Star Trek: The Motion Picture is considered a failure not because it was a bad film, but because it just didn’t feel at all like Star Trek. Star Trek IV is perhaps the most Star Trek of all the films. A mixture of saving planet Earth with a social message, humor, and a strong character chemistry has always been Roddenberry’s dream at its very best. There’s no question that of all the Trek films this is the most enjoyable even if you’re not really a fan.
An alien probe threatens to destroy planet Earth when it discovers that humpback whales have been hunted to extinction. Kirk and crew must travel back to 1980’s San Francisco and bring a pair of whales back to the future to satisfy the angry probe.
This DVD contains a very nice Dolby Digital 5.1 version of the original stereo soundtrack. I like the unique and bright score of this film a lot, and it really shines on this disc. There is a slight muddle of dialogue during some infrequent moments. I also was a little disappointed that there is at times slight distortion in the higher range. The mix is more aggressive than I expected. Lows are pleasantly powerful without being over the top.
There is a commentary track featuring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. They obviously had a great time reliving the film together. You’ll hear a few new insights and plenty of behind the scenes anecdotes. This must have been a hoot to work on.
Star Trek IV is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. There are a few specks and artifacts but nothing that would detract from a wonderful viewing experience. Colors are exceptional, particularly for such a dated film. It was easy to forget that this film is nearly 20 years old. It looked that good. The San Francisco street scenes are quite vibrant. Blacks contain a depth not seen in previous transfers of the film. I had been very pleased with the Director’s Series Laserdisc, but this is truly a superior image.
I am aware of at least three deleted scenes from this film that I would very much have liked to see, so I was disappointed that Paramount did not see fit to include them. I must say, however, that they did go a long way in making it up to me.
Disc one contains the film and commentary, but on Disc 2 you will find a number of extras…
- The “Time Travel: The Art of the Possible” featurette was very interesting, as three major scientists wrestle with the question of whether time travel could really happen.
- “The Language of Whales”, “A Vulcan Primer”, and “Kirk’s Woman” are interesting shorts more geared toward the fans. You’ll find them more fun than informative, but worthy of your attention.
- There is another series of production and special effects features which offer very short behind the scenes glimpses. Some of this stuff appeared on the Director’s Series laserdisc as well.
- Like Star Trek II there is a nice collection of interviews, mostly with Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley from the film’s release. A touching tribute to both Roddenberry and Mark Leonard (Spock’s dad) are long overdue.
- Finally there is a generous collection of storyboards and production stills to step through.
The menus are a very nice treat. Too often elaborate presentations get in the way of navigation, but here things are kept simple and still feature some nice CGI recreations of film-related items like the bird of prey ship used in the film.
Star Trek IV closed out a film trilogy that began with Star Trek II. It is probably the most elaborate story arc Trek ever produced, and this film more than Star Trek VI or Generations closed an era in Trek mythology. If you’re a fan you probably have three or four versions of this film, so buying yet another might not be the logical thing to do, but “It’s the human thing to do”.