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DVD Review: Star Trek – Motion Picture Trilogy

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Tying in with the release of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, Paramount is offering a number of home-video Trek products. One of them is the Motion Picture Trilogy DVD collection that offers Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in digitally remastered editions with all-new special features.

The Wrath of Khan, directed by Nicholas Meyer, who also performed an uncredited rewrite of the script, is a sequel to the original series episode “Space Seed,” which ended with Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) and his people being marooned on Ceti Alpha V. They escape the planet by commandeering a science expedition looking for an uninhabited planet to test the terraforming Genesis Device, and Khan strives to exact revenge against his former rival Kirk (William Shatner), an obsession that mirrors Captain Ahab’s obsession with the whale Moby Dick.

Wrath remains the best film of the Trek franchise to date. Not only is the story filled with intrigue, humor, and emotion, but it also takes into account the hero Kirk has aged, making his character more human, more believable, and in turn more heroic. The effects and execution of the space battles are exciting. James Horner’s score is also evocative and masterful.

The Search for Spock finds the Enterprise crew returning to the newly formed Genesis planet, against Starfleet Command’s orders, to reunite Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) body and katra (essence) and return them to Vulcan at the request of Spock’s father, Sarek (Mark Lenard). However, the presumed lifeless body won’t be as they expect it because the properties of the Genesis Device have caused Spock to be reborn and age at an accelerated rate. Another complication arises as Klingon Commander Kruge (Christopher Lloyd) learns of the Genesis Device and wants to use it as a weapon.

Directed by Nimoy, Search is a fun adventure that continues the franchise, which had to be expected with the success of Wrath. However, it unfortunately diminishes the value of Spock’s sacrifice in the previous film, which was allegedly the reason Nimoy returned to the role. However, in part due to Nimoy enjoying the filming experience and wanting to continue it and because of test-audience reactions to the character’s death, Spock placed his katra within Dr. McCoy before dying.

While the stories of Wrath and Search mesh together, The Voyage Home, also directed by Nimoy, only creates a trilogy in a marketing sense because its story isn’t dependent on the two previous films. That’s not to say the film, which plays like a comedy, isn’t enjoyable in its own right.

The fugitive Enterprise crew decides to leave Vulcan to face the consequences of Starfleet. Meanwhile, a large alien object has taken orbit around Earth. It sends out an unidentifiable signal and begins to disrupt the planet. As the Enterprise crew approaches, Spock is able to identify the signal as a whale song, but the species has gone extinct years ago. A plan is devised to go back in time to the late 20th century and retrieve a whale. They make it to 1986, the year the film was released, but matters are complicated because the engines no longer have enough power to return them to the future.

Each DVD annoyingly starts with the new Star Trek trailer before the menu. Although each film has already been previously released in two-disc collector’s editions, they are now being re-released on a single disc with new features.

Each has a new commentary track. Director Meyer and Enterprise executive producer Manny Coto discuss Wrath. An odd decision finds the commentaries on the other discs given by people associated with the Trek franchise, but not the films they are watching. Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor, who worked together on Deep Space Nine and Voyager, talk about Search while writers of the new movie, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, comment on Voyage.

Some features cover the original series Trek film franchise. Search has “Industrial Light & Magic: The Visual Effects” which covers how the effects for a number of the films were created, and “Star Trek and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame” has producer/writer Harve Bennett talking about his role in the franchise. Voyage has “The Three-Picture Saga” explaining how the trilogy evolved.

Complete wastes of time are the “Starfleet Academy Scisec Briefs.” They run a few minutes and purport to be video briefings about items encountered in the films. Can’t see why anyone would have thought they were a good idea. Another pointless feature is “Collecting Movie Relics” on Wrath that looks at props throughout the movies in the collection of a few collectors and at a museum.

Other features are specific to the films they are matched with. On Wrath, “James Horner: Composing Genesis” is an interview that talks about his work. “A Tribute to Ricardo Montaban” has Meyer reflecting about the late actor. On Search, “Spock: The Early Years” showcases actor Stephen Manley who played Spock at 17.  He talks about the film and doing conventions (and attendees) since 2005. On Voyage “Pavel Chekov’s Screen Moments” has actor Walter Koenig talking about his role in the movie. “Star Trek for a Cause” shows Greenpeace representatives talking about whaling.

Star Trek – Motion Picture Trilogy is a good addition to a film library. Although for those who already own them, the extras aren’t near enough to warrant replacements of the previous Collector’s Editions.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • Dan Carr

    Why would you make a collection of DVD’s without including the First movie doesn’t make sense to me. But Marketing decision obviously.

    A bit dissapointing that it did not include the first movie, Star Trek The Motion Picture, Otherwise great collection. Great price too.