Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection Blu-ray Review

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by Chris McEneany Jun 14, 2009 at 12:00 AM

  • Movies review


    Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £86.79


    All of these 6 movies have MPEG-4 1080p encodes and appear in their original theatrical editions with the correct aspect ratios. Whereas most have been remastered, it appears that Wrath Of Khan has actually been restored as well. By now, most ardent fans will either have seen these transfers for themselves or, at least, read reams of comments on them on the web. All I can do is offer my thoughts on how well Paramount have treated them.

    Star Trek: The Motion Picture

    Well, this one looks astounding, to be frank. The cleanliness and detail on offer are revelatory. You can whine about the age of the print, the obviousness of the visual effects and the DNR all you want - the fact remains that this looks beautiful. The visual style of the film is pure seventies - this is the grand and “serious” Sci-Fi vogue that typified the likes of Logan's Run, Silent Running and, going back a little further to the film that very clearly inspired Wise and visual FX honcho, Doug Trumball, to go large-scale and ornate, Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Fabulously wide and extravagantly coloured this is a work of art unfolding before you. From the lights on the Enterprise in Spacedock to its veritable shrinkage to minuscule proportions as it traverses the “living” plateaus of V'Ger, this is grand-scale majesty. Pleasingly, despite some naysayers claiming otherwise, there is still a thin veneer of grain left on the image that does enhance the filmic qualities of the picture.

    Blacks are solid and strong, yielding excellent star-fields that, to be fair, are exhibited throughout all the films in the set. Contrast resists attempts to falter and the Cloud's heft and magnitude look resplendent. The Cloud offers some exquisite midnight blues and I love the grubby, lived-in appearance of the grimy Klingon cruisers at the start. Crowd scenes have a splendidly varied collection of hues and shades for the numerous races, creeds and species present and wide, deep shots have a definite sense of genuine depth and three-dimensionality, with edge delineation far better than I had anticipated. Later entries in the series - Search For Spock, Voyage Home and Final Frontier - tend to lose this quality except for some appreciably dramatic shots here and there. Edge enhancement isn't a problem, and don't go tut-tutting at the haloes around characters when they appear in front of an effects shot - these owe a lot to the original matte-lines, pure and simple. Some details are a little less welcome, such as the rather revealing pants that some of the crew - oops, that means you, Decker - are wearing. But this is a fantastic transfer of the series' most prosaic and captivating entry that genuinely seems to lift a veil from the film to reveal far more information and splendour, both indoors and out ... there.

    Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan.

    On to the second in the series, and the aesthetic changes considerably. Both the filming style and the transfer here on BD differ radically from its predecessor. Yes, as you've heard, it looks softer and less clinically detailed. Yes, DNR has been employed. But this still looks hugely better than any version on home video that I've seen before. There has been talk already about the detriments of the anamorphic lenses of the time, and I am certainly no expert in these matters. But, this said, I find it hard to argue with those who do understand such things when the image, itself, certainly seems to reveal the evidence all too readily. Thus, when we have shots that offer up tremendous detail and clarity in the vast middle swathes of the image, yet then display a markedly softer appearance at the edges of the frame, I can feel safe in the assumption that this is down to the original print and certainly no fault of the transfer, as some people have tried to claim. The colours of the now iconic red serge tunics are deeper and less dazzlingly red. Colours, across the board, have a more natural appearance - Khan's silvery-white mane, his crew's tribal attire, computer visuals and sets. The early CG effect of what Genesis can do and the matted-in shot of the lush foliage that it has, indeed, created look nicely colourful, but definitely “of the time”, by which I mean that the hues and the overall palette can appear a little flatter than other entries in the series. Flesh tones, too, lack the vibrancy and colour of some of the other films, but the deep shades of the Mutara Nebula are nicely atmospheric and reveal no banding issues.

    Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.

    Moving on to Star Trek III, we find that things continue aplomb with inarguably enhanced detail, much more robust colours and an obviously sharper picture. Well, sharper in some scenes, at any rate, because there are times when the picture softens-up quite noticeably, and at random, leading to a vaguely uneven feel to the overall visual presentation. But just look at the green of that Bird Of Prey and the detail revealed on its structure. This is a much more comic-book appearance, yet whilst this is all very nice, it also gives the film something of a more TV-style look, more solid, perhaps, but still quite flat in places and this is not one to look at in terms of three-dimensionality. DNR has also taken a little more away from this image than on the previous two films though, once again, it is not as bad as many have claimed.

    One of the more noticeable traits in this higher definition image are the little matte-blocks around spacecraft in flight. Early on, as we witness comings and goings and flybys around Earth, these little flutter-boxes are very highly apparent. But, hey, so what? My little lad, now eight, has been brought up on the Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Rings Trilogy, Star Wars and now even the new Star Trek, and he has proved quite picky about certain visual effects - even damning Wolverine (and I mean the finished cut!) for shoddy green-screen work - and he never mentioned these obvious vintage shortfalls once. Story and atmosphere come first.

    Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

    This, once again, is more highly detailed than we've been used to seeing it, though given the nature of the film's broader, more day-lit and external filming style, I'm a little surprised that it wasn't even more vibrant and sharply rendered. Now I've seem this particular transfer getting pulled apart in dizzyingly anal depth (!), but, to my eyes, this still looks mighty fine, overall. DNR takes its toll, with those sunny exteriors suffering the most and losing some depth in the process. Some of those San Francisco street scenes should have been more three-dimensional, but they lack that crucial pronouncement that I hoped I would see in one of the later movies. But, once more, just look at the added detail of shipboard readouts, display monitors, alien heads, insignia and external spacecraft surfaces. The watery moments - Spock's aquatic communion with the whales and the murky splash-about at the finale - have always looked muted, indistinct and a bit iffy, and, well, they still do here. There is some very slight shimmering on a couple of patterned surfaces, but, hey, look at that Bird Of Prey now - it's even greener and much more vibrant than before. WOW! The splendid shot when it hovers above the whaling ship is impressively striking. Likewise, the painterly background to the alien landscape stretching out on Vulcan looks more finite and smoother in terms of shade and texture. And the radiant fireball of the Sun manages to retain some vividly burning integrity no matter how close we get to it.

    Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

    Shatner's movie has a couple of specks and spots here and there - notably during Sybok's sand-blown introduction - but this is still a marked improvement over any version that I've seen before on the small screen. DNR does smooth down some of those facial textures and this one definitely has some of the most intense black levels seen in the series - so much so that I feared some detail may have been squashed beneath it in a handful of shots, the skirmish between Kirk and Sybok outside the shuttlecraft in particular. Contrast is also quite hot in places, but then again, the places in question are dealing with absurdly bright lights in the first place so this feels fully justified and looks accurate to me. Colours are vivid and well saturated. There are some great pinkish vistas for the desert-scapes of Sha Ka Ree and wild neon-injected blues for the planet's magical view when seen from space. Once again, the tunics of the Starfleet personnel and the costumes of the assorted rogues, nomads and alien dignitaries are splendidly rendered with precision and no hint of bleeding. The fake deity's gleaming, spectrally carved visage is colourful enough, although I did feel that it should have looked sharper and better defined.

    Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

    The final movie in the series is now back in its original 2.35:1 aspect after Meyer's previous tinkering for the extended version, and the results are, again, day and night when compared to previous SD incarnations. This one looks awesome. Yes, I know about the DNR! I can see those Waxy (that's an official term now, folks) faces but, aha, just how much more detail is there to be found in to those faces still? Yup, you got it - loads. Pores, wisps of crazy Klingon whiskers and the strands amid Kurtwood Smith's extravagant plumage, gleams in the eye and material texture also come up trumps. It's all there to be seen. The image is tremendously sharp as well and a distinct pleasure to see after those wishy-washy, rather noisy earlier transfers. Contrast is excellent, with the scenes of Kirk and McCoy moving through the Dilithium mine on their way to breaking free - vivid red laser-drills, acres of bold shadow, eerie casts of light all around them - looking especially entrancing. Yet, having said this, there are also shots - Kirk and McCoy languishing in their bunks earlier on, for example - that have a more pronounced black level and are, as a consequence, somewhat obscure and indistinct. This said, I would take this transfer over any other that I have seen.

    And that sentiment goes for all the other discs too, for whatever you've heard or read about these transfers over the net, the bottom line is that they all look far better than they ever did on DVD. It is true that DNR has some impact on them, but given the nature of the beast, the vagaries of the different lenses, lighting and styles that each film adopted, I sincerely doubt that we are going to see these movies looking any better on home video for quite some time. If ever.

    Overall, the collection gets an 8 out of 10, with The Motion Picture actually looking the best of the lot.

    Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection Picture


    Wow! Paramount chose to grant one its flagship movie franchises with sumptuous TrueHD 7.1 audio. Well, you can 't say that they are skimping out on us, soundwise, can you?

    Talking about each individual title will actually be a moot point as they all exhibit fascinating new levels of strength, vitality, surround activity and detail. We now have seamless panning from front to back of vessels swooping past us and laser-fire sizzling across our set-up, with such directional fare sounding far cleaner and more satisfying than ever before. Phaser-blasts and Photon torpedoes pack more clout and exhibit much more precise steerage. Jumps to Warp-Speed are delightfully handled too, and actually positioned within the soundfield as opposed to just frontally captured. Possibly the least active of the group is The Voyage Home, although even here, we have some throbbing substance to the whales' cigar-shaped alien buddy and some nicely sharp shattering windows in the weather-battered Starfleet HQ.

    I had no problems with the dialogue. Voices are well presented and also carry a fair degree of positioning within the mix. Transmissions over comms sound accurate - tinny and full of static if necessary, clear and resounding when called for, elsewhere - and, once again, their placement within the soundfield is expertly steered. The frontal array has a wider spread, offering more dynamics and clarity. The musical scores are presented with depth and warmth. Never overpowering but always sweeping, elegant and rich, these fantastic arrangements may not possess some of the instrumental subtlety that I may have liked, but they all sound clear and vibrant. Musical effects, such as Goldsmith's famed Blaster-beam and various other V'ger cadences or Horner's devilish Khan trills have a nice presence and such details within the soundscape are well-treated by a mix that, as far as I am concerned, does not commit any obviously bogus signal-stretching malarkey.

    Great bits from around the collection would include the glooping about of the purple blood globules in The Undiscovered Country's zero-g assassination sequence. An explosion or two in Final Frontier that the sub just loves, as well as some unearthly wailing from the fake deity at the end. And listen out for that hilarious little horn-hooting that Goldsmith can't resist putting in for the Klingon head-case Klaa in Search For Spock. The destruction of the Genesis Planet has full speaker activity cranked-up, with boisterous flames, crashing rocks and scything hunks of twisting ground creaking and groaning about the soundscape with clarity and genuine heft, and the destruction of the planet Praxis in VI has a great surging wall of sound that moves across the aural environment, buffeting us along with Sulu's precariously placed ship. There is a nice little clang when Scottie whacks his noggin against the steel overhead beam in The Final Frontier, as well as some neat whooshing effects for the couple of occasions when Spock employs his little booster-boots to get his buddies out of trouble.

    If Voyage Home is the weakest of the bunch, then Khan is surely the most aggressive. Now this one rocks, folks. With all seven channels utilised, the second film in the series literally comes to life as you've never heard it before. Immediately the Bridge hums, bleeps and crackles during the Kobayashi Maru Test, explosions and shudders jostle and buffet with more vigour than before. And what is more, this one features a very active low level thrumming throughout most of the shipboard sequences, really helping to place you in the environment. Speaking of environments, we've also got some terrific swirling wind and dust devils during the ill-fated mission to Ceti Alpha VI. And then there's the screeching of those little ear-burrowing bugs, too! VI's prison-planet Rura Penthe is surprisingly subdued during the underground mining sequences, but the harsh winds do some chilly whistling topside by way of compensation.

    The attention to detail throughout - even to the smaller things - is very pleasing. I like the way that the many crowd scenes, or busy Bridge-set sequences, carry activity around all seven speakers, distributing voices and effects with a convincing level that keeps the atmosphere active and alive and fully immersive. I would say, therefore, that all the transfers perform admirably and it is a reassuring pleasure to experience these movies in 7.1 Dolby TrueHD.

    Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection Sound


    Right, if you think that I'm going to wade through all the stuff that is on offer with this comprehensively stacked boxset in much detail, you've got another think coming. The overwhelming majority of it has been lifted from the previous special editions, including commentaries, featurettes, publicity blurb and the like, but there has also been a fair raft of new material included, and each movie disc now comes equipped with BD-Live in the form of a Trek IQ test.

    Newly-added features also include a rather naff little Starfleet Academy Briefing for each movie that acts merely as a plot-pitch for the respective mission, but done in an “instructional” manner by a very poor and amateurish actress in a Starfleet uniform.

    The Motion Picture throws in a ten-minute feature on creating the concept for the movie and the how the ideas evolved in The Longest Trek, and also gives us a Special Star Trek Reunion which is, regrettably, nine minutes of pure filler-pap in the company of a handful of barely seen extras. We also get some Deleted Scenes (8 mins), a trio of storyboards and some trailers and TV Spots. But this assortment is missing some of the more involving and thorough documentaries from the Director's Cut DVD - namely Phase II: The Lost Enterprise, A Bold New Enterprise and Redirecting the Future. Which is a shame.

    Besides the fine old commentary that he gave for The Wrath Of Khan's SD version, Nicholas Meyer provides a new one with Star Trek: Enterprise producer Manny Coto, though the results are just repetition. We also get a brief look at what James Horner brought to the film with his score in Composing Genesis, a rather cold Tribute To Ricardo Montalban from Meyer, and fan-fun with phasers in Collecting Star Trek's Movie Relics. Much better value, however, are the familiar featurettes that have beamed aboard the BD from the previous edition. Star Trek: A Novel Approach looks at the expanded literary universe that the franchise has spawned. The half-hour Captain's Log details how the sequel came about, and we get further substantial background for the movie in Designing Khan and The Visual Effects Of Star Trek II. Ten minutes of Original Interviews - Shatner, Nimoy, Deforest Kelley and Ricardo Montalban - adds to the pot, and there are a decent selection of storyboards and the film's original trailer.

    The Search For Spock offers us a drab chat track from Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor, a perfunctory look at ILM's visual fx-work, some guff with writer/producer Harve Bennett at the Science Fiction Hall Of Fame, a nice but really rather poor look at Spock: The Early Years - which just focusses on Stephen Manley's contribution to bringing the freshly evolving Genesis Spock to life. Better value, again, are the original features that have been ported over. The group commentary from cast and crew is fine and fun, as is the half-hour Captain's Log which delves into the making of the film. ILM's original half-hour examination of their work on the movie, Space Docks and Birds Of Prey, returns and is much better than the newer slant that the BD lobs in. Insanely daft, but still absolutely brilliant is the overview that Marc Okrand delivers regarding his in-depth creation of an alien lingo much beloved by die-hard Trekkers and convention-devotees in Speaking Klingon, and the boffins have their say regarding the possibilities and philosophical ramifications of exploring the universe and finding ways for it to accommodate us in the much weightier Terraforming And The Prime Directive. The disc is rounded-off with a couple of Stills Galleries, some storyboards and the theatrical trailer.

    The Voyage Home has a fair bit of bonus material, though a considerable amount of it is pure fluff. From the past, we regain the somewhat disappointing chat track pairing of Nimoy and Shatner, Nimoy's On-Location piece, Sound Designer Mark Mangini's run-through of his contributions to the film in Below The Line: Sound Design, visual FX talk in From Outer Space to The Ocean, some Original Interviews and split-screen Dailies Deconstruction, a feature on Time Travel and another on the Language Of Whales, as well some fun stuff about Vulcans, Kirk's amorous adventures, Gene Roddenberry's son waxing lyrical about his father and a nice tribute to the late Mark (Sarek) Lenard. But the best feature is the half-hour making-of, Future's Past: A Look Back that chronicles how the story and the eco-friendly theme came about. New material includes a fan commentary from Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who just happen to be the writers of the new Abrams' Trek movie and offer surprisingly little of real worth to the pot, and some filler from Walter Koenig about his character's expanded screen-time, an overview about the Spock death/rebirth story in The Three-Picture Saga and a Nimoy-fronted Greenpeace promo.

    The Final Frontier has two commentaries. The first, a familiar one from its previous edition, features Shatner and his own daughter discussing the production of the movie - she actually wrote a book about it - but it doesn't last the distance and becomes dull and decidedly quiet. The second, a new one has Michael and Denise Okuda joined by three more speakers and a typical treasure-trove of information and opinion is conveyed. The half-hour making-of is present and correct and has a stab at the difficulties of getting Shatner's film produced, even if there is, ultimately, nothing revelatory unearthed. The rest is diverting filler, folks. We have Harve Bennett's Pitch, Pre-visualization Models, Make-up Tests and the great footage of the original Rockman In The Raw creature effect. Shatner is, well, just Shatner in a rather absurd 15-minute interview, and at his embarrassing best in the wince-inducing Press Conference. You want more? Okay, well there's also four Deleted Scenes, a Production Gallery and a set of Storyboards, trailers and TV spots. And then there's a brief, but fun reminiscence from That Klingon Couple, Todd Bryant and Spice Williams-Crosby who played Captain Klaa and his muscle-bound vixen, some thoughts on the film's religious pretensions, a trip to Yosemite in A Green Future, and a tribute to the long-standing production designer for The Next Generation, Herman Zimmerman.

    The Undiscovered Country retains one of the series' best commentaries with the combined chat from Director Nicholas Meyer and the film's co-writer, Denny Martin Flinn who, together, deliver a very comprehensive and fact-filled discussion on the movie's important themes and the mood-swings from action to tense drama. Excellent stuff that is actually well-complemented by the newer chat track from Trek novelist Larry Nemecek and Deep Space Nine's Ira Steven Behr, who provide a pleasant, wide-ranging and amusingly diverting discourse on the film and the surrounding universe. The usual half-hour making-of is actually doubled in length this time out and now broken into six parts. One of the best, this tries to cover all bases, exploring each theme in detail, from Shakespearean quotation and bigotry to fond farewells, and from story concepts to the production itself. The director gets a private session to discuss the film in Conversations With Nick Meyer, both Shatner and Christopher Plummer recall, separately, working together on Henry V, when The Shat took over Plummer's role, Original Interviews with the cast, Nick Meyer's 1991 Convention Presentation and a touching 13-minute Tribute To Deforest Kelley. And, beyond all this, we have a great little look at Trek's long-standing bad guys in Klingons: Conjuring The Legend, a perusal of Penny's Toybox in Paramount's Trek prop and costume archive, and then a resume of the returning peripheral characters in the Trek universe in Federation Operatives. Besides the new commentary, there really hasn't been much else added to VI's roster of not-inconsiderable extras. We get a massive joke-stretching in the fun, but inevitably tedious, To Be Or Not To Be: Klingons And Shakespeare, in which a troupe of actors perform Hamlet on stage in full-on Klingon mode, their guttural spit 'n' growl lingo actually translated from the Bard's prose. Initially cute, but outstays its welcome. And then we have five minutes in the company of Tom Morga, alien stuntman extraordinaire.

    There is also a Library Computer feature for each film that acts as a trivia track packing in one hell of a lot of information about seemingly everything that we see on-screen. Of course, most of you will realise that this is just the info from Trek alumnui Michael and Denise Okuda refitted and modified for BD - sort of like a Trivia Track - The Next Generation.

    But the icing on this very indulgent cake is, undoubtedly, the seventh disc which houses a feature-length Q&A session with Shatner, Nimoy, Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes and is chaired by Whoopi Goldberg, that is unique to this BD set. Lasting for 72 minutes this rambling, frank and often irreverent piece is entitled the Captains' Summit and whilst I enjoyed it immensely, I can certainly see how some fans would find it frustratingly flaccid and much too light-hearted. Indeed, the totally unstructured style of this little, and long overdue gathering means that stories, quips and playful mockery are bandied about with gusto, but little of actual, genuine fact and importance is doled-out. Goldberg is simply terrible at hosting these guys, but none of this daftness really matters. It is just a great laugh to hang out with this quartet of ex-Starfleet officers as they reminisce, goad one another, contradict themselves, try to catch each other out and, basically, lie. But, along the way, there are moments of poignancy and some intriguing titbits about Gene Roddenberry's everlasting creation, such as the onset of the movies, courtesy of Star Wars, the hand-over to the Next Generation, their views on directing and how the ongoing fascination with these characters led to their unique celebrity status. Everybody has their say, but The Shat, King of The Meandering Mumble, rules the Federation roost .

    Despite the sheer volume of material that is presented and the BD-Live gubbins, the fact that we have not been given the extended cuts of some of the movies as an option, and that we have also lost some of the better features that adorned The Motion Picture, this Collection cannot receive top marks. But, considering just how much there is and that we have been given some nice new additions too, it would be illogical to reward the set with anything less than a 9 out of 10.

    Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection Extras


    Folks, this is a thrilling set of movies that have made the trip to Blu-ray with terrific results, overall. Whilst it is annoying that we haven't been offered the extended versions as well as the theatrical ones, these films still flow wonderfully together and absolutely guarantee a knock-out experience whether you dip into them, watch them over a course of time, or, as I suspect many will have done already, savour them back-to-back in one mammoth Star Trekkin' super-session.

    The transfers have proven debate-worthy, but you can't deny that each movie does, indeed, look superior to its SD incarnation. And the TrueHD 7.1, although not consistently awesome across the full 6 films - one or two seem to offer more detail and clout than the others - is definitely a very welcome mix that is considered, respectful and can't help but add to the enjoyment of the experience. Some of the older special features have, inevitably, been dropped but we do gain lots of new material along the way. And even if there is clearly a lot of filler abounding in this collection, there are also some very fine things to be found, too. The Captains' Summit may not be what many fans will have expected - it is hardly the most reverent or informative of dissections of Trek lore and legend - but it is fascinating, funny and addictive. And with The Shat in attendance ... well, you've just got to make allowances, haven't you?

    An awesome collection that is clearly not definitive, but still definitely worth beaming up!

    Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection Verdict

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £86.79

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