by Jim Bray
Paramount appears to be intent in squeezing yet another round of
sales from its venerable Star Trek movie series. This could be quite an
annoyance to fans who've already poured considerable amounts of their after-tax
disposable income into the franchise, and I couldn't blame them if there were
beginning to feel a tad used.
Now the studio has begun releasing special "Director's Editions"
of the films. At this time I don't know if they're all slated for such
treatment, though it seems to make sense - especially since the first such
release to have an earlier DVD with which to compare it (Star Trek II) is
appreciably better than the initial digital disc version.
So bite the bullet, Trekkies who are also audio/videophiles; this
is the version you'll want. "Just Plain Trekkers" will love the extra material
Paramount has added.
"Star Trek II - The Wrath of
Khan" could be credited with having saved "Star Trek" from a premature
(well, to many of us) fate.
"Star Trek - The Motion Picture" was a big disappointment in that
it forgot what made Trek great and concentrated instead on special effects and
"bigness' - in short, it was form over substance.
Paramount decided, for whatever reason, to take control of the
series from Gene Roddenberry's hands for successive films and handed it over to
Harve Bennett. The result was a much smaller movie than "TMP" and, other than
the special effects (which are fine, but not breakthrough like the first
movie's) a much better movie.
The story's a sequel to the "Space Seed" episode from the
original TV series' first season. Khan Noonian
Singh (Ricardo Montalban, in all his scenery-chewing glory) is a superman from
the late 20th century. The result of genetic engineering, and one of the causes
of the Eugenics War that led to his - and his "tribe's" - eventual exile from
Earth, he has no delusions of grandeur. No, he IS grand,
and has no intention of letting the galaxy forget it.
In the original episode, Kirk ends up marooning Khan and kin on
the planet Ceti Alpha 5, where he's free to build whatever society he
Jump ahead fifteen years and Khan and the remnants of his
community are discovered by Captain Terrell (Paul Winfield) and his aide
Commander Chekov (yes, of course, THAT Chekov) who think they're actually on
Ceti Alpha 6. One would think the Federation would have better galactic road
maps than they do, so their starships wouldn't make such silly and elementary
navigation mistakes, but what's a plot hole or two in Star Trek?
Plot holes are a grand Star Trek tradition, and it's nice to see
them being exploited so well again...
Anyway, Khan gets free and takes control over Terrell's ship and
uses it to seek out now-Admiral Kirk to have his revenge.
There's a nifty subplot involving the Genesis machine and its
"Life from lifelessness" theme that will carry through the next Trek movie as
well. It's the Khan stuff we're really here for, though, and Bennett,
Montalban, et al, don't disappoint.
Star Trek II is the first of the trilogy that concludes with IV,
and the three can almost be viewed as a single movie - especially II and III,
which relate directly to each other.
Besides Montalban, we're also introduced to Kirstie Alley as Lt.
Saavik (played by Robin Curtis, and not nearly as well, in STIII). This was
probably her breakout role, and she's very good as the confused young Vulcan
being mentored by Spock. Director Nicholas Meyer (who also made the terrific
"Time After Time") does a nice job of riding
herd on the production.
The Director's Edition adds about four minutes to the running
time, and there's some interesting stuff in it, but on the whole the movie
isn't really improved from its initial version. In fact, I'd have to say that I
like the original better, but would have to opt for this newer version because
of its superior quality as a DVD.
According to these old eyes, the DVD has been given a new transfer
and this one is appreciably better looking and sounding than the original DVD.
The anamorphic widescreen picture (16x9 TV compatible) is, for the most part,
terrific, with a razor sharp image (though in places it's a tad soft and a
little "muddy") and wonderful color texture. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
audio is equally as good, with good use of the rear channels and the
Then there are the extras - and they stretch over the two discs of
the set. First up there's a running commentary with director Nicholas Meyer,
and a text commentary from "Star Trek Encyclopedia" co-author Michael
Disc two includes a bunch of new extras, all of which are also
presented in anamorphic widescreen, which is a terrific idea. In fact, the only
thing that isn't widescreen is the collection of "vintage" interviews made
around the time of the film's initial release in 1982. These "eye stretching"
extras including a rash of new cast/crew interviews, a feature on the film's
design, another one on the special effects (with new interviews of the old ILM
people who did them), and "the Star Trek Universe," a feature promoting two
Star Trek novels that relate to the subject matter of "The Wrath of Khan" and
feature the novels' authors.
There's also, not surprisingly, the theatrical trailer and a
In all, an excellent package, but we wish Paramount would have
offered these versions right off the bat instead of expecting fans to ante up
once more. Still, we particularly look forward to a new version of VI, which
wasn't released in anamorphic widescreen the first time around.
Star Trek II:
The Wrath of Khan, from Paramount Home Video
116 minutes, Widescreen
(2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Deforest
Kelley, George Takei, Nichelle Nicholls, Walter Koenig, James Doohan, Ricardo
Montalban, Bibi Besch, Merritt Butrick, Kirstie Alley, and Paul Winfield
Written by Jack B. Sowards, Produced by Harve Bennett
Directed by Nicholas
Star Trek III is the warmest of the Trek movies, and my
personal favorite, yet it's still a ripping yarn with enough action and
adventure to keep Trekkies happy.
Leonard Nimoy (who explains on Disc Two how that came to be), the film picks up
where "Star Trek II - the Wrath of Khan" left off. Spock has just died and his
mortal remains (which turn out to be not nearly as mortal as originally
suspected) have landed on the new Genesis planet.
limps back to space dock and the crew, devastated by the loss of the Vulcan
first officer, waits for a reassignment that never comes.
meanwhile, has gone from crusty and curmudgeonly country doctor to the
personification of weirdness (though he stops short of imitating Michael
Jackson) and it turns out his metamorphosis is due to Spock having put his life
essence into him before making his nearly ultimate sacrifice.
nobody, including McCoy, knows this until Sarek (Mark Lenard), Spock's father
shows up at Kirk's apartment and explains the facts of Vulcan life.
Armed with the
new knowledge that there's a chance to save Spock, Kirk pleads with Star Fleet
to let him return to Genesis with McCoy to try "reunifying" Spock. The pencil
necked bureaucrats turn him down, however, so Kirk and his inner circle of
series regulars steal the Enterprise right out of space dock and head for
the Klingons have gotten wind of the Genesis device and want to turn it into a
weapon, so they're cloaked and waiting for the Enterprise when it arrives at
the Genesis planet. This provides the film's conflict as Kirk and his merry
band have to find and save Spock while fighting off the Klingon bastards who'll
stop at nothing to acquire the Genesis device.
Some wags have
written off every odd-numbered Star Trek movie as being wastes of time and,
though they're not far off the mark when it comes to "V," "Generations," and
the second half of "The Motion Picture," "The Search for Spock" is one of the
best entries. Besides being a good Star Trek yarn, it's also about friendship,
respect, and duty, and though it could easily have gotten bogged down in
schmaltz it manages to resist that temptation and instead ends up being quite
The cast does a
good job in their familiar roles, especially Shatner as Kirk, who comes off as
more human and less pompous than in any other entry (until you see him in the
supplemental material). Christopher Lloyd is also very good as Klingon
Commander Kruge - and watch for John Larroquette in an early role as a Klingon
It's nice to
see them taking chances, too. In "Khan," they had the guts to kill off Spock
(even if only temporarily) and in "III" they blow up the beloved Enterprise. In
both cases they do it very well and instead of angering Trek fans they endeared
themselves to the legions even more.
who also directed "Star Trek IV," does a good job with this flick. So did
Paramount when it comes to creating a DVD version. The widescreen anamorphic
picture looks good, and in places it looks great. It's not a lot better than
the original DVD release, but the
picture is mostly sharp (though sometimes grainy) and very colorful. Overall,
the movie looks older than it is, but it's still quite satisfying on a good big
The audio has
been translated into Dolby Digital 5.1 and while what surround there is is
pretty good, the overall sound quality could have benefited from a good re
mastering. As with the video, the audio sounds dated. Paramount should have
given this movie the re mastering it deserves - though we wouldn't be surprised
if they're saving that for yet another trip to the well to get more after-tax
income out of hard-working Trekkies.
The real joy of
this Collector's Edition is the second disc of extras and the audio
commentaries on Disc One. The commentaries are by director Nimoy, producer
Harve Bennett with Director of Photography Charles Correll and "Saavik" Robin
Curtis (who, unfortunately, was a pale imitation of Kirstie Alley). It's a good
commentary in all - and you also get a text commentary with some interesting
stuff from the authors of "The Star Trek Encyclopedia.
Disc Two includes a bunch of documentaries and, as seems to be the
most welcome trend now, for the most part they're also presented in anamorphic
widescreen. Besides the theatrical trailer and a teaser for 2002's Star Trek
Nemesis, there's "Captain's Log," featuring new interviews with Leonard Nimoy,
William Shatner, Robin Curtis, Harve Bennett and Christopher Lloyd. You also
get "The Star Trek Universe," a series of documentaries including "Space Docks
and Birds of Prey (interviews with ILM model creators), Speaking Klingon (the
creation of the Klingon language), Klingon and Vulcan Costumes (featuring the
designers), "Terraforming and the Prime Directive," a featurette about
Terraforming hosted by NASA scientist and Planetary Society bigwig Dr. Louis
Friedman. There are also storyboards & photos.
It's good stuff, which combines to help
make this whole Collectors
Edition an eminently watchable Star Trek episode.
Star Trek III:
The Search for Spock, from Paramount Home Video
105 minutes, Widescreen
(2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Deforest
Kelley, George Takei, Nichelle Nicholls, Walter Koenig, James Doohan,
Written and Produced by Harve Bennett,
IV is the series' lightest entry, but it's also the most serious in
that it's a cautionary tale about our fragile environment and how over the long
term our short term shortsightedness could have horrible consequences for the
human race in ways we could hardly dream.
It's also the
third in a continuous trilogy of films (that began with "The Wrath of Khan") in
which Admiral Kirk manages to regain command of the Enterprise, fight an old
nemesis, kill his best friend, resurrect him, destroy the Enterprise, get court
martialed and busted back to Captain, then be given command of a new
directs again, as he did so well in STIII, and he does a fine job of taking our
heroes through their misadventures in 1980's San Francisco. The Enterprising
bunch are fish out of water as they stumble through what to them are virtually
the dark ages as they try to kidnap a couple of humpback whales and bring back
to the 23rd century to save the Earth.
They need the
whales because a mysterious probe has come into the solar system and begun
hollering for the whales - and, not finding them, is wreaking havoc on the rest
of God's creatures that aren't yet extinct.
whales retroactively and thereby saving the Earth proactively gives Kirk and
his now-renegade crew the big stick with which to beat any rap Starfleet would
give them for their actions in Star Treks II and III, and all ends happily with
the crew taking up their traditional duties in a brand new Enterprise that just
happened to be waiting for them in space dock when they just so happen to need
a new ship.
Star Trek stuff, and that means it's a good ride with likeable, comfortable
characters, a healthy dose of action/adventure, and even some food for thought
thrown in for good measure. It's the least action-packed of the Trek movies
(with the possible exception of the unfortunately ponderous "The Motion
Picture," but you don't miss the shoot 'em ups because there's plenty more
stuff to like.
usual crew members, who deliver their usual journeyman performances, Catherine
Hicks is along this time, as a whale expert and the requisite Kirk love
interest that had been missing since the original TV series (not including Dr.
Marcus, of course). And who'd have thunk - she dumps HIM at the end of the
Collector's Edition DVD of the film is in anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV
compatible), with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and the picture quality is very good
- perhaps the best of the "original" Trek movies to date. Sound quality is good
- though there isn't a lot of surround used.
And as befits
such a so-called Collector's Edition, there are extras in abundance, an entire
second disc's worth as well as commentaries (including a text commentary) on
the first disc.
must be commended for releasing the lion's share of the extra disc's material
in anamorphic widescreen - a welcome touch for owners of 16x9 TV's or for
people who don't yet have these TV's but who will.
two starts off with a series of interesting documentaries under the umbrella
"The Star Trek Universe." They include talks about the feasibility time travel
(and faster than light travel) by some high ranking quantum physicists, "The
Language of Whales," a Vulcan primer (which focuses on Vulcans and their
society and not their language), and "Kirk's Women" - the lamest of the bunch
but it's interesting to see how these former "Kirk chicks" have aged and how
they remember their time in the ST universe.
Then there are
featurettes on the production of the movie itself, and they're also very
interesting. You also get a look at the film's visual effects, including some
fascinating looks at the creation of the movie's cetacean co-stars (and while
we knew going in that there were models used, we had never suspected that there
were no real humpbacks used at all!).
has thrown in a couple of tributes, one to Gene (The Great Bird of the Galaxy)
Roddenberry himself, courtesy of his son, and one to Mark Lenard (Sarek), from
off are some storyboard and a production gallery, original interviews with the
three main stars, and the theatrical trailer.
In all, a
fascinating presentation that really does this most popular Star Trek movie
Star Trek IV:
The Voyage Home, from Paramount Home Video
118 minutes, Widescreen
(2.35:1), Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy,
Deforest Kelley, George Takei, Nichelle Nicholls, Walter Koenig, James Doohan
and Catherine Hicks
Produced by Harve Bennett, Screenplay by Steve Meerson
& Peter Krikes and Harve Bennett & Nicholas Meyer, Directed by Leonard
Star Trek VI: The
This chapter does a nice job of passing the torch to "Star Trek: The Next Generation." It's supposed to
be the last film with the original cast (some of whom show up again in "Star
Trek Generations") and it concerns the beginnings of the Klingon/Federation
Alliance that's still in place by the time Jean Luc Picard and his merry band
take over the bridge of a subsequent Enterprise.
The movie's also an allegory for the Cold War between the East and
the West (on Earth, of course) and begins with the destruction of the over
-mined planetoid from which the Klingons (the East) got much of their
resources. This emergency leads them to seek peace with the Federation, which
the goodhearted Feds grant. Captain Kirk (whose son was killed by these same
"Klingon bastards" in Star Trek III) is given the job of being the liaison
between the two races.
But trust is hard to find among peoples who've been at each
other's throats through 79 TV episodes and five movies and it doesn't take long
for a monkey wrench to be thrown into the peace process - via a well timed
assassination that looks as if it were performed by Kirk or one of his
Christopher Plummer chews the scenery as Chang, a
Shakespeare-spouting Klingon who's always up for a good battle as long as it's
glorious, and Kim Cattrall plays a Vulcan sidekick to Spock who's a lot more
than she appears to be. We also get to see the former Yeoman Rand in a tiny
role, as well as Spock's father Sarek. Michael (Worf) Dorn is even along for
the ride in a tip of the hat to the Next Generation.
Star Trek VI is a reunion and a farewell at the same time, and
succeeds well as both. It has an intelligent plot, with the usual action and
social commentary, good special effects, and a memorable cast of familiar and
new characters. It's a fine sendoff for the original cast, despite their
refusal to stay gone when "Generations" was written.
The Collector's Edition DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen,
fortunately. The original DVD wasn't anamorphic for some reason, but Paramount
has now corrected this oversight and it's a very welcome move. The picture
quality is very good, inded, with sharp images and rich color.
Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and it's also very good, with
nice use of the surround channels when the spaceships whiz by.
The collector's edition has plenty of extras, too. First up is an
audio commentary featuring director Nicholas Meyer and screenwriter Denny
Martin Flinn, and there's also a text commentary by Michael & Denise Okuda
of "The Star Trek Encyclopedia."
Disc two has plenty to offer as well. We were particularly taken
with the farewell tribute to Deforest Kelley, which was quite moving. There's
also a series of featurettes on the making of the film, Star Trek lore, "Art
Imitates Life" (The Perils of Peacemaking), interviews with the cast and crew
dating back to the movie's original release, promo materials, a production
gallery and storyboard collection.
It has been said that only the even numbered "Star Trek" movies
are any good and we'd agree that they're the best, though we also have a very
soft spot for III and the first hour or so of the first one. Five, however, is
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, from Paramount Home
113 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Deforest Kelley, George Takei, Nichelle Nicholls,
Walter Koenig, James Doohan, Christopher Plummer, David Warner, Kim
Produced by Ralph Winter and Steven-Charles Jaffe, Story by
Leonard Nimoy and Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal,
Written by Nicholas
Meyer and Denny Martin Flynn, Directed by Nicholas Meyer
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