After seven years, the first truly new version of a prime-universe Star Trek film comes to Blu-ray, as Nicholas Meyer’s special Director’s Cut of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN arrives with a new 4K-sourced remaster, supervised by the director himself.
Fans have long been asking for the original ten Star Trek films to get another look from Paramount Home Entertainment, as many of the 2009 Blu-ray releases are plagued by overuse of digital noise reduction (DNR) effects, inconsistent clarity and color, and other issues which could really use some attention.
Unlike the other films, however, Khan got a new scan before those discs debuted in 2009, as the original film negatives were in “terrible shape” when that project began.
The result was a much cleaner presentation than the rest of the movies, but fans were left a bit mystified when Khan arrived with a new blue-tinted look, permeating a large portion of the movie in its first high-definition release.
After several years of repackaged releases of the 2009 edition, it was a great relief when we learned that Nick Meyer was overseeing a brand-new remaster of this classic film earlier this year – and that the long-awaited Director’s Cut version of Khan would also be included, something relegated to standard-definition DVD since 2002.
As we’ve reported previously, this single-disc Blu-ray release arrives on June 7 with all of the existing bonus material included, along with a new twenty-eight-minute documentary feature produced specially for this release.
This new feature (entitled The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan) was put together by our old friend Roger Lay, Jr., who co-produced the great Next Generation and Enterprise Blu-ray bonus content.
Featuring interviews with behind-the-scenes Trek talent who worked on the film – Nick Meyer himself, along with producers Bob Sallin and Ralph Winter – plus Adam Nimoy, Larry Nemecek, and several others, talking about everything from the rush into production, the $100,000 reshoots adding the shot of Spock’s coffin on Genesis to the ending, and the role of the characters in the film.
Some of the behind-the-scenes discussion was covered in the previous Khan bonus material when the film was released on DVD, but there’s enough additional content to make this doc a nice refresher on the history of the film.
Strangely, the clips of Khan used in this documentary appear to be from the ‘old’ DVD / HDTV master, as the color and brightness levels align nearly identically to the film’s pre-2009 look.
Additionally, it’s a bit disappointing that this Khan release doesn’t include any of the 1985 ABC broadcast’s alternate shots (composed for 4×3 televisions), nor any deleted footage from the film in the bonus material, as many such scenes are known to exist based on the workprint on file at the UCLA Library archives – the “Saavik is half-Romulan” scene, footage of Khan’s group’s baby, etc.
Perhaps someday that footage will be restored for fan viewing, but that day is not today.
But that’s not what you’re here for, is it?
What people have hoping for in this release is a correction of the overly-saturated, blue-tinted picture that we’ve been watching for the last seven years – and we can tell you right now that blue is back under control in this Director’s Cut presentation.
White and silver features of metallic walls, cargo containers, engineering worksuits, and starship hull plates all return to their neutral tones, while the green features of the Genesis Cave, display readouts, and control consoles all lose that soft aquamarine hue and become a vibrant emerald again.
That’s not to say that the blue levels are the only thing that’s changed in this new release. There has been a definite return towards the color levels of the pre-2009 look, something we know many of you have been wanting to see since the first Khan Blu-ray debuted.
While this may appear overly-desaturated in direct 2009 vs. 2016 comparisons, looking at all three versions together places the Director’s Cut into somewhat of a ‘middle ground’, losing the amber overtones that affected the old master, but keeping away from the 2009 Blu-ray extremes.
In addition to these color adjustments, the overall clarity of the Khan Director’s Cut is a certainly a step above the previous release. This new 4K scan provides a notable improvement in texture and fine-detail visibility, from the signs in the background of the Kobayashi Maru testing facility to the cloth of the “monster maroon” uniform jackets.
One interesting thing that we discovered in our side-by-side comparisons was an apparent digital retouching of the Starfleet training set – implemented in the 2009 remaster – that seems to have been missed in the 2016 edition.
Finally, there has actually been a deletion in the extended director’s cut! A quick shot of Kirk, Spock, and Saavik climbing up through the Enterprise decks after their return from Regula was added to the film for the 1985 ABC television broadcast, and with it, two lines of overdubbed dialogue:
Kirk: “That young man… he’s my son.”
In this new edition, the film content remains, but the added dialogue is removed. Apparently this unneeded and somewhat clunkly bit of conversation wasn’t something that Nick Meyer wanted to keep in place, and was excised at his request (per The Digital Bits).
The debate over which color presentation is truly correct will last until the end of time, as everyone has different memories of how a film is ‘supposed’ to look – but this is Nick Meyer’s authoritative version of the movie, and it’s a damned fine version in our opinion. It’s likely that some of the adjustments made to Khan for this release won’t please everyone; but there are several shots unarguably improved on the Director’s Cut disc.
Overall, the positives far outweigh any minor quibbles we may have, and it’s fair to say that Khan has never looked this good. If you’ve never picked up this film on Blu-ray, there’s no better time – and if you already have the 2009 version, it’s truly a well-deserved upgrade.
Here’s hoping that STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN won’t be the last classic Trek film to get a second chance in high definition.
UPDATE JUNE 7: We’ve detailed an apparent editing error overlooked in our original review.
We’ve got plenty more comparison caps here for you to review, and we’ll be updating our Wrath of Khan image gallery with full-resolution screencaps soon. Check ’em out, then let us know your thoughts in the comments below!