On April 28th (or the 27th if you live in the UK), Star Trek will appear on Blu-Ray for the first time with the release of the first season of the Original Series.

It's not the first time Star Trek has appeared on high-definition medium. In late 2007, The Original Series was launched on the now-defunct HD-DVD format (it's still available on HD-DVD for $75).

Since that release, many fans who stood back to wait and see who won the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray slugfest have wondered when Trek would appear on Blu-Ray.

It's no coincidence that the series is being launched on Blu-Ray just 10 days before the new Star Trek movie appears in theaters. It's all part of the movie marketing machine. But, hey, who cares. If you're a fan of the original series, and haven't seen Trek in glorius high definition, you're in for a treat.

HD-DVD/Blu-Ray Comparison

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Much has been said about the remastered edition of the Original Series. Indeed, you can read my thoughts on it here. All three seasons of original Trek have now been released on DVD. Expect to see seasons 2 and 3 appear on Blu-Ray in the coming months.

Both the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray contain the remastered versions of the shows. Where the platters differ is that on the HD-DVD release, one side of the disk contained the high-definition remastered version whereas the opposite side contained the remastered edition in standard DVD resolution.

One of the bugbears of fans was that the shows as aired with their original effects were not available on the HD-DVD, so fans had to keep hold of their old original-release DVDs (the ones in the Star Trek primary colored boxes - the yellow, blue and red ones).

The Blu-Ray edition addresses this problem. Since it's Blu-Ray, there's no standard definition version on the disk. It's high-def only. But the disks contain both the original aired versions and the remastered versions of the shows and seamless branching is used to switch between the two.

The extras appear to be the same. Access to in-episode bonus features is likely to be different (i.e. a somewhat different interface will be used ro get at these features than appeared on the HD-DVD). Here's are the special features on the Blu-Ray(I think VAM means Video Access Menu):

Disc 1:
Spacelift: Transporting Trek Into the 21st Century
Starfleet Access Episode: Where No Man Has Gone Before
Preview Trailers

Disc 2:
VAM: Preview Trailers
Easter Egg #1

Disc 3:
VAM: Reflections on Spock
VAM: Starfleet Access Episode: The Menagerie Parts 1 and 2
VAM: Preview Trailers

Disc 4:
VAM: Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner
VAM: Starfleet Access Episode: Balance of Terror
VAM: Preview Trailers

Disc 5
VAM: To Boldly Go... Season One
VAM: The Birth of a Timeless Legacy
VAM: Preview Trailers
Easter Egg #2

Disc 6:
VAM: Sci-Fi Visionaries
VAM: Interactive Enterprise Inspection
VAM: Starfleet Access Episode: Space Seed
VAM: Preview Trailers

Disc 7:
VAM: Billy Blackbburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories
VAM: Kiss 'N' Tell: Romance on the 23rd Century
VAM: Starfleet Access Episode: Errand of Mercy
VAM: Preview Trailers
VAM: BD Live Portal

Update, May 2009: The Blu-Ray doesn't contain the Trekker Connections or Beyond the Final Frontier extras that appeared on the HDDVD release. It's a pity that the latter is missing from the Blu-Ray package as it was an excellent 90-minute documentary on the auction of Star Trek memorabilia that took place a few years ago and what getting that memorabilia meant to fans.

So, In A Word, Is It Worth Buying?

If you don't already own the HD-DVD version, then (pre)order your copy now. Paramount/CBS lovingly restored the image from original prints, cleaned them up and, since they were shot on film, were already in high-resolution to begin with. Watching Trek in high-def is like seeing it for the first time. And the remastered effects only add to that experience. Effects aren't added in merely to show what the effects artists can do. They're there to subtly add to the stories. Read more about the effects here.

If you do have the HD-DVD version, then it's maybe a 50-50 decision to buy. HD-DVD is a dead technology and at some point in the future, your player will probably fail. You could wait till then before buying the Blu-Ray but maybe it'll no longer be in production at that point.

To add insult to HD-DVD injury, Trek originally cost about $200 on HD-DVD (series 1 only) - it now sells for $75. The format died before series 2 and 3 were ever released. Many fans got the HD-DVDs at much lower prices as stores tried to offload stocks of HD-DVDs. The Blu-Ray costs a much more reasonable $72.99. That's still a steep price for a single TV series but Trek releases have always been expensive when compared to other TV releases.

But anyone who paid top price fir the HD-DVDs when they first came out has every right to feel aggrieved. In time, no doubt the HD-DVD versions will become collector's items in their own right, but that's small comfort.

What if you already have the remastered editions on standard DVD?

Most people now have high-definition TVs. If you love Star Trek enough to want to watch it in superb high-definition and have repeat viewings, then bite the bullet and buy it on Blu-Ray

If your eyes can't see much difference between upscaled DVD and true high-definition then stick with the DVDs.

But, Star Trek on Blu-Ray is as good as it's ever going to look. At least until super hi-res TV (4K2K) screens are the norm and there's another format to replace Blu-Ray. I'm sure that won't happen for another 3 or 4 years!

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