1966-69 (December 13, 2016)
Roddenberry Entertainment/CBS (Paramount)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A
I can’t remember the first time I saw Star Trek. The Original Series episode Mirror, Mirror premiered on NBC the night before I was born, so it’s always been a potential presence of my life, but I’ve no idea who it was that first turned the TV to the right channel at the right time to give me my initial exposure. All I know for sure is that, by the time I entered first grade, I was a regular viewer of the show on Channel 56 in Boston (WKBG) each night at 7 PM. In nearly fifty years, I’ve seen every episode of this show at least that many times and my favorites probably twice that. I’ve owned all of the Star Trek Fotonovels and the James Blish episode novelizations. The interesting thing about the Blish novels is that they sometimes featured additional scenes or different endings than the actual episodes, as they were adapted from early draft scripts and shooting scripts. So there was always this idea in the ether that there could be deleted scenes from the show that were filmed but cut before broadcast. Still, decade after decade, nothing appeared, even when the home video market developed and then exploded, and the studios began combing their vaults for rarities. We’re now ten years into the Blu-ray format and nearly twenty into DVD. Surely, such outtake material would already have surfaced if it existed… right?
Well, it turns out that Rod Roddenberry, the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, recalled seeing stacks of film cans around the offices of his mother’s mail order company, Lincoln Enterprises, when he was a boy. After their deaths, he rediscovered this archive and realized that it contained all of the dailies and outtakes from the show. His parents had saved almost everything. In 2007, Rod approached Star Trek graphic artists turned historians Michael and Denise Okuda to begin the lengthy process (in secret) of sorting and cataloging this material. The result, at long last, is CBS’ new Star Trek: The Original Series – The Roddenberry Vault, a 3-disc Blu-ray set that collects and presents the very best of this rare material along with the episodes from which the footage was cut.
Disc One includes the TOS episodes The Corbomite Maneuver, Space Seed, Arena, and This Side of Paradise. Disc Two features The Devil in the Dark, The City on the Edge of Forever, Operation: Annihilate!, and Metamorphosis. Disc Three adds Who Mourns for Adonais?, Mirror, Mirror, The Trouble with Tribbles, and Return to Tomorrow. Each of these episodes is presented in the same fashion and A/V quality as you’ll find them on the previous Original Series Blu-ray releases (see here, here, and here), with the option to view either the original broadcast version or the newly-remastered version. The primary audio on these episodes is in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio format, with additional audio options in German, Spanish, and Italian (note that subtitles include English SDH, Danish, German, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish). However, each of these episodes has some new audio features too. All but The City on the Edge of Forever include isolated score tracks. Each now includes “newly restored original mono tracks,” reproducing the broadcast sound experience. And three of the episodes feature newly-recorded audio commentaries, including Gabrielle Stanton and D.C. Fontana on This Side of Paradise, Roger Lay, Jr, Scott Mantz, and Mark Altman on The City on the Edge of Forever, and David A. Goodman and David Gerrold on The Trouble with Tribbles.
But the real highlight of this set are a series of six new documentary featurettes, each about a half-hour in length and presented two per disc, that highlight the best of the rare and newly-discovered material. Produced by Roger Lay, Jr, the segments include:
- Inside the Roddenberry Vault: Part 1 (30:26)
- Star Trek: Revisiting a Classic (30:22)
- Inside the Roddenberry Vault: Part 2 (30:20)
- Strange New Worlds: Visualizing the Fantastic (27:16)
- Inside the Roddenberry Vault: Part 3 (30:06)
- Swept Up: Snippets From the Cutting Room Floor (21:24)
As with Lay’s featurettes on the previous Trek Blu-rays, these new pieces offer a Who’s Who of surviving TOS cast members and production talent, including actors, directors, VFX artists and more. Among the participants are William Shatner, George Takei, Walter Keonig, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Lockwood, Clint Howard, Elinor Donahue, Michael Forest, Leslie Parrish, Richard Edlund, Bill Nye, Adam Nimoy, Chris Doohan, Rod Roddenberry, other famous fans, and many, many other familiar faces. They each talk about their experience of making the show, and their comments serve as context for best of the rarities.
So what will you find? Essentially, the rare material is like a time capsule that offers a look behind the scenes at the making of the show and additional insights about specific episodes. Keep in mind, this is not finished or restored footage – it comes from dailies reels and the material shows its age. But there are great alternate outtakes and deleted moments of Ricardo Montalbán in character as Khan from Space Seed. There are a couple of deleted segments from The City on the Edge of Forever with Joan Collins. There’s alternate takes of William Windom’s breakdown, as Matt Decker, in the Doomsday Machine. There’s an amazing outtake (with unused dialogue) from Kirk’s “risk is our business” speech in Return to Tomorrow. You get to see Kirk’s young nephew, Peter (played by Craig Hundley), from Operation: Annihilate!. You get to see Nichelle Nichols’ complete performance of “Beyond Antares” from The Conscience of the King. There’s lots of unused VFX footage involving bluescreen model shots of the Enterprise, the Shuttlecraft Galileo, and the Botany Bay. There’s more too. I would guess the total amount of rare material seen in these six featurettes is about thirty minutes in all, twenty of it compiled in the final Swept Up piece. Trust me, it’s amazing stuff.
I’ll be honest: CBS and Paramount’s handling of the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek has been a disappointment for me, and I know I’m not the only fan to feel that way. Whether it’s the lack of properly remastered versions of the classic films on Blu-ray (other than the terrific Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – Director’s Cut reviewed here), the lack of a new show for the actual anniversary, the recent announcement that Bryan Fuller was stepping back as showrunner of next year’s Star Trek: Discovery, the news that the series will be relegated to CBS All Access, the Axanar debacle (whatever you might feel about it), the new and overly-stringent fan film rules… it’s just felt like the powers that be don’t share the same love for Star Trek that its many fans around the world do. So perhaps the best thing I can say about The Roddenberry Vault Blu-ray is this: After all of the disappointment… it’s reminded me of why I love Star Trek. It helps to end the golden anniversary of this franchise on a high note. Let me tell you, for this lifelong fan, that is no small thing. The Roddenberry Vault is essential viewing for Trekkers of all ages.
My thanks to Rod, Michael, Denise, Roger, David Gerrold, Mark Altman, Scott Mantz, and everyone involved in making this fine Blu-ray Disc release possible. It’s a treasure.
– Bill Hunt