Why you should watch Star Trek TMP Director’s Edition

*As you would expect, there are some spoilers for the film in this article*

I get fed up with people playing around with films, there is an argument to be had that Directors cuts and other cuts are a scourge on film history and just a case of revisionism. That conversation is one I will have in another article but every now and then a ‘Directors version’ crops up that isn’t just a case of vanity or wishing to change the past. This cut is not put together out of financial reasons, but out of love of the film and a wish to put to right issues within the original production, that still respects the original source. I now present to you the 2002 Directors Edition of Star Trek the Motion Picture. It is now sadly out of print and was only ever released on DVD, however it is easy to get a copy of of ebay, I managed to pick up one recently in mint condition for £2.70 including postage. I stated in my recent celebration of STTMP’ s 40th anniversary I believe this entry into the Star Trek franchise is deeply underrated and this Directors edition adds to it. If you want to read more of the history of the film and my opinions please take a look at that post.

If I think the original is such a good film then why do I think the Directors edition is worthwhile? It is one of those revisions that doesn’t just feel like a vanity projector a case of cashing in on fans love of a film. The DVD contains some great extras that include a piece on how this edition came to fruition and through the interviews and footage you can see the love for this project. In 1999 the Director Robert Wise approached Paramount to ask to do a Directors version for the 20th Anniversary of the film. The reason for this is the finish of the film was so rushed that he felt that what was shown was not a complete film. The premiere Date had been set in stone the year before so there was no leeway, even though the film was such a complicated production. He never had time to do a final cut and felt the cut presented was more of a rough cut. Robert Wise in fact personally delivered the Tin with the film in to the premiere, the finish of the film to the premiere was that close. Over the years there has been a couple of different cuts of the film that have made the rounds specifically for Television. I actually remember watching one in the 1980’s which is when I was first exposed to the scene of Spock Crying for V’ger which makes so much sense and adds to what at times can seem an emotionless film.
When the go ahead was given from Paramount for the new edition a list of what was needed, a new sound mix, some new special/visual effects and editing certain scenes. When I hear that new special and visual effects are to be added to a film normally my heart drops, in my opinion the new effects normally look out of place from the original media. George Lucas unfortunately seems to have started this trend, I’m not going to slam George Lucas for the Special Editions his tinkering though seems to have started a flurry of people replacing original visual effects with CGI that looks out of place in the original source. . The new effects on the versions of the original series of Star Trek stick out terribly in my opinion.

The new effects work was supervised by Daren Dochterman of Foundation Imaging, the work was painstaking but time and consideration was made to match the grain of the original film. They also had access to the the original storyboards and models so they could match the new images perfectly, over 100 new shots were done along with scenes that were never filmed but story boarded. The advantage of having access to the original models was that if they had issues lighting a scene within the digital environment they could just go and look at the model and shine a light on it to see how it would work rather than try to model it within the computer environment. This was around 2000 and Computer modelling was not as advanced as now so having a real reference point made it easier to match the new shots to the original ones.

Vulcan as seen in the 1979 Theatrical release

One of the most interesting scenes is when Spock is on Vulcan, the original scene is very close up and dark, it is difficult at points to tell what Spock is looking at. The scene was originally story-boarded with some huge statues and a much wider view of Vulcan. The Visual effects team where able to recreate the original planned shot and I challenge anybody to say that the scene does not look like it was in the original film.

Vulcan as seen in the Directors Edition

Other added scenes included, external shots of V’ger and the Enterprise so you are more able to grasp the scale, as well as internal shots of V’ger. These extra Visual effects along with some editing taking a few scenes out and adding some that were in the Television cut. The film only runs 4 minutes longer than the Theatrical cut but the changes Visual, Editing and sound make a significant difference. Small things like adding ambient hum to the Enterprises bridge controls all help to add atmosphere. One of my only negatives is the adding of a Wilhelm scream when Chekov is injured. The sooner the Wilhelm scream is sent back to History the better in my opinion as it takes you out of the films it appears in.

As you can tell I think this is the best version of the film so if you haven’t seen it I urge you to look it out. I hope that one day some one will see fit to do a good HD transfer to Blu-ray though this brings it’s own issues the newly created CGI were mastered in 480i resolution. They would either need to be rendered for HD or a very careful transfer from a film print. It’s not an insurmountable issue but the will needs to be there. No matter what this version of the film looks great on DVD and it would always be the version I recommend people watch if they’ve not seen the film.

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