DVD
Star Trek
Time Travel Fan Collective

Starring: William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew
Paramount Home Entertainment
RRP: 34.99
PHE9037
Certificate: PG
Available 14 August 2006


So, its Trek's fortieth year and to be honest the celebrations have been somewhat muted. Enterprise is dead in the water and only the prospect of the new film keeps Trekkers hope alive. Paramount, in an effort to squeeze every last drop of money from the show, have released a number of new box sets. To be honest this is not such a bad idea as it first sounds. To have collected all of the shows would have cost well over a grand, which is no small amount. Hell, I remember paying over seventy quid for the first VHS copy of Encounter at Farpoint, when it first came out. So if like me you're not willing to pawn your first born to get you favourite show these themed boxes are a nice idea.

This box set covers some, but not all, of the stories which involved time travel. The shows cover the Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, strangely enough there is no show representing Enterprise, which is a shame.

The discs, themselves, have an impressive number of audio and subtitle options. The show can be watched in either the original English or ten other major European languages. This generosity extends to the subtitles as well; you could, if you so wished, watch the episodes in a German dub with Swedish subtitles.

A couple of the shows come with a text commentary from Michael and Denise Okuda who, as designers, had a great hand in producing the look of Star Trek from The Next Generation onwards - always informative and well worth a look. The text commentary appears on three of the episodes; Tomorrow is Yesterday, Yesterdays Enterprise and Little Green Men.

There is little point in going into large synopsis of each of the shows as the target audience would have seen them endlessly, so we'll have a quick zip through of the goodies on offer.

First up, from the original show, is Tomorrow is Yesterday, in which the Enterprise is thrown back to the nineteen-sixties and is mistaken for a UFO. To compound their troubles they take on board a number of unwilling passengers. The print of the show is not great, it looks like the transfer was from original film stock, meaning the print has a lot of artefacts in places, especially when the show is utilising stock footage or showing some of the special effects shots. That said, the shots of the stage interiors are a lot better. The show itself is a little gem providing a good arena for D.C. Fontana's strong sense of character. There are some really great moments of wry humour between McCoy and Spock and, as a story, can still hold its head high.

The second original series story is the contentious The City on the Edge of Forever. The print is okay, but I suspect not the enhanced version that is currently available. The original treatment was written by Harlen Ellison. However the elements of drug addiction was expunged and the whole thing toned down, much to Ellison's public annoyance. The story details the Enterprise's discovery of an ancient time portal through which a manic McCoy enters the past and eradicates history as Kirk knows it. This results in Kirk and Spock travelling back in time to stop McCoy with tragic consequences.

We move into The Next Generation with Yesterday's Enterprise, which not only turned out to be a good story but was also to be one of the pivotal moments in The Next Generation, which would have far flung consequences for the show's storyline. The Enterprise encounters a time rift from which emerges the Enterprise-C a ship from the past. Its emergence, however, has dramatically changed history and now the Federation is at war with the Klingons - a war it is loosing. The show has a text commentary and a pretty good print. Like all of the shows in the box set it is shown in its original aspect ratio with a 5.1 audio track.

Last episode on disc one is another Next Gen story, Cause and Effect in which the ship and crew are stuck in a time loop which destroys the ship and wipes their memories before the loop begins again. This is a very clever show, given that each time through the loop could become very repetitive if not dealt with well. It's a testament to the writing that this does not happen.

Disc two and the emphasis is still with Next Gen. Instead of four episodes we're reduced to three. Times Arrow (parts one and two) sees our intrepid heroes thrown back in time to meet with Mark Twain in an effort to stop extraterrestrials from stealing biological energy from Earth's past. It's not a bad story as such but does feel a little stretched as a two-parter. It may be a bit disingenuous to say that the disc only contains three episodes as the last one on the disc is All Good Things, the final episode of the next Gen and a feature length episode. This show was a fit finale for the show and contains travel into the past, the very beginning of Next Gen and the far flung future, as Picard tries to unravel a phenomenon which is moving backward in time destroying the whole of history. It's also the show which best showed Q's omnipotence making him seem a bit more than his usual portrayal as a flimflam man.

Disc three and we move onto Deep Space Nine with Little Green Men. Although the show is generally considered to be the darkest Trek show this episode showed DS9 at its comedic best. This episode also comes with a text commentary. Quark, ever the wheeler dealer has another scam in mind; unfortunately his plan goes horribly wrong, as things always do with Quark, stranding Rom, Nog and himself back in a contemporary Area 51. Well what's a Ferengi to do except search out possibilities for profit, even if it does mean destroying the odd timeline. Next up is every fan boys/girls dream, Trials and Tribble-ations where the full force of modern CGI technology was used to place the characters from DS9 into the original episode Trouble with Tribbles, even providing some nice new CGI shots of the original Enterprise. Let's face it the narrative reasons for the travel back in time is inconsequential compared to the joy of seeing the two crews together. For the last two episodes we move away from DS9 and into the world of Voyager and a bit of an oddity. There were indeed time travel stories in Voyager, however I'm pretty sure that it's stretching a point to say that Year of Hell (parts 1 and 2) is a time travel story as such.

Whilst continuing its journey back to the Alpha Quadrant, Voyager runs into the Krenim who are systematically trying to wipe out their opponents by eradicating them from history. Of course, Janeway gets into the thick of it at a great cost to her ship and crew. The show is good drama with an unexpected twist at the end. Although Voyager came in for a lot of critical kicking, shows like this showed just how good it could be once it got away from the first season.

So we're onto the last disc of the box set and with no Enterprise in sight, the set ends on just one story, the last in Voyager's run, Endgame. A future Janeway, having been scarred by the sacrifices that the crew made in order to get home, decides to travel back in time to show the crew a quicker was to get home, but will her contemporary self believe her or hinder her. As is right on a show that had some of the best Borg stories Voyager goes out on a humdinger of a Borg tale, with Alice Krige reprising her role as the Borg queen and Dwight Schultz returning as Barclay - one of the few characters which survived the cancellation of Next Gen.

If, like me, you didn't re-mortgage your house to buy the full season box sets, these smaller sets are a god send. The quality of the prints is generally good, only the Original Series seems to suffer. If you've never seen a Trek show, and I'd find that hard to believe, then these would be an excellent way of introducing yourself or another to the ever expanding worlds of Star Trek.

Charles Packer

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£26.24 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
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£26.89 (Thehut.com)

All prices correct at time of going to press.