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STIV:TVH-Trek at its best
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (DVD)
Member Name: jonnyfun06
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (DVD)
Advantages: Great Original Story
Disadvantages: Makes you realise how good all the films should be
As Star Trek IV begins, Kirk and his officers are debating whether to end their self-imposed exile on Vulcan and return to Earth to face the charges against them. Spock meanwhile is coming to terms with his apparently faulty memory and the unprecedented adventure he has experienced.
Nevertheless he is resolute in his determination to accompany Kirk back to Earth so that he can offer testimony. Earth is in the grip of a dire crisis however, as an alien probe of immense destructive power has come to the solar system, broadcasting a message of unknown meaning. The message has the side effect of altering Earth's climate and storms overtake the planet, plunging the world into an ice age that no life will survive. Starfleet is powerless as any ship that approaches the probe is drained of energy. As Kirk and co voyage to Earth, they intercept the dire communications of the Federation President warning all vessels to steer clear of the doomed planet.
Kirk is at first helpless as he watches his home world begin to perish, but Spock's disjointed memory gives him a lifeline. Spock recognises the probe's message as that of humpback whales, a species that has been extinct for over 200 years. Kirk hatches a plan to rescue some whales that will communicate with the probe from the only place in the universe they exist, Earth 1986.
Star Trek IV is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. The transfer itself is ideal, with the image resplendent on this disc. There are no artefacts at all and the picture is sharp and colourful throughout. The print itself is a little variable though. Dirt and scratches particularly affect the initial reprise from Star Trek III, but when the movie proper starts, this problem is significantly lessened to a few occasional flecks. That said there were a couple of moments of significant print damage, but still not enough to detract from the overall high quality of the transfer. It's 1986 and CGI is just a glint in some programmer's eye. All the effects in Star Trek IV are accomplished optically and they are of sufficiently high quality that they fit relatively seamlessly into the film. Fortunately the time travel element and the unconventional story reduce the eye candy quotient in favour of character moments. No big starship battles to see here, move along. Having said that, I was amazed to see in the featurette that over 95% of the whale footage was created via effects and animatronics. I always assumed that footage of real whales had been seamlessly blended into the story and to find the converse is true is mind-boggling. Remember, this is pre CGI and barely 10 years after Spielberg had such problems with an artificial shark.
The film comes with a DD 5.1 English soundtrack as well as a DD 2.0 Surround German one. The surround is adequate and does the job well. The sound is sufficiently ambient and does put you into the middle of the movie. That said there are moments when the speakers come to life. The sound of the probe is ominous and laden with overtones of bass, and the storm sequences are also vibrant and dynamic. The speech is always audible and the music suits the film well. Leonard Rosenmann provided the score and his music is jaunty and almost festive in its feel. He provides a lightness of tone that matches the buoyant nature of the script.
This disc unlike most of the other initial Star Trek discs actually has more than just the theatrical trailer. It's nothing to get excited about though as it's just a 15-minute featurette focussing on Leonard Nimoy's direction. The man himself introduces the piece and goes over his career and the making of the film from his perspective. He also gives a quick description of the difference between widescreen and pan and scan.
Star Trek IV does not have a promising start. With an ominous probe appearing from a nebula and heading relentlessly towards Earth, it seems a little too similar to Star Trek the Motion Picture for comfort. However, any reservations are soon dispelled as the crew of the late starship Enterprise embark on what is perhaps their most light-hearted and fun filled screen adventure. Star Trek IV is unique in that it is played mostly for laughs, a welcome change after the rather tense storylines of Star Trek II and III. It's also unique in that there is no enemy to be shooting phasers at, only a forbidding space probe, which actually embodies the retribution humanity is due for despoiling Mother Earth. Yes, there is the admirable eco-message at the heart of the story, but it's put to work at the heart of the tale, rather than being used as a brute club to batter audiences into changing their wasteful ways.
While the light tone is evident from the beginning, with some friendly banter among the crew and some jokes at the expense of Spock's memory, it's when Kirk and co make their debut into 1980's San Francisco that the movie comes to life. The culture clash between future and past is judged perfectly, as the Enterprise crew find themselves completely out of their depth. The humour is sharp and well observed, and it's easy to accept these characters as out of place spacemen. Seeing Kirk and Spock flummoxed by phrases like 'exact change only' and Scotty having to watch his language when he let's slip that he has travelled millions of miles gives the piece a little of the olf humour that was lacking in the other films
This movie sees the original cast at their most relaxed and every character gets a piece of the action. They're also still of an age to be comfortable in their roles. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley reprise their roles with their customary skill while the other actors get some choice scenes. A confused Chekov when asked to give his rank dreamily replies 'Admiral', Sulu has problems flying a Huey and Scotty finds that computers aren't quite user friendly yet.
Supporting the regular cast is Catherine Hicks as cetacean biologist Gillian Taylor. She is the 20th Century character who helps the time travellers in their quest and her character in this film is developed well. You get an insight into her story that you wouldn't expect from a film that has such an established ensemble cast, and the film is the better for it. Trivia wise, Brock Peters makes his first appearance as Admiral Cartright and his character will make a bigger impression in Star Trek VI. Also making brief cameos are Majel Barrett and Grace Lee Whitney as well as Vijay Amritaj and Jane Wiedlin
The Voyage Home makes me realise how much the Star Trek franchise has lost. The sheer warmth and depth of the characters is like putting on a comfortable pair of slippers. Their banter is natural and it's the journeys that these characters make that drive the story. The story itself is well thought out and interesting. More than that, it has a smidgen of originality. The film isn't hamstrung by special effects or eye-candy, and in a way the non-violent and moralistic nature of the tale has more in common with Gene Roddenberry's original vision of Star Trek than the battle fests that the recent movies have been. This film of all the Treks has the greatest mass audience appeal, and the sheer entertainment value lets you gloss over any minor failings. The picture is good but not great, while I haven't heard this film sound so good and it's a little light on extras
Summary: A truely heart warming tale, like the old days