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)

Star Trek IV The Voyage Home

  • Title:  Star Trek IV  The Voyage Home
  • Director:  Leonard Nimoy
  • Date:  1986
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt, Catherine Hicks, Robin Curtis
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“Give me one more day, sir, damage control is easy.  Reading Klingon… that’s hard.”  — Scotty

“Our own world is waiting for us to save it, if we can.”  — Kirk

“To hunt a species to extinction is not logical.”  — Spock

“No, I’m from Iowa.  I only work in outer space.”  — Kirk

At Star Fleet, a Klingon reports to the council twisting everything that happened at the Genesis Planet in the last two films, calling Kirk a terrorist who killed a Klingon crew and stole a Klingon ship, but worst of all saying that it was Kirk who developed the planet-killer weapon, “Genesis”.  Sarek arrives to attempt to defend Kirk and explain what really happened.  Kirk is found, in absentia, in violation of Star Fleet regulations.

Meanwhile, Kirk and his crew are on Vulcan.  Scotty is repairing the Klingon Bird of Prey, now re-named HMS Bounty.  The crew votes that they will return to Earth to face the music.  Spock has been in recovery, re-training his mind in a multi-tasking environment of three computers all asking questions at the same time.  He is stumped by, “How do you feel?”, which prompts a conversation with Amanda, his human mother.

Meanwhile, the USS Saratoga encounters a strange probe.  Before long, its signals are draining/attacking the ship and it is left with no power.  As this probe encounters other ships, both Klingon and Federation, it either destroys them or disables them – through these power drains.  The probe heads to Earth.

Kirk and company, with Spock, leave Vulcan and return to Earth.  Saavik is left on Vulcan.  But as they approach Earth, they receive a planetary distress call.  The call describes the mysterious probe, but also the storms and power outages on Earth.  Space dock itself has no power, and neither do orbiting ships or any ships near Earth.  The probe’s unusual transmissions are even attacking Star Fleet itself in San Francisco.  The message orders that no one approach Earth.  Kirk has Uhura and Spock analyze the signal — the two soon realize it’s whale song, specifically humpback whale song.  Kirk points out that because humpbacks are extinct – the signal cannot be answered.  Kirk asks Spock and Scotty about the possibility of time travel and transporting a couple of humpbacks to the future (Kirk’s time).  Although it’s very risky, they decide to give it a try.

The Bird of Prey HMS Bounty slingshots around the sun, arriving on mid-1980s Earth.  They land the cloaked ship in San Francisco Bay Park.  However, the ship is damaged and the dilithium crystals drained.  Kirk splits his small crew into three teams:  one will obtain radiation photons from a nuclear reactor aboard a naval vessel, one will find the whales, and one will find the materials to build a tank to hold the whales on the space ship until they can be released.

In “Old” San Francisco, Kirk sells his eyeglasses at an antique shop, they distributes the money to his crew as they go about on their assigned tasks.  He and Spock wander about wondering where they will find a pair of whales in a city.  But Kirk spots a bus advertisement for “George and Gracie” the humpbacks on display at the Cetacean Institute.  After a slight difficulty in obtaining transportation, they reach the Institute and join a sight-seeing tour lead by Gillian, a marine biologist with a specialty in whales. The two listen to her lecture, but Spock jumps into the tank to meld with one of  the whales – Gillian is incensed.

Later she meets the two as they are walking back to San Francisco from Sausalito,  she drops Spock in the park and has dinner with Kirk.  She informs him that the whales are to be released in the open ocean, because Gracie is pregnant – and no calf  born in captivity has survived.  Yet, if the whales are released in open ocean, they will be at risk from illegal and legal whaling.  However, Kirk isn’t able to convince her that he needs to safely transport the whales to the future.  She drops Kirk in the park where she dropped off Spock.

The next day, Gillian goes to the Institute – only to discover the whales are gone.  She returns to the park, and sees a helicopter lowering something into an empty space – where it disappears.  She literally runs into the invisible spaceship.

Meanwhile, the rest of  the crew hasn’t been idle.  Scotty and McCoy find a plexiglass manufacturer.  In return for Scotty’s formula for transparent aluminium, they receive the plexiglass they need to make a whale tank.  Sulu transports it by helicopter.

Chekov and Uhura find the Naval base, and locate the “nuclear wessel”, the USS Enterprise.  They get on board and Chekov starts collecting photons/radiation.  In takes awhile, however, and their presence trips an alarm.  Uhura is beamed up in time, but Chekov is not.  He runs off, is captured, escapes, runs off again, and falls.  He’s sent to a local hospital under police guard in critical condition.

Uhura finds Chekov through the emergency calls.  Kirk, McCoy, and Gillian rescue Chekov.  McCoy causes some havoc, giving a woman waiting for dialysis a pill to re-grow her kidney.  Also, upon being confronted with doctors who plan on exploratory surgery to fix Chekov’s cranial fracture – he locks them in a closet and puts a doo-dad on Chekov’s head which cures Chekov quickly.  They escape the hospital and return to the ship.  Kirk attempts to say goodbye to Gillian, but she throws herself  into his transport beam.

The Bird of Prey HMS Bounty takes off and pursues the whales following the radio transmitter code Gillian gives them.  They place the ship between a whaler and the whales and successfully beam them aboard.  The ship then attempts to return to the twenty-third century.  It’s a bumpy ride, and upon returning power is an issue, because the probe is still there.  The Bounty crash-lands into the ocean. Kirk has everyone abandon ship and orders Spock to protect the crew.  He goes to the hold, which is filling with water.  He orders Gillian and Scotty to also abandon ship.  Gillian points out he has to get the whales out or they will drown (being mammals).  Kirk sets about manually opening the hold, and succeeds in getting the whales out.  He also gets out himself and joins his shipmates on the barely floating, slowing sinking space ship.

The whales frolic, and eventually answer the probe’s whale song.  The probe stops its attack of  communication waves, and leaves.  Calm and power return to Earth.

Kirk and company return to the Federation council chamber, now dry and dressed, to face judgement. When Spock is asked why he’s there, he responds that he stands with his shipmates.  The charges are read out, but dismissed in light of the crew saving the planet and the Federation.  One change remains – that of disobeying orders, levied solely at Admiral Kirk.  He pleads guilty.  For this he is busted back to Captain and given command of a new Enterprise.  The crew goes with him.  Kirk points out that they have “come home”.  Gillian joins a science vessel.  Spock has a conversation with his father and tells him to tell Amanda that he “feels fine”.

I really enjoyed Star Trek IV when it came out, but I feel it hasn’t really aged well.  There are strange anachronisms (such as Kirk’s huge Klingon communicator, much larger than a cell phone), and the constant swearing – amusing when the film came out, somewhat annoying now.  A great deal of the humor just doesn’t work as well.  There are also some major gaps of logic and intelligence.  For example, Kirk, Spock, and Uhura almost instantly figure out the probe’s communications are whale song, aimed at humpback whales.  Yet no one on Earth or in Star fleet could figure this out?  Why?  Second, of all the people send to the nuclear naval vessels – Kirk picks Chekov – someone likely to bring suspicion on himself simply by being there.  Though he does have the second highest level of science training after Spock.  They did explain Scotty’s giving away the transparent aluminium formula (how do you know he didn’t invent it?) though it is a non-invention paradox.  When Spock notes to Kirk that the glasses he sells were a gift from Dr. McCoy, Kirk responses, “And they will be again, that’s the beauty of  it,” meaning this to is a paradox (where did the glasses come from if they are now trapped in a time loop?)  The capture of leaking radiation to somehow re-charge the ship’s dilithium crystals also made no sense – If  the reactor was leaking, wouldn’t the sailors be in danger?  McCoy also wrecks a lot of havoc in the hospital, though his motives are clearly humanitarian.  Finally, Kirk’s “sentence” is one of  the biggest examples of throwing Br’er Rabbit into the brier bush I’ve ever seen.  In other words, it’s a “punishment” that gives Kirk exactly what he wants – to be a captain again, rather than an admiral – and captain of a new Enterprise to boot.  They film also doesn’t showcase the friendship of Kirk, Spock and McCoy as the previous two films.  On the other hand, all of the bridge crew members have significant things to do – so there’s less of  a feeling of people just standing or sitting around doing nothing – or disappearing entirely for long sections of the film, but the film’s style still there’s no personal threat to any of our main characters (until Chekov is injured – and McCoy fixes him up quickly).  The threat, of course, is to all of  planet Earth – and involves an important issue, so that does work.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Wars

Star Trek III The Search for Spock

  • Title:  Star Trek III The Search for Spock
  • Director:  Leonard Nimoy
  • Date:  1984
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF
  • Cast:  William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Mark Lenard, Robin Curtis (Introducing credit), Christopher Lloyd, Leonard Nimoy, James B. Sikking, John Larroquette
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Mr. Scott, Have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?”  — Kirk
“Certainly, sir.  How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?”  — Scotty

“Sir, your son meant more to me than you can know.  I’d have given my life if it would have saved his.  Believe me when I tell you — he made no request of me.”  — Kirk (to Sarek)

“The word is no.  I am therefore going anyway.”  — Kirk

The film opens with a re-cap of the end of Star Trek II, including the death of Spock, his funeral, and the coffin landing on the Genesis Planet.  It then moves to the Enterprise bridge, a short time after the incidents in Wrath of Khan.  The trainee crew has been off-loaded on a Star Base, Saavik and Dr. David Marcus, are on a science vessel to explore the Genesis Planet, and Kirk and his crew are heading back to space dock at Star Fleet Command to have the ship refitted and repaired.  But Kirk feels haunted, and is mourning his friend.

Meanwhile, a Klingon named Kluge has purchased the Genesis data.  He destroys the vessel that brought it to him, even though he is in love with the female commander and vice versa.

Enterprise returns to space dock, and stands in awe of Excelsior, the command vessel of the next generation of  trans-warp ships.  Then there’s a security alert from Spock’s quarters.  Kirk hears Spock’s voice, but finds McCoy instead.  McCoy is a mess.

When the crew disembarks at the space dock, they find they are all given commendations and extended leave.  Enterprise, now twenty years old, is to be de-commissioned.  Only Scotty is given an immediate new assignment, Captain of Engineering of the Excelsior.  The crew is also told that Genesis has become a political firestorm, so it is Verboten, hush-hush, top secret.  They are to tell no one, anything about it.

Kluge watches Kirk’s tape about Genesis — it’s the same as Dr. Carol Marcus’s from the previous film, but shorter and with narration by Kirk. The Klingon then plans to take his ship to the Genesis planet.

Meanwhile, the USS Grissom, a science vessel, begins scanning the Genesis planet.  The Commander points out something metallic is on the surface.

On Earth, Kirk, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura drink to absent friends.  Sarek arrives and the others leave. Sarek is upset not only by the loss of  his son, but that Kirk left him there, on Genesis.  Kirk is confused. Sarek explains about the Katra, the Vulcan soul, which can be placed inside another at the time of death. Kirk knows nothing about this – but  explains about the glass wall between he and Spock.  Sarek and Kirk review (at great pain to Kirk) the video logs of Spock’s death in the engine room.  This gives us one alternate take, from Spock’s pov looking out at Kirk, rather than Kirk’s pov looking at Spock in the chamber, and a fast-forward in reverse of the relevant scenes in Star Trek II.  Kirk spots Spock mind-melding with McCoy.  Sarek agrees that Spock probably placed his Katra in McCoy, which also explains his weird behavior.

Kirk attempts to get permission from Star Fleet to go to the Genesis planet.  McCoy, separately, tries to book passage on a civilian freighter or ship bound for Genesis.  McCoy is arrested for his trouble and placed in a Star Fleet lunatic asylum.  Kirk’s told, “no, absolutely not”, even when he explains he holds Spock’s soul in his hands.  Kirk, with help from Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov, rescue McCoy.  Then, with Scotty’s help they steal the Enterprise, leaving the sabotaged Excelsior in the dust.

Kirk and his skeleton crew make for the Genesis planet. Meanwhile, Saavik and Dr. Marcus find a Vulcan child on the planet. He screams in pain, and cannot speak in either English (Federation Standard) or Vulcan. Dr. David Marcus quickly realizes the planet is unstable, it’s aging rapidly, and it will soon rip itself apart. Saavik realizes that Spock is aging with the planet.

The Grissom attempts to contact Star Fleet to obtain further instructions about what to do about Spock and the planet. However, the Klingon Bird of Prey spaceship arrives and completely destroys the Grissom. The Klingon Commander, Kluge, wanted the ship disabled not destroyed and he kills the gunner who made the “lucky” shot.

Some Klingons beam to the planet, they find Spock’s coffin with it’s evolved microbes.

Kirk, meanwhile, overhears Star Fleet’s futile attempts to raise the Grissom. He has Chekov attempt to contact the vessel itself but he’s unsuccessful. He arrives at the Genesis Planet, but the Grissom is no longer there (since it was destroyed) and the Bird of Prey is cloaked. The Klingons on the planet’s surface find David, Saavik, and Spock and take them hostage. Kirk again tries to contact Grissom and of course gets nowhere.

Kirk fires as the Bird of Prey decloaks. However, because Enterprise is running with a skeleton crew, largely on automatic control, and has yet to have been fully repaired, it has no shields. Soon, Kirk has no real control over his own ship. Kluge then mentions his prisoners on the planet. Kirk talks to Saavik and David. Saavik lets him know Spock “is not himself but he lives”. A Klingon attacks David (Kirk’s son) and kills him. Kirk collapses in grief.

Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov activate the destruct sequence on Enterprise. Kirk and company beam to the planet, while the Klingon boarding party beams to the Enterprise. The Enterprise is destroyed, while Kirk watches. Kirk and company reach Saavik and Spock. Kirk goes to David’s body. Saavik tells Kirk, David died to save them. Kluge beams down to confront Kirk. Sulu, Chekhov, McCoy, Saavik, and Scotty are beamed up to the Bird of Prey. Only Kirk and Spock are left with the Klingons on the unstable planet’s surface. Kirk fights Kluge as the planet breaks up around them. In the end, Kirk kills Kluge, he goes to Spock and they are beamed up.

Kirk and his crew take the few remaining Klingons on the Bird of Prey prisoner then head to Vulcan. When they arrive, they are met by Sarek and Uhura. Sarek asks that his son’s Katra be re-fused into his body, since Spock lives. McCoy agrees to have this done, despite the danger. McCoy survives the procedure and Sarek more or less tells Kirk that Spock will be alright. Kirk sees Spock, Spock looks questioningly at his crew mates, as if he doesn’t quite recognize them. However, he stops in front of Kirk and says, “Your name is Jim.” It’s implied Spock may have a long recovery ahead of him, but he will be alright.

Despite the loss of Spock at the end of the previous film, The Search for Spock, actually starts much lighter than the previous film did. There’s a certain amount of humor in many of the lines, and the secondary characters actually have things to do (if briefly) and get good lines as well. As it becomes apparent that the Enterprise is to be decommissioned, and that due to Vulcan spiritual beliefs and telepathic abilities, as well as the power of the Genesis Planet, Spock’s new body and his soul can be re-united the tone of the film becomes more serious. However, there are several great character moments after this change in tone. Kirk twice declares his loyalty to Spock and that he would even give his life for his first officer and friend. McCoy also admits that he misses Spock and that he can’t lose Spock for a second time. So, again the film emphasizes the characters and their relationships.

Again, a villain from the original series, the Klingons, is brought back. Christopher Lloyd is a superb as Kluge. John Larroquette, completely unrecognizable under his Klingon make-up, is also excellent as Maltz, Kluge’s right-hand man, even though most of his lines are in Klingon. And, yes, this is the film that introduces Klingon as a functioning spoken language (this would be refined in Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country). Unfortunately, Kristie Alley is replaced with Robin Curtis as Saavik. Nothing against Robin Curtis – but I prefer Kristie Alley in the role. I have no idea why the production crew switched actresses, I’d have to do some research to find out, which I’m not going to do, years after the fact – I wish they had kept Alley. Curtis is very bland, while Alley had a special something in the role.

Overall, I enjoy this film too. It’s the “middle” piece of a trilogy, but I still think it’s really very good. And it’s very much Star Trek, in that it’s about the sacrifices a close-knit group of people are willing to make for each other.

 
Recommendation: See It
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Star Trek IV The Voyage Home