Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not flawless, the transfer seemed quite good.
The use of digital noise reduction rendered a few shots just a bit soft, and that technique also meant faces occasionally looked a little clay-like. Nonetheless, neither issue was a serious concern. Instead, the majority of the flick appeared tight and detailed. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no issues with edge enhancement. Source flaws were absent in this clean presentation.
Colors seemed strong. The film presented a nice array of hues and made them look bright and vibrant. From the deep reds of the uniforms to the purple Klingon blood to the green lighting of the Klingon bridge, all the tones were detailed and concise. Blacks also seemed dense and tight, while low-light shots appeared detailed and well depicted. The minor softness kept the transfer from “A” level, but I felt pleased with it.
Though not a spectacular track, the Dolby Digital TrueHD 7.1 mix worked well after more than 17 years. One of the first films to boast a Dolby Digital track during its theatrical run, the soundfield presented a nicely smooth and seamless affair. The score offered nice stereo delineation, while effects appeared logically placed and they meshed together accurately. Throughout the different settings, the elements popped up in natural locations and created a great sense of atmosphere. From more subtle moments like the Klingon trial to louder ones such as the explosion at the flick’s start, the track provided an active and involving feeling.
The surrounds only sporadically gave us stereo imaging, but they seemed like a reasonably active affair. The back speakers offered a lot of reinforcement of the front and kicked in nicely during the action scenes. They added a solid sense of involvement to the piece.
Audio quality also was excellent. Speech consistently came across as distinctive and natural, and I noticed no signs of edginess or concerns connected to intelligibility. Music was dynamic and bright, with a good sense of range. Effects really excelled throughout the flick. They always were crisp and clear, and I thought they represented the material well. Bass response seemed particularly terrific. Low-end was always deep and impressive, and those elements lacked distortion or boominess. Ultimately, the audio of Country provided a fine piece of work.
How did the picture and sound quality of this Blu-ray Disc compare with those of the prior SE DVD release? As was the case with the prior five Trek Blu-rays, the lossless audio packed a bit better punch than its predecessor, but both remained pretty similar.
Visuals provided bigger improvements. The Blu-ray was tighter and noticeably cleaner. It also offered the first home video Country presented in its original aspect ratio; all prior widescreen renditions went with a compromise 2.0:1. In addition, this marked the first time we’ve gotten Country in its theatrical cut; all prior versions went with a slightly extended version. I’m very happy to finally see the original cut and especially the original aspect ratio.
In terms of extras, the Blu-ray mixes elements from the prior SE DVD with new components. If a feature comes with an asterisk, that means it’s new and didn’t appear on the SE. If an extra is written in blue, that indicates it’s both a new piece and it’s also exclusive to the Blu-ray Disc.
We start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from co-writer/director Nicholas Meyer and co-writer Denny Martin Flinn, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific track. They cover subjects such as the historical subtext of Country - particularly how it connects to the early Nineties Soviet Union – as well as variations from the original script and the writing process, approaching Trek as outsiders, and dealing with the series’ mythology. The conversation occasionally becomes enlightening, but it drags too frequently and suffers from too much dead air. The pair provide a moderately useful chat but not a terribly strong one.
For the second track, we hear from *Trek expert Larry Nemecek and Trek (TNG, DS9) writer Ira Steven Behr. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They offer an informal and entertaining take on Country. Most of the Trek facts come from Nemecek; Behr offers some connections to other Trek series, but Nemecek clearly knows a lot more about all related subjects.
And that’s fine, as Behr acts more as Trek ombudsman. Some of these new commentaries have been little more than collections of praise, but both Nemecek and especially Behr are happy to criticize Country. They clearly like the film, but they still can cite its various legitimate flaws. They do all this with wit and style, so they make this an informative and enjoyable chat.
Another running feature arrives with the Library Computer. This “interactive playback mode” allows you to learn about various elements that crop up throughout the movie. It gives us notes about characters, technical pieces, and other connected tidbits. Some of these are tightly ingrained – such as facts about main characters – while others are more tangential. Because of the changing circumstances of the film’s world, some of the same subjects arise multiple times; for instance, new information about Valeris comes up as story elements affect her.
All of these come via links; the title of a subject appears, and you select “enter” to read about it. You can examine these in two different ways. If desired, you can have the links crop up at the appropriate times during the movie. You still have to hit “enter” – there’s no option to let them play without viewer input – but this shows the notes in tandem with the onscreen material.
The “Library” also presents an “index”. This posts the links in alphabetical order. This is a more efficient option if you want to watch the movie without interruption, but it’s less connected to the story.
Either way, the “Library” includes some nice details. It’s pretty dry, but it throws out a lot of background facts and gives us a satisfying glimpse of Trek information.
Next comes a documentary called The Perils of Peacemaking. In this 26-minute and 31-second piece, we get movie clips, various production and historical photos, and interviews. We hear from Meyer, actor/executive producer Leonard Nimoy, Georgetown University professor Dr. Angela Stent, and Ambassador Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. They discuss the historical context of the film, particularly as it connects to the Soviet Union of the era in which they flick was made. They also discuss diplomatic endeavors in general, as they apply to modern times, and get into how all these thoughts affected the story and characters. Ross’s insight seems especially valuable, but all the participants go over the material well in this unusually intelligent and insightful discussion.
Although Stories from Star Trek VI breaks down into six smaller programs, we can view it straight through via the “Play All” option, so I decided to examine it as one long documentary. Taken that way, they run a total of 57 minutes and nine seconds. These incorporate movie snippets, archival materials, and comments from Meyer, Nimoy, Flinn, co-producer Ralph Winter, Star Trek V screenwriter David Loughery, co-producer/second unit director Steven-Charles Jaffe, cinematographer Hiro Narita, editor Ronald Roose, production designer Herman Zimmerman, scenic art supervisor Mike Okuda, Paramount project coordinator Penny Juday, composer Cliff Eidelman, and actors William Shatner, Christopher Plummer, and Todd Bryant.
Through all of these pieces, we learn of many different areas. The featurettes cover possibilities for a new Trek direction, the origins of the story, issues about the film’s racism and militarism, working with Meyer and his approach to Trek, the movie’s use of Shakespeare and Plummer’s work, details of the production design and effects, the score, and concluding the original cast’s run. Some of the material repeats information heard elsewhere, but that doesn’t occur too frequently. Instead, we get good notes on the creation of the film, as “Stories” largely acts as a reasonably comprehensive examination of the flick. It’s a solid program overall that seems consistently entertaining and informative.
Within The The Star Trek Universe, a mix of featurettes appear. Conversations with Nicholas Meyer runs nine minutes, 31 seconds, and presents his thoughts on subjects such as films in general, working with actors, and his place in the Trek world. It’s a reasonably good piece, though some of the notes from the commentary reappear here.
Klingons: Conjuring the Legend lasts goes for 20 minutes and 43 seconds. We get the usual behind the scenes shots, images from movies and shows, and interviews. We hear from Nimoy, Next Generation and DS9 makeup supervisor Michael Westmore, TNG and DS9 costume designer Bob Blackman, production designer Lee Cole, TNG and DS9 special effects producer Dan Curry, author Michael Jan Friedman, New Books editor Marco Palmieri, Klingon Language Institute founder Dr. Lawrence M, Schoen, and actors Plummer, William Campbell, and Michael Dorn. In this fun and informative program, we learn about the origins of the Klingons and their development through the movies and various series. We find out about the conjuring of the language and the changes in physical appearance. We also get good notes from the actors about their approaches to the roles; since he played the most prominent Klingon in Trek history, Dorn’s remarks become especially useful. Overall, “Legend” provides a tight and entertaining synopsis of Klingon history.
Many actors portrayed different roles in various Trek incarnations over the years. The four-minute and 51-second featurette Federation Operatives details the ones who appear in Country and elsewhere. It shows their Country roles and parts in other series and movies. Oddly, it misses a couple – we don’t hear of the other characters played by Todd Bryant and Mark Lenard – but it’s still a fun and informative piece.
Paramount archivist Penny Juday reappears in Penny’s Toy Box. For this six-minute and four-second program, she leads us into the vaults and shows us many of the props from Country. Nothing special shows up, but Juday gives us a fairly interesting little tour of the materials and adds enough information about their creation and use to make the journey worthwhile.
For the next component of “Universe”, we find Together Again. In the four-minute and 55-second program, we learn through interviews with them that actors Plummer and Shatner knew each other in their early days. We hear about their interactions back then in this short but cute featurette.
*Tom Morga: Alien Stuntman runs four minutes, 57 seconds and features info from stuntman Morga. He started on ST:TMP and continued through other movies and series. Morga discusses his experiences in this informative and enjoyable perspective.
Next we find the 23-minute, four-second *To Be Or Not To Be: The Klingons and Shakespeare. It includes notes from Commedia Beauregard artistic director Christopher Kidder, director Sasha Wolloch, and actors Matthew Glover and Garry Geiken. We follow the production of a full Klingon version of Hamlet. Why? I have no idea, but it’s kind of fun to watch this unusual edition of the play.
“Universe” finishes with *Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 006: Praxis. It goes for two minutes, 37 seconds as it tells us a little more about the Klingon moon. Prior “Briefs” haven’t been particularly interesting, and this one doesn’t improve on the format. It largely just repeats info from the movie and it doesn’t bring much new to the table.
One piece appears in the Farewell domain. DeForest Kelley: A Tribute goes for 13 minutes and 18 seconds as we see clips of the actor’s work and hear others discuss him. We find reminiscences from Plummer, Nimoy, Meyer, Winter, Campbell, Juday, Okuda, Loughery, Zimmerman, Shatner, producer Harve Bennett, and producer AC Lyles. They give us a minor career overview and some personal thoughts on Kelley. It’s a sweet and touching send-off to the actor.
Original Interviews presents comments circa 1991 from actors William Shatner (five minutes, three seconds), Leonard Nimoy (6:24), DeForest Kelley (5:01), James Doohan (5:31), Nichelle Nichols (5:37), George Takei (5:26), Walter Koenig (5:29) and Iman (5:05). Except for Iman, each one tells what they think of this being the last voyage – most don’t believe it. Otherwise they mostly go over general Trek topics, with a couple of specific subjects as well; both Nichols and Shatner discuss their famous kiss on the original series. Frankly, I expected these interviews to offer little more than promotional fluff, but they’re actually fairly introspective and intriguing.
Though I expected the Production Gallery to present stills, instead it mostly shows behind the scenes footage from the set. The three-minute and 24-second compilation seems moderately interesting but no better than that. Storyboards presents art for four scenes: “Praxis” (18 stills), “Assassins” (37), “Rura Penthe” (37), and the ”omitted” sequence “Leaving Spacedock” (28). These accumulate a decent little collection of art.
Inside the “Promotional Material” area, we get both the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers. We also locate a 1991 Convention Presentation by Nicholas Meyer. This four-minute and 48-second clip appeared at a convention to act as a teaser for the upcoming theatrical release. Meyer offers a fairly literary interpretation of the Trek mythos and we see a little behind the scenes footage from the flick. It doesn’t tell us much, but it’s an interesting historical curiosity to find it here.
Lastly, the disc opens with some Previews. We get ads for the 2009 Star Trek feature film and for Star Trek: The Original Series Season One Blu-ray.
Does the Blu-ray lose anything from the SE DVD? Sort of. It drops a text commentary, but the “Library Computer” provides the same kinds of information found there. Nonetheless, I wish the Blu-ray still included the text track, as the “Library” didn’t duplicate all the same material; the prior commentary comes with a more conversational, less dry tone and digs into Trek connections better. It also moves along without the need to constantly press a button, so I think it proves more satisfying.
Arguably the best Star Trek flick, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country has lost a little luster over the last 17 or so years. Nonetheless, most of it works nicely, and it remains one of the most exciting and fun of the series’ movies. The Blu-ray provides strong picture and sound as well as a long list of good extras. The Blu-ray isn’t flawless, but it’s definitely the best edition of the film yet released.
To rate this film visit the Director's Edition review of the STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY