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Talking Trek with Producer David Fein – STACK

Star Trek: The Movie arrives on 4K Ultra HD in its most definitive edition yet, presenting director Robert Wise’s film as he originally intended to be seen 43 years ago. STACK met producer David Fein, who has been with the project since the first iteration of the Director’s Edition on DVD in 2002.

The 2002 DVD presentation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Director’s Edition was, at the time, as close to Robert Wise’s vision as technology allowed. Wise passed away in 2005, but his presence was very much felt during the production of the new 4K version.

“It’s a little weird, but he was there,” Fein said. “It might sound a little crazy, but I was talking about something and the conversation was going in a different direction, and I was thinking, ‘where did that come from?’ Sometimes I just felt like he was standing there. I would have a thought, and it was a good thought, but it’s not right. Then suddenly the good thought popped up. And when I thought things weren’t going to turn out the way I expected, they did. I’m sure he was watching.

Behind the scenes of Star Trek: The Movie (1979) – Image © 2022 Paramount Pictures. star trek and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All rights reserved.

Speaking of the project in general, Fein cannot contain his excitement. There are no signs of fatigue after 20 years of hard work, and his love for star trek is childish. Looking at the product he and his team delivered, he says, “That movie had so many speed bumps and potholes, and issues down the road, and just smoothing them out was such a goal here. We’ve fixed all of that, and it works, and it’s the world’s greatest experiment in getting it right.

Without the technological constraints of the DVD format, Fein was able to confidently lean into the 4K process, adding context and nuance to the film. Yet unlike the jarring new editions of other great sci-fi movies, the improvements to Star Trek: The Movie are subtle and never bother.

Explaining what informs the decision to change certain elements, such as the notable changes to the officer’s lounge window and the reimagining of the planet Vulcan, Fein brings it all back to Wise and the plan he originally laid out.

Behind the scenes of Star Trek: The Movie (1979) – Image © 2022 Paramount Pictures. star trek and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All rights reserved.

“Bob made all the decisions when we did it originally. But there were some instances where you just couldn’t maintain the previous theatrical presentation, like the Vulcan landscape. What’s the first thing Spock does after getting up? He raises his hand to block the sun from his eyes. “What sun? There’s no sun on the planet. Is it the burning of the moon he’s trying to avoid?” It didn’t quite work, some things were just wrong or rushed at the time.

“Really, a lot of the original script decisions – like the bridge that’s built to the Enterprise at the end – were original concepts that had to be scrapped based on time, not choice. And that’s important – the idea was, ‘let’s just reopen post-production, not reinvent the wheel.’

Talking about the new 4K presentation, Fein explains the fundamentals of the format and what it has allowed it to do.

“Now that we’re in 4K, we can go back and make the movie as planned, from the camera negative. And there’s so much more you can do there with color grading, and there were places where the camera would shake unnecessarily. To fix this the old fashioned way, you would have a locked wide screen frame and you would zoom in, which would reduce the quality. But on 4K you have the original negative and you have extra room to stabilize.

Behind the scenes of Star Trek: The Movie (1979) – Image © 2022 Paramount Pictures. star trek and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All rights reserved.

“The tools are so much better now, and the thing is, Robert Wise insisted that I use my talent to use the best tools possible to tell the story. He always insisted that was the story, story, story.

“I insisted that it is [the viewer’s] experience, he adds. “That when you sit down you should just fade into the story and have no distractions.”

Wise, also known for classic films such as The day the earth stood still, West Side Story and The sound of music, inspired all of David Fein’s work. “He was my mentor. His constant inspiration to go in the right direction… I just loved every bit of him. And when I introduced him to new technology, he always said to use it to tell the best stories.

The constant evolution of technology has seen the Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Movie upgraded many times, but the buck stops here. The 4K version is the ultimate edition that no future format will improve upon.

“It was not a restoration. No remastering. In fact, this is the first release of the film in its final form,” promises Fein.

• Own Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Director’s Edition in 4K Ultra HD from September 14

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