complete with musical numbers that make Leonard Nimoy’s “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” look like John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

The Space Hippies are scantily constructed caricatures of the 1960’s peace movements and popular culture of the time, complete with stereotypical prejudices from the age in which the episode is made. The costuming is appalling, making the guest stars look like they would be more in place on stage with KISS during the Asylum tour in 1985, when it was customary for Gene Simmons to wear fluorescent pink and fluorescent yellow outfits made out of spandex. Truthfully it is the worst episode of all time.

In spite of my disdain for the third season, overall, the entire series was absolutely worth revisiting. The classic performances from the principal cast is memorable, as is the work by co-stars Nichelle Nichols, Grace Lee Whitney, James Doohan ("It’s Green!!!"), and Walter Koenig. William Shatner overshadows with Leonard Nimoy, of course, and I should also add: it amazes me how many nipple shots of Kirk we got with ripped shirt effects. It’s also amazing how many times Kirk is able to render foes unconscious with a straightforward karate chop to the neck.

The remastering of the series is similarly a unique experience. I’m sure there are some Trekkie purists out there that would kill me for saying this, but its results make for delightful viewing, and make it a completely new experience in watching the series. The crew responsible for the remastering special effects clearly worked to keep as much of the live-action filmed material separate from the space view CGI shots – something which works to great effect, and slides together seamlessly. The space effects are a substantial improvement to the series, with the Doomsday Machine being the most impressive improvement in my opinion. Accompanied by cleaned up footage and remastered sound, make for a fabulous viewing experience that I highly recommend to Science Fiction fans that haven’t seen TOS in a long time.

Netflix Review: Star Trek -  The Original Series (Remastered Edition)

What is also noteworthy about The Original Series as well are some of the inconsistencies that arise, particularly during the first season. I found this of interest because the Star Trek fan community have often been proud (sometimes typecast) of the strong continuity and consistency of the overall saga. Yet, there were many elements that come up in The Original Series that cause a level of inconsistencies that would drive canon-obsessives mad. This is not in the slightest a criticism, but more of an observation on how Roddenberry, crew, and cast were developing during their first year in working to find their feet.

Another element worth noting about The Original Series is in comparison to modern television shows. TOS episodes range from 50 to 55 minutes, which means there was room for 5-10 minutes of advertising back in the day. Contemporary television shows range from 35 to 45 minutes, making room for up to 25 minutes of advertising. It’s a sign of how much we have let marketers take over entertainment, and essentially detract from the potential resourcefulness of writers and directors. The length factor for The Original Series stamps in firmly within a specific time range of history, but it also highlights that creative teams were given a little more room to move during that time. Part of me craves that we could go back to that style of formatting, because at the end of the day, I care more about story quality and content, than the demands/desires of some fucking marketer out there.

Though I have made some stern criticisms in this review, I will concede that revisiting The Original Series is not only a wild nostalgic trip, but highly entertaining as well. It’s inspired me to take a look at The Animated Series now, and I find myself increasingly aspiring to revisit the movies and the other television series as well. And though you will find some criticisms of your own, I’m sure some of the classic episodes that stand out will be as enjoyable to you now as they were when you first saw them. Add this one to your instant queue, and view a few episodes when you have time. Until next time: Live Long, and Prosper…

Overall Rating: 3½ out of 5
(It would be 4½ if you exclude Season Three)

Trailer

[Cover Poster Image Source: Fanpop]

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