Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Release Date: November 26th, 1986 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Leonard Nimoy Actors: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Jane Wyatt, Catherine Hicks, Mark Lenard, Robin Curtis
eonard Nimoy directs once again (and has a hand in coming up with the plot) for this final chapter of a three-movie story arc, which saw the last film end not on a cliffhanger, but with a subtitle about the adventure continuing. Since “The Search for Spock” contained negligible adventure, it will take very little action for “The Voyage Home” to best its predecessor. As the title sequence unfolds, it’s immediately evident that the soundtrack has become zippier and lighter, thanks to composer Leonard Rosenman replacing James Horner.
Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) has been branded a terrorist by the Klingons, as they blame him for killing rogue commander Kruge and his crew, despite the fact that Kruge obliterated the U.S.S. Grissom and murdered Kirk’s son. As Starfleet negotiates with the Klingon ambassador (“There shall be no peace as long as Kirk lives!”), Kirk and his men stay in exile for a third month on Vulcan, worrying about the extensive list of charges and offenses that could find them all courtmartialed. With the help of Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who has been retraining his mind after the events of the previous film, as well as trusty crew members McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Scotty (James Doohan), Sulu (George Takei), Chekov (Walter Koenig), and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Kirk takes the seized Klingon Bird of Prey, dubbed the “HMS Bounty,” back into space to face the United Federation of Planet’s verdict.
Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Saratoga investigates an alien probe that annihilates everything in its path. Attempts at communicating with the object fail, resulting in massive power losses and climatic destruction from its seemingly sentient transmissions. The Bounty intercepts Earth’s distress calls and Spock hypothesizes that the probe is checking up on the status of humpback whales, which went extinct in the 21st century. By initiating a time warp, Kirk hopes to travel back to the late 20th century to abduct a few whales so that they might answer the probe’s dispatch.
Time travel is a new concept for the “Star Trek” movies. And having the crew visit a familiar version of Earth is certainly an amusing idea. But why did it have to involve whales? Serving as something of a precursor to the Holodeck episodes from “The Next Generation,” the futuristic space travelers are immersed in old-fashioned present day, where plenty of laughs, misunderstandings, and slapstick surface. “They’re still using money; we’ve gotta find some.” The humor is on such an extreme overdrive that the prospect of accidentally changing the future (the butterfly effect) and Russian infiltration of a Navy vessel are shrugged off with a joke or two. And speaking to spacemen is a perpetually comical affair, especially as lonely, disgruntled tour guide (and whale biologist) Gillian (Catherine Hicks) makes ludicrous decisions to help Kirk acquire his cetaceans, based solely on bizarre flirtations.
Additionally, commentary on the environment, uncivilized ways (such as cursing and rudeness), cruelty toward animals, and even the deficiencies of modern medicine makes its way into the picture, as if an excursion to contemporary Earth gave the writers a license to preach. Subtlety would have been appreciated, but the script seems to be pushing their agendas in plain view. By the end of it all, the focus on comedy is so excessive that “The Voyage Home” is unlike any of the other films – or any of the television episodes. As a “Star Trek” adventure, it’s an utter failure; but as a bit of laughable lunacy, it’s thoroughly entertaining.
– Mike Massie