Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Sep 03, 2021
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection (4K UHD Review)

Director

Robert Wise, Nicholas Meyer, Leonard Nimoy

Release Date(s)

1979-1986 (September 7, 2021)

Studio(s)

Paramount Pictures (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: B
  • Overall Grade: B+

Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection (4K Ultra HD)

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Review

For as long as I’ve been the editor of The Digital Bits, I’ve found myself covering one Star Trek release after another, going all the way back to the LaserDisc format and the DVD release of First Contact in 1998—the very first Star Trek property of any kind to appear on the format. I’ve been to Paramount and CBS many times in the process, consulted with them on Trek releases over the years, and offered advice to studio executives on the subject whenever asked. But it’s no exaggeration to say that I—like many of you—have been waiting for properly-remastered Blu-ray and 4K versions of these films for as long as those formats have existed. So it’s no small thrill for me to finally have the first four remastered films on Ultra HD in hand for this review. And I’m pleased to report that Paramount has largely delivered an experience that’s worthy of both these films and that lengthy wait.

So let’s dive right into The Original 4-Movie Collection, starting were the film franchise began back in 1979…

 

STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (THEATRICAL VERSION)

Two years after the end of the original five-year mission of the Starship Enterprise (as seen in Star Trek: The Original Series), Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is now an admiral and the head of Starfleet Operations. Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has left Starfleet for his home planet of Vulcan, where he’s attempting to purge all human emotion. Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) has also left the service to become the simple country physician he always wanted to be. And Enterprise has changed too, having undergone an extensive redesign and refit under the care of its chief engineer, Montgomery Scott (James Doohan).

But on the far edges of Federation space, an unbelievably powerful energy cloud has appeared. Violating the Neutral Zone, it brushes aside an attack by the Klingons with ease. Now it’s headed for Earth, intentions unknown, and Enterprise is the only ship that stands in its way. Unfortunately, her new captain, Will Decker (Stephen Collins), is completely untried and the ship’s new warp engines have yet to be tested. Given his experience, Kirk convinces Starfleet to let him take over the command, but he’s unfamiliar with the ship’s new systems and hasn’t been in space since he surrendered the big chair. Can Enterprise and her crew pull together in time to intercept the intruder and save humanity?

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a unique cinema experience, even for the Trek franchise. Veteran fans will likely be familiar with the project’s long road to the silver screen, beginning first as a reboot of the TV series (to be called Star Trek: Phase II) in 1977 on the planned Paramount TV network. But as the new network proved commercially unviable, then studio president Michael Eisner decided to produce the two-hour pilot as a feature film instead, a prospect that must have seemed an especially good idea in the wake of the box office success of Star Wars. But Star Trek’s thoughtful and high-concept nature made it a difficult fit for blockbuster filmmaking, which was especially problematic given the fact that series creator Gene Roddenberry couldn’t agree on the right story with the studio. As multiple writers (including Harold Livingston and Alan Dean Foster) grappled with the script, director Robert Wise (The Sound of Music, West Side Story, The Day the Earth Stood Still) was recruited to take charge. But the project was burdened with the costs of the previous TV development work, in addition to its feature production budget, and the film had already been sold to theaters with a December 1979 release date locked in stone. Filming proceeded even as the story was being re-written. Meanwhile, the company contracted to handle the visual effects (Abel and Associates) spent nearly all of its budget producing just one usable shot. Nevertheless, live action filming was completed under Wise’s steady guidance and Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) was called in to finish the VFX. The film was completed just in time for its theatrical release, but to the satisfaction of almost no one involved, and at a cost of over $40 million (some estimates suggest closer to $50 million) making it the most expensive film of all time to that point.

Many critics have called the resulting film a slow-moving bore… and yet, fans who’d grown up watching The Original Series were thrilled to see their favorite characters together once again. Slow though the story might be to develop, The Motion Picture is the only film in the franchise that can genuinely be called a work of science fiction and its visuals were spectacular. What’s more, composer Jerry Goldsmith delivered one of his finest scores, building upon Alexander Courage’s TV fanfare and greatly expanding the sonic palette with new themes that constitute the musical bedrock of Star Trek to this day. And expensive or not, The Motion Picture delivered at the box office in a big way, thus ensuring that the film franchise would continue.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision Panaflex and PSR R-200 cameras, with Panavision C-Series and Split Diopter anamorphic lenses. Visual effects work was also completed using VistaVision, and the film was finished photochemically at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio for theaters. For this initial Ultra HD release, Paramount has scanned the original camera negative and master interpositive elements to produce a new 4K Digital Intermediate, complete with a new color grade for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). Note that this disc (and the remastered Blu-ray that accompanies it) features the original theatrical version of the film only, complete with its musical overture. But the good news is that the studio has already announced that Robert Wise’s much-loved Director’s Edition—which was first created for DVD in 2001—is getting fully-remastered for 4K and HD release as well in 2022 (on both physical discs and Digital), and by the same team who helped to produce it originally in standard definition. In the meantime, the new 4K image here is a breathtaking improvement over any previous release. For the first time in decades, The Motion Picture actually looks like… well, a motion picture, complete with mostly organic-looking film grain (there’s a bit of blurring/artifacting apparent in the grain on a few VFX shots that suggests digital grain management, but it’s vasty better than it was before). Gone is the waxy filtering of DNR that plagued the 2009 Blu-ray. Save for a few VFX shots (that have passed through an optical printer one too many times) and the odd shot of softer focus as originally filmed, the uptick in detail is remarkable. Texturing is gorgeous in skin tones and uniform fabrics, and especially the pearlescent “aztec” patterns on Enterprise’s hull. Colors are richer and more nuanced than ever before, thanks to the wider gamut of HDR, apparent on control panels, display screens, the surface of Vulcan during Spock’s Kolinahr ceremony, and in the energy clouds surrounding V’Ger. Blacks are deeper, while highlights are more naturally bold. Dolby Vision has perhaps a slight edge over the standard HDR10, but you’d never know it unless you compared them side by side. There are a couple of minor digital tweaks—one (removing the model stand) as Enterprise leaves space dock and the other (to remove a brief frame of two of visible warehouse background) when the asteroid explodes in the wormhole—but neither is egregious. A few shots of the Enterprise as it leaves dock are also a little softer than you may recall, but it’s likely this is how the shots actually appear in the theatrical version master interpositive. It must be remembered that the film was essentially rushed into theaters in 1979 with a few less than optimal VFX shots. Indeed, in Preston Neal Jones’ excellent book on the making of the film, Return to Tomorrow, VFX producer Richard Yuricich notes, “We have two or three negatives that are much better than what’s in the film, but there was absolutely no time to cut them in.” (Rest assured, those shots will almost certainly be fixed for the forthcoming Director’s Edition.) All in all, this is a massive upgrade image-wise over past disc editions.

Primary audio is included on the 4K disc in English 7.1 surround in lossless Dolby TrueHD format. This appears to be exactly the same mix found on the original Blu-ray. Some might have wished for a new Dolby Atmos mix, but the TrueHD was fantastic in 2009 and it remains so now. (Note that the Director’s Edition remaster will include Atmos.) The soundstage is big and wide up front, with lively use of the surround channels for music, ambient effects, and directional cues (like intercom calls, computer sounds on the bridge, and com chatter in the Epsilon 9 establishing shots). Dialogue is clean and clear at all times, bass is satisfying, and the score is presented in excellent fidelity. Optional audio mixes are available in German 2.0 stereo in Dolby TrueHD format, Spanish and Japanese 2.0 mono in Dolby Digital, and French 2.0 stereo in Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish.

Paramount’s 4K UHD disc offers a simple menu interface featuring the Bob Peak-like poster artwork for the Director’s Edition (the same art used for the 2001 DVD release, not that actual Peak artwork). It includes the following special features:

  • Isolated Score (Dolby Digital 2.0)—NEW
  • Commentary by Michael & Denise Okuda, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and Daren Dochterman

The isolated score is a phenomenal new addition to the extras, presenting Goldsmith’s music in 2.0 stereo in 48 kHz Dolby Digital format. What a treat it is to watch the film with just the score to experience the way it enhances the visuals directly! The commentary is the same one found on the previous Blu-ray edition, which in which the participants—each a legitimate expert on Star Trek and all of whom have been involved in its creation in one way or another—tell background stories about the production and offer bits of trivia and other anecdotes. Optional subtitles are available for the commentary in English, German, Spanish, French, and Japanese.

The newly-remastered theatrical version is also offered in 1080p HD and SDR on a Blu-ray Disc that’s included in the packaging (and is also available separately). It too features dramatically-improved A/V quality, with the exact same audio and subtitle options as the 4K disc. It also adds the following additional special features:

  • Isolated Score (Dolby Digital 2.0)—NEW
  • Commentary by Michael & Denise Okuda, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and Daren Dochterman
  • Library Computer Viewing Mode (HD)
  • Production
    • The Longest Trek: Writing the Motion Picture (HD – 10:44)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Special Star Trek Reunion (HD – 9:37)
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 001: The Mystery Behind V’Ger (HD – 4:24)
  • Deleted Scenes (SD – 11 scenes – 8:02 in all)
  • Storyboards (HD)
    • Vulcan
    • Enterprise Departure
    • V’Ger Revealed
  • Teaser Trailer (HD – 2:18)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:29)
  • TV Spots (SD – 7 spots – 3:39 in all)

Aside from the isolated score, these are the exact same features that were included on the 2009 Blu-ray release. Some of them are in SD (carried over from the 2001 DVD release) and the rest are HD. The content is generally of excellent quality, with the contributions of many of those involved in making the film. The Library Computer viewing mode features tons of background information, technical details, and other Trek trivia compiled by the Okudas (including material from their original DVD text commentary as well as much additional material) all indexed by subject and viewable in context during the film. All in all, it’s a solid batch of extras.

But there are a few items missing. The first is the original DVD audio commentary with Robert Wise, Jerry Goldsmith, Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, and Stephen Collins. Next is a trio of SD behind-the-scenes featurettes (Phase II: The Lost Enterprise, A Bold New Enterprise, and Redirecting the Future) from the DVD. And of course, the actual Okuda text commentary is missing. It’s possible that this material will be included on the forthcoming Director’s Edition Blu-ray and 4K next year—at least one can hope. Far more puzzling, however, is the fact that Roger Lay, Jr.’s great documentaries from the 50th Anniversary Collection’s Star Trek: The Journey to the Silver Screen bonus disc haven’t been included. The two relevant to this film are The New Frontier: Resurrecting Star Trek (HD – 30:01) and Maiden Voyage: Making Star Trek: The Motion Picture (HD – 29:13). Here’s hoping they get added to the Director’s Edition release as well, or perhaps the bonus disc itself could be included with the next batch of remastered films on Blu-ray and 4K.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture may not be the favorite entry in this franchise for many, but it holds a very dear place in the hearts of veteran Star Trek fans. The thrill of seeing Kirk, Spock, and the Starship Enterprise on the big screen is not something that those of us who first experienced it in theaters in 1979 will ever forget. And after decades of waiting, it’s just as thrilling that Paramount has finally given that theatrical experience a beautiful new scan and restoration, allowing us to relive it—and new fans to experience it for the first time—in sublime A/V quality on both 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray.

Film Rating: B
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A-/B-

 

STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (THEATRICAL VERSION & DIRECTOR’S CUT)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a continuation of one of The Original Series’ best episodes, Space Seed, in which Enterprise finds a ship adrift in deep space full of humans in suspended animation. It turns out these are genetically-engineered supermen, who nearly destroyed Earth in the 1990s and later fled the planet to avoid persecution. Upon being revived, their leader Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) attempts to hijack Enterprise in a bid to conquer the galaxy. But Captain Kirk and company foil this effort, and banish Khan and his people to a planet called Ceti Alpha V, where they might make a new life without harming others.

Six months after Enterprise departs, however, a neighboring planet explodes and renders Ceti Alpha V uninhabitable. Now it’s fifteen years later. Having barely managed to survive, Khan wants revenge against the man he holds responsible—Admiral James T. Kirk. And when the Starship Reliant arrives to survey the planet, Khan gains the means to exact his vengeance. But the stakes are higher still, for Reliant is helping to test an experimental device, code-named Genesis, with unthinkable power to create or destroy. Meanwhile, Kirk and Spock are on a training cruise, with a batch of Starfleet Academy cadets aboard Enterprise instead of an experienced crew. And with Genesis now in Khan’s hands, they’ll have to pay a high price indeed in order to stop him.

If there’s one key thing to understand about drama and conflict, it’s that great heroes require great villains. And there’s been no better villain, in any incarnation of Star Trek, than Khan. Engineered for superior intelligence and strength, he’s almost impossible to beat. As played by Montalbán, he’s also brooding, sly, witty and extremely dangerous. William Shatner gives perhaps his best performance in this film as Kirk, matching Khan round for round, and blow for blow. Nicholas Meyer’s direction is perfect, keeping the human action moving with style and infusing the film with a dark, edgy atmosphere. This isn’t Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Starship bridges look like living rooms—this Enterprise is steeped in the classic naval tradition, recalling the cat and mouse games of old WWII submarine films, and even the great The Original Series’ episode Balance of Terror. The screenplay is terrific (it’s credited to Jack B. Sowards, though Meyer made significant contributions too). And the score by the late James Horner (Titanic, Braveheart, Apollo 13) is absolutely thrilling. This is rousing stuff.

The original theatrical version of Star Trek II runs 112 minutes and was released on Blu-ray in 2009, while the 116-minute Director’s Cut came to the format (and Digitally in 4K) in 2016 for Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. Created by Meyer for the 2002 DVD release, the latter incorporates a number of small scene additions, many of which were first seen during the film’s original TV broadcast on ABC. For its presentation on Blu-ray, Meyer requested that one small change be made: Before the final battle in the Mutara Nebula, there’s a brief scene where Kirk, Spock, and Saavik are climbing the Jeffries tubes back up to the bridge. On the DVD, there was a bit of dialogue here in which Kirk tells Spock (of David): “That boy is my son.” To which Spock replied: “Fascinating.” The scene is still there, but Meyer requested that those two lines of dialogue be removed (so just know, it’s not an error). Other than that, this is the Director’s Cut you’re familiar with.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision cameras and anamorphic lenses. Visual effects work was also completed using VistaVision, and the film was finished photochemically at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For Star Trek’s 50th anniversary in 2016, the film was fully remastered from a fresh 4K scan of the original camera negative and master interpositive elements to produce a new 4K Digital Intermediate, complete with new color grading for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). Note that this disc (and the remastered Blu-ray that accompanies it) includes both the Director’s Cut and the original theatrical version via seamless branching—the discs ask you which version you wish to view when you press play from the menus. The full 4K image is gorgeous, featuring a nice improvement in fine detail and texturing over even the 2016 Blu-ray, with mostly organic-looking film grain (there’s a bit of blurring/artifacting apparent in the grain occasionally that suggests digital grain management, but it’s significantly better looking than the 2009 Blu-ray). Colors are much richer and more nuanced now thanks to the wider gamut of HDR, a difference that’s obvious in control panels, displays, skin tones, the sweeping Mutara Nebula vistas, costume fabrics—even the metallic sheen of Starfleet rank and service emblems on uniforms. Blacks are deeper, while highlights are more naturally bold. (The flashes of static energy within the nebula are actually bright enough to be eye-reactive.) Dolby Vision has a slight edge over HDR10, but whichever you can take advantage of, you should be very pleased. All in all, this is a terrific image and the best this film has looked at home by a wide margin. It must be added that it’s better than the Digital 4K presentation as well, thanks to the greater video data rates afforded by the physical disc.

Primary audio is included on the 4K disc in English 7.1 surround in lossless Dolby TrueHD format. This is the exact same mix found on the original 2009 Blu-ray and also the 2016 Director’s Cut Blu-ray. But again, while some may have hoped for a new Dolby Atmos mix, the TrueHD was good when we first heard it and it remains so. The soundstage is fairly wide across the front, though with somewhat more modest use of the surrounds for music, ambient effects, and directional cues (including intercom calls, computer sounds, light wind and blowing sand on Ceti Alpha V, and machinery noises in the simulator scene). The surrounds do get a bit more active during the film’s space battles sequences. Panning is smooth and natural, dialogue is clean at all times, bass is firm, and the score is presented in pleasing fidelity. Optional audio mixes are available in German, Spanish, and French 2.0 stereo in Dolby Digital format, along with Japanese 5.1 surround in Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish.

Paramount’s 4K UHD disc offers a simple menu interface featuring the Bob Peak poster artwork for the film. It includes the following special features:

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

The commentary tracks are the same as those found on the previous Blu-ray editions. The first features director Nicholas Meyer by himself (on the Director’s Cut) while the second has Meyer joined by Enterprise: Season 4 show runner Manny Coto (for the original theatrical version). This second track in particular is excellent, as Coto really knows his Trek history and his enthusiasm helps to keep the conversation lively throughout. Note that optional subtitles are available for the commentaries in English, German, Spanish, French, and Japanese.

Both the newly-remastered theatrical version and the previously-remastered Director’s Cut are also offered in 1080p HD and SDR on a Blu-ray Disc that’s included in the packaging (and is also available separately). It features the exact same audio and subtitle options as the 4K disc. It also adds the following additional special features:

  • Commentary by Nicholas Meyer (Director’s Cut and Theatrical Version)
  • Commentary by Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (Theatrical Version)
  • Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda (Director’s Cut)
  • Library Computer Viewing Mode (Theatrical Version) (HD)
  • The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan (HD – 28:18)
  • Production
    • Captain’s Log (SD – 27:21)
    • Designing Khan (SD – 23:55)
    • Original Interviews with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and Ricardo Montalbán (SD – 10:57)
    • Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (SD – 18:15)
    • James Horner: Composing Genesis (HD – 9:33)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics (HD – 11:05)
    • A Novel Approach (SD – 28:56)
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 002: Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI (HD – 3:07)
  • Farewell
    • A Tribute to Ricardo Montalbán (HD – 4:43)
  • Storyboard Galleries (HD)
    • Main Title Concept
    • Kobayashi Maru
    • Ceti Alpha V
    • Regula I
    • Chekov and Terrell Find Khan
    • Admiral’s Inspection
    • Khan’s Revenge
    • Kirk Strikes Back
    • Finding the Genesis Cave
    • The Mutara Nebula
    • Sneak Attack
    • Genesis
    • Honored Dead
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:22)

Once more, these are by-and-large the exact same features that were included on the 2009 and 2016 Blu-ray releases. A few are in SD (carried over from the 2000 DVD release) while the rest are HD. It’s a solid and informative batch of content that includes contributions by many of the key personnel involved in the production. The Library Computer viewing mode features background information, technical details, and other trivia compiled by the Okudas, all indexed by subject and viewable in context during the film. Unlike the remastered Motion Picture Blu-ray, the original Okuda text commentary carries over here too (on the Director’s Cut). And this time, the excellent Roger Lay, Jr. documentary on the making of the film from the 50th Anniversary Collection’s bonus disc—The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan—is available here (as it was on the 2016 Blu-ray). All in all, there doesn’t appear to be any missing content from previous Blu-ray or DVD editions.

Pound for pound, The Wrath of Khan is easily the highlight of the Star Trek feature film franchise. This is great human drama, with a terrific supporting cast, and marvelous old-school visual effects. Best of all, there’s genuine character development, particularly for Shatner’s James T. Kirk. We learn more about him here than we do in the entire Original Series and by the time the film is done, he’s in a very different place than he was at the start. Paramount’s 4K remaster of the Director’s Cut was terrific when we first got to see it on Digital (and on Blu-ray) back in 2016, and it’s a thrill that not only do we finally have it on physical 4K Ultra HD, it comes with the theatrical version too.

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

 

STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock picks up shortly after the events of Star Trek II. Kirk and company have defeated Khan, and are limping home aboard a badly damaged Enterprise. But Spock has given his life to save the ship from Khan’s last gasp—the detonation of the stolen Genesis device. Per custom, Spock was buried in space, his body fired in a casket (fashioned from a photon torpedo casing) into the atmosphere of the newly-formed Genesis planet. As if the loss of their friend isn’t bad enough, upon returning to Earth, Starfleet informs Kirk that Enterprise is to be decommissioned and its crew disbanded.

But in Kirk’s darkest hour, a glimmer of hope appears—Spock’s father, Sarek (Mark Leonard), reveals that his son may not truly be gone. It seems that, just before his death, Spock transfer his katra (read: soul) to Dr. McCoy in a Vulcan mind-meld. If Kirk can retrieve his body from the Genesis planet, the Vulcans may be able to reunite body and soul... and Spock may live again. But Starfleet has quarantined the planet and denies the request to take Enterprise on one final mission. So Kirk and his crew are forced to make a choice—either steal Enterprise and destroy their careers, or lose their friend forever. And if they do proceed, they’ll still have to face a rogue Klingon captain (Christopher Lloyd) who’s determined to obtain the power of Genesis for the glory of the Empire.

This third installment in the Star Trek film series is somewhat frustrating. Written and produced by Harve Bennett and directed by Leonard Nimoy (no less than Spock himself), the story opens with Kirk and the crew of Enterprise having won a victory, but licking their wounds as a result. Sarek’s appearance adds a welcome air of mystery and hope, while the Klingons deliver a bit of requisite tension and drama. Once the action kicks in, it’s not bad—the sequence where Kirk and company steal Enterprise is entertaining, if not exactly action-packed. But then the film hits the breaks with a poorly-written subplot involving Kirk’s son David and Lt. Saavik (Robin Curtis, replacing Kirstie Alley from the previous film) exploring the Genesis planet. Some of the dialogue here is terrible and it doesn’t help that Curtis gives a bland performance. Due to budget limitations, most of the Genesis planet scenes were filmed on a soundstage and they look like it. But perhaps the biggest problem is that this story simply doesn’t stand on its own; it’s tied too directly to the events of Wrath of Khan.

Still, there are bright spots. Christopher Lloyd is terrific as Kruge, the Klingon captain who pits his tiny Bird-of-Prey against Kirk’s Enterprise. Their head-to-head conflict in this film feels legitimately dangerous, with real consequences for Kirk that will continue to play out in later films. And there are some lovely, funny, and endearing moments here with McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura. Each character get the chance to shine and is critical the success of their group mission to save Spock. The film also gets major points for bringing back actor Mark Leonard as Sarek (a role he first played in The Original Series episode Journey to Babel) and for casting Dame Judith Anderson (the great Australian actress) as T’Lar. These elements almost, but not quite, make up for the film’s deficiencies. And that’s what makes Star Trek III so frustrating in the end—you find yourself alternately enjoying the film and being bored by it.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision cameras and anamorphic lenses. Visual effects work was also completed using VistaVision, and the film was finished photochemically at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For its debut on Ultra HD, Paramount has completed a new 4K scan of the original camera negative and master interpositive elements to produce a new 4K Digital Intermediate, complete with color grading for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). Other than the opening title sequence (which re-uses footage from Star Trek II but run through an optical printer to add titles, resulting in a noticeable reduction in quality) and the occasional soft focus shot, the uptick in resolution in this 4K presentation is significant. Live action footage features abundant detail, while film’s the model photography is simply gorgeous—the opening Bird-of-Prey attack is particularly good, with stunning texturing visible on the ship’s wings, not to mention the outer hull of Spacedock in the scenes that follow. The image is no longer plagued with DNR and there’s lovely and well-controlled grain visible throughout. The latter is mostly organic looking (though as is the case with the other films, there’s a bit of blurring or artifacting apparent in the grain in a few shots). The film’s color palette is stunning thanks to the wider gamut of HDR, with vibrant reds, blues, and greens, not to mention well-nuanced skin stones. Blacks are pleasing inky, while the highlights are brightly bold. Once again, the Dolby Vision has a modest edge over HDR10, but the latter is excellent too. All in all, this is a great looking image and massive improvement over the previous Blu-ray release.

Once again, primary audio is included on the 4K disc in English 7.1 surround in lossless Dolby TrueHD format. This is the same mix found on the original 2009 Blu-ray. A new Dolby Atmos mix would certainly have taken the sound to the next level, but the TrueHD was and remains a solid experience. The soundstage is medium-wide across the front, with good of the surrounds for music, ambient effects, panning (spaceship flybys notably benefit from this), and directional cues (including computer sounds, wind and earthquake rumbles on the Genesis planet, and explosions in several scenes including the Klingon Bird-of-Prey attack upon the freighter early in the film). Dialogue is clean at all times, bass is firm, and the James Horner score is presented in pleasing fidelity. Optional audio mixes are available in German, Spanish, and French 2.0 stereo in Dolby Digital format, along with Japanese 5.1 surround in Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish.

Paramount’s 4K UHD disc offers a simple menu interface featuring the Bob Peak poster artwork for the film. It includes the following special features:

  • Commentary by Leonard Nimoy, Harve Bennett, Charles Correll, and Robin Curtis
  • Commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor

The commentaries are the same ones found on the previous Blu-ray edition. The track with Leonard Nimoy and company is particularly notable as not only was this his first directorial effort, Nimoy commentaries are rare indeed. Even so, he delivers a steady stream of insights and behind the scenes stories. The second track features a pair of longtime Trek writers who went on to work on many other science fiction TV projects (including Battlestar Galactica, Defiance, and For All Mankind). Legitimate experts on Star Trek, they offer bits of trivia and other anecdotes. Optional subtitles are available for the commentaries in English, German, Spanish, French, and Japanese.

The newly-remastered film is also offered in 1080p HD and SDR on a Blu-ray Disc that’s included in the packaging (and is also available separately). It features the exact same audio and subtitle options as the 4K disc and adds the following additional special features:

  • Commentary by Leonard Nimoy, Harve Bennett, Charles Correll, and Robin Curtis
  • Commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor
  • Library Computer Viewing Mode (HD)
  • Production
    • Ken Ralston on Models and Creature Effects Easter Egg (SD – 7:06)—Select ‘Right’ from the Production menu item
    • Captain’s Log (SD – 26:13)
    • Terraforming and the Prime Directive (SD – 25:53)
    • Industry Light & Magic: The Visual Effects of Star Trek (HD – 13:50)
    • Spock: The Early Years (HD – 6:22)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Space Docks and Birds-of-Prey (SD – 27:49)
    • Speaking Klingon (SD – 21:04)
    • Klingon and Vulcan Costumes (SD – 12:16)
    • Star Trek and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (HD – 16:52)
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 003: Mystery Behind the Vulcan Katra Transfer (HD – 2:42)
  • Photo Galleries (HD)
    • Production
    • The Movie
  • Storyboards (HD)
    • Main Titles
    • The Klingons Attack
    • Entering Spacedock
    • Search for Life
    • Finding Spock
    • The Destruction of the Grissom
    • Stealing the Enterprise
    • Self Destruct
    • Kirk Fights Kruge
    • The Katra Ritual
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:12)

These extras unfortunately feel a bit more generic and uninspired than those for the other films, though that’s probably because the film itself feels generic. Even so, there’s some good content here and certainly much of you’d want discussed is covered. Both commentaries are well worth your time. The Easter egg featurette from the 2002 Special Collector’s Edition DVD release has carried over too. Really the only thing that’s not included is the Okuda text commentary from the DVD, though the Library Computer feature mostly makes up for it.

The Search for Spock is far from the worst entry in the Star Trek franchise, but it’s certainly the least good of the films contained in Paramount’s new Original 4-Movie Collection box set. Nevertheless, it manages to be somewhat entertaining and ends on a high note, with our beloved Enterprise crew reunited for new adventures. It’s also the most consistently good looking of these films in terms of 4K presentation quality. So we’ll call it a win.

Film Rating: C+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B+/B-

 

STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME

Directed once again by series regular Leonard Nimoy, The Voyage Home is arguably the most accessible Star Trek film for non-fans, even as it relies upon one of the franchise’s most tried-but-true plot devices—time travel. Set immediately after the events of Star Trek III, it begins with Kirk and his crew preparing to return home from Vulcan to face the music with Starfleet for having stolen and destroyed Enterprise in their successful mission to save Spock.

But an alien probe is wreaking havoc back on Earth for reasons unknown, its strange signals causing damage to the planet’s atmosphere. En-route in their captured Klingon Bird-of-Prey, Kirk and company learn of this and make a discovery—the probe’s signals match the songs of humpback whales, which have been extinct for centuries due to human negligence. So our heroes formulate a desperate plan to travel back to Earth circa 1987 to find a pair of whales and then return with them so they can answer the probe’s call.

Not only is The Voyage Home the most popular entry in this film series, it’s also one of the more entertaining. Taking our heroes out of their usual 23rd Century context (and giving each of them something vital to do) actually makes them seem more human and engaging somehow. Watching Kirk and Spock attempting to fit in with the crowd in 1987 San Francisco is certainly worth a few good laughs. (“Oh yeah? Well a double dumb-ass on you!”). It would be difficult not to enjoy Scotty attempting to interact with late 20th Century computer technology, not to mention McCoy’s reaction to the state of the art in medicine during the period. And because of damage suffered during their time-warp, one of the film’s subplots involves Chekov and Uhura attempting to collect high-energy photons needed to repair the Bird-of-Prey’s engines—particles that can only be found in a “primitive” nuclear fission reactor. So they decide to sneak aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier to get them... and naturally, it’s U.S.S. Enterprise. How can any self-respecting Star Trek fan not love that? What’s more, the film’s environmental message resonates more strongly today than ever before, given the present realities of climate change. And its opening dedication to the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger still stirs the emotions of anyone who experienced that tragedy at the time.

Like the previous films in the series, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Arriflex 35-III and Panavision Panaflex Gold cameras with Panavision C-Series and Super High Speed anamorphic lenses. Visual effects work was also completed using VistaVision, and the film was finished photochemically at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For its debut on Ultra HD, Paramount has completed a new 4K scan of the original camera negative and master interpositive elements to produce a new 4K Digital Intermediate, complete with color grading for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). The resulting image is a dramatic improvement on the previous Blu-ray presentation, with a noticeable uptick in resolution. However the the film’s Bird-of-Prey interiors are dimly-lit and thicker with atmospherics (specifically, on set smoke) than we’ve seen in previous installments, resulting in a somewhat softer look in those scenes compared to the rest of the film. Image detail is very good, particularly in daylight exteriors that were shot on location throughout San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Ana, San Diego, and in the “Blue Sky Tank” on the Paramount lot. As is the case with the other 4K presentations in this set, the image is no longer plagued with DNR and there’s abundant film grain visible throughout. In several shots though—particularly some of those exterior locations, and possibly due to the use of a different camera while on location—the grain seems to be a little more coarse (and the compression appears to struggle with it just a bit). It’s not a significant issue, but it’s worth noting. The film’s palette is gorgeous though thanks to the wider-gamut of HDR, with richly-saturated colors and greater nuance in the various shadings. Shadows are deep and detailed, while the highlights are more naturally bright. The difference between Dolby Vision and HDR10 is very slight. On the whole, this is a fine looking image for a catalog film of this vintage.

Primary audio is included on the 4K disc in English 7.1 surround in lossless Dolby TrueHD format. This is the exact same mix found on the original 2009 Blu-ray. As is the case with the other films, while a new Dolby Atmos mix would have been welcome, the TrueHD was and remains quite good. The soundstage is medium-wide across the front, with pleasing use of the surround channels for music, ambient spatial effects, and occasional directional cues and panning (the pulsing signal of the probe itself is a highlight, along with the stormy weather on Earth, city sounds on the streets of San Francisco, and the ‘warp’ effects as the Bird-of-Prey travels through time). Dialogue is clean, bass is solid, and Leonard Rosenman’s score exhibits good fidelity. Optional audio mixes are available in German, Spanish, and French 2.0 stereo in Dolby Digital format, along with Japanese 5.1 surround in Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish.

Paramount’s 4K UHD disc offers a simple menu interface featuring the Bob Peak poster artwork for the film. It includes the following special features:

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

Right off the bat, it should be said that the commentary with Nimoy and Shatner is one of the great bonus features that have ever been created for Star Trek. It’s not quite lively, but the pair has a genuine investment in these characters and this story, not to mention a shorthand with each other as actors, that makes this track an enjoyable listening experience. Unfortunately, longtime Trek fans may have a more difficult time listening to the second commentary with Orci and Kurtzman, given the direction the latter in particular has taken the franchise in recent years. Of all the people who deserved—and were well-suited—to becoming the Kevin Feige-like guiding hand of Star Trek (think Ronald Moore, Manny Coto, Nicholas Meyer, etc), Alex Kurtzman should never have been that guy. In any case, note that optional subtitles are available for the commentaries in English, German, Spanish, French, and Japanese.

The newly-remastered film is also offered in 1080p HD and SDR on a Blu-ray Disc that’s included in the packaging (and is also available separately). It features the exact same audio and subtitle options as the 4K disc and adds the following additional special features:

  • Commentary by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy
  • Commentary by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman
  • Library Computer Viewing Mode (HD)
  • Production
    • Future’s Past: A Look Back (SD – 27:32)
    • On Location (SD – 7:26)
    • Dailies Deconstruction (SD – 4:13)
    • Below-the-Line: Sound Design (SD – 11:45)
    • Pavel Chekov’s Screen Moments (HD – 6:09)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Time Travel: The Art of the Possible (SD – 11:15)
    • The Language of Whales (SD – 5:46)
    • A Vulcan Primer (SD – 7:50)
    • Kirk’s Women (SD – 8:19)
    • Star Trek: The Three-Picture Saga (HD – 10:12)
    • Star Trek for a Cause (HD – 5:40)
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 004: The Whale Probe (HD – 3:42)
  • Visual Effects
    • From Outer Space to the Ocean (SD – 14:43)
    • The Bird-of-Prey (SD – 2:48)
  • Original Interviews
    • William Shatner (SD – 14:33)
    • Leonard Nimoy (SD – 15:40)
    • DeForest Kelley (SD – 13:02)
  • Tributes
    • Roddenberry Scrapbook (SD – 8:17)
    • Featured Artist: Mark Lenard (SD – 12:44)
  • Production Gallery (SD – 3:55)
  • Storyboards (HD)
    • Encounter with the Saratoga
    • The Probe Approaches Earth
    • Time Warp
    • Mind Meld
    • The Whaling Ship
    • Return to the 23rd Century
    • Communication
    • NCC-1701-A
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:24)

The rest of these extras are quite good, a bit more comprehensive than those for the other films, including vintage interviews with Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley, another fine Library Computer viewing mode, and a pair of nice Tribute segments. The only thing that’s not included here is the Okuda text commentary from the 2003 DVD and Roger Lay, Jr.’s The Dream Is Alive: The Continuing Mission featurette from the 50th Anniversary Collection’s bonus disc (here’s hoping it shows up in the next 4K box set—more on that in a minute).

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is a great film, one that holds up just as well today as it did when it was first released in theaters back in 1986, and it’s arguably Leonard Nimoy’s finest effort as a director. Every member of the cast is given a chance to shine here, making this film a true ensemble work. The story is funny, engaging, and never loses its momentum. Perhaps most importantly, its optimistic message and idealism truly represents the Star Trek franchise at its very best.

Film Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/B

 

So that’s the end of the disc-based content. The packaging for this set is essentially just a cardboard slipcover that holds a pair of four-disc Amaray cases, one for the 4K discs and another for the Blu-rays. The Blu-ray case also contains an insert with Digital codes for each film. Here’s what it looks like...

Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection (4K Ultra HD)

As you can see, the cover artwork is... well, it’s not great. In fact, it’s pretty close to terrible. I can’t think of a single Star Trek fan who wouldn’t rather have the original Bob Peak poster artwork on these discs. And though it’s picking nits, I doubt that anyone at the studio is enough of a Trek fan to realize that the alignment of the “NCC-1701” on the starship schematic in the background of this art suggests that it’s actually the Enterprise-A and not the Enterprise. But, you know... fortunately we don’t buy these releases for the packaging. It’s what’s on the discs that matters most. And that at least is pretty solid. I also don’t think most fans realize how lucky we are to be getting these films on physical 4K at all these days. So while it’s frustrating, I’m willing to overlook the lame packaging at this point. Someone at Paramount thought this was a good idea. Hats off to them for making the effort at least, the epic fail aside.

Circling back for a moment to the extras that are not included in this set (but should have been), some the Okuda text commentaries (from the previous DVD and Blu-ray sets) are missing, as are Roger Lay, Jr.’s excellent featurettes from the 50th Anniversary Collection Blu-ray bonus disc—The New Frontier: Resurrecting Star Trek, Maiden Voyage: Making Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and The Dream Is Alive: The Continuing Mission. The first two could certainly be included on the future Director’s Edition 4K and Blu-ray release. Given that Paramount’s Original 4-Movie Collection holds the first film plus three more that essentially form a coherent story trilogy, it seems likely that the studio will follow it with two more collections. A second set could hold Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and Star Trek: Generations and would essentially conclude the story of The Original Series crew (this would be the place to include The Dream Is Alive: The Continuing Mission along with End of an Era: Charting The Undiscovered Country), while a third and final set could deliver Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, and Star Trek: Nemesis and thus would wrap up The Next Generation story (this then would be a good place to include The Captain’s Summit content from the 2009 Original Motion Picture Collection bonus disc, as well as the Star Trek: Evolutions content from the 2009 Next Generation Motion Picture Collection). Note that the recently-announced 4K remaster of the Star Trek: The Motion Picture Director’s Edition will be a Paramount+ exclusive when it first appears next year, but it seems likely that it too will be released on physical 4K and Blu-ray as a standalone release for the holidays in 2022 (as mentioned earlier, that’s the place for the missing 2001 DVD content to finally be included).

In any case, while Paramount’s new Original 4-Movie Collection can’t quite be called perfect, the studio has clearly made a significant effort (and spent a significant amount of money) to remaster these films for 4K Ultra HD and greatly-improved Blu-ray release. The result is pretty impressive, easily the best these films have looked since their original theatrical release. And if not quite every bonus feature from past disc releases has carried over here, most of that content certainly has, and the new isolated score on The Motion Picture is a gem.

While some fans may be inclined to wait for a more complete box set of all ten films remastered in 4K and Blu-ray, hoping to get a better bargain or different packaging, please keep in mind that it was exactly this kind of bargain-hunting mentality that doomed the planned Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Remastered effort. We’ve all been waiting a very long time for the classic Star Trek films to be remastered in 4K, and Paramount is clearly releasing them as they complete the work. The message we should all be trying to send the studio is that we want all of these films on physical 4K and Blu-ray, not just the first few. The only way to do that for sure is by voting with your wallet. There can be little doubt that the decision makers at Paramount+ would be quite happy to have all of these remasters as a streaming exclusive. So not only is Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection recommended, my advice would be: Don’t delay in ordering it.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

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