Star Trek: TOS: Season 3
Over all the decades that television has been the main stay of at home family entertainment there have been thousands of popular series. The list of certified hits and cult classics would be almost endless. Every possible genre has been represented on this glowing box that has dominated the layout of our living rooms for over five decades. There is little doubt that one show has dominated the others in respects to the impact it has had on our culture; ‘Star Trek’ or has it is more commonly known now ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’. Of courses the reason of the appendage to the name is this is now the flagship of a franchise that has brought forth four live TV sequels, an animated series and eleven feature films to date. Our technology has advanced in response to ideas that people watching took from science fiction and made it a reality. Back then Captain Kirk flicking open his communicator was so cool. Now, most of us have cell phones built along similar lines. This series spurred our imaginations and redirected pop culture. If you doubt the impact of this series just go to one of the hundreds of Star Trek conventions and express those feelings. You will quickly discover how beloved this show is. Paramount has owned the rights to this franchise since the beginning. They realize just how important it is to the public and have been releasing full season sets of the original series since the end of last year. It is not just all the episodes as we remember them; this set features the fully restored episodes so the original series has never looked or sounded as good as they do here. You may some of the older DVD releases or maybe a stack of original VHS tapes in the basement but this is the way the series needs to be watched. CBS Paramount has come up with something that is not decision for any Star Trek fan out there.
The series ran for three seasons from 1966 to 1969. Originally it was intended by series creator Gene Roddenberry as ‘Wagon Train’ in outer space. The pilot for the show was rejected at first but reworked by Roddenberry and accepted by NBC. After the decline in ratings in season two it looked like the show would be axed but the clamor of the fan protests changed NBC’s mind and the third season was started. Unfortunately for the fans there was no reprieve this time and ‘Star Trek’ was cancelled for good. This third season set contains the last 24 episodes of the show and some production problems are evident in them. Due to a constantly diminishing budget there were less special effects than the other two seasons and fewer scenes outside the normal pre-made Enterprise set. It was not as if ST:TOS was ever known for elaborate sets and settings but the cost had to be kept to a minimum. In some ways this was a good thing. ST:TOS already had a reputation of though provoking stories but some of the most notable science fictions writers around. This season would yield some of the best and most memorable episodes in the Star Trek universe. If you are considering the purchase of this set you most likely know all of this and can recite the episode list by heart. There really is no need to provide character background or analysis at this point. If you don’t know who Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones and Scotty are you most likely do not own a computer or television set and therefore aren’t reading this consideration anyway..
The first episode of this season is ‘Spock’s Brain’, originally aired September 20, 1968 and directed by Marc Daniels. This is though of by some fans as one of the lesser episodes and it is frequently used to make fun of the series. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is kidnapped by a strange woman who takes his Vulcan brain and leaves the body; sort of like the old gun and cannoli. Because of his superior Vulcan body Spock can survive for about 24 hours brainless. Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) devises an electronic head band that will support Spock until they can locate his brain. The search takes them to a planet where the brain is being used to run everything from air flow to water purification. To show how this season ran the gamut from best to worse the very next episode is hailed as one of the best of them all; ‘The Enterprise Incident’, originally aired September 27, 1968 and directed by John Meredyth Lucas. Kirk has been acting strangely cumulating in his ordering the Enterprise into the Forbidden Zone set by treaty between the Federation of Planets and the Romulan Empire. This episode seems to pit Kirk against Spock and gets Kirk to dress up like a Romulan in order to seduce a beautiful female commander. It is the quintessential Kirk as he tries to secure a secret cloaking device for the Federation.
There are a lot of fan favorites in this season. One is when Kirk is trapped on a planet with a culture much like Native Americans as The Enterprise is forced to deal with a mission elsewhere. Kirk loses his memory, falls in love and gets married. The crew faces a race of aliens living at an accelerated rate making them invisible. In order to regain control of the ship each of the bridge staff uses his best ploy to subvert an alien. Of course Kirk seduces a female while Scotty out drinks another. Some of the stories here are among the best of the series. ‘For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky’ examined mortality and whether it better to be happy or know the truth. Then there is the problem of race when two aliens board the ship. Both are black and white split down the middle but in their culture it matters which side is black. One of he best and most controversial episodes is ‘Plato’s Children’ where the crew is captured by aliens with the power of mind and matter. One of them is a little person with now powers who serves them. This part was played by the Oscar nominated Michael Dunn. All the episodes contained in this season are fun even if some of them are weaker then the usual standards for the series.
For this fortieth anniversary collection all of the episodes have been re-mastered. This is not just the usual clean up of the audio and video. In every episodes there was considerable work done to improve the special effects and make them look more modern. This has been a point of heated debate between all of Star Trek fandom. There are those that prefer the originals even with their much cheaper looking effects while others have welcomed this classic TV being made fresh for a new millennium. As a bonus the original pilot ‘The Cage’ is also included. This set is a piece of our collective history and should not be missed.