Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – Special Edition

Star Trek VI SESynopsis: The Enterprise leads a battle for peace in a spectacular Star Trek adventure that’s “impossible to resist” (James Veniere, Boston Herald). The Federation and the Klingon empire prepare for a peace summit after years of war, but the prospect of harmony with sworn enemies is an alarming one to Admiral Kirk (William Shatner). And when a Klingon ship is attacked and the Enterprise is held accountable, both worlds brace for what may be their final, deadly encounter. Directed by Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) and co-starring Christopher Plummer, this action-filled epic soars with warp-speed thrills and excitement! This Special Collector’s Edition includes two scene revisions by Nicholas Meyer.

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Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – Special Edition 8.5

eyelights: new look, same great taste (nearly).
eyesores: the redundancy of the new material. the dumbing down of a couple of scenes.

I honestly don’t know the history of ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country‘. No thanks to ‘The Final Frontier‘, which took away my interest in ‘Star Trek’ (albeit temporarily), I wasn’t paying attention to the original crew’s swan song when it came out; I had tuned out nearly completely.

I certainly didn’t rush out to see the picture.

(Stupid me)

In any event, the picture went through a few minor changes over the years. First it was truncated for network TV. Then the original theatrical version was augmented with new bits for the 1992 home video release. Then it was further enhanced in 2003 for the Special Edition DVD.

I didn’t know this until I realized that the 2009 blu-ray release featured the original theatrical version.

Without any enhancements.

So how does the Special Edition hold up? Let’s take a look.

  • First, there’s the matter of the aspect ratio. For reasons that escape me, the picture was cropped from its original 2.39:1 widescreen ratio to 1.95:1, which reframes all the shots. Now, it appears that the picture was shot in 1.66:1 (and with many aspect ratios in mind, given that TVs were 1.33:1 back then). But 1.95:1 is just plain weird – it’s a nonsensical format that no one uses. Plus it looked less epic than the widescreen one.
  • The first significant change is an extension of the meeting at the Federation President’s quarters. After he attests that he will uphold the law, which ends the scene in the original version, he receives a visit from a handful of Starfleet military advisors, trying to convince him to stage a rescue mission for Kirk and McCoy. He listens politely but reaffirms his plan to let the courts decide the matter. Frankly, it’s pretty redundant, though one could argue that it betrays the Admiral, Colonel and Commander-in-Chief’s conspiracy, as they’re so gung ho. Either way, it’s better left on the editing room floor.
  • The next notable addition is a scene between Spock and Scotty as they discuss the matter of the two torpedoes fired upon the Klingon vessel. It’s also a bit redundant because the concept that the computer records were falsified and that they would need to check all the torpedoes one-by-one was already established. The only thing added here is when Valeris arrives and adds that the Chancellor’s daughter was guilty – based on absolutely no facts whatsoever. For a Vulcan, this seems a bit out of character, and it ultimately kind of overplays its hand. It’s definitely best left edited out.
  • Spock’s mind meld with Valeris towards the end added flashes of her allies as he’s probing her mind. Clearly this was designed for people who weren’t able to make the connections without visual aids. People like me, actually, as I’m terrible with names. However, I still think that the picture works better without it – it’s far too unsubtle and it feels a bit clunky.
  • The death and unmasking of the assassin at the end is also substantially different in that a lot more attention is put on the fact that the Klingon’s blood is red, not violet (as originally established in the assassination sequence aboard the Chancellor’s vessel) and it is revealed that it’s Colonel West, in disguise. It’s an interesting twist, but it actually doesn’t contribute much to the finale. By that virtue alone, I have to write it off for being superfluous.

There are a couple of other minor changes that don’t really matter much, but what I found interesting is that I felt that there were other changes, even though this was not at all the case.

  • For instance, I thought that the opening aboard the Excelsior with Sulu was longer. I also thought that the fight scene between Kirk and the alien on the penal colony was extended slightly. Apparently not so, though I must admit that I didn’t bother to compare both versions just to confirm this.
  • And what I thought had been was a crap CGI enhancement of the gutted Praxis? All in my mind, apparently. As for the two moons on the penal colony? They were already there. It just goes to show how perception and memory sometimes collide to drastically change one’s experiences.

But, ultimately, though the Special Edition is barely any different from the original theatrical version, I have to downgrade this version of the movie for two reasons: 1) It’s utterly redundant, and 2) It dumbs down the picture, catering to the few people not alert enough to follow the plot.

Frankly, that very much diminishes its worth.

Stick with the original.

Date of viewing: August 22, 2016

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