Category Archives: 2285

“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 II: The Wrath of Khan”

William Shatner, face No. 4.

Kirk, as he turns 50 with a desk job at Starfleet HQ, is feeling old and obsolete. But an inspection cruise on the Enterprise — with a training crew under Captain Spock’s command — is just the trick to break up the monotony. Meanwhile, Chekov is first officer of the U.S.S. Reliant, a ship working to find a planetoid with no life to test the experimental Genesis Device. Designed by one of Jimbo’s old flames, Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) and Jimbo’s estranged son, David (Merritt Butrick) the device would create “life from lifelessness” on (ideally) a lifeless planetary body. Chekov and Captain Terrell (Paul Winfield) beam down to investigate some anomalous readings on Ceti Alpha VI, a candidate for the experiment, and run into our old buddy Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) and what’s left of his crazy group of 20th-century genetic superpeople who love to play checkers, apparently. Turns out Chekov and Terrell really beamed down to Ceti Alpha V (d’oh!) where Kirk marooned Khan 15 years earlier (in “Space Seed“), and Ceti Alpha VI, unfortunately, had exploded a while back (double d’oh!), rendering Khan’s Ceti Alpha V a barren wasteland. Khan puts creatures into Chekov and Terrell’s ears to make them more susceptible to suggestion (I would have tried vodka with Chekov, but whatevs) and heads to Space Lab Regula 1, where the the Marcuses are building the Genesis Device. After failing to find Genesis at the station, Khan uses the Reliant to severely cripple the Enterprise, which was drawn there when Carol contacted Kirk for help. Kirk, Bones and sexy Vulcan Lieutenant Saavik (Kirstie Alley) beam to the space station and find Chekov and Terrell, and then beam to a nearby planetoid and find the Marcuses and the Genesis Device. But Chekov and Terrell are still under Khan’s control, and Khan captures the Genesis Device. After fooling Khan into thinking the Enterprise left the landing party behind, Kirk draws the Reliant into a nearby nebula and beats Khan in an epic battle. With nothing left to lose, Khan sets Genesis to detonate, knowing the Enterprise can’t escape its blast on impulse. In the final moments, Spock sacrifices himself — after mind-melding with an unconscious McCoy — and fixes the Enterprise’s warp drive, allowing the ship to escape. In a heartfelt scene near the end of the film, Kirk and Co. put Spock’s body in a torpedo tube and fire it toward the newly created Genesis Planet (created by the explosion) never to be seen again …

“Kirk, my old friend … can you tell me why none of the other genetically engineered superpeople has aged, and why only one of them has any sort of opinion on my crazy-ass obsession? Oh … and it is very cold in space.”

Why it’s important

Well, where to begin?

“The Wrath of Khan” is not only the best of the Trek movies — it’s the most consequential.  “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” centers around Kirk’s renegade actions to return to the Genesis Planet to recover Spock’s body and bring it to Vulcan. His body, reborn by the Genesis effect, is reunited late in the film with his “katra,” which he left in McCoy during the aforementioned mind-meld. “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”, centers around Kirk and Co. returning to Earth to face the music — until they are forced to travel back in time to 20th-century Earth to recover two humpback whales to save the planet from an alien probe in the 23rd century. The success of that mission sends a demoted Kirk and Co. to the Enterprise-A, which replaced the original Enterprise that was destroyed in “The Search for Spock”. It’s on the new ship that the final two TOS movies take place. More on the dominoes when we review the next few films.

In a more real-world sense, “Wrath of Khan” proved that Trek movies could be critically acclaimed, whereas “The Motion Picture” proved that they could make money.

“No, Admiral. We don’t still have bugs in our bodies to make us more subservient. Why do you ask?”

What doesn’t hold up

“The Wrath of Khan” is a very good movie, but it does have its share of flaws. The biggest is the essential “redo” from “The Motion Picture”. Kirk retaking the Enterprise due to a threat where the untested ship/crew is the only one  in range is a rather annoying trope that also appeared in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” and “Star Trek: Generations”. But it’s especially pronounced in this movie, because one could watch it and not really even know that the events of “The Motion Picture” happened. It’s quite odd, really. As noted in our previous review, “The Motion Picture” stands out as the quasi-estranged uncle of the film franchise.

There also are a lot of issues with the story’s logic. How did the Reliant not, you know, notice that the Ceti Alpha system consisted of one fewer planet than it had 15 years earlier? Wouldn’t Chekov have been on higher alert being in the system in the first place? “Keptin, ve should awoid Ceti Alpha V … ”

There’s also the issue of Khan’s followers — aside from the one dude (Judson Scott) who talks ALL the time — acting essentially as extras. Would a group of genetic supermen/superwomen have nothing to say to their leader, whose actions are borderline insane? The same thing sort of happened in “Space Seed,” but that made more sense because the other genetic superpeople weren’t awake for much of the episode (and Khan’s actions weren’t nearly as crazy). In this film, Khan is more of a cult leader than a leader of presumably equal genetically engineered humans. Interestingly, we see this again in “Star Trek: Enterprise” when another group of genetically engineered superhumans pops up. Maybe it has something to do with a built-in hierarchy when it comes to the way the superhumans were created?

Lastly, it appears that only Spock, Saavik and Scotty are full-time crewmembers on the Enterprise as this movie begins, as McCoy, Sulu and Uhura seem to be on board because of the inspection (they arrive with Kirk). So, what, exactly are they doing with their lives/careers? And why did they participate in the initial Kobayashi Maru test for Saavik at the beginning of the film — other than to try to trick us, the audience, into thinking it was real?

Final thoughts

OK, OK. I know I’m being pretty hard on what is a very good movie. The acting here is better than in any other Trek film and the plot (as intricate as it is —can you tell writing the summary was a bear?) works extraordinarily well.

What people remember most from “Wrath of Khan” is Spock’s death scene, which was just perfectly handled by Shatner and Nimoy. Montalban brought his A-game as well, and the scenes with Kirk and the Marcuses are really quite effective. Plus, the film has one of Trek’s most original sci-fi concepts in the Genesis Device, which is sort of a linchpin for the film.

Coming next week …

Klingon bastards … you play prominently into our next review. Klingon bastards …