Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection
Directed by Robert Wise, Nicholas Meyer, and Leonard Nimoy.
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Majel Barrett, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Persis Khambatta, Stephen Collins, Bibi Besch, Merritt Butrick, Paul Winfield, Kirstie Alley, Ricardo Montalbán, Christopher Lloyd, and Catherine Hicks.
The first four Star Trek movies arrive on 4K UltraHD disc in a collection that includes the films on both 4K and Blu-ray discs, with plenty of bonus features packed onto the latter. All of them were remastered by Paramount for ths release, and they’ve never looked better on home video.
Is 4K the final evolution of movies on home video, the way V’Ger was perhaps the final evolution of humanity in Star Trek: The Motion Picture? Perhaps. We’ve certainly reached the point where a movie that’s been competently remastered for 4K Ultra HD (meaning, without excessive digital noise reduction and other processing that has plagued many movies on Blu-ray) is about as close to its original theatrical presentation as you can get.
Sure, you can find reviews online that will nitpick the littlest details of a 4K disc the same way an art historian might nitpick the littlest details of a restored painting, and if that’s your jam, that’s fine, but the average person likely doesn’t care about such things. For those of us who still like to have discs of our favorite movies on our shelves, the 4K era is a golden age. (Regarding streaming: not only is compression an issue, but so is the possibility of losing access to films in a digital library due to licensing changes.)
Which brings me to Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection, which will hopefully be the first of multiple Star Trek sets on 4K. This set encompasses the first four movies in the series, and they’ve never looked better on home video. Paramount put resources into these 4K remasters, and it shows: fabrics have texture to them, bright colors pop on the screen, and little details like background console screens are better discernible. There’s also a light amount of grain throughout each film, as there should be.
Paramount actually packed eight discs into this set, along with codes for digital copies of the films. One case holds the 4K platters, which contain only the movies and their commentary tracks, while the other case has Blu-rays with the same 4K remasters of the films and the bonus features. Unfortunately, the only new bonus feature in this set is an isolated score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but much of the previous content from the DVD and Blu-ray days can be found here, so this is a perfect time to jump back into the Star Trek pool, if you were out for a while. There are some things missing, though, so you may want to hold onto your old discs.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The first film in the series has been much maligned during the decades since its 1979 release, but revisiting it for this review, I can see how and why it came about. The storyline, which involves a seemingly malignant space probe that’s actually from Earth’s past, would have been right at home during Star Trek’s time as a TV series, when the stories were more cerebral and there wasn’t as much rip-roaring action.
The choice of director Robert Wise was also a sound one, given his storied career in the industry and the fact that he had directed the science-fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, which is also a story about ideas, rather than a larger-than-life clash between opposing forces. Before he died, Wise had the opportunity to release a Director’s Edition of the film on VHS and DVD; it included various edits, along with new special effects work, that greatly improved it. You won’t find that version here, although Paramount has said they’re working on a 4K restoration of it.
In addition to the isolated score, the only other bonus feature on the 4K disc is a commentary track with Michael and Denise Okuda, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and Daren Dochterman. The five of them are well-known to Star Trek fans, and they kick off their information-rich group chat by talking about the film’s genesis as a two-hour pilot for a proposed new TV series that would have launched a Paramount TV network in the mid-70s. Those plans were scuttled, but the massive success of Star Wars prompted the studio to put the film on the fast track for a December 1979 release.
The isolated score and commentary track are also found on the Blu-ray, along with a Library Computer Viewing Mode feature that displays informational text written by the Okudas while the movie plays. Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens pop up again in the nearly 11-minute The Longest Trek: Writing the Motion Picture featurette, which details the film’s origins starting with a script created by creator Gene Roddenberry not long after the TV series ended. Paramount rejected it, but the film ended up coming out of a long and winding journey that’s recounted by various people who were there along the way.
The rest of the bonus features include storyboards, a reunion of five extras from the film, a recounting of the movie’s events by a Starfleet officer, eight minutes of deleted scenes, and trailers and TV spots.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★ / Movie: ★★★
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
The Motion Picture wasn’t the kind of box office blockbuster Paramount was hoping for, which led to Roddenberry being nudged aside as producer Harve Bennett and director Nicholas Meyer took the reins for the sequel, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Costs were cut, but the action was increased, and this time Kirk and crew were up against an enemy played with scenery-chewing aplomb by Ricardo Montalban.
The events of the first film were forgotten by the characters, allowing Wrath of Khan to function as a reboot of the series. Meyer seized on the characters’ military ranks to ramp up that aspect of the story world, supposedly against Roddenberry’s wishes. The uniforms became more militaristic, and characters addressed each other as you’d imagine members of the armed forces would do so in the future. There’s even a spaceship battle that’s reminiscent of naval warfare and a kind of funeral at sea.
This one is still my favorite of the series, so revisiting it in 4K was a treat. The theatrical and director’s cuts are both included on the 4K and Blu-ray discs. Meyer shows up quite a bit in the bonus features, starting with two commentary tracks, one that he does solo for both versions of the movie and another that was recorded with Star Trek: Enterprise showrunner Manny Coto for the theatrical cut. Both tracks are worth a listen, especially if you’re not a die-hard Trekkie, since Meyer isn’t either, so he peppers his chat with references to everything from the works of Henry James to Greek tragedies.
Members of the cast and crew also show up throughout the rest of the bonus features, which dig much deeper than the ones on the Motion Picture disc. While many members of the cast are no longer with us, they do show up in older interview clips, and some of the visual effects artists get to share their experiences too. I won’t list out all the extras found here, but there’s over two hours worth of it to dig into. The Okudas’ Library Computer Viewing Mode shows up here too, providing the hardcore Trekkie perspective on all the little details in the film.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★★ / Movie: ★★★★★
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Nicholas Meyer was originally against bringing back Spock, but in the Wrath of Khan bonus features, he talks about how he resisted the shot of his coffin on the Genesis planet at the end of the movie, only to change his mind in later years. While he was a great choice to give the Star Trek film series a kick in the pants, it made sense to hand the reins over to Leonard Nimoy to guide the next two installments from the director’s chair.
A lot of people say that the even-numbered Trek films are the best ones, but I disagree when it comes to the third installment. (Let’s not speak of number five.) Picking up where the second one left off, Kirk and crew learn that their favorite half-Vulcan might not be dead after all and risk their Starfleet careers to bring him back. The Klingons return, with Christopher Lloyd doing a wonderful job as a commander who wants the secrets of the Genesis planet for himself. The Search for Spock may not be as pitch-perfect as its predecessor, but it’s still a solid movie that holds up to repeat viewings.
The bonus features lead off with two commentary tracks. The first one features Nimoy, Bennett, cinematographer Chris Correll, and cast member Robin Curtis, who replaced Kirstie Alley in the role of Saavik. Nimoy didn’t do a lot of commentary tracks, so this is one of the rare opportunities to hear him discuss a film, with the others providing plenty of supporting details. (They were all recorded separately.) The second track has Trek writers Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor giving more of a fan perspective on the movie, since they worked on the franchise later in their careers.
Another two hours-plus of content can be found here too, covering the making of the movie, the special effects, NASA’s perspective on terraforming planets (spoiler alert: you can destroy a planet pretty quickly, but making one habitable requires a bit more time than in Star Trek), the creation of the Klingon language for the film, and more. The Library Computer Viewing Mode, packed with information from the Okudas, is found here too. Photo galleries, storyboards, and the theatrical trailer finish off the disc.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★ / Movie: ★★★★
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
“The one with the whales,” as it’s colloquially known, is the final movie in this set, and it caps off the trilogy that started with Wrath of Khan. Spock rejoins his crewmates, but an alien probe has arrived in orbit around the Earth and has knocked out all power on the planet with a signal that turns out to be meant for inhabitants that are no longer around.
Kirk and company take their commandeered Klingon Bird of Prey back in time to the Bay Area in 1986 to find two whales that they can bring back to 2286 and have them tell the probe why they love krill so much, or whatever the thing wants to know. The Monterey Bay Aquarium stood in for the fictional Cetacean Institute, a fun fact I let my family know about every time we visit. And, no, the aquarium has never housed whales – that part was added via the magic of special effects.
Nicholas Meyer returned to writing duties for this one, and it shows: the dialogue has more crackle to it than the previous film, and the plot moves along at a measured, lively pace. Nimoy directed The Voyage Home, and he and Shatner contribute to the first of the two commentary tracks on this disc. The pair play off each other like old friends during the discussion, with none of Shatner’s notorious insecurities regarding his co-star getting in the way.
The second track features Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote the 2009 Star Trek reboot. They provide the fan perspective, since they were teenagers when they first saw the film. I enjoy those kinds of commentaries, especially when the participants are prepared to really dig into the fan environment around a movie, as Orci and Kurtzman are here.
As with the preceding two films, you’ll again find over two hours worth of bonus features here covering all aspects of the production, including the obligatory “Can you really travel through time?” discussion with physicists and the Okudas’ Library Computer Viewing Mode. A production gallery, storyboards, and the theatrical trailer finish off this disc and the set.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★★ / Movie: ★★★★