Star Trek V: Special Edition
Paramount // PG // $29.99 // October 14, 2003
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 17, 2003
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The Movie:

It was 1989 and after a series of successful entries, the "Star Trek" series was about to release the fifth picture, directed by star William Shatner. A film that suffered from budget problems and other production issues, the picture was met with a negative response from both fans and critics, who considered the picture the worst of the series (most still think it holds that title.)

The picture opens with Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Bones (Deforest Kelly) and Kirk (William Shatner) on leave, camping in Tosemite. After a close save by Spock during some mountain climbing, the three actually sing, "Row Row Row Your Boat' by the campfire in what has to be one of the most painful moments of the entire series. Apparently, Shatner wanted to do a director's cut for the DVD release of the film. Although that didn't happen, the possibility of bypassing this scene might have offered some improvement.

After what seems like an age, the crew finally board the Enterprise to take off on another mission. This time, a Vulcan (Spock's half-brother) named Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill), who has taken hostages as he attempts to search for the "Great Barrier", to try and reach God. Not only are the Enterprise crew following after, but - of course - so are the Klingons.

That's pretty much it, really. There's plot holes all about, such as how Sybok knows where he's going on his search for God. Nobody's ever been to said "center of the galaxy", yet we see ships successful in doing so. The effects aren't at their usual level this time around, either, as apparently, ILM was too busy at the time.

The cast is the highlight of the film. Despite some attempts to go for light humor that don't work, both the leads and supporting members of the crew still have good chemistry. Jerry Goldsmith's score brings tension and excitement where there otherwise isn't any. Still, the cast and composer really can't save this affair - it's too uneventful, too slow and contains little tension or conflict.


VIDEO: This new edition of "Star Trek V" offers the film in a new 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen edition. While this certainly isn't the most visually impressive "Trek" outing by a long run, this new transfer is still an improvement over the prior release. Sharpness and detail are much better, with a consistently crisper and more detailed appearance.

There are some flaws, but they are pretty minor. The print appears to be in superb condition, with only a little hint of dirt on occasion to keep it from being pristine. Some slight grain also shows up, but it's really not much of an issue. Edge enhancement is kept to a minimum, while compression artifacts don't appear.

Colors seem pleasant enough, but look a little flat, although I suppose that's how the film has always looked. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked fine.

SOUND: "Star Trek V" is, once again, presented with the same Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. It's perfectly satisfactory, but, like the movie, nothing to write home about. Given the lack of much action, there's not much action from the rear speakers, with the surrounds not providing anything too exciting, save for a couple of mildly intense moments. Jerry Goldsmith's score sounds dynamic and clear, offered nicely by the front speakers. Dialogue came across decently, although it could sound a little unnatural at times. Considering the film it accompanies, this is a decent enough presentation that presents the few moements of action in a satisfying manner.

EXTRAS: Once again, Paramount has put together a very professional set of featurettes. These pieces do offer a good amount of information and insight. However, they present very little in the way of conflict or obstacles, prefering to give more of an overview.

Commentary: This is a commentary from director/actor William Shatner and daughter/author Liz Shatner. Aside from the opening (Shatner to daughter, "I knew you looked familiar."), the commentary is pretty darn serious, with little of the actor's trademark goofily arrogant humor. There are some pretty good tidbits about the production scattered about the track, but for a film that had so many reported problems, there's little about the obstacles that were encountered.

Fact Track: A subtitle text fact track - one of the staples of these "Trek" 2-DVD editions - is included again here. It does provide a mild amount of information and insights, and is a nice pairing with the commentary.

Herman Zimmerman: A Tribute: This 19-minute presentation is one of the set's best, as it provides a warm, insightful and engaging look at the work of the famed production designer that worked on the "Trek" films. Like the best featurettes, the participants here not only talk very positively about the subject, but they offer stories of examples of why they feel the way they do about Zimmerman's work.

Original Interview: This is a corny 14-minute interview with Shatner.

Cosmic Thoughts: This is a 13-minute piece which discusses our society's desire to understand what's beyond Earth in the Universe.

Green Future?: This piece has environmentalists discussing Earth and the importance of preserving nature and wildlife, as well as issues like global warming. It also looks at sci-fi's general view of our future.

Harve Bennett's Pitch: This is producer Harve Bennett's somewhat unintentionally funny pitch for the fifth picture in the series.

Rockman in the Raw: Originally part of a larger ending, Kirk was supposed to fight giant rock creatures. The production didn't have the money to achieve the scene and a smaller sequence with only one creature was eventually cut. That footage isn't here, but this section does offer some interesting concept art and production photos.

Pre-Vis Concepts: This piece offers a look at some of the (quite primitive) tests for the visual effects.

Press Confrence: Starting with a couple of remarks from producer Harve Bennett that are met with silence ("You all know me," Bennett says. The audience looks at each other like they don't), this featurette shows the cast of "Trek" responding to questions after the production wrapped in December of 1988. It's awfully cheesy, but a little fun to watch.

The Journey: This nearly 30-minute piece is the main overview of the production on the second set. It's the most in-depth look at the film that the disc offers; while it doesn't go into too much detail about the problems that occured during the production, it does give some sense of where the ship started to turn into troubled waters. Among other issues, Shatner not only wanted to direct, but he wanted to have the story his way. The production crew, elevated by the success of the fourth picture, may have believed they could take the series a bit too far out-of-bounds. The picture also started off as an ambitious effort, then ran into the realities of budget when things started being cut out and ideas dropped. The effects did not work out to the satisfaction of the production (we get to see a glimpse of the "rockman" scene, which is pretty bad.) I sense there's a pretty interesting documentary feature full of conflicts, troubles and disappointments somewhere to be made about how this production fell apart, but probably not something that'll ever happen.

Also: Four deleted scenes ("Mount Rushmore", "Insults", "Behold Paradise" and "Spock's Pain"), production image gallery, storyboards, 2 trailers and TV spots.

Final Thoughts: The least suspenseful of the "Trek" series, this troubled film does have a few moments, but isn't well-paced or even much of an adventure. The new Special Edition DVD does provide good picture, fine sound and supplements that are generally well-done and similar to the featurettes found on the prior "Trek" Special Edition releases. For fans only.

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