Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: Star Trek: The Original Series Volume 15 & 16 (1967)
Studio Line: Paramount Pictures

Volume 15

Operation-Annihilate!: (Episode 29)
The U.S.S. Enterprise arrives at Deneva, a planet in the path of an interplanetary epidemic of mass insanity. There, Kirk finds his brother Sam dead, his sister-in-law stricken, and his nephew unconscious. Then, Spock is attacked by a flying creature. These telepathically connected parasites invade the nervous system and control their victims through pain in an effort to take over the galaxy. Can McCoy find a way to kill the aliens without harming their hosts?

Catspaw: (Episode 30)
On Pyrus VII, Sulu and Scotty are rendered zombies by Korob and Sylvia, two beings who use black cats, magic wands, and evil spells in an attempt to terrorize Kirk and company. When Kirk refuses to submit, Sylvia holds a voodoo-like image of the U.S.S. Enterprise over a flame, and the starship begins superheating. Will Sylvia's seductive charms spell disaster for Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Volume 16

Metamorphosis: (Episode 31)
Aboard the Galileo, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are transporting ailing Commissioner Nancy Hedford (Elinor Donahue) to the U.S.S. Enterprise when a mysterious cloud draws them to a planet inhabited only by Zefram Cochrane (Glenn Corbett) -- a space pioneer who lived over a century ago. The cloud-creature rejuvenates Cochrane but, sensing his loneliness, it has brought him company -- Kirk and the others. They are now prisoners.

Friday's Child: (Episode 32)
On Capella IV, Kirk and a landing party discover that Klingons have been negotiating a alliance with the natives and seem to be gaining their confidence. When Kirk breaks a taboo by saving the life of the Capellan leader's wife, he, Spock and McCoy become fugitives -- from the natives and the Klingon agent. Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Enterprise crew have their hands full when a Klingon ship sets a trap, diverting them from the planet.

Director: Herschel Daugherty, Joseph Pevney, Ralph Senensky
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Antoinette Bower, Theo Marcuse, Tige Andrews, Glenn Corbett, Michael Dante, Elinor Donahue, Julie Newmar
DVD: Standard 1.33:1; audio English DD 5.1; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single sided - single layered; rated NR; 100 min.; $19.99; street date 9/19/00.
Supplements: Original Broadcast Preview Trailers
Purchase: Volume 15 | Volume 16

Picture/Sound/Extras: Volume 15 C+/B/D-

How time flies! The first DVD releases of episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series hit the shelves in August 1999, and roughly 13 months later, we've finally reached the end of the show's first season. On Volume 15, we find "Operation - Annihilate, the last episode broadcast during that initial year, while the other three segments come from the 1967-68 term.

How will the two seasons differ? Which will offer the superior Trek? Will I survive through so many hours of the show without completely going insane? I don't know - let's delve into the newest batch and try to find the answers! (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 15: "Operation - Annihilate!" and "Catspaw"

"Operation - Annihilate!" (broadcast 29th - final show of season one) proceeded along a mildly interesting line but didn't do a whole lot for me. Its storyline is typical Trek: a mysterious disease is killing inhabitants of a planet - Deneva, in this case - and it's up to the occupants of the Enterprise to stop it. To up the ante, Spock gets stricken by the malady.

The episode offers one historical oddity: the only appearance of Kirk's older brother Sam. Apparently Sam is mentioned in an earlier episode - "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" but "O-A!" provides his only on-screen "work"; he's played (as a corpse) by a lightly made-up William Shatner.

Unfortunately, the use of Sam and his family are one of the episode's weak points. One would think that Kirk would be tremendously upset by the demise of his brother and the infection of his extended family, but he barely seems phased by the incidents. I felt as though Sam, et al. were used as a cheap plot device that was completely unnecessary; they add to the bathos but for no productive purpose, as they come and go quickly and have virtually nothing to do with the plot of the Enterprise's involvement in the problem.

One positive aspect of this episode, however, comes from Leonard Nimoy's terrific acting as Spock. When Spock gets the disease, it takes incredible effort on his part to control the pain. Nimoy effectively conveys the presence of our favorite Vulcan as he does his best to maintain his "game face" while subjected to intense agony. Nimoy provides some of his best acting as he does this; it's a remarkable performance.

That's all about "Operation - Annihilate!" that I can call "remarkable", though. In any case, it offers a solid though unexceptional piece of Trek that I generally enjoyed.

"Catspaw" (broadcast 36th) once again puts Kirk and crew at the mercy of yet another mysterious power. Unlike the ugly little critters in "O-A!", however, these are better-realized beings. Yup - it's another Trek in which they have to combat seemingly-omnipotent powers who toy with them.

It's also another fairly ordinary show. Actually, when it functions in "mystery" mode as the crew attempt to find out what's happening, "Catspaw" is pretty enjoyable; I liked seeing them think their way through the problems.

Unfortunately, "Catspaw" takes off into more "mystical" realms toward the end, and the dopiness of the last act lessens the show's overall impact. We 've seen so many of these powerful beings that each new one needs some kind of unique spark. Korob and Sylvia, the folks in question, provide a minor magical presence but become stock goofballs by the end. As with "O-A!", "Catspaw" offers a solid episode of Trek but if falls short of exceptional status.

This show's historical footnote: "Catspaw" marked the first appearance of Walter Koenig as Ensign Pavel Chekhov. Actually, it qualifies only as his initial filmed appearance; since "Catspaw" was the seventh episode broadcast that season, he'd already been seen on "Who Mourns For Adonais?", the season's second airing. (As far as I can tell, Koenig wasn't used for the first Season Two broadcast, "Amok Time", but I'm not positive about that.)

Picture/Sound/Extras: Volume 16 B-/B/D-

Volume 16: "Metamorphosis" and "Friday's Child"

"Metamorphosis" (broadcast 38th) offers yet another mysterious and seemingly-omnipotent force. Aboard the shuttlecraft "Galileo", Kirk, Spock and McCoy are trucking diplomat Nancy Hedford (Elinor "Princess" Donahue) back to the Enterprise due to an illness she's acquired. On the way, however, they're sidelined by that unknown power; it maroons them on a desolate planet where they encounter the sole survivor of a crash, one Zefram Cochrane (Glenn Corbett).

Viewers of Star Trek: First Contact may recognize that name, as it belongs to a main character in that film. Yes, the movie's Cochrane and this episode's participant are one in the same, though played by different actors (James Cromwell did the honors in the picture). We learn about his life and importance in both places, though the movie doesn't hint at what will become of him, which we learn in this episode.

In any case, "Metamorphosis" offers a reasonably solid piece of Trek. The whole omnipotent being deal gets old after a while, but the show twists it in some interesting (though mildly predictable) ways. Frankly, there's not a lot to say about it; it's good but not great Trek - no more, no less.

"Friday's Child" (broadcast 40th) probably was the most interesting of the four episodes on these two DVDs, if just because it actually provides some real action. For once, we find no mysterious forces or unknown powers; all the information is available at the start. Instead, we're treated to some solid thrills as Kirk and company try to wrangle with two forces at once.

In an effort to gain the rights to some mining resources, Kirk, Spock and McCoy travel to Capella IV and attempt to negotiate with that Darwinian planet's leaders. However, it happens that the Klingons arrived first and are working on the same issues. As such, our Starfleet personnel have to work on both sides at the same time, with some violent repercussions.

It's a good show that benefits from an unusual humanoid culture. The Capellans really adhere to the "survival of the fittest" philosophy, and our heroes have trouble adapting their more humanistic ways to those ideas. The manner in which the sides interact and clash is compelling and fun. Plus we get the second appearance ever of Klingons, who were well on their way to becoming the primary Trek foes. "Friday's Child" isn't a classic, but it's quite good nonetheless.

The DVD:

These Star Trek episodes appear in their original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on single-sided, single-layered DVDs; because of those dimensions, they have not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions.

In regard to picture quality, both volumes present images that pretty closely match those seen on prior ST:TOS DVDs. That means while they look much better than one might expect, their overall quality seems fairly average when compared to other programs from the time period.

Actually, the three episodes from Season Two mark a minor improvement in quality from the Season One norm. The shows don't seem significantly better-looking, but I did note slightly increased sharpness. It's not a "night and day" difference, but it exists.

As such, the shows on Volume 16 actually look a little better than average for these DVDs. For both episodes, sharpness seems pretty good, with less softness than usual. The same goes for Volume 15's "Catspaw" but not for "Operation - Annihilate!"; the latter appears fairly crisp but shows some mild fuzziness at times.

For the shows on both DVDs, moiré effects and jagged edges seemed largely absent. "Friday's Child" suffers the most from those concerns, mainly due to the shimmering we see in the Klingon uniform. Print flaws were fairly minimal as well; all four episodes betrayed mild grain, and I saw a few speckles and a blotch or two, but nothing terrible in that regard.

Colors appeared slightly bolder in the Season Two episodes as well. The hues of "Operation - Annihilate!" appear slightly hazy but are generally solid, whereas the other three shows display increased tightness from their hues. "Friday's Child" comes across especially well in this regard due to the combination of outdoor scenes and the exotic costumes of the Capellans.

As always, black levels were nicely deep and rich - the uniform pants consistently seem effectively dark - and shadow detail was fine. Actually, the latter rarely is an issue during Trek shows, since most of them are brightly-lit, but I discerned no concerns in this department in any case.

Ultimately, all four of the episodes seem fairly similar, but the three from Season Two come across as sharper and smoother. Season One's "Operation - Annihilate!" also looks pretty good, but it caused me to lower my overall grade for Volume 15 to a Trek-typical rating of "C+", whereas Volume 16 merited a high (so far) of "B-".

As has been the case with all of the prior ST:TOS DVDs, these volumes feature newly-created Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes. This audio comes from original monaural tracks. The soundfield remains pretty heavily oriented toward the center, but it has been opened up a bit. The breadth of the audio generally depends on the sort of show in question. More action-oriented episodes like "Friday's Child" generally are more active, whereas more introspective offerings such as "Metamorphosis" display mild environments.

"Operation - Annihilate!" and "Metamorphosis" both offer fairly bland soundfields, though both also seem appropriate for the material. These shows open up the spectrum gently with some light ambiance and a few Enterprise fly-by effects, but there's not a whole lot of activity.

Neither "Catspaw" or "Friday's Child" go nuts in regard to the soundfield, but they spread out the audio nicely. The former gives us some very good ambient effects such as wind or ship passings, and it creates a solid environment. "FC" tosses many more battle effects into the mix, as we find some phaser fire and other signs of attack.

Both DVDs provide generally solid audio quality. Dialogue appears very clear and reasonably warm and natural, with absolutely no intelligibility problems. Music seems a bit flat but generally nice, though some distortion accompanies the score for "Catspaw". Effects come across quite well for the most part. Some distortion can interfere with effects at times; for example, during the fights in "Friday's Child", some explosions seem harsh and rough. However, most audio seems clean and it even boasts some good bass at times; despite the distortion, the blasts in "FC" come across as nicely deep and rich. All four episodes mix some relative strengths and weaknesses, but I felt as a whole, each DVD deserved a "B" for audio.

The only genuinely unsatisfying part of these DVDs stems 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; that beats a kick in the head but doesn't offer much extra value. The continuing nature of the series makes it harder to add in supplements - there'll be forty DVDs in all, and that would require a lot of content. Still, I can't help but feel something could have been added, whether interviews or publicity stills or even just talent files for guest stars; the world of Trek seems too wide to include so few extras.

These two Star Trek: The Original Series DVDs are solid efforts but not among the best the show had to offer. However, at least they are consistent; both Volume 15 and Volume 16 provide quality programs that I found interesting and entertaining. If forced to choose, I' d probably pick Volume 16; the picture quality of the two shows is marginally better than those on the other DVD, and the two episodes are slightly more interesting. However, Trek fans can't go wrong with either disc, as both are quite good.

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