Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy Review

The cast that made the original series a cult classic, returned to the silver screen time and again to create a definitive film anthology in sci-fi culture. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, Walter Koenig, George Takei and Nichelle Nichols overcome enormous odds with each film to prove that galloping around the cosmos isn’t just a game for the young. The Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy takes three classic films that have stood the test of time and gives them a high-definition overhaul.

Among trekkies, the Star Trek films follow an odd pattern: the odd numbered films are bad; the even numbered films are great. The Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy on Blu-ray takes advantage of this theory and includes Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Not only does this set work well in that it has a good-to-bad film ratio of 2:1, but the three films happen in a closely linked chronological order. For the truly inexperienced Trek viewer, the Motion Picture Trilogy has the perfect starting (and arguably stopping) point.

Please note, the new extra features we’ll be discussing make up a mere fraction of what’s to be found on these discs – these things are loaded with every special feature that ever was included on past releases. We’ll only be touching on the special features created in high-definition specifically for the Blu-ray release.


Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Directed by Nicholas Meyer, Written by Harve Bennett & Jack B. Sowards

Ricardo Montalban reprises his role as the genetically enhanced Khan. Liberated from imprisonment on a remote planet, Khan sets about his plan for revenge on the man who left him there 15 years before: Captain James T. Kirk. Khan commandeers a ship and sets about acquiring a device with untold destructive power. John Vargas and Kirstie Alley also star alongside the main cast. Considered the definitive Star Trek film to this day, The Wrath of Khan was the breath of cinematic life that Star Trek: The Motion Picture failed to deliver.

Unlike the other two films in this trilogy, The Wrath of Khan has received a rebuild from the ground up. Restored and remastered, this film is gorgeous. After countless home-video and DVD incarnations, The Wrath of Khan no longer has spots and dirt reducing picture quality. It’s glorious.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

As is deserved for such a great film, director Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto have recorded a new audio commentary which easily exceeds the one-man version that came with earlier releases. Having the back-and-forth between Meyer and Coto makes the anecdotes more entertaining. The old commentary is also included but the new one is definitely the better option.

There are a number of new featurettes but the best is easily “James Horner: Composing Genesis”. James Horner talks about the fantastic score he delivered and the consideration given to some of the more iconic moments in the film. Battle sequences with the themes of Khan and Kirk in tandem or long, building pieces for the Enterprise’s departure from dry-dock, Horner talks about everything he wanted to achieve for this film as well as the legacy he wanted to set for any sequel that might follow (which he also scored). Bridging the gap between technical featurettes and those for the fans is a tribute to honor the recently passed Montalban. Narrated almost entirely by Nicholas Meyer the piece is touching but a bit dry due to Meyer’s inability to be all that interesting in a one-on-one setting.

Getting into fan-friendly featurette region, we have “Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics” and “Starfleet Academy: The Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI”. The first piece takes viewers through meetings with numerous fans from across the country and the stories behind the prized Star Trek items of their collections. The second piece talks about the mythology linking the Original Series events with the opening of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan – specifically how Khan ended up on Ceti Alpha VI.


Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

Directed by Leonard Nimoy, Written by Harve Bennett

Spoiler: Spock dies at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Spoiler: Or does he? The events of Genesis and Khan have left the crew of the enterprise stricken with grief. Initially believing Spock to be dead, the crew begins to experience a series of unexplained phenomena leading them to voyage back to Genesis to recover the body of Spock which they’d jettisoned to its surface. Meanwhile, another Federation crew has sensed a life form on the surface of Genesis and sends two crew members down to investigate – only to be ambushed by the Klingon Commander Kruge (Christopher Lloyd). Also starring is John Larroquette as a Klingon officer and, fun fact, voice actor Frank Welker as the screams of Spock.

The Search for Spock examines the relationship of Spock and Kirk despite never having the two onscreen together until the very end. Instead of a physical development, the relationship between Kirk and Spock evolves and grows by proxy. Kirk’s discussions with various crew members on the loss of their Vulcan friend reveal sides to the Kirk-Spock friendship in a truly unique way. With that said, the character development excels but at the cost of the film’s entertainment value.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

Again we have a brand-spanking new audio commentary, although this one comes from two people whose connections to the film aren’t immediately apparent: Michael Taylor and Ronald D. Moore (both of whom were involved with later Star Trek television series.) The commentary has its moments, but you can’t help but feel like any two trekkies could have recorded a better commentary.

The two best, new featurettes on the disc are varied in subject matter – which is good. The first is a production piece about the models used by Industrial Light and Magic to create some of the film’s bigger spacecraft sequences. Another great featurette is a guided tour summarizing Star Trek’s presence in the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Star Trek’s science fiction legacy is what it is, but seeing it laid out and exhibited like this with a bit of insider information just makes the experience all the better. The other new featurettes include an in depth look at Spock’s younger forms and the Vulcan Katra Transfer (the plot device used to keep Spock alive in Dr. McCoy’s head in order to transfer it all back into Spock).


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

Directed by Leonard Nimoy, Written by Leonard Nimoy, Harve Bennett, Steve Meerson & Peter Krikes

An unknown spacecraft has arrived in earth’s orbit slowly destroying it while transmitting an incomprehensible signal. All attempts to interpret the signal have failed, but where everyone else couldn’t save earth, Kirk and his faithful crew shall succeed. With the Klingon ship from the previous film in their control, Kirk and his crew take the ship back in time to rescue the only animal that may be able to save earth: the humpback whale. Catherine Hicks stars as the whale biologist of the 20th century who aids Kirk and wins his heart.

Where the previous two films had an urgent tone, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home has an unmistakably campy tone. Stocking up on corny fish-out-of-water jokes, the crew runs about in (what we call) the present trying to secure a power source for their ship and two whales to repopulate the future’s oceans. The movie succeeds in being incredibly entertaining, but the more nit-picky amongst the audience will find themselves wondering about the reckless chances the crew takes in the past. With the new remastered version on Blu-ray, The Voyage Home looks better than it ever has.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

Shudder. I have revulsion for this new commentary as I personally think Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are worthless Hollywood writers. Even if they did write the new Star Trek film, their opinions on The Voyage Home couldn’t be less interesting to me. There’s really only one, great new extra feature on this disc and that’s the examination of these three films as a trilogy in the featurette titled “The Three-Picture Saga”. Considering how the rest of the films feel distant from these three in events, it really is incredible that these three were made within such close proximity and yet feel even closer chronologically than the original Star Wars trilogy without intentionally meaning to do so. Think about it: even the Star Wars trilogy, from one installment to the next, the characters have inexplicably jumped from where you last saw them to their locations at the start of each sequel. The yellow scrolling text may help to bridge that gap, but when compared to the near-perfect continuation between these three films, the Star Wars trilogy looks damn-near fractured.


"Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy" is on sale May 12, 2009 and is rated PG. Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi. Directed by Leonard Nimoy, Nicholas Meyer. Written by Harve Bennett, Leonard Nimoy, Steve Meerson, Jack B. Sowards. Starring Christopher Lloyd, Frank Welker, George Takei, James Doohan, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Ricardo Montalban, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, John Vargas, Kirstie Alley, John Larroquette, Catherine Hicks, DeForest Kelley.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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