Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
September 8, 2017 10:42 AM - Subscribe

Earth is threatened by a mysterious deep space voyager. To save the home planet of the Federation, the exiled James T. Kirk and his crew must boldly go to the year 1986 on a desperate mission.

All background information below comes from the exhaustive Star Trek fan wiki Memory Alpha:

- The film is dedicated "to the men and women of the spaceship Challenger", which broke apart shortly after liftoff on 28 January 1986, almost ten months before the release of Star Trek IV.

- The character of Dr. Taylor was originally a male character who was a wacky college professor who was a "UFO nut," and, for added humor to the lighthearted script, actor Eddie Murphy was offered the role. Mike Okuda's DVD text commentary, as well as William Shatner's Star Trek Movie Memories, indicate that Murphy, as a fan of Star Trek, had approached Nimoy and Bennett about a role in the film, but later he decided to appear in The Golden Child instead (a decision he admitted later was a big mistake), and Catherine Hicks won the rewritten and revised role. Nicholas Meyer later stated that when he came in to write the 20th century section of the film, he realized the earlier drafts were written with Murphy in mind.

- An early draft of the script had Sulu meeting a young child on the streets of San Francisco who was his distant ancestor. According to William Shatner's Star Trek Movie Memories, the scene was an idea pitched to Harve Bennett by George Takei, who was delighted when he discovered the scene was to be shot. However, when it came time to film the scene, the child they hired to play the role of Sulu's great-great-great grandfather was not a professional actor, and his mother was on set, causing the child to be extremely nervous. Consequently, they couldn't get anything done with the boy and eventually they had to move on. The scene was scrapped, much to the heartbreak of Takei. The scene survives in Vonda McIntyre's novelization.

- Early drafts of the script had Saavik remaining on Vulcan due to her being pregnant with Spock's child, following the events of the previous movie when young Spock went through pon farr as he aged rapidly, implying that he had sex with Saavik on the Genesis Planet.

- In an interview with StarTrek.com about the scene with Koenig and Nichols asking about the location of the naval base, Layla Sarakalo stated that she approached the assistant director about appearing with the other extras and was told not to answer Koenig's and Nichols' questions. To the annoyance of the other extras, she did answer them and had to be inducted into the Screen Actors' Guild as a result, as the production crew found the line too amusing to be cut out.

- The scene where Kirk says "LDS" instead of "LSD" originally called for Gillian Taylor to ask if he was dyslexic on top of everything else.

- Most of the shots of the humpback whales were taken using four-foot long animatronics models. Four such models were created, and were so realistic that after release of the film, US fishing authorities publicly criticized the film makers for getting too close to whales in the wild. The filmmakers reportedly said that they enjoyed telling those same authorities that except for the live shots toward the end of the film, the whale scenes weren't real. The scenes involving these whales were shot in a swimming pool in a Los Angeles area high school. A large animatronic tail was also created, for the scene on the sinking Bird-of-Prey, filmed on the Paramount car park, which was flooded for the shoot. The same spot was previously seen as a part of planet Vulcan in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The shot of the whales swimming past the Golden Gate Bridge was filmed on location, and nearly ended in disaster when a cable got snagged on a nuclear submarine and the whales were towed out to sea.

- The lighted table in Starfleet Command eventually became the famous "pool table" located in main engineering of the USS Enterprise-D.

- The USS Saratoga seen in early scenes was actually a slightly modified shooting model of the USS Reliant from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

- The Cetacean Institute scenes were filmed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California. The name was changed because it was necessary, for plot reasons, to move the aquarium to Sausalito. The Cetacean Institute symbol is actually the logo of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Here is a visual comparison of the actual aquarium and the composited version in the film.

- The aircraft carrier sequences were actually filmed aboard the conventionally-powered Forrestal-class carrier USS Ranger (CV 61). Ranger can be told from Enterprise by her longer rectangular superstructure (barely visible behind the hair of Nichelle Nichols) and different arrangement of aircraft elevators. Enterprise was out at sea at the time and unavailable for filming. Even if available, in 1986, the engineering spaces of the nuclear carriers were deeply classified and filming a movie in them would have been impossible. All Enterprise sailors and marines were played by Ranger personnel (in certain scenes, freeze-frame reveals sailors wearing Ranger ball caps rather than Enterprise ones).

- Effects Director of Photography Don Dow stated that, as far as in-universe dimensions were concerned, the whale probe "was to be five miles long and a mile-and-a-half wide." He elaborated, "I think the probe was the most difficult thing we had to work with on this show, simply because there was nothing to it." ILM's Model Shop Supervisor Jeff Mann stated, "Basically, it's a cylinder that started off to look like a section of a whale. We used a barnacle type of texture for it, and it was originally painted with a crusty-textured white on a blue background. It was sort of organic looking, and that was the design we originally settled on." The whale-colored probe did not quite work out on screen, and after several shoots, a decision was made to alter the color scheme of the model, as was recalled by Don Dow; "We had to give it some texture. After brainstorming it for a while, [the film's visual effects supervisor] Ken Ralston came up with the idea of painting it shiny black and then backlighting it so there would be reflections coming off of it. We also ended up pock-marking the surface a little so that the backlighting would pick up some hills and valleys. Then we shot it with fog filters which helped to give it an awesome, mysterious quality." ILM's Optical Supervisor Ralph Gordon recalled: "The spherical antenna underneath the probe was originally shot so that it was orange, which unfortunately made it look very much like a spinning basketball."

- This film marked the start of Michael Okuda's nineteen year relationship with the Star Trek franchise, both movies and television. For this film, he designed the computer displays as well as introducing the "touch screen" computer consoles, seen in the rest of the Star Trek films and television shows (except for Star Trek: Enterprise).

- The whaling ship used in the film was a World War II minesweeper called Golden Gate.

- The whale hunters speak Finnish, even though the script called for a crew of famous humpback hunters like the Norwegians, Icelanders or Russians to be used. Finland has never had any sort of whale hunting industry. However, Norway, a prominent whaling country, has a minority of Kvens, who speak a dialect of the Finnish language.

- Director Nimoy mentioned in the film's DVD commentary that in the scene where Gillian Taylor slaps Bob Briggs for letting the whales leave without letting her say goodbye to them that Catherine Hicks really did slap Scott DeVenney rather hard, and that while DeVenney was neither expecting it nor very happy about it, he took it and was a good sport about it later.

- Since the producers decided not to use subtitles for the Finnish dialogue or the probe/whale song sequence (although Paramount at one point did want subtitles for the film's climax), this is the only film of the first six Star Trek movies to not have any subtitles – not even to establish location or timeframe.

- This marks Majel Barrett's final performance as Christine Chapel.

- Jane Wyatt previously played Spock's human mother Amanda Grayson in TOS: "Journey to Babel".

- Brock Peters, who plays Admiral Cartwright in this film (and later in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), also played the father of Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

- One of the officers seen on a viewscreen at Starfleet Headquarters was played by Jane Wiedlin of the '80s rock band The Go-Go's. Wiedlin also played the part of Joan of Arc in 1989's Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. From 1995 to 1998, she fronted her own band called froSTed. The "ST" in froSTed is capitalized because she is a huge Star Trek fan.

- The part of the music-blasting punk on the bus was played by Kirk Thatcher, one of the film's associate producers. He asked Leonard Nimoy to play the role as he had experience with punk fashion, and, once cast, changed his wardrobe and costume. He was also the voice of the Vulcan computer and the writer of its questions, lending his own name to Kiri-kin-tha. Thatcher actually composed the song "I Hate You" which plays on his boombox in the movie. He also worked on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. He played a punk with a boombox again in a cameo as a homeless man in 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming.

- Leonard Nimoy made an unintentional on-screen appearance in the hospital sequence while directing.

- The slingshot effect used by the Bounty to travel into the past was previously used in TOS: "Tomorrow is Yesterday". Kirk directly references this event when he says "We've done it before", referring to the slingshot maneuver.

- According to dialogue, the film begins at some point during the third month of the crew's exile on Vulcan, after the end of Star Trek III. Kirk makes a reference to the 1789 HMS Bounty mutiny having occurred five hundred years ago. Gillian from 1986 mentions that she has three hundred years of catching up to do. This suggests that Star Trek IV takes place in the mid to late 2280s, around 2286 or 2289.

- The Saratoga is popularly assumed to have been harmlessly disabled by the probe even though it's not seen again. And it is generally surmised that the probe just made a big mess on Earth for everyone to clean up. The overall light, comedic nature of this film tends to lead credence to the widely popularized sentiment of Star Trek IV being the only film in the series in which absolutely no one dies.

- Prior to the release of the 2009 film Star Trek (which as of October, 2009, grossed over $384.9 million), The Voyage Home was the highest-grossing Star Trek film, making $109.7 million in the United States. Due to the success of this film, Paramount decided to make the second Star Trek TV series a reality (after the unsuccessful attempt of Star Trek: Phase II). That series eventually became Star Trek: The Next Generation, which premiered the next fall. The first US VHS tape release of the movie contained a small promo clip for The Next Generation, briefly introducing the new Enterprise and characters.

- Outside of North America, the film's title was changed to The Voyage Home: Star Trek IV (see UK trailer below), and references to the Star Trek brand were consciously avoided. This was done largely because Star Trek III: The Search for Spock had suffered badly from competition with Ghostbusters outside of North America and only grossed just over ten million dollars. A special prologue, in the form of a captain's log, was created to detail the events of Star Trek II and Star Trek III to aid newcomers, narrated by William Shatner himself. While the tactic was somewhat successful, the rest-of-the-world gross of around $24 million was still less than a fifth of the film's overall total, and so Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was marketed as normal worldwide (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was not theatrically released in most countries). Although the early VHS releases also carried the inverted title, when the film was eventually released on DVD, its title reverted to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home worldwide.


"Remember this well. There shall be no peace as long as Kirk lives!"

- Klingon Ambassador, after the Federation council rejects the extradition request


"Are you planning to take a swim?"
"Off the deep end, Mister Scott."

- Scott and McCoy, as Kirk asks about a water tank enclosure


"You're proposing that we go back in time, find humpback whales, then bring them forward in time, drop 'em off, and hope to hell they tell this probe what to go do with itself!"
"That's the general idea."
"Well, that's crazy!"
"Got a better idea? Now's the time."

- McCoy and Kirk


"Why don't you watch where you're going, you dumb-ass!"
"Well, a double dumb-ass on you!"

- Taxi driver and Kirk


"It's a miracle these people ever got out of the twentieth century."

- McCoy


"The rest of you, break up. You look like a cadet review."

- Kirk, to McCoy, Scott, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov in downtown San Francisco


"To hunt a species to extinction is not logical."
"Whoever said the Human race was logical?"

- Spock and Gillian


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

- Spock and Gillian


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

- Gillian and Kirk, in the restaurant


"Your associates are people of good character."
"They are my friends."

- Sarek and Spock


Poster's Log:
And so we conclude the "Genesis trilogy." Last week we discussed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the "middle chapter," and the week before we discussed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Previously-er on FanFare: Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

If you're itching for more Trek discussion, we're working our way through Voyager as we speak. And who knows, perhaps Halloween Jack will whip up posts for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (*shudder*) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (^_^).

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Happy Star Trek Day!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (34 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't particularly feel like doing Star Trek V, since I don't own a copy, I don't know if it's on any of the streaming services that I subscribe to, and it actually hurts a little to watch it because of all the missed opportunities and just general dumbness. I do, however, have STVI, have watched it very recently, and would love to do a write-up, especially as it ties into the trilogy. If anyone else wants to take a whack at What Does God Need With A Starship: The Shatnering, feel free, otherwise I'll just write up STVI in a few days.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:03 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


Jane Wiedlin is in this movie!
posted by Chrysostom at 11:21 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


When I was younger and wanted everything to be grim, gritty, and Very Serious, I hated this movie as a goofy sellout of the spirit of Khan. Now that I'm a reasonable adult, I think it's fucking great, and probably the best use of William Shatner, Professional Ham.* The whole thing's just so muuuuch fun, especially Kirk's constant "I know what I'm doing, I swear!" fronting in the 20th century.

And the punk! The punk!

* I think Shatner's performance in Khan is pretty great, too, but my understanding is that Meyer essentially de-hammed him (mostly) by doing a bunch of takes to tire him out, and then generally using a later take where Shatner had burned through all of his big-acting energy.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 11:39 AM on September 8 [7 favorites]


I saw this movie during its original run while I was a kid living in San Francisco. As a result, it's always been my favorite, even over the (technically superior) Wrath of Khan - the experience was downright fantastic, and I always appreciated them doing something so fun with time travel if they were going to that well again.

Also, special props to them for the catchy song on the bus that Spock shuts down: 'I hate you! / and I BERATE you!' I guess they cooked that up improv, which is why I only found out the story behind it a few years back. (Probably via Mefi, don't remember.)
posted by mordax at 12:19 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


And the punk! The punk!

Catching up with Star Trek IV's True Hero: The Punk on the Bus (warning - some people have indicated problems with pop-up ads eluding their adblocker software with that article).

In short, post Star Trek IV moment which is well described in the post, Thatcher has worked with the Jim Henson company for a long time, where he's been involved with writing Muppets Treasure Island and some directing work, including directing the Muppets Bohemian Rhapsody video.

ST: II is the best Star Trek movie. Star Trek IV, however, is the best Star Trek movie.
posted by nubs at 12:22 PM on September 8 [12 favorites]


I loved "I Hate You" even more when I realized that it has the line "I eschew you."
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:24 PM on September 8 [4 favorites]


After the SUPER BIG SUPER DRAMATIC HIGH STAKES ALL THE TIME (sort of) of the previous movies, all the much more small-scale interactions in ST IV feel so light and wonderful.

Especially "Don't tell me. You're from outer space." / "No, I'm from Iowa. I only work in outer space."
posted by Guy Smiley at 12:46 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]


(Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was not theatrically released in most countries)

There goes the rest of the world, showing up the U.S. again.
posted by Etrigan at 12:59 PM on September 8




After the SUPER BIG SUPER DRAMATIC HIGH STAKES ALL THE TIME (sort of) of the previous movies, all the much more small-scale interactions in ST IV feel so light and wonderful.

And what's so fascinating about it to me is that the stakes are about as high as they can go! In ST:II and ST: III, the stakes were about the lives of the crew, and the fate of a planet. In this one, the future of the entire Earth and Starfleet hang in the balance, but we've got Chekov running around nuclear wessels, Scotty "inventing" transparent aluminium, Kirk cracking jokes and somewhat failing at playing the charming ladies man, and Spock dropping insightful bon mots with an incredible deadpan. Unlike all of the other films, everyone has something to do! Uhura, Sulu, Bones - everyone has a moment to shine and contribute to the success of the mission. And yet, despite the light tone, if the mission doesn't come together they are going back to certain death and destruction of all they know and hold dear.

"What does it mean, 'exact change'?"
posted by nubs at 1:24 PM on September 8 [11 favorites]


(Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was not theatrically released in most countries)

This is THE BEST parenthetical shade I've ever seen.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:47 PM on September 8


"No, I'm from Iowa. I only work in outer space."

After that line, as we cut to another scene, there's a noise offscreen -- which I concede is probably a guard dog barking as my partner insists -- that to me sounds like Leonard Nimoy cracking up at Shatner's hilarious delivery. I prefer to believe it's Nimoy.
posted by run"monty at 2:30 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


Mixing franchises a little but....

"I find your lack of recognition or even mention of Star Trek Generations disturbing."
posted by Freedomboy at 2:44 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


"Remember this well. There shall be no peace as long as Kirk lives!"

That's John Schuck playing the Klingon Ambassador.

He's a legend. He was the very first person to say the word "fuck" in a mainstream feature film, while playing dentist Walt "The Painless Pole" Waldowsk in the original M*A*S*H movie (1970.) The song "Suicide is Painless" -- the theme song for both the movie and the hit TV show -- was about Schuck's character, when he tries to commit suicide.

In true Trek guest actor fashion, Schuck played characters in three Trek series and two movies. He played the Ambassador (whose name is Kamarag (ATTENTION MORDAX)) in this movie and in (spoiler) Star Trek VI. He was Legate Parn in the Maquis arc in DS9. ("In the DS9 Companion, Ira Steven Behr notes that John Schuck's casting as Parn was designed to show that not all Cardassians had athletic figures." OUCH. Damn, that's cold.) He played the Klingon geneticist Dr. Antaak in the Augments arc on Star Trek: Enterprise. He even played Draal on B5! The Guardian of the Machine.

And here, he's indignantly, spectacularly chewing the scenery.

The full scene:

Computer: [on viewscreen]: "...six, ...five, ...four, ...three, ...two, ...one..."
[On the viewscreen the Enterprise goes kablooie (sob)]
Klingon Ambassador: "Hold the image. Hold! Behold! The quintessential devil in these matters! James T. Kirk, renegade and terrorist! Not only is he responsible for the murder of a Klingon crew, the theft of a Klingon vessel. See now the real plot and intentions. Even as this Federation was negotiating a peace treaty with us, Kirk was secretly developing the Genesis torpedo. Conceived by Kirk's son and test detonated by the Admiral himself! The result of this awesome energy was euphemistically called 'The Genesis Planet': a secret base from which to launch the annihilation of the Klingon people! We demand the extradition of Kirk! We demand justice!"
Sarek: "Klingon justice is a unique point of view, Mister President. Genesis was perfectly named. The creation of life not death. The Klingons shed the first blood while attempting to possess its secrets."
Klingon Ambassador: "Vulcans are well known as the intellectual puppets of this Federation!"
Sarek: "Your vessel did destroy U.S.S. Grissom. Your men did kill Kirk's son. Do you deny these events?
Klingon Ambassador: "We deny nothing! We have the right to preserve our race!"
Sarek: "Do you have the right to commit murder?"
Federation President: "Silence! Silence! There will be no further outbursts from the floor."
Sarek: "Mister President, I have come to speak on behalf of the accused."
Klingon Ambassador: "Personal bias! His son was saved by Kirk!"
Federation President: "Mister Ambassador, with all respect, the Council's deliberations are over."
Klingon Ambassador: "Then Kirk goes unpunished?"
Federation President: "Admiral Kirk has been charged with nine violations of Starfleet regulations.
Klingon Ambassador: "Starfleet regulations? That's outrageous! Remember this well. There shall be no peace as long as Kirk lives!"
posted by zarq at 3:29 PM on September 8 [8 favorites]


(whose name is Kamarag (ATTENTION MORDAX))

Hahaha. Got a whole class of cruiser named after him in Star Trek Online. He deserved it!

Also, of all those roles, I have to say my favorite was Draal.
posted by mordax at 3:33 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]


He even played Draal on B5! The Guardian of the Machine.

OMG; how did I - a fan of both Trek and B5 - not know this! The man's voice; I knew I had heard it before, but it never connected.
posted by nubs at 3:34 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


!! The scene's on YouTube!
posted by zarq at 3:35 PM on September 8


Also, of all those roles, I have to say my favorite was Draal.

Definitely!

OMG; how did I - a fan of both Trek and B5 - not know this! The man's voice; I knew I had heard it before, but it never connected.

His voice is distinctive! According to wikipedia, two actors played Draal. The character's first appearance was in "A Voice in the Wilderness" played by Louis Turenne. John Schuck portrayed him in later episodes.
posted by zarq at 3:43 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I don't particularly feel like doing Star Trek V, since I don't own a copy, I don't know if it's on any of the streaming services that I subscribe to, and it actually hurts a little to watch it because of all the missed opportunities and just general dumbness. I do, however, have STVI, have watched it very recently, and would love to do a write-up, especially as it ties into the trilogy. If anyone else wants to take a whack at What Does God Need With A Starship: The Shatnering, feel free, otherwise I'll just write up STVI in a few days.

I volunteer. When does it need to be posted by?

I was working in a movie theater when it was released. I've probably seen it over a hundred times and can likely quote the entire damned script from memory.

Also, I remember the actual origin of the "marsh melon" joke.
posted by zarq at 3:49 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


This has never been my favorite Trek film. I've always liked it though, and I enjoyed it more than ever on this rewatch.

Both parents from 7th Heaven appeared in Star Trek movies - Stephen Collins in ST:TMP and Catherine Hicks here.

When I lived in Monterey we'd refer to the aquarium as The Cetacean Institute.

Catherin Hicks is really great in this. However, her mime skills could have used a little work - the "invisible wall" gag of the BoP's landing gear was pretty iffy. I mean, I'm assuming the landing gear was meant to be stationary, not wobbling around.

I'm looking forward to discussing STVI, there's something that seems to be a major error in that movie that I don't think I've ever seen anyone address. I'll have to watch carefully to see if I'm remembering it wrong.

I'm going to try to make it through STV, even though last time I tried to watch it I just couldn't.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 4:29 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I absolutely adore this movie. We just spent a year living in San Francisco and I insisted on going to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium for my birthday mostly because this movie made me want to go there as a kid. Also, on a Bay cruise a couple of months ago, I saw humpbacks swimming around under the bridge and I felt like I was living the STIV dream.

I also really enjoyed watching this again as an adult after originally seeing it as a young kid. The Russian-guy-asking-about-nukes gag was completely lost on me when I was little.

Plus, Scotty's interaction with the computer is absolutely classic. "How quaint!"
posted by olinerd at 4:44 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I liked seeing what San Francisco looked like in the mid 80s, there was a winchell's donuts in one of the downtown scenes in where the Apple Store is now, I think. Don't know why I found that so amusing. Anyway, this is fun and silly Star Trek so it stands up really well. The only quibble I have is that there is really no reason they need transparent aluminum, it's not like they had to transport the whales in a windowed tank.
posted by skewed at 10:15 PM on September 8


That Nimoy article is fantastic, ActingTheGoat, thanks!

I volunteer. When does it need to be posted by?

Way to go, zarq. And whenever you like. I've endeavored to give these about seven or eight days. (In fact, I almost posted this one today rather than yesterday, but I saw a bunch of references to "Star Trek Day" on Twitter and it eventually occurred to me I ought to bump it up.)

"I find your lack of recognition or even mention of Star Trek Generations disturbing."

Yeah, somebody should do posts for the others too. The only subsequent films for which there are already FanFare threads are Insurrection and Beyond J.J. (And so, though it's off-topic, I will share my Insurrection anecdote. When it came out, I was a college student with a lot of time on my hands and a love for the still-young World Wide Web. I found, probably on Ain't It Cool News, a purported script for Insurrection, and promptly read it and shared it with my friends. We unanimously concluded it was too ridiculous to be real; I mean, Troi shaving Riker in a bathtub? It reeked of fanfic. Imagine our reaction when we saw it on opening weekend.)

I have a personal fondness for this film. Though I was a kid and I don't remember it precisely, it's likely that it was the first Trek film I saw on the big-screen (after a good deal of TOS-watching), but more than that, it came out shortly after I moved away from the San Francisco Bay Area. Moreover, though Memory Alpha doesn't mention it, the Whale Probe movie came close on the heels of another unusual humpbacked-whale-related visitation: the Humphrey the Humpbacked Whale saga, which my family, and the news, followed with all the tenacity that would later characterize Little Jessica Trapped in the Well. So, not only was I already fond of Star Trek, and of San Francisco, but also of this specific species of whale. It felt almost like they made the movie for me.

Now? I concur with nubs: "ST: II is the best Star Trek movie. Star Trek IV, however, is the best Star Trek movie." In terms of strengths and weaknesses, I think IV just nails it more, across more domains. II is outstanding at what it does, but IV does a little more, even if it admittedly comes off a little slight, and is certainly not what a lot of people expect from a Trek film. (Not that this has hurt its popularity.)

In fact, I'd even go so far as to say the film's feel is deeply different from any other Trek film or episode. It IS like an in-universe vacation in the same way that most Trek time-travel stories are, but somehow it almost feels like a vacation from its own franchise, you know? (And I don't mean philosophically—as others have rightly said, this movie GETS Star Trek—more tonally and stylistically.) Maybe I'm projecting a bit of my own associations w/r/t San Francisco etc., but even though it caps off the "Genesis trilogy", it's so different that I'd really hesitate showing this to somebody with zero previous familiarity with Star Trek.

One element that definitely contributes to its uniqueness is its score. I mean, I love love love the scores for II and VI and all of the shows (except Enterprise >8|), but this one just…lightens my heart. Also significant in terms of the film's veneer: this is the only Trek film that runs stills from the film under the closing credits.

The only quibble I have is that there is really no reason they need transparent aluminum, it's not like they had to transport the whales in a windowed tank.

Maybe there's…something about its transparency that makes it stronger? Like Crystal Pepsi?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:20 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


Way to go, zarq. And whenever you like. I've endeavored to give these about seven or eight days. (In fact, I almost posted this one today rather than yesterday, but I saw a bunch of references to "Star Trek Day" on Twitter and it eventually occurred to me I ought to bump it up.)

Cool! I'll get crackin'.

Bet I can make y'all see it in a whole new light.
posted by zarq at 6:18 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I'd like to make a few more comments about STIV by comparing it to two other movies that it has interesting connections to. The first is Time After Time, a neat and underappreciated 1979 movie that also involves time travel to late-20th-century San Francisco. The premise depends on two secret-history ideas: that H.G. Wells actually invented a time machine, and that one of his friends happened to be Jack the Ripper, who used his machine to escape across time and space, with Wells following. That movie was written and directed by Nicholas Meyer, who in addition to directing II and VI cowrote this movie. (It also stars Malcolm McDowell, who will be in Generations, and David Warner, who will be in V and VI in different roles.) A lot of the humor in that movie comes from Wells, who, as a science fiction writer with progressive politics, might be less startled with moving forward in time nearly a century, but still experiences future shock. STIV goes in the opposite direction, but achieves much of the same effect by the simple premise that the crew, even with a decent 23rd century education, wouldn't know a lot about culture, politics, etc. of three hundred years previously, even in a city that they'd all spent time in because of Starfleet Academy. If you somehow ended up in 1717 Boston, which had about ten thousand people even as one of the largest cities in North America, how do you think you would cope, especially if you had to do something like go to a blacksmith and have him make a part for a machine that he couldn't comprehend? How would you get money? What sort of law enforcement, if any, exists then, and how would you deal with them? And the movie flips the perspective around with Gillian, who wants to be helpful but also is trying to figure out this guy who looks like an off-brand Hare Krishna who knows things that he shouldn't know about George and Gracie, and his charming friend who keeps side-stepping things such as why people keep addressing him as "Admiral." (The bit where Gillian thinks that the "Admiral" might be trying to weaponize the whales is a canny reference to similar projects involving dolphins.)

The other movie that I'd compare it to is Star Trek: The Motion Picture, although I think it's much better. In both, a large alien craft approaches Earth in a menacing way and the crew of the Enterprise are, for whatever reason, the only people that can deal with it. But TMP had the crew spending a whole bunch of time skimming through V'Ger's outer layers just to find an old space probe that wanted to solve its existential crisis by having cosmic sex with the nearest willing human, which is the only interpretation of the final Ilia/Decker scene that halfway makes sense, and I'm being generous with the "halfway." STIV, on the other hand, has the crew doing human-level stuff (in the most adorably bumbling way)--getting some big sheets of plexiglass, sponging some "radioactive photons" (?)(!) off of a nuclear wessel, flirting their way into getting some whales, etc.--all because this thing wants to talk to some whales, because... why? We don't know, and maybe it's because whales and humongous energy-dampening space probes have thoughts and say things that are utterly unamenable to the best efforts of universal translators. It's an odd, and oddly impressive, SF concept that they're willing to just leave there without forcing a trite explanation, which is exactly why TMP's payoff doesn't really pay off. Both movies also have Spock struggling with personal issues, although again I think that STIV has the more impressive set-up and payoff; in TMP, he simply has second thoughts about joining the logic monastery, whereas in this movie, he's slowly recovering from having been dead, not necessarily getting back to where he's been but to the best place he can be after going through something like that. His dogged literalism is played for laughs, but I thought that "Tell her... I feel fine" was very touching.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:26 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


The first is Time After Time, a neat and underappreciated 1979 movie

Seconding this. I saw Time After Time (because of its Trek connection and because I'm fond of Wells), and can concur that it's worth a look.

STIV, on the other hand, has the crew doing human-level stuff (in the most adorably bumbling way)--getting some big sheets of plexiglass, sponging some "radioactive photons" (?)(!) off of a nuclear wessel, flirting their way into getting some whales, etc.--all because this thing wants to talk to some whales, because... why? We don't know, and maybe it's because whales and humongous energy-dampening space probes have thoughts and say things that are utterly unamenable to the best efforts of universal translators. It's an odd, and oddly impressive, SF concept that they're willing to just leave there without forcing a trite explanation, which is exactly why TMP's payoff doesn't really pay off.

Well said. And as an aside, it's more or less canon that cetaceans are sapient, according to TNG, presumably as an in-joke reference to this movie. Here's what the "Cetacean ops" section looks like in the (noncanon but AFAIK pretty much "official") blueprints of the Enterprise-D. Evidently, the purpose of having cetaceans aboard a starship in the 24th century had to do with navigation. Presumably, by this time the universal translators have undergone enough improvements to facilitate cetacean Starfleet crewmembers. (Noncanon holds that Gillian Taylor went on to have a distinguished career; perhaps she worked on said improvements.)

On the topic of humpbacks, holy shit, look what I just found on Wikipedia: "Recently, incidents of humpback whales protecting other species of animals such as seals and other whales from killer whales has been documented and filmed. Studies of such incidents indicate that the phenomenon is species-wide and global, with incidents being recorded at various locations across the world."

His dogged literalism is played for laughs, but I thought that "Tell her... I feel fine" was very touching.

Yes, although I did think TMP had a moment of nice payoff in the scene where Spock waxes cosmological about the parallel between his own spiritual journey and V'Ger's. Though it may not be as solidly earned, narrative-structure-wise, as the "I feel fine" bit, I like it for what it says about the change in the Spock character. Really, Spock is almost the only reason I ever want to watch TMP.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:15 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


He played a punk with a boombox again in a cameo as a homeless man in 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming.

This is now my favorite movie Easter egg. I can't believe I didn't know that!
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:14 PM on September 10


This is now my favorite movie Easter egg. I can't believe I didn't know that!

It makes me a little sad to think the homeless guy in the Spider-Man movie could be the punk on the bus from Star Trek IV. Knowing Thatcher wrote I Hate You led to my own personal headcanon that the music the punk was blaring was his own band. It's just kind of grim to think he went from being some snotty SF punk with his own band (with a great song!) to a scuzzy old homeless guy on the streets of NY. It's not an unrealistic fate, but it's sad.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:48 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


It's just kind of grim to think he went from being some snotty SF punk with his own band (with a great song!) to a scuzzy old homeless guy on the streets of NY.

Perhaps he suffered long-term neurological damage as a result of his encounter with Spock on the bus. It WAS Spock's first nerve pinch since his resurrection; maybe he was a little rusty, and held it too long. But that's, uh, not making it less grim… Sorry :)

By the way: can we talk about the trippy-ass time-travel floating-head swimming-mannequin sequence? That shit freaked me right the fuck out the first couple times I saw it, and even now I'm not completely sure what they were going for there. Memory Alpha says it's Kirk's dream, and the cinematography definitely suggests that. It's definitely way-out-there when compared with other Trek time-travel sequences. (Maybe it was those Klingon food packs. They probably forgot to translate the warning on the back: "Do Not Consume Prior to Time Travel.")

Also, it wasn't until I'd seen the film many times that I realized the overlapping, echoing dialogue you hear during the head part is all a bunch of lines from later in the film. And now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure every one of those lines is spoken TO Kirk, except the one he himself says. Here are the ones I remember, in no particular order:
"Admiral, there be whales here!"
"My god, Jim, where are we?"
"Admiral, I should never have left him."
"Aux power is NOT responding."
"Our mission? Spock, you're talking about the end of every life on Earth!"
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:57 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


The "floating-head swimming-mannequin sequence" was probably just Nimoy playing around with what was likely the cutting edge of computer-generated imagery for the time. (They had a high bar to clear that was set by STII; the "Genesis Effect" sequence was the first fully CGI sequence in film history.) And that's a great catch with the dialogue; I think that the purpose was to hint at the idea that, as Kirk was traveling back in time, he was hearing what he himself would experience in the near future.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:40 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't know on which re-watch I caught the fact that the voices during the time-travel sequence were actually future dialogue; it's a wonderful, subtle touch about time travel.

I want to rewind things a bit to the wonderful scene between the Klingon Ambassador and Sarek; it's great that they had John Schuck and Mark Lenard to do that scene because it makes no sense. The Federation Council is apparently entertaining a petition from the Klingon's for Kirk's extradition, but the Federation has - as it makes clear - already decided Kirk's fate. Why are they allowing this show? Are they trolling the Klingons?

And why does Sarek get any time on the floor at all? The Klingon ambassador is making a presentation; he shouldn't have to yield the floor, nor do the accused need a defense - this isn't a trial, and again the decision has already been made. And then the "Vulcans are well known as the intellectual puppets of this federation!" Seems a toothless insult to deliver in front of the Federation? And the crowd reactions are hysterical to me - Sarek asks if the Klingons have the right to commit murder and the crowd goes nuts, right after it's been established the Klingons blew up a Federation ship and killed Kirk's son.

Anyways, I think its a bit of a bonkers scene when you really look at it, but made great by the two actors who deliver it.
posted by nubs at 9:16 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


The Federation Council is apparently entertaining a petition from the Klingon's for Kirk's extradition, but the Federation has - as it makes clear - already decided Kirk's fate. Why are they allowing this show?

My guess is that they allow it because, as Schuck mentions at the start of the scene (and IIRC even Kruge made a quick reference to it in III), the Federation is in the process of peace talks with the Klingons. It'd be consistent with how the Federation is portrayed elsewhere for the council to be willing to put up with a lot of crap if it prevents peace talks from derailing. The way the President says his line that shuts Schuck down late in the scene, the line about deliberations being over, seems to support the idea that Schuck's little presentation was always intended by both sides as a bit of political theater (and perhaps his extradition request was unexpected).

And why does Sarek get any time on the floor at all? The Klingon ambassador is making a presentation; he shouldn't have to yield the floor, nor do the accused need a defense - this isn't a trial, and again the decision has already been made.

This part actually does make a glimmer of sense to me: the extradition would be from Vulcan, so the Vulcan ambassador has to be involved, even if only as a mouthpiece for the decision that's been made. What this scene doesn't make clear is that the Federation doesn't "rule" the planet Vulcan; the Federation's really more of a league, and nonhuman species have autonomy in their own spheres.

It's even plausible that Sarek's intrusion was planned for this reason, to demonstrate to the ambassador (and the council) that Vulcan is in agreement with the decision—though the fact that Sarek's appearance seems to piss Schuck off further maybe makes that a miscalculation. OTOH, if Sarek really did just barge in, that'd probably be a little unusual procedurally, but for the sake of drama—just like how courtroom scenes always involve a surprise witness bursting in—I'd allow it.

And the crowd reactions are hysterical to me - Sarek asks if the Klingons have the right to commit murder and the crowd goes nuts, right after it's been established the Klingons blew up a Federation ship and killed Kirk's son.

I used to assume that reaction was mainly in the spirit of "HOLY CRAP did a Vulcan just lose his temper on the council floor?!", but now that I think about it in terms of the peace negotiations, probably a lot of the delegates are anxious at the notion of the Klingon ambassador storming out and ending the talks (which is of course what happens). This would also explain why they don't Murmur Energetically in the middle of Schuck's inflammatory rhetoric.

But yes, it's a weird scene for sure, in part because of the missing or vague context. I like that weirdness, because it feels more like you're actually witnessing the deliberations of an interstellar political body whose rules and norms you can't possibly follow; the verisimilitude, in other words, is stronger than it was in the Star Wars prequel scenes in the Galactic Senate, which if anything should have been way weirder than this because there's not even an Earth.

I think another element of weirdness is the scene's need to exposit for plot purposes—e.g. all the stuff about Kirk's son and Sarek's son. It's clunky, and it's hard to interpret as anything other than a concession to those moviegoers who skipped III, but at least they keep that stuff pretty short. (Sarek's appearance might have made more sense for those same moviegoers if they'd added a reference to Kirk being in exile on Vulcan, since the first actual Kirk scene in this movie comes after the council scene!)

Amusingly, it's also kind of an important scene, because it lays some groundwork not only for the plot of The Undiscovered Country but for the portrayal of Klingons therein (and in TNG and DS9) as political firebrands for whom the extensive use of hyperbole in rhetoric is I guess perfectly honorable.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:43 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


I think another element of weirdness is the scene's need to exposit for plot purposes—e.g. all the stuff about Kirk's son and Sarek's son. It's clunky, and it's hard to interpret as anything other than a concession to those moviegoers who skipped III, but at least they keep that stuff pretty short.

I've always written it off as such, because the oddness of the scene only jumped out at me when I watched the Ii-III-IV movies in close succession. It's necessarily backstory exposition, and Shuck and Lenard do a great job with it. So take my thoughts on the scene as just me going "hey, didja ever really think about this?" as opposed to criticizing the scene for existing; it does what it needs to do and does it fast enough that I had to dig into it a bit before it started feeling off to me.


Amusingly, it's also kind of an important scene, because it lays some groundwork not only for the plot of The Undiscovered Country but for the portrayal of Klingons therein


It's an amazingly important scene for that, and when I was rewatching it I was thinking how awesome it makes as a tie in to The Undiscovered Country; V gets in the way, but if you ignore it, the arc is a great one across the four movies in terms of an arc for Kirk and Spock, as well as making Klingon behaviour and code clearer to the audience. I think TNG helped a lot with fleshing out Klingon society as well; by the time VI comes out, we've had four years of TNG and a chance to see Worf and what he is dealing with; the audience has a higher set of expectations for seeing an alien culture presented.
posted by nubs at 9:27 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


I am filled with SO MUCH love for you all that you are discussing this depth . :)
posted by zarq at 5:03 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]


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