Post-release movie alterations, or: Why, Nicholas Meyer, why?

Steve and I just watched the collector’s edition DVD version of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Toward the end of the movie, when Spock performs a mind meld on Valeris on the Enterprise bridge, we were shocked to see that what had once been a brilliant, haunting, beautiful scene had been chopped to bits and ruined for the sake of pandering to the lowest common denominator (the LCD apparently being the intended market for the special collector’s edition DVD).

In both the original theatrical release and the original television and home video versions of the film, Spock’s interrogation of Valeris is one long handheld shot. The camera follows Spock as he approaches Valeris, then circles slowly around the two of them as he performs a mind meld. The camera’s position and the actors’ lines are perfectly timed so that when Kirk and McCoy speak up from behind Spock, the camera is pointed in their direction and we can see them in the background. But the focus is kept on the mind meld, which is the centerpiece of the scene. It is something that is painful for both Spock and Valeris; Spock because he was proud of Valeris, and Valeris because she has failed Spock, a person she greatly admires and respects.

In the new version of the scene, Spock begins the mind meld, the camera begins its movement, and suddenly we are jarred away from the intent of the scene by the interjection of quick, painfully out of place cuts to still shots of the traitors Valeris mentions, and then more quick cuts to close-ups of Kirk and McCoy when they deliver their lines. The scene’s effect was completely ruined; it was reduced to being just a simple exposition for the sake of the audience rather than adding depth and closure to the relationship between Spock and Valeris. It sucked.

According to the IMDB, this wasn’t the only change in the collector’s edition DVD release, but it was definitely the most jarring. I’m not a purist; post-release alteration of movies has been happening for a long time, and sometimes it’s for the better. But if you’re going to alter a movie, don’t do it lightly. And for godssake, don’t ruin the best damn shot in the entire film.