Shiny Shelf

The Best of Star Trek and Star Trek The Next Generation DVDs

By Jim Smith on 13 May 2009

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Creating ‘Best of’ DVDs with running times of only three hours for two TV series that ran for 80 and 178 episodes respectively is going to be a thankless task, whichever way you cut it. Do you try to represent the respective series by offering examples of as many of the kind of stories they did as possible? Do you try and make sure that all the ostensible regular characters for each show are represented?

That second question is bigger than it seems. You could easily put together a TNG disc that reduced everyone but Picard to a relative extra (‘The Drumhead’/‘Darmok’/‘The Inner Light’/‘Tapestry’) while successfully arguing that it’s those really are the four best episodes. Equally there are less than twenty episodes of ‘Star Trek’ itself in which all the supposedly regular characters actually appear, even less in which they actually do stuff.

Looking at it sensibly then, and given the odd pressures and criteria imposed on those doing the choosing, both of these DVDs are decent selections from their respective series.

The TOS (or ‘Proper Star Trek’ as I like to call it) set consists of ‘Balance of Terror’ (Kirk versus the Romulans in a submarine battle style duel of wits and torpedoes), the rightly acclaimed ‘The City At The Edge of Forever’, Theodore Sturgeon’s spocktastic ‘Amok Time’ (in which he undergoes Pon Farr and gets into a lot of fights, including one with Kirk) and the legendary comedy episode ‘The Trouble With Tribbles’. All are absolutely excellent.

The TNG set offers the two part ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ and ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’, two explosive, yet intelligent, stories which both have a claim on being as good as ‘Star Trek’ ever was on television. It makes up the numbers with ‘The Measure of a Man’ a solid episode that showcases Data and offers a more low-key, thoughtful kind of story as a counterpoint to the space battle based antics of the other two.

You could easily create equally valid, entirely different ‘Best of’ discs for both shows. Hell, given the ‘four episodes’ limit you could create at least half a dozen, given the shows’ hit rates. However, these are legitimate line-ups of episodes obviously aimed at people who’ve enjoyed the new movie and want another taste of ‘Star Trek’ without laying out too many bucks.

The motive is clearly not, as some have insisted, to further fleece the fans. No one is making anyone buy these discs, which are clearly aimed at a different audience entirely from the one that bought the complete season boxsets released over the last decade. Bearing this new audience in mind though, it might have been sensible to organise these collections around episodes that seem to tie into the new movie’s concerns.

Perhaps the TNG one could have included ‘Unification II’ (which features Spock and directly ties into the movie) alongside ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’ (another parallel universe story, after all). They could have been paired with the genuinely extraordinary ‘The Best of Both Worlds’(1&2). The TOS one should include ‘City’, yes, perhaps alongside ‘The Enterprise Incident’. (This is another Romulan story and one with much more in common with the new movie than ‘Balance of Terror’ has.) ‘Mirror, Mirror’ would also be a good choice, given its parallel universe plot and it also actually being the best episode of TOS. ‘Incident’ and ‘Mirror’ are also amongst the tiny number of TOS episodes to feature all seven ‘regular’ characters. Which is a bonus. You could round off the collection with ‘The Cage’ (for Young Spock and the appearance of Chris Pike, a major character in the movie).

It’s to be hoped that ‘Best of’ discs for the other three ‘Star Trek’ series follow. Given their hit rates it shouldn’t be difficult to settle on a single, unambiguous line-up of standalones that represents the best of those series. (‘Babel’/’Defiant’/‘The Visitor/‘Trials and Tribble-ations’ for ‘Deep Space Nine’, ‘Flashback’/‘Timeless’/ ‘Equinox 1&2’ for ‘Voyager’ and ‘Broken Bow 1&2’ and ‘In a Mirror Darkly 1&2’ for ‘Enterprise’, perhaps.)

Fannish concerns and wibbles aside, if don’t have any ‘Star Trek’ on DVD and enjoyed the new movie, these collections aren’t going to disappoint you, especially at this price.

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