- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

Star Trek: The Original Series: The Complete First Season, from Paramount Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, $129.99. Toward the end of the 20th century, the original “Star Trek” series was released on DVD. At roughly $19.99 per two-episode disc, it cost about $800 to acquire all of the original shows.

Now, enter the 21st century, and within a four-month period, the wise guys at Paramount are offering the original series on three eight-disc sets that will cost about half of the price (probably a third of the price on some bargain-basement shopping Web site) for the same technology.

Vulcan marketing managers would find the move “quite logical,” but it must be irritating a bunch of hard-core Trekkers.

For the average digital-video consumer, however, the chance to enjoy the classic, groundbreaking programming is still a treat. I can’t think of a better way to spend 24 hours of my life than with the crew of the Enterprise, who boldly took television where it had never gone before.

The first season of Gene Roddenberry’s brain-expanding child is hitting store shelves in a package resembling a large yellow tricorder. (The second season will be available in November, the third in December.)

The 29 episodes featured in the first set highlight plots from such famed science-fiction authors as Harlan Ellison (“The City on the Edge of Forever”) and D.C. Fontana (“This Side of Paradise”). They also offer the first chance to see a real live Romulan in “Balance of Terror” and the introduction of actor Ricardo Montalban’s superman Khan in “Space Seed.”

Even more annoying to the fanatics who previously purchased the DVDs will be that the new set brings little new to the old episodes. They still are the great-looking remastered versions from the earlier releases; a few new short retrospectives have been thrown in, and 5.1 surround sound has been added.

The smattering of extras seems to concentrate on the original series’ woeful budget and its inability to create believable special effects that had to be churned out weekly.

We learn from Leonard Nimoy in the 25-minute “Birth of a Timeless Legacy” that the studio was unhappy about spending an extra $600 when his Vulcan ears had to be outsourced to a makeup-effects company better suited to produce the prosthetics.

Viewers also learn from a quartet of optional text commentary tracks by the royalty of “Star Trek” minutiae, Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda, how sets and matte backgrounds were reused; the intricacies of how the original pilot, “The Cage,” was cleverly cut into a two-part episode (“The Menagerie”); and how planets could be reused with a little color tinting.

Although the extras are appreciated, even if William Shatner sounds as if someone hit him over the head with a histamine mallet, it seems not very “Star Trek” to fail to provide some type of marvelous DVD bonuses for the PC.

Come on, the show introduced the likes of ion propulsion, vocal assimilation software, network information retrieval, wireless audio communicators and medical scanners. It’s pretty ridiculous that DVD lovers should not be able to pop the disc into the computer and see script-to-show comparisons, multimedia chronologies, voice-activated menus or even coloring pages.

I’ll take a wee bit of that in exchange for Captain Kirk talking about his prized horse (see the featurette “William Shatner: Life Beyond Trek”) in any dimension.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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