"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

tn_startrek4summer2016originsIn case you don’t know, I am not nor have I ever been a member of the Trekko community. I am at best a casual enjoyer. Just so you know who you’re dealing with here before reading this review I will make two potentially disqualifying confessions:

1. I have watched WRATH OF KHAN a few times over the years and it’s always pretty good but I honestly have no clue why everyone I know considers it one of the great movies.

2. The first J.J. Abrams STAR TREK is the Star Trek I enjoyed the most.

But you know, I’ve seen good episodes of various shows and I respect the philosophy of it, the emphasis on ideas, the respect for knowledge and wisdom, and the colorful style of the original show. I wish I could appreciate it more, but maybe I’m just a philistine.

With this in mind I had to go to the experts to ask which STAR TREK picture I should watch for the Summer of ’16 Origins series, and I was prescribed STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986). I was under the impression that “the one with the whales” was the one everybody made fun of, but Wikipedia says it was well received, and according to my friends who grew up on it it’s the one they watch the most.

The crew of the Enterprise (original TV show cast) are now the crew of the (not sure what it’s called), a ship that has been both culturally and actually appropriated from the Klingons during whatever happened in part III while they were participating in the search for Spock. From the sound of it they stole the Enterprise to rescue Spock who had died from wrath in part II but was put on a planet that genesissed him and they got him but the Enterprise got blown up in the process much like how Ferris Bueller got Cameron to steal his dad’s Ferrari for the day and then it got destroyed. After all that they’re basically in exile on Vulcan, kickin it VIP space style, but they’re wanted for the unauthorized use and destruction of the Enterprise plus some other bullshit that they’re actually innocent of. In a really cool scene, Admiral Kirk (not sure when that happened) has the crew line up and each answer if they agree to samurai up and go back to the Federation campus on Earth to face the charges.

mp_startrek4Before they leave, Spock’s mom says “May your journey be without incident,” but their journey ends up being very much with incident to be honest. They’re totally voyaging home, you know, and they find out there’s this big tube in space that’s sending weird sounds to Earth. Nobody on Earth knows what the fuck the deal is, but Spock figures out it’s a message in humpback whale language. All they gotta do to stop this tube from going to town on Earth is to get a whale to tell them to cool it. But whales are extinct, so they have to travel through time to California, Earth, circa 1987.

See, it’s the ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES or the BEASTMASTER II: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME of the series. If I had cared about Star Treks at the time I suspect I would’ve thought it was a poor Star Trek. That seems like some cheap ass, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE style bullshit to take them out of the usual futuristic space sets and put them on a normal street walkin around and going to an aquarium and stuff. But see… now that I’m watching it it’s 32 years later, so the sights and fashions and what not of when they filmed is as exotic to us as the sci fi fantasy worlds are. So now I can dig it. It’s funny to see Spock tying a headband on (do they remember THE KARATE KID in the future?) to cover his pointy ears and walking around the city in a weird space bathrobe. Just by being himself he comes across like some brain damaged hippie priest or UFO cultist or something.

This is an oddly comedic STAR TREK picture and what’s really cool is that it doesn’t have a villain. They just have a puzzle (what’s up with this probe?) and a weird task (can we get us some whales?) and they set their minds and talents to achieving it. We need a whale? No big deal, we’ll slingshot around the sun to travel through time (?), make the Enterprise invisible, park it on a field somewhere.

They befriend a lady named Gillian (Catherine Hicks, CHILD’S PLAY) who works at the aquarium and just thinks they’re regular people trying to help whales. I get the idea maybe she’s dealt with some real weirdos in this business and has learned to be tolerant of their foibles. Eventually Kirk tells her that he’s from the future and, worse, proves that that’s true.

A big chunk of this movie is basically a string of comedy skits with the Enterprisers trying to achieve their objectives with only a very vague sense of how to fit in in 1987. They all seem like goofballs, not understanding how money works and stuff. Bones gets real funny when they have to bring Chekov to the hospital and he’s surprised and kind of outraged by how primitive it is. He has a medical kit and cures some lady’s kidney disease with a pill.

Kirk knows enough about American history to blame Spock’s spaciness on the ’60s, but he thinks he’s coming off smooth while saying he used too much “LDS.” Chekov actually makes out the best in the ’80s just because he happens to be wearing a brown leather jacket that can pass for cool. He looks like John Saxon with more hair.

I know we’re supposed to laugh about this, but Scotty in my opinion is way too loose with the ol’ Prime Directive and the butterfly effect and what not. I’m sorry, the man is a genius and a good friend to everyone but they should never, ever trust that dipshit to time travel. He gives away the formula to a futuristic advancement as a short cut to get his part of the mission done, then makes up a totally half-assed justification for why it’s okay. He sounds like somebody trying to rationalize cheating on their diet. “Well, work was kinda shitty today so I deserve this jar of frosting.”

On the other hand, he has some classic not-understanding-how-’80s-computers-work gags.

The broadest and most enjoyably dated scene happens when Kirk and Spock are taking the bus. Imagine that! I know people who are too impatient to use public transportation because they’re used to driving. These guys usually get beamed around and they’re okay with it! Anyway, a punk with a red mohawk, a dog collar and a Troma-esque attitude refuses to turn down his boombox, so Spock K.O.s him with the Vulcan nerve pinch thing.

It occurs to me that this is a much more cartoonish and less subtextually loaded version of the basic conflict between Sal and Radio Raheem in DO THE RIGHT THING. If Sal had done the nerve pinch on him it would’ve seemed horribly out of line and racist, but in the long run could have possibly saved his life? I don’t know. I guess we’d have to slingshot around the sun, travel back to earlier in the summer of ’89 and teach him that move to find out if it would make a difference. Maybe the cops would’ve shown up and acted like savages anyway.

mp_startrek4BKirk Thatcher, who played the punk, is interviewed in the book Destroy All Movies: The Complete Guide to Punks On Film by Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly. He says “In the Star Trek universe, I think I’m the only character that got to flip off Kirk and Spock.” He was an associate producer on the movie, and though this isn’t mentioned in the interview he went on to direct a bunch of Muppets related stuff, including the popular web video where they sing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And he directed for that show Dinosaurs and was one of the designers of the dinosaurs. Anyway, during production on THE VOYAGE HOME he convinced Nimoy that this guy on the bus should be a punk, and should be played by him. Then in post-production he didn’t like the songs they were thinking of using (maybe Flock of Seagulls) so he wrote and recorded the song “I Hate You” himself.

The song has lyrics like “Just what is the future? / The things we’ve done and said / Let’s just push the button / We’d be better off dead!” Thatcher says the lyrics are “about living under the threat of absolute annihilation.” It doesn’t sound like this was intentional, but I like the irony of this cynical doomsayer being opposed by the harmonious futurists of Star Trek. They are literally from the future and the earth hasn’t been blown up. The whales have not been saved, but the crew have come back to get a do-over on that. Things are looking good. Cheer up, punk rocker.

There’s a similar underpinning to one of the best jokes, when Chekov keeps asking a cop to help him find “the nuclear wessels.” The fact that he’s of the future and doesn’t know that this is a suspicious question for a Russian to ask an American implies that everything will get sorted out with this whole Cold War thing.

There could’ve been a whole other fish-out-of-water situation if they had carried Gillian over into the next sequel. When they go back to the future she comes along to help with the whales and seems to think nothing of such a drastic lifestyle change. I guess she mentions not having anybody in her life, but jesus. You’re comfortable never seeing anybody you’ve ever known ever again? Having every one of them be long dead as of right now? I hope you’ve gotten to see Prince in concert, or Bruce or whoever it is you like. Because they’re all gone, they’re all dead as soon as you take off. Hell of a decision to make on the spot.

She’s thrilled to work in a science department of the future, and jokes about having 300 years worth of advancements to catch up on. But something tells me that after the initial novelty wears off her co-workers are not gonna be too psyched about having to work with unfrozen cave woman over here.

It’s interesting that the series would take this sort of light-hearted turn to keep things fresh on part 4. THE VOYAGE HOME is a stark contrast to two great, serious sci-fi films that came out in ’86: ALIENS and THE FLY. But it was far from the only jokey one that year. You also had SHORT CIRCUIT, HOWARD THE DUCK, CRITTERS, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and maybe you could count CAPTAIN EO due to the wacky antics of his ragtag crew. I’d say it’s better than a couple of those.

And Leonard Nimoy, who had directed part III and continued with this one, would go on to become more of a comedy director. The next year he did 3 MEN AND A BABY. He also gets a story credit here, which implies that he must’ve come up with the time travel premise. The screenplay is credited to Steve Meerson & Peter Krikes (DOUBLE IMPACT) and Harve Bennett (also wrote STAR TREKs II, III, IV and V) & Nicholas Meyer (director of THE DAY AFTER).

This was a good recommendation. I honestly dug this one. It has the lovable ensemble in unusually comedic scenarios, but underneath all the silliness is a really cool and weird sci-fi premise. I like the 2001-monolith-esque inexplicableness of the floating tube that speaks whale language. Too often the aliens in Star Trek are just dudes with different kinds of bumps on their heads who we can easily understand. Here is a truly unexpected space encounter. But it figures it would be something like this. We really fucked up, letting those whales go extinct. We’re gonna need ’em later. It’s a good thing we have a peaceful force of science loving star trekkers ready to roll their sleeves up, put on their headbands and solve some problems. Let’s start doing that in the present, though, not just in the future.

History: Obviously this is the fourth movie in the series following up on the Star Trek TV series. There was also an animated series and since then there has been Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyage, Star Trek: Enterprise, more STAR TREK movie sequels and then ones based on Next Generation and then the reboot movie series of which this summer we have the second sequel and there’s gonna be a new TV series also.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016 at 12:38 pm and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

41 Responses to “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”

  1. The two things that always bothered me about this, were a.) how easy the time travel was. If I remember right, they mentioned some kind of risk, but how they randomly pull the mechanics of a time jump out of their ass, made me wonder, why there aren’t any time travels happening on a daily basis. (Although in the Tribble episode of DS9, we learn that the federation actually has some kind of Timecops, who make sure that if someone travelled back in time, nothing was changed. Actually, they are more Timebureaucrats. But the point is: Someone noticed how easy time travel became and while they haven’t found a way to prevent it, they at least cared enough to do SOMETHING!)

    b.) They only brought back two whales and act as if they have saved the species! But even an only mildly intelligent person like me knows, that you can’t repopulate shit with only two people, unless you are willing to have the future be populated by degenerated incest whales! (But in all fairness: It’s the motherfucking future, where you can randomly time travel by flying around the sun. I guess they will clone them or cure all genetic damages.)

  2. This movie encompasses everything I like about STAR TREK. Exploration of different culture, the enterprise being a main character. The emphasis on unity across time and space being the basis of everything.

    With that said I still prefer it’s polarizing predecessor and successor to it. However it’s definitely one of the best ones because of it’s humanity. Sometimes that’s all it takes to connect with a mainstream audience. A little heart in a franchise that should generally be chockful of it.

  3. Reading this review, I’m struck by how it’s kind of weird that The Voyage Home was the most successful of the Star Treks with the general public. On the one, hand it’s light and fun. One the other hand, it doesn’t start off as terribly friendly for newbies. CJ mentions that it bothered him that they easily went back in time, but that slingshot around the sun thing is taken from the original series. I didn’t realize that when I was a kid, and it seemed strange to me that they just had this maneuver that could send them back in time hundreds of years. Also, the movie is the final part to a trilogy of films, so the first half of the movie has to wrap up everything that occurred in part three. It seems like people new to the series might be put off by the early goings in the film, but, hey, I guess people like whales.

  4. I think non-Trekoids liked the contemporary comedy and the whale story so much that they forgot all the weird stuff at the beginning of the movie by the time they got to the hearing at the end, at which point they were probably briefly confused as to why everyone seemed to be so mad at Kirk all of a sudden, but then he got a new ship and everybody was happy so they just went with it.

  5. It’s such a genial movie that it’s not too hard to see how it could win over non-Trekkos back in ’87. Although, now I’m wondering how people won over by Star Trek IV reacted to seeing the bizarre and generally terrible Star Trek V. Those poor soulds.

    Many years ago, I read a review of Star Trek V that had one of my favorite lines about that film: “William Shatner stars in and directs a film where he fights God…and wins.”

  6. Man, I need to better proofread my posts. All those typos are going to bug me.

  7. With respect to the ubiquity, or otherwise, of time travel, over in the more Trekoid parts of the web – don’t ask me how I know this – there are lists of 50 or so episodes across the various shows and movies that deal with time travel. STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT revisited it in the movie series, with a nice comedic nod to THE VOYAGE HOME in the casting and acting of James Cromwell, and you can argue that the entire new movie series doesn’t exist without time travel.

    With the announcement of Chris Hemsworth reprising the part of Kirk’s dad in the next one, rumours abound that there will be more time travel too. If that happens, we must hope for more gentle fish-out-of-water comedy, but Spock already grasps profanity in this series, and Kirk already loves the Beastie Boys. Bring on the whale-talking space log!

    Did anyone here read John Scalzi’s Redshirts? It always seemed to me that the section of the book set in contemporary Los Angeles was indebted to THE VOYAGE HOME.

  8. Vern, I love how you establish that the crew is in a different ship, but latter you just say “fuck it” and call it the Enterprise anyway. It’s like how any Air Force plane becomes Air Force One when the President is on it. Shorthand.

    Part 4 is interesting for being simultaneously the most Star Trek and the least Star Trek of all the movies. It also seems like the one the cast had the best time on.

  9. I guess the next JJTrek movie will be about the new version of the tube coming to earth FOR REVENGE.

  10. Plus it’s the one where Admiral Kirk becomes Captain Kirk again. That counts for something.

  11. Fun fact: When the movie was being developed initially, Paramount was very keen on having the Gillian part played by Eddie Murphy. (Not as a woman). But I guess Eddie decided to make Golden Child instead.

    I’m almost 80% sure this is true. but now I need to check that Greatest Sci-Fi movies ever made book.

  12. The Eddie Murphy rumor has been confirmed by Nimoy and others involved with the production, as Murphy was apparently a huge fan of Star Trek. They considered a few different ideas, nearly settling on one that had Murphy as host of a tv show investigating psychic phenomena. He would’ve become suspicious of Kirk and crew and followed them around to try and prove they were aliens. (So basically, a cross between Eugene Levy’s role in Splash and Bill Murray at the start of Ghostbusters 2.)

    I agree about the real strength of Voyage Home being its humanity, which is also what makes Wrath of Khan and Search For Spock work so well. The chemistry between those original actors and the amount of history they each brought to the characters really elevated those first six films. (Yes, even The Final Frontier, which is watchable solely because of the friendship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.)

  13. Apparently the reason why Eddie Murphy didn’t show up in that movie, was that he backed out after the scripts were focusing more and more on him (since he was back then the biggest moviestar in the world), but he was a big enough Trekko to know that this was a bad idea.

    It’s weird that we almost got a Trek movie with Eddie Murphy and one with Tom Hanks (He was offered the role of Cochran in FIRST CONTACT and really wanted to do it, but was working on THAT THING YOU DO at the same time.). At least we got one with Christopher Plummer, one with Benedict Cumberbatch and one with Idris Elba.

  14. @CJ Holden

    I really liked the one with Christopher Plummer. ST6 is still one of my favorites of the series, for a variety of reasons. That “one last ride” idea is always fun, and having Captain (!) Sulu zooming around in his big-ass supership was all kinds of cool. I remember reading an interview with Takei, and he was totally stoked to not only have his own ship, but one bigger then the Enterprise.

    Plus, Plummer himself is really good, as always. I always thought his Sherlock Holmes from Murder By Decree was one of the best filmic portrayals of that character.

  15. I always keep forgetting how good part 6 is, until I watch it. Don’t know why. On the plus side: That movie keeps surprising me every single time.

  16. According to who you believe, Shatner took credit for suggesting Sulu become captain, not because he thought it was progressive or good for the character, but because he was feuding with Takei and used it as a way to get him off the bridge.

    Also 6 has the random Christian Slater cameo, so it’s awesome.

  17. RE: Slater scene. I hope he was there because on Sulu’s first mission, the Excelsior went back in time to 1992 and George Kuffs stowed aboard, using his security guard training and earned the respect of Sulu who made him a permanent member of the crew. The Undiscovered Country was 1991. Kuffs was 1992, so the timeline is wholly possible.

  18. On a more serious note, 6 works because it grafts so many genres into the space opera mix. It’s part prison break movie, part Agatha Christie drawing room mystery, part Cold War drama but it’s handled so seamlessly that it never feels like it’s just piling it all on. Plus, the ending speech is a lot like Rocky 4. Also, it contains Shatner’s best line reading of all time.

    Vern, if you see only one more Trek movie, make it that one.

  19. In that George Takei documentary he talks that Shatner actually tried to block Sulu from being a captain in 6. Shatner confirms this and never not wanting to come across as a piece of shit says he was doing it for Takei’s benefit because Sulu doesn’t do anything in the movie (he feels) and totally not because Shatner was afraid there was a possibility of being upstaged (Shatner apparently had a problem with Sulu saving/helping them at the end (SPOILER) and fought against it so Kirk could be the lone hero). That documentary is a total puff piece to be sure but it is worth it for everyone talking about what an asshole Shatner is (always fun I feel) and Takei’s time in the Interment camp as a child.

  20. Yeah that’s why I said according to who you believe. I’ve heard both versions.

  21. Good call on how deftly Star Trek VI balances out so many genres. The last time I saw it, I was reminded that Nicholas Meyers also wrote the Sherlock Holmes novel, The Seven Percent Solution, which might account for why he decided to include a space mystery in the middle of the film. I do think The Undiscovered Country gives The Wrath of Khan a run for its money.

  22. “no clue” why Wrath of Khan is considered one of the greats? I don’t know how to process that string of words.

  23. 1) I remember right after STiD, Chris Pine said something about how the 3rd one will not have a traditional villain and will be more like ST1 and 4, which i thought sounded ballsy and awesome. But obviously that didn’t happen – I’m honestly not sure we’ll ever get a Star Trek movie again that doesn’t have some poor man’s Khan who’s out for revenge.

    2) I’ve never liked 6 even though I’ve given it many tries, but you guys’ comments make me want to check it out again. (Hell, I saw Part 1 again yesterday and kinda liked it for the first time, so anything can happen). I do think it’s interesting that apparently 6 was the first time they revealed the “T.” in James T. Kirk stands for Tiberius, which is weird because I assumed that was something known from the beginning, not something revealed in the 90s.

    3) I’ve always heard the rumors about Eddie Murphy being in Part 4, and how Tom Hanks was supposed to be in 8. Makes me wonder if they actually tried to get J Law to play Jay-lah in Beyond, since they admit to clearly basing the character off of her.

    4) Vern – I’m one of those guys who thinks Wrath of Khan is one of the great movies. I’ve rewatched it so many times and have never gotten tired of it – it’s just a perfect example of a swashbuckling naval-style action movie that still has great character beats and moments. It has a memorable (and traumatizing if you’re a kid) subplot with Alien-esque body horror. It’s a pioneer in the Die Hard-esque trope of “the hero and the villain taunt and talk a lot of shit to each other over walkie-talkies”. (Speaking of McTiernan, the ending of Predator with the bomb is probably borrowed from here too.) Spock’s death packs an emotional wallop every time I’ve seen it, even though I know he comes back in the next movie. And of course it has TWO classic mega performances by Shatner and Montalban. They match each other in over-the-topness without slipping into parody, and have so much chemistry you don’t even notice they never meet or share any screentime.

  24. Jack: Sorry if I came off as ‘that’ nerd, didn’t mean too.

    I enjoy 4 but my OG-Trekkie brother hates it. #nothisstartrek and also he thinks all the jokes fall flat.

    I am also in the camp of 6 being the best. The script may not be as tight as Khan but it engages me way more. In fact I may have to side with Star Trek 6 being the better Cold War analogy movie over Superman IV, if only by a little.

  25. General Chang was awesome so I’m not surprised. David Warner as “klingon who dies” also is notable but Warner always rules in Trek. His “scruffy human diplomat” is one of the reasons I’ve always loved the much hated FINAL FRONTIER.

  26. One of the many things that makes Wrath of Khan a classic is that the script is so tight. There’s not an ounce of fat on it.

    Geoffrey, I’ve always wondered how Star Trek fans reacted to The Voyage Home at the time. I figured that if it were released in today’s climate, the internet would have a fit and fans would complain that it isn’t “serious” enough or some such nonsense. It’s not to know that the ore things change, the more they stay the same.

  27. Geoffrey, you didn’t at all. I’ve just heard various accounts over the years (I probably first heard about it in a Starlog) and that one sorta makes sense to me at least given Shatner and Takei’s past.

  28. So pleased with the Undiscovered Country love! I’ve always enjoyed it and saw it far too many times in a theater.

    Jack Burton: IS the greatest line delivery you refer to when Kirk says… “FIRE!” ? Because that’s certainly my favorite moment. (Followed by “Once again we’ve saved civilization as we know it”)

  29. Both great choices but my vote goes to when Spock says the Klingons are dying and Kirk says “Let them die”. Usually Spock raises his eyebrow when he finds something “fascinating” but here it’s outright shock at the hatred Kirk has.

    That’s the beauty of the movie. Kirk actually has an arc. He goes from Klingon hating xenophobe to a more open-minded kind of guy.

  30. Those klingon bastards. They killed his son.

  31. I just realized that we also have a Trek movie with Tom Hardy, although that happened at the beginning of his career, so it only counts in retrospect.

  32. flying guillotine

    August 3rd, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    It’s been a while, but I recall enjoying this film, particularly because of its lightness and fun after the kinda dour third movie.

    However, there’s a beat in this film that’s always bugged me. Scotty has to interact with a computer and he tries talking to it, because in the future computers talk. When he realizes that won’t work, he gets the job done by typing super-fast. But… how would he become this super-fast typist if he never had to use a computer? I just seems like the kind of thing a screenwriter might think is funny, but is actually a little dumb once you think about it.

  33. @neal2zod: ‘I do think it’s interesting that apparently 6 was the first time they revealed the “T.” in James T. Kirk stands for Tiberius, which is weird because I assumed that was something known from the beginning, not something revealed in the 90s.’

    I did a quick google search, it turns out his middle name was mentioned in a 1974 episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series called “Bem”…despite being a pretty big Trekko I’ve never gotten around to watching the animated series, but I gather it’s considered semi-official by fans since it used writers from the original show and all the original cast did the voices.

  34. hypnosifl – Ah, that makes more sense. I don’t remember much of the animated series except they could actually have aliens that didn’t just look like people with masks on since it was animated and all.

    On a side note, I do remember one of the earlier episodes of the TOS had Kirk looking at his own grave and his middle initial wasn’t T. Speaking of retconning, wasn’t there an ep where Kirk’s brother died? Have we seen or heard about this brother since? Does Pine’s Kirk even have a brother? I can’t remember.

  35. Pine’s Kirk has a (possibly step-) brother, but from what I remember, he only appears in a deleted scene.

  36. @neal2zod

    Kirk’s brother Sam appeared in the episode “Operation: Annihilate!” (The one with the aliens that look like flying pancakes.) Kirk’s tombstone read “James R. Kirk” in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the second pilot that was filmed for the tv series.

    Speaking of actors that were nearly in Trek, Sean Connery was the original choice to play Spock’s brother in Star Trek V. Connery was busy with Last Crusade, so the mystical “Sha Ka Ree” was renamed as an in-joke to be a play on his name.

  37. Vern, I believe the various charges against Kirk and co. are references to things they actually did during STAR TREK III (assaulting guards, disobeying direct orders) in the process of stealing the Enterprise and rescuing Spock.

    But thank you for including a Trek in the ‘Summer Origins: 2016’ series after all, and for picking this one which is my favorite film in the series.

    I love that 20% of the review is devoted to the “punk on bus” scene (which I have always enjoyed) and to actor/musician Kirk Thatcher who brought the scene to life. (I think I read somewhere that he’s related to Margaret Thatcher, but have not found corroboration of this.) And I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who picked up on how the punk song is the opposite of the Star Trek viewpoint.

    One of the great thing about VOYAGE HOME is that it actually gives all the characters things to do that are plot-related (Uhura translates the alien noise into whale song, McCoy uses his medical knowledge to save Chekov, etc). Most original-crew Trek movies are really just about Kirk and Spock, and the other characters are only there to say “Aye sir” or make the occasional joke. In this one they are actually a team who bring different skills and abilities to the task.

    The present-day setting – and the warm humor – made this film a well-liked crossover hit with critics and the general public. I don’t remember any fans complaining that it seemed like a cost-cutting measure. But even if they did, remember that geeks did not rule the world back then. Star Trek was well-known but also had a slightly dorky reputation (as did sci-fi escapism in general). So having these characters grounded in the “real” world was arguably perceived as a plus rather than a minus.

  38. Also, there were precedents for Kirk and co. time-travelling to 20th century Earth: “City on the Edge of Forever” is one of the most acclaimed episodes of the original series, and “Tomorrow is Yesterday” (the episode where the slingshot-around-the-sun-to-time-travel gimmick is established) I think is at least liked. As I recall, both episodes have some of the same culture-clash humor that VOYAGE HOME later featured.

  39. Hmm. Further Googling tells me that the slingshot thing was used twice in the original series: “Tomorrow is Yesterday” and “Assignment: Earth”. The latter is the one I seem to remember more of because it had Teri Garr in it, but my childhood memories of the show are fuzzy and seem to have combined the two episodes into one.

    So maybe one of them had culture-clash humor and the other didn’t, I don’t recall, but the point is, I think Trek fans would have accepted a time-travel romp as being in the spirit of the TV series.

  40. I was always under the impression that this was the favourite STAR TREK movie of people who don’t actually like STAR TREK. The JACKIE BROWN of STAR TREKs, if you will.

  41. neal2zod- I like THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY but certainly don’t think it’s on par with KHAN or VOYAGE. It’s the most portentous of the TREK movies, as a Trekkie sympathiser rather than a full-fledged member I’d say it’s the film playing most to the Trekkie audience. Though FINAL FRONTIER is poor, and THE MOTION PICTURE is slow and serious, they have clearer reference points from outside the TREK world; UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY is mostly “about” the TREK world, with a bridge between the first two Generations. Maybe I’m being a little cynical, but I doubt general audiences are all that excited by the parallels between the fall of the Klingon empire and the Soviet Union, certainly not in 2016. It does address aging, but it’s lip service compared to KHAN.

    I think KHAN is venerated because for decades it was the standard bearer for a sequel which surpasses the first movie, and because it’s a fun movie with a lot of depth rooted in human drama. And by STAR TREK standards it’s “cool”, with gore that feels transgressive for younger fans with limited exposure to R-Rated films, and in context with the rest of the series.

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