Original Audio? Commentary? Why Not Both?

I’m watching the new 4K restoration of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and one of the nice things about this release is that not only are there commentaries, but there are subtitles for the commentaries (this is a very rare thing, unfortunately). So I can watch the movie with the original audio, but pop on the subtitles for one of the commentary tracks to read that as I watch.

At which point Prairie looks at me and says, “Oh my god, you’re such a nerd.”



Minor ST:TMP Director’s Cut Update 🖖

In the midst of a big list of upcoming 4K releases, The Digital Bits has this to say about Star Trek: The Motion Picture:

A lot of you are likely wondering about the classic Star Trek films on 4K, including the long-awaited (and occasionally teased) Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Director’s Edition. What I can tell you is that this is a big project but things are moving in a positive direction, if very slowly. So don’t give up; this one is going to require some patience. But do take every opportunity you have via social media to let the studio know that you really want #sttmp40 on physical 4K Ultra HD. Positive mojo can only help.

Fingers crossed! (Which is awkward to combine with the Vulcan salute, but not impossible….)

Discovering Deep Space Nine

First off, a confession: I’m a trekkie (trekker? whatever). Have been practically since birth, and it’s all my Dad’s fault. ;) Two years old, sitting on my dad’s lap, watching the original series on television. As soon as the Enterprise zoomed across the screen and Captain Kirk started the famous lines, “Space…where no man has gone before…” I’d be excitedly saying “speesh!” and pointing off into space (which apparently was somewhere behind me and over my left shoulder).

I grew up with Star Trek. I never did get into sewing my own uniform, or donning rubber Vulcan ears or Klingon foreheads, and I’ve only been to one convention, but I’ve got a library of original series technical manuals that I’ve picked up over the years. One of the earlier ones (the Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual) had an alien alphabet printed out, which I dutifully memorized, characters and pronunciation both. Imagine my surprise when I later visited Greece, and discovered that the “alien alphabet” was nothing more than Greek, and I could read every sign around me in perfect Greek. I had no idea what I was saying, of course, but I could read it all, and it’s all thanks to Star Trek.

One summer I was at one of the CTY summer camps that I participated in, and much of the talk and gossip at the time was about this new Star Trek show that was being started. Some “new generation” or something. We were all highly skeptical — after all, we’d all grown up with the Holy Trinity of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, and now someone wanted to try to recapture that? Not likely! Our skeptical opinions weren’t helped at all when one of the sunday papers printed a picture of the new crew. That kid from Stand By Me was there (a kid?). The dorky guy from that kid’s “Reading Rainbow” show was wearing a banana clip on his face. The captain…was old. And bald. To top it all off, their uniforms were one-piece jumpsuits, recalling bad memories of the horrid 70’s costuming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture — and they were hot pink! Obviously, the show was doomed from the start.

Needless to say, we were (thankfully) wrong. The kid, admittedly, suffered from some bad writing (but he’s since turned into a pretty damn cool guy). We got used to the banana clip, and it certainly helped that that “dorky guy” was also a well-respected actor in his own right. As far as old, bald captains go — if I can be half as cool (and sexy) as Patrick Stewart when I’m his age, I’ll be doing well! And, thankfully, those hot pink uniforms turned out to be nothing more than bad color in the newspaper.

Since then, while I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the original series, Star Trek: The Next Generation has been my favorite Star Trek incarnation (at least, as far as the TV incarnations go — the Next Gen movies rarely approached the cinematic quality of either Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, imho).

However, towards the end of Next Gen’s run, I stopped watching TV. Less and less of what I saw on television appealed to me, and commercials were getting more and more annoying, so I just stopped. With three exceptions (the Y2K turnover, the 2000 presidential debates, and the first couple months of Enterprise), I’ve not seen any more television that what I may have wandered into while at friend’s houses. Because of this, I missed the last couple seasons of Next Gen, and have caught no more than the occasional episode of Deep Space Nine or Voyager. I watched the first few weeks of Enterprise, which seemed passable at the time, but then Paramount started releasing DVD sets of Next Gen, and I revised my opinion of Enterprise.

So throughout 2002, I revisited Captain Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D as each successive DVD set was released. It was a lot of fun — I hadn’t seen many of the earlier episodes in years (some of them probably not since they were originally broadcast), and many of the later episodes I hadn’t seen at all. Once that was done with, though, I faced a dilemma. I knew that I enjoyed the Next Generation series enough to buy it all, but Deep Space Nine was an unknown. I’d caught a few of the episodes from time to time, and generally enjoyed what I’d seen, but I didn’t have enough experience to really make a judgment. Fan opinion on DS9 always seemed to be somewhat divided, too, with fairly equal camps lauding it and decrying it.

However, as 2002 approached and I started reading more about DS9 as the DVD release came closer, I started reading more and more people recommending it. Eventually, I decided that I’d at least pick up the first season to see what I thought of it. After all, if it bored me, I wasn’t out too much money, and I’d know not to pick up the rest.

The blood of a trekkie runs deep and true, it seems.

As it turns out, DS9 has impressed me far more than I was expecting. The series, quite simply, kicks ass. A lot of potentially dangerous decisions were made when putting the show together (not least of which was setting it on a space station, rather than a ship), but they ended up working out incredibly well. They were able to create long-lasting story lines that run not just from show to show, but from season to season, political maneuvering and machinations galore, battle scenes that have had me wide-eyed with surprise, and many other touches that have made my introduction to DS9 incredibly enjoyable.

Today, I brought home the DVD set of season four of DS9, and just finished watching the season opening episode, “The Way of the Warrior“. Wow. There’s definitely a jaw-dropping aspect to watching a fleet of thirty-some Klingon ships, from the now familiar Bird of Prey to newer battleship designs — even a few of the old standard D7 class (yes, I’m a geek, I didn’t need to look at that up) — decloaking around the station. Too freaking cool.

The more I watch of this show, the more I like it. The long lasting story arcs have been handled incredibly well so far, and after reading bits and pieces here and there about the Dominion War for years, it’s a lot of fun finally being able to see it unfold in front of me, without knowing what’s going to come up next, or which directions the various players are going to take. The character arcs have been just as strong as the story arcs, too, and Garak (the Cardassian tailor) is quickly becoming my favorite character on the show. His questionable standing and constant banter with Dr. Bashir (“But which of the stories you told us were true?” “Oh, my good doctor, they’re all true!” “Even the lies?” “Especially the lies.”) are wonderful.

At this rate, DS9 may just end up supplanting Next Gen as my favorite Star Trek series.

(Next year, of course, comes the next question. Once DS9’s DVD run is complete, Voyager will start to hit the shelves. I’ve heard far more people decry Voyager as being the downfall of the Star Trek franchise than any other previous Trek creation [except possibly Star Trek V: The Final Frontier]. So, do I cross my fingers and give the first season a shot? I’ve still got about five months to decide, though, and until then, I’ve got just under four more seasons of DS9 to work my way through.)

The human adventure is just beginning

Today marked the release day for one of my personal most-anticipated discs — the Star Trek: The Motion Picture — The Director’s Edition. I picked it up at lunch, then made it through the rest of the day until I could get home and watch it.

Part of the reason I’d been awaiting this release of the first film in the Star Trek series is that for the first time, we are being shown the completed film. Usually when a film is being made, the director assembles a rough cut which is shown to test audiences. Their reactions, coupled with anything the director might notice as he watches the rough cut, serve to guide the director and editor in assembling the final cut of the film. Unfortunately, the schedule for ST:TMP was so tight that that crucial final step was never taken — the film had to be done by a certain date, and so the final edit was never performed. Also due to time and budget constraints of the time, many of the special effects sequences had not been completed. Essentially, what we’ve seen for the past 22 years has been no more than a rough cut that director Robert Wise was not happy with, but it was all there was time for.

In 1998, Robert Wise was approached by Paramount to see if he was interested in finally revisiting and finishing the film. After some initial trepidation he agreed, and after months of curiosity and speculation, the final result is finally available on DVD. Not just a new edit of the film, a team of restoration artists and CGI artists have worked with the director to carefully enhance some effect sequences, complete others, and create an entirely new 5.1 sound mix utilizing the original source elements from the film.

The end result is, quite simply, incredible. While the new cut incorporates new effects sequences and some scenes that had previously been inserted for the television version, Mr. Wise has also taken out some scenes and tightened others to create a new version that is just slightly longer than the original, but has a much more finished feel to it. The effects shots are doubly impressive, in part because they’re so seamlessly integrated into the body of the film, that I didn’t even notice many of them until they were pointed out in a documentary! The artists working on the new effects sequences worked very hard to match the style of the original effects, only creating sequences that could have been created in 1979 had there been time, and even working from the original storyboards rather than dreaming up ideas that might be ‘cool’, but not true to the original vision. Suffice to say, I was not merely impressed by this new version of a film I’ve been watching for years, but flat-out floored. I’ve never harbored the disdain for this film that many other fans have, but it’s always been obvious that it had some serious problems. Now, however, it has finally been completed, and we can leave the dubious honor of being the worst of the series to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

In addition to the outstanding work done on the film itself, Paramount has finally released a true Special Edition DVD, rather than the movie-only editions for the rest of the series. The movie disc contains two feature-length commentaries. The first is an audio commentary with director Robert Wise and others, and the second is a text commentary (presented in the form of yellow subtitles) written by Michael Okuda, long-time graphic artist for the series and Trek-tech geek extraordinaire. Both commentaries are packed with information, but the text commentary is my personal favorite. You need to be a bit quick to read some of it, but there’s a great sense of humor permeating the track that makes it a lot of fun (my personal favorite bit — as Kirk is explaining to Scotty that there is something approaching Earth and the Enterprise is the only ship within reach, the commentary pops up with, “This seems to happen a lot — it almost makes one wonder if the other ships stay away when the Enterprise is in town, in case something happens!”).

The second disc contains three documentaries ranging from about 15 minutes to about half an hour. The first covers the road from the initial concept for the series ‘Star Trek — Phase II’ that was to be the flagship show for a Paramount based TV network (years before UPN appeared) to the beginning of production on ST:TMP. The second covers the production of the film, and the third explores the work done to create the new Director’s Edition. It’s a bit of a bummer that little time is given to the problems that led to the unfinished film being released and the subsequent reactions, but the three documentaries still cover a lot of ground, and are well worth watching. All of the theater and television trailers are included on the disc, as well as a huge collection of deleted scenes (documenting scenes deleted from the original cut, scenes that were included in the television cut, and one section that collects all the pieces that were trimmed in the making of the new cut).

All in all, an absolutely incredible set, and one that does the die hard Trek geek in me proud.

Doing Trekkies (-ers?) proud

Having been a fan of Star Trek practically since birth, I’m not sure it would be possible for me not to be excited about this little tidbit of information. It’s been known for a while now that Paramount was going back and doing some work on ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ for its upcoming DVD release — we just weren’t entirely sure just what that meant.

Well, this article from the New Times Los Angeles Online website gives a lot of really good information on just what we can look forward to. Check it out, if you’re at all interested.

[From Usenet: 2.18.99 0000]

[Note: This was originally a post to the alt.tv.star-trek.voyager Usenet newsgroup. I’m including it here for completeness. Originally archived here.]

  1. THE MUSIC WAS LACKING BIG TIME! Music is a powerful tool to help a movie have depth, feeling and emotion. The music could have been so much more deep and could have added so much more to the feeling of the movie.

I’d have to watch it again (hurrah for VCR’s) to really make a judgment, but there was at least one instance where it really caught my ear. During one of the shots of the shuttle approaching the borgplex, there were a couple low, twangy notes like someone plucking two of the lower strings on a piano. Caught my ear mainly because the last time I can remember hearing that theme used was in ST:TMP as the Enterprise is making its entrance into V’ger. Visually similar shots (though the one in ST:TMP was much more visually impressive (okay, and about half an hour longer) than VOY:DF’s borgplex entrance), good use of old themes. Which brought another thought into my feeble little brain. In advance, please forgive me if this has been hashed and re-hashed many times over in the past, I just subscribed to these groups after watching VOY:DF.

Has anyone ever thought much of the possibility that the planet that transformed the Voyager probe into V’ger was the Borg home planet, before they got to the point of striking out on their own and assimilating everything that sneezed twice in their general direction? The general purpose seems to be very similar — it’s not that big a step from “learn all that is learnable, collect all the possible knowledge in the universe, then merge with the creator” to the Borg’s assimilation of other species and knowledge bases into their own. Additionally, it was hypothesized in ST:TMP that the Voyager probe had fell through a black hole to this ‘machine planet’, been repaired/reprogrammed there, and sent away. Mix in a little time distortion along with the black hole, and V’ger could have been sent on its voyage back to Earth long before the Borg advanced to a point where they could move out on their own, and still have time to fill its databanks and make it back home. Just a thought…would be interested to hear if others have explored this line of reasoning. Would love to see it explored in a show at some point, but that may just be fanboy drooling (grin).

Incidentally, what happened to all the knowledge that V’ger transmitted to Earth?

And while I’m at it, I suppose I could throw in the Transformers homeworld/Borg homeworld parallels, too…. Are there any? Probably…I’m just blowing smoke out of my ass at this point, but if I can think of it now, it’s probably been beaten to death before now…