It’s every fan’s dream come true: a warehouse full of film reels previously unknown to the studio and to the world at large. Miles of footage, stockpiled because creator Gene Roddenberry had the foresight to save the material gathered from the cutting room floor, were squirreled away in a vault a la Raiders of the Lost Ark, waiting patiently to be rediscovered and appreciated. The odds against it ever seeing the light of day were too high for Spock to calculate, but for Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary, a restoration of some of the material was undertaken by Michael and Denise Okuda and their team.
Shut up and take my money!
And they were all too happy to do so because that’s the engine that keeps on giving us more Trek. We buy, they create. It’s a system that works.
So, what exactly are we looking at here? Originally going into this blind, I fully expected to see a random selection of scenes and photos, presented not unlike the bonus features that we got for the Star Wars saga on Blu-ray a few years back that fans could take their time with and really savor at their own pace. Not so much, as it turns out. The feature attraction for this set is a 90-minute retrospective documentary, Inside the Roddenberry Vault, broken into three parts across the three discs. This documentary curates the majority of the restored bonus material alongside interviews with cast, crew, writers, celebrity fans, and so forth, in an effort to keep it from feeling disjointed. The lost material chosen for restoration and release largely comes from twelve classic episodes, which are included in the set in both their original and digitally remastered formats (also available on the Blu-ray series box sets). A nice touch is that some of these episodes are available to watch with a music-only track.
In addition to the primary documentary, there are two other shorter documentaries. The first is “Star Trek: Revisiting a Classic,” which offers a look at how the series was made to be both contemporary to world events and ahead of its time. The second is, what I feel to be, the more interesting of the two. “Strange New Worlds: Visualizing the Fantastic” offers an in-depth look on the art design aesthetic of the series, featuring more material from the vault.
As much as I know about the series, as much as I’ve read and seen, I can honestly say I learned a great deal, much of it little tidbits that would mean next to nothing for the average viewer, but shed insight on everything we’ve come to understand. When revisiting the series time and again as I tend to do, it’s sometimes easy to forget how much work goes into a production of that magnitude and how truly cutting edge it was in its day. This presentation is more than just a reminder of all that. It’s a celebration.
The Roddenberry Vault is a treasure trove in every sense of the word. The more you care about the series, the more meaningful this set becomes. And to think, the real star of this set — that glorious unseen footage — still only comes from half a season’s worth of episodes. That means that they could, potentially, release five more box sets worth of this. Being honest, after seeing just how much they’ve got, I’ll be truly surprised if they bother. Someone at CBS crunched the numbers on this, and the price point for complete restoration of the vault would likely be way too high. Even so, just knowing it’s there to be had, in the protective hands of the Roddenberry family, is enough to hit me in the feels.