Seeming to confirm the shortsighted theory that even-numbered Star Trek films are the good ones, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was significantly lighter in tone than its predecessor and far more enjoyable: no cruel villain, no life-shattering deaths or losses. The plot, involving going back in time to retrieve extinct whales in order to communicate with a power-draining cylinder from space, is as outlandish as they come, yet it somehow works. This is thanks largely to the proven charm of the familiar actors, and, since ensembles are often hard to balance in these films, it’s satisfying to see each character given a chance to shine (except Uhura). Whether it’s McCoy’s grumbling about 20th century medicine, Chekhov’s latent dreams of promotion, or Scotty’s introduction to a Mac computer, the humor is deftly woven into the plot so that, even though Earth’s fate hangs in the balance, no one’s afraid to have a little fun along the way. The resurrected Spock (still played by director Leonard Nimoy) is a particularly welcome return, and his fish-out-of-water frankness makes for some of the film’s comedic highlights.
Like most Star Trek episodes, there’s timely message included, namely the importance of conservation. “Save the Whales” may be an oft-used declaration, but it takes on new meaning when you consider that, if we don’t, a singing probe may one day destroy Earth.
There are some minor issues, aside from the fact that the more contemporary setting calls for more obscenities, or “colorful metaphors.” For instance, from the outside, that Klingon bird-of-prey doesn’t look like it could hold two grown humpback whales. Also, it’s unclear why Uhura, Kirk, and Scotty are in uniform while the others seem to be wearing civilian clothing. Plus, there’s a throwaway joke in which Dr. McCoy gives a sick woman a pill that regrows her kidney. Shoot, I didn’t know they were that advanced! (There’s an episode of Voyager in which someone’s lungs are stolen; why couldn’t they just regrow them with that magic pill?)
Despite these questions, The Voyage Home remains a favorite among Trekkers for good reason. It’s hard not to geek out when Kirk dramatically says, “Spock, start your computations for time warp.” The film has humor, excitement, a few high concepts, and time travel; what more does a Star Trek film need?
Best line: (Kirk, explaining Spock’s strangeness to Dr. Taylor) “Oh, him? He’s harmless. Back in the sixties, he was part of the free speech movement at Berkeley. I think he did a little too much LDS.”Artistry: 7 Characters/Actors: 9 Entertainment: 8 Visual Effects: 7 Originality: 9 Watchability: 8 TOTAL: 48 out of 60
Next: #141 – Grave of the Fireflies
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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