As I related in my review of Volumes 31/32 of Star Trek: The Original Series, my initial forays into the show’s third season didn’t go well. Two of those four episodes were quite bad, while the other two were decent at best. I’d always heard that Season Three was the dregs of the series, and after my early experiences, I started to believe this.
Nonetheless, I tried to keep my mind open and my spirits high. After all, following those discs I still needed to watch 15 more Season Three episodes, so it seemed smartest to look for the positive. Will this be possible during the most recent batch of Season Three programs? Read on and discover the answer! (Please note that the DVDs present the shows in the order in which they were filmed; the broadcast number provided indicates where each episode falls within that line.)
Volume 33: “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” and “Day of the Dove”
“For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” (broadcast 63rd) wins the award for most long-winded - and possibly silliest - Trek title, but once you get past that pretentiousness, you’ll find a reasonably good episode. In this adventure, the crew of the Enterprise discovers that an asteroid is on a collision course with an inhabited planet. However, the space rock is more than it seems; actually, it’s a ship with its own residents. They don’t realize they’re on a vehicle, though; instead, they believe they live on the planet Yonada and they’ll soon get to a new home that doesn’t suck; I lived inside an artificial asteroid for a while, so believe me when I tell you it does suck!
In other news, at the very start of the show, Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) divulges that he suffers from an incurable and terminal disease. Nonetheless, he accompanies Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) as they beam down to the “planet’s” surface. There the natives immediately attack them, but they soon gain the trust of the Yonadan leader Natira (Kate Woodville), primarily because she takes an immediate shine to the dying doctor.
Unfortunately, the Oracle, a powerful pseudo-religious entity that punishes any heretical thoughts, controls the Yonadans. The show works on a dual path. McCoy comes to terms with his illness as he decides to marry Natira, while Kirk and Spock try to alter the destructive path of Yonada.
While the episode seemed like less than the sum of its parts, it still offered a fairly good piece, especially for one from the dog days of the third season. On the positive side, I enjoyed the opportunity to see McCoy spread his wings, so to speak. How odd is it that emotionless Spock encountered a number of romantic dalliances, but McCoy - the most passionate member of the crew - got so few chances? Granted, it seems more entertaining to watch Spock deal with his feelings, but it still feels strange, so I liked the focus on McCoy found here.
I also thought the premise of the asteroid that’s a ship that its inhabitants think is a planet appeared intriguing, as was the illness suffered by McCoy. Granted, we all know that a) he’s not going to end up with Natira, and b) he won’t die, but it remained interesting to see how the events unfolded.
At least it should have been compelling, but the results were somewhat underwhelming. While “Hollow” stayed generally interesting through most of the show, I felt it didn’t live up to its potential, mainly because the climax seemed anti-climactic. Events became resolved a little too quickly, easily and neatly; the entire conclusion seemed forced and rushed. “Hollow” still was a solid episode, but I think it could have been better.
Surprisingly, the liner notes for the DVD made a mistake in regard to “Hollow”. For one, they claim “Yonada is on a collision course with an asteroid”. Nope - Yonada is the asteroid. Also, the text states that this was the first episode to feature any romantic scenes for McCoy, and that’s not completely true. Sure, I think it’s the initial occasion upon which he got a little hoochie-smoochie, but Volume Three’s “The Man Trap” - the very first episode of Trek to hit the airwaves - displayed some indications of a past love. That counts for something, doesn’t it?
“Day of the Dove” (broadcast 62nd) brings back our old friends the Klingons, characters we hadn’t seen since Volume 23’s “A Private Little War”. Frankly, I was glad to see them - perhaps they’d help maintain the modest resurgence in quality found with “Hollow”.
Following detection of a distress signal, the crew of the Enterprise heads to rescue colonists who state they are under attack. However, they find no signs of inhabitants, and concerns arise when a Klingon ship approaches. This vessel has been badly damaged, though.
Klingon Commander Kang (Michael Ansara) and a small crew beam to the planet surface and capture the Starfleet personnel after a brief scuffle. Kang blames the Enterprise for the damage to his ship and the death of most of his group. Kirk, of course, thinks Kang’s off his rocker and is trying to cover up their obvious involvement in the murder of the planet’s inhabitants. Although captured, Kirk uses a trick to beam his own party aboard the Enterprise while the Klingons are subdued.
Weird things start to happen on the Enterprise. The ship mysteriously speeds to warp nine and locks most of the vehicle’s crew below deck. All of their advanced weapons are transformed into swords and other primitive implements. Chekov accuses the Klingons of killing a non-existent brother and screams for revenge, while other crewmembers act in similarly irrational and bloodthirsty ways.
Eventually Spock figures that there’s a hidden being on board, and that entity is behind all of the shenanigans. This critter feeds off of hatred and negative emotions, so Kirk and the others need to convince the Klingons of this and get them to refuse to give the creature what it wants.
Many episodes of Trek feature omniscient beings who toy with Kirk and the others for their own amusement, and “Dove” doesn’t stray far from that formula. We know that despite the strength of their powers, the Starfleet personnel will find a way to outsmart them; the question simply remains “how”. “Dove” offers a nice twist on that theme, mainly due to the presence of the Klingons. They always add extra spice to the proceedings, and the characters of Kang and his wife Mara (Susan Howard) were deeper than usual.
“Day of the Dove” doesn’t reinvent the Trek wheel, and I didn’t like the fact that the viewer was always one or two steps ahead of the crew. Still, it offered a fairly sharp and engaging experience, and it seemed like one of the more compelling episodes of Season Three.
Picture/Sound/Extras: Volume 34 B-/B/D-
Volume 34: “Plato’s Stepchildren” and “Wink of an Eye”
The producers of Trek must have gotten a good price on omniscient beings, for we find more of them in “Plato’s Stepchildren” (broadcast 65th). For this episode, the crew of the Enterprise head to a mysterious planet due to a medical emergency. Once there they discover the Platonians, a people who based their society on the teachings of Greek philosophers like (duh) Plato. We soon learn that the Platonians have developed extremely strong psychokinetic powers that require almost no physical movement; they use their minds to do all the work.
We also discover that they’re pretty sadistic. They get their kicks through the nasty manipulation of a dwarf named Alexander (Michael Dunn); though a native of the planet, he never developed the same skills. Due to their lack of physical movement, the Platonians can be injured easily, and a small scratch has endangered the life of leader Parmen (Liam Sullivan). He decides to keep McCoy around in case other incidents like this occur, but he’s understandably reluctant to remain.
The Platonians don’t take “no” for an answer easily, so they take out their anger on McCoy’s shipmates. Parmen puts Kirk, Spock and others through humiliating and painful exercises until Spock and McCoy can discover the cause for the Platonians’ powers. After that, they’re able to replicate the abilities in themselves, which allows them to put the Platonians in their place.
As noted, this was another example of the omniscient being series of Trek episodes, and a pretty average one at that. I think these shows hammered home their points too strongly. They all feature rather fascistic characters who harm and humiliate others for their own enjoyment, and it’s inevitable that their arrogance will provide their downfall.
Actually, the conclusion of “Stepchildren” was unusual for this Trek genre. Almost always, Kirk or the others defeat the much-more-powerful beings through ingenuity, but that wasn’t really the case here. Granted, they figured out what caused the psychokinetic powers, but after that, Kirk won simply because he was able to use his skills to top those of Parmen. No real Achilles heel was involved; it was might over might.
Overall, the episode felt like an amalgamation of the other shows in this vein. It didn’t bring much new to the table. Yes, we know that absolute power turns one into a bastard; no new insight took place, and the only novelty stemmed from the unusual conclusion.
Truthfully, one other new thing occurred: we saw what was allegedly TV’s first interracial kiss. At one point Parmen forces Uhura and Kirk to smooch. While this seems to be a progressive move on the part of Trek, the presentation left something to be desired. Since Uhura and Kirk had no choice in the matter, this made the interaction almost retrogressive, for it depicted the kiss as a negative. Granted, Nurse Chapel and Spock also smooched, and their lip-lock was shown in an equally harsh light; it’s clear that the show wanted to highlight the dehumanizing aspect of the forced behavior. Still, it would’ve been nice for such a seminal moment to take place during a more positive scene.
In “Wink of an Eye” (broadcast 66th), we find - would you believe it? - still more omniscient beings who toy with the crewmembers of the Enterprise for their own amusement/profit. Nonetheless, despite the lack of inspiration behind the conceit, “Wink” offered a reasonably entertaining episode that succeeded where “Stepchildren” faltered.
At the start of the show, the Enterprise receives a distress signal from the planet Scalos. Five Scalosians report that they’re all that’s left of a civilization that once numbered almost a million, and they beg for assistance. However, when some ship personnel beam to the planet surface, they find no one, but some funky things occur, such as the weird disappearance of crewmember Compton (Geoffrey Binney) and an annoying, insect-like buzzing noise.
Once back on the Enterprise, oddities continue to take place, as malfunctions befall the ship for no apparent reason, and a mysterious device pops up out of nowhere. Before long, Kirk disappears, and we discover the cause behind these issues. The Scalosians have extremely accelerated metabolisms and can move much faster than normal humans can detect - there’s your “wink of an eye”! It turns out that sexy Deela (Kathie Browne) snagged Kirk. Apparently the developments that led the Scalosians to lead such fast lives also left their males impotent, so Deela has chosen Kirk for her new boy-toy.
Though Deela’s quite a babe - highlighted by one of the sexiest outfits yet worn by a Trek female alien - and Kirk indeed has some fun with her, it remains his intention to bring things back to normal. The rest of the episode depicts Kirk’s attempts to do so.
And it shows these actions in a satisfying manner. As noted, one of my problems with “Stepchildren” was that our heroes solved their problem in a somewhat bullying manner and it lacked the fun ingenuity we expect from Kirk. Happily, that wasn’t the case with “Wink”, during which Kirk and Spock both have to outwit the aliens, and they do so in a compelling manner. It’s not one of the series’ best, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
One thing I’ve noticed as Season Three has progressed: Shatner’s acting really took a dive that year. No, he was never Olivier, by it wasn’t until the third and final term of the show that he embraced the broadness and hamminess that has haunted him since that time. If… you want to… hear… Shatner… in all his glory… then skip straight to Season Three.
These four episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series appear in their original broadcast aspect ratios of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, single-layered DVDs; because of those dimensions, they have not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As noted in earlier reviews, Season Three showed a modest dip in quality after the improvements seen during Season Two, and these programs demonstrated fairly typical presentations for that year.
Of the two DVDs, Volume 33 offered the weaker images, and both episodes seemed quite similar. Sharpness generally appeared to be acceptably crisp and detailed, but some scenes displayed problems. At times the shows looked moderately soft and fuzzy, and the program varied between good clarity and these more tentative qualities. However, most of the episodes appeared reasonably accurate and well defined. Some moiré effects cropped up via objects like Klingon clothes in “Dove”, and I also witnessed some jagged edges.
Colors seemed to be somewhat erratic as well. Trek often boasted brilliant hues, but they often tended to look too heavy; in those days when color TV wasn’t the norm, the producers may have gone overboard to create excessively strong tones, which left them oversaturated. Most of the colors seen during “Hollow” and “Dove” looked quite solid, but the hues could appear somewhat messy and runny at times. Black levels - never a focus of Trek looked fairly deep and rich, and shadow detail - another relatively unimportant element of most of the programs - seemed to be acceptably opaque without any excessive heaviness.
Print flaws appeared throughout Volume 33, though they usually remained acceptably modest. Light grain cropped up frequently, and I also saw examples of grit, speckles, nicks, streaks and blotches. These never became heavy, though they seemed a bit excessive when compared to other ST:TOS DVDs. Still, both “Hollow” and “Dove” provided images that seemed satisfying enough to earn a “C+” for Volume 33.
The improvements found on Volume 34 didn’t appear extraordinary, but they marked progress nonetheless. Truthfully, all of the concerns viewed on the prior disc showed up on V34, but they did so to a lesser degree. Softness intruded on occasion, but more of the programs looked crisp and sharp; the fuzziness caused fewer problems. Moiré effects and jagged edges also popped up less frequently, and they demonstrated few issues.
Colors tightened up a bit; they could still look somewhat muddy and heavy, but not to the same degree seen on the prior disc. Black levels and shadow detail remained good but unexceptional. As for print flaws, the same kinds of concerns appeared during V34, for I still witnessed grain, nicks, blotches, speckles and the like. Nonetheless, they showed up with lesser intensity. Overall, V34 didn’t improve radically upon V33, but it seemed good enough to merit a “B-“ for both episodes.
As had been the case with all of the prior ST:TOS DVDs, these volumes featured newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes. The audio came from original monaural tracks. Throughout the prior 32 DVDs, I usually heard enough differences among mixes to merit significant discussion, but as the series winds toward a close, the audio has become more and more similar. By this point, the sound designers appear to have figured out a routine, and all four of these mixes seemed to be consistently solid.
Overall, the soundfields remained pretty heavily oriented toward the center, but they also opened up a bit. For all four shows, music demonstrated reasonably solid stereo separation; while the score stuck in the middle for the most part, it did show some nice spread to the sides that broadened the spectrum to a degree.
Otherwise, most of the audio stayed centralized, with the exception of some ambience. The hum of the Enterprise came quietly from all around the viewer, and that otherworldly ringing heard on various planets popped up nicely from the sides and surrounds. The usual ship fly-bys offered some good panning and split-surround material. None of these soundfields made the experience tremendously invigorating, but they broadened the original monaural track well.
Audio quality also appeared to be quite consistent, as none of the four shows stood above or below any of the others. Dialogue always sounded a little thin, but speech seemed to be reasonably distinct and natural; I heard no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects lacked much power, but they showed few signs of distortion; the Enterprise “zooms” could be a little rough, but otherwise the elements were acceptably clean and accurate. Some decent depth appeared at times. For example, the destruction of the Klingon ship in “Dove” added a good little punch. Music sounded relatively clear and crisp, with acceptable bass levels for this material. As a whole, I liked the new mixes and thought they complemented the shows.
The only genuinely unsatisfying part of these DVDs continues to stem from their lack of supplements. Each disc offers four "original broadcast preview trailers." These are one-minute ads that offered viewers a glimpse at what would happen on next week's show.
On each DVD, two of these trailers are readily found; when you highlight a particular episode from the main menu, the preview appears as an option on the next screen. However, in addition to ads for the two shows found on that DVD, trailers for the episodes on the next disc also appear. To see those, highlight and click on the Starfleet insignia at the top of the main menu. When you do that, you will gain access to all four trailers.
Other than these trailers, the DVDs are virtually devoid of extras. Each disc's booklet contains a few pictures, some trivia and production credits in addition to a DVD checklist. For the first 32 volumes of these discs, I griped about these omissions, and I don’t plan to stop now. Yes, I realize that no changes will occur since we only have six more DVDs to go, but darn it, I’m stubborn about these things!
While none of the four episodes found on Volumes 33 and 34 of Star Trek: The Original Series offered the show’s best material, the programs seemed to be reasonably entertaining as a whole. Both “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” and “Day of the Dove” from V33 provided somewhat uninspired but acceptably compelling episodes. For V34, “Plato’s Stepchildren” was fairly flat, but “Wink of an Eye” offered a fun experience and was the best of these four shows.
Picture quality seemed to be consistent for the most part. V33’s “Hollow” and “Dove” looked a little worse than did V34’s “Stepchildren” and “Wink”, but the differences remained fairly minor. Audio appeared to be quite similar for all four shows, and both discs featured the usual paucity of extras. If you’re looking for the very best of Trek, look elsewhere; these four episodes were fairly average. Still, Trek fans can do much worse, so they shouldn’t hesitate to check out these DVDs.