Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
The film opens with a giant tubular probe moving through space making a strange noise as it moves toward the Terra sector. Communications with the probe are unsuccessful so the Starship monitoring the neutral zone alerts Starfleet Command. Meanwhile, Capt. Kirk’s trial is underway with a Klingon Ambassador (John Schuck) claiming Capt. Kirk murdered his whole crew and should be held accountable. Spock’s father Sarek (Mark Lenard) counter points by reminding the ambassador his ship made the first move by destroying the Grissom and killing Capt. Kirk’s son trying to get their hands on Genesis. The Klingon Ambassador responds by declaring as long as Kirk’s alive, there will be no peace.
On the Vulcan planet, the Klingon ship is about finished with repairs, and the crew prepare to return to Earth to face the consequences of their actions regarding Genesis. Spock continues to rebuild and test his knowledge as well as retrain his mind to accept the human side of him. Spock (Leonard Nimoy): “Humans make illogical decisions.” Amanda (Jane Wyatt): “They do indeed.”
On Earth, the stakes get higher as the probe gets closer, neutralizing any ship in its path. As the probe closes in, it knocks out power in space stations and begins to disrupt the Earth’s ocean. Earth sends out a distress call. On Capt. Kirk’s Klingon ship, they encounter the space chatter and learn of the probe. As Capt. Kirk (William Shatner), McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), and Spock try to decipher the probe’s message, they determine it is the language of whales. The whales have been extinct for hundreds of years so the only way to respond to the probe is to travel back in time and bring whales back to the future…Spock calculates how to do it, Scotty (James Doohan) is assigned with refitting the ship to hold two humpback whales and water, and Dr. McCoy tries to remind them how crazy it all sounds. “May fortune favor the foolish.”–Capt. Kirk as Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Sulu ( George Takei) take the Klingon ship to warp 10 to sling shot themselves around the sun sending them back to 1986.
They make it back in time and as they approach Earth, they use the Klingon ship’s cloaking device to stay secret. They learn the travel has used up the Klingon crystal powers so even if they do get the whales, they won’t have enough power to return home unless they can find a fuel source. Luckily, Spock has an idea! With the new plan, the crew find an empty park to land the ship and prepare to interact with a “primitive and paranoid culture”– San Francisco in 1986. The crew breaks into three groups: one to find the nuclear power source, one to find materials to construct the water tanks, and one to find the whales. “Everybody, remember where we parked.”–Capt. Kirk.
Hi-jinx and wackiness ensue as the crew finds clothes to fit in, money to buy food, and learn the language of the 80s. Capt. Kirk and Spock head to the marine institute led by Dr. Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks) who is a whale expert. Spock bonds with the whales as Capt. Kirk bonds with Dr. Gillian learning about whale hunting and the eventual extinction of the whales. Meanwhile, Chekov and Uhura find the nuclear naval vessel containing the photons they need to get the Klingon ship back in business. And, Scotty and McCoy find a plastics company to provide the materials for the tanks. Sulu makes friends at the air base and manages to get access to a helicopter to transport the plastic tank walls…A very busy team.
The crew manages to obtain all the elements needed for the mission (the whale tanks, the whales and water, and the fuel), of course, not without a bunch of near-misses, a trip to the hospital, running from military personnel, and barely making it back to the Klingon ship where they pick up an extra passenger–Dr. Gillian. The Klingon ship must get to warp 10 with the extra weight of the water and whales and sling shot themselves back around the sun to get back to the future.
The crew makes it back to future Earth and deposits the whales into the future Pacific Ocean where they communicate with the probe returning the Earth back to its original state. The whales are saved, Dr. Gillian has a new post in space, and humanity is restored. It’s a lot more dramatic than that, of course…
What I Liked
Of course, the dialogue is rich with “profanity” (damn and hell) and the use of it is pretty funny. Spock: “The hell you don’t.” The addition of Catherine Hicks as the marine biologist. She’s pretty loose with the lips when it comes to classified information about the whales and she’s pretty trusting picking up two weirdos (Kirk and Spock) who she befriends as she learns of the unbelievable mission to take the whales into space. She’s all in, though, and helps them save Chekov in the hospital. The juxtaposition of the crew as they interact with the people from the past; especially, Dr. McCoy in the hospital showing disgust with medical treatments. I also appreciate the time given for Spock to return to his previous demeanor. He’s still operating from the Vulcan point of view while observing and learning from Kirk’s sarcasm, wit, and encouragement of “exaggeration”. This makes for stronger moments as Spock interacts with McCoy when calculating the return flight to the future. Spock doesn’t have the exact numbers to compute. McCoy tells him to guess which is not something Spock does. McCoy’s response, “Nobody’s perfect” not only gives Spock permission to take a chance but the assurance his guess will be enough to get them home safely. Every character is in their element away from the ship. Each gets an opportunity to display their worth as a crew member and expertise which is often not the case. Each having a side mission, whether it be obtaining nuclear power, plastic material, or providing medical care–these characters get to show who they are and what they specialize in.
The adversary in this film is not the usual enemy. It’s a race against time obtaining the materials needed to “save the whales” from extinction as well as future Earth from total destruction. A strong moral in the story, if we don’t take care of the planet and those who inhabit it, there won’t be a future to save…
What I Wished Was Better
I wished Catherine Hicks wore a bra. Her nipples were distracting in every scene she was in. She’s an intelligent woman of the 80s, she doesn’t wear a bra to work? Of course, it was the 80s and a lot of movies had their female stars go without bras. I wish the motorcycle cop had ONE LINE instead of just standing there staring at Chekov and Uhura while they asked for directions. Maybe he could’ve said, “Sorry folks, you’ll have to stand back, I’m writing a ticket here…” or something but making him just stand there mute made the SFPD look bad.
This installment in the franchise was fun to watch, had a good moral, and moved the franchise forward with a light-hearted yet important story line. *The only installment requiring a rental fee (grr), available on Redbox On Demand and Amazon. Watch the trailer below: