Gift Guide: Essential Star Trek Videos to Celebrate the Series' 50th Anniversary

There’s never been a better time to celebrate Star Trek’s birthday than the holiday season

By , Columnist
If you know someone who is a Trekker, there’s a good chance they mentioned at some point over the last year that 2016 is the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Original Series. Naturally, that event has prompted the release of plenty of money-spinning celebratory merchandise, which has been good news for both collectors and distributors.

Inevitably this has included several home entertainment releases aimed at casual and devoted fans. Hence, in recognition of Star Trek’s half-century, we are dedicating this gift guide to four DVD and Blu-ray releases that no Trekker could logically fail to find fascinating.

Star Trek Beyond Amazon Exclusive Gift Set (4K, Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray)

With Justin Lin in the director’s chair, Bad Robot got it right with this, the third film in the rebooted Star Trek film series. With a stronger emphasis on character and a story firmly rooted in a moral debate typical of the Star Trek franchise at its best, Star Trek Beyond harks back to its roots without foregoing the trappings of a modern blockbuster (the Beastie Boys moment is one of the movie’s highlights rather than the step too far that many feared it might be after the film’s first trailer).

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Although there are no shortage of plot holes and contrivances, Star Trek: Beyond’s script includes lots of affectionate nods to the Original Series that will be noticed by fans without standing out like a sore thumb to the uninitiated. Sofia Boutella’s role and the touching tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy are also highlights. Overall, therefore, there isn’t much to not like in Star Trek Beyond if you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise or if you just love a good space-action film. The only disappointment is that its broad appeal wasn’t reflected in higher box office takings.

This Amazon exclusive gift set comes with the movie in four different formats: 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray 2D and Digital Copy. Also, inside the collectible packaging is a plastic model of the U.S.S. Franklin, a ship that has a crucial role in the plot. Unless the person you are buying for can only play DVDs, it’s well worth paying the extra cost of this set over the price of the standard Blu-ray 3D and 4K versions if you want to be enterprising enough to ensure that someone’s Star Trek surprise will be extra special.

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Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection (Blu-ray)

We reviewed this in more detail when it was released back in September. In terms of content, it’s about as complete an Original Series box-set as you could ask for. Included are all episodes of the first live action series and the Animated Series as well as all the movies headlined by the Original Series’ cast. Bonuses include a set of art cards depicting new interpretations of the posters for the six films, a Starfleet insignia and a snazzy box.

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The set also comes with an absorbing new multi-part documentary that puts some of the less successful movies in a new light. Unfortunately, most of the films have not been remastered, presumably because the distributor didn’t feel that is was worthwhile going to the expense of revisiting them even for the series’ 50th Anniversary. That, sadly, says something about where Star Trek is in the public consciousness in 2016. Nonetheless, like the series that it celebrates, the 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection is a classic in many respects.

50 Years of Star Trek (DVD)

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This is the most modestly presented of all the video releases described here. It’s only available in standard definition and doesn’t have collectible packaging. It does include a Digital Copy, however, and almost 90 minutes of recollections from some of the stars that have graced Star Trek in its various TV and film incarnations over the last half-century. Produced for the History Channel, it’s not as revealing as the opening narration claims. Too much of it is also dedicated to a round-table discussion that doesn’t reveal any significant secrets about any of the series in the franchise.

Because it was neither made by nor endorsed by Paramount or CBS, the producers were also unable to take advantage of Star Trek’s iconic music to add atmosphere. The substitute electronic score is unfortunately reminiscent of those unofficial 70s soundtrack albums that are just enough like what they are mimicking to seem fitting but still sound cheap and cheesy. Notwithstanding these niggles, though, there is enough here to keep Trekkers interested and as a souvenir of the 50th anniversary, it's something every aficionado should have in their collection. 

Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault (Blu-ray) 

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This box-set arrives just in time for the holidays and is likely to get a thumbs up from Star Trek fans for its looks alone. The Roddenberry Vault is a reference to the Star Trek archives that include material never used by Gene Roddenberry or the Original Series’ production team. Among this material is clippings, alternate takes, special effects test shots and other bits and pieces, some of which, according to the packaging, have never been seen before.

That content in itself, is likely to excite any avid Trekker. Yet, there’s more new stuff here, too, in the form of audio commentaries featuring well respected contributors such as Trek legend Dorothy Fontana and uber fan Mark Altman, and a new documentary series spread across the set’s three discs.

This set comes at a high price partly because it is padded out by the inclusion of several classic episodes that are said to be "relevant" to the materials from the vault. To sweeten the pill, each one that isn’t accompanied by an audio commentary at least comes with an isolated music track. Taken together, then, the special features and the cool limited edition packaging will mean it’s money well spent if you’re putting this under the tree for the Star Trek fan in your life.

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Michael Simpson is a freelance writer, editor, presenter, researcher, instructor, gadget freak and sci-tech consultant based in British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley. Formerly from the UK, he’s converted from tea to coffee and written and presented on film, TV, science, nature, technology,…

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