Here are the Origin episodes of the most significant characters from Star Trek: The Original Series introduced by Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry:
• The Cage: The pilot that started it all and introduced Captain Pike and Spock.
• Where No Man Has Gone Before: The first time Captain Kirk is seen at the helm of the Enterprise.
• Space Seed: The debut of super villain, Khan.
• Errand of Mercy: The crew's first encounter with the barbaric Klingons.
• The Trouble with Tribbles: The arrival of the cute, but catastrophic creatures.
Now own and witness the first appearances of these captivating characters that graced the final frontier!
'Star Trek: The Original Series – Origins' is the type of studio release that really rubs me the wrong way. It's nothing more than a money grab from Paramount, looking to dip into the wallets of 'Star Trek' fans who must absolutely own everything released on high-def related to the series. This latest release is even worse than the two-part 'Next Generation' episodes that the studio has been putting out in that at least those offer fans a different cut of the episodes as they appear on the season sets as well as an early sneak peak of something non-yet-released on Blu-ray (the second half of each two-parter). Those sets also have decent bonus features not available elsewhere. With 'Origins', nothing aside from the short (and lame) introductions by Rod Roddenberry is new. The episodes are just ported over from the season sets. It's not a horrible idea to have a release offering a collection of episodes, but please give us something fresh – like new commentary tracks, never before seen footage, new interviews, or something of substance that makes a purchase worthwhile. Paramount gives us a little over 5 minutes worth of Roddenberry stating the obvious, and half that time is used for showing clips from the episode being talked about.
I'm not sure how the idea for 'Origins' came about, but I'm betting it has a lot to do with the same-day release of Star Trek Into Darkness, as the major players in these five episodes appear at some point in the new theatrical film. Now, had Paramount had the vision to include this Blu-ray as a bonus disc with the new movie (which is pretty lax on extras as it is), that would have been a nice addition to the release. Asking fans (or potential fans) to shell out separately for episodes they can easily find on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon On Demand, and a number of other sources (including just forking over $40 or so to get the entire first season…which would have all the episodes here with the exception of 'The Trouble with Tribbles', plus a ton of great extras), really seems like Paramount is trying to bite the hand that feeds them.
Despite my objections to this release, the quality of the episodes is top-notch, although it is important to note that this release contains only the remastered episodes (with updated special effects) and not the original versions (the season sets, for the record, contain both). Included on this set are both of 'Star Trek's pilots: 'The Cage', which featured Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike; and 'Where No Man Has Gone Before', our first look at William Shatner playing Captain Kirk (although it wound up being the third episode aired back in 1966).
For fans of the new movies but not necessarily the Original Series, the big selling point here might very well be 'Space Seed', the Enterprise crew's first encounter with Khan Noonien Singh. It's a good chance for all the 'newbies' out there to see why us older fans threw a hissy fit over the portrayal of Khan in the new film (our complaints go far beyond the fact that he changed nationalities). Watch the episode and ask yourself if the character here bears any resemblance in personality to the one in the new movie. Also, if 'Space Seed' seems like a rather average episode to you, that's because it is. It's a bit of revisionist history (you know, like an altered timeline!) that this was always one of fans' favorite episodes. The fact is that 'Space Seed' was hardly ever mentioned in the top five or so series favorites until after 1982 (when The Wrath of Khan was released).
Also on the disc is the very first 'Star Trek' episode featuring Klingons in 'Errand of Mercy'. This is an outstanding 'Star Trek' episode (although, unlike 'Space Seed', it rarely makes the fan-favorite list) that features the Federation and Klingon empire squaring off in a dispute over a planet and its civilization. In true 'Star Trek' fashion, things are not as they seem, there's a lesson to be learned, and the story manages to both foreshadow the long tensions between the two races as well as the eventual peace that would come in the movies and 'The Next Generation'.
This release wraps up with the highly entertaining 'The Trouble With Tribbles', many fans all-time favorite original series episode (I'll take 'The City on the Edge of Forever', but 'Tribbles' would be second for me). The first and really only episode of the Original Series to be an out-and-out comedy, it showed that 'Star Trek' could be just as much fun even when the storylines were less serious. The Klingons are back for this episode as well, as Mr. Scott gets a nice bit of revenge on them at episode's end.
I understand Paramount's desire to bring new fans to the Original Series. After all, 'Star Trek' has been the studio's golden goose for many years. However, releasing what is little more than a bare-bones highlight disc of already-released episodes is not the way to do it. If anything, they're risking alienating current fans at the expense of gaining a few new ones. If you're new to the original episodes and interested in this, do yourself a favor and just pony up a few more bucks for a complete season set.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Star Trek: The Original Series – Origins" warps onto Blu-ray in an eco-friendly keepcase that houses the single 50GB dual-layer disc. There are no inserts, however the reverse side of the Blu-ray slick (seen from inside the box) contains brief episode synopses, along with artwork of the Enterprise orbiting a planet. The disc is front-loaded with trailers for Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 1, Star Trek: Enterprise – Season 1, The Best of Both Worlds, and a short advertisement for the '1701 News' website. The menu consists of a little animation of the Enterprise flying by, followed by a viewscreen that contains video footage of the episodes toward the top of the screen and menu selections on the lower portion of the screen.
The current full-season releases of 'Star Trek: The Original Series' present all episodes in the VC-1 codec. With this release, all episodes are presented in the MPEG-4/AVC codec, with the exception of 'The Cage', which remains in VC-1. Despite the new codec on four of the episodes, there appears to be absolutely no difference in quality between this release and the same episodes on the season sets already available. However, as I noted in the review above, potential buyers should be aware that only the newer, remastered versions of each episode (with updated visual effects) are available on this release. The original versions have not been provided.
Each episode is presented in its original 4:3 format, meaning the image will be 'pillarboxed' with black bars on the left and the right of the image. The video introductions by Roddenberry, however, are 1.78:1. The episodes themselves have been cleaned up quite nicely, although some occasional dirt or scratches still appear randomly on the print. A fine layer of grain is still present, and some shots still appear softer than others – but that's because many shots were filtered (particularly close-ups of the female talent). Details are pretty good throughout, almost too good sometimes, as you can clearly see how cheaply some sets were constructed, or notice the zippers and seams on many costumes and uniforms. Stuntmen replacing the stars in action sequences are also laughably evident given the detail of high-def.
Each episode provides viewers with the option of listening to a English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, or to watch the episode listening to an original English mono track. For the most part, the 7.1 track is a very front-heavy listen, with occasional rear activity when the musical soundtrack kicks in or the ship soars through space (most noticeable during the opening credits). Audio is crisp and clear, and there are no obvious instances of dropouts, popping, or other issues. The mono track is actually a Dolby 2.0 track with identical audio coming from both the left and right front speakers. All the audio tracks on this release appear to have been directly ported over from the full season sets.
In addition to the 7.1 lossless track and English mono track, French, German, and Japanese mono tracks are also available. Subtitles have been included in English SDH, French, German, and Japanese.
The only extras on this release are the Rod Roddenberry introductions. They are exclusive to the Blu-ray, so they are detailed in the 'HD Bonus Content' section below.
My recommendation for this release has nothing to do with the quality of the episodes themselves, and everything to do with the fact that this release was in no way needed or necessary. Even for non-fans of 'Star Trek', there are plenty of other ways to introduce oneself to the Original Series. Skip it.