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With pretty much every episode of Star Trek already on DVD and the franchise in temporary limbo, Paramount must instead milk their cash cow by creating alternatives to season boxed sets. The 'Fan Collective’ sets have already shown us the best of the Borg, and now it's time for the most celebrated time travel episodes to be treated to a reissue.

Before we begin, it's probably best to state that I don't consider myself to be a particularly big Star Trek fan and, while I can tell the difference between a Klingon and a Cardassian, you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming before I'd watch an episode of Enterprise. With this in mind, I'll be reviewing the twelve episodes in this Fan Collective set as pieces of sci-fi television first, episodes of Trek second.

Star Trek Fan Collective: Time Travel

Feature


The set consists of four discs, bringing together twelve episodes from Star Trek (1966-1969), Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) and Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001).

We begin with Tomorrow is Yesterday from the first season of the original series. This is a light-hearted and wholly illogical romp in which the original Enterprise is catapulted back to the 1960s. When their arrival is spotted by a pilot investigating UFOs, Kirk (William Shatner) decides that a spot of kidnapping is the order of the day. Largely played for laughs, the episode will live long in the memory thanks mainly to some ropey special effects and some elaborately choreographed fight-scenes, rather than an involving story.

Next up is the much celebrated City on the Edge of Forever, generally considered to be the finest episode of the original series. In this episode, Kirk and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) travel back to the 1930s to stop McCoy having a detrimental effect on the course of history. Moral dilemmas abound as Kirk falls in love with Joan Collins whose death will have a deciding effect on the outcome of the Second World War. If you can ignore Trek's oft-used 'romantic' trick of Vaseline on the camera lens and some rather questionable over-acting by DeForest Kelley (McCoy), there's much to enjoy about this story—particularly the sombre and downbeat ending.

This brings us to Star Trek: The Next Generation, famous for tunic-tugging, technobabble and a bunch of bland, yet likeable, characters. Time-travel was a particular fave of this Trek incarnation and notable exceptions from this set include season five's A Matter of Time and the truly wonderful Tapestry from season seven.

Fortunately, what we do have is Yesterday's Enterprise; unquestionably one of the greatest episodes of Star Trek ever made. In this third season episode, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew are plunged into an alternate timeline where the Federation is at war with the Klingons and the Enterprise C has emerged from a rift in time, decades after it was thought to be destroyed. The genius of this episode is that it credits the audience's intelligence, explains precious little and spins an epic tale in little under forty-five minutes.  

Star Trek Fan Collective: Time Travel
Less effective is Cause and Effect from season five. The words 'written by Brannon Braga' are enough to instil fear into many Star Trek fans, but this episode, in which the crew are stuck in an endless time-loop in which the ship is always destroyed and Riker (Jonathan Frakes) never wins the weekly poker game, isn't that bad. Pre-dating Groundhog Day, it sadly lacks that film's wit and instead concerns itself with merely repeating the same scenes and recycling the same CGI shots. It's fortunate that the ending redeems things somewhat, even if it does evoke memories of the previous episode in this set.  

Prepare yourself for a pretty dull ninety minutes in the form of Time's Arrow. When the decapitated head of Data (Brent Spiner) is found in a cave on Earth, the crew determines that at some point he will travel back in time to the 19th century. And that's pretty much the entire story, but for some reason it still takes a ridiculously long time for us to reach some kind of conclusion.

The Next Generation ended with an epic time travel story and All Good Things is included in its entirety. While the plot can, disappointingly, be summed up as 'Q (John De Lancie) plays a trick on Picard', this is still a huge amount of fun as the Captain is bounced back and forth in time between the past, present and an unglamorous future. While not quite the dramatic finale many fans expected, the numerous continuity references make this a fitting conclusion to the show.

Trials and Tribble-ations  was Deep Space Nine's way of celebrating of Star Trek's 30th Anniversary. Taking its cues from Back to the Future Part II, we're given the opportunity to view an original series episode ( The Trouble With Tribbles) from an entirely new perspective. Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) and his colleagues travel back to the time of the original Enterprise to save Captain Kirk from death by Tribble. While much of the appeal of this episode rests on some staggeringly effective green-screen effects and lovingly recreated sets, the story is a pleasingly enjoyable jaunt through Trek history.

In Little Green Men, Deep Space's Nine's resident Ferengi, Quark, Rom and Nog, take centre stage when they're transported back to the 1950s. Reminiscent of Tomorrow is Yesterday, Little Green Men is mooted as a comedy yet fails to raise the requisite laughs. Coupled with a story that goes precisely nowhere, and you have a pretty underwhelming time travel story.

Star Trek Fan Collective: Time Travel
One of the advantages of time travel stories is that writers can kill off our favourite characters, and then change history so that everything becomes peachy once more.  It's a pretty cheap tactic that is used to no great success in the two part Voyager story Year of Hell. Since the time travel element is introduced so early in the story, it's quite hard to buy into an episode which just feels like an excuse to smash up the sets and kill off the characters.
 
And finally, we come to Endgame, the final curtain of the much-maligned Star Trek: Voyager. In this feature length finale, Janeaway's (Kate Mulgrew) future-self travels back...hang on, haven't we been here before? Well, yes. This episode was also included in the Fan Collective set for Borg episodes (ably reviewed by my colleague Chris Gould). It's inclusion here is therefore pretty redundant but, for what it's worth, this is a fairly worthy retread of All Good Things.

Video


Rather predictably the picture quality on this disc improves dramatically as we move forward in time. While the transfers for the two episodes from the original series are pretty seamless, they can do nothing to improve the original prints as there is grime and dirt present throughout. The earlier TNG episodes lack clarity and sharpness although this is rectified by the time All Good Things arrives. The episodes of Deep Space Nine and Voyager, meanwhile, look reasonable throughout, even if colours are a little bland.

Audio


A passable, if not outstanding, mix is present throughout all of the episodes on the four discs. Even in the various space-battles dotted throughout the twelve Trek adventures, there's nothing really here to test your setup with minimal directional effects. Fortunately, technobabble is clearly presented through the central speaker.

Extras


A pretty sorry state of affairs as only mere 'text commentaries' (aka trivia tracks) are present for three episodes. Tomorrow is Yesterday, Yesterday's Enterprise and Little Green Men are all treated to fan-friendly, nit-picking analysis.

Star Trek Fan Collective: Time Travel

Overall


I must admit to being slightly confused by the point of this kind of set, particularly when some of the episodes are being recycled on the other fan collections. That said, there's some pretty great episodes here (particularly The City on the Edge of Forever and Yesterday's Enterprise) so, if you've held off buying the season boxed sets of these shows, maybe this will inspire you to have a rethink.


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