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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 1/25/99

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
1991 (1999) - Paramount Pictures

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A+/C-

Specs and Features

113 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.0:1), single-sided, Amaray keep case packaging, 2 theatrical trailers, film-themed menu screens, scene access (15 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), English & French (DD 2.0), subtitles: French, Closed Captioned

When the Klingons suffer an ecological disaster that threatens to destroy their empire, the leadership of the Federation sees an opportunity to forge a lasting peace. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and the crew of the Enterprise are sent to escort the Klingon leader, Chancellor Gorkon, to a peace conference on Earth. But Kirk, whose son was killed by Klingons, has trouble accepting the idea of peace with them. And certain members of Gorkon's staff are equally leery.

The prospects for peace dissolve instantly, however, when the Enterprise appears to fire on the Klingon ship, damaging it heavily, and a pair of assassins in Starfleet uniforms kill Gorkon. Desperate to avoid an interstellar war, Kirk surrenders the Enterprise. He and McCoy are taken prisoner and placed on trial for murder. With their lives hanging in the balance, it's up to Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the Enterprise crew, to save their comrades from the Klingon's barbaric justice, and to uncover a deeper threat, that could bring the galaxy to its knees.

Why is it that Nicholas Meyer seems to be the only person who can put together a decent Trek flick? If you doubt me, consider this: Meyer was the on-set furher who gave us Wrath of Khan, the best of the series bar none. The story here is the real deal, conceived by Nimoy and penned by Meyer himself - an outer space analogy for the end of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The plot doesn't lag too much, and thankfully, there's only a few moments of typical Trek hokum - the space bimbo of the week, or otherwise silly-looking alien T&A that sinks the good ship Enterprise faster than the iceberg did the Titanic. Heck, one of the Klingons in this film (played with great zeal by Christopher Plummer) recites Shakespeare as well as Patrick Stewart. Let's face it - the very best Trek has always been about ideas, lean and mean. Trek VI goes a long way in returning to the formula that made the series so successful. Which is good, because the previous film (directed by Shatner) was absolutely awful. And given that this was the last chance for the original cast to take the helm on the big screen, it's a satisfying swan song indeed. Not bad for a bunch of old guys.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at the video quality on this DVD. Given that it isn't anamorphic (which really chaps my you know what), it's darned good looking. There's plenty of film grain to be spotted, but the picture is crisp, with excellent color rendition, and good contrast. The blacks here are deep and true, and the image is generally free of the kinds of artifacts (such as digital video noise reduction and edge enhancement) that one usually sees in older film-to-video transfers (I'm guessing this was fairly recently done).

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix on this DVD is absolutely outstanding. There's terrific ambience created in the sound field. Just listen to chapter 3, as Kirk and company enter the Bridge. You can hear the sounds of activity in all directions: computer sounds, intercom signals, the deep bass thrum of the ship's engines. Try chapter 5 (the attack on the Klingon ship), and you'll hear great directional sound effects with phaser fire and explosions. Even the trial scene in chapter 7 impresses - you can almost feel the breath of angry Klingons on your neck as they chant and shout all around. Star Trek VI is also one of the first Paramount DVDs that lets you switch audio tracks on the fly (a French track is also included), instead of having to go back to the setup menu to change the audio - a few points for the studio. Now if we could only get them to go back to anamorphic transfers...

As for extras, a pair of theatrical trailers is included on this disc. The teaser trailer is of poor quality, and it's full screen, but has plenty of sentimental value for Trekkers. The theatrical trailer, on the other hand, is almost as good looking as the film itself, and is a kick-ass piece of movie previewing. However, it would be nice of Paramount would put some other extras on their Trek DVDs - just think of all the conceptual art, storyboards and the like, that must be stashed somewhere. And how about a commentary with Shatner and Nimoy? Now that would be interesting. Oh well... in the meantime, you take what you can get.

One last thing to note, is that this transfer of the film DOES include the deleted scenes that were not in the film's original theatrical run, but were made available on the VHS release. I hope Paramount does the same with Wrath of Khan - several additional scenes appeared in network television broadcasts that were not seen elsewhere. I'd also be very pleased if the studio included both the widescreen version of The Motion Picture, with the full frame, extended version on the other side of the disc, when the title is released on DVD later this year. Footage was added to the full frame version, but much of it could not be added in widescreen, because the shots were unfinished (missing effects plates, such as matte paintings, that would have completed the practical footage shot on stage). Hint hint, Paramount...

Star Trek VI is one of the best of the Trek series, second only to The Wrath of Khan in my opinion (can't wait for that DVD). You've got interstellar treachery, you've got warp speed action, you've got Klingons spouting the Bard - what more do you want? Best of all, you've got a real plot, with half the hokiness of your regular Trek - a major a victory in and of itself. So grab your copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Klingon language edition), and strap on your phasers, space cadets. "Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war...!"

Bill Hunt
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