In a surprising move, Star Trek abandoned the interstellar space battles and conflict with Klingons in 1986, in order to bring movie goers a very funny film set in the past (at that time, our present).
“Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” is the last film of a terrific (unofficial) trilogy that began with “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” It takes place immediately where that one left off, but also works fairly well as a standalone film. When a strange alien probe appears over Earth, emitting foreign sounds and unwittingly causing massive, cumulative destruction to that planet, Kirk and company discover it is trying to communicate with Humpback Whales. As Humpbacks no longer exist in the 23rd century, Earth seems doomed to destruction.
The solution? To go back in time to San Francisco in order to procure a couple of Humpbacks and bring them back so that future Earth doesn’t go boom. Apparently, the Prime Directive (not to interfere with the natural order of things) doesn’t apply when it’s your own planet in danger.
In any case, it makes for a wonderful fish-out-of-water adventure, filled with humor in the style of the original series’ best episodes (such as the classic “The Trouble With Tribbles”). Watching Kirk try to blend in by swearing (“Well, double-dumbass on you!”), or Russian navigator Pavel Chekov asking the locals where the “nuclear wessels” are during the height of the Cold War, is just plain great fun.
The only criticism I have is the miscasting of Catherine Hicks as a marine biologist. It isn’t that she’s not believable in that profession, just that many of her lines are delivered oddly (“and that, as they say is that” is one that always makes me cringe). Nevertheless, the rest of the cast has never been better, and the score is one of my favorites in the film series.
I mentioned in the “Wrath of Khan” review that if you’re not a fan then that was the place to start, but “The Voyage Home” is equally as fine, particularly if you’re not big into science fiction to begin with. Not to sound sexist, but this is the Star Trek film that more women and children enjoy (based on my own personal experience with friends and family), and it’s precisely because it doesn’t feature massive shootouts in space that it’s accessible to everyone, fans and non-fans alike.
“Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” is a classic film. It has infinite replay value, and it’s a feel good movie that’s a rare gem in the world of SciFi.
Pros: The humor flows naturally from the characters and the situations in which they find themselves. Effects are solid, and the cast look like they’re having the time of their lives.
Cons: Catherine Hicks feels a little out of place. The Prime Directive is swept under the rug.
Review Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Vulcan nerve pinches put to the best use ever.
“Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986)
119 Minutes; USA
Rated PG for sci-fi action violence and mild language.
William Shatner (Admiral/Captain James T. Kirk)
Leonard Nimoy (Captain Spock)
DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy)
James Doohan (Captain Montgomery “Scotty” Scott)
George Takei (Commander Hikaru Sulu)
Walter Koenig (Commander Pavel Chekov)
Directed by: Leonard Nimoy
Written by: Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Harve Bennett, and Nicholas Meyer, based on a story by Leonard Nimoy and Harve Bennett.
Viewing Format: VHS.