After the giant misstep that was “Star Trek V” fans rejoiced the return of Nick Meyer, the man who gave them perhaps the greatest Trek film of all, “The Wrath of Khan.” “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” was rumored to be the last film featuring the original cast (a prediction that turned out to be, for the most part, true) and it was fitting it be directed by the man who had treated the franchise with the most respect.
The story is a “Star Trek” first: a top notch whodunit with political and social overtones. When the Klingon moon suffers an explosion that will deplete their ozone layer within 50 years, the United Federation of Planets decides to quickly send the Enterprise in to begin peace talks with the hostile natives. The problem? Kirk is a bigot who would rather see the Klingon race die.
When a Klingon liaison is murdered, Kirk and Spock are convicted and sentenced to death in an icy penitentiary. It’s edgy stuff, very well executed, and manages to neatly tie together the original series with the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” television show (in fact, Michael Dorn, who plays Worf on “The Next Generation”, plays that character’s grandfather here).
Meyer is a fan of Shakespeare and, as he did in “The Wrath of Khan”, adapts liberal use of the Bard’s work here. The effects are also first-rate, and the casting of such talents as Kim Cattrall, David Warner and “That 70’s Show”s Kurtwood Smith (unrecognizable in makeup as the Federation President) shows how hard they were trying to restore dignity to the franchise. The result is a taut political thriller that deservedly won the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction film in 1991.
“Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” may not be the best entry in the series, but it’s probably in the Top 3.
Pros: Watching Plummer and Shatner (thankfully not in his usual ham mode) square off, two old-school racists trying to hide their bitterness in a public forum, is terrific stuff.
Cons: The actual whodunit isn’t quite as well executed as the rest of the film.
Review Rating: 4 out of 5 finales that really make one sorry to see them go.
“Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991)
113 Minutes; USA
Rated PG for sci-fi action violence and mild language.
William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk)
Leonard Nimoy (Captain Spock)
DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy)
James Doohan (Captain Montgomery “Scotty” Scott)
Kim Cattrall (Lieutenant Valeris)
Christopher Plummer (General Chang)
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Written by: Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn, based on a story by Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner, and Mark Rosenthal.
Viewing Format: VHS.