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Introduction
Yes I admit it. I like Star Trek. Go on then, have a good laugh. Finished? Ok then, I will continue. While it may be true that a certain contingent of Trek fans do own thermos flasks and anoraks, there are also a fair few of us that are 'normal'. I have never worn pointy ears or tried to use my mobile phone as a phaser, but I do enjoy the escapism that Star Trek provides. Now I'm more of a fan of The Next Generation than the original series, but I did quite enjoy the original cast's celluloid outings. Of the six films in which they star, this is one of my favourites, with its light-hearted approach being its strongest point.

Isn't that Noddy in the background?
Film
This, the forth in the Star Trek movie series, is set immediately following Star Trek III. After the events in the previous film, Captain Kirk and his crew have been spending some time on the planet Vulcan, before returning home to Earth to face punishment for the destruction of the Enterprise, not to mention a dozen other violations of protocol.

Meanwhile, in the Terran sector, a huge alien probe is approaching Earth, and the signals emanating from the probe are like none that have been heard before. What is more, these alien transmissions are proving disastrous and have knocked out power and communications all over the planet, with not even the mighty Starfleet immune to the effects. The probe is so destructive that it is ionising the atmosphere, completely blocking out the sun, which not even the technologically advanced citizens of the future can do without. As the planet is declared off limits to all approaching ships, and final quarantine warnings are given, all seems lost for the people of Earth.

At about this time Kirk and crew arrive in a commandeered Klingon Bird of Prey, nicknamed 'Bounty', just in time to hear the final distress call from the President of the Federation. After analysing the transmissions, which appear to be aimed at Earth's oceans, wonder boy Spock is able to determine who the signals are meant for – Wales. Now quite why an alien probe would travel millions of light years to talk to a nation who's favourite pastimes are rugby and the male voice choir is beyond me… Oh wait, my mistake, it's whales not Wales. Anyway, after figuring out that the only appropriate response to the signals can come from long extinct humpback whales, the intrepid crew embark on a perilous quest to travel back in time to Earth's distant past in order to bring the huge mammals back to the present day. It's not as complicated as I've made it sound, honest.

The film's appeal comes from humorous situations that arise from the clash of cultures between 20th and 23rd century man. Even simple things like catching a bus seem confusing to our intrepid time travellers. Spock in particular provides many unintentional laughs, and Leonard Nimoy plays the straight man very well. As usual, the cast portray their characters perfectly, and all Trek fans will be pleased to hear that the various catch phrases are intact.

Get lost Spock, I think I'm in here!
Video
On the whole the video is pretty good. Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, the image quality does exhibit some grain, scratches and dirt, but this is really only near the beginning of the film (especially during the scene setting portion that precedes the film proper). The image is also a little soft for my liking. The transfer isn't among the best on DVD, but it certainly isn't among the worst, and this is reflected in the marks below.

Audio
Audio is a nice surprise. As you would expect for a sci-fi film, there are plenty of opportunities for the surrounds to come into play. The approach of the probe at the beginning of the film for example, is very well done, with an accompanying bass rumble from the sub. You will almost find yourself ducking at times when the Klingon ship seemingly flies over your head! The ambient effects are all spot on, with chirping birds, creaking girders and whale song all sounding great, without being too obvious. The rousing score is typical Star Trek fare, and is the icing on the cake of this great sound mix.

Extras
As with most, if not all of the current Star Trek DVDs, The Voyage Hone is virtually devoid of any extra content. Aside from the standard theatrical trailer there is a Director's Series interview with Leonard Nimoy. This, while short, is fairly interesting viewing. Overall though, this is another poor showing from Paramount. When will studios learn that if they want us to pay £20 for an aged film such as this, then they'd better put more than a trailer and a ten-minute featurette on the disc. Hopefully the forthcoming special edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture will be better in this department.

Now there's something you don't see every day.
Overall
What can I say? If you like Star Trek then you will probably love this. If not, you may still find it more accessible than most of the other films, as it gets straight into the action rather than concentrating on the techno babble that permeates a lot of the series. While the video transfer may be average, the audio is really quite impressive. Unfortunately the extremely poor extras really let the package down. There must be so much behind the scenes material available from the Trek series, why is it not here? Still, this is a good purchase for fans of the series and an enjoyable romp for everyone else, and as such comes recommended. One last thing; shop around to get the best deal you can, as I can imagine anyone paying the RRP could be left feeling a little disappointed.


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