Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country review by Mike Long

I am the epitome of the casual Star Trek fan. I've seen the original series in re-runs and I know just enough about the characters and stories to be dangerous, but I'm definitely not a fanatic, or a "Trekkie." This became all too apparent as I sat down to watch Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I was convinced that I'd seen all of the feature films with the original crew, but, as it turns out, I'd never seen a single frame of Star Trek VI. I found the film to be very interesting, as it may be the ultimate device to separate the casual Star Trek from the Trekkies.

As Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country opens, a terrible explosion occurs on one of the moons in Klingon territory -- a moon which was an essential source of the Klingon's energy supply. Because of this catastrophe, the Klingon's, led by Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) request a meeting with Federation in order to discuss a peace treaty. The crew of the Starship Enterprise are commissioned to escort Gorkons ship to Earth. This infuriates Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), as hes never trusted the Klingons. Yet, Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who was a sponsor of the meeting, thinks that the Klingons are sincere. When the Enterprise rendezvous with Gorkons ship, a dinner is held, in which Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and other crew members get to meet Gorkon and his military leader, General Chang (Christopher Plummer). Much to Kirks surprise, the dinner is a (minor) success, and he begins to think that he may be wrong.

All of that changes when the Enterprise suddenly begins launching torpedoes at the Klingon ship and two assassins dressed in Starfleet garb kill Gorkon and several other Klingons. General Chang is outraged by this act and had Kirk and McCoy arrested, even as they try to revive Gorkon. As Kirk and McCoy are now held captive by the Klingons, its up to Spock to discover the true nature of the assassinations and save his friends.

When compared to the other Star Trek feature films, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is a bit of an oddity. The film was directed by Nicholas Meyer, who helmed the action-packed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but there isnt much action to be had here. Star Trek VI is a strange mix of political thriller and mystery movie. The story is propelled along more often by long speeches than by exciting scenes. Yet, the films tone and plot are in line with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry vision, as the movie is concerned with a promising future where, in this film at least, peace can be achieved between warring factions. The main premise of the film is based on the fall of communism in the early 90s, with the Klingons filling in for the Russians. Thus, the film has many levels and the interaction between the Klingons and Starfleet, as well as the devotion to Roddenberrys vision, will be of great interest to Trekkies. But, as a casual fan, I found the film to be quite boring at times. The murder-mystery is somewhat interesting and the finale is well done, but the mid-section, in which Kirk and McCoy are being tried for murder, are too talky. In my opinion, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country pales in comparison to the second and fourth films in the series, but as a casual fan, what do I know?

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country flies onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film was originally screened in theaters in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but for this DVD presentation, director Meyer has re-framed the film at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is clear and sharp, but there is some very noticeable grain in many shots. However, there are no overt defects from the source print. The colors look fine, although they are slightly washed-out in some scenes. Also, there is noticeable artifacting in some shots. Overall, the transfer looks fine, despite some problems. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear and audible dialogue, but the dynamic range is off a bit, so the explosions are noticeably louder than the dialogue. The surround effects are fine and the subwoofer response is effective.

This two-disc DVD presentation of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country carries many, many extra features. For starters, this DVD carries a Directors Cut of the film, which was sanctioned by director Nicholas Meyer in 2003. This cut contains several additional scenes which werent present in the theatrical cut. The extras on Disc 1 are kicked off with an audio commentary from Meyer and screenwriter Denny Marin Flinn.. This is an interesting, but not enthusiastic chat in which the two discuss the making of the film and the underlining meanings of the story. They talk about how their ignorance about the Star Trek universe helped them. The only other extra on Disc 1 is a text commentary from Star Trek historians Michael & Denise Okuda. As with their commentaries for the other Star Trek special edition DVDs, this subtitle-like information stream is full of interesting and obscure tidbits.

The remainder of the extras can be found on Disc 2. (The menus on this disc are 16 x 9 enhanced, but, unlike the previous Star Trek DVDs, the features are not.) The Perils of Peacemaking (26 minutes) has comments from Meyer and real-life historians as they trace the parallels between Star Trek VI and the fall of communism. This segment is very dry and quite boring. The Stories from Star Trek VI section is made up of several sub-sections. It Started with a Story (10 minutes) explores the origins of the films plot and contains concept art from an abandoned concept of showing a young Kirk and Spock at the Starfleet Academy. Prejudice (5 minutes) examines how racism plays into the story of the film and contains some deleted scenes. Director Nicholas Meyer (6 minutes) offers a profile of the filmmaker and allows him to comment on the film. The use of Shakespeare in the film is explored in Shakespeare and General Chang (6 minutes), which also looks at Christopher Plummers role in the film. Bringing it to Life (23-minutes) is a making-of featurette which contains behind-the-scenes footage, storyboards, interviews, and definitive proof that Shatner will do anything for money. This section is rounded out with Farewell & Goodbye (3 minutes) which comments on the death of Gene Roddenberry and that fact that Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was the last film with the original crew -- this segment contains footage from the wrap party. The Star Trek Universe section also contains many segments. In Conversations with Nicholas Meyer (10 minutes), the director talks about his career. Klingons: Conjuring the Legend (20 minutes) explores the history of this alien race, beginning with the original series. Actors who have appeared in multiple Star Trek projects are profiled in Federation Operatives (5 minutes). Paramounts Star Trek archivist Penny Juday shows off a collection of props and costumes in Pennys Toy Box (6 minutes). The fact that Shatner and Plummer worked together in the past is brought to light in Together Again (5 minutes). The Farewell section contains a 13-minute tribute to the late DeForest Kelley and eight original interviews from 1991 with the principal cast members. The Promotional Material section has a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, and a 5-minute 1991 Star Trek Convention presentation from Meyer. Finally, we have the Archives section which contains a behind-the-scenes video reel and storyboards for four scenes.


5 out of 10 Jackasses

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