Newest Review: ... of the first Star Trek film film) which emits a puzzling signal has entered orbit around the Earth and begun to affect the climate, creat... more
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (DVD)
Member Name: Jake Speed
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (DVD)
Advantages: Enjoyable Star Trek entry, funny
Disadvantages: Nothing too major
1987's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was directed by Leonard Nimoy with his story idea was turned into a screenplay by Harve Bennett, Peter Krikes, Steve Meerson, and Nicholas Meyer. Nimoy decided early on that Star Trek IV would eschew darkness and feature no villains or space battles. It would be an ecological fable with much more humour. The film is generally regarded to be second only to The Wrath of Khan in the Star Trek cycle and was a notable box-office hit for the series - the lighter tone giving it broader appeal than the first three pictures in the franchise. The film picks up where Star Trek III: Search For Spock left off. Our heroes are on the planet Vulcan and the Enterprise has been destroyed. Spock (Nimoy) - who died at the end of the second film - has been returned to life through some mystical mumbo jumbo Vulcan ritual ceremony and a bit of help from the life giving Genesis planet he was marooned on. Captain Kirk (William Shatner of course) and his trusty crew - Dr Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Scotty (James Doohan), Chekov (Walter Koenig), Sulu (George Takei), Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) - now have to head back to Earth to face the music for their insubordination because they disobeyed orders when they went to look for Spock on the Genesis planet in the first place. They have to use their captured Klingon battle cruiser, a big green ship that is shaped like a swooping hawk. Spock, having immersed himself in pure logic again with a battery of Vulcan examinations and tests, is still not quite himself but insists on going back to Earth with his crewmates to face whatever punishment awaits. However, unknown to them, a mysterious probe (shades of the first Star Trek film film) which emits a puzzling signal has entered orbit around the Earth and begun to affect the climate, creating havoc. Kirk and his crew soon intercept an interplanetary communication warning everyone to stay away.
"This is the President of the United Federation of Planets. Do not approach the Earth. The transmissions of an orbiting probe are causing critical damage to this planet. It has almost totally ionized our atmosphere. All power sources have failed. All Earth-orbiting starships are powerless. The probe is vaporizing our oceans. We cannot survive unless a way can be found to respond to the probe. Further communications may not be possible. Save your energy. Federation Council president: Save yourselves. Avoid the planet Earth at all costs. Farewell!" Master of logic Mr Spock studies the probe's transmissions and concludes they match the songs of humpback whales. That's who the probe is trying to communicate with. The only problem is that in the future humpbacks have been extinct for many years. Hunted into illogical blood splattered oblivion by humanity. The solution is to go back in time, find a couple of humpbacks and bring them back to the future to respond to the probe and save Earth. "Mr Spock," says Captain Kirk after mulling it over. "Begin your computations for time warp!" I love that line. The crew duly travel back in time and are soon struggling with life in the San Francisco of the late 1980s as they attempt to complete their most unusual mission.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the one film in the series you probably don't have to be a Trekkie or have a forensic knowledge of the franchise to enjoy. While one could argue the the levity goes a bit too far at times you'd have to have a heart of stone not to have some fun. Believe it or not this more comic slanted and jovial Star Trek film was even going to feature Eddie Murphy at one point. He was a huge Star Trek fan and lobbied heavily for a part (Murphy was the biggest box-office star in the world at the time and had a contract with Star Trek studio Paramount so maybe it's not as strange as it sounds in hinsight that they strong considered accomodating him). He was going to play a college professor or marine biologist in 1987 who believes in aliens and likes to play whale songs and helps Kirk and his crew when they travel to the past. In the end though Murphy decided he didn't like the part he had been given (he wanted to play a Starfleet Officer) and went off to make The Golden Child instead. That'll teach him. One of the joys of The Voyage Home is that - just for once - the whole cast get something to do when they are assigned different tasks in 1987 by Kirk. Usually in these film it's mostly just Kirk, Spock and Bones who get the meat of the story and most of the screen time. Chekov has an amusing arc where he has to go find an alternative source of nuclear energy to power their energy drained Klingon spacecraft and is captured on an aircraft carrier (appropriately enough named Enterprise) where they naturally think he's a Russian spy. Walter Koenig has good comic timing in these scenes and some nice lines. "Admiral. We have found the nuclear wessel!"
I love too McCoy's bewilderment and outrage when he encounters a 20th century hospital. "It's a miracle these people made it out of the dark ages!" His little black bag festooned with far distant furture medical wonders soon has patients back on their feet. The crew are like virtual aliens themselves in the 20th century as they struggle to stay inconspicuous and not stand out too much, utterly bewildered by the language (or "colourful metaphors"), ghetto blasters, punk rockers and having to have the right change to get a bus somewhere. Kirk and Spock spend a lot of the film together and Shatner and Nimoy have some amusing exchanges as they try to locate the Sea World park where the precious humpback whales are. Marine biologist Gillian (Catherine Hicks) becomes a vague love interest for Kirk but only in a very playful sense. Hicks is pretty good and Shatner has to show a bit of energy to keep up in their scenes together. Her presence actually prods him into a better performance. Despite the rather obvious ecological message of the film the points are scored through satire and implication rather than loud direct statements. The diverting surface of the film gives everyone a good time while reminding us of the beauty of these creatures and how unforgivable and sad it would if we ever allowed them to be hunted to extinction. That is truly not logical as Mr Spock points out. The film runs the risk of becoming overtly didactic but manages to avoid this pitfall despite the obvious environmentalist theme. One delight here too is the acerbic game of one-upmanship between Spock and McCoy - McCoy even more exasperated than usual because Spock has gone very logical and aloof again since he returned from what was presumed to be his death.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is an enjoyably good natured and amusing adventure for our geriatric galaxy hopping heroes and a highly entertaining couple of hours or so. I like this one a lot. At the time of writing you can buy a bare bones version of this for under a fiver. I'd consider the motion picture box set if you want loads of extras.
Summary: Amusing ecological sci-fi caper