Star Trek: The Motion Picture (4K UHD)

Director: Robert Wise
Screenplay: Harold Livingston (story by Alan Dean Foster, based on Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry)
Stars: William Shatner (Capt. James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Cmdr. Spock), DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy), James Doohan (Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott), George Takei (Lt. Cmdr. Hikaru Sulu), Walter Koenig (Lt. Cmdr. Pavel Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Cmdr. Uhura), Majel Barrett (Dr. Christine Chapel), Persis Khambatta (Lt. Ilia), Stephen Collins (Cmdr. Willard Decker)
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 1979
Country: U.S.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture 4K UHD
Star Trek: The Motion Picture

It is all too easy to take Star Trek for granted. Since the premiere of Gene Roddenberry’s original, groundbreaking TV show in 1966, there have been nine spin-off series, 13 feature films, and an incalculable deluge of Trek-related cultural artifacts, from the billions of dollars of official merchandising, to the incredible amount of artistic and literary production by the legions of dedicated fans who gather at dozens of conventions every year. Thus, it is easy to forget that, when Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979, it was something of a gamble. After all, despite its loyal following, the original TV series had been perceived for many years as something of a failure, having lasted only three seasons (1966–69), a total of 79 episodes, many of which suffered from exceptionally meager budgets, especially during the second and third seasons.

During the mid-1970s, Roddenberry and others were developing a new series with the same cast of characters called Star Trek: Phase II. After the phenomenal success of George Lucas’s Star Wars in 1977, Paramount switched gears and decided to turn Star Trek into a motion picture. Oddly enough, although Star Trek: The Motion Picture is often thought of as being made to cash in on the Star Wars juggernaut, the two movies could not be any different. While Lucas’s space opera is fast-paced, action-oriented, and mythological in its notions of pure good and evil, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is slow and cerebral, more enraptured by stately sci-fi imagery than it is by heroes and villains and chase sequences and shoot-outs.

If anything, what the first Star Trek movie most resembles both visually and thematically is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the film most directly responsible for initiating the modern era of serious cinematic science fiction. This similarity makes it stand out from the more action-oriented Trek movies that would follow, even if it does not share Kubrick’s rigorous intellectualism and visually exacting methods. While there are moments that are deeply engrossing without being conventionally exciting, too much of Star Trek is, for lack of a better word, tedious.

The story involves an enormous, extremely powerful alien cloud that is slowly moving toward Earth. We get a sense of just how dangerous this cloud is when it vaporizes three Klingon ships and a Federation space station in the film’s stunning opening sequence. To deal with this mysterious, dangerous phenomenon, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is called back to duty even though it has been years since he commanded the Starship Enterprise. Kirk quickly reassembles his faithful crew, including the Vulcan science officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), the always irascible Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and the engineer Scotty (James Doohan). Each major character is given a loving reintroduction, which must have thrilled fans to no end in 1979 who had not seen these characters on-screen for a decade. The move to the big screen—in ’Scope widescreen, no less—must have been that much more thrilling, as the Star Trek universe was finally being portrayed in the larger-than-life manner it had always deserved, but had been consistently denied by the limits of television in the 1960s.

Kirk’s assumption of command of the Enterprise is a hard shot to the ego of the previous commander, a rising young star named William Decker (Stephen Collins), who is more familiar with the newly retrofitted starship. Yet, it is Kirk’s experience exploring the cosmos that is most needed on this mission, and he and Decker eventually find a working relationship, although it is not without its tensions.

The slow-moving narrative (the screenplay was penned by novelist and televsion writer Harold Livingston from a story by prolific sci-fi novelist Alan Dean Foster) charts the Enterprise’s journey to intercept the mysterious cloud before it reaches Earth. There are some exciting moments along the way, such as when the Enterprise is caught in a worm hole. But, for the most part, the journey is a build-up, a way of increasing the space cloud’s mysterious aura. Once they reach the cloud, the movie verges on the surreal in a way that none of the other Star Trekmovies ever did (least of all the immediate follow-up, 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a violent and melodramatic revenge tale).

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is certainly an inventive and thoughtful science fiction movie, even if it is not entirely in keeping with either the television show that preceded it or the movies that would follow it. In this way, though, it remains unique and memorable. Legendary director Robert Wise was pressed for time in making the movie, but he lent it a distinct air of intelligence and purpose. Wise, who had won Oscars for the musicals West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), but was also know for directing horror (1963’s The Haunting) and science fiction (1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still), was a good choice to helm such an ambitious project. His professionalism and extensive experience proved to be crucial when the movie’s production came down to the wire.

Wise was able to maintain the importance of the characters and the story, even when the special effects were constantly threatening to engulf them. At the same time, though, he used the effects to new advantages, especially in his almost fetishistic attention to the Enterprise, which truly allowed the ship to become its own character. Wise’s camera and the improved model effects for the first time gave the Enterprise true mass and scope, which is the same thing he for Star Trek itself, giving the innovative and progressive, but technically limited, TV show a jolt of the kind of magnitude that only the big screen can give.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital
Star Trek: The Motion Picture is available as part of the Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection 4K UHD / Blu-ray Set.
Aspect Ratio2.40:1
  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • German Dolby TrueHD 2.0 monaural
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • Isolated Music Track Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural
  • SubtitlesEnglish, English SDH, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
  • Audio commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and Daren Dochterman
  • Library Computer Viewing Mode
  • Production: The Longest Trek: Writing the Motion Picture
  • Special Star Trek Reunion
  • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 001: The Mystery Behind V’Ger
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Storyboards: Vulcan; Enterprise Departure; V’Ger Revealed
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • TV spots
  • DistributorParamount Home Entertainment
    Release DateSeptember 7, 2021

    It would be quite the understatement to say that fans have been chomping at the bit for the Star Trek films to finally get the fully remastered 4K treatment, and while it seems like the wait has been interminable, I can say that it has been worth it. The first four films in the series, included in this eight-disc box set (each film is on a 4K UHD disc and a Blu-ray, with all the non-commentary supplements on the Blu-ray discs), are generally outstanding, with the best video and audio presentation the films have ever seen on any home video format. I should note up front that this set only includes the theatrical cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, although it is widely known that Paramount is busy prepping a separate release for 2022 that will include both the theatrical version and the Director’s Cut in remastered 4K. This set includes both the theatrical cut and Director’s Cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan via seamless branching.

    Each film has been newly scanned in 4K from the original 35mm camera negatives and master interpositive elements, restored, and color graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR). The results are uniformly fantastic, with all four films boasting better sharpness, depth, and detail than previous releases and without some of the problematic noise reduction that marred earlier Blu-rays (notably Star Trek: The Motion Picture, although the other films also suffered from digital smoothing that removed some of the image density and resulted in a less film-like appearance.). Film grain is present throughout and beautifully rendered to create a genuinely filmlike experience that looks gorgeous in motion. There are some inconsistencies in the image, notably some softer shots here and there and notable matte lines in the visual effects shots, but these are all inherent to the source material. Colors look bold and beautiful (note, for example, the intense swirling hues in the nebula in Wrath of Khan), and darker scenes hold up well. Colors on all three movies are excellent throughout, with strong blacks and often stunning detail. All four films appear to include the same Dolby TrueHD 7.1-channel surround soundtracks that were originally created for the 2009 Blu-ray releases. I can see why they didn’t create new mixes, because these are pretty incredible already, immersing you in both the orchestral scores and the various space battles. Surround effects are consistently impressive, especially during the shoot-outs in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock.

    All of the supplements have been ported over from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. These include an information-packed audio commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda (authors of Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future), science fiction novelists Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and concept artist Daren Dochterman, who supervised the film’s visual effects. This disc also allows you to watch the flm in the “Library Computer” mode, a thorough, graphically intensive, and user-controlled interface. Essentially, this is an interactive experience that allows you to access information about the Star Trek universe while watching the film. The Blu-ray creates a frame around the film with constantly shifting icons that represent different categories of information related to whatever is on screen at that moment: “Culture,” “Science & Medicine,” “Starfleet Ops,” “Life Forms,” “Planets & Locations,” “People,” “Technology,” “Ships,” and “Miscellaneous.” At any given point there can be six or seven of these icons available for clicking, and you also have access at all times to an Index that includes every term in the computer. We also get a number of short featurettes: “The Longest Trek: Writing The Motion Picture” is an 11-minutes look back at the film’s history (beginning with the abandoned Star Trek Phase II television series); “Special Star Trek Reunion” is a 10-minute featurette in which Trek fans who were invited to appear as extras in the Enterprise crew debriefing scene reminisce about the experience; and “Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 001: Mystery Behind V’ger,” a 4-minute faux Starfleet instructional video. Also on the disc are 11 deleted scenes running about 8 minutes total, storyboards for three scenes (“Vulcan,” “Enterprise Departure,” and “V’ger Revealed,” a teaser trailer and a theatrical trailer, and seven TV spots.

    Copyright © 2021 James Kendrick

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    Overall Rating: (3)

    James Kendrick

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