Star Trek V was a big disappointment, and I’m sure everyone is glad that it didn’t mark the end of the original series cast. When Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was released two years later, it breathed new life into movie prospects, even as The Next Generation kept the franchise alive on television. With a plot informed by contemporary tensions with Russia (the Berlin Wall was torn down the previous year), the sixth film focuses more on the Klingons, giving them more depth than the typically villainous stereotypes Kirk had encountered in Star Trek III, when his son was murdered. The filmmakers made an excellent decision in focusing on Kirk’s prejudice over his loss; such pain is not something easily forgotten. Star Trek: The Original Series was at its best with potent sci-fi social commentary; Star Trek VI returns to such themes, with Kirk’s coming to terms with his bias being a thoughtful challenge to all those bearing blind bigotry.
The political intrigue is surprisingly intricate, though at times specific characters’ motivations are less than clear. Christopher Plummer as main villain General Chang is an obvious follow-up to Khan, even quoting Shakespeare as he attacks the Enterprise with smug superiority. Other conspirators are less obviously villainous (I won’t include too many spoilers), but it’s interesting to note that one is played by Brock Peters, who portrayed Tom Robinson, a victim of prejudice, in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Other actors include David Warner as the assassinated ambassador Gorkon, Robocop’s Kurtwood Smith as the Federation President, and Kim Cattrall as Vulcan newbie Valeris, who doesn’t quite fit as well as Kirstie Alley’s Saavik from Star Trek II (or Robin Curtis in III), perhaps intentionally. As for the main cast, they don’t all get the moments of glory that The Voyage Home afforded, but each slips into their familiar roles like a glove, particularly Shatner and Nimoy as Kirk and Spock disagree over the Klingon issue. George Takei’s Sulu (now Captain) gets the most memorable scene when the film begins with a literal bang. (The explosion of Praxis was revisited in “Flashback,” a memorable episode of Star Trek: Voyager which guest-starred Takei.)
It’s more serious than The Voyage Home and features a violent zero-g attack complete with floating blood unlike anything in the previous films, but there are enough bits of self-referential comedy and character introspection to still embody the Star Trek we love. It’s unfortunate for any beloved franchise to meet its conclusion, but Star Trek VI ended the original series on a high note, with new peace with the Klingons (Michael Dorn even guest-starred as Worf’s ancestor) and a fitting sendoff for the esteemed crew of the Enterprise.
P.S. Notice that Uhura doesn’t know Klingon and is forced to hastily look up translations in books(?), conflicting with Zoe Saldana’s Uhura in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, who already could speak some Klingon, even apart from the whole tampering-with-the-timeline thing.Best line: (Gorkon’s daughter Azetbur, after Kirk saves the day) “What’s happened? What’s the meaning of all of this?” (Kirk) “It’s about the future, Madame Chancellor. Some people think the future means the end of history. Well, we haven’t run out of history quite yet. Your father called the future ‘the undiscovered country.’ People can be very frightened of change.” (Azetbur) “You’ve restored my father’s faith.” (Kirk) “And you’ve restored my son’s.” VC’s best line: (Federation President) “Let us redefine progress to mean that just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily mean we must do that thing.” Rank: 53 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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