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'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' producer reveals a secret detail in the just-released 4K director’s cut
Producer David Fein talked with SYFY WIRE about the updates to this year's new release of the film, which is now available in 4K Ultra HD.
The first Star Trek movie, 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, already had an upgrade in 2001 with the release of a director's cut. Now, two decades later, it has gotten another overhaul — in stunning 4K Ultra HD and Dolby Atmos sound no less — with new bonus content.
Some of the features include a mini-documentary about the making new version; uncovered footage, such as Leonard Nimoy’s Spock dressed up as a long-haired caveman; and two deleted scenes — one of Decker and Ilia in Engineering and one where Kirk and McCoy talk about God.
SYFY WIRE had the chance to talk with producer David Fein about his work on the 2022 version of the Bob Wise-directed film. During that discussion, Fein shared where those deleted scenes came from as well as a new detail about a certain scene that he has never publicly shared before and said he would never share publicly again.
Read on for that discussion, which gets into the details of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and is thus is a spoiler-full conversation for those who have yet to see the 42-year-old movie.
I do want to get into the updates to the film, but I want to first start with the new bonus features. I really enjoyed both the documentary as well as deleted scenes and the costume tests — was that footage something you unearthed during the process of putting this updated version together?
Oddly, some of that had been unearthed originally and I just hadn't been able to present it before. One of the gems that we discovered originally [for the 2001 update] and I've been sitting on for 20 years was Caveman Spock.
Yes! That was my favorite.
Yeah, I understand! It's wonderful to have it out there because I've shown that to Adam Nimoy [Leonard Nimoy’s son] and he didn't know about it. I've shown it to the costume experts who all know everything about Star Trek costumes, and they never heard of it. There were early designs for it, but no one knew that it had ever been photographed.
And everybody was in agreement that there is no way in hell anybody would ever believe that the shot was real if they didn't take it on the Bridge of the Enterprise, so that's one of my absolute favorites. But even the costume tests of them walking around, that's actually footage we found originally in the archives back in 2000 when some of it was used for the previous special features.
The Paramount archivists did such a wonderful job. When word came down to the archive that we were doing [the 2022 4K Ultra HD edition] they started a long process of hunting everything within the studio and had a couple of years to go look.
The greatest discovery that really made a huge difference was those ADR tracks in the bonus features — not only was it beautiful to be able to have clean but we also had choice takes of [director Bob Wise’s], where he worked with the actors to get the exact right vocal inflections. If you know the scene where the camera goes around to each one of the characters before it stops on Spock, each one of those had specific recordings that Bob wanted for each character, and that's why it sounds much improved from before, because we had those right performances.
It was also a blessing because for the deleted scene of Decker and Ilia in Engineering — we had the footage, we didn't have any dialogue, so we never put it out before. But when we started listening to the ADR and we started hearing the lines, we were excited we could put the scene together.
That’s when we also discovered the other deleted scene, where Kirk’s talking to McCoy about God, and Kirk gives a shipboard announcement. We didn’t want to lose that scene so we put the subtitles right on it where we didn’t have audio. And here’s a little secret I'll give you — when we cut to Engineering where Decker and Ilia are walking, and you hear Kirk’s announcement, that was actually an unused Captain's log from earlier in the film that we found. It had just enough information to continue what the announcement would have been even though it wasn't verbatim what we saw earlier.
But the greatest part of all of it was finding the original effects elements because we thought that in the original mad rush in 1979 to get the job done that everything was just soft because of the photography. But no — the photography was perfect. It was the assembly that caused everything to be soft.
That section in the bonus features about the Enterprise is amazing. I know it's hard to pick a favorite, but is there any particular scene or sequence in the movie in the 2022 version that just really knocked your socks off?
The light probe on the bridge. I had a personal vendetta against that scene. I wanted to find the original element of the light probe, and we couldn't. If I had one disappointment it was that we couldn't find that. But I always felt that when that scene started, it stopped the film in its tracks. It looked like something completely different — the grain was just all over the place, half the frame would shake and the other half wouldn't, it was horrible.
We had to spend a month just really working to make it look like that could really happen within the film and not have it feel like such a departure.
Could you talk about the updates you gave to Ilia’s voice when she was the V’ger probe?
There are places obviously where she didn’t originally have her voice processed in our footage. And there are two places in the film now that I consider dream sequences that weren't dream sequences before. I keep teasing people that I’m not going to talk about one of them because that’s something that's very powerful and influential, and I want people to experience it and not have it so much in their face that they immediately recognize it, and therefore the subliminal aspect of it disappears.
But what I'll say is we played with Ilia’s voice in that scene — the one that I usually don't talk about — we played with her voice in an amazing way. This will be the giveaway to anybody anyway, but the harmonics were important, as she's the probe. And there are places in Sickbay when she turns to Decker and says, “Decker,” and her voice is not harmonized. That's the way the film was, which said, this is the real Ilia coming through.
One of the dream sequences, the one I've talked about before, is when Ilia is touching Checkov on the Bridge to stop his pain — in this version when she touches him and the music comes up, the sound effects of the scene go away because it's a connection between them. So it's beautiful, but almost a dream sequence.
Later on in the film, we did something really, really cool. And I don't want to go into great detail but I'll tell you that for a moment, somewhere in the film, you hear her voice in the echo with the harmonics. But on screen, it's not, and that's part of the dream sequence because everybody else is hearing the echo. It's not even possible. It’s the first time I've ever said that publicly, but because we're talking about the harmonics of Illia I thought I'd share. There are multiple things about that moment, but that's one of the interesting ones. You're the only person I've said that to, and I’m not going to say it again, either.
I appreciate it! Let’s stay on sound — the new version is presented in Dolby Atmos. Can you talk about how you approached creating this new sound and what you're really excited for people to experience when they hear the new version?
Sound is a major player, and Atmos is not a sound mix — it's an experience. The focus here wasn’t on restoring — we were generating a new mix and the new mix needed to be the best, most powerful, most effective for this film. So Atmos was the way to go — if you close your eyes and just listen to the film, that should tell the story just as powerfully.
What do you want viewers to walk away from this version feeling or thinking?
I want people to enjoy themselves. I want people to be in the experience. And I want it to be thought-provoking. I want people to think about what it is that made them enjoy themselves and have it be pure escapism. Because that's what it is for me — I need to see a film and I need to really enjoy and forget the rest of the world. And I love a great movie when you walk out and so much has gone on that you're talking about it for a week or two weeks later.
I'm excited to tell a story that people can feel is relevant and resonates for them today. It's a great film, not just a Star Trek film.
You can buy the updated 2022 version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture — The Directors Edition wherever DVDs and Blu-Rays are sold.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
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