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DVD Review: Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy

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With the release of the new Star Trek film, there was bound to be a rash of re-releases of the stuff that went before. And, well, why not? With over four decades of material to choose from, all of those who hadn't gone before will likely want to catch up.

Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy is one of those releases. It is a trilogy in a sense in that each one of the films leads up to the next and they all focus on the Kirk/Spock relationship. While it would have been nice to have the first Star Trek movie released with these three for completeness (actually it would have been nicer to have all six, but that is a different story), the first didn't really tie in together like these three do.

The Wrath of Khan  Released in 1982, this is actually a continuation of a story that first aired in the original series called "Space Seed." It ended up with Khan and his group being set down on a planet called Ceti Alpha V. Now, 15 years later, Chekov and the captain of the USS Reliant beam down to a planet they believe to be Ceti Alpha VI to investigate the plausibility of using it for the Genesis project. It is really Ceti Alpha V and they find Khan and what remains of his crew.

Because of their superior intellect and strength, Khan and his group take over the Reliant, find out about the Genesis project, and are now out to steal it. Khan, in his arrogance, is also out to get back at Kirk for banishing him to that desolate planet and causing the death of his wife.

This is an interesting and well done film in that it not only pits Kirk against Khan again to see who can best the other in playing a cat and mouse game, but it also shows Kirk fighting with himself between wanting to be back at the helm of the Enterprise, but also dealing with middle age problems like failing eyesight as well as not always having the most sound judgment. Kirstie Alley is introduced in this film as Saavik, a Vulcan Lieutenant who does a very good job.

The extras on this DVD include a commentary by director Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (showrunner for Star Trek: Enterprise), "James Horner: Composing Genesis," "Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics," "A Tribute to Ricardo Montalban," and "Starfleet Academy: The Mystery Behind Celi Alpha VI."

The Search for Spock  Released in 1984, this film follows on the heels of the previous one, where Spock dies from radiation poisoning. When Kirk finds out that Spock transferred his Katra, or his essence (soul), to Dr. McCoy's mind before entering the radioactive chamber, it sets them off to return to the Genesis planet to retrieve Spock's body to return him to Vulcan to reunite it with his Katra. They steal the Enterprise to try to accomplish this before McCoy is overwhelmed by Spock's consciousness, which could cause his death. This film, while not as great as the previous one, is still very well done and enjoyable. Leonard Nimoy directed this film.

The extras include commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor, "Industrial Light & Magic: The Visual Effects," "Spock: The Early Years," "Star Trek and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame," and "Starfleet Academy: The Vulcan Katra Transfer."

The Voyage Home  Released in 1986, from a timeline standpoint this story takes place three months after The Search for Spock. This is also directed by Nimoy. This adventure has a large cylindrical object heading for Earth. It ends up taking up orbit around the Earth as it is signaling the planet with mysterious sounds and is causing disruptions in the global power system, causing extreme weather patterns and evaporation of the oceans.

The Enterprise officers, who are in exile on the planet Vulcan for the theft and destruction of the Enterprise in the prior film, now decide to return to face charges. They use a seized Klingon Bird of Prey and head back to Earth. When they hear Starfleet's warning and the signal from the alien ship, Spock understands that it is the song from a long extinct humpback whale. They devise a plan to use the sun to slingshot back in time to return with a whale.

This, while it's a little too heavy on the whole environmental theme to me, is still a fun and easy-to-watch movie. It plays much more like a like a comedic film than the prior two. This film was dedicated to the seven astronauts who died in the Challenger disaster ten months earlier.

Extras include commentary by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, "Pavel Chekov’s Screen Moments," "The Three-Picture Saga," "Star Trek for a Cause," and "Starfleet Academy: The Whale Probe."

If you own previous editions of these films, then you won't get anything new here. In fact, because The Wrath of Khan is presented in its theatrical version, not the director's cut, you would be getting less. While there are a lot of extras, I cannot say that they are worth the expense unless you are a collector.

On the other hand, if you don't have the previous releases, these are clearly the best of the Star Trek original crew movies. For those who are new to Star Trek, or for those who haven't seen the movies in 20 years, they provide the perfect way to get back into the series.

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About T. Michael Testi

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