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 II The Wrath of Khan

  • Title:  Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan
  • Director: Nicholas Meyer
  • Date:  1982
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Action, Drama
  • Cast:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Kristie Alley, Ricardo Montalban
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Jim, I’m your doctor and I’m your friend, get back your command.  Get it back before you turn into part of this collection [of antiques], before you really do grow old.”  — McCoy

“You are my superior officer, you are also my friend.  I have been and always shall be yours. — Spock

“As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy, than to create.”  — Spock

This is the film Star Trek fans wanted and deserved instead of  Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979). The film focuses on the main characters of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, includes the bridge crew as well (including Scotty) and brings back a villain from the original series.

The film opens with a female Vulcan named Saavik in command of a Starship. Behind her, Spock walks around, observing.  She’s on a “routine” training mission, when she receives a distress call from the freighter Korbayashi Maru. To help the freighter, she will have to cross into the Romulan Neutral Zone, a violation of  treaty. She does so anyway, and is immediately attacked by three Klingon fighters, a deadly attack that kills off  the entire bridge crew.

But then lights come up, and Kirk steps out of the smoke and lights, to “grade” her performance. It had been a simulation – the infamous “no-win scenario” character test that all potential command candidates must take at Star Fleet Academy. McCoy informs Saavik that Kirk took the Korbayashi Maru test three times. Later, when Saavik asks what Kirk did, he tells her that he re-programmed the computers to allow a winning result. Saavik then points out this means Kirk has never faced death. Kirk counters he doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios. But the no-win scenario, and facing true death will be a theme of the entire film.

On Earth, Kirk is facing his birthday, without  the  joy  such  an  occasion usually brings.  He receives gifts from Spock and McCoy, but Spock  is soon off  to his command of Enterprise and her trainee crew before McCoy even arrives.  McCoy, noticing Kirk’s attitude, urges him to stop flying a desk and get back to active duty.  Kirk considers this.

Meanwhile, Chekov and Capt. Terrell are looking for a suitable life-less planet to test the Genesis Device, a new scientific breakthrough if it works. They find a dessert world with anomalous readings and go down to take a look.  On the planet, Chekov finds a wrecked Botany Bay and freaks.  But it’s too late, they are captured by Khan and his men.  Khan takes the young of two Ceti eels and places them in the two men’s helmets, which he then screws onto their spacesuits.  The eels go into their ears, allowing Khan to control the two men and get classified information from them.  He takes control of  their ship, the Reliant, then travels to the research lab in charge of  the Genesis project.  Dr. Carol Marcus, and her son, David, are in control of  the project.

Kirk boards the Enterprise, with Spock as Captain, Saavik as trainee first officer, and the crew we know from the series:  McCoy, Scotty, Uhura and Sulu.  They head out of space dock in an impressive and beautiful sequence, for a routine training mission.  But soon they get a garbled message from the Genesis Project research lab.  Kirk is concerned because he was close to Dr. Carol Marcus once, and we will learn, David is his son from his relationship with Carol, though the two men have had no relationship at her insistence.  Kirk takes McCoy and Spock into his office to show them the highly classified Genesis research tape.  Genesis, or new life from lifeless matter, is a type of terraforming that can create an entire planet, sun, and ecosystem.

Spock gives command to Kirk, who orders the Enterprise make best speed for the research lab. They are attacked by the Reliant.  With shields down, Enterprise was helpless, and Scotty’s nephew, Peter, was killed in the engagement.  Other trainees are killed as well, and Kirk and McCoy are visually and understandably upset by this.

Kirk manages to escape the Reliant, makes his way to the research lab, and he, Saavik, and McCoy beam over. On the lab, they discover most of the scientists are dead.  Carol and David, however, are alright.  They soon discover Chekov and Capt. Terrell as well.  Chekov fills them in a bit about Khan, but not all the details.  They beam down to the Genesis Project Cave in the interior of the planetoid that the lab orbits.

Once in the Genesis Project cave, Terrell and Chekov reveal they are still under Khan’s control.  But Terrell commits suicide rather than kill Kirk as he is ordered.  Chekov simply collapses in pain and distress, and the eel oozes out of  his ear.  Khan beams up the Genesis Device to the Reliant.   McCoy begins treating Chekov, who slowly recovers now that the eel is out of his ear and brain stem.

Carol takes the group to see the Genesis cave, a lush forest that even has a sun-like light source.  Saavik and Kirk discuss no-win scenarios.  Kirk then whips out his communicator and contacts Spock and they are all beamed aboard Enterprise.

What follows is really a sub-hunt between Kirk and Khan; Kirk on the Enterprise and Khan on the Reliant. They hide and chase each other in a nebula, because Kirk still doesn’t have scanners or shields and he wants Reliant to have the same disadvantages.  During the engagement, Spock points out that Khan’s fighting style suggests two-dimensional thinking.  Kirk nods, then drops the Enterprise, before coming up behind her, and finishing her off.  Knowing he’s beaten and dying, Khan ignores the “prepare to be boarded” order and ignites the Genesis Device.

The Enterprise had been moving and fighting with impulse power only, and now they need to get out of there quickly.  For, if they are caught in the Genesis Wave, the ship will be destroyed and everyone will die.  Kirk calls down to engineering for more power, and more speed, but engineering’s been hit.  Then he notices Spock has left the bridge.

Spock meanwhile, has arrived in engineering.  Scotty’s injured, McCoy is trying to help, and the engineering core is leaking radiation.  Spock goes to enter the core area to fix it, but McCoy stops him.  Spock distracts the doctor, then knocks him out with a Vulcan neck pinch.  He begins to quickly try to repair the warp core, in a glass chamber, surrounded by deadly radiation.

Kirk arrives, sees Spock slumped over, and has to be held back by McCoy and Scotty, before he enters the chamber and floods the room with radiation.  Spock, slowly, goes to the door.  He reminds Kirk, “The needs of  the many…” and Kirk answers “…outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”  But Kirk, as happy as he is that his ship and crew have now survived, mourns the one he has lost.  Spock then reminds Kirk, “I have been and always shall be your friend,” gives him the Vulcan salute, and tells him, “Live long and Prosper”.  Kirk places his hand on the glass, their hands meet, and Kirk slumps with Spock to the floor, though they can’t physically touch.

Spock, also, when McCoy was knocked out, said to him, “Remember”.  Kirk breaks up while eulogizing Spock at his funeral, then the body is ejected into space, but the torpedo coffin lands on the Genesis planet.  Kirk and Carol look at the planet from the Enterprise bridge, amazed at the beauty.

Star Trek II in many ways might be the best of  the Star Trek films.  With the death of  Spock, it certainly is the most emotional.  But it also deals with emotions and feelings… revenge, fear of growing old and useless, fear of death, fear of  losing those close to us, friendship, and confronting failure.  These are all universal feelings. The film is really good.  Yes, many of the familiar catch phrases are there, but they aren’t used to simply be cute. Rather, Spock’s sayings, especially, become the centerpiece of the film.  It’s a film about friendship first, and the setting is just that — window dressing.  Similar issues could be addressed in any historical setting, such as an early 19th Century British Royal Navy vessel.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Trek III The Search for Spock