VINE VOICEon 29 April 2009
First of all, the technical niggles out of the way. I had problems with the Star Trek VI menus on my PS3, and my Captain's Summit disc was missing, so I've got to return it to Amazon. I've already bought another one from somewhere else because I couldn't wait. The same menu problem with Star Trek VI, so that must be a manufacturing problem. Okay, that aside, now on to the films and their extras...
Well, with slightly varying standards, they all look pretty good. I watched Star Trek VI first, and thought it looked pretty good. It's probably the poorest transfer of the six, but it still looks okay. I can't really tell if the slight over-vibrancy in some scenes is just the way the film looked - the CGI used here was pretty early, remember - or whether it's been slightly overdone in the remastering into HD. I read someone somewhere complaining that this movie was not HD, but that's nonsense. It's definitely a HD master, albeit not the best one(!).
Next I watched The Motion Picture. It looks good, but as with very many movies, the HD mastering highlights inferior visual effects and the flaws built in during the original production. Bear in mind that this master is from the original theatrical print, and not the already SD-remastered Directors Cut. At the same time, the grain and flaws in some scenes are simply from the original print, and not because of the HD remastering. Nevertheless, this doesn't excuse the inferior transfer process used by Paramount, because many other films have been cleaned up and had such photographic flaws removed. The best thing about this movie for me was the commentary, by five long-time Star Trek writers. I really enjoyed listening to them, and scene-specific group commentaries are often the most accessible and informative. It's a pity that Robert Wise and Nick Meyer's commentary from the Director's Cut couldn't be used here, as it wouldn't fit. The rest of the movies still have their director's commentary.
Star Trek II is probably the best Blu-ray of the bunch. It's nice. Very nice. It's been cleaned up far more than the others, probably because it's the most loved of the lot. I've always found Kirstie Alley quite captivating as Saavik. This movie works in every way that The Motion Picture fails, and if that means losing some cinematic scope in the process, so be it. While the remastering doesn't look overly detailed, it certainly does look clean. The only drawback is that it highlights the inferiority of the HD remastering on the other five films.
Star Trek III isn't one of my favourites of the series; I think the set design is dreadful and the lighting bland and positively amateur at times. Look at the cell block scenes, for example, and tell me they couldn't have done it a hundred times better. These things only look worse in HD. Nevertheless, the transfer is decent. It hasn't got the deluxe treatment The Wrath of Khan has, but it's good.
Star Trek IV is obviously the most widely-accessible of the whole series, and it's still a lot of fun. I enjoyed watching this, but it's quite light on the sci-fi and FX, so in a way benefits less from the spectacle factor of HD.
Star Trek V... hmm. Well, it's got some of my favourite character moments of all the original crew movies, and yet it's perhaps the weakest of all. It just tries to tackle a subject that is never really going to be addressed satisfactorily... okay, so in Star Trek there is no God, that's cool. But the attempt to tell this story is undermined by Shatner's lack of vision, awful production design, the poorest visual FX of the entire series and some very poor writing. The clumsy, heavy-handed humour tries to ride on the populist appeal of The Voyage Home and fails miserably. Still, like the other movies, the transfer is nice enough, but it highlights FX flaws further, and they were dreadful to begin with.
Finally, the Captain's Summit. I already saw this with a friend at the weekend (which is just as well, as mine was missing!) and we enjoyed it a lot. It's obviously shot in HD, and it's a nice, (mostly) relaxed chat between friends and colleagues. Whoopi is the apparent host, although she really just chats along with the others. Bill Shatner and Leonard Nimoy talk with Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes for about 70 minutes about Trek in general and their reflections on its effect in their lives. There are definitely a couple of awkward moments, and the usual egos occasionally influence proceedings, but mostly it's pleasant and very enjoyable. Shatner and Nimoy are both 78 now and won't be around forever, so any opportunity to get them reminiscing is very welcome, and Trek gatherings on this level are far too rare.
One other thing that disappointed me was the packaging. The outer case is fine, but if there's one thing I hate with packaging in the last five years it's the tendency to use the ultra-thin snap cases instead of gatefolds or book-flips. When we're paying £70-80 for a box set, I think we're entitled to better. Overall, it's a nice set, with nice new commentaries in addition to those done for the Special Edition DVDs, but there are some areas definitely lacking.
Phew. That's quite enough Star Trek for me for a while.