STAR TREK:
- The Original Series (TOS)
- The Animated Series
- The Movies
- The Next Generation (TNG)
- Deep Space Nine (DS9)
- Voyager
- Enterprise

THE ORIGINAL SERIES:
- Season One
- Season Two
- Season Three
- "Season Four"

Season One:
-1: "The Cage"
-2: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
-3: "The Corbomite Maneuver"
-4: "Mudd's Women"
-5: "The Enemy Within"
-6: "The Man Trap"
-7: "The Naked Time"
-8: "Charlie X"
-9: "Balance of Terror"
-13: "The Conscience of the King"
-16: "The Menagerie"
-20: "The Alternative Factor"
----: _Time Travel Season 1
-21: "Tomorrow is Yesterday"
----: _Prime Directive Origins
-22: "The Return of the Archons"

-23: "A Taste of Armageddon"
-27: "Errand of Mercy"
-28: "The City On the Edge of Forever"
-29: "Operation -- Annihilate!"
-Season 1 Rankings"


SCIENCE FICTION:
- Doctor Who
- Sliders
- The Matrix


- Main Index
- Site Map

Star Trek Time Travel

Season 1 (1966-1967)

"Be the change you want to see in the world."
~ Mahatma Gandhi, 20th century spiritual & political leader

Quite a number of fan favourite Star Trek episodes deal with time travel, and have become exceptionally popular with general audiences as well. What a great pity then, that time travel is so buggered up in the Star Trek universe.

Beginning here, we intend to launch a detailed investigation of how time travel is portrayed in Star Trek, and note in which episodes it works and in which episodes it doesn't. It promises to be a controversial ride, so hang on....


"The Time Barrier's been Broken!"

This offhand remark was uttered by Ltn. José Tyler (played by Peter Duryea), a young officer stereotypical in his over-eagerness, who belonged to Captain Christopher Pike's crew in the first Star Trek pilot "The Cage" (and again in "The Menagerie Part 1"), as he attempts to boast about the ship's speed. Speed! We surmise that he meant to say they had found a way to fulfill man's desire to get to the next star without taking the years and years that traveling at less than the speed of light would require.

Terminology is already being applied loosely....


"Our chronometer is running... backwards!"

Star Trek was only into its seventh episode, "The Naked Time", when something interesting happened. The Enterprise crew accidentally discovered a means of traveling through time, and time-travel has been available to Starfleet ever since.

Of course, since time-travel also happens to scare the willies out of Starfleet personnel, and they usually have many other areas of concern, they don't use it or explore it very often. Perhaps this is a good thing.

No, Mr. Spock did not invent a new engine formula in three minutes flat while intoxicated, although considering where this is headed, that might have explained a few things. Luckily, the formula already existed as an untested theory in Starfleet computer records. Trust Captain Kirk to be the one to give it a whirl.

Predictably enough, this harmless little trip back in time is preceded by an increase in speed until the ship is "now traveling faster than is possible for normal space." Arrgh! Why does everyone believe that incredible speeds can cause time travel? I could write a whole article on that misperception... In fact, I already did: "The Unraveling of E=mc2". If you're interested in the debate, check out the section under the heading "The Perception of the Speed of Light". Actually, read the whole wonderful thing; it's good stuff. ;-)

Upon discovering that they've traveled back in time some three days, Captain Kirk moons over the thought of reliving all the interpersonal turmoil and shipboard danger of those three days again.

Duhh! It's the rest of the universe at large that will be seen to relive those three days. The Enterprise crew will experience three NEW ones, with far different interpersonal incidents and, now that the ship has been flung far from the star system that had trapped it, far less shipboard danger. But more seeds are being sown for the confusion surrounding the idea that experience cannot be rewound and erased by the magic-wand of time....


"Tomorrow is Yesterday"

(Star Trek Episode #21 in production order)
written by D.C. Fontana
directed by Michael O'Herlihy

Star Trek's first full-blown episode devoted to a time-travel story has a good underlying premise to it, in terms of production value and marketability: taking the Enterprise back to what was then the present day and having it mistaken for a U.F.O.

However, once past the teaser and opening scenes that set that premise up, most of the rest of the story rests on nonsense and plot-logic of the worst temporal taste.


All of the actual travel through time in this episode is accomplished via the intense gravity from massive celestial bodies (first a newly-detected black hole, then the sun) giving the Enterprise a rare burst of speed. Here we go with speed again. Not all that convincing, but at least consistent with what was set up previously in "The Naked Time". In fact, with this being one of those Star Trek episodes scored solely with "tracked" music from previous episodes, they even use the same music cue from "The Naked Time" by Alexander Courage. Nice.

The big problems in this story are all brought on by the Enterprise crew's fragile misunderstanding of temporal mechanics, most of which is spouted by Mr. Spock. In effect, they believe the version of 1960's history recorded in their computer memory banks should be the only one "allowed" to exist, and now that they suddenly find themselves in it, they should act as though they don't exist, leave no mark or trace, and have no impact. Good luck.

Worse, they think they know which actions and events can "change" the future and which ones won't, depending on the size or permanence of the impact they are having. If they could remember their Heisenberg principle, they would know that merely being there to observe is enough to change the result from what it would be if they hadn't been there. Which brings up the question of whether or not the version of the 1960's recorded in their memory banks originally included a visit from the Enterprise mistaken for a U.F.O.
At least this is left up to the viewer to decide, earning the episode a positive point.


At best, the Enterprise crew spend their time running around doing things and saying things that make them appear foolish. Captain Kirk gets most of the worst of this: not just by accepting Spock's twisted view of time travel at face value, but often by buggering that up as well and getting the crew into more and more trouble. It's clear here that he isn't yet very familiar with what will become staple Star Trek time theory.

Our first big facepalm occurs as we wonder why Kirk didn't think to beam Captain Christopher out of his jet directly onto some spot on the ground, or failing that, perhaps keep his stay in the transporter room down to about 2 seconds before beaming him down to the surface. Even if I don't believe in Spock's need to leave this timeline undisturbed, it's painful to see the crew so carelessly buggering up their own goals. Once Kirk starts blabbing on and on to Christopher in the transporter room, that's the point when the story's fortunes tank from shaky to irretrievable, I can't stay invested in any character's goals, or believe in their invented problems.

Although I can't bring myself to root for most of the crew's main aims in this story, particularly their lame attempts at deception, there is a natural flow to the nature of their results. The more they attempt to erase all trace of their presence, the more evidence they leave of their presence. It's good for a bit of a chuckle in that regard, but only a bit. Most of the time they're just pathetic, unable to give either an honest or truly entertaining account of themselves.


It's the bizarre attempt at resolving this ever-growing mess at the end of the episode that would stretch the limits of believability of even the most liberal of time-travel theoreticians. Tinker-Bell's magic wand does a really twisted number here, whipping the Enterprise back and forth through time to all the right moments to complete a stupendously ridiculous erasure and render the episode's narrative into that abomination of time-travel stories everywhere: "The Adventure That Never Happened".... at least as far as 1960's Earth is concerned. Luckily the Enterprise and her crew will have detailed memories and computer logs of what went down, so it's not a complete disaster on that account.

Even after we allow the Star Trek crew to believe what they want about time travel and act on those beliefs, on screen special effects are brought to bear on making actual events themselves inexplicable, most notably in this case by beaming two 1960's people into past versions of themselves. I really don't know how anyone is supposed to believe that is anything other than ridiculous. Two versions of the same person forced to occupy the same time and space - how does that not result in both being killed? Hmmm. Well, we are clearly shown one of them at least surviving well after the incident.... which leaves us to believe that the other one was simply vaporized. A pretty brainless cop-out for fixing this part of the story's challenges, and it's done twice, for two characters. Kirk and company have actually abandoned the universe in which they "messed up" history and abducted these two, and that history will continue with someone else's son piloting the first Saturn probe and who knows what other differences as well. Then upon whipping back in time, Kirk and company have begun to follow/create/choose a new history in a parallel/branching universe into which they tried to dump their two extra passengers - except that that universe, that version of history, already had its own versions of those two passengers at that time. After the beaming-merger, is the resultant Captain Christopher the one who was just sitting in his airplane following the "U.F.O.", or is he the one who spent half a day on the Enterprise learning about the future? Why does this universe have an Enterprise in the atmosphere for Christopher to see before the beaming, but not after? Have we slid to yet a third alternate universe in the meantime? Wow, what incredibly neat smudges that Magic Eraser of Time can make once a really skilled magician starts rubbing things out, and faking her way through time theory. Good thing Mr. Spock's countdowns are so precise. The episode is also really playing it fast and loose with Einstein's theories as well, going backwards in time on approach to the sun, but fast forward in time while moving away from the sun.... I really don't know how they thought that made any sense at all.


Perhaps the episode's saving graces are the few moments of humour that sneak into the production. In fact, if one were to remove all of the offending time-travel plot elements from this adventure, there probably wouldn't be anything left other than the problem Kirk is having with the computer's new personality. Not bad, but Star Trek has done humour better elsewhere.

The episode is also notable for introducing Transporter Chief Kyle to the series, played by actor John Winston. An enjoyable character whose recurrence is probably only noticed by die hard fans, particularly as he doesn't acquire his name for several more episodes. The first half of the story seems a bit weird in having so many scenes in the transporter room, with apparently no one at the controls and only the Captain on hand to greet their first guest. Perhaps this is what prompted Fontana to create Chief Kyle in the first place, as the transporter room scenes in the second half work much more naturally with his added presence. Nice one.

Musically, one will find this episode helping to make cues composed for other episodes more famous, in particular some of the more humorous links and stings, although it can also be noted for airing a nearly clean version of an original Fred Steiner cue from "Mudd's Women" as Kirk and Sulu roam around the Air Force base making as little on-set noise as possible. I always wanted to call this cue "Alien Ground", in an attempt to encapsulate the general mood it brought to all its appearances in the original series, but a rerecording of it has since been released where it is titled: "The Venus Drug". Far more specific to its original story, and not as exciting I think.

And when all is said and done, I remember what Gene Roddenberry asked Michael Piller, when Piller proposed an episode that had Q leading everyone on a fun romp through the universe. What is this story really all about? To me, it's just a terrible mess, somewhat succeeding on the "fun" bit, but not enough to forgive its limited thought on the concepts it tackled.


"Tomorrow Is Yesterday" does not typically rank too highly when compared with other Star Trek episodes, and might only be considered a weird oddity in the canon with little impact on its own, which would probably be a good thing ....IF only the basic time-travel premise played with here could rest in peace. Unfortunately, several episodes later came an adventure with far, far more popularity that cemented most of it in place....



"The City On the Edge of Forever"

(Star Trek Episode #28 in production order)
written by Harlan Ellison
directed by Joseph Pevney

Star Trek's producers believed they had achieved a minor coup by getting already decorated science fiction writer Harlan Ellison to craft a script for them. Ellison later complained about how his original screenplay had become so altered before it rolled before the cameras - reportedly producer Gene Coon, story editor D.C. Fontana, and executive producer Gene Roddenberry all had their hands in the rewriting efforts. Whether the alterations were for better or worse is hard to say.

What is clear is that Starfleet personnel in this story can lay little claim to all those great and noble values that Trekkers are fond of citing as one of their biggest reasons for loving the show and putting it on a pedestal. Upholding their values proves to be of secondary importance whenever the history written in Starfleet's history books and recorded in their computer databases is threatened - which appears exceedingly silly to anyone who has accepted the fact that all histories exist simultaneously in parallel universes. However, Ellison built on his backwards premise so skilfully as a writer, delivering excitement, humour, drama, and provoking such substantial thought, that the episode remains revered even today. Trekkers who are truly value-conscientious might want to think again before voting this story into their top ten all-time original series favourites, much less their top two as has happened in the past. Read on to find out just how this story got it wrong....


Reportedly, Ellison's original screenplay had two drug-addicted crewmen initially getting the Enterprise into trouble to start the story off. If Roddenberry and company hadn't nixed that, the story might rate even lower on the Starfleet values scale. But I say that without having seen how the original portrayals were intended, and a prior episode
"Mudd's Women" (story no. 4 in production order) had certainly established that such a practice was sadly not unheard of in Federation society.

And so the filmed version kicks off with an exciting bit of action as the Enterprise explores a region of temporal disturbance. The pace is kept up while a number of ideas are explored and several important things happen. Dr. McCoy is quickly reduced to a random element which the plot desperately needs to help artificially set-up the hypothetical trick-question in the ending, and the Star Trek team make this cliché work for them, the actors pulling all the right faces to keep us laughing with them and on our toes as to how the situation will unfold.

Refreshingly, time travel is not achieved through speed and high-gravitational sling-shot manoeuvres. Instead, we have a mysterious portal developed by a lost civilization. Its properties and true purpose remain unknown, thankfully. At last a bit of space for the audience's imagination to fill in the blanks, which new generations will do with greater and greater sophistication as time marches on.

But the story endeavours to bring true sophistication to a halt in other ways. The Enterprise crew's first idea of what to do with the portal seems to be a gross misunderstanding of what it can do. Instead of seeing a door that can lead a person unnaturally from one position in the time/space/choice continuum to another, they begin to think of it as a "rewind-machine" that can undo their experiences so they can "make a different choice" and spare McCoy his madness. Sorry, chaps, you're stuck with playing out what you've already chosen. Anyway, the rewind idea is nothing more than wishful thinking, by people who are allowed to be wrong. Too bad it crops up so often in Star Trek.

One of the more striking things about this story is that it represents Uhura's first inclusion on a landing party in the show. In one respect, it's refreshing to see her character get more opportunity like this, but at the same time, it's a bit baffling to figure out why it is happening now when indeed it never happened before. The story hasn't really come up with a significant reason for it. Nonetheless, it's kind of cool.


The plot's first true temporal gaffe occurs when McCoy's jump through the portal into the past results in the impossibly ridiculous situation of six Starfleet crewmembers stranded on a planet while the ship that brought them there has never existed. In order to buy into this situation, you have to believe the words of the "Guardian" portal itself, though it is corroborated only by the crew's inability to contact the ship via communicators. All kinds of other phenomena could be causing all this, not least of which could be the Guardian interfering to create evidence to support its own tall tale. Captain Kirk takes a longing look into the empty sky, which is good for the mood being created at this point, but which proves little conclusively - a ship in orbit can easily be missed by the human eye, particularly if it's currently above the other side of the planet at the moment.

Now, of course, we don't buy into the idea of a single time-line getting changed like a piece of magnetic tape getting recorded over, but for the moment, let's pretend we do and follow through with the line of logic started here. McCoy has managed to change history to such an extent that Starfleet is no longer what we remember, and the Enterprise doesn't come to the planet with the Guardian. If that's the case, then Kirk and his landing party don't chase McCoy down to the surface either, so they should no longer be standing there as lonely as a dead moon. And if McCoy never gets to the surface, he can't step through the portal to change history anyway - so basically his influence in the past will ultimately erase his ability to influence the past, and history changes back again. This brings the Enterprise back to the planet and chucks McCoy back through the portal again. The narrative is basically stuck at this point, flipping McCoy in and out of existence. Yes, of course it's ridiculous. Time to change our view of how the cosmos works....

McCoy must spring from a different time-line to the one he has affected in order to continue to exist, and for the other time-line to continue to exist and motivate a story. So let's now allow multiple timelines to exist in parallel universes separated by the choices that living creatures make all the time, and see if that's an improvement. With McCoy's unknown choice now branching him off onto another timeline parallel to this one, his "home" time-line can now remain unchanged, leaving Kirk's party on the planet to speculate on what happened. Better. But now, the Enterprise is also still in orbit above Kirk's party on the planet. Once again, the story is nullified. At least this time, there is no inexplicable magic altering the entire universe. So what else might be going on?

At best, it can be surmised that the crew's proximity to the portal has somehow allowed them to "slide" into the future of a Starfleet-less parallel timeline defined by some choices McCoy made in the past he jumped into, whereas the Enterprise itself did not slide along with them. The history that these six crewmembers remember still exists perfectly safe and sound, but they are still presented with the problem of getting back to it. And the Guardian is a bit of a dunderhead, unable to give any helpful hints to any of this.

Good Sense Unravelled

So inevitably, Kirk and Spock jump through into the 1930's, determined, so they believe, to "change history back". Their first five minutes in this new environment are a horrid display of all the good values they will sacrifice just to get themselves and five friends back home: they seek secrecy, hide their faces in embarrassment of who they are, they steal, they lie, they commit assault. All for the mistaken belief that the whole universe will disappear and go to hell if they don't. I shudder to think the world may yet be full of people who believe them and root for them at this point. The production team try to keep this part humorous, with some success, but there is better humour elsewhere in Star Trek for sure.

Hmmm, well I have to say, the concept of a story with our leads spending most of their time in 1930's New York doesn't really provide this sci-fi action-adventure fan with a great draw towards the story in general. I can't say that anticipation for this story to be good is all that strong. A lot of the potentially entertaining moments pop up by surprise instead. I suppose if you really love this one, you might be giddy while awaiting your favourite moments. For those of us who don't care for it, it can actually feel a bit dull as it slowly meanders through its pretzel of bad logic.

"Let Me Help"

The episode is not without a healthy smattering of good values coming to the fore, which is one of the main things holding our attention throughout the historical period bits, but note that it is non-futuristic, non-Starfleet guest character Edith Keeler (played by Joan Collins) who owns all of the actions that flow from such positive principles. Kirk and Co. can talk just as nicely, but then proceed to act with only their own misguided time-altering interests at heart time and again, and we all know what they do with Edith at the end.

Now Edith herself is not perfect either. She believes a lot of great humanitarianism is going to emerge simply by having a lot of people become astronauts. Bizarre, but this does reflect a common 1960's perception that has since melted away.

Anyway, no one else in the story is truly critical of Edith's character or motivations. She is treated as a flawlessly positive person. Then, to top it all off, Kirk adds his thinly-motivated emotional attachment onto that. His bland delivery of "I'm in love with Edith Keeler", only serves to make one roll one's eyes and think, "Oh dear God, not again." Oh well. Sixties Star Trek seems to have Kirk falling in love with the lead guest star in every second episode, so I guess we'll just have to put up with it - at least it wasn't quite as prevalent in these earlier episodes as it later became, so it becomes a little more excusable.

It isn't long before a choice concerning Edith is identified as the point at which Kirk's home universe took a turn different to the one that McCoy created. Much effort now goes into creating plausible repercussions of that decision so that it can affect Starfleet some 300 odd years later in a manner that is OPPOSITE to what one should normally expect, opposite to the flavour of what should flow naturally. Yes, the writers want the trick question, for all the pseudo-cleverness and gut-wrenching drama it can give them. And Leonard Nimoy's calm, authoritative delivery can make even the silliest of ideas seem logical, so it gets put to work here.

At best, it can be argued that Edith would tip the balance between compassion and courage in the wrong direction at the wrong time. The biggest naïvety inherent in this theory is that the world should be as black and white, and susceptible to the outcome of World War II, as American propaganda made it out to be. Was America's already late entrance to the war critical to the defeat of Germany? Seems to me they had a bigger role to play in the defeat of Japan, while England and Europe and Russia dealt with Germany. Would Edith's Peace Rally have had effect on the American government, when international financial interests were pulling the strings on all governments involved in WWII? If that were possible, those interests would probably have been responsible for bumping Edith off, and Kirk wouldn't have to. (Then again, who WAS driving that truck?...) Anyway, follow that line of logic, and Edith never makes the impact that creates a Starfleet-less future, as the assassins come back for her and McCoy.... And a likely outcome, no matter what Edith does, is that the financiers pull the plug on Germany's war machine when it gets too close.

Most of all, who is to say she can't affect German society just as effectively as she does America? Who is to say that her astronaut ideas don't mix enough courage in with her compassion to allow her to present mature, well-rounded ideas? And 20-20 hindsight, with regard to Star Trek's future history, suggests that the Eugenics Wars pretty much wipe the political slate clean by the time Zephram Cochrane initiates first contact, setting the formation of the Federation and Starfleet in motion.


When all is said and done, what this adventure presents are Starfleet characters who believe they can find their civilization of high values by acting contrary to those values. A dumber pretzel of metaphysical logic has never been baked, or consumed so heartily by a genre's fans. This seems a good place to repeat the quote appearing at the top of this and many other pages at Lyratek.com, from one of the world's most conscientious value-seekers:

"Be the change you want to see in the world."
~ Mahatma Gandhi, 20th century Indian spiritual & political leader

In addition to the initial spree of secrecy, self-embarrassment, theft, lies, and assault, McCoy continues the trail of pure negativity that Starfleet characters leave in the 1930's, screaming like a madman and disturbing the peace, and later on providing unsuspecting locals with a means of disintegrating themselves. Starfleet's influence does not look at all good in this one. No wonder they all become afraid of their natural impact. A bad value to promote, fear of one's own honest self.

The episode also glosses over what could easily be a huge technical problem. It's easy to see how a character can make a decision to enter the past - just walk through the portal as the Guardian shows the past. But considering the way you land in the past as if coming out of nowhere, how do you get back? Is there an invisible open time-hole in that spot, capable of taking you back the minute you decide to step on back through? The episode ignores that question a little too easily.

By far "The City on the Edge of Forever" also has the most unnoticeable original score of Star Trek's first season, to the extent that it took a lot of convincing before I could acknowledge that it even had its own original music. Fred Steiner didn't even get an on-screen credit for this one, instead the original credits default to Alexander Courage like on all the other tracked-only episodes of the first season. Listening to Steiner's fresh score for this story on CD, the first track immediately evokes an instant recognition of the American 1930's period - only problem there is that this piece wasn't used in the episode. Instead, Wilbur Hatch's "Humoresque" library cue gets a bit of a showcase in its place and in a few other places in this episode, but still doesn't feel unique because it appears in other episodes as well.

music by Fred Steiner,
Wilber Hatch, and co.

Steiner's compositional efforts for the rest of his score don't really attain their usual heights though, primarily because someone thought it would be a great idea to borrow an actual 1930's song for its main theme. Seems okay in theory, but the song they chose "Goodnight, Sweetheart", once it has its somewhat applicable lyrics stripped away for an instrumental orchestral treatment, boils down to a nearly a one-note melody with no important emotional chord changes behind it. Three additional composers to pay, and this is all they had to show for their efforts? Edith's "theme" turns out to be a non-theme, unable to get emotionally anchored to the drama. Steiner still uses some good tricks to make sure it never feels out of place, and that it always works, which is great. But when sitting side by side with all the rest of exciting music from other episodes that gets tracked in rather heavily, Edith's "theme" is suitably buried by much more interesting, exciting material. In this case, I really don't feel it was worth it to pay extra royalties for this song; surely Steiner could have come up with something much better on his own.

And then, after the climactic moments, all is back to normal in the Star Trek future. Our heroes have left a trail of ugly deeds across the 1930's, and feel disgusted with themselves. As we all should with this episode.

Personally, I never would have trusted the Guardian. Its understanding of time is suspect, and its true purpose and motivation is unknown. I think it played Kirk and Spock like a song for some nefarious reason, if not ignorance, and they failed to rise above it. But the Guardian is just a Wizard-of-Oz puppet, with Ellison and Roddenberry and crew being the men behind the curtain. They wanted a clever, dramatic hour of TV, and their ignorance of time is in evidence.

Sorry, but I think a sound metaphysical examination reveals this episode to be a bit of a stinker, and Star Trek has many finer episodes worthy of greater praise and more extensive study.


This story's very entertaining and engaging scenes managed to give it such a compelling sense of drama, and its interesting ideas provoke such profound after-thought, that it does on the surface do everything that good art should, and this has earned the tale a long line of imitators in its wake. However, a piece that puts misguided time theory and trick questions that revel in their own cleverness ahead of the good solid values that every noble Trekker wants to lay claim to, does not deserve the high regard that is usually afforded to this tale. Let's hope that the line of imitators dwindles while artists get on with more sensible works.....

Unfortunately Star Trek itself got mired in the time-travel format used here, and began churning out one story after another that failed to look at time any differently. This is their legacy, teetering on the "Edge of Forever".

Every once in a while, Star Trek does manage to produce a time travel story that doesn't screw up, although whether or not Starfleet personnel can adequately explain what's going on often becomes a separate matter. We will find these stories and point them out in later chapters of Star Trek Time Travel reviews.....


Read the next Star Trek review article: Prime Directive Origins
which, amongst other things, covers episode #22: "Return of the Archons"....



"The Naked Time", "The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2", "Tomorrow is Yesterday", and
"The City on the Edge of Forever" are available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Star Trek Season One "Purist" Standard DVD Box Set:

Watch the legend develop from its infancy. Set contains 29 episodes from the first season in their original wacky broadcast order, including "The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2" which used footage from the original unaired pilot "The Cage". However, "The Cage" itself is only included with the Season Three Box Set.

As someone interested in researching how the episodes actually looked and sounded originally, and when and exactly how certain musical cues first debuted, this was the DVD set for me, and it remains the most untampered-with full-season collection of Star Trek out there. Unique extras include pure text commentaries on select episodes. Sadly, these sets are starting to become rare, and prices are now rising as these become collectors' items....

DVD U.S.

DVD Canada

DVD U.K.

Standard DVD Extras include:

  • original restored broadcast versions of the 29 episodes.
  • "The Birth of a Timeless Legacy" documentary (24 min.)
  • Text only commentary by Denise & Michael Okuda on "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2", and "The Conscience of the King".
  • "To Boldly Go" featurette (19 min.) discussing
    "The Naked Time", "City on the Edge of Forever",
    "The Devil in the Dark", and "The Squire of Gothos".
  • "Reflections on Spock" featurette (12 min.)
  • "Sci-Fi Visionaries" writing featurette (17 min.)
  • "Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner" featurette (10 min.)
  • "Red Shirt Logs" Easter Eggs (7 min. total)
  • Photo Log (still menus)
  • Original Trailers for every episode (1 min. each)

Standard DVD Remastered with CGI:
DVD/HD Combo R1
DVD/HD Combo R1
DVD/HD Combo R2
Standard DVD only R2

The Original Series Remastered Sets

The re-mastered Star Trek sets are more readily available, and in addition to picture and sound quality restoration, liberties have been taken with "upgrading" the episodes. Most famously, new CGI effects and optical shots have replaced many space scenes, matte paintings, and phaser effects. Unlike similar upgrades applied to select Doctor Who DVD releases since 2002, the CGI effects cannot be turned off to see the original effects. The kicker for me comes from reports that the episodes have been rescored with new music. Interesting, funky, but since it's primarily the original music I'm after in the first place, this was not the set for me.

Another curiosity: Season One was released on double-sided discs, with standard DVD on one side and HD on the other. Reportedly, not all extras are accessible on the standard DVD side. However, by the time the remastered versions of seasons two and three were released, HD had clearly lost the standards war to Blu-Ray, and so seasons two and three "remastered" offer standard DVD only yet again.

Adding to the bizarre formatting is the very gimmicky, awkward packaging that is prone to damage both during shipping and with light usage. The season 1 set fares better than its counterparts for seasons 2 or 3 though, in having some interesting bonus features not found on any other season one Star Trek set:

DVD/HD Combo Season 1 Exclusive extras:

  • Starfleet Access interactive trivia plus picture-in-picture interviews for "The Galileo Seven" (HD version only).
  • "Beyond the Final Frontier" History Channel documentary (SD, 90 min.) with host Leonard Nimoy.
  • Trekker Connections interactive DVD game (SD side)
  • Star Trek online game preview (SD, 3 min.)

Season One - Blu Ray

  29 episodes @ 51 minutes
Star Trek sets are now available on Blu Ray. Picture and sound quality restoration has gone up yet another notch since the remastered version, as have the liberties taken with "upgrading" the episodes. Once again, even newer CGI effects and optical shots have replaced many space scenes, matte paintings, and phaser effects.... but this time the upgrades have the same respect and user-functionality applied to select Doctor Who DVD releases since 2002, as the CGI effects can now be turned off to see the original effects. Good show. It seems that the music has still been tampered with too much for my liking though.


Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

Blu-ray features add:

  • option to watch episodes with original or new CGI effects.
  • Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century featurette (HD, 20 min.) covering the restoration, CGI effects, and music upgrades.
  • Starfleet Access - Okuda interactive trivia plus picture-in-picture interviews on 6 episodes:
    • Where No Man Has Gone Before
    • The Menagerie Part 1
    • The Menagerie Part 2
    • Balance of Terror
    • Space Seed
    • Errand of Mercy
  • Behind-the-scenes 8mm home movies (HD, 13 min.) from Billy Blackburn (Lt. Hadley / Gorn)
  • Kiss 'N tell: Romance in the 23rd Century (8 min.)
  • Interactive Enterprise Inspection (HD)
  • plus all documentaries, featurettes, and episode promos from the "purist" standard DVD set listed far above.


Article written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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If you liked this article you may also enjoy reviews of the following sci-fi time-travel / parallel history conundrums:

Doctor Who #6: "The Aztecs"
Doctor Who #54: "Inferno"
Doctor Who #78: "Genesis of the Daleks"

Doctor Who #105: "City of Death"
Doctor Who #167: "Father's Day"
Doctor Who #176: "Rise of the Cybermen"


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Read the next Star Trek review article: Prime Directive Origins
which, amongst other things, covers episode #22: "Return of the Archons"....



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