'Star Trek: The Original Motion Pictures Collection' 4K Set Proves Physical Media is Essential (Review)

Star Trek fans have been buying collections of the six Original Series crew movies repeatedly, every time a new format comes along. It's time to buy them all again, thanks to Paramount's new Star Trek: The Original Motion Pictures 6-Movie Collection on 4K UltraHD. The set follows last year's four-movie set but adds the newly recreated Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Director's Cut, and the 4K releases of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. These three films are also being released individually on Sept. 6, alongside a deluxe edition of The Motion Picture – Director's Cut that comes with additional bells and whistles.

The new six-movie pack includes seven 4K discs, as it also includes the theatrical cut of The Motion Picture on its own disc. There are also eight Blu-rays since The Motion Picture bonus material has its own disc as well. The Blu-rays include just about every conceivable bonus feature carried over from the DVDs, as well as multiple commentary tracks. You even get the director's cuts of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered County. It's a dizzying amount of stuff that could take any fan days to get through. 

As for the movies themselves, the Star Trek movie franchise famously got off to a rocky start with The Motion Picture in 1979. Directed by Robert Wise (The Sound of Music, West Side Story), the theatrical version of the film is a plodding experience that can test anyone's patience. In 2001, Paramount granted Wise the chance to finish the post-production he was robbed of in 1979, and the result was a much better-paced movie, even if it does run a few minutes longer. Still, there's no way to fix the flaws embedded deep within The Motion Picture. From the odd pajamas Gene Roddenberry chose for the Starfleet uniforms to the neverending journey into V'ger, it's just not a great movie. Earlier this year, Paramount put together a team to basically remake the director's cut in 4K high definition since the director's cut was originally made in standard definition. That's why it wasn't included in the previous 4K set. The re-making of the film is detailed in a great documentary on the extra Blu-ray disc called The Human Adventure. The disc also includes some recently discovered deleted sequences, along with all the other deleted scenes from previous releases.

Once you get over the Motion Picture speed bump, you get to the heart of the Original Series crew's movies. Nicholas Meyer was given the full authority from Paramount to essentially reboot Star Trek with The Wrath of Kahn. It's not only the best Star Trek movie, but it's also one of the most entertaining blockbusters of the 1980s. It, alongside Raiders of the Lost Ark, may supposedly run two hours, but Khan never feels like it. Khan defined the look of the Original Series crew's cycle, setting up the next two films, both directed by Leonard Nimoy.

There's an idea that only the even-numbered Trek movies are any good, but The Search for Spock should dispel that. For a movie that only exists for one purpose – reviving Spock – it's really fun and helps continue to shape Captain Kirk's emotional core. It also leads right into The Voyage Home, a real classic. It's interesting to realize how much in common The Voyage Home has with The Motion Picture, and understand why one works and the other doesn't. They both dispense with a typical villain and see 23rd Century Earth threatened by a problem that can only be solved by an understanding of the 20th Century. The Voyage Home is brimming with humor, as it never takes itself too seriously. The Motion Picture goes hard in the other direction, getting bogged down in its desperation to turn a simple plot into a Lawrence of Arabia-style '60s epic.

As previously mentioned, the last two films are making their 4K UltraHD debuts with this set. The Final Frontier, William Shatner's one shot to direct, is a total disaster of a movie. He may have had an interesting idea – a Vulcan who rejects logic and tries to find God at the center of the universe – but he was never able to get his vision on the screen. It's impossible to know if it would ever really work, thanks to Paramount's budget cuts and refusal to let him release a two-hour movie. The end result is a movie that has its best scenes in the first 10 minutes, when Spock, Bones, and Kirk are just sitting by the campfire. 

Thankfully, the Original Series crew got to make one last movie. Meyer was brought back to direct The Undiscovered Country. Although certainly not a classic on the level of Khan, it is perfect as a swan song for the team. Showing a 23rd Century version of the Iron Curtain falling could have been a boring, didactic exercise, but Meyer found a way to make it entertaining in a Shakespearean way. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have Christopher Plummer.

Most of the people buying this set have undoubtedly seen these films countless times. However, the 4K format really brings them to life. There isn't a bad transfer in the bunch. The biggest issue is the cheap packaging, with the movies crammed by format in two chunky plastic cases housed in a simple cardboard sleeve. It's really disappointing, considering the premium cost for the big set. Thankfully, 4K and Blu-ray discs have to get really deep surface scratches to make them unplayable, so cleaning scuff marks off them should make them playable. (It's not something anyone should have to do, but you might need to.) The movies are all wildly entertaining, and the hours of bonus features prove that physical media is absolutely essential.