The film that kickstarted (and nearly killed) Star Trek’s first second life is going to be remastered, once again. Star Trek.com (via Gizmodo), says that Paramount has green-lit a “full restoration” of Robert Wise’s 2001 “Director’s Edition” of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The site says that the project, which will take between six and eight months to finish, will be formatted in 4K, with Dolby Vision HDR and a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack. David C. Fein, Mike Matessino and Daren R. Dochterman, who worked with Wise on the 2001 DVD version, will all return to work on the 4K spruce up.
The Motion Picture (TMP)’s fraught production meant that the film was barely finished before it premiered, with Wise carrying the print himself to the premiere. Wise had said that the film was “unfinished,” and despite a healthy box office, took a pasting from critics who deemed it to be too slow and talky. At the dawn of the DVD era, Wise, Fein, Matessino and Dochterman collaborated on a re-edit of the film that better showed off Wise’s original vision. This included remastered visual effects and a remastered and re-edited score by Jerry Goldsmith. The effects for the 2001 version were produced by CGI pioneers Foundation Imaging, which was Star Trek’s (then) contractor for all computer generated work.
(After its theatrical run, ABC broadcast a “Special Longer Version” of the film that is notorious for including extra scenes with clearly unfinished effects. The most obvious of which is the start of Kirk’s EVA, where the airlock set is surrounded by studio scaffolding, intended to be replaced by a matte painting.)
It was a well-held myth in fan circles that a 4K version of the Director’s Edition was impossible because the CGI assets and film footage had been scanned and edited for standard definition. The bankruptcy of Foundation Imaging, which took place shortly after the film was released, also dashed hopes for any higher-definition re-releases. However, as Memory Alpha lists, producer David C. Fein confirmed in 2017 that the digital material necessary to facilitate a 4K remastering still exists.
Given how TMP’s reputation has been slowly rehabilitated over the last three decades, a 4K version of the film is very welcome. If only because, as well as a smart and interesting vision of the future, the model work and score are so good that they deserve to be seen in the best possible resolution. We can’t wait to experience this in 4K when it arrives at some point between December and next March.