STAR TREK VI: THE
In my mind STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY ($20) and STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN are continually vying for the position of best Trek adventure featuring the original cast. The strength of both these films emanates from the well-written screenplays of director Nicholas Meyer, who obviously understood the importance of memorable villains, which is key to each film’s success. Christopher Plummer’s General Chang, like Ricardo Montalban’s Khan, are intelligent and complex villains, whose strong performances are built upon the florid dialogue that each quotes from great literary works. In addition to the terrific villains, Meyer’s screenplays have added a great deal of embellishments to the established Trek characters- thus allowing them to evolve beyond the constraints of their initial conceptions and enhancing the mythology of the entire Trek universe.
While the plot of STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY was designed as an allegory for the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the film unfolds more like a political thriller, with a touch of a who-done-it thrown in for good measure. STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY opens with the destruction of Praxis, a Klingon moon that happens to be one of the key energy production facilities for the entire empire. Months pass, when next we learn that an overture has been made towards a peace treaty between the Klingon Empire and The United Federation of Planets. Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy), following in the ambassadorial footsteps of his father, has volunteer Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and the Enterprise for a diplomatic mission to escort Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) to Earth for peace talks.
Unfortunately, there is an incident during the voyage back to Earth, in which Gorkon is assassinated. This leads to the arrest of Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), who are quickly whisked off into the heart of the Klingon Empire to stand trial for the assassination. This leaves Spock and the crew of the Enterprise to quickly discover the identity of the true assassins, before Kirk and McCoy meet an unfortunate end, while imprisoned on the harsh penal asteroid Rura Pente. The cast of STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY also features James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Kim Cattrall, Mark Lenard, Grace Lee Whitney, Brock Peters, Kurtwood Smith, Rosanna DeSoto, Iman, John Schuck, Michael Dorn, W. Morgan Sheppard, Christian Slater and Rene Auberjonois.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY available on DVD in a 2.0:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. It should be noted that STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY was shot if the Super35 process and that there were 35mm (2.35:1) and 70mm (2.20:1) release prints of the film. This presentation would seem to be fairly close to the general look of the 70mm prints, with a bit more visual information unmasked at the bottom of the Super35 frame (based upon the position of the burned-in subtitles that appear on the film elements). Compositionally, the 2.0:1 framing looks very good, with no discernable cropping to the left/right edges of the frame.
As for the transfer itself, it is absolutely terrific- easily besting the previously rehashed Laserdisc master by a very wide margin. The image appears sharper and better defined than it has in the past, and the picture holds up exceedingly well in comparison to newer films coming to DVD. Colors appear quite vibrant and are rendered with excellent stability, including the warmer, more difficult to reproduce hues. Additionally, flesh tones come across in a very appealing manner, thus enhancing Hiro Narita’s very fine looking cinematography. Blacks are very deep, whites are crisp and the image produces very smooth contrast, in addition to very good shadow detail. Film grain is fairly minimal- far less than what I remember seeing in an original 70mm theatrical print. Additionally, the element used for the transfer is very clean, displaying only the most minor of blemishes. Digital compression artifacts are always well concealed.
For a 1991 film release, STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY features a very good Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Although a few test prints of STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY were released in Dolby Digital in 1991, the sound design doesn’t take the same aggressive advantage of the format that newer films do. Still, this is an excellent mix from that transitional period, sounding very full-bodied and completely enveloping. There is plenty of fully integrated surround activity, which brings all of the acoustical environments to vibrant life- the sounds on the Enterprise’s bridge are especially well done. The forward soundstage is broad, plus the evocative score by Cliff Eidelman has a terrific spatial quality and musical presence. The bass channel is fairly deep and effective, but not quite so much as newer soundtracks. Dialogue is very cleanly rendered, with excellent intelligibility. English and French 2.0 surround tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.
Computer animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's very nicely designed interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the fine array of supplements, which have been spread across both discs of the set. Disc one begins with a running audio commentary featuring Nicholas Meyer and co-writer Denny Martin Flinn. This is another excellent commentary track filled with insight and production detail, making it a must listen for any Trek fan. Disc one also features a text commentary on a subtitle channel by Michael and Denise Okuda, authors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia. The text stream is filled with Trek trivia and other interesting bits of information, including pointing out differences in this particular cut of the film.
Moving on to disc two, we find the main body of the supplemental programming. The Perils Of Peacemaking is a twenty-six minute program that looks at the STAR TREK VI story and the real world historic events that influenced it. The Stories From Star Trek VI section includes It Started With A Story, Prejudice, Director Nicholas Meyer, Shakespeare & General Chang, Bringing It To Life and Farewell & Goodbye. It Started With A Story runs nine minutes and examines the development of the screen story. Prejudice is a five-minute look at that distasteful flaw that exists in sentient beings- even in Gene Roddenberry’s idealized future. Director Nicholas Meyer runs six minutes and features cast & crew talking about working with the director. Shakespeare & General Chang features Christopher Plummer in a five-minute program, in which he gets to discuss his delight in playing this particular villain. Bringing It To Life is a twenty-three minute program that focuses primarily on the film’s production design and music. Farewell & Goodbye is a seven-minute look at the last hurrah for the original cast and the final day of shooting.
Under the section entitled The Star Trek Universe, one will find Conversations With Nicholas Meyer, Klingons: Conjuring The Legend, Federation Operatives, Penny’s Toy Box and Together Again. Conversations With Nicholas Meyer is a nine-minute interview in which Meyer discusses moviemaking and his association with the Trek movie franchise. Klingons: Conjuring The Legend clocks in at twenty minutes and examines the evolution of the Federation adversaries, from the days of the original television series to the present. Federation Operatives runs five minutes and looks at some of the STAR TREK VI actors, who have played other roles in the Trek universe. Penny’s Toy Box is a six-minute look at some of the props from the film. Together Again features William Shatner and Christopher Plummer in a five-minute program that allows them to reflect on working together in the early stages of their careers and again on STAR TREK VI.
Also included on disc two is DeForest Kelley: A Tribute. This thirteen-minute program looks back on Kelley’s long acting career and features interviews with fellow actors and the crewmembers that worked with him on STAR TREK. All of the program’s participants get to share their remembrances of the man who brought Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy to such vivid life. Coming from the time of the film’s theatrical release are the Original Interviews, each of which are several minutes long and feature cast members William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig and Iman. Closing out the supplements is a theatrical teaser, theatrical trailer, a production gallery and a 1991 Convention Presentation by Nicholas Meyer.
As I stated above, I think that STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY is in a photo finish for the coveted position of being the best Trek movie featuring the original cast. As for Paramount’s DVD, it really looks and sounds terrific, plus it offer fans a very solid supplemental section. If you are a Trek fan then the DVD is a must have, and if you are not, this release is still very highly recommended.
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