Category Archives: Klingon

“Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”

‘Keptin, ve’re about to hit that star.’ ‘Quiet, Pavel. We need this for our big exit.’

Kirk and Co., three months from retirement, are assigned to escort Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) to Earth for historic peace negotiations between the Federation and its long-time nemesis. The talks are spurred by Spock after the destruction of a Klingon moon — witnessed months earlier by the U.S.S. Excelsior under the command of Hikaru Sulu. Kirk, still hating the Klingons especially for the death of his son, blasts Spock for going behind his back to volunteer the ship. Later, the Enterprise meets up with Gorkon’s ship and has a rather tense dinner with the chancellor and his staff. Afterward, the Enterprise apparently fires on the Klingons without anyone giving the order. Kirk and McCoy beam over to help any wounded, but McCoy is unable to save Gorkon, shot by two unidentified men wearing Starfleet uniforms immediately after the attack. Kirk and McCoy are arrested and after a trial, sent to the penal colony, Rura Penthe. Spock, meanwhile, does his “Matlock” thing and conducts an investigation, piecing together some details of what happened with the help of his new protege, Vulcan Lieutenant Valeris (Kim Cattrall). After the Enterprise crosses the Klingon border and rescues Kirk and McCoy, Kirk realizes that Valeris was part of the conspiracy. Spock forcibly melds with her and learns she was working with Gorkon’s chief of staff, General Chang (Christopher Plummer), a Romulan ambassador, Starfleet Admiral Cartwright (Brock Peters) and a Bird of Prey that can fire while cloaked (which attacked Gorkon’s ship from beneath the Enterprise). With the peace talks back on at a neutral location, the Enterprise and the Excelsior head there, figuring they’ll need to stop another assassination. After a fierce battle with Chang and the Bird of Prey — where Spock and McCoy hone in on the invisible ship’s tailpipe to target a torpedo — the Enterprise and Excelsior save the day by stopping the assassin and revealing the conspiracy. Then, Kirk and Co. ride off into the sunset.

“Why, no. I’ve never been told I look like the Federation ambassador to Nimbus III. Why do you ask, Captain Kirk?”

Why it’s important

Well, “The Undiscovered Country” is the first example of a TOS production that provides background in what’s been established in TNG (this wasn’t done in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” the only other film released after TNG debuted). This film was released during TNG’s fifth season — where it’s been clear for years that the Klingons are allies. To what extent “Star Trek VI” advanced that storyline is pretty murky, but it’s clear that the eventual alliance started when all hostilities ended here. And in the Star Trek universe, that’s a big, big deal — a message this movie rightly conveys. It’s also kind of crazy that the events of this film synced up so well with the fall of the Soviet Union, which, of course, was often the inspiration for the Klingons (and the Romulans, at times, too).

The film also ties up threads from the second, third and fourth movies — the Klingons announcing that there would be no peace if Kirk lived, the death of David Marcus, etc. — though it essentially ignores a lot of “Star Trek V,” the red-headed stepchild of the Trek movies (which has no relevant long-term impact on the Trek universe and won’t be reviewed on this site). Gene Roddenberry allegedly considered elements of that film apocryphal, though the mutual dislike between Kirk and the Klingons certainly was on display (if done in a comic-book manner). As for the greater Star Trek timeline, the only part of “Star Trek V” that is flatly disregarded here surrounds cooperation between the Klingons and the Enterprise at the end of the previous film. The tension around the Enterprise meeting Gorkon’s ship in “Star Trek VI” — “Never been this close” — and the fact the dinner was a momentous thing pretty much ignores the last 15 minutes of the previous film.

Of course, the decommissioning of the Enterprise-A at the end of this movie sets up the launch of the Enterprise-B in the “Star Trek: Generations”. More on that below.

We need breathing room — especially around this table that seems extremely crowded.

What doesn’t hold up

This movie gets a lot right — and might even be up there with “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” as far as the number of great moments. But it also gets a lot wrong. There are logical problems all over the place. We try not to go all nitpicker in these reviews, but “The Undiscovered Country” has so many misfires …

There are a bevy of small things, like the fact that McCoy doesn’t seem to know that Sulu has been captain of the Excelsior for three years or that Starfleet apparently now has galleys and cooks. There’s also the matter of why the Enterprise and Gorkon’s ship were (essentially) stationary (or moving slowly) after they met up. Shouldn’t they have been heading to Earth at warp speed — and wouldn’t that have essentially prevented the attack? Later, how was Klingon security so bad that the Enterprise could get past its borders and fool its patrols with the WORST use of Klingon language ever (and why was the universal translator not sufficient)? Why wasn’t the very noticeable tracking device Spock put on Kirk noticed by anyone? Why is Klingon blood pink in this movie — and only in this movie? And on and on …

Oh, and why were there no ships in orbit of Camp Khitomer during the battle scene? How did all the dignitaries get to the planet? Shouldn’t a ship or two that brought the dignitaries have stayed to return them — and been there to investigate why two Federation starships were getting absolutely pummeled within visual range? We discussed this larger issue in Star Trek in last week’s review.

Bigger picture, there are a lot of things that don’t hold up with what we see in second-generation Trek. There are really two huge ones: How bad was the Klingon homeworld affected by the destruction of the moon Praxis, and what, exactly, was agreed to in this film (and in its immediate aftermath).

As for the homeworld, dialog in this movie indicates that Kronos was to be evacuated, as the destruction of Praxis was making the planet uninhabitable. This is a big part of the movie, in that it makes the Klingon position more vulnerable (beyond the economic issues facing the Empire after Praxis exploded). But, there’s no indication in TNG, DS9 or Voyager that the Klingons moved to another planet — and here and in DS9 and Voyager, the Klingon homeworld is called Kronos (it’s usually called “the Klingon homeworld” in TNG). So, did Federation scientists help the Klingons save their planet? Keep in mind that this isn’t a small point. Remember how big a deal it was when Vulcan was destroyed in the rebooted “Star Trek” in 2009?

There’s also the bigger question as to why an empire that’s such a threat to the Federation would be so crippled by the destruction of one moon and the problems it caused on one planet. But, oh, well.

Meanwhile, there’s some confusion about what actually was agreed to during the peace negotiations. It seems like Spock and Gorkon were pushing for an “end to all hostilities” — while some later Trek seems to indicate that the alliance between the Federation and the Klingons was forged here. TNG mostly stays with the ending-of-hostilities point, making assertions that the alliance is about 20 years old in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “Samaritan Snare”, among other vaguer instances. More on that when we get to TNG in our reviews.

But, in DS9, (notably in “By Inferno’s Light”) we hear about the Khitomer Accords in reference to the alliance, presumably a nod to the work negotiated in this movie and immediately after at Camp Khitomer. Also in DS9, Bashir explicit says that there have been “two decades of peace with the Klingons” prior to the events of “The Way of the Warrior”.

Now, you could argue that the peace treaty was negotiated at Khitomer in the 2290s and that it was the site for another set of negotiations that ended some other hostilities in the 2340s or 2350s, presumably after the attack on that planet by the Romulans when Worf lived there in the 2340s. Unfortunately, the Voyager episode “Alliances” has Tuvok tell Janeway about an alliance between the Federations and the Klingons that was spurred by a “visionary” named Spock, when Tuvok was a young man. That’s clearly an allusion to the events of “Star Trek VI” (see more below). Once again, Voyager ruins everything. 😉

The rift causes some issues in early TNG, when we see Klingons (“Heart of Glory”, “A Matter of Honor”) who are clearly not that comfortable with the alliance. That’s harder to swallow if 80 years had passed, but less so if the alliance was only about 20 years old. In the second scenario, Klingons in their warrior primes would have been old enough to remember a time when the Federation was still, sort of, an enemy — or, at least, not an ally.

It should be noted that the issues with the alliance timeline and the Klingon homeworld aren’t really the fault of this movie — we have been to the Klingon homeworld, though not necessarily Kronos, in TNG, before this film (DS9 and Voyager had not premiered when the movie was released in 1991). But they made the most sense to bring up here.

Last thing: The events here take place six or seven years after the events of “Star Trek V.” I’m guessing that was done in part to explain the aging of the characters, as the second, third, fourth and fifth films all apparently took place within about six months of each other in the Star Trek universe when seven years actually passed (and two more had, by the time “Star Trek: VI” was released). However, it’s odd that we know nothing of what happened since the last film (other than Sulu’s promotion). It’s not that big of a problem, but it would have been nice to know what happened since the Enterprise-A was commissioned other than the weird adventure with Sybok. It’s also odd that Kirk and other crew members returned to the Enterprise-A at the beginning of the film, apparently, after some time away, based on dialog. That works if the characters are channeling the actors, but wouldn’t Kirk be all about getting in some exploring before he’s set out to pasture? Were Kirk and Co. just chilling on Earth, waiting for V’Ger, a 20th-century superman or some whale-lovin’ probe to call them back into service?

Last, last thing: Isn’t it kind of odd that the Enterprise-A, which isn’t more than seven years old, gets decommissioned at the end of this film? We see in other Trek that Starfleet vessels can be around for decades (with refits, at times) including the previous Enterprise. I’ve wondered if the Enterprise-A was actually renamed after this movie, to set up Starfleet for releasing the new Excelsior-class Enterprise-B just a year later (which we see in “Star Trek: Generations”). More likely, the creators just figured it would be dramatic if the Enterprise-A and the crew were sent out to pasture at the same time, and didn’t care about anything else. Of course, if that were the one and ONLY conceit this movie required, I’d definitely grant it.

Final thoughts

Clearly, I’m kind of ripping this movie. But, there are parts of it that work extremely well. The battle scene with Chang (who is performed with great gusto by Plummer) is truly awesome, the courtroom scene on Kronos is great, it was cool to see Sulu in command (albeit briefly) and the final scene on the Enterprise bridge was a nice sendoff to the original crew.

But beyond the continuity, there are other problems.

Shatner, for whatever reason, really didn’t put in his best performance. It’s a shame, too, because he was so good in the middle Trek films and he had a lot to work with here. He’s especially bad in the briefing room scene early in the movie. Maybe Shatner was still smarting from the bad experience in “Star Trek V”? Or, maybe, he decided a flatter tone was the better way to go during the argument with Spock?

Meanwhile, the insertion of Valeris just doesn’t work that well. Originally, the role was for Saavik, which would have been VERY interesting given the David stuff from “Star Trek: III”. But Kirstie Alley apparently wasn’t available and Robin Curtis (I guess?) wasn’t wanted. So, they rewrote the character. Not knowing why Valeris distrusts the Klingons seriously undercuts the film — whereas Saavik’s past dealings and implied feelings for David could have worked wonders. Valeris comes across as a plot element — and a mostly well-acted one — but nothing more. Could you have imagined a scene where Saavik would have called out Kirk for belittling his son’s memory? Speaking of which, why does Kirk say that the new Klingon chancellor has reaffirmed David’s faith at the end of the film? David never gave any indication that he was all that interested in galactic politics. It’s a glib line that doesn’t, actually, reaffirm David’s faith (unless a lot happened off screen).

It’s not the fault of this film, but later Trek seriously messes with the timeline of “Star Trek VI.” In Voyager’s second season (“Flashback”) we see events as they took place on the Excelsior, through a series of flashbacks brought on by an illness to Tuvok (this sort of ties into the reference above, which comes later in Voyager’s second season, where Tuvok talks about the events of this film when he was a young man). Tuvok was on the Excelsior and witness to much of what happened when and after Praxis exploded. It was meant as a nice tribute, as George Takei and Grace Lee Whitney (who played Janice Rand in TOS and is present on the Excelsior in this film) reprise their roles, as do other actors from the movie.

But the Voyager creators clearly didn’t pay a lot of attention to this film’s story, as they move up the assassination and everything that happening on Kirk’s ship to just DAYS after Praxis exploded. This cuts out a big part of the film’s backstory, in which Spock (on his own and at the request of his father) began a dialog with Gorkon that LED to the peace negotiations weeks, perhaps months, later. As Voyager would have you believe, Praxis exploded and the Klingons immediately asked for a meeting on Earth, like the next day. Note that this flub — which didn’t need to happen, as accelerating the timeline didn’t improve “Flashback” story — isn’t the fault of “Star Trek: VI”, but we don’t have any plans to review “Flashback,” as it’s not important to the general Trek Tapestry and it’s a dumb episode anyway as Tuvok’s illness is caused by some weird parasite that has nothing to do with the events of the movie.

Back to the movie, the most disappointing scene, hands down, is dinner on the Enterprise before the attack on Gorkon’s vessel. It’s hard to explain why — but it really, really doesn’t work. I actually think the direction is the problem, as a lot of the shots are boring and seemed crowded. But it’s possible the writing was too blame. It’s too bad, because that scene could have really rocked — like, it could have been one of Trek’s most famous scenes — but it never quite gets there.

Maybe that’s the way to generally feel about this movie. It’s not a terrible disaster like the previous film or the final two TNG movies — and there are certainly great moments. But it messes up enough smaller points that it really falls short. Shame.

Coming next week …

Back to episodic Trek. A French captain? A blind helmsman? Senior officers dressed like cheerleaders?!

“Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”

“Well, no, Spock. I haven’t changed clothes since the Genesis Planet …”

After wrecking several ships in its path, a mysterious probe heads to Earth and starts wreaking havoc with the planet’s atmosphere. Starfleet is crippled, and Earth is marked off limits. Meanwhile, Kirk and Co. are prepping their stolen Klingon Bird of Prey to leave Vulcan — where they’ve been for two months since the events of the previous movie — to face the music for stealing the Enterprise (which was destroyed) to save Spock. Upon learning about the probe and Starfleet’s inability to answer it, Spock (who’s still a little weird since he was brought back from the dead and all) figures out that the probe is trying to communicate with humpback whales, which have been extinct for more than 200 years. Kirk then takes the crew back in time — by sling-shotting around the sun — to 1986. After some adventures (Spock mind-melds with a whale, Sulu steals a helicopter, Scotty pisses all over the timeline to get some transparent aluminum) the crew is successful, and brings whales George and Gracie to the late 23rd century. With the probe answered and gone, Kirk and Co. face charges, and all but one is dropped. Kirk is demoted from admiral to captain … and given command of the new Enterprise-A.

The moment in the movie where a second ‘whale of a good time’ joke would have been perfect.

Why it’s important

“The Voyage Home” is another movie where our heroes save Earth, so, naturally, it’s hugely significant. If not for the actions of Kirk and Co., Star Trek as we know it wouldn’t have continued — though it is interesting to think of a Federation and a Starfleet without Earth. More on that in a moment …

The film also furthers the hostilities between the Klingons and Kirk. The idea that there will be no peace as long as Kirk lives is significant in the next two movies. He has a big target on his back (a central point of “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”) and his participation in the peace process is so significant that Spock volunteers the Enterprise’s service on his behalf and the anti-peace conspirators frame him in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”.

Lastly, there’s the return of Kirk and Co. to the Enterprise bridge and the return to form of Spock. This movie is really partly about Spock’s recovery. The fact that he’s out of sync is played for laughs — a good touch by the writers — but using Earth’s peril as a way to make him realize what’s important was really pretty brilliant.

“Hello, computer. Canna ya tell me just how badly I might’n be messin’ with the future by givin’ the secret of transparen’ aluminum to this bogus frat with the bad tie?”

What doesn’t hold up

This is an issue that happens in a lot of the movies and even in some of the TV shows. When Earth is about ready to be destroyed — or, there’s some major threat someplace — the Enterprise crew is, effectively, all that’s left of Starfleet and completely on its own. It’s really odd.

In this film, one wonders what the rest of Starfleet — the parts on other planets or in ships in other parts of the galaxy not in the probe’s path — were doing (other than the few vessels we see incapacitated by the probe). There’s no direct indication that they’re doing nothing, but with all the scenes at Starfleet headquarters, it’s odd that there’s not a line of dialog about what the Vulcans or Andorians are doing to help, or about ships from other sectors heading to Earth, before it’s declared off-limits.

This happens a lot of times in Star Trek. Sorry, to jump the timeline, but here are other instances:

“The Best of Both Worlds”: Arguably, TNG’s pinnacle moment has always had a glaring hole in its final minutes. With the Borg vessel orbiting Earth, the Enterprise gets no help — and apparently no contact — from the surface. Surely, someone would have been contacting Riker from HQ or from the Federation president’s office? And wouldn’t there have been other vessels (besides the lowly Mars defense ships) that made it to Earth that weren’t at Wolf 359?

“Zero Hour”: The finale to the third season of “Star Trek: Enterprise” has a Xindi weapon capable of destroying the planet pop out of a subspace vortex — and despite being (supposedly) on high alert in anticipation of the attack, no Earth vessels show up to stop it! A season earlier, when Enterprise returned to the Terran system and a Klingon ship attacked it, at least a couple of Starfleet ships lent a hand …

“Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”: It’s not Earth, but for some reason, there are no ships orbiting Camp Khitomer during the final battle scene where the Enterprise and Excelsior fight the cloaked Bird of Prey. Presumably, there would have been some vessels that transported delegates to the conference. Wouldn’t they still be around — and wouldn’t they have check on what was happening within visual range of the planet?

— Of course, the Enterprise was the only ship capable of intercepting V’Ger before it gets to Earth in “Star Trek — The Motion Picture” and was the only ship that could respond to the problems caused by Khan in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”. Keep in mind that the Enterprise, early in that film, was on a training mission and (apparently) didn’t go to warp until it was “the only ship in the quadrant.” Meanwhile, the Enterprise-B was the “only ship in range,” to help three transport vessels from being destroyed despite being very close to Earth, in “Star Trek: Generations”.

— This also happens in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” but in that film, the rationale is that Starfleet is cool with sending the Enterprise-A when it’s not ready (and, presumably, a long way from the Neutral Zone) because they want Kirk to be the one to handle the Klingons. Of course, they could have put Kirk on a ship that wasn’t falling down around itself.

Point being, six of the first seven Star Trek films — and two key moments in second-generation Trek on television — rely on the conceit that the Enterprise (or the Enterprise crew, in the case of this movie) must handle things alone and any or much help from other vessels — in what is supposed to be a pretty big and impressive armada of ships. It ups the drama, but it makes Starfleet look like a pretty shallow organization when the best it has to deal with MAJOR threats often near Earth are ships filled with trainees (“Wrath of Khan”), still under construction (“The Motion Picture”, “The Final Frontier”, “Generations”), possibly outgunned (“The Undiscovered Country”, “The Best of Both Worlds”, “Zero Hour”) or in a “Klingon flea trap” with limited resources (“The Voyage Home”).

Final thoughts

“The Voyage Home” is almost always referred to as “the one with the whales.” But it’s also the only Trek movie that successfully pulls off extended comedy (“Star Trek: Insurrection”, TNG’s attempt at a funny movie, doesn’t successfully do very much). Of the original six films, “The Voyage Home” did the best at the box office and clearly had the widest appeal.

Oddly enough, “The Voyage Home” was the first “grown-up” movie I saw in the theaters — or, at least, that I remember seeing in theaters. I distinctly recall standing in line to see the movie with my parents and some relatives — and later wondering what the weird morphing heads during time travel were all about. My dad had exposed me to TOS in re-runs and I fell into TNG pretty hard when it premiered in fall 1987. I’m guessing this movie helped that.

As a bookend to the three-parter that really began with “Wrath of Khan”, the movie works well. Other than the very cavalier attitude Kirk and Co. have in this film as far as changing history — which I guess was done for laughs — my only real gripe with the film is the goofiness during the actual time travel with the morphing heads. I’m not sure what the creators were going for there — and I doubt it was anything that worked better in 1986 than it does today. Bigger picture, it’s fine that Kirk risked polluting the timeline by going back in time, as Earth itself was at stake. But it’s too bad the crew is so cool with messing up history by being so dumb on some little stuff. Other than Scotty giving the secret of transparent aluminum to that one dude, it’s astonishing that Chekov actively leaves his Klingon phaser behind, that Bones helps a random woman grow a new kidney and (most importantly) that Kirk is cool taking Dr. Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks) — the 20th century marine biologist who helps get the whales — to the 23rd century. In all three instances, our heroes should have really been more mindful of messing up the timeline. And their attitudes in this film doesn’t jibe with what we saw in TOS.

Speaking of Hicks, it’s always been odd to me that she and Stephen Collins — who played Decker in “Star Trek — The Motion Picture” — went on to play the parents on “7th Heaven”. Think they ever hung out on the set telling Shatner stories? I like to think they did.

Editor’s note

It’s true that the events of this film take place in Star Trek years of 2285 and 1986. However, as the film begins and ends in 2285, we chose that year for placement on the Star Trek timeline.

Coming next week …

Is Shakespeare better in the original Klingon? We’ll investigate …

“Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”

That guy on the left also played Dan from “Night Court”. And the guy in the middle played Reverend Jim on “Taxi”. If only the guy on the right had been in “Silver Spoons” …

The Enterprise limps back to Earth after its encounter with Khan. The crew, struggling with Spock’s death and McCoy’s apparent emotional breakdown, learns that the Enterprise is to be decommissioned. Meanwhile, a Klingon Bird of Prey led by the particularly nasty Commander Kruge (Christopher Lloyd) is intent on learning the secrets of the Genesis Planet, created in the previous movie. Back on Earth, Sarek (Mark Lenard) pays a visit to Kirk and (rather emotionally) asks him why he did not bring Spock’s body back to Vulcan, per tradition. The two discover that Spock mind-melded with an unconscious McCoy shortly before saving the ship, probably causing McCoy’s mental issues (either that, or he had too many Georgia mint juleps). After being refused by the head of Starfleet — one of the most officious and frustrating bureaucrats in the history of Federation bureaucrats — Kirk and Co. steal the Enterprise to retrieve Spock’s body on the Genesis Planet. Upon arrival, Kirk doesn’t find the U.S.S. Grissom — a science vessel assigned to the planet with Kirk’s son David Marcus (Merritt Butrick) and Saavik (Robin Curtis, taking over for Kirstie Alley). Instead, Kruge’s ship decloaks. The Bird of Prey, normally no match for the Enterprise, knocks out the automation Scotty set up, disabling the ship. Kirk then learns that Kruge has taken David, Saavik and Spock — reborn after his torpedo tube/coffin landed on the planet, but with no mind — captive on the planet. Kruge has David killed in a show of strength and a stunned Kirk surrenders, allowing Kruge’s officers to beam to the Enterprise. But Kirk and Co. beam to the surface, and put the ship on auto-destruct, killing most of Kruge’s crew. After watching the Enterprise die in the planet’s atmosphere, Kirk and Co., find Saavik and Spock, but Kruge beams down and has everyone but Kirk and Spock taken captive on the Bird of Prey. As the Genesis Planet starts to come apart — David used an unstable material in his work, making the experiment a failure — Kirk and Kruge fight, with Kruge eventually falling to his death. At the last second, Kirk fools the remaining Klingon on the Bird of Prey to beam him and Spock aboard, and Kirk takes command of the ship, leaving orbit as the planet explodes. They then head to Vulcan, where an ancient ritual is used to take Spock’s “katra” from McCoy and put it into Spock’s body. The film ends with a reborn Spock recognizing Kirk and being greeted by the rest of the crew.

“I’m serious. Stop making fun of our weird civilian clothes. Chekov picked them, and he’s still not right from that bug thingy in the last movie.”

Why it’s important

“The Search for Spock” is the middle part of what really is a trilogy of the second, third and fourth Trek movies. Other than bringing one of the franchise’s core characters back from the dead, it’s probably most important in furthering the redone Klingons — they’re more warrior-like here than ever before — and setting up the Kirk/Klingon rivalry that permeates the next three films.

In fact, the new take on the Klingons is huge going forward. As noted in previous reviews, Klingons in the original series, by and large, were more like treacherous sneaks (think Ferengi) than warriors. Kruge and his crew aren’t honorable, like the Klingons we see in TNG, but the Bird of Prey clearly is filled with ballsy fighters. It’s actually a good change, if it’s an evolving one. We also hear much more of the Klingon language.

Kirk taking possession of the Bird of Prey and the crew’s status as renegades going into the fourth movie is important, too. It puts them in the position (outside Starfleet) to go back to 20th-century Earth and recover two humpback whales to answer the call of a probe that is threatening the planet in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”. More on that next week.

And, obviously, the rebirth of Spock is huge. Without him, it’s unlikely that the crew would have saved Earth in the next movie — or that the peace initiative with the Klingons would have happened in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”. There’s also the business with Spock on Romulus in TNG and the possible ramifications of that in the rebooted “Star Trek” in 2009.

Oh, and the Enterprise gets destroyed.

If only Decker had stuck around …

What doesn’t hold up

There are a handful of continuity issues, mostly stemming from the choice to have this film take place just days (weeks?) after the previous one. Hairstyles and the general look of the ship don’t quite line up (somehow, the crew got a new type of phaser between Genesis and Earth). There’s also the odd line about the Enterprise being “20 years old” — which is just way, way off. At this point in Trek, the ship is about 40 years old, though it was refitted 13 or so years before the events of this movie. But those items are mostly forgivable.

The only other thing that’s always stood out are the poor graphics and look inside the new Excelsior (which is docked near the Enterprise once it returns to Earth). The ship’s exterior is extremely cool, even now. But the graphics and bridge are just awful. By the time we see the ship again in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” thankfully, things have improved on “The Great Experiment.”

And, I suppose, I could call out the creators for revamping the Klingons. In this case, I guess I’ll shrug it off and assume that most Klingons are like Kor from “Errand of Mercy” or Kang from “Day of the Dove,” as opposed to the nameless Klingons in “Friday’s Child” or “A Private Little War.” It might be a reach, but when the creators have two choices and make the right one, I’ll cut them some slack.

Final thoughts

I actually think that the third Star Trek film doesn’t get nearly enough love. It’s not as good as “Wrath of Khan”, but it’s not that far off — even if the stuff on Vulcan is kind of slow. With the old thinking that odd Star Trek films are always worse than the even ones, “The Search for Spock” is arguably the best of the odds (unless you dig all the trippy stuff in “The Motion Picture”).

This movie does have a lot of great scenes. The theft of the Enterprise is one of the most engaging moments in the film series and the destruction of the Enterprise is quite affecting (Shatner nails it with, “My god, Bones. What have I done?”). Kruge clearly isn’t the villain that Khan was, as he’s far less complex. But he does the job. I’ll take a two-dimensional Klingon over a laughing Vulcan or a weird energy cloud any day.

Lastly, this is the first time we see the iconic Bird of Prey. It’s really one of the coolest ship designs Star Trek has ever produced — and it pops up in the next three movies and in all of second-generation Trek (aside from the prequel “Star Trek: Enterprise”).

Coming next week …

Come to Trek Tapestry. You might have a whale of a good time!

“Star Trek — The Motion Picture”

“Mr. Spock, can you check your sensors and kindly tell me why they got our uniforms from ‘The Love Boat’?”

More than two years and tons of Klingon forehead reconstruction surgery since the end of the Enterprise’s historic 5-year mission, Admiral Kirk takes command of the refitted Enterprise to prevent a dangerous energy cloud from reaching Earth. He displaces Captain Willard Decker (Stephen Collins) who stays on the ship as executive officer. Kirk brings Bones out of retirement and picks up Spock along the way (they were getting the band back together, it seems). Turns out Spock sensed an intelligence from the cloud while he was on Vulcan trying to be more Vulcan, and wants to join the Enterprise to learn more about it. The cloud thing sends a probe to the Enterprise that kills and then reappears as sexy navigator Ilia (Persis Khambatta, who spends the rest of the movie wearing nothing but heels and a doctor’s lab coat). Ilia Probe tells Kirk that something called V’Ger is searching for its creator. Eventually, the crew finds the object at the heart of the cloud: actually Voyager 6, an ancient Earth probe that has gained sentience with the help of a mechanical civilization in another part of the galaxy. When the only way to arrange the meeting is to have V’Ger merge with a human, Decker volunteers. Decker had long been in love with Ilia, a Deltan, who took a vow of celibacy. He merges with what’s left of Ilia, and with her V’Ger, and the cloud vanishes — just as it’s poised to attack Earth. With civilization saved as they know it, Kirk, Spock and McCoy return to the bridge of the Enterprise, to (presumably) set out on new adventures.

“I’m looking forward to a long and successful career after this movie.”

Why it’s important

In the Star Trek universe, the significance of the events of “The Motion Picture” is pretty obvious. Earth, one of the founding worlds of the Federation and headquarters to Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy, was very nearly left without any human life. The actions of Kirk and Co. saved the planet, while putting the pieces in motion for more adventures of the crew on the Enterprise. More on that in a bit.

In the real world, the success of “The Motion Picture” brought Star Trek back from the dead (with all apologies to The Animated Series). Anyone reading this review knows what this film begat as far as movies, spinoffs, etc. So, while it’s not a perfect movie — and while it’s an oddity in the franchise in a lot of ways, as we’ll discuss — it was a very big deal.

“Spock, on my responsibility as captain of the Enterprise, I promise that Dr. McCoy will not be allowed to wear leisure suits the next time we make a movie.”

What doesn’t hold up

Most of “The Motion Picture” works OK as far as what we know of Trek history. It’s odd that the creators chose to put the events of the movie just 2 1/2 years after the end of the 5-year mission, when 10 years had passed in real life. The actors sure look a heckuva lot older, DeForest Kelley being the most egregious example. There’s also the matter of whether Kirk had another 5-year mission in the 13 years in the Star Trek timeline after this film and before “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”. It certainly seems like that’s what happened, based on dialog, but it’s never really stated. We do know that at some point between the two films, Kirk left Starfleet (“Star Trek: Generations”) but there are still a lot of years unaccounted for.

And, of course, the Klingons certainly look different than they did the last time we saw them way back in “Day of the Dove”. Actually, the Klingons here look different than they do going forward, as well.

But the biggest oddity about “The Motion Picture” to me has always been that it’s much more akin to “2001: A Space Odyssey” and to a lesser extent “Star Wars” than The Original Series, or anything in the franchise after it, for that matter. Part of that is the ’70s-tastic look of the Enterprise and uniforms, most of which is gone by the next movie in 1982. Part of it has to do with showcasing effects that weren’t possible for television in the 1960s. And there’s the (much) slower pace.

Little if anything else in Star Trek attempts the a more sweeping story or such a hard sci-fi edge. Maybe that’s why the events of this film, as significant as they are, never get mentioned again in Star Trek. The closest thing I can think of is the offhand remark by the Federation president on Earth in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered County” that Kirk and McCoy had “literally saved this planet.” Of course, he could have been referring to other events, such as those in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”.

Final thoughts

“The Motion Picture” isn’t the worst of the Star Trek films, and it’s arguably better than the last two TNG films, to say nothing of the absolutely awful “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”, elements of which were considered apocryphal by Gene Roddenberry. The scene in “The Motion Picture” where we first see the Enterprise is pretty  wonderful and most of the acting is OK, though there are odd/forced moments from just about every member of the cast. Walter Koenig, in particular, wasn’t on his A-game in this movie.

But it’s also, arguably, the hardest film to sit through because of the unnecessary scenes with crew members staring agape at the view screen as the ship travels through the energy cloud. Plus, the ending is extremely rushed and suffers from the Extemporaneous Dialog Diagnosing a Complex Problem trope so common in TOS. How Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Decker put together everything that’s going on and come up with a solution — despite a lack of much evidence and an only somewhat helpful Ilia Probe — is a real stretch. Unfortunately, the creators harked back to The Original Series in one of the most annoying ways.

“The Motion Picture” almost feels like an estranged, but not altogether dismissed or decried, relative of the franchise as a whole (it’s the quasi-estranged uncle, whereas “Star Trek: V” is the red-headed stepchild). Four of the next five movies really are part of a continuing saga. But “The Motion Picture” — even more so than “The Final Frontier” — stands alone.

The early parts of “The Wrath of Khan” — where Kirk is feeling past his prime and out of place riding a desk on Earth — could fit right after the events of TOS. Why there’s no acknowledgement that Kirk essentially went through the same soul-searching in both movies is really weird. Why Bones didn’t say something like, “Jim, you went through this before the incident with V’Ger when you got the Enterprise back,” or something to that effect is odd. Kirk is in his late 30s in the first movie and turns 50 in the second, so perhaps the idea of him getting old in the second movie needed to be buoyed — and it certainly works as a thematic device in both films. Or, maybe, the creators didn’t figure they’d make audiences remember what happened in a movie from three years earlier?

Last point: This movie might be the first instance in which the creators pushed back the Trek timeline. As noted in other reviews, dialog in several TOS episodes indicates that TOS occurred about 200 years in the future (which would have put it in the late 22nd century). But Decker, near the end of the movie, notes that Voyager 6 left Earth about 300 years ago, in the late 20th century. The lack of fast-track space exploration in the decade between TOS and this movie probably made the creators push everything back. From now on, it’s pretty clear that TOS took place 300 years after it originally aired.

Coming next week …

Well, we certainly wouldn’t be reviewing any film revolving around a character whose name rhymes with Schman Schmoonien Schmingh. Nope, no chance of that …

“The Savage Curtain”

“Yep. I’m in a chair, floating in space. Honest Abe, people.”

After encountering Abraham Lincoln (Lee Bergere) floating in space (for realz) the crew beams him aboard. He sort of seems like the genuine article and he vaguely tells Kirk that the answers about him are on a nearby planet the ship was exploring. Upon beaming down, Kirk, Spock and Lincoln are joined by Surak (Barry Atwater), the father of the Vulcan people. Then, some weird rock things who live on the planet tell our heroes that they have to fight recreations of four evil figures from history. The bad guys include Genghis Khan (Nathan Gung) who really likes to throw rocks; some weird witch woman, Zora (Carol Daniels) not to be confused with a witch-ay woman; Kahless the Unforgettable (Robert Herron) essentially, the Klingon messiah who apparently doubles as a voiceover actor; and Colonel Green (Phillip Pine) a notorious figure from 21st-century Earth. All the historical figures are recreations (I guess?) and the rock creatures want to examine the difference between good and evil. After a bunch of by-the-numbers fight scenes where Kirk and Co. win, but don’t kill the bad guys, they learn that it’s mercy or something.

“Live long … and don’t make fun of my really weird outfit.”

Why it’s important

As goofy as this episode is — it seems like something straight out of The Animated Series — it introduces two (possibly three) key figures in the history of Star Trek. Both Kahless and Surak appear in second-generation Trek (Kahless in TNG’s “Rightful Heir” and later references and Surak in the fourth-season Vulcan arc in “Star Trek: Enterprise”). Colonel Green, while certainly not a messiah figure, is an important guy in Earth’s history. He pops up in a recording in “Terra Prime” at the end of the fourth season of “Star Trek: Enterprise,” and it turns out he’s a sort of hero to the Earth-for-humans movement because he euthanized a bunch of people deformed by radiation during World War III. Yay!

Now, I’ll give the creators props for sticking with some continuity. It wouldn’t be unheard of for a character like Surak or Kahless to be introduced (particularly in the waning days of TOS) only to be forgotten. Garth of Izar, was introduced in TOS’s third season as the “model” for starship captains and an important historical figure. But we never hear of him after that episode.

(In another example, Kirk, Spock and McCoy meet the immortal human Flint — who had been Solomon, Alexander the Great, Merlin, da Vinci, Brahms and possibly others — in “Requiem for Methuselah,” arguably the weirdest episode of TOS. We won’t review it as it’s not part of any additional Star Trek lore. But it’s worth a watch because its premise surrounds a very, very interesting concept. Unfortunately, the creators decided to take it in a bizarre direction, in which the immortal Flint builds an android to be with him and tries to use Kirk to get her to learn to love, or something. Kirk and the android fall for each other, Flint and Kirk fight over her, the android dies and Spock later removes Kirk’s memories to help with his heartbreak! Oh, and all of this happens in the span of THREE HOURS as Kirk, Spock and McCoy work with Flint to get a drug from his planet to save a dying Enterprise crew. Even stranger, there appears to be no effort after this episode to contact Flint. Given Spock’s statements in other episodes about the opportunities for research, like the planet killer in “The Doomsday Machine” or the weird aliens in “Catspaw”, it’s odd that they just walk away from Flint. Of course, they did something similar in “Metamorphosis.”)

Of course, Surak, Green and Kahless are all very different the next time we see them — with a special emphasis on Kahless …

“You’ll see that we’ve set up a buffet of bad guys, Captain Kirk. It’s like a Golden Corral… of evil!”

What doesn’t hold up

Surak sure looks different (and dresses differently) than he does in Enterprise as does Green. But that’s really not a big thing. The transformation of Kahless, however, is kinda nuts. Here, he dresses like the 23rd-century Klingons we see in TOS, he doesn’t have forehead ridges or long hair (undermining the genetic experiment explanation for Klingon foreheads from Enterprise) he can mimic voices in the stylings of Lt. Commander Data and (probably most importantly) he’s characterized as an evil dude who inspired all the “tyrannies” the Klingons would go on to commit. Oh, and he’s totally subservient to Colonel Green. Weird.

By the time we see Kahless in TNG — or, rather, a clone of Kahless who is made to act like the genuine article — he’s not an evil guy, he has forehead ridges and dresses in garb that’s not out of a 23rd century JC Penney on Kronos. And he has no (apparent) ability to be the Klingons’ very own Mel Blanc. This is actually a case example of how Klingons went from mostly evil, treacherous bastards in TOS and the movies (think Kruge in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”) to honorable warriors in TNG and DS9 (Worf, Martok, etc.). There were some tweeners over the years, like Kang, Gowron and Gorkon. But retconning a character previously equated with Genghis Khan into a mostly good dude? It’s pretty laughable.

I’ve heard the theory that the rock dudes in this episode generated Kahless from what Kirk thought Kahless would be like — which means Kirk heard the name and drew his own conclusions or read a very biased history on the Klingons (does D’Nesh D’Souza write about Klingon history?). But writing the Kahless inconsistencies off as a flaw in Kirk’s version of him is weak sauce, especially because the rock dudes generated Surak, someone Kirk had never heard of (which, by itself, is pretty ridiculous, as it makes Kirk look like a real idiot). Did they pull Surak from Spock’s mind but everyone else from Kirk’s?

Final thoughts

Well, we say it in our About Us page. Reviewing an episode doesn’t mean we endorse it. “The Savage Curtain” certainly isn’t the worst episode of TOS and it’s arguably not even in the bottom five of TOS’s infamous third season. As hokey and goofy as some of it is, it has some zip to it and some decent dialog. It’s not dreadfully dull AND preposterous like “The Lights of Zetar” or “And the Children Shall Lead.” It’s really just preposterous.

Why did the creators decided to put Lincoln in a chair IN SPACE to start the episode? Why did the creators allow a recreation of the father of Vulcan logic to get killed and Lincoln to be impaled by a spear? Oh, and in another ridiculous moment, Kirk tells Lincoln that the Enterprise can “convert” to minutes. WTF? Was Kirk making a really lame joke at the expense of one of his personal heroes and a key figure in Earth history? Kirk and Co. have used minutes since the very first episodes of the series. They use HOURS later in this episode!

This episode also features the really stupid cliche where the bridge crew watches some fight to the death along with the audience — complete with (groan) the same camera angles. This only happens a few times in TOS (“Arena” “The Gamesters of Triskelion” and here) but it’s one of my least favorite TOS devices. Naturally, it shows up in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” the worst of the Trek films.

All that said, I did kinda like the moment where Lincoln says Kirk reminds him of Ulysses S. Grant — and equates Grant with drinking whiskey.