Twin Peaks - The First Season Box Set (1990)

When the dead body of local prom queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is found - murdered and wrapped in plastic - FBI Inspector and holistic detective Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) journeys to the small Washington lumber town of Twin Peaks in search of a serial killer. What he finds is courage, respect, romance, and weirdness in bucketloads. Laura Palmer was far wilder than she appeared, and so is her home town.

In the early 90s, David Lynch and Mark Frost unleashed a true oddity onto American TV: a prime-time soap that defied the campy roots of Dallas and Dynasty, that demanded attention from its viewers lest they miss a vital clue; what starts out as a murder mystery is soon mixed with a Lovecraftian "darkness in the woods", references to Zen, prophetic dreams, talking logs, owls that are not what they seem, and enigmas wrapped in riddles inside of puzzles. All populated by one of the most likable sets of double (and triple) crossers and downright eccentric characters in TV history. Northern Exposure, The X-Files and Millennium all owed a significant debt to Twin Peaks.

The box set holds episodes 01-07, the first season that created an obsession among TV viewers. Except. For the two-hour pilot episode, which remains locked in a rights struggle and is only available on a Taiwanese import DVD. Frustrating to both old-time Peaks Freaks like myself and to new fans. But it was wonderful to be making the acquaintance of these characters again, and to notice details I never had before. You see? I told you it required complete attention!

The set comes in a plastic slipcase bearing Laura's homecoming picture, which graces the end credits of each episode. Removing the slipcover reveals her corpse's visage, wrapped in plastic - quite startling. The box then unfolds to reveal the four discs and pack-in booklet.

The transfer on the episodes is very sharp, certainly the best they've ever looked or sounded. Each episode has its own interactive menu, which are clever and artistic, though it may take you a few tries to get the hang of them.

Each episode has an audio commentary track by a different person: directors Duwayne Dunham, Tina Rathborne, Tim Hunter, Lesli Linka Glatter and Caleb Deschanel; Director of Photography Frank Byers; writers Robert Engels and Harley Peyton, and Production Designer Richard Hoover (Lynch does not put in an appearance). The tracks are as varied as the personnel, though each seem to include how they became involved with the project and how much better it was to work on the first season than the second, when the show's hit status seemed to necessitate more network oversight.

From the Features menu of each episode, it is possible to press Up on your controller and highlight the episode's number: this will take you to a video snippet from the track's recording, allowing you to put a face to the voice.

It is also possible to play each episode with its Log Lady introduction, which was created for one of the series' only examples of syndication, on the Bravo cable network. It is also possible to turn on "Script Notes" - whenever an icon appears on the screen, pressing ENTER on your remote will take you to a text page detailing deleted or rewritten scenes.

The second half of the fourth disc is given over to "Tibet", a collection of more features. There is an interview of co-creator Mark Frost by the editors of the Twin Peaks magazine, Wrapped in Plastic; in "Learning to Speak in the Red Room", Michael J. Anderson, the Man From Another Place, teaches you how to "speak like the voices in David Lynch's head"; "An Introduction to David Lynch" is composed of interviews with friends, co-workers and academic types who attempt to nail the director down; "17 Pieces of Pie" is an interview with Pat Cokewell, owner of the Mar-T Diner (the actual Double R); the disc finishes with "The Twin Peaks Directory", a feature that creatively links each of the first season characters via their relationship with Laura Palmer, also providing access to actor filmographies, biographies and interviews.

The pack-in booklet contains a short interview with Sheryl Lee, the episode and chapter breakdowns, a guide to the characters, and, of necessity, a synopsis of the missing pilot movie.

In my collection, this set replaces a laserdisc box set, one and a half VHS box sets, and a slew of home-taped VHS tapes. It does it so well, I cannot envision any other medium surpassing it, unless the series itself ascends to a higher plane of being. Only two questions remain: when do we get Season Two, and was it really necessary to slap the Artisan banner at the front of every extra? Who does their branding, Media Asia?

Dr. Freex, 4/9/2002