Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Created by Gene Roddenberry and story by Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner, & Mark Rosenthal. Screenplay by Nicholas Meyer & Denny Martin Flinn. Directed by Nicholas Meyer. Capt. Kirk and the crew are “volunteered” to escort Klingon Chancellor Gorkin to a peace conference when things turn south and Kirk is force to face the consequences as well attempt to clear his name. Running time 1 hour 50 minutes.
In this final installment, the opening credits return to a long trip through space…Capt. Sulu (George Takei) is commanding The Excelsior through the neutral zone when they are hit by a huge glowing pink shock wave from the space explosion of a Klingon moon Praxis. Capt. Sulu reaches out to the Klingons who claim no assistance is needed. Capt. Sulu, of course, reports the event to the Federation.
Later, back at The Federations headquarters, a secret meeting is conducted to talk about the Klingon moon explosion and the dire results from the explosion on the Klingons chance for survival. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) reports he has spoken to Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) about the situation and a peace treaty is proposed to the Federation. The peace treaty would include dismantling the star bases along the neutral zone causing many of the members of the Federation to oppose the treaty citing lack of trust for the Klingons and the history of the Klingons anti-peace and aggressive tactics. Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) learns he is the one who has been volunteered to escort the Klingon Chancellor to Earth. Spock and Kirk have their one and only disagreement (in the whole series) about the nature of the assignment.
The Enterprise crew assembles including Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Chekov (Walter Koenig), Spock, and new Vulcan Lt. Valeris (Kim Cattrall) and make their way to pick up the Klingon Chancellor. Capt.Kirk expresses his lack of trust of the Klingons into his private diary but gets interrupted by Lt. Valeris.
When The Enterprise reaches the meeting point, Capt. Kirk invites the Klingons aboard for dinner as an olive branch. The Chancellor is accompanied by his daughter Azetbur (Rosanna DeSoto, his military adviser, and chief in command Chang (Christopher Plummer). Things go well and they all have a mostly polite evening with delicate maneuvering around sensitive subjects. The Chancellor addresses Kirk’s lack of trust and agrees their generation will have the hardest time adjusting to the new world.
As Kirk is journaling the evening’s events, he’s summoned to the bridge by Spock to discuss a power surge which he cannot determine the location of. The Enterprise fires on the Klingon ship except Kirk and crew know nothing about it and cannot figure out how or where the torpedos came from. Meanwhile, on the Chancellor’s Klingon ship, two unidentified star fleet soldiers board the Klingon ship and kill those on board threatening everything the peace treaty was set out to accomplish.
Capt. Kirk and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) beam over to the Klingon ship to assist the wounded and to assure them they don’t know what happened. McCoy tries to save the Chancellor but fails. Azetbur and commander Chang arrest Kirk and McCoy for Chancellor Gorkon’s death.
The Federation President (Kurtwood Smith) finds himself under pressure by the Klingons to prosecute Kirk for the attack and murder while Azetbur takes over as Chancellor and declares she will go forward with the treaty but will not release Kirk and McCoy. ” The peace process will go forward, Kirk will pay for my father’s death…”
Kirk and McCoy’s Federation trial takes place without them allowed to defend themselves properly even with the appointed Klingon defense attorney (Michael Dorn). Commander Chang makes McCoy look incompetent and Kirk as a revenge seeker for the death of his son David. They are found guilty, their death sentence is commuted, and they are sent to Rura Penthe to work the mines for the rest of their lives.
Spock and the crew try to figure out what happened. They suspect a cloaked Bird of Prey hid underneath them and were the ones who fired on the Chancellor’s ship. Spock assigns Valeris to find the gravity boots which he thinks lead to the real killers.
Kirk and McCoy arrive at the penal mine and learn just how bad their situation is. Unsure about how they’re going to escape, they manage the best they can, fist fights and otherwise, until they meet an interesting gal Martia (Iman) who claims she can get them out.
Meanwhile, Spock espouses his theory on the location of the gravity boots, who the killers might be, and coaches Scotty to “exaggerate” how long it will take for “repairs” to buy time to find the boots and clear Kirk’s name.
With this newfound time for reflection, Kirk realizes how his ill feelings toward the Klingons may have clouded his ability to trust the Chancellor. With the peace treaty meeting still set, he suspects whoever killed the chancellor will make another assassination attempt making their escape from the penal mines even more critical. Martia meets Kirk and McCoy the next day and take them to a tunnel. She shape shifts again leading them to an exit, and guiding them across a snowy freezing terrain to the edge of the penal force field.
Spock and the crew pick up Kirk’s signal and prepare to beam them aboard. As they make there way to Kirk’s signal, Kirk and McCoy await their arrival by chatting with Martia who reveals her true motive. Kirk and Kirk/Martia have a brief bout of fisticuffs and the penal officials show up. Kirk and McCoy are beamed up right before learning of the assassination plot as Scotty finds the uniforms worn by the assassination. Kirk and Spock set a trap for the mastermind who takes the bait and when they find out who it is, it makes perfect sense and yet disappoints at the same time…
Kirk and Spock question the mastermind to get to the bottom of the plot who only answers with the information damning Kirk while refusing to give up the rest behind the assassination plot. Spock does a mind meld to get the rest of the information. Kirk then speaks with Capt. Sulu for the location and time of the peace conference.
The Federation and their guests listen to opening remarks as Kirk and crew make their approach. Commander Chang shows up in the cloaked Bird of Prey ship and begins firing on The Enterprise. As the new Chancellor speaks at the conference, The Enterprise gets pummeled by the Klingon ship, and the assassin takes their place at the conference. As Commander Chang revels in his attacks against The Enterprise, The Excelsior shows up, and Spock and McCoy send a torpedo detecting the Bird of Prey. Between both star ships, they destroy the cloaked ship and Commander Chang.
Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the crew beam down to the conference and thwart the assassination exposing those involved in the plot. Once the plot is revealed, people applaud Kirk and his crew and all is well…Later, when The Enterprise is commanded to return for decommissioning, Spock responds with, “If I were human, I believe my response would be ‘go to hell’.” Kirk agrees and they set a course to travel through space. The End.
What I Liked
I liked the return to the opening and closing space credits. I liked this final installment as the story is not only engaging with the idea of an assassination plot and frame up of Capt. Kirk; but also because the basis of the plot has to do with universal peace among the people which many groups are so fearful of, they’ll do anything to preserve the current state of affairs. So much like the real world in our quest for peace with events preventing us from ever reaching those goals. I think of the Civil Rights Movement and the assassination of President JFK, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy and even father back to the assassination of President Lincoln. Fear is such a strong emotion causing, even the best people, to do horrific things to others.
At the dinner, they sit around talking about peace and the “inalienable rights”. At which time Azetbur interrupts to say how racist the term inalienable is as well as it basically meaning human rights. Present company excluded, of course. I like this scene as it feels apropos in so many ways and unfortunate that even though the film was released in 1991, we haven’t evolved enough to sit down for a polite meal with opposing sides to discuss peace or the way language is interpreted so differently depending on perspective.
On a lighter note, back on the penal planet, Kirk’s new friend Martia gives him quite the smooch when telling him of the escape plan so when Kirk and McCoy later see her as a him in the elevator, Kirk’s face is priceless as utter shock when he thinks he’s actually had a passionate kiss with a man. He takes it stride, of course, because his mission is bigger than his machismo (at least for the moment) and he manages to get a comment in about it during the Kirk vs Kirk duke out.
The plot was well written and I felt that all characters involved and their motives were well concealed until exposure. Everything made sense, everyone was where they were supposed to be, and things fell into place in a natural Star Trek way. The dialogue was thoughtful and the acting was done well with the addition of Christopher Plummer, Kim Cattrall, and the brief scene with Christian Slater…The special effects with Martia were cool as she shape shifted from “a more pleasing shape”, to the giant scruffy male, to the little girl and back. Christopher Plummer’s eye-patch bolted to his bald head. Perfection.
Capt. Kirk and Spock’s verbal altercation in the beginning felt genuine and for the first time, it really feels as though Kirk is really mad at Spock. Spock, usually humbled for any error in past installments–making it hard to be actually mad at him–is not humbled in this argument and instead holds to his choice of “vouching” for Kirk and the peace conference. The tension continues through dinner as if mommy and daddy are “fighting” but being so polite about it–no one knows but them. Later, once Kirk is back on the ship and they ‘re heading toward the conference, Spock reflects on his “arrogance” while Kirk forgives him by saying, “Spock, you wanna know something? Everyone’s human.” (in reference to making mistakes) Spock: “I find that remark…insulting.” And just like that, their relationship is back on track. Their bond cannot be shook!
What I Wished Was Better
I don’t know. I’ve run different scenarios in my mind about Capt. Sulu being on board The Enterprise but then we wouldn’t have Valeris and Capt. Sulu coming in to assist with The Exclesior. So, I guess nothing!
The Undiscovered Country is what Chancellor Gorkin called the New World based on the peace treaty which was about to be adopted. He had great hopes for peace between the Klingons, the Star Fleet, and Federation members. Like Kirk explained to Chancellor Azetbur, some people are afraid of change. I suppose that still holds true for so many. My hope is we learn to have those polite dinner conversations to discuss sensitive topics in a way that fosters trust among those usually seen untrustworthy to give peace a real chance. Available on Amazon Prime. Watch the trailer below:
Fun Facts: Mary Jo Slater was the casting director who cast her son Christian Slater in his small role being he was such a huge fan of the series. The explosion of the Klingon moon, Praxis, would later be used in later films including Star Wars and would be referred to as the “Praxis Effect”. Gene Roddenberry passed away within 2 days of watching this final installment, hence the dedication at the beginning.