REVIEW: Star Trek: The Menagerie

Star Trek: The Menagerie
Remastered Theatrical Presentation (11/13/2007)
Remastered Episodes #12 (11/25/2006) & #13 (12/2/2006)
Original Episode #16 (11/17/1966 & 11/24/1966)

Nothing compares to seeing Star Trek, Star Wars, or Superman on the big screen of a movie theater.

So, when I heard that CBS was going to release Star Trek: The Menagerie to movie theaters in a limited engagement, I was all over it. Not only was it a chance to see the remastered visual effects in the best quality possible, but it was also an opportunity to see William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley together on the silver screen again.

The presentation began with a short intro by Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, Jr. He tells a fun story about his father setting up a projector for him when he was a kid and showing old reels of Star Trek episodes, including “The Cage” – the Star Trek pilot episode that makes up the flashback sequences of Star Trek: The Menagerie. He also tells the “too cerebral” story about NBC’s rejection of “The Cage” and the unprecedented ordering of a second pilot that later sold the series.

After that, there was a feature about the making of Star Trek: Remastered, including a look at the HD DVD combo set being released next week. Since I follow the syndicated series rather closely, most of this was stuff I had already seen. The best part for me here, though, was hearing the collective gasps of other audience members as the new effects were showcased. Incidentally, be sure to stick around after the credits because there is also a sneak preview of the second season set, coming in 2008. This resulted in even more startled but positive reactions as many audience members saw “The Doomsday Machine” and other episode enhancements for the first time.

No mention was made of the syndicated airings of the series, though I did plug it a bit to nearby fans. Star Trek: Remastered, unfortunately, continues to be almost a secret series in this area (and likely many others) due to its odd airtimes. You will never find an episode starting earlier than 1 AM or later than 4:30 AM here. It’s a real shame, considering the quality of work they are putting out. Hopefully the HD DVD combo set release will reach more fans.

Finally, the main event began. In what turned out to be a fortunate accident, I missed watching “The Menagerie” two-parter when it first aired on Star Trek: Remastered last year. So, for this portion, even I was in for some great surprises as I looked at these enhancements for the first time.

Besides the giant screen and great sound system, the other nice thing about the movie presentation (which will also be true of the HD DVD combo set) is that the episode is uncut. In the syndicated airings, about ten minutes of footage is excised to make room for the longer commercial breaks of today compared to 40 years ago.

The Enterprise is diverted to a starbase when it receives an urgent call from her former captain, Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter in the flashback sequences, Sean Kenney in the current sequences). Upon arrival, Kirk discovers that Pike could not have sent the message for an accident has left him immobilized and unable to speak. As Kirk investigates on the starbase, Spock kidnaps Pike, assumes command of the Enterprise without authority, orders the starship to head for Talos IV, a forbidden planet, and leaves behind a rather angry Kirk.

There are many recurring Star Trek themes and concepts in Star Trek: The Menagerie, including emphasis on loyalty, duty, and friendship. Even Spock demonstrates that he believes the needs of the few or the one can sometimes outweigh the needs of the many.

The special effects upgrades are superb, some of the best work of the CBS Digital team behind Star Trek: Remastered. One of the best improvements to the series has been a more consistent look for the Enterprise. Pike’s Enterprise looks noticeably different from Kirk’s Enterprise (as it should, since there have been two major refits since then), but this distinction was usually lost in the classic airings of Star Trek because effects footage often had to be reused. Sometimes, the same Enterprise had two or three different looks in a single episode.

If you are a Star Trek fan, no matter how casual, and missed yesterday’s screening, you need to run to your nearest theater showing Star Trek: The Menagerie for two more screenings on Thursday. You don’t want to miss this.

Story: 10 (out of 10)
Performances: 10
Visual Style: 9
Effects Upgrades: 10
Music: 9
Overall: 10

For a listing of theaters and to buy tickets, go to fathomevents.com.