2001: A DVD Odyssey KEEP ON TREKKIN'


Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Sound B Picture A- Film A-
Considered by many Trek fans to be the best of the franchise's nine feature films, this is the outing that may, quite literally, have saved Star Trek from dropping quietly out of sight forever. Produced by Paramount's television division on a relatively low budget, it succeeded in capturing the spirit of the series in a way that the first film, with its hefty budget, did not. Khan remains the best villain Trek has ever produced, and veteran Ricardo Montalban makes the most of it. In hindsight, the seams in the budget show—the not-quite-convincing special effects, the small, seemingly under-rehearsed orchestra playing composer James Horner's career-making score—but it all works. This video transfer is surprisingly nice, too. The sound is a routine, not very active multichannel mix, but it never distracts.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Sound A- Picture A- Film A-
Possibly the best of the Star Trek films for the most intense fans of the series, this was a fine directorial turn by Leonard Nimoy that only occasionally betrays his then-limited experience behind the camera. It's the most operatic of all the Trek films, and is very possibly the most creatively and beautifully designed, photographed, and edited. The major weaknesses for the casual fan are the unremittingly serious tone and the near-mystical nature of the plot. The transfer is very good, marred only by a bit of edge enhancement. The sound is solid, with a well-recorded score. The bass is outstanding for a 1984 film.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Sound B Picture B+ Film A-
Together, Star Trek II, III, and IV constitute a trilogy: each movie depends on the one preceding it for continuity. If you watch them out of sequence, you'll be scratching your head in puzzlement, which is why Paramount's decision to release them on DVD in reverse order was perverse (did they even watch them?). But they're all out now, so that criticism is moot.
Star Trek IV was the one that most appealed to a mass audience: "Cap'n, there be whales here!" After the serious tones of II and particularly III, the touch in IV is much lighter, and the crew was never looser or more appealing. They're having fun, and it's contagious. The anamorphic transfer looks soft but is otherwise satisfactory. The sound is rather flat in perspective, particularly the score. Perhaps the engineers were uninspired; The Voyage Home has one of the two worst scores of all the Trek films.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Sound B Picture B Film B+
The sound is notably scrappy, and documents the worst score ever written for a Star Trek film. The non-anamorphic transfer is satisfactory but unexceptional in any way. And the story is an interesting but relatively unexciting who-done-it. Still, Star Trek VI did bring the franchise back from the near disaster of V, and offers a wonderful performance from Christopher Plummer, who acts the Trek crew off the screen—much as Ricardo Montalban had as Khan in Star Trek II. Ultimately, though, the movie is redeemed by an inspired ending: a classy and moving sendoff for the original cast. This was their last outing as a group, and probably reason enough for fans—but perhaps not for casual viewers—to own this DVD.