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Reviewed by Will Harris
ew “Trek” movie hits theaters, Paramount pumps out a new “Trek” collection. New “Trek” movie hits DVD, Paramount pumps out another new “Trek” collection. You could complain about the pointlessness of it all, but what good would it do? Besides, even Spock himself would find their logic sound: given that ticket sales for J.J. Abrams’ film indicate that it was seen by those outside the established fanbase of the franchise, it stands to reason that at least some of those who have just had their virgin experience with Jim Kirk and his Captain’s log will be interested in delving further into the Enterprise’s adventures – and with that being the case, why not give them some new product to get excited about?
Of course, it’s not really new product, but for the sake of those casual fans who might decide to pick up “The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series, Volume Two” on a whim, we should probably go over its contents, anyway. The first volume of the set featured some solid selections, offering up a trio of all-time classics (“City on the Edge of Forever,” “The Trouble with Tribbles,” and “Amok Time”), alongside a token Romulan-themed episode (“Balance of Power”) to help get people prepared for the villain of the new film. This time around, the selections are slightly more scattershot, but you can kind of see what they were thinking when they made each selection.
First up, we have “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which seems like a rather perverse choice for inclusion at first given that it was Gene Roddenberry’s second attempt at a pilot for the series, looks nothing like any subsequent episode of the show, and is missing three of the seven primary characters from the film (Dr. McCoy, Lieutenant Uhura, and Ensign Chekov). In fact, the only possible reason for its inclusion – and this is reaching, I realize, but it’s the best I can come up with – is that it offers the only appearance of Commander Gary Mitchell, who has been established over the years as being Jim Kirk’s best friend. He didn’t turn up in the movie, but that’s not to say that he might not make an appearance in the sequel. Oh, and speaking of sequels, it stands to reason that “Space Seed” is included in this set, as it’s the episode that introduced the character of Khan to the “Star Trek” mythos. Ricardo Montalban doesn’t chew scenery quite as profoundly here as he did in “Star Trek II,” but his presence is sufficiently commanding that you can see why he was brought back to exercise his wrath.
Of the other two episodes, “Journey to Babel” is another all-time classic, giving us our first look at Spock’s parents, Ambassador Sarek and Lady Amanda, as portrayed by Mark Lenard and Jane Wyatt. If you didn’t think that Vulcans could have dysfunctional families, you’ll be set straight on the matter by the time the closing credits roll. But in addition to the strained Spock/Sarek relationship, there’s also a murder mystery afoot, and in the midst of a diplomatic summit, no less. As to the remaining episode, “A Piece of the Action,” it revolves around an absolutely preposterous conceit: a book about mobsters was left behind on a planet 100 years ago, resulting in everyone suddenly acting like they’re in the 1920s. So why is it so damned funny? Probably because it seems like they’re having fun. There’s William Shatner’s inconceivably hammy performance, wherein he comes off like he’s auditioning for “Guys and Dolls” and “Robin and the Seven Hoods” simultaneously, and Spock’s confusion and uncertainty about the goings-on earns Leonard Nimoy quite a few laughs as well, particularly when Kirk is forced to take the wheel of an automobile. (“Are you afraid of cars, Mr. Spock?” “Not at all, Captain. It’s your driving that alarms me.”) Heck, even Scotty tries to get into the act, though his credibility is severely damaged when he gets his 1920s expressions wrong and says, “You mind you place, mister, or you'll be wearing concrete galoshes.”
Is “The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series, Volume Two” going to be a must-own for anyone other than the casual fan? No chance. Heck, it’s not really a must-own for them, either. But it looks good, it sounds good, and all of the inclusions are at least entertaining. That’s really the best you can hope for with a disc like this.
Special Features: Sadly, the disc is utterly devoid of bonus material, presumably because the powers that be figured that anyone who’d only be interested in a single-disc “Trek” collection probably doesn’t care enough to watch any such special features, anyway. It’s a fair cop.