STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE
Although THE WRATH OF KHAN and THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY are what I consider to be the very best STAR TREK films that feature the original cast, it is STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME ($25) that has been universally embraced by the masses because of its humor and "feel good" story. Lets face it, if you ask the average person what their favorite STAR TREK movie is, they are going to say "the one with the whales." I certainly am not going to argue with the publicís choice, because I too am quite fond of STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME. However, as much as I like the forth installment, I am ultimately drawn to the darker material contained in the second and sixth entries in the movie franchise.
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME is best described as a fish out of water tale for several reasons, but primarily because it takes the crew of the Starship Enterprise back in time several hundred years- dumping them in the midst of the twentieth century, where they experience a rather humorous case of culture shock. The plot of STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME takes place several months after the events depicted in the previous adventure, where we find the former Enterprise crew members living in a self imposed exiled on the planet Vulcan. As the film opens, Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and company decide that it is time to return to Earth to face the music for hijacking the Starship Enterprise to rescue their fallen and resurrected comrade Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy).
However as they begin their voyage home, a mysterious alien probe arrives at planet Earth, where it has begun emitting a signal that has had a devastating effect on the oceans and atmosphere. Spock determines that only humpback whales can respond to the probeís signal; however, the species is now extinct and the only way to save the Earth is to travel back in time and pick up two of the mighty cetaceans. Of course, this is all easier said than done, since the crew is now flying around in a rickety confiscated Klingon Bird Of Prey, which wasnít designed for the rigors of time travel or transporting a huge living aquatic cargo. Of course, it is only after their arrival in the twentieth century that the real adventure begins. The cast of STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME also features DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt, Majel Barrett, Robert Ellenstein, John Schuck, Brock Peters, Robin Curtis and Catherine Hicks.
Paramount Home Entertainment has reissued STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME in a two-disc set, which offers the film in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This would appear to be the same transfer that was previously issued in Paramountís "movie only" edition, with no real visual improvements other than in the areas of authoring and encoding, which makes things appear just a tad smoother. The cinematography and special effects appear slightly dated (probably due to the fact that STAR TREK movies after the first were made on tight budgets), but the transfer actually looks quite nice. The image is pretty sharp and reasonably well defined, although some of the photography appears to make use smoke and diffusion lenses, which softens things up just a bit. Colors generally appear natural, although some sequences are a bit subdued and others are a bit more vibrant. Flesh tones are reasonably natural, but not always perfect. Blacks are solid, whites are clean and contrast is fairly smooth. Shadow detail in pretty much on the money for a 1986 release. The film element is in good shape, with only minor being apparent. There is a mild grain structure in places, but nothing bothersome. As I implied earlier, digital compression artifacts are a non-issue on this DVD.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack seems the same as the previous release, which is fine, since this was a pretty good port of a mid eighties Dolby Surround soundtrack. As one might expect from a track of this vintage, the forward soundstage tends to dominate the track. Surround usage is confined to ambient effects, musical fill and few active effects. Dialogue is very clean and fully understandable. The bass channel is fairly deep, but does not provide the ground shaking lower frequencies of newer soundtracks. Musical fidelity is pretty darn good, with Leonard Rosenman's upbeat score coming across with a genuine sense of presence. English and French Dolby Surround tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.
Computer animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's nicely designed interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a solid supplemental section. Starting things off on disc one is an audio commentary with director Leonard Nimoy and leading man William Shatner. This is a fun commentary track that features the two old friends reminiscing over the making of the film. Disc one also features a text commentary on a subtitle track by Michael and Denise Okuda, authors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Again, the text commentary is a great source of information that every fan will want to experience.
Moving on to disc two, we find various programs and errata that comprise the remainder of supplements. Under the section entitled The Star Trek Universe one will find Time Travel: The Art of the Possible, The Language Of Whales, A Vulcan Primer and Kirk's Women. Time Travel: The Art of the Possible is an eleven-minute program that features theorists, who speculate on the plausibility of time travel. The Language of Whales is a five-minute program that looks at various species of whales and the possibility of their songs being an actual language. A Vulcan Primer is seven minutes with Trek author Margaret Bonanno, who looks at the "Vulcan culture" of the STAR TREK universe. As for Kirk's Women, this eight-minute program feature interviews with some of the actresses that became "involved" with the most amorous Captain in Starfleet.
In the Production section, one will find Future's Past: A Look Back, On Location, Dailies Deconstruction and Below-the-Line: Sound Design. Future's Past: A Look Back runs roughly twenty-eight minutes and offers new interviews with cast & crew who bring the production of the most popular STAR TREK movie into perspective. On Location offers a seven-minute look back on filming the "present day" sequences of the film in San Francisco. Dailies Deconstruction is a four-minute split screen look at footage shot on the streets of San Francisco. Below-the-Line: Sound Design is an eleven minute program that looks at the process of creating new and interesting sounds for the film.
The Visual Effects section offers From Outer Space to the Ocean and Bird of Prey. From Outer Space to the Ocean is an original 1986 featurette that runs fourteen minutes and looks at the challenges of depicting time travel and creating mechanical whales for the film. Bird of Prey is a three-minute look at design of the confiscated Klingon ship used by Kirk and company for this particular adventure. The Original Interviews section comes from 1986 and offers fifteen minutes with Leonard Nimoy, fourteen minutes with Shatner and another twelve minutes DeForest Kelly. The Tributes section offers the eight minute Roddenberry Scrapbook, with son Eugene talking about The Great Bird of The Galaxy. Featured Artist: Mark Lenard is a twelve-minute program with the late actorís wife, who talks about the man who was "Spockís father." The Archives section features rather nice production and storyboard galleries. A theatrical trailer closes out the supplements.
I must say that Paramount is doing a terrific job with their two-disc Special Edition releases of the STAR TREK movies. STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME is the series most popular entry and this DVD is certainly the best way to experience it. This DVD is something that both fans and non-fans will enjoy greatly. Highly recommended!
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