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Forty-two years in the making: “Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition” in 4K

Updated: Sep 12, 2022


(1) The gang from the “Star Trek” TV series returned for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” including left, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, center, DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, and William Shatner as Admiral James T. Kirk. (2) The USS Enterprise heads toward the unknown cloud, after an 18-month refitting.

(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)


4K Ultra HD & Digital copy; 1979; PG

Best extra: A new featurette, “The Human Adventure”

DIRECTOR ROBERT WISE was one of Hollywood’s BEST! With five decades of filmmaking under his belt, the veteran decided “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” an adaptation of Gene Roddenberry’s TV series, would be his last.

Wise arrived in Hollywood in 1933 and quickly moved up the ranks. By 1938, he was RKO’s top film editor assembling “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1939), the screwball favorite “My Favorite Wife” (1940), and Orson Welles’ masterpiece “Citizen Kane” (1941), for which he received his first Oscar nomination.

By the late 1940s, Wise was behind the camera directing Robert Mitchum in the western-noir “Blood on the Moon” (1948), and Robert Ryan in the film noir classic “The Set-Up” (1949). Next, he took a stab at one of Hollywood’s first sci-fi films, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951), which became an instant classic. In the 1960s, his two musicals “West Side Story” (1961) and “The Sound of Music” (1965) became the crescendo of his career, winning him four Academy Awards as producer and director. He next tackled “The Sand Pebbles” (1966), author Richard McKenna’s naval adventures on a U.S. gunboat on China’s Yangtze River. It features a fabulous score from composer Jerry Goldsmith; he and Wise would reunite for “Star Trek.” The big-budgeted film received eight Oscar nods, but after seven grueling months of filming in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Wise felt it was time to limit his projects. He returned in 1968 with the musical “Star!” (1968) with Julie Andrews, but it bombed at the box office. He then adapted Michael Crichton’s best-seller “The Andromeda Strain” (1971).

(1) “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” premiered on December 6, 1979, in Washington D.C. (2) The Klingon captain orders his crew to fire photon torpedoes toward the huge cloud-like anomaly. (3&4) A bolt of plasma energy destroys the three Klingon battle cruisers one by one. (5&6) On the planet Vulcan, Spock undergoes the kolinahr ritual.

In March 1978, Paramount held a huge press conference announcing Robert Wise would come out of semi-retirement to direct a $15 million “Star Trek” adaptation, based on a script initially planned as the pilot episode of a TV reboot. The studio considered “Star Trek” the answer to George Lucas’ highly successful “Star Wars” (1977) and Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), which inspired a generation of sci-fi filmmakers.

The gang from the TV series returned with William Shatner as James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, James Doohan as Montgomery Scott, Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov, Nichelle Nicolas as Uhura and George Takei as Hikaru Sulu. The story unfolds in the 23rd century as Starfleet station Epsilon Nine detects a massive cloud of energy moving toward Earth. It destroys three Klingon warships and the Epsilon station. The USS Enterprise is under repair and Kirk has just been promoted to Admiral and reassigned to the Enterprise when he's called to intercept the alien entity. The untested Enterprise will test its new systems upgrades enroot, which escalates tension among the captain and crew.

“Star Trek: The Motion Picture” received mixed reviews, but still made a profit, earning a global box office of $140 million, as production costs escalated to $44 million. It ultimately received three Oscar nominations for Art Direction, Visual Effects, and Goldsmith’s powerful score.

(1) The Starfleet headquarters is located in San Francisco. (2) Admiral Kirk arrives on Air Tram 3 and sees Lt. Commander Sonak (Jon Rashad Kamal). (3-5) Admiral Kirk transports to the orbital office complex and meets Montgomery Scott (James Doohan. The two take a travel pod to the Enterprise and Kirk has orders to intercept the cloud.


The 46-minute “The Human Adventure” is broken into eight segments on an enclosed Blu-ray that only houses extras. It gives a comprehensive glimpse into the creation of the Director’s Edition, which saw its first release in 2002. Three key individuals behind the “Director’s Edition” were recently interviewed. Post-production supervisor Mike Matessino first recalls how he skipped his afternoon classes in high school on December 7, 1979, to insure he got a seat on opening night for “Star Trek.” He, like everyone else, didn’t realize key scenes of Wise’s desired edit were missing and left unfinished because Paramount rushed the film into theaters for the holiday market.

“We were all ‘Star Trek’ fans and we knew of the troubled production of the ‘Original’ and it was something that was not Mr. Wise’s favorite topic,” Director’s Edition visual effects supervisor Daren R. Dochterman says. Many of the original visual effects from supervisor Douglas Trumbull (“2001: A Space Odyssey”), weren’t complete; it was the same with sound effects. “There was also a scene taken out that tells the whole moral of the story,” says Director’s Edition producer David C. Fein. “The project was painful for him [Wise]… This is the one that got away.”

But in the late 1990s, Hollywood started allowing directors to rework some of their films. James Cameron got a second chance with “Aliens”; so did Ridley Scott for “Blade Runner.” Wise got wind of the new edits and told Mike Matessino, Restoration Supervisor, who was working with Wise at the time, “If there was any project where this really needed to happen, it’s ‘Star Trek.’” Wise wrote a letter to former Paramount executive Sherry Lansing, asking to reopen postproduction, “to see what was possible.”

Paramount agreed and gave Wise, Matessino, Dochterman, and Fein 60 days to “finish what they had intended.” The 2002 ‘Director’s Edition’ included just over 100-plus new or enhanced effects shots, but only finished in standard def. The new 2022 version has been remastered in 4K with 185 effects shots, plus HDR color grading and a dynamic eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

“I don’t think there’s been another film that took 42 years to finish,” Fein adds.

(1) Admiral Kirk is back as the commander of the Enterprise. (2) Former crew members greet the admiral. (3) Captain Decker (Stephen Collins) is upset that Kirk has taken command, but he will remain as the Executive Officer. (4&5) Admiral Kirk addresses the crew of the Enterprise.

The featurette also includes archival interviews with Wise and cinematographer Richard Kline, who says, “Wise is the ultimate director, the complete director. He knows every facet of filmmaking, and has a gentle assertiveness that very few people in life have.”

Wise admits they started filming with an unfinished script, which went against his filmmaking nature. “We kept writing and writing and the actors had ideas about how it should go and what they would say.” The schedule was so tight; it’s the only film Wise directed that never had a sneak preview. The bonus disc features deleted scenes and archive featurettes from the past.

The 4K disc includes two commentaries, the best an assembled track with Wise, Trumbull, Goldsmith, actor Stephen Collins, and special photographic effects supervisor John Dykstra. Goldsmith starts out on his overture music, recalling his early days in TV writing music for “The Twilight Zone,” and how he initially turned the “Star Trek” TV series down because of other commitments. But, when it came to “The Motion Picture,” George Lucas’ vision for the music for “Star Wars” greatly influenced him. “It wasn’t so much what John Williams wrote, but stylistically, the music, rather than being avant-garde and strange, it was very romantic. And, when you stop and think about it, space is very romantic.”

The second commentary was recorded earlier this year with Matessino, Dochterman, and Fein, who promised Robert Wise during his latter days that they would continue working on the Director’s Edition until it was mastered in 4K and made available on 35mm film. “So much has happened to reach this point,” Fein says. “And, I’m thrilled that we’re able to finally get it here, and especially finishing this as a new negative, which means that forever we should have this film.”

A third popup subtitled track is available that runs continuously with hundreds of factoids about the production and history.

(1) Lt. Ilia (Persis Khambatta) arrives as the Enterprise Deltan Navigator. (2&3) After the transporter was fixed Dr. McCoy was beamed onto the Enterprise and his Starfleet service was reactivated. (4-6) The Enterprise enters a wormhole, caused by an engine imbalance. (7) Spock arrives on the Enterprise bridge and offers his services as the science officer. (8) The Enterprise is seized by a tractor beam.


The original 35mm camera negative (2.35:1 aspect ratio) was scanned in 4K, with the 65mm effects shots scanned in 6K giving the Director’s Edition a completely new life. Many of the original composites have also been reassembled digitally increasing the resolution by multi-levels in clarity and detail. Plus, the effects shots have been upgraded and rendered in 4K. Most scenes have a good level of natural film grain, giving it an overall cinematic experience. Some of the composites still suffer from softness, but the majority have been upgraded.

HDR10 and Dolby Vision provide a saturated color palette. Most scenes show well-balanced shadows, mid-tones, and controlled highlights. Overall, it’s a fairly bright remaster, hitting a maximum brightness level of 1000 nit and an average level of 926 nit.


The eight-channel Dolby Atmos is excellent. Sound effects and music cues are sent to height speakers, while the bass response is deep and powerful. Goldsmith's eerie score has never sounded better with highs and midrange tones. The dialogue never gets lost in the soundstage and design.

“Thanks once again to Paramount’s support, we have been able to complete the film…in addition to finding a new, and, I feel, proper editorial balance, we have also completed those effects shots and scenes which we had to abort in 1979 and have given the film a proper final sound mix. It has been an opportunity which I never believed would happen, and one for which I am grateful beyond words. Gene Roddenberry was right…time travel IS possible.” — Robert Wise, director 2002

— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer

(1) Ilia is examined on a diagnostic table. (2&3) Spock sees an image of what he believes is the V’ger’s and the Enterprise is inside a living machine. (4) After becoming unconscious Spock ends up in sickbay. (6) A bright light surrounds Decker and Ilia joins him.




A usual great review. And looks like they did a lot of work to refresh the movie, from the screenshots the picture is stunning. Sad thing is, no matter what the nostalgia associated with it, and the heritage of a great franchise…it was and (I won’t be fooled again) still is just a bad movie. I always said the plot was especially lame.

Daniel Fletcher
Daniel Fletcher

That's an opinion. There are many of us who love Stat Trek the motion picture and very much love the plot.

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