Written by Hombre Divertido
On May 12, 2009, Paramount released The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series. Though the release seems a bit rushed as there is no bonus material, and the packaging does not mention the re-mastered aspects of these classic episodes, this is Star Trek at its original best.
Yes, one could certainly argue the choices made in picking the four episodes to include under the header of The Best of, but these four episodes certainly will serve as a pleasant reminder to the Trekkies/Trekkers of the world as to why they fell in love with the series in the first place, and trying to spot the new and improved footage makes watching what you seen hundreds of times, fun all over again. For those new to the series, these four episodes serve as a nice introduction to not only the action of the series, but the lighthearted aspects as well.
The four episodes chosen include two from the first season, and two from the second, yet they don’t come up on the menu in the order in which they originally aired. First up is “The City on the Edge of Forever,” which is generally considered by many to be the best episode of the original series. Written by Harlan Ellison and directed by Joseph Pevney, “City” aired on April 6th, 1967, and featured a fine guest performance by Joan Collins as Edith Keeler, a social worker on earth in the 1930s.
After McCoy accidentally injects himself with a volatile drug that causes paranoia and delusions, he manages to beam himself down to the planet currently being orbited by the Enterprise, and enters a time portal that refers to itself as the Guardian of Forever. McCoy’s entrance into Earth’s past causes time to be changed, and the Enterprise disappears from orbit stranding the landing party. Kirk and Spock follow McCoy back in time in an effort to correct the change.
The story is well crafted and the performances are top notch, making it quite clear why this episode is so highly regarded. The episode is certainly not without its distractions. The heavy filter used on close-ups of Collins gets rather annoying, as does some of McCoy’s make-up. It’s certainly not clear why the drug would cause his teeth to yellow. The drug also seems to impact McCoy’s physical abilities, as one who was never much of a fighter in the series, manages to effectively subdue the transporter chief with two martial-arts type blows.
The second episode on the disk menu, “The Trouble with Tribbles” was actually the last of the four to air. Written by David Gerrold and also directed by Pevney, it aired on December 29th, 1967. In “Trouble,” the Enterprise is summoned to space station K7 where they encounter pompous politicians, Klingons, and Tribbles. The Tribbles, affectionate little hairballs that multiply at an amazing rate, eventually fill the Enterprise and the space station, but do manage to reveal a Klingon plot to sabotage the Federation’s colonization of a highly sought-after planet.
Certainly one of the most comedic episodes in the three-year run of the series, “Trouble” sports fine supporting performances, and displays a more competitive than combative relationship between the Earthlings and the Klingons. The guest stars include classic character actor William Schallert, and William Campbell who had appeared in the first-season episode, “The Squire of Gothos.”
“Trouble” opens with an interesting conversation being held in one of the conference rooms between Kirk, Spock, and Chekov. Chekov displays his comedic Russian loyalties as the threesome appear to be discussing some of the storyline from the first season’s episode, “Errand of Mercy.”
The fourteenth episode of season one aired on December 15th, 1966, and was titled “Balance of Terror.” Written by Paul Schneider and directed by Vincent McEveety, in this episode, we are introduced to the Romulans, and the history between them and the Federation. After a long war, a neutral zone was established, and Federation outposts set up along the border. In the “Balance” we find that the Federation outposts are being destroyed, and the Enterprise is in pursuit of the ship causing the destruction. The enemy ship is indeed a Romulan vessel that possesses the ability to become virtually invisible and an extremely powerful plasma weapon.
An exciting chess game ensues between Kirk and the Romulan commander portrayed by Mark Lenard who would have an extensive run in guest-starring roles throughout the Star Trek entertainment franchise. The episode also features an appearance by Lawrence Montaigne who also appears in the last of the four episodes in this collection.
We learn in “Balance” that the Romulans bare a strong resemblance to the Vulcans, and this fact allows for tension within the episode as paranoia strikes many members of the crew. This is one of many times in the series that racial issues would be at the forefront of the episode themes.
One notable distraction is the phaser fire that appears to be photon torpedoes. This seems like something that could have been easily remedied during the re-mastering process, but it remains in its original state.
The final of the four episodes, and quite possibly the least worthy, is “Amok Time” which aired on September 15th, 1967 as the first episode of the second season. Written by Theodore Sturgeon and directed by Peveny, “Amok Time” delves deep into the Vulcan society as it deals with Spock and the Vulcan mating cycle.
With the Enterprise in route to an important diplomatic ceremony, Mr. Spock begins to display behavior extremely unusual for a Vulcan, and requests a leave on his home planet. Kirk disobeys orders and changes course to Vulcan in hopes of saving the life of his friend. Kirk and McCoy accompany Spock down to the planet where they attend a formal Vulcan ritual, and Kirk eventually participates.
The major distraction in “Amok” is the constant switching from actors to stuntmen in the fight scene between Kirk and Spock. For those familiar with this episode, the re-mastered additions will be interesting to see, but this episode is more appealing to those who know the show’s mythology. Many others could have easily replaced this episode. “Amok” marks the introduction of not only Walter Koenig as Chekov, but also the Vulcan salute.
Recommendation: For those who don’t own any Star Trek episodes on DVD, this is certainly a great way to start a collection, but, with complete season and series sets available, it may be the inexpensive price that will attract most fans. For those who were introduced to the iconic series through the release of the new motion picture, this is a great way to explore the roots of Star Trek.