STAR TREK I-IV Boldly Goes to 4K

The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home look stellar in UltraHD

You know that moment in Star Trek the Motion Picture, where the shuttle approaches space-dock, and we see Kirk catching a glimpse of the Enterprise refit. That warmth and sense of wonder, well that’s what you’ll have on your face as you glimpse these new 4K editions of Star Trek. Having reviewed the 50th anniversary collection just 5 years ago, these 55th Anniversary releases may seem to some like a bit of a cash grab, the the truth is, even with the odd strategy of only releasing I-IV in the series, this is a hell of a treat.

Extra features. 4K, Blu-ray, and digital presentations. Gone from the previous Blu-ray transfers is the overly processed, waxy imagery, and and tinged palettes. These 4K UltraHD are a true restoration of texture and intent to the films, and represent the best way to boldly go where no one has gone before, from the comfort of your own home.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

While considered plodding by some, The Motion Picture has garnered more appreciation over the years. Perhaps most reminiscent of the Original Series, with it’s embrace of exploration and discovery, and the crew handling strange new life in the galaxy. It often feels more like an artistic proof of concept rather than a substantial narrative. A calm and meditative experience compared to the thrills of Star Wars, which came out a few years earlier and prompted a retooling of a Phase II TV series, into this motion picture.

The long, ruminative space sequences pay off all the more here in 4K. The blacks of space are deeply and inky, contrasting against the starkness of the blue and white of the Enterprise and her interiors. Some effects sequences look a little softer in comparison to previous releases, but clearly reflect the original cinematic stock rather than the digital sharpening used in later releases. Production details such as uniforms and set design stand out all the more. Facial textures lose the waxiness of the 2009 Blu-rays and instead reflect real texture, complexion, and makeup even. It’s always been a pretty film, here it’s been given a refresh that makes it pop even more.

Note, this is the normal cut of the film and the better regarded Director’s Cut is not included. Rumor is that it is still undergoing the 4K treatment and should be released next year, perhaps with a follow-up set?

Extra Features 4K Disc

  • Isolated Score playback
  • Commentary by Michael & Denise Okuda, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Daren Dochterman: This assembled crew have a long lasting affair with the franchise, as fans and in terms of production/set design The commentary kicks off with plenty of into about the aborted Phase II series, the evolution into a feature, and then sharing insights into the rest of the production and plot

Key Extra Features Blu-ray Disc

  • Commentary by Michael & Denise Okuda, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Daren Dochterman
  • Library Computer Viewing Mode: pop up trivia from the Okudas, the tech advisors and production staff for the franchise
  • The Longest Trek: Writing the Motion Picture: The Reeves-Stevens again host, discussing the evolution of the script, originally penned by Gene Roddenberry himself, with contributions from other creatives/producers
  • The Star Trek Universe: Special Star Trek Reunion and Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 001: The Mystery Behind V’ger: A pair of featurettes, one a recording of a cast reunion, the other a briefing recounting the events of the film
  • Deleted Scenes/Storyboards/Trailers/TV Spots
  • Digital Download Code:

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Often regarded (correctly) as the best Trek feature film, The Wrath of Khan, abandons the ruminative mood of TMP and puts humanity back into the mix. Essentially a sequel to the Original Series episode Space Seed, a genetically engineered tyrant who attempts to seize the Enterprise after being thawed out of cryogenics, is exiled to a planet with his crew to live out his days. The film picks up years later, the planet having become a barren wasteland. Khan and the other survivors seize a starship, and go about delivering unto Kirk, a dish best served cold…revenge.

Even after all these years, TWOK is a deeply thrilling and emotionally resonant affair. Driven by the excitement of Kirk and Khan going head to head, even though they never share a scene together. A story that has a long lasting impact on these characters that has ramifications even four films later. Ricardo Montalban crafts one of the all time great cinematic villains, chewing the scenery as well as his lines, while the crew of the Enterprise show their grit and experience along with their well developed rapport. While smaller in scope than TMP, the visuals are still iconic, and Richard Horner’s score is one of the greatest to ever grace our screens, and that ending always manages to draw a tear.

Some of the moodier production design and darker interior sequences provide a contrast to the brighter fare in TMP. Still, the 4K restoration impresses. Small details and texture standout. A lot of the cranked up contrast and waxy appearance of skin tones in the previous Blu-ray release has gone, replaced by something more natural and cinematic. The blacks of space are deep and black, miniatures and sets look vibrant and clean. The Mutara nebula sequences in particular are wonderfully vibrant and bold. Some of the special effects sequences are a little more soft and grainy (likely more true to the cinematic stock), but the colors and depth of image make this a meaningful sacrifice (no pun intended, given the films finale). Having seen TWOK several times on 35mm, this is the closest to that experience and undeniably the best home video presentation of it I have ever seen.

This release includes new restorations of both the original theatrical release, and the director’s cut, which features a few additional minutes of footage to expand a few select scenes.

Extra Features 4K Disc

  • Commentary by Nicholas Meyer (Director’s Cut and Theatrical Version): A solid commentary, made interesting for Meyer’s more general approach to making an accessible movie within the Trek-verse
  • Commentary by Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (Theatrical Version): A counter to the above with the addition of Trek-fan, and Enterprise showrunner, Manny Coto. You get a little more nerdery and more context for the film against the rest of the franchise

Key Extra Features Blu-ray Disc

  • Commentary by Director Nicholas Meyer (Director’s Cut and Theatrical Version) and Commentary by Director Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (Theatrical Version)
  • Library Computer Viewing Mode by Michael and Denise Okuda (Director’s Cut): As above, a fun little way to see details about the film while watching
  • Original Interviews with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and Ricardo Montalbán
  • Production Featurettes: Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, James Horner: Composing Genesis, Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics, Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 002: Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI, A Tribute to Ricardo Montalbán
  • Storyboards/Theatrical Trailer
  • Digital Download Code

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

There’s a general rule that the odd-numbered Star Trek movies are bad. But, while often lesser entries, they always have things to appreciate, largely involving the dynamics and rapport of the crew. TSFS picks up directly after TWOK, and sees Kirk and co. go on an unsanctioned mission to save one of their own. An effort that pits them against the merciless Klingon Commander Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), as well as the volatile setting of the Genesis planet.

TSFS lacks the heft of Khan, understandable as its entire plot serves to undo one of the most poignant moments in the entire franchise, but it is an entertaining adventure. The crew out on their own, escaping the pursuit of a new generation of crew and and ship (“Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance”). We get glimpses into the functioning of Starfleet in this era, a repositioning of the Klingons as a looming threat to Kirk (that will continue in movies V and VI), and more emotional moments as Kirk suffers more loss, and we all say goodbye to a long cherished friend. The cast are wearing these characters as a second skin now and it is in these more intimate, fun moments the appeal really shines through, even if the plot and production feels a little wonky at times.

Again the 4K transfer is a stunner, the Klingon Bird of Prey has never looked more detailed, while sequences of the Enterprise in spacedock also standout. The flattening and waxiness has gone, depth and texture in its place. Colors standout well, most notably in the Klingon interiors and on the Genesis planet itself. The grain feels a little heavier than the other films in the set, but on balance this might be the most vibrant looking of the four.

Extra Features 4K Disc

  • Commentary by Leonard Nimoy, Harve Bennett, Charles Correll, and Robin Curtis: Sadly all recorded separately, but each offers a unique perspective on the film. The standout here is Nimoy’s contributions as this marked his directorial debut
  • Commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor: Again a counter to the production commentary with one from a more fan bases perspective. An entertaining commentary, given more interest considering the grasp these two went on to have over the franchise in later years

Key Extra Features Blu-ray Disc

  • Commentary by director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, director of photography Charles Correll and Robin Curtis and Commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor
  • Library Computer Viewing Mode: pop up trivia from the Okudas
  • Production Featurettes: Captain’s Log, Terraforming and the Prime Directive, Industry Light & Magic: The Visual Effects of Star Trek, Spock: The Early Years, 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, Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 003: Mystery Behind the Vulcan Katra Transfer
  • Photo Gallery/Storyboards/Theatrical Trailer
  • Digital Download Code

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

A sci-fi movie that is largely devoid of that. Instead a time travel romp back to the 20th century! After becoming outlaws due to the events of TSFS, Kirk and co. decide to leave Vulcan, and return home to face up to the punishment for their defiance of orders. This coincides with the arrival of a colossal probe in Earth’s orbit. It’s signals indecipherable, it’s presence disrupts power systems and the climate, beginning a countdown to destruction. En route, Spock deduces that the probe is looking for a response in the form of Whale song, a species long since extinct on the planet. And so the crew slingshot themselves back in time to 1980s San Francisco, to find the cargo that can save their future.

A fun adventure, the film is a riff on the fish out of water trope, as the crew from the 23rd Century fumble their way through the culture of our own time. Currency, cursing, and more, new concepts to our old dog crew who entertainingly must adapt and try to fit in, while also trying to complete their mission. It’s a real ensemble movie, with the group having to split up to complete various objectives, giving each of them a chance to shine, as well as play off each other beautifully. Perhaps the most insubstantial of the 4 movies here, some Trek purists seem to look down on the film for its straying away from it’s futuristic slant, but the ecological message the film conveys is very much one that looks to the future. It exudes warmth and wit, delivers a timely message, and is perhaps the most entertaining feature in the set.

The 4K release is a very colorful, and lively transfer. Detail is superb, from the well-lit streets of San Francisco, the the interior of the HMS Bounty, the crew’s appropriated Klingon ship. The smoothing and flattening is again lifted, with the texture of Spocks robe, the fish in the aquarium, the innards of a naval vessel, and more, all standing out in ways that are unrecognizable on the earlier Blu-ray release.

Extra Features 4K Disc

  • Commentary by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy: A real treat of a commentary, not only hearing from the insight of the director, but also to experience the delightful rapport and warmth between the pair
  • Commentary by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman: Co-writers of the 2009 Kelvin timeline movie, they offer a rather gleeful commentary, reflecting on their childhood experiences with Trek and specifically TVH

Key Extra Features Blu-ray Disc

  • Commentary by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy and Commentary by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman
  • Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda:
  • Various Production Featurettes: Future’s Past: A Look Back, On Location, Dailies Deconstruction, Below-the-Line: Sound Design, Pavel Chekov’s Screen Moments, 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, Star Trek for a Cause, Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 004: The Whale Probe, Visual Effects, From Outer Space to the Ocean, The Bird of Prey, Featured Artist: Mark Lenard
  • Original Interviews with Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, and DeForest Kelley
  • Production Gallery/Storyboards/Theatrical Trailer
  • Digital Download Code

The Bottom Lime

While some may be irked at the fragmented release strategy of these remastered films, that will be eased once fans get a look at these new 4K transfers. Backed up by some great extras, these restorations look like someone scraped off layers and layers of adjustments and filters and left behind a detailed, textured, and exceedingly pleasing cinematic look, true to their original releases. A simply stellar presentation, that right now represents one of the best reasons to upgrade to the 4K Ultra HD platform.

Star Trek the Original 4-Movie Collection on 4K Ultra HD, is available from September 7th

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