Fistful of Features goes where no fan has gone before: 4K UHD with the first four “Star Trek” films.

Welcome to Fistful of Features, a celebration of film preservation through physical media and the discussion of cinematic treasures to maintain their relevance in the cultural lexicon. Today we’ll be discussing two great Star Trek films and two mediocre ones that have made their way to 4K UHD from Paramount Pictures. There’s no new extra features included in this release, but the picture quality is absolutely stunning.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Filmmaker Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still) takes a Kubrickian approach to introducing these beloved characters to the silver screen. The opening is pitch black and silent before revealing a massive Earthly threat in the form of an otherworldly space vessel hurdling towards civilization with alien terrorists at the helm. Unfortunately, this film was burdened with reintroducing Captain Kirk and his loyal crew to an audience that might not have previously experienced Gene Roddenberry’s groundbreaking series, which meant it had to serve as an introduction for newcomers and as a continuation for its loyal fan base, all of which could have been achievable if the screenplay utilized some of the originality and brilliance that were staples in the original series that proceeded it. Though, personally, Roddenberry’s unused treatment, The God Thing, had potential of being much more interesting.


L-R: Stephen Collins as Decker and Persis Khambatta as Ilia in STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE.

The screenplay by Harold Livingston was based on a story idea by Alan Dean Foster who is notoriously known for his novel adaptations of numerous science fiction films or original novels based on familiar franchises. The pretentious tone of Wise’s direction and laborious dialogue from Livingston’s screenplay overshadow the thoughtful themes explored in the crux of Foster’s story. The parallels drawn between artificial intelligence and human nature both searching for the purpose of its own existence is drowned out by numerous moments of dry melodrama.

Take this exchange early in the film when Kirk (William Shatner) commandeered ranking aboard the Enterprise with the emotion of an unrepentant serial killer.

 “Admiral, this is an almost totally new Enterprise. You don’t know her a tenth as well as I do.”

“That’s why you’re staying aboard. I’m sorry, Will.”

“No, Admiral, I don’t think you’re sorry. Not one damn bit. I remember when you recommended me for this command. You told me how envious you were and how much you hoped you’d find a way to get a starship command again. Well, sir, it looks like you found a way.”

“Report to the bridge, Commander, immediately.”

“Aye, sir.”

Richard H. Kline was certainly a journeyman cinematographer who lensed thoughtful sci-fi films like Battle for the Planet of the Apes and would also be found behind the camera of condescending pap like My Stepmother is an Alien. Fortunately, the massive team of special effects artists, later aided by Douglas Trumbull (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and John Dykstra (Star Wars), offered enough visual eye candy to compensate for any sense of exhilarating inspiration. Of course, Jerry Goldsmith’s score eases the monotony of Wise’s glacier-like pace.

All in all, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is an uneven representation of Gene Roddenberry’s vision, but is a serviceable foundation to springboard invigorating ideas from in later entries.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Director Nicholas Meyer (Time After Time) is the lightning rod that Star Trek needed after the chore that was the previous film. His energy and enthusiasm are a great compliment to Jack B. Sowards’s screenplay which wisely utilizes Harve Bennett’s idea of picking up where the classic television episode “Demon Seed” left off. It injects a complex and gratifying villain, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), to challenge the ideology that unites the crew of the USS Enterprise and explores the intricate dynamic of Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock’s (Leonard Nicky) unconventional friendship.

Meyer completely embraced the “space pirate” nature of Khan’s motivations and, in turn, delivered a swashbuckling adventure in deep space that’s intellectually satisfying and, most importantly, fun. Composer James Horner underlines this approach by supplying an old-fashioned sensibility to his composition that wouldn’t be out of place in a ‘30’s Buck Rogers serial. Meyer, not being a fan of the series, brought some outside perspective and wanted to draw out the humanity of these characters and wanted to effectively focus on their mortality. Spock’s fate surrounding the inevitable passage of time for the crew conjures the significance we all face with our lives. We all have a vulnerable place in the universe and this theme sheds light on how we easily take for granted the few precious moments we actually have. Life can be taken at any moment.


L-R: DeForest Kelley as McCoy, William Shatner as Kirk, and James Doohan as Scotty in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN.

It’s the titular villain that brings the rollicking energy to this film as Khan is the embodiment of a punk rock Captain Ahab with a score to settle and nothing to lose.

The distinction between pulp and tragedy is a thin line, but it is consistently walked with a razor’s edge.

Thanks to breakneck pacing, superior special effects, and a playful approach to facing dark themes, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is light years ahead of its predecessor and a pinnacle of the series that’s not easily surpassed.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Leonard Nimoy himself moved into the director’s chair for this entry and had some mighty big shoes to fill. He definitely proved that he had functional skills as a director, though he lacked the ambition and experience at this stage to propel this entry above the high benchmark Meyer left before him. Harve Bennett stepped up to get sole screenwriting credit this time and used the Klingons as the antagonists. The Klingons here were led by a dim-witted commander named Kruge, portrayed by a young Christopher Lloyd hot off the hit sitcom Taxi and a small, but well regarded, performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. John Larroquette, who had just come aboard the hot new sitcom Night Court, appeared as Maltz, Kruge’s more intelligent counterpart amongst his loyal bridge crew.


L-R: DeForest Kelley as McCoy and William Shatner as Kirkin STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK.

Nimoy had always shown himself to be attracted to biblical ideologies that pertained to the circle of life and the science that explores our significance in the universe in equal measure. Search For Spock certainly carried the tradition of exploring thoughtful themes that pertain to such. The problem was that Nimoy was so ambitious in making this entry as operatic as possible that he lost focus in engaging the audience and wanted to have his philosophical cake and eat it too. Instead of keeping the arc of Spock the focus of the narrative, he attempted to create tragedy within the antagonist as we see Kruge sacrifice those he holds strong affection for.

The ultimate shortcomings of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is how it straddles the line between the failed 2001: A Space Odyssey ambitions of the first motion picture and the swashbuckling adventurous nature of Wrath of Khan that had the benefit of an antagonist that this film could never live up to. A minor step down for this film franchise, but not enough to take the wind from its sails.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Leonard Nimoy returned to direct this tremendously entertaining “fish out of water” entry that had the benefit of being co-written by Wrath of Khan’s Nicholas Meyer.

On paper, the idea of Kirk and his crew traveling back to San Francisco circa 1986 to retrieve a pair of humpback whales to save planet Earth from a fatal power outage circa 2286 might sound ludicrous for a Star Trek film, and perhaps even dull, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The main element that makes this film work so well is the way Nimoy embraced the absurdity and allowed his film to have a sense of humor. Captain Kirk and his crew never break character and are always deadpan to a fault, but the world they must inhabit now has them destined to face comic situations, and keeping the bulk of this film in what was modern day Earth brought a stronger relatability to their noble efforts.


L-R: William Shatner as Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spok, James Doohan as Scotty, and Walter Koenig as Chekov in STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME.

There’s a hilarious scene that has Kirk and Spock on a city transit bus, and across from them is a boorish punk rocker who grants their request to turn down his boom box with a middle finger. Spock responds w this gesture with a Vulcan nerve pinch that garners applause from the annoyed passengers. Unfortunately, the snarky punk anthem “I Hate You” isn’t easily available as that song was written on the spot by Nimoy’s friend Kirk Thatcher, who played his punk rock victim with collaboration from Mark Mangini (Mad Max: Fury Road) and wasn’t heard again until Back to the Beach the following year.

There’s great attention to detail paid when putting the pure Vulcan beliefs of Spock into conflict with everyday politeness in Earthling culture and playing the off-kilter romantic angle between Kirk and the bewildered cetologist (Catherine Hicks) he’s trying to convince that he’s come from outer space and needs her whales to save the world. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is easily the most fun of the series and is this writer’s personal favorite.

This collection from Paramount is a must have for every Star Trek fan as the 4K transfers of these films are lovely and the films will likely never look much better.

Star Trek: The Original 4 Movies Special Features:

Star Trek: The Motion Picture 4K Ultra HD

  • Isolated score in Dolby 2.0—NEW!
  • Commentary by Michael & Denise Okuda, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Daren Dochterman

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Blu-ray

  • Isolated score in Dolby 2.0—NEW!
  • Commentary by Michael & Denise Okuda, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Daren Dochterman
  • Library Computer (HD)
  • Production
    • The Longest Trek: Writing the Motion Picture (HD)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Special Star Trek Reunion (HD)
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 001: The Mystery Behind V’ger
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Storyboards
  • Trailers (HD)
  • TV Spots

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 4K Ultra HD

  • Commentary by Director Nicholas Meyer (Director’s Cut and Theatrical Version)
  • Commentary by Director Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (Theatrical Version)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Blu-ray

  • Commentary by Director Nicholas Meyer (Director’s Cut and Theatrical Version)
  • Commentary by Director Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (Theatrical Version)
  • Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda (Director’s Cut)
  • Library Computer (HD)
  • Production
    • Captain’s Log
    • Designing Khan
    • Original Interviews with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and Ricardo Montalbán
    • Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
    • James Horner: Composing Genesis (HD)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics (HD)
    • A Novel Approach
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 002: Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI (HD)
  • Farewell
    • A Tribute to Ricardo Montalbán (HD)
  • Storyboards
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock 4K Ultra HD

  • Commentary by director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, director of photography Charles Correll and Robin Curtis
  • Commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor

 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Blu-ray

  • Commentary by director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, director of photography Charles Correll and Robin Curtis
  • Commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor
  • Library Computer (HD)
  • Production
    • Captain’s Log
    • Terraforming and the Prime Directive
    • Industry Light & Magic: The Visual Effects of Star Trek
    • Spock: The Early Years (HD)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Space Docks and Birds of Prey
    • Speaking Klingon
    • Klingon and Vulcan Costumes
    • Star Trek and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (HD)
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 003: Mystery Behind the Vulcan Katra Transfer
  • Photo Gallery
    • Production
    • The Movie
  • Storyboards
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home 4K Ultra HD

  • Commentary by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy
  • Commentary by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman

 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Blu-ray

  • Commentary by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy
  • Commentary by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman
  • Library Computer (HD)
  • Production
    • Future’s Past: A Look Back
    • On Location
    • Dailies Deconstruction
    • Below-the-Line: Sound Design
    • Pavel Chekov’s Screen Moments (HD)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Time Travel: The Art of the Possible
    • The Language of Whales
    • A Vulcan Primer
    • Kirk’s Women
    • The Three-Picture Saga (HD)
    • Star Trek for a Cause (HD)
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 004: The Whale Probe (HD)
  • Visual Effects
    • From Outer Space to the Ocean
    • The Bird of Prey
  • Original Interviews
    • Leonard Nimoy
    • William Shatner
    • DeForest Kelley
  • Tributes
    • Roddenberry Scrapbook
    • Featured Artist: Mark Lenard
  • Production Gallery
  • Storyboards
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and digital September 7th, 2021.


Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Recommendation

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