Trek Nation appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Like most documentaries, this was an erratic presentation.
As usual, we got a wide variety of source elements that ranged from TV/movie segments to home movies to old news footage. These components tended to be mediocre at best; they could look fine, but they could often appear soft, flawed and bland.
Normally I’d notice a major difference between archival materials and interviews shot specifically for the documentary, but that wasn’t really the case. While the modern materials tended to look better than the old stuff, the former seemed surprisingly bland. The interviews displayed mediocre definition, without much clarity. Sharper shots exhibited some jagged edges and shimmering, and mild artifacts popped up along the way.
Colors were consistently bland. The hues were never horrible, but they tended to seem dull and muddy. Blacks were about the same, as they looked a bit flat, while shadows could appear somewhat thick and lifeless. This wasn’t a terrible image but it was subpar for DVD.
Though not impressive, the film’s Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack worked better than the visuals. Music showed decent stereo spread across the front, and effects occasionally materialized outside of the center. Documentaries don’t tend to dazzle with broad soundscapes, so the limited scope heard here was fine.
Audio quality was good. Music sounded peppy and vivid, while effects were generally fine; they didn’t have much to do but they remained adequate. Speech varied dependent on the source but that material generally remained natural. Nothing here stood out to me but I felt the mix worked well for the material.
The two-disc set includes a good variety of materials. On DVD One, we get a Picture-in-Picture commentary from producers Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth. Both sit together to discuss the project’s development, the interview subjects, aspects of Rod’s life, the film’s focus and assembly, archival materials, and related topics.
At best, Roddenberry and Roth provide a serviceable track. Although they cover a decent array of issues, they don’t often bring much insight to the proceedings. We get a few more thoughts about Rod’s life as the son of a legend, but we still don’t have a great feel for that area, and other personal subjects receive too little exploration.
For instance, along the way we learn that Roddenberry and Roth are essentially life-long friends, but they barely touch on their personal relationship even though that topic would be totally appropriate here. We also encounter an awful lot of dead air, as the speakers go silent for moderately long stretches. I can’t call this a bad commentary, but it lacks many strengths.
By the way, the “picture-in-picture” aspects of the commentary add nothing to it. Unlike some Blu-ray features, this one includes no behind the scenes footage or the like. Instead, we just watch Roddenberry and Roth as they chat; it’s a dull addition.
All the remaining extras show up on DVD Two. Under Extended Interviews, we get eight clips with notes from filmmakers George Lucas, JJ Abrams, and Seth MacFarlane, comic book creator Stan Lee, Trek producer Rick Berman, actor Wil Wheaton, writer Nick Sagan and Gene Roddenberry’s assistant Ernie Over. (The DVD didn’t provide time listings for these clips, so I can’t include them.)
The various speakers expand on the thoughts from the main documentary, as they cover their feelings/experiences with Trek and Gene Roddenberry. All of the participants provide some interesting notes, though Lucas seems surprisingly flat; I like his remarks in the feature film, so I guess they included all the worthwhile footage.
Of the others, MacFarlane becomes the most compelling person not affiliated with Trek, as he offers a funny, charming discussion of Trek fandom. Berman works best from the Trek personnel via his thoughts about the challenges related to the franchise and working with Gene Roddenberry. Not all of the segments delight, but there’s a lot of good footage here.
Two featurettes follow. Infinite Diversity: The Fans of Star Trek lasts 18 minutes, 23 seconds and includes notes from Rod Roddenberry, Lucas, Berman, Abrams, filmmaker Rob Zombie, astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas, fan activist Bjo Trimble, Space Shuttle commander Rick Searfoss, astronomer Karl Stapelfeldt, Muhlenberg College Professor of Religion Studies Susan Schwartz, X-Prize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis, actor Julie McCullough, Official Star Trek Fan Club founder Dan Madsen, and fans Bill Willis, Charlie Bluehawk, the Smeal family, Mario Lira, Daniel Pepper, Greyden Beyer, and George Pimenthal.
They talk about how great Trek is and how great the fans are. A few mildly interesting thoughts pop up along the way, but not enough to make this a stimulating piece, especially since we already hear so much of this material in the main film.
A Star Trek Is Born goes for two minutes, 18 seconds as it shows Rod Roddenberry with writer/family friend Christopher Knopf. He discusses how Gene Roddenberry shared the roots of Trek with him. It’s intriguing but too brief to give us much.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find two segments under Home Movies. A “Compilation of Rare Gene Roddenberry Home Movies” fills eight minutes, 43 seconds and shows exactly what it implies: old personal footage of the Roddenberry clan. Rod throws in a few notes, though much of the material passes without comment. We find nothing revelatory but the clips are fun to view.
“Star Walking” takes us to 1986 and Gene Roddenberry’s Hollywood Walk of Fame induction. It runs 16 minutes, three seconds and shows the entirety of the ceremony. Of course, this means a lot of happy talk, but it’s still entertaining to get a reunion of various Trek personnel.
As a documentary, Trek Nation provides a decent overview of topics related to the franchise and its creator. However, it doesn’t tell us much that will seem new to fans, so while it entertains well enough, it lacks much freshness. The DVD features mediocre picture and audio along with some decent bonus materials. Nation delivers a competent documentary but not anything more.