Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country

  • Title:  Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country
  • Director:  Nicholas Meyer
  • Date:  1991
  • Genre:  SF, Mystery
  • Cast:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Keonig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Kim Cattrall, Mark Lenard, Christopher Plummer, David Warner, Grace Lee Whitney, Michael Dorn, William Morgan Sheppard, Christian Slater
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“We believe it [the explosion on Praxis] was caused by over-mining and insufficient safety precautions.  The moon’s decimation means deadly pollution of their ozone.  They [Klingons] will have depleted their supply of oxygen in approximately fifty Earth years.  Due to their enormous military budget the Klingon economy does not have the resources to combat this catastrophe.” – Spock

“Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Volaris, not the end.” – Spock

“You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read it in the original Klingon.” – Chancellor Gorkin

“You don’t trust me, do you?  I don’t blame you.  If there is going to be a Brave New World, our generation is going to have the hardest time living in it.” – Chancellor Gorkin

Star Trek VI starts with a bang, but what at first appears to be a supernova, is in fact a man-made (well, Klingon-made) explosion of the Klingon moon Praxis.  This explosion causes a huge shockwave, which hits the Excelsior on patrol in the area under the command of Captain Sulu.  Once recovered from the shockwave hit, Sulu offers help, but the Klingons order him to stay outside the neutral zone.

There’s a top-secret meeting at Star Fleet, where Spock reveals that over-mining and lack of safety precautions on Praxis caused the moon to explode.  This has poisoned the Ozone on the Klingon homeworld of Kronos, and the planet will be uninhabitable in 50 years.  Spock has worked with the Klingon chancellor, Gorkin, coming to an arrangement to de-militarize Star Fleet.  Gorkin and the Federation will work towards an uneasy peace.  Kirk, who has already indicated his agreement with the most militant of the Star Fleet Admirals, is charged with escorting Gorkin to Earth for a peace conference.

Kirk continues to tell pretty much anyone who will listen that he distrusts Klingons, and even notes in his private captain’s log that he blames the Klingons for his son’s death.

Kirk and his crew, including Spock, but minus Sulu (who is on the Excelsior still) precede to the point where they are to meet Gorkin’s ship.  Once there, they invite Gorkin and his staff to a state dinner on the Enterprise.  The dinner is a difficult experience for all involved, but not a complete disaster.  Shortly after the dinner, as Kirk is settling in from a bit too much Romulan Ale, he’s called to the bridge because of a radiation surge.  As Kirk watches helplessly, first one, then a second torpedo hit Gorkin’s ship, seemingly from the Enterprise herself.

Two Federation officers, wearing gravity boots, and darkened helmets, beam to the Klingon vessel, Kronos One, and kill anyone in their way, before attacking Gorkin.  They then escape. The gravity boots were necessary because the torpedo shots had disabled the Klingon ship’s artificial gravity.

When the Klingons threaten to fire on Enterprise in retaliation, Kirk surrenders his ship.  He then takes McCoy with him to Kronos One. Gorkin is injured but not quite dead.  McCoy tries to save him, despite his lack of knowledge of Klingon anatomy, but Gorkin dies anyway.

Kirk and McCoy are arrested by the Klingons for killing the Chancellor.  Though Defense Attorney Worf attempts to fight the good fight, they are found guilty almost immediately. Evidence against Kirk includes his private log entry about blaming Klingons for the death of his son. Kirk and McCoy are sent to a Klingon prison planet to mine dilithium.

Meanwhile, Spock attempts to find out who really orchestrated the attack on the Klingons, and killed Gorkin.  Piece by piece, he works it out with the help of others on the Enterprise.

I don’t want to go into details of how Spock solves the mystery, because that would really spoil the movie.  However, he does uncover a conspiracy between a few Star Fleet officers and Klingon hard-liners to get rid of Gorkin who had really wanted peace between the Klingons and the Federation (that is, his plans were not a feint or something designed to lure the Federation into “a false sense of security” before a Klingon attack.).

Spock then rescues Kirk and McCoy from the prison planet, and they go off to try to prevent an assassination attempt at the new peace conference at “Camp something”.  With some help from Sulu and officers on the Excelsior, the Enterprise crew succeeds in saving the Chancellor’s daughter, now the new head of the Klingon Empire and thus saves the peace conference.

In his closing monologue, Kirk notes that his crew will make a final cruise (his last line is, “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning,” a quote from Peter Pan) then return to Earth to stand down for retirement and a new crew will continue to explore where no man or no one has gone before.  The closing credits include the signatures of the original Enterprise crew (Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, Doohan, Nichols, Keonig, and Takei).

Star Trek VI is essentially a murder mystery with cold war trappings.  Klingons quoting Shakespeare and a reference to The Manchurian Candidate are thrown in as well.  But though that may seem to sound like it’s not that good a movie, I actually enjoyed it.  I found Star Trek VI to be fun – really fun.  First, no one dies in this film.  OK, the Klingon chancellor dies, but really – he’s playing the part of a murder victim, in a story where our heroes must solve a crime.  But it’s not like Wrath of Khan where Spock dies, or where the Enterprise herself is destroyed.  As is frequently the case with Star Trek, the trappings of the film are definitely Cold War.  The Federation is clearly the US/the West and the Klingons are clearly the Russians. Even the guard on the prison planet introduces it as a “gulag” (Russian for “prison”) and speaks with a Russian accent.  The Klingon chancellor who genuinely seeks peace is Gorkin, very similar to Gorbachev.  And the incident that starts the film, the explosion on Praxis, was clearly inspired by the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor disaster in 1986.

What is surprising about the film is the amount of prejudice and hatred we see from characters we know and care about. It isn’t just Kirk who “hates Klingons”.  Throughout the first half of the film, all sorts of nasty remarks are made about the Klingons, from “They don’t place the same value on life as us,” to “Did you see the way they eat?”  It was really quite disturbing.

But what makes the film work is the murder mystery aspect.  Again, we know Kirk isn’t guilty – but the evidence seems indisputable.  So not only must Spock discover who did it – he must discover “how did it”, which is always more interesting. And Spock makes for a fine detective, he even quotes Sherlock Holmes, “An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however, improbable must be the truth.”  Yes, that’s right, Spock refers to Holmes as an “ancestor”. Which suggests that in the Star Trek universe Sherlock Holmes was real, and that quite probably he was the result of a time traveling Vulcan experiment (and yes, I want to see that story!) Anyway, I enjoyed the mystery aspect, and Spock, step by step, figuring out what happened, how it happened, and ultimately – who was really responsible.

I hadn’t seen this film probably since I saw it in the theater when it originally was released, and I remembered enjoying it then.  The DVD copy I watched, I actually picked up second-hand a year or so ago.  I think at the time, especially with Chernobyl, Glasnost, Perestroika, and Gorbachev fresh in people’s minds – the Cold War plot would have had more meaning.  Now it seems like set dressing. However, what really caught my attention was that Praxis was destroyed by over-mining and lack of safety precautions, resulting in an environmental disaster that would, eventually, destroy the Klingon homeworld and that the Klingon Empire spent so much on the military and arms it couldn’t even do anything about it, also caught my attention.  Because both those things seem much more appropriate now – and not in Russia.

Recommendation:  See it
Rating:  4 out of 5
Next Film:  Shall We Dance (Japan, 1996)

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The Sound of Music

  • Title: The Sound of  Music
  • Director:  Robert Wise
  • Date:  1965
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  Musical, Romance
  • Cast:  Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Angela Cartwright
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen (70mm film)
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Fraulein, were you this much trouble at the abbey?”  – Capt Georg von Trapp
“Oh, much more, sir.” — Maria

“Activity suggests a life filled with purpose.” – Capt. von Trapp

“Maybe the flag with the black spider makes people nervous.” – Greta

The Sound of  Music is a big showy musical film, which appears to be shot at least partially on location rather than being studio-bound, like most MGM musicals.  However, it is also long, at least three hours. When the intermission card came up, I was ready for the film to be over.  Yet, despite it’s length, The Sound of Music is a good film, and one that many consider a classic.

Julie Andrews is Maria, a young noviate at a convent — it’s clear to the Mother Superior and other nuns, that, while she is likable, Maria is not quite nun material, so the Mother Superior suggests she at least attempt to make her way in the world before returning to the abbey to take her vows.  Not quite ready to put the young woman out on the street with nothing but the clothes on her back, the Mother Superior sends her to Capt. von Trapp to become governess to his seven children.

A widower, Capt. von Trapp has become increasingly cold and withdrawn since the death of his wife. This is shown with the scene where he introduces the seven children to Maria by blowing their call signs on a whistle.  Maria finds this ridiculous.  The Captain then criticizes Maria’s clothes.  When she tells him she doesn’t have any others, she gave hers away when she went into the convent, he buys her fabrics to make new dresses.  He also has new drapes put in her room in his villa (it’s a small castle).  She takes the old fabric and makes play clothes for the children.

Soon Maria becomes the best governess the children have ever had, taking them on field trips and teaching them to sing.  At first, stern Capt. von Trapp is appalled at Maria’s light-hearted way, but eventually she draws him in too.  However, he’s seeing Baroness Elsa, a cold-hearted widow.  At first, it seems like the Captain and the Baroness are a perfect couple, but eventually it’s clear that he belongs with Maria.

Eventually, Elsa breaks off her engagement with Capt von Trapp, as she realizes she’s just not capable of being a mother of seven.  Capt. von Trapp then immediately proposes to Maria, they marry and leave for their month-long honeymoon, leaving the children in the care of “Uncle Max”.  The Captain and Maria return to discover that the Captain’s beloved Austria has been annexed by Germany.  Not only that, but he is ordered to report to a naval base and become an officer in the German Navy.  Capt. von Trapp would literally rather die, and he and Maria plot their escape.

Here, Max comes to the rescue — the von Trapp Family Singers will sing in the Salzburg Folk Festival, something the Captain had been against, and their escape will be arranged after the performance.  The plot eventually works, they escape, hide in the abbey, then go first by car, then by foot through the mountains and into Switzerland.

List of  Musical Numbers

  • The Sound of  Music
  • How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?
  • When You’re 16, Going on 17
  • My Favorite Things
  • Doe a Deer / Do Re Mi
  • The Lonely Goatherd (during the children’s puppet show)
  • Edelweiss
  • So Long, Fare Well, Auf  Wiedersehen, Goodnight
  • The Sound of Music (reprise, slower version)
  • My Favorite Things (reprise)
  • I Must Have Done Something Good
  • How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? (reprise)
  • When You’re 16, Going on 17 (reprise)
  • Doe a Deer / Do Re Mi (at the folk concert, reprise)
  • Edelweiss (at the folk concert, reprise)
  • So Long, Fare Well, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight  (at the folk concert, reprise)
The good things about The Sound of  Music — the full frame (though widescreen) filming of  the singing and the few dance numbers (“When You’re 16, Going on 17” and the folk dance Maria and the Captain dance together during his grand party) is very nice, though the dances aren’t as complex as either a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical or many other MGM musicals.  The location filming is gorgeous — and it’s nice to see a musical that isn’t so studio-bound.  However, the film is overly long.  The second half (post the intermission card) does actually move faster, and I’m not sure what I’d cut if I was the editor (well, yes I do — I’d dump a lot of the montages between Maria and the children and show more concrete examples of how she reaches them).  Anyway, over three hours is really pushing it for a musical.
Recommendation:  See it, at least once, it is a classic
Rating: 3.8
Next Film:  Spaceballs