by Dan Goldwasser
It's hard to imagine now, but there once was a time where there wasn't much out there from "Star Trek" except for a short-lived television show, which ran from 1966-1969. Then there was a short-lived animated series (1973-74), and then nothing. Until 1979, when Star Trek: The Motion Picture burst onto the big screen. The feature film, directed by Robert Wise, renewed interest in Star Trek, and spawned ten sequels, five of which included the original cast.
Those six films have recently been released on Blu-ray in a box set appropriately called Star Trek: The Original Motion Pictures Collection. Timed for release with the new feature film "reboot" by J.J. Abrams, the Collection features the first six Trek films, plus a special seventh disc with a "Captain's Summit". Here is a review of the entire set, disc by disc.
Disc 1: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Plot: One of the last films to feature an orchestral overture at the start of the film, Jerry Goldsmith's music takes center stage right away. The basic plot of the film involves a massive energy cloud moving towards Earth, and destroying three Klingon warships and a Starfleet space station en route. Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) is on board the newly refitted Enterprise, now under the command of Captain Decker (Stephen Collins), to observe the testing of the new systems. But things start to go wrong, and the science officer is killed, requiring a replacement, Spock (Leonard Nimoy). Soon the Enterprise is sent to investigate the energy cloud, before it makes it to Earth. The theatrical version of the film is enjoyable but is still a bit sluggish at times. It suffers from a sense of incompletion, especially towards the climax of the film. While it starts off the film series with a bit of a grind (it seemingly takes forever for things to start happening with the plot), Star Trek: The Motion Picture is still beloved, since it finally let fans of the show work see aspects they've wanted to see, on the big screen. [3/5]
Video/Audio: The image for the Blu-ray release looks quite good. There is a bit of noise reduction which makes the image look a little too smooth at times, but there is still quite a bit of detail in the image which lets the set designs and costumes give away some of their secrets. Visual effects - which are the original optical effects done at the time, and not the revamped effects for the "Director's Cut" - suffer a bit more from the higher resolution, with matte lines and paintings clearly visible. Audio is presented in English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 2.0 Dolby Surround and Spanish Mono. It sounds great in the 7.1 track, with dialogue clear, music bold, and sound effects nicely immersive. For a film that is 30 years old, it holds up quite well. [Video 3.5/5, Audio 4/5]
Extras: The extras on the Blu-ray for The Motion Picture are substantial, but pared down from the original 2-disc "Director's Cut" release. Since many of those extras pertained to the restoration of the film, those - including the group commentary with director Robert Wise and others - have been dropped. What remains is slight (only about 15-minutes of old stuff), but some all-new extras have produced for this set.
First up is the feature-length commentary track by Star Trek experts Michael & Denise Okuda, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Steves, and Daren Docterman. It's a very well thought out and informative commentary, and the group clearly has a deep love of the material. There is a lot of minutia and trivia explained, but it never gets boring or too convoluted.
"Library Computer" is a neat overlay for the feature film, where key facts and trivia will appear in an automated "index" listing on the upper-right of the screen as the movie plays. It's constantly updating, and you just need to select an entry with your remote to activate a text popup which gives you some information. It's basically a cannibalized version of the Michael Okuda DVD trivia track, but a little more hands-on, more specific and less anecdotal, and very detailed.
In the "Production" section there is just one extra: "The Longest Trek: Writing The Motion Picture" (HD, 11-minutes) which is a nice interview with Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens about the way the film came together after many different attempts. "The Star Trek Universe" has two featurettes: "Special Star Trek Reunion" (HD, 9.5-minutes) has some Star Trek fans who were lucky enough to work as extras on the first film reminiscing about their experience on the film; "Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 001: Mystery Behind V'Ger" (HD, 4.5-min) is a novel explanation of what exactly V'Ger was, and how it became sentient, with diagrams and hosted by an actress playing a Starfleet Science Officer.
Eleven "Deleted Scenes" (SD 16x9, 8-min) are included, which are the same as had been included on the previous DVD release. Three "Storyboard" archives are also ported over, as well as two trailers (HD, 6-min) and seven TV spots (the DVD had eight) (SD, 3.5-min).
Finally, the BD-Live capabilities currently include a "Star Trek I.Q." quiz, where you can play a multiple-choice trivia game, using footage from the movie, with questions that have been provided by the studio, or even create your own custom quizzes! Fun stuff, and I hope they add more BD-Live extras. [Extras 3.5/5]
Star Trek: The Motion Picture looks and sounds great, but suffers from a lack of extras where the "Director's Edition" DVD had plenty. One can only hope that down the road there will be a more substantial release, but it would be difficult to convince people to re-buy a significant box of six movies set just to get an upgraded film.
Disc 2: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Finally, we get to the good one. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is undoubtedly one of the best of the Star Trek series, featuring a now-classic villain in Ricardo Montalban's Khan, literary references galore, a great James Horner score, and the first chapter in an unintended trilogy plot. The Blu-ray contains the theatrical cut of the film, not the "Extended Director's Edition" found on the 2-disc DVD.
Plot: On a routine training mission, Kirk and his crew once again confront Khan (Montalban) and his exiled band of genetic supermen (last seen in the 1966 episode "The Space Seed"). Khan has been planning his revenge, and when he takes over Space Station Regula One, he gains control not only of a secret device called Project Genesis, but he manages to capture Kirk's only son and steals a Federation ship. Directed by Nicholas Meyer, The Wrath of Khan is a great film from start to finish. The use of literary references to Moby Dick is apt, as Meyer envisioned the Enterprise akin to a seafaring vessel. [4.5/5]
Video/Audio: One of my favorite Trek films, The Wrath of Khan has been restored with a new HD transfer for the Blu-ray release. The image looks much better than the other discs on the set, with fine detail more prevalent (less DNR), deep blacks, solid colors and fine grain nicely visible. Audio is presented in English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, and like the other films, it is a nicely immersive track. While much of the dialogue comes from the front, sound effects - especially during the space battles - come from all speakers at the right times. Horner's score in particular sounds quite fetching here, too. [Video 4/5, Audio 4.5/5]
Extras: Not only is the very informative commentary track by Nicholas Meyer ported over from the DVD, but a new one has been recorded for the Blu-ray with Meyer and "Enterprise" producer Manny Coto. It covers a lot of the same areas, but Coto brings a fan's perspective to the track, as well as someone who ended up working on the franchise.
"Production" ports over four featurettes from the DVD, and adds a new one. "Captain's Log" (SD 16x9, 27-min) is a great piece that uses interviews with all of the major players, including Meyer, Shatner, Montalban, Nimoy, and more, talking about their experiences on the film, and how it all came about. "Designing Khan" (SD 16x9, 24-min) looks at the costume designs, set designs, and art direction. "Original Interviews with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and Ricardo Montalban" (SD, 11-min) are archival interviews shot at the time of the film's release. "Where No Man Has Gone Before - The Visual Effects of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (SD 16x9, 18-min) looks at the visual effects of the film, with VFX Supervisor Ken Ralston and others, with behind-the-scenes photos and footage supplementing the interviews. New to the Blu-ray is "James Horner: Composing Genesis" (HD, 9.5-min), where the Oscar-winning composer talks about how he works, using themes to help drive the action and keep the audience aware of who is doing what in visual effect sequences.
In "The Star Trek Universe" we have "Collecting Star Trek's Movie Relics" (HD, 11-min), a new featurette where Alec Peters talks about how he came about acquiring many of the hundreds of props he has collected over the years. From the DVD, "A Novel Approach" (SD 16x9, 29-min) is a pretty comprehensive look at two authors (Julia Ecklar and Greg Cox), who have written some of the many, many Star Trek novelizations out there. "Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 002: Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI" (HD, 3-min) brings back the diagrams and actress playing a Starfleet Science Officer to explain a few theories about what happened to Ceti Alpha VI and how it affected Ceti Alpha V - and its inhabitants, which included Khan and his gang.
There are 13 different "Storyboard Concepts" to explore, and a nice "Tribute to Ricardo Montalban" (HD, 5-min) by director Nicholas Meyer who reminisces about the recently deceased actor. Finally, the "Theatrical Trailer" (HD, 2.5-min) is presented as well. Additionally, the "Library Computer" feature is included for use during the feature film, and the BD-Live "Star Trek I.Q." quiz is the only internet option for now. (See above for descriptions on these extras.) [Extras 4.5/5]
One of the best Trek films ever made, and a great film on its own, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan gets a boost with a great transfer and solid sound. The extras are all ported over from the Blu-ray, and this disc is one of the gems of the set.
Disc 3: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
Written while Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was in production, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is a weird middle-child type of a film. It's very basic, and somewhat obvious - the plot involves Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew searching for Spock (Leonard Nimoy).
Plot: After Spock's body was left on the newly formed Planet Genesis, it seems that the effects of the Genesis device resurrected Spock's body. Back on Earth, when Kirk learns that McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is carrying Spock's "essence" within his mind, he hijacks the Enterprise, and along with his crew, goes back to Genesis to get Spock. But a Klingon commander named Kruge (Christopher Lloyd) is also headed to the Genesis Planet to try to steal the secrets of the project. The ensuing conflict will result in a surprise ending that no one could have predicted. [2.5/5]
Video/Audio: Star Trek III: The Wrath of Khan looks decent, but has a little too much digital noise reduction for my tastes. The grain is almost non-existent, and with it, some of the fine detail of the image. The rest of it looks good though, with solid blacks and clear colors. Audio is (like the others) is presented in English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD and is a pretty solid track. It's a major improvement over the previous DVD release, like the other films, it is a nicely immersive track during more of the action sequences. James Horner's score sounds quite good here, and the other audio tracks are in French 2.0 Dolby Surround and Spanish Mono. [Video 3.5/5, Audio 4/5]
Extras: Carried over from the DVD is the commentary track featuring director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, cinematographer Charles Correll and actress Robin Curtis. It has a few gaps between comments, and the participants were all recorded separately, but is an overall informative and engaging track. New for the Blu-ray is a commentary track with former Trek producer Ronald D. Moore and former Trek staffer Michael Taylor. While they come from the television side of things, they provide a different observational perspective on the film, and it's a really fun and fresh listen.
"Captain's Log" (SD 16x9, 26-min) is from the DVD, and remains a pretty nice look at the making of the film, with interviews from the central players, including a bit about Nimoy's graduation to the director's chair. Also ported over is "Terraforming and the Prime Directive" (SD 16x9, 26-min), which takes a much more scientific look at the idea of terraforming and the implications of creating life on other planets. New to the Blu-ray is "Industrial Light and Magic: The Visual Effects of Star Trek" (HD, 14-min), which is a really nice - albeit slightly surface scratching - look at the effects work in the film series, through interviews and film footage - no real archival stuff here, unfortunately, but the stories told are still interesting! Also new is "Spock: The Early Years" (HD, 6.5-min), where we get to visit former child actor Stephen Manly who portrayed a 17-year old Spock in the film, as he shares his stories of casting and working on the film.
"The Star Trek Universe" section contains three more featurettes from the DVD. "Space Docks and Birds of Prey" (SD 16x9, 28-min) is a more detailed look at the ILM model makers who created the ships. "Speaking Klingon" (SD 16x9, 21-min) is a one-on-one with linguist Marc Okrand who talks about how he created the Klingon and Vulcan languages. "Klingon and Vulcan Costumes" (SD 16x9, 12-min) is a look at a few of the folks who have made some of the jewelry, costumes and make-up for many of the Trek films. New to the Blu-ray is "Star Trek and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame" (HD, 17-min), a look at the memorabilia and props housed in the Seattle-based facility, with producer Harve Bennett and columnist Mark Rahner, who talk about Bennett's work on Trek. Last in this section is "Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 003: Mystery Behind the Vulcan Katra Transfer" (HD, 2.5-min) which yet again brings back the diagrams and actress playing a Starfleet Science Officer to explain the ancient Vulcan ritual.
Two "Photo Galleries" (Production and The Movie) as well as ten "Storyboard" galleries are ported over from the DVD. (The "Main Titles" storyboards are the best!) The "Theatrical Trailer" (HD, 1-minute) is also included. Finally, the "Library Computer" feature is included for use during the feature film, and the BD-Live "Star Trek I.Q." quiz is the only internet option for now. (See above for descriptions on these extras.) [Extras 4/5]
A somewhat lackluster sequel, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock contains some decent moments in the film, but doesn't stand out among the other Trek films very well. It sports a pretty good transfer marred by a little too much noise reduction, and relatively solid audio. The extras are quite satisfying, and it bridges nicely into the next film.
Disc 4: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Picking up right where they left off in the last film, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home becomes Trek's first "message movie", with the use of time travel to solve an environmental crisis.
Plot: Still on Vulcan after the events of the previous film, Kirk and his crew must now face a military tribunal back on Earth for insubordination, and for stealing (and ultimately destroying) the Enterprise. Fortunately for them (but unfortunately for Earth) they are unable to do so when a mysterious probe arrives to Earth and starts wreaking havoc on the planet. Turns out that it wants to communicate with humpback whales. A shame, since the species had been driven to extinction in the 20th Century. So Kirk and his crew decide to slingshot around the sun and go back in time to 1986, grab some humpback whales, and bring them back to the 23rd Century. Of course, they encounter some troubles in "modern day" San Francisco, and hilarity ensues. Or something like that. For all of the talk about how great Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is, and even how much I remember enjoying it when I was younger, it just doesn't hold up as well today. Maybe the humor didn't age well. It just feels a bit forced and dated. [3/5]
Video/Audio: A major improvement over the DVD release, the video quality of the Blu-ray is quite good. Yes there's a little more DNR than I would have liked, but detail isn't completely washed away. Colors vibrant and blacks solid, this is a good looking disc. Audio is uniform as well, and is presented in English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 2.0 Dolby Surround and Spanish Mono. The TrueHD mix and is a good track. Dialogue is rendered clearly, sound effects take advantage of the surrounds, and Leonard Rosenman's score sounds quite vibrant. [Video 3.5/5, Audio 4/5]
Extras: William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy sat down together to record a commentary for the 2-disc DVD release of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and this Nimoy-dominated track provides some interesting anecdotes, but suffers from large gaps of silence as they watch the movie. New to the Blu-ray, and a little more engaging, is a commentary with screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who wrote the new "reboot" of Star Trek. They provide a fan's perspective on the movie, and have a nice demeanor that makes it an easygoing track to listen to.
The "Production" section contains four previously released featurettes, and one new one. "Future's Past: A Look Back" (SD 16x9, 27.5-min) is the main look at the development of the film and how it came about. "On Location" (SD 16x9, 7.5-min) focuses on the San Francisco location shoot, a much appreciated change from the soundstages of the past few films. "Dalies Deconstruction" (SD 16x9, 4-min) shows a split-screen with multiple takes and angles of a San Francisco street sequence. "Below-the-Line: Sound Design" (SD 16x9, 12-min) is a look at the original audio effects created for the film, with sound effects editor Mark Mangini. New to the Blu-ray is "Pavel Chekov's Screen Moments" (HD, 6-min) with actor Walter Koenig talking about his increase in screen-time in this film, and how his character finally got the attention he felt was deserved.
"The Star Trek Universe" contains the four previously released DVD featurettes. "Time Travel: The Art of the Impossible" (SD 16x9, 12-min) is a scientific exploration of time travel with a bunch of Ph.D's talking about reality versus fiction. "The Language of Whales" (SD 16x9, 6-min) looks at the sounds whales make and how they communicate. "A Vulcan Primer" (SD 16x9, 8-min) is a quick look at Vulcans through the series and films, and a brief exploration of their nature. "Kirk's Women" (SD 16x9, 8-min) looks at four actresses who played women who had been involved in one way or another (usually romantically) with Captain Kirk. New for the Blu-ray is "Star Trek: Three Picture Saga" (HD, 10-min) where producer Harve Bennett, exec producer Ralph Winter, and many others talk about how the second, third and fourth Star Trek films became an unintended trilogy. Koenig in particular has a very funny anecdote about Chekov and Khan. "Star Trek for a Cause" (HD, 5.5-min) is the environmental message moment, with two Greenpeace representatives talking about how important the whales are. Last in this section is "Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 004: The Whale Probe" (HD, 3.5-min) which yet again brings back the diagrams and actress playing a Starfleet Science Officer to talk about what little we know about the Whale Probe, and how it worked.
Two DVD "Visual Effects" featurettes have been carried over; "From Outer Space to the Ocean" (SD 16x9, 15-min) looks at the whales, the space probe, the Klingon ship, and a dream sequence. "The Bird of Prey" (SD 16x9, 3-min) focuses a bit more on the Klingon ship's visual and sound design. There are three "Original Interviews" from 1986 with William Shatner (SD, 14.5-min), Leonard Nimoy (SD, 16-min), and DeForest Kelley (SD, 13-min), all of which are done for some EPK material, so they don't give away any plot information, and it's all "on the surface" type of information.
In the "Tributes" section, we get the "Roddenberry Scrapbook" (SD 16x9, 8-min), where Gene Roddenberry's son Eugene talks about his father, and "Featured Artist: Mark Leonard" (SD 16x9, 13-min) where the actor's widow and daughters reminisce about the man who played Spock's father. The "Production Gallery" (SD 16x9, 4-min) is a nice montage of behind the scenes footage and stills set to Leonard Rosenman's score. Eight "Storyboards" are included, as well as the "Theatrical Trailer" (HD, 2.5-min). Finally, the "Library Computer" feature is included for use during the feature film, and the BD-Live "Star Trek I.Q." quiz is the only internet option for now. (See above for descriptions on these extras.) [Extras 4.5/5]
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home might not hold up as well as I had hoped, but it's still a decent film, with a much improved transfer over the DVD, and good audio on the Blu-ray disc. The extras get thumbs up, and overall, the film certainly stands above what was next to come....
Disc 5: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
There was a saying about how the "odd-numbered" Trek films were the bad ones, and the "even-numbered" ones were the good ones. That held, more or less, for the first six films in the series. While Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home might not hold up as well as it once did, it still seems like Citizen Kane when compared to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
Plot: It's pretty simple. Spock's half-brother Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill) holds Federation, Romulan and Klingon representatives hostage in order on Nimbus III. Kirk and the crew of the newly christened Enterprise-A head to Nimbus III, where Sybok promptly hijacks the ship, in order to take it to the center of the galaxy and find what he believes is God. The film has a good premise that falls apart with cheesy and cringe-inducing moments (such as Kirk, Spock and McCoy singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" around a campfire, and Uhura's unforgettable striptease). It's not so much that it's a bad film as it's a rather dull one. In the end, William Shatner's directorial effort is still a painful experience to go through, even if there are some entertaining and fun moments. [2/5]
Audio/Video: Released in 1989, the film elements have clearly held up pretty well. While there is that pesky overuse of DNR, the image is otherwise good, with solid blacks, vibrant colors, and nice details where you don't get them obliterated by the DNR. Audio is presented in English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish Mono. The audio track is pretty solid, with nice use of the surrounds during the more energetic segments. Jerry Goldsmith's score is clean and crisp, and it's an overall solid audio track, if not the most immersive. [Video:3/5, Audio:4/5]
Extras: Brought over from the DVD is the commentary track by director/actor William Shatner and his daughter Liz. It's a disappointing one, with large swaths of silence, and only a cursory discussion about the challenges faced with making the film. Given the commentary was recorded years after the film had been released (and vilified by many in the fan community), I would have hoped for more of a candid discussion. Oh well. Significantly better is the new commentary for the Blu-ray with Star Trek experts Michael & Denise Okuda, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Steves, and Daren Docterman. They take a candid and frank look at the film, have fun doing it, and also ask the questions the audience were asking, which is much appreciated.
The "Production" area featurettes were mostly ported over from the DVD. "Harve Bennett's Pitch to Sales Team" (SD, 1.5-min) is an odd pep talk from the producer to the sales force. "The Journey: A Behind-The-Scenes Documentary" (SD, 29-min) is a refreshingly frank exploration of the challenges making the film, with many of the film's cast and crew. It even looks at the response to the film, so kudos for that! "Make-Up Tests" (SD, 10-min) shows us the screen tests for a lot of the different aliens that appear in the film. "Pre-visualization Models" (SD, 1.5-min) shows the use of miniatures and toys to figure out how some visual effects sequences might edit together. "Rockman in the Raw" (SD, 5.5-min) is a look at the development of a creature that didn't quite make it to the final film. "Star Trek V Press Conference" (SD, 13.5-min) is an archival piece filmed on the last day of principle photography, where the actors answered fluffy EPK questions for the press.
"The Star Trek Universe" section has the five DVD featurettes, and three new ones. First up is "Herman Zimmerman: A Tribute" (SD, 19-min), which is a pretty in-depth look at one of the most celebrated Trek production designers out there. "Original Interview: William Shatner" (SD, 14.5-min) is an archival interview with Shatner just before filming, when he's filled with excitement and enthusiasm about the journey he's about to embark upon. "Cosmic Thoughts" (SD, 13-min) is a look at the religious aspects of Trek, from a real-world perspective. Lots of experts chime in here, and it's a fascinating and well done piece. "That Klingon Couple" (SD, 13-min) is a fun little featurette looking at actors Todd Bryant and Spice Williams, and how their characters came about and how they portrayed them. "A Green Future?" (SD, 9.5-min) is a preachy piece all about saving the environment. New for the Blu-ray, "Star Trek Honors Nasa" (HD, 10-min) is a nice piece about NASA and Trek's history over the years, and how the show has influenced NASA, and vice-versa. "Hollywood Walk of Fame: James Doohan" (SD, 3-min) is archival video from the time in 2004 when wheelchair-bound actor James Doohan got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with nice comments from Walter Koenig and George Takei. Finally, "Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 005: Nimbus III" (HD, 3-min) brings back the diagrams and our favorite actress playing a Starfleet Science Officer to talk about the colony on Nimbus III.
Four "Deleted Scenes" (SD, 4-min) are included, as well as a "Production Gallery" (SD, 4-min), done like the one in Star Trek IV, with photos set to music. Three "Storyboard" galleries are on the disc, as well as two "Theatrical Trailers" (HD, 4-min) and seven "TV Spots" (SD, 3-min). Finally, the "Library Computer" feature is included for use during the feature film, and the BD-Live "Star Trek I.Q." quiz is the only internet option for now. (See above for descriptions on these extras.) [Extras 4/5]
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is a disappointing film. Like the first film in the series, it seems like a lot of time is spent setting things up for very little payoff. It's a bit dull, but there are some entertaining bits. Still, it's one of the weaker of the original film series. It's got a decent video transfer, and solid audio, and certainly enough extras to keep one busy for quite a while. Fortunately, there was still one film left - one that would bring back the perfect director for the story, and sign off the original series cast in a perfect way.
Disc 6: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Nicholas Meyer returns to direct the final film featuring the original cast, and he knocks it out of the park. With "Star Trek: The Next Generation" now enjoying success on the small screen, the end of the Cold War, the allegory of Klingons-as-Soviets and Federation-as-Nato gave the filmmakers a perfect plot, and the result is an engaging and exciting climax to the Star Trek original motion picture saga that also marked the 25th Anniversary of the franchise. Note that this is the original theatrical version, not the "extended" home video release which had been previously available.
Plot: After a disaster forces the Klingon empire to negotiate a lasting peace with the Federation, the crew of the Enterprise is sent on a diplomatic mission to get the Klingon Chancelor Gorkon (David Warner). But Kirk, whose son was murdered by Klingons (in Star Trek III) is reluctant to give them a chance. So too is Gorkon's chief of staff, General Chang (Christopher Plummer). When Gorkon is assassinated, Kirk and McCoy are framed, convicted, and sent to the prison asteroid of Rura Penthe. Now it's up to Spock and the rest of the Enterprise-A crew to figure out how to exonerate Kirk and McCoy, while uncovering a conspiracy to assassinate the President of the Federation. It's a race against time, with the prospect of everlasting peace at risk. Much like Star Trek II, the film is littered with literary references (mainly Shakespeare in this one), and with a solid pace to the action, which is nicely balanced with more personal moments, Star Trek VI was a great sign-off for the original film series. [4/5]
Video/Audio: The most recent of the motion pictures, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country looks quite good, and is presented at the slightly "opened" aspect ratio of 2.0:1, which mirrors the previous DVD releases. The image looks good, with good colors, solid blacks, and detail looking rather nice. However there's that pesky DNR once again, which drops things down a tad and loses a bit of fine detail in the overall image. Still, it's the best this film has ever looked! Audio is presented in English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish Mono. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and surrounds are engaged heavily during the action sequences. Cliff Eidelman's riveting score never sounded so good! [Video:3.5/5, Audio:4.5/5]
Extras: Brought over from the DVD is the commentary track by director/writer Nicholas Meyer with co-screenwriter Denny Martin Flinn. It's a decent track, with lots of discussion about how the film's plot ties into the Cold War subtext, but suffers from a bit of space as the two watch the movie during some segments. A new commentary track by author and fan Larry Nimicek and "TNG"/"Deep Space Nine" producer/writer Ira Steven Behr is also here, and while there are a few small gaps as well, it's a somewhat interesting track as the two talk about the placement of the film within the series, and the overal reaction to the movie.
Ported from the 2-disc DVD release, "The Perils of Peacemaking" (SD, 26.5-min) looks at the historical context of the film, particularly in a Cold War light, with interviews from Meyer, Nimoy, some political talking heads, and more. It's an interesting and well presented piece.
In the "Star Trek Universe" section, we have five DVD featurettes, as well as three new ones. First up is "Conversations with Nicholas Meyer" (SD, 9.5-min), where Meyer talks openly about his thoughts on film, working on Trek, and the actors. "Klingons: Conjuring the Legend" (SD, 20.5-min) is a great overview of the Klingons as they appeared in Trek, from the original series, to the films and the newer television shows. It's a pretty informative and engaging piece. "Federation Operatives" (SD, 5-min) is a quick look at a few actors who have had multiple roles through the different films and series. "Penny's Toy Box" (SD, 6-min) is a quick look with Paramount archivist Penny Juday at the various props used in the film. "Together Again" (SD, 5-min) is a nice anecdotal piece about how actors William Shatner and Christopher Plummer knew each other early in their careers. New to the Blu-ray is "Tom Morga: Alien Stuntman" (HD, 5-min), a quick look at the stuntman who has appeared in every Trek film and series made since 1979, and holds the record for playing the largest variety of aliens. "To Be or Not to Be: Klingons and Shakespeare" (HD, 23-min) is a fascinating look at the fan performance of Hamlet as performed in Klingon, and how it was translated, came about, and was staged. Truly unique! Finally, "Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 006: Praxis" (HD, 2.5-min) brings back the diagrams and our favorite actress playing a Starfleet Science Officer to talk about the disaster on the Klingon moon of Praxis.
In the "Farewell" section we have the DVD featurette "DeForest Kelley: A Tribute" (SD, 13.5-min) which is a nice and touching look back at this underappreciated actor. "Original Interviews" (SD, 43-min) contain 1991 EPK interviews with all of the original cast members, plus Iman. Surprisingly, these interviews aren't your usual EPK fluff, and there are some nice moments in there.
A "Production Gallery" (SD, 3.5-min) is mainly behind-the-scenes footage and not a gallery, and offers a nice but short fly-on-the-wall look at the filming of the movie. There are four "Storyboard" sequences, the film's awesome "Theatrical Teaser" (HD, 1.5-min), "Theatrical Trailer" (HD, 2.5-min), and a "1991 Convention Presentation by Nicholas Meyer" (SD, 5-min), which was a "sneek peek" shown to fans at a Trek Convention. Finally, the "Library Computer" feature is included for use during the feature film, and the BD-Live "Star Trek I.Q." quiz is the only internet option for now. (See above for descriptions on these extras.) [Extras 4.5/5]
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was one heck of a send-off for the original cast. It ended the series with a bang, which was most welcome considering the lackluster results of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The Cold War allegory still holds up today, and with a pretty decent video and punchy audio presentation and wealth of extras, it's definitely a highlight of the set.
Disc 7: The Captain's Summit
This final disc in the set contains only one thing - a 70-minute long (HD, of course) roundtable discussion hosted by Whoopie Goldberg with actors William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes. It's great to see everyone in the same room, talking about their different experiences with the Trek franchises, and there are some wonderful anecdotes here. It serves as a nice "bridge" piece that (one expects) will lead to Blu-ray releases of the "Next Generation" cast films, but we'll see what happens when those come out!
The Blu-ray releases of Star Trek: The Original Motion Pictures is a stellar collection of material that - while it contains a few mixed bag items - is an overall excellent package. You can sell off your 2-disc DVDs of all of the films (except I, II and VI) and hopefully down the road they will have the "Directors Editions" available in HD as well. This is a must-have set for any Trek fan!
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