Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country UHD Review

4 Stars Fun final outing looks splendid
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Review

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is one of the top-tier Trek films. Nicholas Myer, who gave us the revered Wrath of Khan, returns to bring us the final voyage of the full Original Series crew and proves once again how adept he was at understanding Trek and the essence of Roddenberry’s characters. Trek always had a gift for allegory and tapping into the real-world politics of the Cold War’s thawing was genius. I travelled to Russia in 1991, visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg (still widely called Leningrad while I was here), and it was thrilling and upsetting. The Communist government’s fall and the restoration of relations between Russia and the West showed a country in decline, unable, it seemed, to project its appearance of strength any longer. It was a powerful moment in history and Star Trek VI tapped into that idea a little to give us a “what if” scenario, wondering what certain factions sought to thwart the chance for peace. Though Russia has become a disaster of a country over the following decades, the Klingon’s in the Trek universe would become strong allies (with hiccups along the way). Star Trek once again showed us the possibilities of our world through allegory, and it is one of the reasons the series has remained so potent and alluring to fans like myself. The Undiscovered Country isn’t perfect Trek, but it’s still bloody good Trek. Recommended.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Released: 06 Dec 1991
Rated: PG
Runtime: 110 min
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
Writer(s): Gene Roddenberry, Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner
Plot: On the eve of retirement, Kirk and McCoy are charged with assassinating the Klingon High Chancellor and imprisoned. The Enterprise crew must help them escape to thwart a conspiracy aimed at sabotaging the last best hope for peace.
IMDB rating: 7.2
MetaScore: 65

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: PG
Run Time: 109 min (Theatrical), 113 Min (Director's cut).
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Standard 4k with sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 09/06/2022
MSRP: $25.99

The Production: 4/5

“Captain’s Log, stardate 9529.1. This is the final cruise of the Starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun, and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man… where no *one* has gone before.”

The USS Excelsior, under the command of Captain Sulu, is caught in a destructive wave following the explosion of the Klingon moon of Praxis. The catastrophe on Praxis means the Klingon have less than 50 years of life left. Now, the crew of the USS Enterprise, approaching retirement, are called upon to serve as the United Federations of Planet’s olive branch to the Klingon Empire; representatives who will meet with the Klingon Chancellor, Gorkon (David Warner), and help negotiate peace after more than 70 years of aggression between the two powers. Kirk, with a long and tragic history with the Klingons, struggles with the position he’s now placed, more so given his Number One and life-long friend, Spock, is the one who suggested Kirk and the Enterprise assume this critical and historic mission. That struggle will be a catalyst for the drama and mystery that unfolds, as Gorkon’s ship is fired upon by the Enterprise, and Kirk and Bones are captured and put on Trial for the Klingon Chancellor’s assassination. Peace, it seems, may cost Kirk his life.

Following the less than stellar response to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the surging popularity of Star Trek: The Next Generation and cast of The Original Series in their 4th decade aboard the USS Enterprise, the time had come for the film series to take one last voyage around the galaxy before parking in space dock good. Returning as writer and director was Nicholas Meyer who helmed the enormously successful second outing, The Wrath of Khan. In 1991, the Cold War between the former Soviet Union and America and the West had ended providing a perfect real-word conceit for Star Trek to examine. As proxy for the two primary superpowers from the Cold War are the Federation and their long-time adversaries, the Klingons (a species The Next Generation would more deeply explore). The shift in power dynamics, as the Klingons face impending collapse, is a potent underlying story upon which the mystery and adventure of The Undiscovered Country can play out. That the film doesn’t explore the dynamic as meaningfully or dramatically as the premise suggests is disappointing, erring on the side of action a little too readily, but the film does balance intrigue, adventure, humor, and wit well enough for that to be forgivable.

Speaking of the humor, it plays better here than Star Trek V. Some of the laughs are a little too easy (Uhura struggling with the Klingon language won’t stand scrutiny), but the lighter moments are welcome as we see this crew’s final journey. This film’s structure also serves as a highlight, with the core crew split up as Kirk and Bones get shipped off to the Rura Penthe prison and Spock, Uhura, Scotty, and Chekov work the murder-mystery angle aboard the Enterprise. Sulu, of course, creates the triad with his service as Captain aboard the USS Excelsior. Kirk and Bones in the prison environment and the cold wasteland offer us alien creatures and dire circumstances, as well as some playful humor as Kirk’s womanizing and Shatner’s prevalence for being the center of attention get knowing nods. It lends a sense of scale to an otherwise intimately plotted story.

And what a cast. David Warner returns to Trek after portraying a throwaway character in The Final Frontier as Chancellor Gorkon. It’s a memorable role and certainly more worthy of his talents. The crew of the Enterprise are all expectedly good, with DeForest Kelley shining once again on his misadventure with Kirk. Shatner is good, Nimoy never better, and it’s nice to see George Takei in a position of authority aboard the Excelsior. Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig as Uhura and Chekov have a good amount of fun, while James Doohan once again delivers as Scotty. Two standouts for this film are Kim Cattrall as the Vulcan, Lt. Valeris. Her scenes with Spock are among the finest in the film. But it’s Christopher Plummer as General Chang, Gorkon’s chief of staff, who steals the show. His Shakespeare spewing, scene chewing presence is pure delight and a terrific Trek villain (though he’s not alone in playing the foil to Kirk and crew). Rosanna DeSoto also stars as Azetbur, Gorkon’s daughter and the person who takes up the mantle of peace following the assassination of her father. You’ll also find Trek regulars like Kurtwood Smith as the Federation President, Brock Peters as Admiral Cartwright, Leon Russom as the Federation chief in command, Mark Leonard as Ambassador Sarek, and Grace Lee Whitney as Excelsior’s communications officer.

The visual effects are once again worthy of the film series. Industrial Light & Magic, unable to produce the VFX for part V, return and display why they’re one of (if not the) best in the business. A healthy spectrum of effects requirements, everything from zero-gravity alien blood floating around and shape-shifting Chameloids, to the new USS Excelsior and impressive Klingon starships are on display and they hold up well.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country proved a box office hit, grossing close to $97MM world-wide, $40MM more than part five despite costing only about $3MM more than The Final Frontier. The media coverage of this being the final outing certainly helped, but the film was able to deliver on the promise of that moment in Trek history. The financial success along with the strong critical praise and fan response restored whatever luster may have worn off the franchise at that point. The final moments of the film are quintessential Star Trek philosophy and when the credits roll with the core cast’s signatures and Cliff Eidelman’s sweeping score triumphantly playing, its hard not to get a little weepy (the kind you often smile affectionately through).

The Undiscovered Country remains a favorite of mine. This release welcomingly includes both the theatrical and the Director’s cut (which runs a about 4 minutes longer), with the Meyer’s cut adding moments that add more color to the mystery and more solid character interactions. A few scenes are edited a little differently, too. The most noticeable change is a big reveal at the denouement. Fans prefer the Director’s Cut (it’s my preferred cut), but the Theatrical Cut has its champions, too. I am grateful we have both in 4k.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Remastered from original film elements, Paramount’s release of Star Trek VI on 4K disc gives us the best-looking version of this film we’ve ever had on home video. You’ll be struck by the level of detail and fine grain preserved and, as a beneficiary of the Dolby Vision HDR grading, delighted by the color consistency and pop. Red uniforms, the cold black of space, the worn green of the Klingon Bird of Prey, and the unusual pink of the Klingon blood (I’m sure Worf’s on TNG, and every other Klingon who bled on screen, had red blood), are wonderful examples of what 4K and HDR can give us in the home.

Skin tones are natural and hue to the warmer side, and the interior of the ships, moodier on the Klingon vessels, brighter on the Federation’s, are showcased well. Some of the visual effects will standout a little more given the higher resolution but hold up well for still being in the relative infancy of computer-generated imagery (the CGI blood, for example). It’s amazing how quickly the VFX format matured and spread across the industry.

Audio: 4.5/5

As with the other non-Star Trek: The Motion Picture Director’s Cut Treks, The Undiscovered Country reuses the 7.1 Dolby TrueHD track from the previous Blu-ray release. It holds up well, with good surround spread, healthy bass and LFE for the subwoofer, and the immersive ambience of the Enterprise. The Praxis explosion has always been a great audio (and visual effects) moment in the film, and it sounds great here. The busy Rura Penthe prison (and Kirk’s fight with the horned, blue-faced alien with an unusual location for his genitals), offer good surrounds and healthy front action. A solid audio accompaniment.

Special Features: 4/5

The special features found on the previous Blu-ray for this film are included here, with the commentary tracks available on the 4K disc plus the Blu-ray, which also has the rest of the extras. Mostly standard definition, they’re entertaining none-the-less and there’s a good amount of them.

UHD disc:

  • Audio Commentary by Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn (Theatrical Version Only)
  • Audio Commentary by Larry Nemecek and Ira Steven Behr (Theatrical Version Only)
  • Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda (Director’s Cut Only)

Blu-ray disc:

  • Audio Commentary by Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn (Theatrical Version Only)
  • Audio Commentary by Larry Nemecek and Ira Steven Behr (Theatrical Version Only)
  • Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda (Director’s Cut Only)
  • Library Computer (HD)
  • The Perils of Peacemaking (SD – 26:30)
  • Stories from Star Trek VI
    • It Started with a Story (SD – 9:46)
    • Prejudice (SD – 5:02)
    • Director Nicholas Meyer (SD – 5:57)
    • Shakespeare & General Chang (SD – 5:53)
    • Bring It to Life (SD – 23:26)
    • Farewell & Goodbye (SD – 7:04)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Conversations with Nicholas Meyer (SD – 9:33)
    • Klingons: Conjuring the Legend (SD – 20:43)
    • Federation Operatives (SD – 4:53)
    • Penny’s Toy Box (SD – 6:06)
    • Together Again (SD – 4:56)
    • Tom Morga: Alien Stuntman (HD – 4:57)
    • To Be or Not to Be: Klingons and Shakespeare (HD – 23:04)
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 006: Praxis (HD – 2:38)
  • Farewell
    • DeForest Kelley: A Tribute (SD – 13:19)
  • Original Interviews
    • William Shatner (SD – 5:05)
    • Leonard Nimoy (SD – 6:26)
    • DeForest Kelley (SD – 5:00)
    • James Doohan (SD – 5:33)
    • Nichelle Nichols (SD – 5:39)
    • George Takei (SD – 5:28)
    • Walter Koenig (SD – 5:28)
    • Iman (SD – 5:04)
  • Production Gallery (SD – 3:24)
  • Storyboards (HD)
    • Praxis
    • Assassins
    • Rura Penthe
    • Leaving Spacedock (Omitted)
  • Promotional Material
    • Teaser Trailer (HD – 1:28)
    • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:23)
    • 1991 Convention Presentation by Nicholas Meyer (SD – 4:43)
  • Digital copy of the film (redeemable via included insert)

Overall: 4/5

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is one of the top-tier Trek films. Nicholas Myer, who gave us the revered Wrath of Khan, returns to bring us the final voyage of the full Original Series crew and proves once again how adept he was at understanding Trek and the essence of Roddenberry’s characters. Trek always had a gift for allegory and tapping into the real-world politics of the Cold War’s thawing was genius. I travelled to Russia in 1991, visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg (still widely called Leningrad while I was here), and it was thrilling and upsetting. The Communist government’s fall and the restoration of relations between Russia and the West showed a country in decline, unable, it seemed, to project its appearance of strength any longer. It was a powerful moment in history and Star Trek VI tapped into that idea a little to give us a “what if” scenario, wondering what certain factions sought to thwart the chance for peace. Though Russia has become a disaster of a country over the following decades, the Klingon’s in the Trek universe would become strong allies (with hiccups along the way). Star Trek once again showed us the possibilities of our world through allegory, and it is one of the reasons the series has remained so potent and alluring to fans like myself. The Undiscovered Country isn’t perfect Trek, but it’s still bloody good Trek. Recommended.

Neil has been a member of the Home Theater Forum reviewing staff since 2007, approaching a thousand reviews and interviews with actors, directors, writers, stunt performers, producers and more in that time. A senior communications manager and podcast host with a Fortune 500 company by day, Neil lives in the Charlotte, NC area with his wife and son, serves on the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte Board of Directors, and has a passion for film scores, with a collection in the thousands.

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Sam Favate

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One of my favorites of the original series of films. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when this was released in ‘91, which might have been Star Trek’s peak popularity.
 

ScottRE

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This was never a favorite of mine, i have a love-hate relationship with it. There are a lot of ill conceived jokes that are either too meta, make the crew look like idiots or just Nicky Meyer indulging in his old Naval and Holmes obsessions, as well has having Chang spout Shakespeare without provocation and our crew being a bunch of racists. The Rura Penthe sequence is kind of pointless with no tension and the shipboard mystery is cheesily done. Meyer over-directs his (far too many) extras as each one out hams the next in order to get noticed by their families in the audience. Do you really need a dozen people to check one room for boots? The Crewman Dax scene is an embarrassment.

Having said that, I gave this one a spin on the 4K and damned if I didn't get into it. It's not nearly on the level of Star Trek II, it shows its budget like no other film and the rush to get it made shows up in a variety of plot holes and editing gaffes, yet it's still hugely involving with great performances. Skip the Directors Cut and sick with the theatrical, Meyer's added scenes are never vital and usually self indulgent. If he really wanted to make the DC special, he should have added back Kirk's full speech at the end (it's in the novel and the comic adaptation). It's lean, fast paced with high stakes. Nimoy is at the top of his game and his makeup even LOOKS better than previous films. Shatner does mostly great work, but one standout awful moment is the "lifelong ambition" bit that is more a joke about Shatner than Kirk and Shatner's facial tics are all over the map.

But again, the film is populated with great moments, fine photography and a lovely "signature" ending that Avengers Endgame shamelessly borrowed. The battle finale is extremely exciting and the "target that explosion and fire" scene still gives me chills.

I feel it's overrated but there's really no such thing as a bad classic Trek film (I will defend Star Trek V with my dying breath). still a fine exit for the cast. They went out with class and style making you wish they stuck around for at least one more.

The 4K transfer is excellent, the best I've seen this film look on home video.
 
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B-ROLL

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... having Chang spout Shakespeare without provocation ...
Perhaps if you'ld hear Shakespear(e) in the Original Klingon you would have understood the Shakespearean undertones (I'm sure Captain von Trapp understood the subtext :D) ;)! *

*Many of the guest stars of classic Trek and the captain in Next Generation had quoted the Bard in their professional life.



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Adama from Battlestar Galactica and Capt Kirk in Julius Caesar by Christopher Marlowe under his penname: Wm Shakespear(e) ...
 

Josh Steinberg

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What a wonderful review, Neil. I love how you’ve related the film to your personal experience of visiting Russia. I wish in some of my reviews I had stepped more outside of the objective voice into one that relates more personal experience and feelings, and I feel inspired now to do so in the future :)
 

Bryan Tuck

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Thanks for the review, Neil. This fan actually prefers the theatrical cut, but like you, I'm glad they're finally both included in the same release.

My opinion on this one has gone up and down over the years. There are some scenes that haven't aged all that well, but I do think most of the ideas the film presents are still quite relevant. I love the quiet scene of Spock and Kirk contemplating their place in the universe right before the big climactic battle. It's an example of how Trek was already getting meta with itself and interrogating its own past long before it became the fashionable thing for franchises to do.
 

Josh Steinberg

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That’s such a great scene - Nimoy wrote in his autobiography that he felt the veneers of their characters slipping away as he performed that scene, feeling that he was talking as much to Shatner as Spock was speaking to Kirk.

Because this movie was my entry point to Trek as a kid, I obviously didn’t have the context to pick up on these nuances on my first viewing. But that means that once I did see all of the episodes and the other movies and read the different books by the cast members, I was able to view the film as if it were new again, and saw all of those layers for the first time.

And I concur with Neil about the film’s conclusion leaving one feeling emotional - watching the disc a couple weeks ago, I found myself very moved by the time the crew disembarked at the end and the signatures came up. They knew it was the last time and I’m glad that they had the opportunity to make a final film knowing it was their farewell. I agree with Scott that there are things one could nitpick, but my enjoyment of seeing everyone together one last time overrides any critical complaints I might make. Over the years in my real life, I’ve rarely known that a visit with a friend would be the last time we’d be together, and it’s just a nice thing that these “friends” of mine got to say goodbye on their way out.
 

Josh Steinberg

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As an old guy - may I ask what "meta" means in the context of these comments?

That’s a good question - like “self-aware” or “self-referential”

Like in the scene mentioned, there are two contexts going on at the same time. When Spock is asking Kirk if perhaps the two of them have grown too old and too stuck in their ways to be of use to Starfleet anymore, there’s also a subtext there where Nimoy is asking Shatner if perhaps the time has come for Star Trek to move on without them.

That’s the best I can think to explain it - hope that makes some sense.
 

B-ROLL

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That’s a good question - like “self-aware” or “self-referential”

Like in the scene mentioned, there are two contexts going on at the same time. When Spock is asking Kirk if perhaps the two of them have grown too old and too stuck in their ways to be of use to Starfleet anymore, there’s also a subtext there where Nimoy is asking Shatner if perhaps the time has come for Star Trek to move on without them.

That’s the best I can think to explain it - hope that makes some sense.
It arguably didn't end for at least one of the cast members ...
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Osato

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Thanks Neil! Great review! I’m preordered this disc right away. I haven’t watched it yet as I’m going through the films with my boys. We’ve only watched TMP and Khan so far.
We are on season 2 of TOD as well. Part of me wants to finish those before finishing the films.
I saw wrath of khan as my first ever Star Trek and then on tv watched a lot of the episodes.
 

Bryan Tuck

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As an old guy - may I ask what "meta" means in the context of these comments?

Basically what Josh said. I'm not sure when that term came into popular use, but of course the concept has been around for a while. :)
 

Nelson Au

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Thanks Neil for another great review! I received the 4K releases of Star Trek The Motion Picture DE, Star Trek 5 and Star Trek 6 on release week. I still have not been able to get myself to watch Star Trek 2 The Wrath of Khan and the others. I much prefer Star Trek The Motion Picture. Which is to say a much unexpected reversal of opinion. As does happen as one goes through life, their opinion and point of view shifts. (Though I loved Star Trek TMP at the release time and never disliked it)

In my youthful days when these films first came out, I took the day off with friends to go the big screens in San Francisco to see the first showing on the first day of release. I loved them each one. And as they came out on video tape, then laserdisc and DVD, I picked them up and indulged in many more viewings of them!

I guess you can say that the advent of the Next Generation films and especially the JJ Abrams films, those films really soured my enjoyment and took some enthusiasm out for the original series films. What I find difficult is Star Trek 2-The Roth of Khan, as Shatner pronounces it, became the blue print of nearly every movie after it. An evil Villain to do battle with with predictably similar plots and destructive outcomes. Star Trek The Motion Picture was about something. There’s nothing wrong with doing fun movies where spaceships are doing battle. But I’ve gotten tired of it and I’m surprised to say that!

But as I’ve been reading all these reviews of the TOS films coming out on 4K blu ray, it’s renewed interest in these once favorite TOS Star Trek films. At some point soon, I will try to watch the remaining 5 TOS films. I am curious how they look and sound. And taking time away from them, they should be almost like new again.

Just one question Neil, your review said the original series cast was on their 4th decade on the Enterprise? At that point in history, it was the 25th anniversary of the franchise. Unless you are referring to some in-universe aspect I’m missing. Spock’s 13 years with Pike, and then Spock’s time with Kirk in command. That’s 38 years, so that makes sense from that point of view. :)
 
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