Release Date(s)1979/2001/2022 (September 6, 2022)
Studio(s)Paramount Pictures (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A+
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 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 no less than 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.
While many critics called the result a slow-moving bore, fans who’d grown up watching The Original Series were thrilled to see their favorite characters together once again on the big screen. Slow though the story may be to unfold, 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.
But Robert Wise was never fully happy with The Motion Picture, as its hurried release meant that he was unable to complete the normal post-production process. So nearly twenty years after its debut, Wise approached Paramount to ask if he might be allowed revisit the film to fix the editing, visual effects, and sound mix to his satisfaction. The result—produced by David C. Fein, with Mike Matessino serving as restoration supervisor, and Daren R. Dochterman supervising the visual effects—was the much-loved Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Director’s Edition, which debuted on the then-new DVD format in 2001. But though thrilling for its day, this version was unfortunately only completed in SD resolution. This meant that the Director’s Edition was effectively missing in action when the high-definition Blu-ray format arrived a decade later. Thankfully in 2020, with the support of Paramount Home Entertainment and the financial backing of the studio’s new Paramount+ streaming service, the Director’s Edition was finally completed again, this time in 4K resolution. The result is a far more polished-looking production. There are new establishing shots of Vulcan and Starfleet Headquarters. Visual effects shots that were completed in 1979 but didn’t make the final cut of the film have been restored. And for the first time, one truly understands the internal and external geography of V’Ger while watching the film. The Director’s Edition scene additions and extensions are subtle, but serve to round out the dramatic arcs and enhance character moments. Viewing this film is now a significantly more rewarding experience.
The Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Director’s Edition is available on disc in three versions in the US—the 2-disc 4K Ultra HD release reviewed here, a 2-disc Blu-ray release (available on Amazon), and a 3-disc 4K Ultra HD Complete Adventure release (reviewed here on The Bits and also available on Amazon). Here’s what’s included on the 2-disc 4K release…
DISC ONE – STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE – DIRECTOR’S EDITION (4K UHD)
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 Ultra HD release, Paramount has scanned the original camera negative and master interpositive elements in 4K. Much (though not all) of the original VistaVision and 65 mm VFX negative has also been located and scanned in 6K or 8K resolution, which allowed the Director’s Edition team to re-composite many shots that had previously suffered from multiple generations of image loss and matte lines caused by optical printing. All of this work has been done with an eye towards delivering every bit of detail present in the original negative to the screen. What’s more, VFX shots originally created digitally in SD resolution in 2001 have been redone and rendered in full native 4K. The result is a new 4K Digital Intermediate for the Director’s Edition, complete with new color grading for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). Seen on the biggest possible screen, the image is nothing short of breathtaking.
For the first time in decades, the Director’s Edition looks truly cinematic, complete with organic-looking film grain. Fine image detail is exquisite and much improved, save for a few VFX shots that remain optically composited, the odd shot with soft focus, and the usual anamorphic softness around the edges of the frame. Texturing is gorgeous in skin tones and uniform fabrics, and especially the pearlescent “aztec” patterns on Enterprise’s hull. Gone is the waxy filtering of DNR that plagued the 2009 Blu-ray. The film’s overture now includes a subtle moving starfield texture. Fans will be pleased to know that the original Paramount logo (A Gulf + Western Company) remains attached to the film’s opening. The film’s titles have a new “sparkle” effect as well. Colors throughout the film are vibrant 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. All in all, this 4K release not only represents a massive upgrade image-wise over past disc editions, Star Trek: The Motion Picture didn’t even look this good in the very best 70 mm screenings on Day One of its original theatrical release in 1979.
But every bit as good as the imagery is the film’s new English Dolby Atmos object-based sound mix. The Director’s Edition team has found all kinds of original ADR recordings (including Wise’s preferred takes, a few of which never made it into the Theatrical Version), along with background dialogue, sound effects, and proper music cues. All of those have been digitally remastered from original recordings. The soundstage is huge and completely immersive, with smooth and lively use of the surround channels for music, ambient effects, and directional cues (like com chatter, computer sounds on the bridge, and subspace radio messages in the Epsilon 9 establishing shots). You’ll hear things in these scenes now that were always intended to be there, but which Wise and company never had time to include, or that simply got buried in the original and rushed 1979 sound mix. The height channels enlarge every encounter with the V’Ger energy cloud. Bass is rich and satisfying, while the dialogue is cleaner and more clear than ever before. Best of all, Jerry Goldsmith’s magnificent score is presented with absolutely thrilling fidelity. You might even hear instrumentation in a few cues that you hadn’t previously noticed. This is a great classic film Atmos mix, and the film is richly deserving of it. Additional sound mixes are available in German, Spanish, and French 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional (and player-generated) subtitles available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, Latin Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish.
This disc’s menus features the original Bob Peak artwork. The disc itself includes the following special features…
- Audio Commentary by David C. Fein, Mike Matessino, and Daren R. Dochterman
- Audio Commentary by Robert Wise, Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, Jerry Goldsmith, and Stephen Collins
- Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda
- Isolated Score
The commentary with Fein, Matessino, and Dochterman is new for this release and is, of course, mandatory listening for Star Trek fans. No one alive knows more about The Motion Picture, and what its director intended for it to be, than these three. They discuss the film, various effects shots both new and old, and the process by which they approached the new 4K remastering. Particularly interesting is a discussion of the recompositing they did for this version—taking the original large format VFX plates and putting them all together in best-ever resolution. Many shots in this film have simply never looked better. There’s also the original 2001 DVD commentary with Wise, his visual effects gurus, composer Jerry Goldsmith, and actor Stephen Collins (Decker), which was and remains a great listen. And the 2001 text commentary by the Okuda has carried over too, which offers lots of background information and other trivia. Subtitles for the audio commentaries are available in English German, Spanish, Latin Spanish, French, and Italian. It’s also thrilling to learn that the wonderful Isolated Score score track is here—it first appeared on the Theatrical Version 4K in 2021, but it’s been added to the Director’s Edition for this release, so you can enjoy Goldsmith’s stirring work with the highest quality imagery.
One important note: If you purchase the US 4K release, one extra is missing: The Library Computer Viewing Mode that appeared on the previous Blu-rays in 2009 and 2021. (If you already own the Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection 4K set, you have that feature on the Theatrical Version disc.)
DISC TWO – BONUS DISC (BLU-RAY)
The set’s bonus disc is a treasure trove for fans of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including material newly-created for this release along with a nearly complete archive of legacy special features produced for this film previously. (And international fans will be pleased to know that the disc features optional subtitles in English, Danish, German, Spanish, Latin Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish to ensure that the content is widely accessible.) The bonus disc includes…
- The Human Adventure* (HD – 8-part documentary – 48:17 in all)
- Preparing the Future* (HD – 4:13)
- A Wise Choice* (HD – 4:04)
- Refitting the Enterprise* (HD – 6:57)
- Sounding Off* (HD – 6:47)
- V’ger* (HD – 6:53)
- Return to Tomorrow* (HD – 6:04)
- A Grand Theme* (HD – 7:14)
- The Grand Vision* (HD – 6:02)
- Deleted Scenes* (HD – 3 scenes – 4:31 in all)
- Ilia & Decker in Engineering* (HD – 3:16)
- Security Guard* (HD – :39)
- Three Casualties* (HD – :35)
- Effects Tests* (HD – 3:30)
- Costume Tests* (HD – 4:40)
- Computer Display Graphics* (HD – 3:10)
- The Star Trek Universe
- Phase II: The Lost Enterprise (SD – 12:39)
- A Bold New Enterprise (SD – 29:41)
- Redirecting the Future (SD – 14:06)
- The Longest Trek: Writing the Motion Picture (HD – 10:44)
- Special Star Trek Reunion (HD – 9:37)
- Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 001: The Mystery Behind V’Ger (HD – 4:24)
- The New Frontier: Resurrecting Star Trek (HD – 30:01)
- Maiden Voyage: Making Star Trek: The Motion Picture (HD – 29:13)
- Vulcan (HD)
- Enterprise Departure (HD)
- V’Ger Revealed (HD)
- Additional Scenes: 1979 Theatrical Version
- Trims (SD – 6:08)
- Outtakes/Memory Wall (SD – 2:49)
- Vulcan and Starfleet (SD – 4:15)
- Attack on the Enterprise (SD – 2:36)
- Cloud Journey (SD – 3:31)
- V’Ger Flyover (SD – 5:04)
- Wing Walk (SD – 4:48)
- Deleted Scenes: 1983 TV Version
- Sulu and Ilia 1 (SD – 1:06)
- Sulu and Ilia 2 (SD – :27)
- Kirk’s Quarters (SD – :21)
- Officer’s Lounge (SD – :13)
- Attack on the Enterprise (SD – 1:08)
- Intruder Transformation (SD – :32)
- A Huge Vessel (SD – :47)
- Kirk Follows Spock (SD – 1:13)
- Ilia’s Quarters 1 (SD – 1:05)
- Ilia’s Quarters 2 (SD – 1:20)
- Its Creator Is a Machine (SD – :17)
- Teaser Trailer (HD – 2:18)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:29)
- TV Spots (SD – 8 spots – 4:13 in all)
- Startle Your Senses
- Cast/Human Adventure
- Spiritual Search
- Spiritual/Startle Your Senses
- Spiritual/Human Adventure
- Event/Common Experience
* Indicates content newly-produced for this release.
The new material begins with a lovely 8-part documentary called The Human Adventure, produced by Rafael A. Ruiz, which takes you behind the scenes on the Director’s Edition both then and now. It features new interviews with the producing team and technicians who either worked on the original film or were part of the remastering. They include David C. Fein, Mike Matessino, and Daren R. Dochterman, along with production illustrator Andrew Probert, model builders Pat McClung and Jim Dow, Atmos sound mixer Michael Babcock, negative researcher Gene Kozicki, VFX supervisor John Dykstra, VFX cameraman Douglas Smith, colorist Alexis Van Kurkman, and Atmos music mixer Bruce Botnick. There’s also legacy interviews with director Robert Wise, VFX director Douglas Trumbull, cinematographer Richard Kline, production designer Harold Michelson, then Paramount President of Production Jeffrey Katzenberg, and composer Jerry Goldsmith, as well as audio clips of Gene Roddenberry, sound effects creator Alan Howarth, and production illustrator Syd Mead. What’s more, the documentary is packed with little gems, including rare film elements, original effects plates, raw camera daily footage, HD clips of the unused Memory Wall sequence, behind-the-scenes photos and video, concept artwork, and comparisons between the original 2001 version of the Director’s Edition in SD and the new 4K version. You even get to hear a little bit of ADR session audio of Leonard Nimoy being directed by Wise. This is 48 minutes that fans will want to revisit often.
The new Deleted Scenes are brief, yet amazing at the same time. The longest features Ilia and Decker interacting with Scotty in Engineering. Another shows a pair of Enterprise Security guards arriving on the Bridge in response to the intruder, one of whom quickly gets disintegrated. Most, but not all, of the original production audio is included—subtitles fill in for the missing dialogue. Effects Tests is a remarkable piece that includes rare and unused effects footage, including a very cool and never-before-seen shot of the three Klingon D7s attacking V’Ger. Costume Tests shows various characters—including several alien creatures—posing for the camera so that the producers can see how their costumes look on film. Among them is Leonard Nimoy as Spock, in footage that has unique power because it’s as if Spock is breaking the fourth wall, walking right up to you and looking you right in the eye. You also get to see stills of an abandoned “cave man” costume for Spock, as he might originally have appeared after returning from the Vulcan desert from his journey to achieve Kolinahr. And Computer Display Graphics features some of the original film footage that appeared on the Bridge display screens during the film—various animated elements—all of which had to be rear projected, as this was pre-flat panel displays. (Watch for the photic sonar.)
But all of that is just the new content. You also get an exhaustive archive of nearly every special feature produced for previous 2001 DVD and 2009 Blu-ray editions of this film, as well as the terrific Roger Lay, Jr. featurettes from the 2016 Star Trek: 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection bonus disc. This includes the film’s infamous teaser trailer narrated by Orson Welles, as well as the original “unfixed” version of the “Kirk Follows Spock” shot from the 1983 TV Version. Only one feature is missing from the original 2001 DVD release: The original Director’s Edition SD trailer, which is hardly a significant omission. (The original theatrical trailer and teaser are all included.) Also, it should be noted that there is no Blu-ray copy of the film in this package, but you do get a Digital copy code on a paper insert.
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 I’m very pleased to report that the Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Director’s Edition is a triumph, not only for its sheer quality but for the fact that it represents the culmination of a forty-three year journey to do right by Gene Roddenberry and Robert Wise’s original vision. For all those fans who enjoyed the original 2001 DVD version, but later realized that seeing it in HD would require nothing short of a miracle… well, it’s as if Scotty himself produced one. Not only do we finally have a superb HD presentation on Blu-ray, we have a future-proof 4K Ultra HD version too, each with best-ever picture and sound quality that Gene and Bob would surely be proud of.
Hats off to all those involved in the making of this film, to David C. Fein, Mike Matessino, and Daren R. Dochterman for carrying the Director’s Edition torch (Congratulations, gentlemen!), and to everyone at Paramount Home Entertainment and Paramount+ who provided the resources to make this stunning restoration possible. If you love this film as I do, the Director’s Edition is highly recommended.
Now more than ever… The Human Adventure is Just Beginning!
- Bill Hunt