Thursday, September 9, 2010

Many Reasons Why So Many People Aren't Afraid To Love Star Trek: Star Trek The Complete First Season

The Good: Morals, Interesting Science Fiction Stories, Acting, Characters
The Bad: Moments of Over The Top Acting, Stifling Price
The Basics: The complete first season of the adventures of the Starship Enterprise creates a universe full of potential and a history for the Star Trek universe.

Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek and Star Trek The Next Generation had a vision. He envisioned a future where human beings were enlightened, bold and integrated. His full vision of humans as Philosopher Kings was not fully realized until he produced Star Trek The Next Generation, but he got an auspicious start with Star Trek in the late 1960s.

The first season Star Trek DVD set chronicles the now-legendary adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and the starship Enterprise. Possibly the best-known science fiction icons of our generation, the USS Enterprise explored the distant stars with a multiethnic crew and the mysterious Vulcan Mr. Spock along as science and first officer. In this season, the crew confronts salt-draining monsters, evil dopplegangers, playful omnipotent beings, cunning Romulans, vicious Klingons, a creature made entirely of silicon (rock) and parasites acting in concert to make a human colony go insane.

There are very few drawbacks to Star Trek, as evidenced by this first season boxed set. With all twenty-nine episodes aired during the first season, Roddenberry uses Captain Kirk and Spock to embody the exploratory instinct in the human animal. The only real problem is that there are moments where William Shatner's deliveries as Captain Kirk border on melodrama and that Roddenberry didn't push the envelope further. While Roddenberry created a vision where whites, blacks, asians and aliens can work together in peace and harmony, only the white and alien characters have a real part. While George Takei and Nichelle Nichols portray Lieutenants Sulu and Uhura, respectively, with grace and character, they are given very little to do. Indeed, they are not even credited in the opening credits. In the first season, only William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and Leonard Nimoy (Spock) were credited.

The only other serious drawbacks have to do with the DVD themselves. The packaging is a discrete box that is wonderfully compact. Unfortunately, this box is held within a larger carrying case that undoes the space-saving benefits of the inner packaging. Second, for the eight-disc set, the average person will spend over $100. That's a lot to invest if you're not already a fan.

But if you're not already a fan, what is stopping you? Star Trek tells intriguing stories, many of which are allegorical, against a science fiction backdrop. Take "The Squire of Gothos," perhaps one of the worst episodes in the first season. The Enterprise finds itself plagues by a childlike alien who wields massive power and torments the crew. Captain Kirk attempts to reason with Trelane (the alien) and eventually resorts to fighting him. When Trelane's true nature is revealed, it becomes clear that he is merely a child and the comparative significance on the importance of parental guidance to raise productive members of society is enough to redeem some of the rest of the episode.

But the bulk of the episodes are decent and they transport the viewer to a future that is not made up of dazzling special effects, but rather populated by characters. It's easy to enjoy watching Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy because they are realistic individuals who embody what is best about the human spirit. They meet obstacles and deal with them, as often as possible, without violence. They remind us that there is so much for humanity to explore and that often sacrifices are necessary. One of the series' most acclaimed episodes "The City On the Edge of Forever," illustrates that for the greater good, sometimes a personal injustice must prevail.

And for those who love science fiction, the roots of Star Trek explore all sorts of science fiction concepts with a very original twist. In Star Trek, we see time travel ("The Naked Time," "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" and "The City on the Edge of Forever"), insane robots ("What Are Little Girls Made Of?") and telepathic aliens ("The Menagerie, Parts I and II"). This is core science fiction stuff dealt with with a realism and freshness that changed television and science fiction.

Because the show is not serialized, it is very easy for anyone to get into this show and the issues that are dealt with are still often applicable. Star Trek explores the consequences of disease ("Miri"), vengeance ("The Conscience of the King"), war ("Balance of Terror") and pacifism ("Errand of Mercy"), and responsibility ("The Galileo Seven") against a futuristic backdrop. All of the issues are relevant and brought forth organically in character conflicts and plot twists that are still entertaining today.

While most people know them, the crew of the USS Enterprise is comprised of:

Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) - A fearless leader who boldly explores space for the United Federation of Planets. While romantically involved with any woman that moves, Kirk's first love is the USS Enterprise and he is loyal to his crew and his mission,

Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) - The half-Vulcan scientist who helps Kirk run the ship and points out the foibles of humanity by (supposedly) being devoted entirely to logic,

Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) - The ship's physician and counselor to Captain Kirk, he balances Spock's logic with human emotion and empathic humanity,

Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) - "Scotty" is the chief engineer who keeps the ship together, despite his first reaction which is always that something cannot be done in the time needed,

Lieutenant Sulu (George Takei) - The chief helmsman of the Enterprise, he spends the first season bouncing from hobby to hobby, looking for his niche and guiding the ship through space,

Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) - The Chief Communications Officer, she clears the lines for Kirk to talk to other ships and aliens. She pretty much drew the short straw for things to do on the ship, though she has a lot to do in the episodes on the first disc,

Nurse Chapel (Majel Barret) - A recurring assistant to Dr. McCoy, she is in love with Spock and stays aboard the Enterprise when her long-lost fiance turns up and ends up gone,

Yeoman Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) - A recurring assistant to the captain in the first season who assists Kirk in his administrative duties and may have feelings for him, but disappears before anything of consequence happens between them.

Together, this team solves crimes and interstellar mysteries in a series that has endured because of its intriguing storylines and well-defined characters.

Knowing that the DVD box is completely unhelpful, I've reviewed the episodes contained in this boxed set as follows:
Where No Man Has Gone Before
The Corbomite Maneuver
Mudd's Women
The Enemy Within
The Man Trap
The Naked Time
Charlie X
Balance of Terror
What Are Little Girls Made Of?
Dagger of the Mind
The Conscience of the King
The Galileo Seven
The Menagerie
Shore Leave
The Squire of Gothos
The Alternative Factor
Tomorrow Is Yesterday
Return of the Archons
A Taste of Armageddon
Space Seed
This Side of Paradise
Devil In The Dark
Errand of Mercy
City On The Edge Of Forever
Operation: Annihilate


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© 2010, 2008, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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