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Star Trek: The Original Series
Produced for Home Viewing
Color. 1966. Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Corbomite Maneuver, Mudd's Women, The Naked Time, Charlie X, The Enemy Within, The Man Trap, What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Dagger of the Mind, Miri. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly; dir. various. 50 min. ea. Beta, VHS. $14.95 ea. Paramount.
Its creator Gene Roddenberry called it a "Wagon Train to the stars," but that earlier series has been forgotten while Star Trek cruises on, rerunning and rerunnirig around the country. Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Uhura, and the other denizens of the huge 23rd-century stars hip Enterprise-along with phrases like "Beam me up Scotty," "He's dead Jim, " and "To boldly go where no man has gone before"-are more familiar to some people than their own families. Why? Though you can look for the answer in books, at conventions, even in Ph. D. dissertations, the show itself is still the best place to look-and Paramount's release of all 79 episodes on videotape will sure help.
The first 10 episodes-beginning with the series' second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and running through "Miri"-show what all the fuss has been about. A typical episode presents the heroic Captain Kirk (William Shatner) with a seemingly insoluble dilemma, such as a plague affecting the1crewmembers ("The Naked Time") or a menacing alien capable of destroying the ship ("The Corbo mite Maneuver"). The solution usually reaffirms what it means to be human, and entails the assistance of Science Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Chief Medical Officer McCoy (DeForest Kelly). They are two sides of the human coin-one is logic, the other emotion-and Kirk's wit and decisiveness balance them out.
Humanity is what the series is about, for all its sci-fi trappings. The best episodes deal with human issues from growing up ("Charlie X") and sexism ("Mudd's Women") to penal systems ("Dagger of the Mind") and computers ("What Are Little Girls Made Of?"). In "The Naked Time" the crewmembers are affected by a virus that forces them to reveal their innermost selves: their fears, hopes, and dreams. In "The Enemy Within" Kirk is divided into two parts of the same man: one savage, the other compassionate. In "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" a brilliant scientist transplants his mind into an android body but finds that his soul is missing. He can think, but he is not human. To be so, says Star Trek, is to feel. To make mistakes. To be emotional. To care.
The best Star Trek is the stuff of opera: stylized morality plays with characters painted in broad strokes that allow the viewer to empathize. As David Gerrold, a former Star Trek writer, put it in The World of Star Trek: "We want to be as brave as our Captain Kirks, as cool as our Mr. Spocks, and as outspoken as our Dr. McCoys. We long to be as colorful and as larger-than-life as they are."
For the uninitiated (if. there is such a thing), the best of the first 10 are "Charlie X," a witty yet disturbing episode with Robert (Strangers on a Train) Walker's lookalike son as a human with strange powers, learning what it means to live in society; "The Naked Time," which spotlights all the leads in moments that would eventually become familiar as shtick (was this the first time Scotty warned that· "the engines can't take much more of this, " or that Spock cried?); and "Where No Man Has Gone Before," with Gary (2001) Lockwood and Sally (M*A *S*H) Kellerman as two crewmen transformed by an alien energy field. Shades of 200 l! Yet Kirk's message is melodramatically telling: "Do you like what you see? Absolute power corrupting absolutely?" The best episodes have calculated histrionics and well-staged action. They are notable for the wildly varying performances of Shatner, who can be both terribly good and terribly bad-all in the same episode (see especially "The Enemy Within").
In the end, what do you say about Star Trek? That it has a message? That it has good character types? That it has concepts? And that it now has the welcome familiarity of an old friend? Yes, and you can even say it's fun.
The transfer is excellent, the majority of the episodes exhibiting crisp color and sharp sound. The earlier shows have faded a little, but not too noticeably. That the shows are uncut is a delight.
VIDEO Magazine, 1984