Saturday, March 27, 2004

The Special Collector's Edition DVD features audio commentary by Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, which is the best commentary in the series so far. Even after you've absorbed the information, it's fun to have it on; it's like watching the movie with two great companions. Shatner, who is often in his "bad boy" mode in the interview segments on these DVDs, is as sweet and generous as can be for this commentary, partly no doubt because of the true friendship between these two, and the poignancy he feels in seeing the late DeForest Kelly on the screen. (If you've ever seen Shatner and Nimoy do their convention act, you'll know that Nimoy knows exactly how to handle Shatner's moods.)

Even the goofy parts are endearing, as when Shatner gets the names and titles of things wrong, and Nimoy goes on about a joke he should have added, first appending it to the wrong McCoy-Spock conversation, then not realizing that his joke would have voided the point of the scene that follows the conversation in question: 1985 director Nimoy would have axed 2001 Nimoy's suggestion in a minute.

But what's most affecting is towards the end when they muse on how great it would have been to have done more Trek movies with this crew. Seeing this film seemed to make them long to be in the Trek universe again. Every fan can identify, and be glad that the people who played their heroes, and in large part created them, feel the same way.

This DVD also has the most interesting text commentary so far, by Michael and Denise Okuda. The bonus disk has an excellent tribute to the late Mark Lenard, featuring his daughters; an okay interview with Eugene Roddenberry, Jr. about his father, a solid overview and good production featurettes, sporadically interesting snippets on time travel with physicists, some amusing recollections by some of Kirk's females-of-the-week on the series, and a decent if limited segment on whales. A profile of Greenpeace, a bit of Shatner's one-man show or the readings that both he and Nimoy did of the D.H. Lawrence poem, all would have been substantial additions.

One bit of Hollywood history that Nimoy mentions in his commentary is worth passing on. Jane Wyatt, who played Spock's mother in the series and in one scene in this film, appeared as a young actress in Frank Capra's classic film about Shangri-la, Lost Horizon. Nearly fifty years later, calling action for her Star Trek scene here was the second assistant director, Frank Capra III, the grandson of her director in 1939. (Lost Horizon was about a place of peace and learning meant to survive civilization's self-destruction, and begin a new world. The Shangri-La palace even had some Star Trek-like doors.)

The novelization by Vondra McIntyre is uneven. She adds a little to Gillian's characterization and the background of whale study in the 1980s (the lack of funding for it is a plot point in the movie). But the backstory she adds from other movies and episodes concerning the Trek characters often seems like forced filler to me. It would be interesting to know what script she worked from, and whether the dialogue was improved during shooting, or she un-improved it for the novel. Where it's different, it's usually better in the film.

There was a scene that didn't get filmed in which Sulu meets a young boy in San Francisco who he realizes is his great-great-great grandfather. The young actor froze, and the scene had to be scrapped. George Takei tells the elaborate tale of that in his book, in Shatner's book and on the convention circuit. But the novel gives us an idea of what the scene might have been like.

No comments: