The history of Star Trek, from the original television series to the current feature films, is detailed through interviews and a roundtable discussion. This documentary originally aired on The History Channel in 2016.
This documentary, although not authorized by Paramount or CBS, is an effective and comprehensive look at the creation of Star Trek, its history, and its legacy on pop culture. It is specifically geared to casual fans of the franchise, who will find the history and backstory fascinating (Spock pun not intended).
The big draw of the documentary is the inclusion of the final full interview of Leonard Nimoy before his death last year. Clips from the interview are scattered throughout the documentary, and his observations are still insightful and entertaining after all these years. We miss him already. Some of the major players in Star Trek history are not interviewed, William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, and Brent Spiner among them. While it is a bit of a minus, there are plenty of other interviews which provide a comprehensive look at the franchise.
Although there is a nice roster of Star Trek personalities included, the documentary also chooses to include other voices who really bring nothing to the discussion, besides their celebrity. Kevin Pollack is a great actor, but it doesn’t seem like he’s a hard core Trekker, so his inclusion on the roundtable is a head-scratcher, especially when there are SO MANY cast members from the TV series who could provide better focus and insight. There are other celebrities who provide some generic observations, which is fine, but Star Trek fans would better appreciate hearing from the actual cast and crew.
Despite the “by-the-numbers” presentation, the content of the interviews will still win viewers over. The documentary is at its best when it just let the Star Trek cast and crew talk. There are some fantastic stories and observations from them, and it makes the documentary very watchable. It’s great fun to hear them reminisce.
Hard-core Trekkers may not find much new information here. They are probably aware of the role Lucille Ball played in bringing Star Trek to television, or how Dr. Martin Luther King encouraged Nichelle Nichols to not leave the show early on. For the casual fan, however, these stories are great to hear, and some will likely be a revelation to some fans. I was surprised to hear about the proposed role for Eddie Murphy in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which was thankfully discarded.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The standard definition DVD features a sharp image with nice detail, although the quality of vintage footage and photos does, understandably, vary at times. The new interviews were obviously filmed in high-definition, but even on the DVD, there is good color reproduction and an overall crisp image.
The audio is a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, and it is sufficient for the documentary. As it is mostly talking with a score undercutting it, the documentary sounds isn’t meant to give your speaker set-up a workout. English subtitles are included.
No special features are included, with the exception of a digital copy of the documentary. The digital copy is compatible with the Ultraviolet service.
THE BOTTOM LINE: ‘50 Years’ is an effective documentary
An entertaining and informative watch from start to finish, “50 Years of Star Trek” is a great documentary for both hardcore and casual fans. The interviews are well done, there’s a wide variety of cast and crew featured, and the “behind-the-scenes” look is well done. There isn’t much by way of special features, but the strength of the documentary makes it a worthy viewing experience.
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Running Time: 85 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Special Features: Digital Copy
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