Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

[This review includes spoilers.]

"Everybody remember where we parked."

The Voyage Home is an immensely satisfying conclusion to our original series movie trilogy, a practically perfect "feel-good" movie. Even the musical score is joyous, like a parade with chiming bells welcoming our heroes home.
The stakes (Armageddon by space whale) are dire, but this movie is just so much fun to watch -- especially after the heaviness of II and III, the destruction of the Enterprise and the Genesis planet, the death of Kirk's son David Marcus.

The time travel story, something they did so well in the original series, was lovely because the cast coping with 1980s San Francisco is so much fun. Kirk and Spock on a city bus is one of my favorite scenes in any movie, ever. Loved the neck pinch of the Mohawk punk, the discussion of the literary giants of the period, and the lecture on how this "extremely primitive and paranoid culture" had a propensity to swear every other word. It's just delicious when Spock obediently begins to insert curse words into everything he says. Although my favorite bit is probably in the truck when Kirk and Spock are responding to Gillian's question, "Do you like Italian?"

Kirk and Spock going after the whales and interacting with Gillian is the highlight, but everything in this movie just works beautifully. I loved the idea of Chekov, an oddly dressed man with an obvious Russian accent, asking a cop where the nuclear wessels were. I enjoyed seeing Scott talking into a Macintosh's mouse, and Sulu's reaction when he hit a button on the Huey and the windshield wipers went off. The hospital sequence was good, too. Even Uhura got to do her job for a change, figuring out exactly what sort of communication the Space Whale was attempting. And there was a strong environmental message as well ("It is illogical to hunt a species to extinction").

It all came together in the deft hands of the director, Leonard Nimoy. He was (obviously) very familiar with exactly what worked for the Star Trek franchise and with the strengths and talents of the actors. Since Spock's reintegration into the group was a big part of the plot, Nimoy was the force behind this movie and probably the major reason why it succeeded.

The ending gave us Kirk as a captain again, our crew back on a brand new Enterprise and ready for new adventures, and Spock "felt fine". Spock even finally got his father's approval for joining Starfleet in the first place. Perfect. In fact (is it sacrilege?) I often wish the original series movies had concluded with this one.

Bits and pieces:

-- Star date 8390. Vulcan and Earth. The crew had been hanging around on Vulcan for three months. Did Sarek and Amanda put them up? Are there motels on Vulcan? Did they sleep on the ship?

-- The HMS Bounty was impressive, but it was rattling and buckling under near warp ten. I'd imagine that the weight of the water and the whales would have been too much for that thing to slingshot around the sun a second time.

-- Nice job by Catherine Hicks as Gillian. It couldn't have been easy to make such a strong impression in a Star Trek movie, especially when nearly all her scenes were with Kirk and Spock.

-- The opener with the U.S.S. Saratoga featured a black female captain. Was this the first Starfleet female captain that we saw? Was that their way of making up for the ghastly "Turnabout Intruder"?

-- I loved that Kirk sold the antique eyeglasses to get them bus money.

-- We got to see Majel Barrett and Grace Lee Whitney as Chapel and Rand again, as well as Jane Wyatt as Spock's mother. And of course, Mark Lenard as Sarek.

-- Sulu mentioned he'd been born in San Francisco.

-- An assistant director of an institute is unlikely to be the one giving tours. Just saying.

-- I don't usually mention wardrobe, but the costumes are terrific. I especially love Spock's white robe with the improvised headband.

-- This movie was dedicated to the crew of Challenger.


McCoy: "I don't know if you've got the whole picture, but he's not exactly working on all thrusters."

McCoy: "Perhaps we could cover a little philosophical ground. Life, death, life. Things of that nature."
Spock: "I did not have time on Vulcan to review the philosophical disciplines."
McCoy: "C'mon, Spock, it's me, McCoy. You really have gone where no man has gone before. Can't you tell me what it felt like?"
Spock: "It would be impossible to discuss the subject without a common frame of reference."
McCoy: "You're joking."
Spock: "A joke… is a story with a humorous climax."
McCoy: "You mean I have to die to discuss your insights on death?"
Spock: "Forgive me, Doctor. I am receiving a number of distress calls."
McCoy: "I don't doubt it."

Spock: "Your use of language has altered since our arrival. It is currently laced with, shall we say, more colorful metaphors, 'double dumbass on you' and so forth."
Kirk: "Oh, you mean the profanity?"
Spock: "Yes."
Kirk: "Well, that's simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays any attention to you unless you swear every other word. You'll find it in all the literature of the period."
Spock: "For example?"
Kirk: "The neglected works of Jacqueline Susann. The novels of Harold Robbins."
Spock: "Ah. The giants."

Spock: "Excuse me, Admiral, but weren't those a birthday gift from Dr. McCoy?"
Kirk: "And they will be again. That's the beauty of it."

Spock: (exiting the bus) "What does it mean, 'exact change'?"

Spock: "They like you very much, but they are not the hell your whales."
Gillian: "I suppose they told you that."
Spock: "The hell they did."

Kirk: "If we play our cards right, we may be able to find out when those whales are being released."
Spock: "How will playing cards help?"

Kirk: "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."

Spock: "Are you sure it isn't time for a colorful metaphor?"

Gillian: "Do you guys like Italian?"
Spock: "No."
Kirk: "Yes."
Spock: "No."
Kirk: (to Spock) "No, yes."
Spock: "No."
Kirk: "Yes, I love Italian. (to Spock) And so do you."
Spock: "Yes."

Gillian: "Sure you won't change your mind?"
Spock: "Is there something wrong with the one I have?"

Gillian: "He's just going to hang around the bushes while we eat?"
Kirk: "It's his way."

Gillian: "Don't tell me. You're from outer space."
Kirk: "No, I'm from Iowa. I only work in outer space."

When I list my favorite Star Trek movies, The Wrath of Khan and First Contact usually vie for first place. But The Voyage Home comes right after them. It's a wonderful movie.

Four out of four humpback whales,

Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.


Juliette said...

I love this movie so much. Hilarious, warm and perfect family viewing.

But it is indeed sacrilege to say you wish it was the last, because not matter how awful V was (and it was, indeed, truly terrible), The Undiscovered Country is great. Shakespeare in the original Klingon!

Billie Doux said...

"Ach ah, ach beh!" :)

Anonymous said...

"In fact (is it sacrilege?) I often wish the original series movies had concluded with this one."

It IS sacrilege. ST5 may be a POS, but ST6, for me, is the best of the TOS crew, surpassing even ST2.

Anonymous said...

While still enjoyable, I don't think this movie has aged well.

When released in 1986, it was modern day to the viewer so you got to enjoy seeing the people from the future fumble around the things we dealt with everyday.

However, now it's like watching any movie from 1986... mostly cringing at outdated clothes and hairstyles, while being reminded of your own awkwardness from that time (again, mostly your own bad hairstyle).

This greatly differs from the wonderful "The City on the Edge of Forever". Most viewers now (I can assume) are too young to remember 1930! Therefore, it's much easier to enjoy the "past" since you're experiencing it for the first time along with the characters.

Still, "The Voyage Home" is the most watched Star Trek movie in our household. My kids (all born after 1995) can't believe that crazy time known as 1986 :)

Kathy said...

Hmm... I do agree that TVH hasn't aged that well, because it takes place in 1986. It doesn't have the same timeless feel.

But, this is still a great movie. So much fun to watch. And I love that the supporting cast all get their moments to shine as well.

Just an all-around fun film.


Mark Greig said...

The fact the action takes place in 1986 is actually one of the things I love about the movie.

Mark said...

Don't know if it is the truth or not, but I've heard that the scene with Chekov asking random people in the street where the nuclear vessels are, was actually done with random real people (not actors). Including the cop.

Dustin said...

I lived in Utah when this came out. Kirk's line about how Spock did too much LDS in the 60s made my friend and I laugh long and hard. Oddly enough, nobody else in the theater was laughing.

A great movie. Love the Russian asking for the nuclear wessles, and his joy at finding one named Enterprise.

Sure the 1986 timeframe has aged, but the same would be true if they'd traveled to 1976, 1966, 1996, etc. So you just roll with it.

Billie Doux said...

Dustin, I never once thought of Latter Day Saints in conjunction with "LDS". That is hilarious.

Dustin said...

Billie, yeah it's a common abbreviation there. I lived in Utah long enough that it didn't occur to me that others might not get the connection. I always assumed it was an intentional joke on the part of the screenwriter, but maybe not. Either way, my friend and I thought it was funny.