Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition was the last original Star Trek film to be released on DVD, but also the first to be released as a 2-disc set.
While the film had been released previously on VHS, Betamax, LaserDisc, and CED videodisc in its original theatrical version in 1981, and again in 1983 in Special Longer Version on VHS and LaserDisc (that incorporated unfinished footage from the ABC TV extended cut), the film’s first DVD release was a bit of a surprise.
Producers David C. Fein and Michael Matessino, then working on behalf of Wise, approached Paramount about doing a proper Director’s Edition of the film. The studio agreed and work began on a new proper cut of the film under Wise’s supervision. Some scenes were trimmed and new shots were added – the new edition runs 136 minutes, which is 4 minutes longer than the theatrical cut, but there are changes throughout. Some 90 new VFX shots were produced by Foundation Imaging (with Daren Dochterman as visual effects supervisor) and incorporated into the film. A new 5.1 sound mix was produced as well.
Members of the Director’s Edition production team (and friends) with Robert Wise in 1999
I had the good fortune of attending the studio’s premiere screening at the Paramount Theater on the studio lot on November 1, 2001. Several hundred guests were in attendance, including director Robert Wise, stars Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Walter Koenig and Grace Lee Whitney, producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and numerous other studio execs, Trek production staffers and members of the media. The theater lobby was turned into a mini Trek museum, with a handful of props and costumes from the film on display. The centerpiece – literally – was the original studio miniature of the Starship Enterprise used in the feature films. I was able to take a number of pictures (the studio also provided a few), so here’s a look behind-the-scenes...
Guests gathering at the Paramount Theater
The Enterprise model from the Star Trek films in the theater lobby
Star Trek production alums Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Michael Okuda by the model
Another angle of the Enterprise
Orbiting the buffet
Kirk’s uniform from the film
The Spacedock Work Bee model
L to R: Millicent Wise, Director’s Edition producer David Fein, effects supervisor
Daren Dochterman, director Robert Wise and restoration supervisor Michael Matessino
Robert Wise addresses the audience before the film
L to R: Robert Wise, William Shatner, David C. Fein (producer),
Millicent Wise (in front) and Daren R. Dochterman (visual effects supervisor)
L to R: Eric Doctorow (president, Paramount Home Entertainment Worldwide),
Leonard Nimoy, Jeffrey Katzenberg (studio executive) and William Shatner
L to R: George Takei, William Shatner, Elizabeth Shatner,
Susan Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy and Jeffrey Katzenberg
L to R: William Shatner, Elizabeth Shatner, Susan Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy and Jeffrey Katzenberg
Back row: Harold Michelson (production designer), Michelle Billy-Povell (cast), Takei,
Richard Kline (cinematographer), Jon Povill (associate producer), Nimoy, Katzenberg, Shatner
Front row: Tom Parry (studio executive), Grace Lee Whitney (cast), Wise and Mrs. Wise
Just a week later, on November 6th, 2001, Paramount Home Entertainment released The Director’s Edition as a 2-disc DVD. The video was standard definition, of course, but it was fortunately enhanced for anamorphic widescreen displays. The set also offered a host of newly-created special features.
Disc One included a text commentary by Michael Okuda, co-author of the Star Trek Encyclopedia. It also included an audio commentary with the likes of Robert Wise, Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, Jerry Goldsmith, and actor Stephen Collins.
Disc Two added 3 documentaries: Phase II: The Lost Enterprise (13 mins.), A Bold New Enterprise (30 mins.) and Redirecting the Future (14 mins.), a teaser trailer, the film’s theatrical trailer, the Director’s Edition trailer, an Enterprise promo, 8 TV spots, 5 deleted scenes plus trims and outtakes from the 1979 theatrical version, 11 deleted scenes from the 1983 ABC broadcast version, and storyboard archive for 3 scenes.
There was also a 2-page insert booklet with a detailed list of the extras, a list of chapter stops, and a personal note from Wise.
To this day, this is the only version of the Director’s Edition available on any home video format, although Paramount did later release the original theatrical cut of the film on Blu-ray as part of their problematic Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection set on May 12, 2009.
The set was problematic because the HD versions of the films were rife with heavy-handed Digital Noise Reduction, used to make them look consistent across the set.
Unfortunately, the Director’s Edition cannot currently be released in HD or 4K without another extensive remastering effort. This is because while the original film elements still exist, the Director’s Edition VFX and post production was only completed in SD resolution to save money. And I’m sorry to say that Paramount currently has no plans to do this in 2019 for the film’s 40th Anniversary, which is a real shame and a damn travesty.
So, keep your DVD copies if you have them. I actually have two, neither of which I will ever part with, one of which is signed by the late Robert Wise himself...
Full disclosure: I’m friends (or at least casually acquainted) with several of the people who worked on the Director’s Edition whose names I’ve mentioned in this piece. So I have more than a casual interest in the question of whether this film will ever be properly remastered in HD/4K. I’ve also personally lobbied the studio to complete such a restoration on multiple occasions. I’m hopeful that, one of these days, the idea will stick.
For those of you who want to explore more about the history of the film itself, our own Michael Coate produced a terrific History, Legacy and Showmanship column here at The Bits back in 2015: The Treksperts Speak: Celebrating Star Trek: The Motion Picture on its 35th Anniversary. It features an in-depth roundtable discussion with David C. Fein, Mike Matessino, Daren R. Dochterman, Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda, Mark A. Altman, Robert Meyer Burnett, Neil S. Bulk, Jeff Bond, and Scott Mantz. I can’t recommend it more highly.
Some of you may also know that I recently appeared on the terrific Inglorious Treksperts podcast – with Mark Altman, Rob Burnett, and Daren Dochterman – to talk about the history of Star Trek on home video. You can find that podcast here. But it’s also worth checking out their other episodes, because the Inglorious Treksperts are celebrating the film’s 40th anniversary all year long. So far, they have a great episode on the creation of the Director’s Edition DVD here.
By the way, if you enjoy the film, TrekCore has a VFX team audio commentary track that’s not on the DVD. You can find that here.
And that’s it for today’s Retro Release Day! Check back on Thursday for the next installment, and if you share links to this column on social media, be sure to use tag #RetroReleaseDay.