Coming to our screens straight from the 70s, 80s, and 90s is this year’s Star Trek 4k 6-Movie Collection. From The Motion Picture to The Undiscovered Country. The movies have all been re-mastered for the second time this century, this time in 4K. This release follows on from last year’s I – IV set. This, at the time, oddly omitted the final two silver screen outings for the original cast on 4k and blu-ray. But what would we Trek fans be if not eagerly ready to double dip? Especially on what will likely be the ultimate releases of these films.
Fortunately, for those that purchased last year’s 4-movie set. Or those that really, really hate The Final Frontier. The films have all now been released separately. Before picking up the 6-movie set, it’s worth noting Star Trek: First Contact was spotted in 4K on Paramount+ US earlier this year. So there’s a good chance The Next Generation movies will follow soon. So, if you want to be a little more frugal, it’s worth waiting for a complete movie set.
Although much like they did with the original blu-ray masters back in 2009, they may (and are likely to) release a TOS and TNG package separately alongside the complete set.
The Star Trek 4k 6-Movie Collection box set includes the new masters in HDR and on standard Bluray. But trust this reviewer when he says that it’s worth buying one for The Motion Picture Director’s Cut alone. The disks themselves come in two ‘jumbo’ blu-ray cases. One for the 4K disks (in black) and one in the traditional blue for the standard Blu-Rays (including The TMP bonus disk).
The cover art continues the theme of last year’s release. A somewhat scattergun approach portraying The Original Series cast with images used from at least three different films. Also included are their villains and, oddly enough, the Phase II Enterprise again. The Star Trek 4k 6-Movie Collection’s inner cases have the same key art but are strangely utilized to create tall, cut-off portraits of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura. Even weirder, the art is still the same on the 4K and standard Blu-ray cases. You would have thought they would swap Uhura and Scotty out for Chekov and Sulu on one, at least.
The sets’ disks themselves are uninspired. They have the standard reflective silver no-art, an approach that has become a staple of Paramount Trek releases. Another weird addition is a disk-shaped cut-out of the boxset art that’s included in the 4K box for some reason. I can’t see the purpose of it, it certainly won’t be featured on my wall any time soon.
The Films – Technical advisories and historical context
My review of the Star Trek 4k 6-Movie Collection is based on viewing via a 4K HDR display. It has been noted in other reviews that the downsampling of the 4K scans to 1080p for the Blu-ray has led to some scenes feeling overly bright. This is partly due to the lack of HDR on that format, and a soft colour shift under some lighting, the screencaps provided here are from the Blu-rays.
In another oddity of this set, the Director’s Cut of The Undiscovered Country is only available in 4K. The Dolby Atmos logo is plastered all over the sets, but The Motion Picture Director’s edition is the only film with an Atmos track. While some may fondly put their 2009 master copies of the films on the TV and enjoy the experience, as a film student at the time I always found them oddly off-putting and ‘unnatural’ looking. It wasn’t until I discovered the process that had been used in their creation – Digital Noise Reduction (DNR) – that I understood why.
When the prints were scanned for blu-ray, at the time it was popular to erase the 35mm film grain much loved by more ‘traditional’ directors. To do this an automated tool went through and essentially blurred the image until it was no longer apparent, then went back through and sharpened the image to give the appearance of the resolution being restored.
The film that suffered from this the most and so is most improved since the 2009 master in this release was The Undiscovered Country . Spock especially in various shots looked like he’d been taken right off a plinth at Madame Tussauds. I’m pleased to say this release has corrected the overzealous use of DNR. However, fair warning to those used to their 2009 blu-rays – the image does now appear softer – but this is as the directors intended.
The Motion Picture – Directors Edition
Following the Paramount+ release in the US, the director’s edition of The Motion Picture has finally hit UK shores. While it certainly is an odd choice only to give this version of the film an Atmos track, it has never sounded or looked better.
A lot of work has gone into this grounds-up remaster and it shows, building on the template Robert Wise set out in 2001 this film finally feels close to what TMP should have been from day 1. For example, the wonky effects shots are gone in favor of re-composited original footage that was found during the remaster and the odd bit of CGI to fill in the gaps – but you wouldn’t be able to tell while watching.
My memory, like I assume many others, is of TMP as a fairly colorless film (in no small part due to costuming choices). This release has turned that on its head. The film truly ‘pops’ for lack of a better term in a way I never thought possible. It’s clear it’s been a labor of love for those involved and the light bouncing off the hull of the Enterprise truly makes you appreciate the artistry of those that built that iconic model.
The Wrath of Khan
The most popular of the original cast’s filmography finally makes it to 4K in a physical format! After causing many raised eyebrows following the 2015 re-release of the Director’s Cut and Theatrical editions only on standard blu-ray. Only for it to be spotted in the following years on the likes of iTunes in 4K.
This release is however the least interesting in this box set given that it is just a re-release (on blu-ray at least), however like with the other films the HDR really elevates the color to another level. Unsurprisingly, the later scenes of the movie are the ones that benefit the most, the iconic 1701 reaches a new level of beauty pitted against the backdrop of the Mutara nebula as James Horner’s score fills your speakers.
The Search for Spock
The 2009 release of The Search for Spock, often referred to as the un (or less) loved middle child of the Genesis trilogy, was plagued with several issues. Colour timing – for example, the Enterprise bridge had a blue hue, not red, after its final battle. Then the opening credits are pillar boxed – a change that wasn’t present in any previous (or now later) release.
I’m happy to report these issues alongside the DNR mentioned above have been fixed. Returning the film to what is likely to be the closest to the opening night theatre experience that we will get. While some effects shots don’t hold up too well, thinking specifically about Kruge’s fall. The majority of the film makes the journey to 4K in good standing. The destruction of the Enterprise and the death of David remain an emotional one-two gut punch. Additionally, the vibrant sunset as the Enterprise streaks across the sky takes on new life with HDR.
The Voyage Home
The joyous time travel romp that closes out the Genesis Trilogy was one of the better, though still troubled parts of the 2009 release. It was helped in a lot of ways by the nature of the film and how it took place on contemporary Earth. I imagine this made the color timing easier for those doing the master back in 2009, but there were still plenty of issues. Most notably the odd cyan tint that seemed to affect almost everything.
The film is set in the present day and uses more live locations compared to the previous TMP era films did however cause some of the effects shots to look particularly bad after they had been through DNR and sharpening. The fishing boat at the end was a prime example with it looking like a toy that had been hastily put in with Microsoft paint when superimposed with the Bird of Prey.
This new master fixes those issues and returns the film to its delightfully 80s natural state. It also reflects the sunny conditions under which a number of scenes were shot instead of it looking somewhat gloomy, much in contrast to the general tone of the film.
The Final Frontier
Despite having a bit of a tongue-in-cheek resurgence with its many references in Star Trek: Lower Decks The Final Frontier doesn’t hold a high position in many fans’ rankings. The film suffered from budget issues that are apparent throughout, especially in the effects department with it being the first Trek film not to rely on the talents of Industrial Light & Magic due to budget constraints.
The previous master of the film seemed to take the approach that as much of this as possible should be covered up by cranking the saturation up in a number of scenes, most notably the ‘God’ encounter in the final act. The final result is that you could probably light up half of New York if you paused it at the wrong moment.
This is thankfully fixed in this version, while also giving us a split-second look at the cut-for-budget rock monster that was originally intended to make an appearance and later found life in Trek fan favourite film Galaxy Quest.
The Undiscovered Country
We now come to the final Trek film to grace our screens in 4K (at least until – fingers crossed – next year) and it’s The Original Series casts swan song. This film when released in 2009 was a tough watch. On top of the DNR, there were also the color timing changes which amongst other things made Spock look slightly green and ill in many sequences.
Well, that is gone in favor of much more natural skin tones in this master. The 4K disk as mentioned also includes the Director’s Cut. Featuring the late and great René Auberjonois in the Colonel West Scooby Doo-esque subplot.
Much of the effects work is improved as well with improved contrast in HDR, be fairly warned though that this does not include the very 90s CG pink blood. Which sticks out like a sore thumb to this day (while also making no sense with every other Klingon appearance).
If you’re looking to re-live the theatre experience of the original casts’ movies, you’re not going to get any closer than having the Star Trek 4K 6-Movie Collection editions with a good quality screen, some may argue it’s even an improved experience. Having only watched the Director’s Edition and Wrath of Khan re-release in cinemas this past summer in the UK I won’t make that claim on behalf of all of the films though.
It’s undeniable that these are improved (even on the standard Blu-ray versions) over the 2009 masters though. The films all have a much more natural look to them and are rid of (invented) excess detail. The Star Trek Original Motion Picture 6-Movie Collection is available now from all retailers.
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