When Star Wars: Episode One released in theaters, thousands of would-be Wookies ran back home to watch the original trilogy to remember exactly where the prequel was leading plot- and character-wise. Well, the Star Trek series has always been one to try and avoid being one-upped by Star Wars, so with J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie out in theaters, Paramount has decided that it, too, should provide moviegoers a fresh look at the beloved Star Trek movies for which Abrams’ action-filled feature is the prequel.
Star Trek Original Motion Picture Collection brings under a single Blu-ray Disc roof all six movies featuring the Original Series cast, plus a seventh disc containing what’s probably the best bonus feature in the history of Star Trek features: a round-table conversation with William Shatner (James Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard) and Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker), hosted by Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan). To say the original Star Trek films look and sound better than they ever have is the type of praise you’d expect to hear from a Blu-ray review. After all, the Blu-ray Disc format supports uncompressed audio and 1080p video, both of which provide the best possible A/V experience this side of actually serving on the USS Enterprise. So rather than just heap those accolades upon the set — which are completely and totally warranted, by the way — let’s provide some concrete examples, shall we?
All six films, from Star Trek: The Motion Picture to The Undiscovered Country, have been restored to a level that is generally befitting of Blu-ray. That’s not to say they all look flawless; The Motion Picture looks more dated than The Undiscovered Country, for instance, but due to the simple technology and special effects of that time, not due to any grain or flawed video image. It’s also a bit ironic that at times the remastered Blu-ray version of Star Trek the Original Series: Season One looks a bit more crisp than some of the feature films, probably due to Paramount simply needing to take a bit more time and care with those prints due to their age. However, that’s not to say Paramount didn’t do any remastering on Star Trek Original Motion Picture Collection.
The Wrath of Khan, arguably the most popular movie in the Star Trek series, has been completely remastered so it can strut its stuff on Blu-ray. When Khan drops the creature enter Chekov’s ear so as to control his mind, the crisp visuals actually make your skin crawl because the clarity of the animal’s scales is so realistic. When Spock leans against the engineering chamber after sacrificing his own health to save the Enterprise, his skin’s discoloration and injuries are more distinct than they’ve been in any previous home release of the film. And when the Genesis simulations run to show exactly what happens as an entire ecosystem builds from scratch, the saturated colors pop off the screen with stunning brightness and contrast to make viewers feel as though they’re watching the simulation from the outpost themselves.
The uncompressed audio in The Wrath of Khan is good, but other than the scenes with Khan in the desert and the cosmic storm battle at the end, there really isn’t much opportunity to test the surrounds. The Voyage Home, however, is a completely different story, particularly The Energy RC-Micro home theater system delivered the sound for this review.during the San Francisco storm in the future and the underwater whale calls in the past. The surrounds get even more of a workout in The Final Frontier and Undiscovered Country, both of which have scenes that rely on more environmental sounds and audio tracks that have positional audio in every direction. But regardless of the film, Paramount did a great job balancing the audio levels for the Blu-ray release so you never need to adjust the volume to account for low voices or loud explosions. The balance between the two is just right, and you’ll never need to strain your ears or cover them.
Most of the 12 hours of bonus features included on the Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection on Blu-ray have been released before, but there are certainly some new elements. Each film has at least one new bonus feature, predominantly an interview of some sort like the one on Wrath of Khan in which the director reminisces about the career and work ethic of Ricardo Montelban. Each film also comes equipped with a BD-Live trivia function that lets viewers take user-uploaded tests about the movie at hand. The content in these BD-Live quizzes varies from actor and actress trivia to production-related information to memory tests about specific elements in a scene that’s shown on-screen. Because the content is user-generated, the quality varies from test to test and film to film, but each test can be rated based on user input, and each one also has a leaderbord of the highest scores (based on completion time and number correct). Generally speaking, these tests are a lot of fun, but the network wasn’t overloaded with them as of the time of this review. Apparently as popular as the Star Trek series is, its fans don’t fancy themselves test writers.
When it comes to bonus features, though, the creme de la creme is hands-down The Captain’s Summit, a 70-minute roundtable with the captains and first officers from Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Led by Whoopi Goldberg, this standalone feature is an absolute riot, not to mention incredibly insightful. For instance, did you know Shatner never watched an episode of Next Generation? Did you know Nimoy wasn’t sold on the idea of doing Star Trek movies at all? Did you know CBS only decided to make a Star Trek movie after they saw the success of Star Wars and wanted to capitalize on the sci-fi fever? This Captain’s Summit is the first time all four men have gathered together, and although it takes a while for the conversation to open up for all four men (it’s dominated by Shatner and Nimoy in the early going), the chance to see these sci-fi icons just shooting the breeze is nothing short of a Star Trek fan’s nirvana. Goldberg, a strong personality herself, could’ve gotten in the way or overpowered the roundtable. Instead, she carefully leads the men for 70 minutes with thoughtful questions designed to get them to really think about their answers and “engage” with one another more than big stars might otherwise want to do. The result is the most casual, comfortable and yet seat-of-your-pants interesting feature Star Trek fans could’ve possibly hoped for. In fact, I found myself wanting to watch more even after the 70 minutes were up.
Of course, that desire to see more is exactly why Paramount has released Star Trek Original Motion Picture Collection on Blu-ray at this time. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film is outstanding, and viewers are undoubtedly going to want to revisit the plots and places that are in store for the featured characters (even if their pasts are now dramatically different). Riding the Star Trek fever, Paramount has released this Blu-ray box set at precisely the right time — and with precisely the right attention to A/V excellence. If you’ve not watched the six original Star Trek films since their days on VHS, do yourself a favor and pick up this Blu-ray set. After all, it’s the only way to see the crew of the Enterprise boldly go to a format where no Star Trek film has gone before.
Buy Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection (The Motion Picture / The Wrath of Kahn / The Search for Spock / The Voyage Home / The Final Frontier / The Undiscovered Country) on Blu-ray at Amazon.com.
- Score: 9.0
— Jonas Allen