Generations, First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis, stun with new 4K-UHD transfers, and an abundance of extras
Over the last few months, Paramount Home Video has treated us Trekkies with 4K-UHD releases of Kirk and co’s adventures on the big screen. A first wave featuring The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home, and a second (why truncate them?) giving us not only The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country, but also the Director’s Cut of TMP. Beyond celebrating these films, the releases largely stood out for the care taken in restoring these films to their intended form. A 4K restoration not just upping the detail and quality of image, but a chance to scrape away much of the over processing and plastic-saturation that came with the Blu-ray releases of these films over the years. This release of the Next Generation era of films, coming fittingly in time for First Contact Day (April 5th, the day Vulcans first made contact with humans), showcases a similar level of attention, resulting in the best way to beam aboard the Enterprise-D (and E) at home.
This collection release (the films are also available for individual purchase) comes with new cover-art, matching the style adorning the Original Series Movie Collections. The renderings are ok, but the composition does seem a little uninspired. Inside is a plastic case containing 8 discs, 4 housing the 4K-UHD versions, and 4 containing Blu-ray versions of the same new restoration, digital copies, along with largely legacy extra features. There are several hours worth of content for each movie, covering all manner of aspects of the film, scripts, special effects, character development, Trek lore, and more.
Star Trek Generations
It was always going to be a difficult job for any “passing of the torch” movie. Going from the beloved original crew to the Next Generation. The plot propels Kirk from his time into the current day (for TNG at least), eventually pairing him with Captain Picard in an effort to stop the madcap machinations of Dr. Tolian Soran (a delightful turn from Malcolm McDowell). His scheme involves mass genocide in order to enable his return to a pocket universe known as the Nexus, a place where all dreams become reality, and where Kirk has been trapped after his heroics 78 years earlier.
The plot is a little convoluted, but to bring these two legends together was always going to involve some fudging of the timelines. Some old school heroics, an A-plot that feels akin to a 2-parter episode, and a fun little B-plot with Data getting his hands on an ‘emotion chip’. Familiarity also comes from the film reusing the old sets (albeit with some upgrades), costumes pilfered from DS9, and even some classic villains from the series too. What does stand out is a decent blend of CGI and practical effects, the saucer landing set-piece still holds up today. But really, it’s the chemistry of the cast, from both eras, that carries things along.
Like the original series, the Blu-rays that were released back around 2009 featured heavy processing. Color palettes that were amped up, and a heavy slathering of Digital Noise Reduction (DNR). These new masters have all approached the visuals as more true to their original form and the results are fantastic. The image here is incredibly detailed, sometimes showing up some of the reality between set and ship design. But the extra level of texture really adds to the film, as does the natural grain. Colors are strongly represented but natural, not blown up. Contrast and blacks impress, and help a lot of the imagery really pop on screen. It’s a notable step up from the 2009 Blu-ray, whether you watch that disc or the 4K one.
- Commentary by director David Carson and Manny Coto: A nice rapport between the pair and Coto in particular is well versed in Trek-lore
- Commentary by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore: Two of the more influential talents behind the various Trek shows (notably as writers on TNG), so this is one of the more insightful and often funny additions to the extras
- Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda: Trivia tidbits
- Library Computer viewing mode: A ‘pop-up video’ style overlay that adds into to the film as you watch
- Production: Uniting Two Legends, Stellar Cartography: Creating the Illusion, Strange New Worlds: The Valley of Fire, Scoring Trek
- Visual Effects: Inside ILM: Models & Miniatures, Crashing the Enterprise
- Scene Deconstruction: Main Title Sequence, The Nexus Ribbon, Saucer Crash Sequence
- The Star Trek Universe: A Tribute to Matt Jeffries, The Enterprise Lineage, Captain Picard’s Family Album, Creating 24th Century Weapons, Next Generation Designer Flashback Andrew Probert, Stellar Cartography on Earth, Brent Spiner — Data and Beyond Part 1, Trek Roundtable: Generations, Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 007: Trilithium
- Deleted Scenes: Orbital Skydiving, Walking the Plank, Christmas with the Picards, and Alternate Ending
- Archives: Storyboards for Enterprise-B, Worf’s Promotion, Two Captains, and also a general Production Gallery
- Trailers: Teaser and Theatrical
Star Trek First Contact
Rightly regarded as the best Next Generation movie, some even consider it the best Trek movie overall. The film brings back the long standing threat to the Federation, the Borg. A relentless cybernetic collective, intent on assimilating mankind and their technology. Another failed invasion leads to a last ditch effort to alter the past to ensure that the present day resistance of Starfleet, is no longer an obstacle. Traveling back hundreds of years to 2063, the crew of the Enterprise-E must ensure that crucial ‘first contact’ with an alien race occurs to keep humanity on a path to the stars, while also contending with the Borg remnant on board, adding the technological and biological distinctiveness of those on board to its collective.
The film ticks so many boxes with its story, not just in bringing back a legitimately unnerving enemy, but also escalating the threat with the introduction of a figurehead in the Queen. It also works due to the longstanding trauma within Picard, after his assimilation several years earlier. Meaty moments of conflict that give Patrick Stewart opportunities to flex, and some elegant insight into character development among the TNG crew, notably Worf. Down below the B-story is the more emotional and amusing dealings with Zefram Cochrane (a magnificent James Cromwell). Combine these with some thrilling action sequences (notably the deflector sequence), the corrupting allure of the Queen, cinematic production design with the new Enterprise, and a beautiful score from Jerry Goldsmith, and you have a real step up to embracing the big screen from the TNG franchise.
This is the standout release of the set, not just due to the film, but also it’s transfer. The higher production values, and new interior design of the Enterprise-E look great. Increased detail revealing textures to the costumes, information on background LCARS panels, Borg adornments, and ship exteriors. Grain flattening and plasticky skin textures in the 2009 Blu-ray have given way to a more natural representations. The deep blacks and improved contrast reveal stunning space sequences, notably the opening introduction of the Enterprise, and the battle of sector 001 with the Borg cube.
- Commentary by director and actor Jonathan Frakes: A very off-the-cuff commentary, but enhanced by the enthusiasm of the director
- Commentary by screenplay writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore: Again, the dynamics between the pair speak to their differing views and tones, with Braga seemingly a little detached from things, while Moore is far more engaged in the activity
- Commentary by Damon Lindelof and Anthony Pascale: A weird one, pairing the writer of the Kelvin-verse movies with the managing editor for TrekMovie.com. The former is largely there for some wise-cracks, while the latter is more prepared with insights as to the production
- Text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda: as above
- Library Computer viewing mode: as above
- Production: Making First Contact, The Art of First Contact, The Story, The Missile Silo, The Deflector Dish, From “A” to “E”
- Scene Deconstruction: Borg Queen Assembly, Escape Pod Launch, Borg Queen’s Demise
- The Star Trek Universe: Jerry Goldsmith: A Tribute, The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane, First Contact: The Possibilities, Industrial Light & Magic — The Next Generation, Greetings from the International Space Station, SpaceShipOne’s Historic Flight, Brent Spiner — Data and Beyond Part 2, Trek Roundtable: First Contact, Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 008: Temporal Vortex
- The Borg Collective: Unimatrix One, The Queen, Design Matrix
- Archives: Storyboards for 1930s Nightclub, Hull Battle, Worf vs. the Borg, also photogalleries and three featurettes on various Easter Eggs in the movie
- Trailers: Teaser, Theatrical, and for the Borg Invasion Experience
Star Trek Insurrection
The wobbles begin. Insurrection, while (in some ways deservedly) maligned in some quarters, is a bit of farcical fun. A film that runs the gamut of genres, with sci-fi meeting action, romance, comedy, and even becoming a musical at one point. The Enterprise response to a a friend in need. Data has gone rogue while on undercover assignment monitoring the peaceful, idyllic Ba’ku community. The crew arrives and comes face to face with an automated and ethically driven Data, defending these peoples from the shifty Admiral Dougherty (Anthony Zerbe) and leader of an allied alien band, Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham committing to the villain role with gusto). Investigations reveal a plan of forced resettlement, to allow these two to mine the planet for valuable resources. Honoring the people and their Starfleet oaths, Picard & co. turn in their uniforms, and beam down to the planet, to help the people while Riker takes the Enterprise back out of this distant region of space, to look to Starfleet for support in stopping this rogue Admiral’s venture.
It’s a tale that plunges the crew into a story of civil war, or corruption, with fantastical elements that draw from the fountain of youth, and asks what do we want to do with the time we have given to us. In a lot of ways, it embraces some classical Trek questions about honor and duty, while having some fun with it. Sure there are clunky elements, but the infusion of rebellion only fuels the confidence in the cast and their chemistry with each other.
As with the previous two remasters, this is a breath of fresh air compared to the previous Blu-ray release. Digital processing and smoothing have gone, returned in a natural presentation, emphasized by the improved detail and depth the 4K scan brings. Whether showcasing a starship interior, or the frequent use of exterior locations, the detail, healthy and varied color palette, and range of contrast all impress. Deep blacks and clarity of image showcase the bright, sleek curves of Enterprise-E, notably in the battle of the Briar patch. The only real negative point is that the improved detail and clarity of image showcases some of the shortcomings in set design.
- Commentary by Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis: A warm and fun commentary, blending insights on the shoot (Frakes serves as director), and their experiences with each other and of being in the show
- Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda: as above
- Library Computer viewing mode: as above
- Production: It Takes a Village, Location, Location, Location, The Art of Insurrection, Anatomy of a Stunt, The Story, Making Star Trek: Insurrection, Director’s Notebook
- The Star Trek Universe: Westmore’s Aliens, Westmore’s Legacy, Star Trek’s Beautiful Alien Women, Marina Sirtis — The Counselor Is In. Brent Spiner — Data and Beyond Part 3, Trek Roundtable: Insurrection, Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 009: The Origins of the Ba’ku and Son’a Conflict
- Creating the Illusion: Shuttle Chase, Drones, Duck Blind
- Deleted Scenes: Introduction by Peter Lauritson (producer/director), Disabling the Injector, Flirting, The Kiss, Ru’afo’s Facelift, Status: Precarious, Working Lunch, and an Alternate Ending
- Archives: Storyboard Second Protocols, a Photo Gallery, and 3 easter egg featurettes
- Advertising: Teaser and Theatrical, a 5 minute promotional featurette, and another trailer for the Borg Invasion experience
Star Trek Nemesis
There’s an old theory that odd numbered Star Trek movies tend to flounder a bit in quality, while the even numbered ones excel. Welcome to the one that breaks the rules. The tenth movie in the series, Star Trek Nemesis was not just a muddled affair, it was so ill received that it pretty much ended the adventures of the TNG crew. Released in 2002, many at that time would be shocked to think that no new Trek will hit the TV screens until 2017, and we wouldn’t learn the fate of the TNG crew until the release of Star Trek Picard in 2020.
Set in the aftermath of the costly Dominion war, a Romulan veteran of that conflict named Shinzon (Tom Hardy), overthrow his government, and takes power to settle some scores and deal with a personal quest. Sent to open diplomatic ties with the new leader of the Romulan Star Empire, the Enterprise arrives with Picard encountering a familiar face, his own. The product of cloning, Shinzon is the remnant of an infiltration plan, who now has a mission of his own. Survival, and revenge. With his warship armed to the teeth with a weapon of incredible destructive power, Picard & co. have to put aside diplomacy for a more direct approach to save Earth.
Romulans in theory are a good baddy . The original series long positioned them as a foe on par with the Klingons, and their Vulcan-offshoot heritage has always added another layer. But here, the duplicitous and shady race is somewhat shunted to the side for a more sci-fi driven nemesis. The 2000s were an era where the advent of genome sequencing really started to permeate social and pop culture consciousness, so why not hop on the bandwagon. Screenwriter John Logan retools many ideas that we’ve seen before in the series and couples them to a rather generic sci-fi plot. The film is dragged down by rather turgid dialogue, and murky messaging about war and peace. Some of the space based action does liven things up, but a off-roading buggy sequence on a planet feels like the film confusingly aping other genres. On the positive side, there are finally some forward steps in the individual characters personal arcs to appreciate, and their overall chemistry is still there, but the rest of the film is so flat it drains Nemesis of most of the charm and energy they bring to bear.
Again, the existing Blu-ray of Nemesis showcases cranked up levels of saturation and over processing. The new 4K presentation strips that away for a far more subtle and detailed rendering. The garish visuals that accompanied the planet-set treasure hunt are now less overexposed. Grain is restored with a natural, filmic quality. The darker interiors the of the Romulan sets show far more details. The slathering of green tones is dialed back too. But it’s the facial textures, more natural color palettes, and better representation of uniforms that really showcase the step up in quality.
- Commentary by director Stuart Baird: Entertaining, for the wrong reasons. While his direction is not at fault for the reception of Nemesis, his failure to demonstrate a real understanding of Trek here likely did
- Commentary by producer Rick Berman: A man in denial, as he preaches about the potential of Trek while watching Nemesis, clearly detatched from the direction he was heralding the franchise
- Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda: The two stalwarts of Trek who are behind many of the visual features you glimpse on scene. Their commentary is warm, informed, and entertaining
- Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda: as above
- Library Computer Viewing Mode: as above
- Production: Nemesis Revisited, New Frontiers — Stuart Baird on Directing Nemesis, Storyboarding the Action, Red Alert! Shotting the Action of Nemesis, Build and Rebuild, Four-Wheeling in the Final Frontier, Screen Test: Shinzon
- The Star Trek Universe: A Star Trek Family’s Final Journey, A Bold Vision of The Final Frontier, The Enterprise E, Reunion with The Rikers, Today’s Tech Tomorrow’s Data, Robot Hall of Fame, Brent Spiner — Data and Beyond Part 4, Trek Roundtable: Nemesis, Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 010: Thalaron Radiation
- The Romulan Empire: Romulan Lore, Shinzon & the Viceroy, Romulan Design, The Romulan Senate, The Scimitar,
- Deleted Scenes: All in standard def. Introduced by Rick Berman; Wesley’s New Mission, Chateau Picard 2267, The Time of Conquest, Data and B-4, Federation Protocols, The Chance for Peace, A Loss of Self, Remember Him? (Extended Scene), Turbolift Violation, Sickbay Prepares for Battle, Cleaning out Data’s Quarters, Crusher at Starfleet Medical, and Advice for the New First Officer
- Archives: Storyboards — Scorpion Escape, The Jefferies Tube, Collision and Data’s Jump, Prop and Production Galleries, and 3 Easter egg featurettes
- Trailers: Teaser, Theatrical, and Borg Invasion
Star Trek the Next Generation 4-Movie Collection is available on First Contact Day, April 5th