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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/26/01

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The Director's Edition - 1979/2001 (2001) - Paramount

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A/A

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
136 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, dual keep case packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:16:16 in chapter 21), audio commentary (with director Robert Wise, special effects gurus Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra, composer Jerry Goldsmith and actor Stephen Collins), subtitle text commentary by Michael Okuda (co-author of The Star Trek Encyclopedia), booklet, animated film-themed menus with sound and music, scene access (32 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Supplemental Material
3 documentaries: Phase II: The Lost Enterprise (13 mins.), A Bold New Enterprise (30 mins.) and Redirecting the Future (14 mins.), teaser trailer, theatrical trailer, Director's Edition trailer, Enterprise promo, 8 TV spots, 5 deleted scenes plus trims and outtakes from the 1979 theatrical version, 11 deleted scenes from the 1983 TV broadcast version, storyboard archive for 3 scenes, animated film-themes menus with sound and music, subtitles: English

Kirk: "Bones, there's a thing out there..."

McCoy: "Why is any object we don't understand always called a thing?"

Well, what do you know? Paramount's finally delivered the goods when it comes to Star Trek on DVD. The Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition is, at long last, a 2-disc special edition that Trek fans can really sink their teeth into. And I definitely fall in the category of a Trek fan. I must confess that I've strayed away from Star Trek in recent years, the recent spinoff series just not holding my interest (although I'm really enjoying the new show). But I spent most of the 1970s following the syndicated TV adventures of Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Long before Star Wars took me to a place long ago and far away, Star Trek fired my young imagination like nothing else could. There were 79 episodes and I knew every one. So it's with a fond memories that I'm now able to go back and revisit this first big-screen adventure - the film that, quite literally, made the Star Trek franchise possible.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture takes place two years after the end of the Enterprise's original five-year mission to boldly go where no man had gone before. Captain Kirk's now an Admiral and is the head of Starfleet Operations. Spock's left Starfleet and is on sabbatical on his home planet of Vulcan, attempting to purge all those irritating human emotions from his mind. McCoy's also left the service, and is now the good country doctor he always wanted to be. And the Enterprise herself has just undergone an extensive redesign and refitting under the care of everyone's favorite Chief Engineer, Mr. Scott. But all is not well in the Federation.

On the far edges of the Neutral Zone, a strange and unbelievably powerful energy cloud has appeared and easily turned aside an attack by the ever-jumpy Klingons. Now it's headed towards Earth, intentions unknown, and the untested Enterprise is the only ship that can intercept it in time. But her new Captain, Will Decker, is untried and the ship's new warp engines have never even been tested. Naturally, Admiral Kirk convinces Starfleet to let him take the helm, but Kirk's unfamiliar with the ship's new design and he hasn't been in space since he surrendered the big chair. Can the Old Gray Mare and her crew pull it together in time to save the planet?

Well... if you've seen the many movies that followed Star Trek: The Motion Picture, you'll know the answer to that question. Fortunately, that doesn't make the experience of revisiting this movie any less enjoyable. Sure, the lengthy arrival at the Enterprise and the seemingly-endless flight into the Intruder seem hokey in retrospect, but you have to put yourself in the position of someone who was seeing this film for the first time back when it was first released. This was the first glimpse we'd gotten of our favorite Starship in nearly a decade, and there she was, up on the big screen looking sleek, fast and decidedly more badass than ever before. This stuff was breathtaking to fans back in 1979. And finally, all our old friends were back on the Bridge where they belonged.

For this new DVD special edition, director Robert Wise has finally been given the chance to go back and do what he'd always wanted to do with this film - finish it. Star Trek's theatrical release date was set in stone back in 1979, and with all the new special effects, the production team had to rush to complete the film. Much of the sound design and even some scenes and special effects were left unfinished and unused. So with the help of his production team and the effects gurus at Foundation Imaging, many scenes and shots have been enhanced and polished, and the film's sound mix has been given a major overhaul. Finally, when Spock holds up his hand to block out the sun on the planet Vulcan, you actually see the sun in the next shot (along with cool statues and a rocky mountain range to boot). Kirk's arrival at Starfleet Command now features dazzling new views of the future San Francisco and the landing bay (look real close and you might even seen an old, TV-style shuttlecraft taking flight in the background). And finally, we get to see what V'Ger was supposed to look like. I was pleased to see that the new shots fit (by and large) very well with the original look of the film. Wise has also done a bit of editing on the film, tightening up the action and adding a few scenes that didn't make the theatrical cut (but don't worry... nearly everything that was cut is still available on Disc Two - more on that in a minute). Despite all the changes, this still feels very much like the same movie I remember from 1979. There's even the film's restored, 2-minute Overture, featuring Goldsmith's fantastic theme music. I think most fans will really appreciate the new cut of the film.

So how does it look on DVD? Well... Disc One presents the film in anamorphic widescreen video. And the video may be the only weakness of this 2-disc set. Don't get me wrong - the film overall looks fine and is entirely watchable. I dare say that, on DVD, it looks better than it ever has. But I was a bit surprised when I popped the disc into my player and started up the Klingon battle that opens the film. Every little nick on the emulsion and bit of dust on the film that I remember... is still there. I would have thought that the VERY first thing those involved in the creation of this new cut would do, would be to go through and digitally erase all this junk. It's distracting all throughout the film, and it should have been removed. The film is also a bit soft at times which, to be fair, is a problem it's always had. There's a ton of grain visible in all those smoky shots of V'Ger and the red-lit action scenes on the Bridge. Star Trek: The Motion Picture pretty much looks how it looks, and that can't be helped. But the color on this disc is excellent and the contrast is also generally good. Like I said, the film looks better than ever. If only they'd cleaned it up a bit.

Audio-wise, this disc is refreshing. The film's new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is very true to the spirit of the original mix, yet it features lots of new little details in the surrounds and new sound effects that wonderfully fill out the soundfield. Most of these effects were actually created for the original film, but time constraints meant that they were never used. So Paramount pulled the tapes out of the vault and the result is that we're hearing this film for the first time as it was always meant to sound. Jerry Goldsmith's score, which is one of my favorite pieces of film music, has never sounded better, with wide and encompassing placement in the mix. Dialogue is clear and clean at all times. There's also lots of great panning and surround use, and the low frequency is excellent. Trust me - the thunderous roar of the Klingon's torpedoes will shake you out of your seats. And here's a nice touch for you audiophiles - the disc defaults to the 5.1 track. Note that a Dolby Digital 2.0 track is also available.

In terms of extras on Disc One, you get a good audio commentary by Wise, along with Goldsmith, special effects gurus Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra and actor Stephen Collins. It feels a bit cobbled together, and you can tell that Wise's parts have been scripted. But that's understandable given his age, and the quality of the information you'll glean from the track is first rate. It's well worth a listen. I thought I knew everything there was to know about this flick, and I actually learned a thing or two. There's also a great feature that I hope Paramount continues on future Trek special editions. Michael Okuda, co-author of The Star Trek Encyclopedia and a technical consultant to the franchise, has written an excellent text commentary that you can choose to view (via subtitles) while watching the film. You'll have to read fast sometimes, but he's a veritable fountain of interesting information. He draws parallels in the film to other aspects of Star Trek history, makes connections that fans will appreciate and even tells you things like what impulse and warp drives are and how they work in the Trek universe. Ever wanted to know how fast Warp 5 is? Who designed the new Enterprise? Why the name of Spock's Vulcan shuttle is important to Trek history? It's all here. I enjoyed the text commentary as much, if not more, than the audio commentary. This should be standard on all Trek DVDs from here on out. It's very cool.

Disc Two gets even better if you're a Trek fan. First of all, there are three excellent new documentary featurettes that provide a fascinating look at the evolution and production of the film. Each features new interviews with the cast and crew, including (but not limited to) Wise, Goldsmith, Trumbull, Dykstra, William Shatner, Walter Koenig, Majel Barrett Roddenberry and even Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was instrumental in shepherding the project to the big screen as a brash, young Paramount executive. Phase II: The Lost Enterprise provides a look at the aborted effort to bring Star Trek back to TV in the late 1970s - a project which eventually evolved into this first film. A Bold New Enterprise details the production of the film itself. And Redirecting the Future shows us the process of creating the enhanced special effects and the new cut made for this DVD. The film's teaser and theatrical trailers are included, both in anamorphic widescreen. Gotta love that narration by Orson Welles! There's also a new trailer made to promote the Director's Edition and a promo for the new Enterprise TV series (a nice touch). Some 8 TV spots are available, again featuring trippy Welles narration. And remember what I said about all the deleted footage being included? Well, nearly everything that was shortened or deleted from the theatrical cut is included here in its original version - 5 scenes in all, along with various trims and outtakes, all in anamorphic widescreen (another great touch). This includes the only completed footage of the unrealized "memory wall" scene. Additionally, 11 more scenes (or fragments of scenes) that were restored for the 1983 TV broadcast are available as well, all once again in anamorphic widescreen (can you tell, I'm impressed? Well, I'm impressed). That includes the scene where Kirk leaves the ship to find Spock, wearing his space suit, where you can plainly see that the set is unfinished behind him. And finally, there's an archive of storyboard artwork for 3 scenes: "Vulcan", "Enterprise Departure" and "V'Ger Revealed". And that's a damn lot of cool Trek bonus material. Just have your friends bring the pizza and a case of Romulan Ale, and you've got a good evening's fun for Trek geeks of all varieties (Trekkie and Trekker, thank you very much).

There are only a few things that I would have wanted that are not on this disc. The first is an isolated version of Goldsmith's score. The second is audio commentary with the major Trek cast members. But the fact that neither of these things appear here is a small complaint (and I'll bet Paramount looked into both, but space or licensing issues nixed a music track and the actors declined to participate). On future Trek special editions, I'd also love to see some kind of audio commentary or other footage with the late Gene Roddenberry. Hopefully, somewhere deep in the Paramount archives, there are tapes of the Great Bird of the Galaxy being interviewed about his creation over the years, that can be edited into a documentary, or cobbled into an audio commentary track. Wouldn't that be cool?

When all is said and done, I think fans will be quite pleased with this DVD special edition. Quibbles (there's an obvious pun here that I'll spare you) about the picture quality aside, this is a 2-disc set that's very easy to enjoy and definitely delivers the goods. This release bodes very nicely for the quality of future Trek special editions. Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Cut is a treat. Don't miss it.

Bill Hunt

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