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By Lewis Wallace November 19, 2007 | 2:09:30 AM
Categories: DVDs, Sci-Fi, Television
Star Trek finally made it to the 21st century. A new hybrid HD DVD/DVD box set, released Tuesday, delivers the original series' first-season shows, digitally remastered and looking better than ever before.
The exterior space shots in Star Trek: The Original Series -- revamped using today's CGI techniques -- now show planets and starships that look more like NASA's finest imagery than the '60s-era special effects that were included when the show first aired. (See an example of the updated and original Enterprise models as seen in "Arena.")
The overall look of the episodes is richer as well: The original film negatives were digitally scanned, then painstakingly touched up to boost the contrast and eliminate scratches, tears and other imperfections. The end result is a Trek that's delicately tweaked without ruining the nostalgic pull the series has on long-time fans.
Even the music has been souped up, with the original score rerecorded by a small orchestra. William Shatner's original "Space ... the final frontier" voiceover has been remastered and dropped atop a faithful new rendition of Alexander Courage's theme music.
Aside from the wholesale digital remastering, the team responsible for updating Star Trek took tiny liberties that ultimately make the groundbreaking show even more entertaining. When the project was first announced, some purist Trekkies feared the Trek tweakers might botch the job, ruining a fan favorite in the process. But, as is evident from the interviews included in the featurette Spacelift: Transporting Trek Into the 21st Century, which is included in the 10-disc box set, this was a labor of love.
For instance, the Gorn captain that Kirk fights in "Arena" -- you remember, the man-size lizard with the silvery insect eyes -- blinks in the remastered version. It's a subtle effect, but it works to breathe new life into the monster without ruining the classic look of the costume.
A CGI city in the distance here, a new bomb bay in the Enterprise there, and the shows become ever so slightly better. There's still plenty of the corny dialogue, stiff acting, cheesy monsters and hippie-inspired grooviness that earned Star Trek a special place in the hearts of sci-fi-loving baby boomers. But now there's an extra dollop of eye candy, ladled lovingly onto the shows by artists with a deep respect for Trek's origins.
WIRED: Original Star Trek in all its glory and then some; cool extras like Spacelift and Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest featurettes and much more.
TIRED: Hybrid HD DVD/DVD disks look mighty plain; steep price, especially if you already own previous DVD versions.
Price: $195 list, $136 street
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