Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Unsealing the Vault: 50 Years New

Released in time for Christmas - and unless you've been in stasis for the last year - you'll be aware that the eagerly awaited The Roddenberry Vault has now arrived. Ian Kimmins pops the disc on and takes a look.

The question fans have been asking is - "Why buy this? Surely it's just a cash in as we've already seen all there is to see with The Original Series haven't we?" 

Actually that would be a resounding No!

Mike and Denise Okuda along with Rod Roddenberry and Roger Lay JR gave us something special for the final days 50th anniversary - new footage from The Original Series. Consisting of alternate takes and deleted scenes it gives us a (as Spock would note of course) "fascinating" look back to the making of that three season show. 

We get 12 episodes over the three discs in their remastered form which can be viewed with newly recorded commentaries and even the option to listen to the isolated music tracks. Seeing as they do take up the majority of the disc space there is a piece of you that does wince at the thought of spending £20 on a bunch of stories you probably already have in one format or another but then the Vault isn't so much about them. In this case they are oddly an oversized appendix to the special features which are really the main attraction.. 

Split into three sections (one per disc relating to the episodes it accompanies), the Inside the Roddenberry Vault documentary is the best part of the release hands down. The newly found footage is seamlessly intertwined with interviews from both front of camera plus behind the scenes contributors such as William Shatner, writers Dorothy Fontana and David Gerrold, Mirror, Mirror's Lieutenant Marla Moreau Barbara Luna, Michael Forrest and Gorn actor Bobby Clark. 

There are two more documentaries available on the discs Revisiting a Classic and Strange New Worlds: Visualising the Fantastic and it is the second one which I found the most entertaining whether it was Roddenberry's vehement ruling on sideburns or some of the amazing unused passes that were shot of the Enterprise, it surprises at every turn.  Viewing additional pieces of dialogue in some cases does expand the episodes to some degree while in others you can see precisely why unwieldy lines were axed - especially in the case of the so-called "Fu Manchu" scene.  Even just seeing slight expansions of scenes you already know better than the back of your hand just spin another angle on the legacy and impact of the shows - take the longer shot as crowds gather around Edith Keeler's body in The City on the Edge of Forever and you can weigh up which take leaves the bigger impact.

The third special; Swept Up: Snippets from the Cutting Room Floor; is more simply a super-cut of more scenes that didn't make it into the other documentaries. These aren't the strongest of the moments that have been "rediscovered" but they are from episodes other than the featured 12 around which the triple disc set is built. To be honest, any chance to see previously unreleased 50 year old Star Trek footage doesn't need an excuse and it's just amazing as to what was filmed and then ultimately rejected for one reason or another.

Without a doubt this is something you have to - have to - get for your Star Trek library. It's quite simply a "lost" piece of the 50 year journey, another aspect of the franchise that will enthrall any fan of any age and knowledge depth. The Vault offers something new (yet very old!)  to fans and to the franchise and even with the bulk of the package being taken up with episodes you know full well that there's enough material on here to keep you entertained and that makes it a more than valid purchase at any price.

You can easily tell this was put together with great love and care by Mike and Denise Okuda, Rod Roddenberry and Roger Lay JR and not for one second do I think that the bottom line was the reason this has come to light. The time most certainly was perfect given the anniversary but I can see and have always observed that the work of the Okudas especially has always had the fans at its core - they do it because they are fans themselves and know how they would want to see new material and precisely what they would want to see.

All told the full set of special features probably run to three hours (one hour per disc) but the impact they will have on your vision of Star Trek will be an interesting one. I certainly watched a few episodes again after viewing the documentaries and found myself watching them a little differently given the new material I had been exposed to. Have to say that's not something I thought I would be able to say about a series that I have watched multiple times in the last 37 years and felt I knew inside and out.

Genuinely I was over the moon and ecstatically excited to get hold of The Roddenberry Vault because of its significance to Star Trek. I don't think there will be a fan out there who was disappointed with the result.

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