From Tribbles to giant space amoebas
The trek continues with Star Trek: The Original Series – the second season which was released just recently. The cheesy special effects and hokey dialogue continue from the first season as well as some truly excellent episodes that deal with the trials and “tribbulations” of family to battling a planet-killing space machine.
The DVD set features the continuing adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise under the command of Capt. James Kirk (William Shatner).
In season two we are introduced to the plucky young Russian Chekov (Walter Koenig), originally introduced as a Davy Jones-like youth designed to appeal to a younger demographic. And more importantly we witness the increasing prominence of Dr. McCoy. With the elevation of McCoy’s role, the legendary trek trio of Kirk, Spock and Bones emerges.
The easy and unlikely friendship that develops works, in part, thanks to the undeniable chemistry between the three actors. In the trio, Roddenberry found the perfect combination to give voice to divergent opinions and philosophical interpretations concerning the pressing political and social ailments of the day.
Among the second season’s episode highlights are the “Journey to Babel” where we gain a greater understanding of what’s going on behind Spock’s expressive eyebrows. The episode introduces his parents – Ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard) and his human mother Amanda (Jane Wyatt). The plot reveals Spock’s inner pain of not belonging and the burden of being torn between two cultures.
While transporting diplomats, fear and panic spread as an alien vessel pursues the Enterprise and an ambassador is found murdered. When the murderer attacks and seriously wounds Kirk, Spock chooses to assume command to safeguard the passengers over saving his ailing father’s life by a necessary blood transfusion. Kirk saves the day by assuring Spock he is fit to command, thus avoiding the issue of patricide.
Humour is the driving force in “The Trouble With Tribbles,” which may well be the most famous episode from the original series. While I would not even place it among the top ten best Star Trek episodes it’s hard to deny that it is entertaining. In the episode the Enterprise is called in to safeguard a grain shipment to a planet in an area that the Klingon Empire also claims. While on shore leave at the base, Uhura buys a Tribble; a small hairy creature that is “born pregnant.” The entire Enterprise is soon overrun with them. Kirk soon has to contend with a rival Klingon ship at the base, a suspected spy on the loose, and the failure of the mission due to the Tribbles’ voracious appetite. It’s Scotty’s inventive use of transporter technology that turns out to save the day.
Also among the second season’s highlights include the popular “Mirror, Mirror”, where members of the Enterprise are transported to an alternate universe, where the Federation is a warmongering organization and where the Enterprise crew is comprised of savage versions of themselves. “The Changeling” finds the ship at the mercy of a seemingly indestructible robot bent on “perfecting” things by destroying them.
The twenty-six episodes that make up the second season are arranged in airdate order on seven discs. The discs are housed in miniature translucent plastic compartments (roughly the size of CD cases), the kind that are normally affixed to cardboard to form digipaks. In this case, there is no cardboard. Instead, the plastic holders are attached book-style via a clear strip of tape along the left hand side that functions as the binding. Each disc is decorated with an individual member of the Enterprise crew.
Also listed on the disc faces are the episode titles, stardates, and original airdates. The case slides into a paper sleeve featuring a picture of Bones, Spock and Kirk. A foldout brochure (about the size of a CD insert) gives plot synopses, a brief written introduction to the series, an intro to Starfleet Command, and two brief essays on “The Changing Face of Andorians” and “Tricorder.”
The high quality and clarity of Star Trek: The Original Series: Season Two will pleasantly surprise long-time fans who remember watching the grainy images of the episodes broadcast on TV. The low-budget constraints of the show and the often laughable (by today’s standard) rudimentary special effects compelled the art and set designers to be extremely creative to achieve their goals. This is particularly evident in “Amok Time,” the first and only time in the TV series that we see the planet Vulcan. To convey the foreignness of this alien culture, the creative team draws on previous conceptions of the planet Mars, imbuing Vulcan with a red hue and an arid feel.
The set boasts over three hours of special features. Indeed, there is something for everyone in this set. While not nearly as many extra features as in the first season release, there is still enough for fans to enjoy. For example the text commentary is back by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda – co-authors of the Star Trek Encyclopedia. But only for two episodes.
The set includes original interviews with cast members, as well as the production and creative team involved in the series. Each episode includes a “Preview Trailer” – short “Next time on Star Trek…” episode previews – that run approximately one minute apiece.
“Amok Time” and “The Trouble with Tribbles” come with optional “text commentaries” by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda. These “Pop-up Video”-style captions provide bits of trivia about the episodes and the series. These pop-ups cover a wide range of topics – the past and future career histories of guest stars, how and when sets have been recycled from other episodes, script revisions, and unknown trivia (at least to all but the most ardent of viewers) about models and special effects specific to these episodes.
“To Boldly Go…Season Two” provides a nineteen-minute overview to the episodes and the characters as they developed in the second year of the series. The arc of the season, the introduction of the new character Pavel Chekhov, and the continuing Vulcan back story are told through new interviews with actors William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, George Takei, and James Doohan, producer Robert Justman, associate producer John D.F. Black, secretary Mary Black, and story editor/writer D.C. Fontana.
An interview with Walter Koenig reveals that even back in the 1960s the youth demographic was a highly sought after commodity. As Koenig relates, the producers modeled Chekhov’s look after Davy Jones on the hit TV series The Monkees in an attempt to draw in a younger audience (obviously the shaggy bowl-style haircut was the key ingredient to this resemblance). Leonard Nimoy discusses how Vulcan culture and rituals were more fully developed in the second season.
The eleven minute “Life Beyond Trek: Leonard Nimoy” explores Nimoy’s creative talents outside of the world of acting, namely photography. The interview focuses on Nimoy’s current project, delving into the mysteries of time through the medium of portraiture. Even in his photographs, the influence of Star Trek is felt. In one instance, Nimoy explains the impact of a childhood religious experience on his current photography project and also in the development of the Vulcan hand greeting “live long and prosper.” Hearing Nimoy share these intimate moments is a treat and illustrates how the actor’s interests in philosophy and religion gave life to the character of Mr. Spock.
“Kirk, Spock & Bones: Star Trek’s Great Trio” looks at the unique chemistry between the three actors that created their characters’ legendary friendship. Each personality (analytical, emotional and powerful) represents a vital part of the human experience, and it is only the symbiosis of all three, in the form of their friendship, that allows the crew of the Enterprise to overcome unbeatable odds in episode after episode. This seven-minute feature only begins to touch on the crucial role the trio had to developing the Star Trek phenomenon, and the lack of depth is a bit disappointing.
For those fascinated by how the creative team brought Gene Roddenberry’s story to life week after week, the twenty-two minute documentary “Designing the Final Frontier” is for you. Interviews with art director Matt Jefferies, story editor/writer D.C. Fontana, producer Robert Justman, set designer John Jeffries, Star Trek archivist Penny Juday, and set decorator John Duyer, explain how their team realized a 23rd century universe in a low-budget 1960s reality. Props and sets that looked like painted styrofoam often were. John Duyer relates that he and his colleagues constructed parts of the Enterprise out of garbage pulled from the studio lot or cast-off everyday items.
The thirteen-minute segment “Star Trek’s Divine Diva: Nichelle Nichols” reveals the pivotal role Ms. Nichols had (as did many actors in the Star Trek universe) in molding the character Uhura. Ms. Nichols went beyond developing a back story for the communications officer (including imbuing her with a lovely singing voice to soften her “hard professionalism”) to the extent of providing Gene Roddenberry with the inspiration for her character’s name.
“Writer’s Notebook: D.C. Fontana” gives fans an understanding of what it means to be a story editor. In this minimal seven-minute interview with Ms. Fontana, we learn how the back stories for characters and alien races in the Star Trek universe were compiled into a canonical “Bible” for future use.
The “Production Art” section features forty design and art sketches from Season Two. Also included is a forty image “Photo Gallery” consisting of navigable production stills.
Overall Star Trek: The Original Series: Season Two takes Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic portrayal of humanity, with all its strengths and weaknesses, and gives it stellar DVD treatment.
- Starring: William Shatner,
- Encoding: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Format: Box set, Color, Box set, Dolby
- Rated: NR
- Studio: Paramount Home Video
- DVD Release Date: November 2, 2004
- DVD Features:
- Available subtitles: English
- Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
26 episodes on seven discs: Amok Time, Who Mourns for Adonais?, The Changeling, Mirror Mirror, The Apple, The Doomsday Machine, Catspaw, I Mudd, Metamorphosis, Journey to Babel, Friday’s Child, The Deadly Years, Obsession, Wolf in the Fold, The Trouble with Tribbles, The Gamesters of Triskelion, A Piece of the Action, The Immunity Syndrome, A Private Little War, Return to Tomorrow, Patterns of Force, By Any Other Name, The Omega Glory, The Ultimate Computer, Bread and Circuses, Assignment: Earth
- To Boldly Go… Season Two
- Life Beyond Trek: Leonard Nimoy
- Kirk, Spock & Bones: Star Trek’s Great Trio
- Designing the Final Frontier
- Star Trek’s Divine Diva: Nichelle Nichols
- Writer’s Notebook: D.C. Fontana
- Production art
- Photo gallery
- Preview trailers
- Number of discs: 7