September 7th, 2021, Paramount Pictures released a Star Trek four-film collection, debuting the first four films in the cinematic series on 4K UHD for the first time. Nearly a year later, home-viewing audiences can complete their 4K UHD set by adding Star Trek films V (1985) and VI (1991), as well as the Robert Wise Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). If you decided to hold-off last year, Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment is also offering two versions of the new six-film collection: a regular 4K UHD boxset (called the Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection) or a larger collectible set that includes trinkets, reproductions of promotional materials, and more (called the Star Trek: The Motion Picture — The Director’s Edition — The Complete Adventure). For longtime fans, this decision may prove harder than the Kobayashi Maru where new ones have a cornucopia of options to select from.
Though there are several new releases dropping at the same time, this home release review will primarily focus on the Director’s Edition solo release, as that was the review copy provided by Paramount Home Entertainment.
A large cloud is moving through space, seemingly destroying everything it comes into contact with, prompting an outpost to send word to Starfleet Command of the cloud’s existence and presumed destination: Earth. With peril rising by the moment, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) convinces the Starfleet brass to give him back command of the Enterprise, a ship currently in the final stages of being rebuilt and under the command of Captain William Decker (Stephen Collins). As each moment passes and the threat grows ever closer, Kirk does what he thinks is best in order to save the day, even if it means re-drafting old friends (DeForest Kelley’s Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy) and welcoming aboard others who left Starfleet for personal missions (Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock). Between the new ship, new crew, and old ideas, this mission may not be the best time for Kirk to come out of retirement, but when has a bad idea ever prevented him from trying to save the day?
When it comes to restorations and remasters, I’m of several minds. There are films which have more or less been lost to time and a restoration or remaster can help it find (or re-find) an audience. There are films in which the director was unable to create a work that fit their vision and any kind of director’s cut often affords them the opportunity to see their story through to the end. (This is not the same as a film labeled “Director’s Cut” when it was not touched or approved by the director, but that’s a whole other thing.) I do think there’s a point where a film should be released and never touched again; that the constant tweaking and adjusting removes it from the period in which it was made entirely. (Say what you will about the various Star Wars releases, but the newer versions feel strangely out of place/time compared to the initial releases.) For a film like Robert Wise’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the opportunity to release a director’s edition allowed him to complex VFX, dialogue, and other aspects of a story that had to have elements cut in order to meet the December 7th release date. Considering we’re talking about roughly four-minutes of footage, it’s not an enormous shift from theatrical to director’s edition, but, this is the version that makes Wise’s story the most complete version possible. Keep in mind that the director’s edition was released in 2001, on physical and digital formats, so the hook with this release is that the Director’s Edition is not only the full film, but it includes both 4K UHD with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. So, not only is it the version of the film that Wise stands by, this new edition is developed to contain the best possible picture and sound.
So let’s talk what’s new versus old.
In terms of the 4K UHD release from September 2021 and now, you can expect much of the same regarding the on-disc materials. However, the Director’s Edition includes a brand-new audio commentary from 2001 director’s edition producer David C. Fein, post supervisor Mike Matessino, and VFX supervisor Daren R. Dochterman, making two total audio commentaries and a text commentary to enjoy alongside the 4K UHD restoration. The Blu-ray includes the remaining bonus features, including an eight-part documentary, The Human Adventure, that explores the remaster process, the design process, the sound design as it relates to Dolby Atmos, how they went about improving the CG, the music, and more. There are also three new deleted scenes, an effects test, costume test, and a sampling of the computer display graphics (both 65MM and 16MM images). The effects and costume tests featurettes are guided with commentary, whereas the deleted scenes and computer display graphics portions just have accompanying text for context before watching. All of these new materials are smartly behind a “New” subfolder, while all the previously available materials are behind a “Legacy” subfolder. By separating them, any viewers who have explored the old content can quickly go boldly where they’ve never gone before. It’s a smart design concept instead of just putting all the materials together and having folks compare their prior editions to this one. It’s far more user-friendly than other updated home releases often are.
As explained in the “Effects Test” bonus feature, they were able to use newly-discovered dailies and other materials to bolster several of the sequences in this new edition. So, while a 4K UHD with Dolby Vision is by far an upgrade from any prior releases — the colors are more balanced overall regarding skin tone and costumes, the colors in all of the effects are dazzling with vibrancy (photosensitive viewers be cautious), and any of the seams between cast, set, and green screen are severely reduced thereby creating a greater illusion of sci-fi fantasy — the techniques used on this particular restoration make one feel like they’re watching something far more modern in style and look. Though I can’t speak to the Dolby Atmos track experience, my 5.1 Yamaha surround stereo utilized the Dolby Digital track and it was an immersive experience. The sound is perfectly balanced so that I felt surrounded by Jerry Goldsmith’s score (which beautifully filled the room in the non-dialogue sequences and pulled back gracefully when characters spoke) as well as by any ambient or supportive sounds. The sequence through the wormhole and into the energy cloud-surrounded V’ger is particularly striking visually and auditorily, hitting both senses until one feels as though they are, too, going into the maw of danger with the Enterprise. As with many other recent Paramount Home Entertainment releases, the dialogue, too, is clear and crisp, balanced with the score and ambient sounds so that one doesn’t need to touch the remote once a comfortable decibel is reached. If not for the sleeping toddler on the opposite side of my office wall, I likely would’ve kept the volume higher than I did, but, even low so as not to disturb the slumber of the young, there wasn’t a moment of missed narrative.
Be advised: While Star Trek II – VI does include a Blu-ray disc and digital code with each solo 4K UHD release, there is no Blu-ray version included with the solo Director’s Edition. There is a Blu-ray included, but it only contains new and legacy bonus materials. Additionally, at the time of this writing, the digital code included only provides access to the 2001 digital edition, so details on the digital edition cannot be confirmed at this time. One presumes that the digital code will upgrade to the appropriate release edition on September 6th when The Director’s Edition is more widely available, but that cannot be confirmed just yet.
As this home release review wraps, an admission: this is the first time I’ve ever seen The Motion Picture. I can remember seeing II and III at home and going to the theater for IV and V, yet somehow, I’ve never seen the first film. It’s an odd piece of cinema where one never feels much rising tension in the narrative; even when the characters so empathically point out that there’s a ticking clock, the pacing rarely indicates it. There’s plenty of time for long, contemplatively sequences such as where Kirk and Scotty (James Doohan) approach the nearly finished new Enterprise, a sequence which draws out the approach to the point where it’s almost comical (when one looks back on it). It’s a moment likely intended to inspire awe, a moment of anti-thesis to so much of 1977’s Star Wars, as so much of the film is interested in character dynamics rather than even the incoming threat. Though, when the Enterprise does meet the threat, the time taken to get there does feel worth it. Impressively, where the newer “Kelvin Timeline” films lean hard on the bombast, this first Trek pushes hard in the other direction to the point where violence is the last resort, weapons are only fired in self-defense, and said weapons are fired about twice in the entirety of the film. From the true nature of the conflict to its resolution, everything is about talk, reason, and humanity. So while it’s not the most riveting experience compared to all the films which follow, it is, perhaps, the most Star Trek of them all. And now, thanks to this latest release, Wise’s vision is as complete as possible for all to enjoy.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition 4K UHD Edition Special Features:
4K Ultra HD Special Features:
- NEW Audio Commentary with David C. Fein, Mike Matessino, and Daren R. Dochterman
- Audio Commentary by Robert Wise, Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, Jerry Goldsmith, and Stephen Collins
- Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda
Blu-ray Special Features:
- NEW The Human Adventure—An all-new 8-part documentary detailing how the Director’s Edition came to life (48:17)
- Preparing the Future – How the remastering began
- A Wise Choice – The storied history of Robert Wise
- Refitting the Enterprise – How the Enterprise design shaped future federation starships
- Sounding Off – Exploring new dimensions of sound in Dolby Atmos
- V’ger – The conception and restoration of an iconic alien antagonist
- Return to Tomorrow – Reaching an already high bar with new CGI effects
- A Grand Theme – Behind the iconic, influential music score that shaped the franchise’s future
- The Grand Vision – The legacy and evolving reputation of this classic movie
- NEW Three (3) Deleted Scenes (4:32)
- NEW Effects Tests (3:30)
- NEW Costume Tests (4:41)
- NEW Computer Display Graphics (3:10)
Legacy Special Features:
- The Star Trek Universe
- Additional Scenes: 1979 Theatrical Version
- Deleted Scenes: 1983 TV Version
- TV Spots
Available on Paramount+ April 5th, 2022.
Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray and digital September 6th, 2022.
For more information on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, head to Paramount Pictures’s official film webpage.