Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Year: 1986

Production: Paramount

Director: Leonard Nimoy

Starring: the lead players from the Star Trek tv series, along with Catherine Hicks

Screenwriter: Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Harve Bennett, Nicholas Meyer

Based on a story by Leonard Nimoy and Harve Bennett. Novelization (1986) by Vonda N. McIntyre

119 minutes; Color

Returning to Earth on their captured Klingon spacecraft to stand trial for exceeding orders in various ways (see Star Trek III: The Search for Spock [1984]), Kirk and the crew of the (late) Enterprise are faced with an unidentified probe evaporating the oceans in order, it is somehow deduced, to communicate with humpback whales (now extinct). The only thing to do is to go back to 20th-century San Francisco, get a couple of whales, and use them to talk the probe out of destroying Earth; this they do. It is perhaps unkind to criticize the Star Trek people for their liberalism, but why do they always choose such safe issues? There is some lively humor connected with the crew's attempts to come to grips with 20th-century culture. This was by consensus the most relaxed watchable of the series to date.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

After spending an inordinate amount of time tying up plot threads left over from the last two movies, this takes the regular crew of the destroyed Enterprise back to the twentieth century to kidnap a pair of extinct whales, which need to be transported to the twenty-third century in order to talk a mysterious space probe out of destroying the Earth. Although the time trip allows for some discreet humor - Kirk adopting a profane 80s vocabularly that he has learned from "the literature of the period, the collected works of Jacqueline Susann, the novels of Harold Robbins' ("the giants," observes Spock) - that is an improvement over the somber tone of the first three films, The Voyage Home is still stuck with the cast's advancing years, the astounding fact that Doohan and Koenig still haven't perfected their Scots or Russian accents, a storyline awash with major plot-holes, dead spots and eco-blather, and cliches carried over from the original tv series. Shatner, given twenty-four hours to save the world, still finds time to take the heroine (Hicks) out for a romantic dinner, whereupon he goes back on his earlier buffoonery by lapsing into his usual pompous pose and trotting out chat-up lines from D.H. Lawrence.

The trendy green overtones of the plot have echoes of those tv episodes that embarrassingly tried to address the Vietnam question or the counterculture without offending anyone, and lead to some impassioned and overly earnest save-the-whale pleading, plus a throwaway snide remark about the twentieth century's "brief but disastrous flirtation with nuclear fission". This is all very well if your civilization is powered by non-exisient dilithium crystals, but otherwise not terribly helpful. There is also some attempt to patronize the 80s for the Cold War, which hardly sits well wiih a script that includes not only evil Russian whalers but also a Klingon- Federation confrontation that excuses Kirk's Top Gun (1986) style adventuring and makes the Federation of United Planets seem more than ever like a United States of Outer Space.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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