Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
August 19, 2020 10:00 AM - Subscribe

On the eve of retirement, and their starship's decommissioning, the crew of the original Enterprise have a chance to help bring about peace with the Klingons; war is over if they want it. But not everyone wants it...

There is a ton of information in the movie's Memory Alpha article, and likewise in the Wikipedia article. (And when I say a ton, I mean that, in the MA article, Chang's numerous Shakespeare quotations not only have their own section, they're broken down by play.) A few tidbits:

- The sixth film in the series was initially planned as a prequel to the original series, with younger actors portraying the crew of the Enterprise while attending Starfleet Academy, but the idea was discarded because of negative reaction from the original cast and the fans. [This idea would be used in the 2009 "reboot" Star Trek film, set in the so-called Kelvin timeline.] Other potential stories included a proposal from Walter Koenig in which most of the original crew would have died. The final plot came from a meeting between Leonard Nimoy and Nicholas Meyer, the director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:
Nimoy visited Meyer's house and suggested, "[What if] the wall comes down in outer space? You know, the Klingons have always been our stand-ins for the Russians..." Meyer recalled that he replied "'Oh, wait a minute! Okay, we start with an intergalactic Chernobyl! Big explosion! We got no more Klingon Empire...!' And I just spilled out the whole story!"
- The Undiscovered Country was almost never made as a Star Trek film, not only due to the dismal box office receipts of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but also for an unbroken string of, for Paramount Pictures, disappointing yet very expensive movie releases as well, leaving the studio deeply in the red, only aggravated by a worldwide recession. However as seen on the Star Trek VI DVD set and also according to William Shatner's Star Trek Movie Memories, Paramount, specifically its president Frank Mancuso, Sr. – who had been intimately involved with Star Trek ever since Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – , did not really want to end the Original Crew run on The Final Frontier low note, especially with the 25th Anniversary coming up, and wanted one more film, but found himself seriously hampered by the strictest of budget limitation: under NO conceivable circumstance was a potential new movie to exceed the budget of The Final Frontier, not even by one dollar.

- Star Trek's creator, Gene Roddenberry, who wielded significant influence despite his ill health, hated the script. Meyer's first meeting with Roddenberry resulted in Meyer storming out of the room within five minutes. As with Meyer's previous Star Trek film (The Wrath of Khan), the script had strong military overtones, with a naval theme present throughout. Far from being idealized, the characters were shown as bigoted and flawed. In contrast to Roddenberry's vision of the future, Meyer thought there was no evidence that bigotry would disappear by the 23rd century. When Roddenberry protested about the villainization of Saavik, Meyer replied that "I created Saavik. She was not Gene's. If he doesn't like what I plan on doing with her, maybe he should give back the money he's made off my films. Maybe then I'll care what he has to say." After the stormy first meeting, a group including Meyer, Roddenberry, and producer Ralph Winter discussed the revised draft. Roddenberry would voice his disapproval of elements of the script line by line, and he and Meyer would square off about them while Winter took notes. Overall, the tone of the meeting was conciliatory, but the producers ultimately ignored many of Roddenberry's concerns. Roddenberry did not live to see the film's release, dying of heart failure on October 24, 1991. Before the film's release he viewed a near-final version of The Undiscovered Country, and according to the film's producer and Kelley's biographer, approved a final version of the film. In contrast, Nimoy and Shatner's memoirs report that after the screening he called his lawyer and demanded a quarter of the scenes be cut; the producers refused, and within 48 hours he was dead.

- A major theme of the film is change, and people's response to that change. Meyer considered Valeris and Chang "frightened people, who are frightened of change", who cling to old ways despite the changing world. He hoped that the fictionalization of a current events story allowed for an objective look at the issues, rather than being blinded by personal bias. At the beginning of the film, Kirk operates under a similar bias, calling the Klingons "animals" and putting him at odds with Spock. The Vulcan sees the Gorkon peace initiative as logical, responding to the sudden change in the status quo in a collected manner; he even opens the peace dialog at the behest of his father. Kirk, meanwhile, is willing to "let them (the Klingons) die", unwilling to listen to Spock's words because of his biased understanding. Kirk undergoes a transformation through the film by way of his incarceration; realizing that his hatred is outmoded he allows for a cleansing that restores his son to him in some way.

- On the Special Edition release of Star Trek VI, it was revealed that Brock Peters' scene in the council chamber had to be shot in numerous takes, as he was very uncomfortable with the racial undertones in his lines that the Federation take the opportunity to "bring them to their knees", which was itself, a reference to another film in which that line was said about African Americans.

"Don't believe them! Don't trust them!"
"They're dying."
"Let them die!"

- Kirk and Spock, on the Klingons

"Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris, not the end."

- Spock

"Human rights. Why the very name is racist. The Federation is no more than a homo sapiens only club."

- Azetbur, at dinner

"An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

- Spock quotes Sherlock Holmes

"I was lucky that thing had knees."
"That was not his knee. Not everybody keeps their genitals in the same place, Captain."

- Kirk and Martia, after he beats the horned alien prisoner in a fight

"Then we're dead."
"I've been dead before."

- Scott and Spock

"Come on. Come on!"
"She'll fly apart."
"Fly her apart, then!"

- Sulu and Lojur, as the Excelsior heads for Khitomer

"I'd give real money if he'd shut up."

- McCoy to Spock, about Chang's endless Shakespeare quotes

"Course heading, Captain?"
"Second star to the right. And straight on 'til morning."

- Chekov and Kirk, with Kirk quoting James Barrie's Peter Pan

Poster's Log:

This may be my favorite Trek movie after TWOK; it's not without its flaws (about which you shall hear), but it's got a big heart, is often quite fun, and not only reaffirms the values at the heart of the franchise, but is also relevant to its times. (Sometimes the topical references are more than a bit heavy-handed, but anyway.) The TOS cast movies had had a remarkable run, with the disappointing (at the time, anyway) first movie being redeemed by Meyer's sequel, and the next two respectively introducing much of what we know about the new-style Klingons and getting the highest gross of the TOS-cast movies out of saving the whales, of all things. And then, of course, Shatner's movie, about which we need not speak any further, but even with that, Meyer's movie and its sequels helped to resurrect the franchise, and thus helped bring about Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is the unspoken presence that is partly behind this swan song for the original crew. (Well, mostly unspoken; there's Colonel Worf, father of Mogh and grandfather of you-know-who, and this sly acknowledgement from Shatner in the closing scene of the film: "This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man - where no one - has gone before.") We already know from TNG that the Klingons and the Federation have made peace sometime in the preceding century, so that sets up this, as does some of the preceding film canon; the messy fallout from the Genesis Project, including the Klingons' attempt to steal the tech and the death of Kirk's son, probably brought the two powers as close to war as they've ever been (at least since the since-retconned war in DSC--T'Kuvma's War or whatever you want to call it). Even knowing the results ahead of time, though, doesn't mean that things couldn't have gotten a lot worse before they got better (as in DSC), and this film smartly states that the Klingons aren't the only ones who want to see the Space Cold War get hot. Even Valeris, the substitute-Saavik, can find a logical rationalization to murder Gorkon and frame her captain and doctor for the crime. One of my favorite things about the film is that
the master plot has a number of layers to it; the peace talks could have failed as early as dinner, but with each narrowly averted crisis or catastrophe, the plot just jumps ahead to the next flashpoint, right up to the end.

As I said before, the film isn't without its faults. The Cold War analogies can get heavy-handed, and some of the references actually offended some of the actors; Brock Peters' objection to his scene was noted above, and Chekov said "Guess who's coming to dinner?" because Nichelle Nichols flat-out refused to. Nichols also objected to the scene where Uhura and the others stumble through a hasty Klingon translation; I thought that that scene was incredibly clunky, a Hogan's Heroes scene dropped into the middle of a political thriller with occasional laugh lines just to partially alleviate the tension. (Two mighty interstellar powers on the brink of war, and these guys are hanging around their listening post getting drunk? Really?) I would have been much happier if they'd gotten to Rura Penthe with the help of a cloaking device surreptitiously given to them by a Klingon sympathizer, either Colonel Worf or even Azetbur. The latter seems pretty sharp in her few scenes in the film--her remarks at dinner, as quoted above, are on point--and it would have been nice for at least one Klingon to get wise to the plot and help out the effort, just a little.

But these are relatively minor quibbles. David Warner (wasted in the previous film) and Kim Cattrall are fine, and Christopher Plummer as Chang is an absolute blast to watch; he seems to be having the time of his life quite often. Also noteworthy: Kurtwood Smith as the Federation president. (Rene Auberjonois, soon to be Odo in DS9, has a couple of brief appearances as "Colonel West" (think Oliver North), but they ended up on the cutting-room floor for the theatrical version; the version that you see may have his scenes restored.)

Poster's Log, supplemental: the events of this film were referred to in the TNG double-parter "Unification", featuring Spock's appearance in that series. Khitomer was also the site of the massacre that slew Worf's parents. The Khitomer Accords will be referred to later in DS9, when a certain pop-eyed chancellor sets them aside for political reasons. Also, the events of the memory sequences in VOY's "Flashback" take place on the Excelsior during the events of this film, commanded by Captain Hikaru Sulu and whose bridge crew includes Janice Rand and a certain young Vulcan officer that some may find familiar.
posted by Halloween Jack (29 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
One of my favorite quotes, one not mentioned above:

It's something McCoy says to Kirk, after Martia has secretly come to warn them about something and plants a big kiss on Kirk before she leaves. As she leaves, Kirk turns to McCoy, who's been watching incredulously. McCoy then asks: ".....What is it with you?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:10 AM on August 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

McCoy: What kind of creature is this? Last night you two were—
Kirk: [recoiling] Don't remind me!
posted by Servo5678 at 10:51 AM on August 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Creating Valeris in place of Saavik is bit odd. I can understand the desire to preserve the good name of a fan favorite, but at the same time, the character had been marginalized and recast (and again here, possibly?) so would a villain turn serve the story better?

My memory of what was left in Star Trek III versus its novelization is spotty, but based on the novel's material of the David/Saavik romance, she has ample reason to go bad here, particularly if she had a good scene with Kirk about it.

Would I prefer that scene to be with Kirstie Alley? Of course.
posted by ipe at 11:24 AM on August 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

There is an old Vulcan proverb: Only Nixon could go to China.
posted by thecaddy at 11:24 AM on August 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

STCCG Cards of the movie:
There's lots! They all appeared in 2002's set, The Motion Pictures. Many are 'noun' cards - personnel and ships.

As the game is basically set in the TNG-VOY time frame, things from the TOS movie era could appear at Camp Khitomer and travel forward in time to interact with your spaceline.

Our bridge crew members Commander Uhura, Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott report for duty. Fun flavor text boxes on all of them! Must be due to their Linguistic Legerdemain.

In a clever bit of ret-conning, Admiral Cartwright represents Section 31 in the card game. Likewise, Nanclus is taken to be working for or with the Tal Shiar. Their co-conspirator Valeris can help you thwart a Federation opponent's Diplomatic efforts...

On the Klingon side Chang asks, To Be Or Not To Be? while Azetbur facilitates a treaty with the Federation. Gorkon won't let it end this way. Other Klingons include Kerla, Ch'dak, some guy named Worf, Kor'choth, Koth, and Woteln in no particular order of importance.

Martia was the final shape-shifter to appear in the CCG.

All these crewpersons need a ship! Perhaps the Enterprise or Kronos One would suffice. The card game dubbed Chang's submarine-like Bird of Prey the I.K.C. Kla'Diyus.
posted by StarkRoads at 11:51 AM on August 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Claudius! Cute.

This was great to see for the first time in the theater. Big, fast, exciting, but also thoughtful—pretty much what any Trek movie should be, and what about four or five of them are. I remember feeling immediately, during the closing signatures sequence, that THIS (it scarcely needs to be said) was a proper send-off for the TOS team, not The Final Frontier. (And not Generations either, but we'll hold off on that discussion until…roughly a week from now!) TUC's probably also my favorite after TWOK, or possibly tied for second with TVH.

Its corny moments are, on recent rewatch, surprisingly few; it's aged well IMO. I wonder how it will play to audiences for whom the end of the Cold War is an obscure history textbook chapter that they didn't read.

Relatedly, I wonder to what extent the existence of DS9, with its heavily political elements, is owed to this film—and to TNGs like "Redemption" and "Unification," which came out around the same time as this film. I for one find it almost impossible to get bored by Trek's in-universe politics. (I would watch the crap out of a West Wing-style "Federation Council" show.)

One thing I only just thought of is that this film exudes a confidence that, in the annals of Trek film, may be matched only by First Contact (and I'm not sure I'd say FC is as confident). And it makes sense: they got Nicholas Meyer back, the cast is as locked-in as ever, the story is tight and relevant and everybody knows it…and of course, it's the grand finale.

Also, and probably relatedly: I'm going to propose that this is the most quotable Trek film. Moreso even than TVH.

And speaking of quotes, I went looking for Nicholas Meyer's memoir but I don't know what I did with my copy of it. Meyer DOES say this in The Fifty-Year Mission about signing on to TUC:
I had just had a terrible experience making a movie, Company Business, in which I had my nuts handed to me. It was ghastly. And so the idea of climbing back on a horse, any horse, was really important and I thought I probably couldn't have a friendlier horse than the Star Trek horse. I had absolutely no idea what a Star Trek movie would be. I never do. I never get many ideas, and the ideas I get, most of the time stink.
But, on that topic:
What I wanted to do was widen the world of Star Trek before closing out the series. The thing I've learned from these movies is that your only chance of succeeding is not to repeat yourself, not to try the exact same thing. I didn't want to go mano a mano because I had done that with II, and I didn't want to make a comedy because I felt IV was the most broadly comedic of any of them. So I thought, "I want to make an ensemble piece and I want it to be a political thriller."
On the actual making-of:
I told them it would take fifty-five days. They said, "You have fifty-one," and I yelled and screamed and they finally gave me fifty-three…and I came in at fifty-five.
On Nimoy:
Without seeing himself in relation to Roddenberry as the heir or the keeper of the flame, Leonard knew how these movies worked, he knew the shape of the bottle. He was very protective of that. At one point, Kim Cattrall had posed for some still photographs on the set of the bridge of the Enterprise and they were racy photographs. She was just having fun. And he said no. He killed all of those. That was not going to be.
On the racial elements of the story:
The heroic thing about Kirk and the rest of the crew is their effort to acknowledge, to confront, and ultimately try to overcome their prejudice. [...] Kirk is more of a hero for being a human being and not less because he's superhuman, which I never believed.
And Susan Sackett, Roddenberry's long-time assistant, had this to say about Gene watching TUC:
The man was two days away from death when he saw Star Trek VI. They propped him up in a chair. He didn't have a clue what was going on. I don't think he had anything in his head at that point.
Meyer also told casting director Mary Jo Slater (Christian's mom, hence his cameo) that if she failed to get Christopher Plummer, the film wouldn't get made!

There's much more in The Fifty-Year Mission, and as I've done in the past, I'll recommend it to anyone with enough Trekkie staying power to read the above excerpts ^-^
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:23 PM on August 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

After the massive disappointment that was The Final Frontier, this was a breath of fresh air into what I thought of as a dying franchise.

Sure, I thoroughly enjoyed TNG but I hold a special place in my heart for TOS and it's crew. Watching old reruns of TOS with my dad is one of my most cherished memories, and seeing the slow disintegration of a series that I loved (post TWOK) was painful to say the least. I was just entering adulthood and questioning my own feelings about whether I was just lending credence to the whole argument about things you enjoy as a child versus things you enjoy as an adult, and partially due to my own budding cynicism I was ready to give up Star Trek on the whole. This movie turned that feeling around completely. Almost nothing in this film feels forced, the snappy one-liners flowed seamlessly into the plot, and everybody looked like they were having a fantastic time.

Christopher Plummer deserves a shout out in that he seemed to be having the most fun of all, and his performance was spectacular. Him spinning around in that chair shouting "Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war." still brings a frisson of excitement to me even today.
posted by Sphinx at 12:26 PM on August 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

When this originally came out, even though I had seen all the movies and watched much of the original series with my dad and loved The Next Generation , I think this movie was the first time I loved the original cast. (Sorry dad and The Voyage Home.)

I'm not sure why I loved it so much, especially since a lot it (the militaristic battle scenes, the Klingon stuff) is stuff I don't particularly care for in newer incarnations of Trek. But 16 year old me sure loved this one and 30 years later I'm still a fan.

(But yeah, even then I didn't get why it wasn't Saavik.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:29 PM on August 19, 2020

This one is near and dear to my heart. I started college in the Fall of 1991 and that first semester was an incredibly lonely one. Coming back from Christmas break, I strolled the empty campus and ran into a guy named Dave coming the other way. We struck up a conversation and he introduced me to his friend Will (who went on to become my oldest and constant friend) and we all went to see "Undiscovered Country" in Will's POS car.

We all loved it. I distinctly remember sitting in the backseat and wracking my brain for where I had seen the President of the Federation before (Kurtwood Smith, who it turned out I had recently seen in "Dead Poet's Society"). Those two guys led me to four others they knew, and the seven of us formed a tight RPG group that lasted for nearly two years. Anyway, the movie is a personal life cornerstone for me, and it doesn't hurt that it's also pretty damn good.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 1:49 PM on August 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

I saw this movie in the theater, I'm pretty sure Colonel West made the theatrical release in some way.

This is one of the best TOS movies. Not /the/ best, that's TWOK, but this is up there angling for second place. Comments above have a lot to say on its positive elements, so I don't need to say more.

Two things:

I always thought the case against Kirk in this movie was a bit overstated. In TOS he was usually the one doing his best to avoid a conflict with the Klingons while others (guys like the Federation commissioner in "Trouble with Tribbles") wanted to take a hard line. Then a Klingon murdered his son. The Klingon ambassador publicly declared, "There can be no peace as long as Kirk lives." And then Spock volunteered him for the mission of meeting Gorkon. So he didn't want to turn the other cheek and he got pissed talking to Spock and then later he declared he couldn't forgive them for David. He is a human being with human feelings.

The translating Klingon scene was bad, yeah. 1) The Klingons would detect the Universal Translator? So just ask the computer for an appropriate response and have Uhura read it off the screen. 2) Where did they get all those old books anyway? They should have just had the UT analyze the incoming messages and spit out what the guy was saying. It was a dumb scene all around. I get what they were aiming for, the bridge crew coming together to solve a problem in a humorous way, but it looked bad.
posted by Fukiyama at 3:01 PM on August 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would have loved to see more Star Trek with Nicholas Meyer at the helm. His movies were about the most militaristic that Star Trek ever gets, but boy did he ever knock it out of the park. Why aren't there more Sci-Fi movies like Wrath of Khan and Undiscovered Country?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:32 PM on August 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was 13, so probably the best age (for me) to love this and solidify my fondness for Star Trek.

Chang spinning in his chair, and the floating globules of Klingon blood remain etched into my brain.

Had a crush on both Kirstie Alley and Kim Cattrall, so that was a tossup.
posted by porpoise at 6:40 PM on August 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I saw this movie in the theater, I'm pretty sure Colonel West made the theatrical release in some way.

I seem to recall seeing it in the official movie magazine from Starlog, but the memory, as they say, cheats.
posted by StarkRoads at 7:53 PM on August 19, 2020

Thank you for this post and for everyone's reflections.

I mentioned on Fanfare talk that SBS in Australia (free to air national television station) was showing the Star Trek movies each Saturday night through our winter (Generations was last weekend) and that I'd been enjoying the prior posts on Fanfare but that The Undiscovered Country (and Generations) were missing.

I don't have any great insights to offer, other than that I'm enjoying the movies (although that the last third of The Final Frontier is balls). I probably saw them 'back in the day' and a bit at the time, but they didn't leave me with detailed impressions, and weren't enough to make me drink deeper. Watching them all at a steady pace is rewarding to see the differences as well as the essential Trek vibe.

The Undiscovered Country is a good film, although I was disappointed (as with Khan) to see Chang go out via spaceship explosion, rather than something more personal.
posted by jjderooy at 8:24 PM on August 19, 2020

Chang spinning in his chair, and the floating globules of Klingon blood remain etched into my brain.

1991 cgi liquids were still novel enough that that's an image I also carry to this day.
posted by mikelieman at 8:50 PM on August 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

It's really pretty remarkable they were able to come back from ST:TMP with TWOK, and probably even more remarkable they were able to come back from TFF with this one.

I saw it as a teenager on opening night with my best friend and fellow newish Star Trek fan. We were both more TNG fans, but this was just so enjoyable. There were people dressed up in pretty good Starfleet uniforms at our suburban showing, and they took it upon themselves to make an announcement at the beginning of the movie "Ladies and gentleman, the beginning of the end." So cheesey, but it was my first experience in a packed theater filled with fans, a great energy. When Sulu's ship comes in to save the day, there was a cheer, it's probably my favorite moment in a theater ever.
posted by skewed at 9:43 PM on August 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

Chang spinning in his chair, and the floating globules of Klingon blood remain etched into my brain.

Was that the first time with Trek that we saw convincing zero gravity? I too remember that scene vividly from 29 years ago.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:30 AM on August 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ship design nerd wise, I remember that this movie was the one that turned me around on the Excelsior class, Captain Sulu's ship. I remember making a real stink face when the design first showed up, and at later variants; but this version worked for me.
posted by bartleby at 2:20 AM on August 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's really pretty remarkable they were able to come back from ST:TMP with TWOK, and probably even more remarkable they were able to come back from TFF with this one.

I suspect if after the flaccid Insurrection, they had turned to Nicholas Meyer instead of the hapless duo of John Logan and Stuart Baird, the TNG movies might have gone on and eventually wound down much more gracefully. The widely-held understanding that “only the even-numbered Star Trek movies were good” seems to benignly overlook who wrote the screenplays for the second, fourth, and sixth movies.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:43 AM on August 20, 2020 [8 favorites]

Well, Meyer Trek is the best Trek.

I think it's because it leans into the "Starfleet's a military organization" factor without becoming what we consider "military SF": you know, where the militarism is the point and the highest social good is obtained by following orders. Meyer was consciously emulating the Horatio Hornblower stories, and really these are adventure stories that are using military traditions to provide structure and texture.

The shows--especially DS9, which I love--tend to make each of their cast members a critical fulcrum point: Odo's the savior of his people! Worf defeats Gowron in single combat but turns down the chancellorship! It's dramatic and great, but makes the story universe seem small and contrived.

But here, the battles are small and ship-to-ship, not fleet-to-fleet. The story lines are critical but leave you with the sense that they are just one throughline out of billions in this universe. The Federation here feels lived-in and real, which makes the themes more relevant. There's a reason we only really get a sense of Earth and Federation civilian politics in the original cast movies--it's the only place in Trek that they make sense.
posted by thecaddy at 10:53 AM on August 20, 2020 [9 favorites]

Normally when I'm in the car and talky voices come on the radio instead of music, I hit the buttons, because I can't stand listening to people talk with disembodied voices. They were starting to talk on the radio when I came to a really tricky part of my commute the day I first heard this movie was opening that weekend, so I didn't change the station as usual because I had to have both hands on the wheel. The DJs said it was "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country" and that it was about "discovering some previously unseen country or something out in space, like a country orbiting Earth or something," and how kind of dumb that sounded but okay. I was utterly floored that anyone was that stupid and thought that was what the title referred to; press kits were still the order of the day so that they didn't refer to press materials before their roundup of the movies opening that week was beyond me.

I was just so amazed at their stupidity that it intrigued me enough to go see it. I'd moved far away from my Trek fandom, from the days of standing in line almost all day to see the first one and seeing WoK at least a dozen times in the theatre--at least as far as the movies were concerned. (Did I know that it was the "final" one with that cast? I honestly can't even remember now.) I'd been increasingly disappointed by each successive one (I mean, IV was funny at times, but it made me cringe throughout, so it was never the fave for me it was for most people), especially the recasting of Saavik and killing David off for manpain. I have always maintained that few actors seem to really be able to grasp playing Vulcans well, and Kirstie Alley was one of them. I was just overall kind of done with TOS cast movies and more into Next Gen, at the time.

Anyway, the idiot DJs prompted me to go to the theatre, which I hadn't done for V, and I was kind of grateful in a way--I wanted to see if the movie actually treated the "undiscovered country" line literally, and was vastly relieved to see they hadn't. When Meyer's name came onscreen I was like, "Oh, of course, yay." I'd loved his work since Time After Time, and there's a reason WoK is the best, and it's Meyer.

There was an elegaic quality about it, which I always respond to, that sense of people being resistant to change or being willing to embrace it was palpable throughout. I loved the sly nods to all the Trek tropes and cliches, and seeing Iman, even buried under makeup and ugly clothing, was a treat. But Christopher Plummer, man. He was so clearly having a complete ball and I just loved the hell out of him, and David Warner was no slouch. I loved that there was this real sense of anger in Kirk, of desolation, under all the usual Kirkisms, and that you could see the lived-in friendship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and that they gave Sulu such a great part.

I really hated the translation scene--man, my Uhura was way, way smarter than that, so why wasn't theirs? --and the stuff with Valeris's sabotage never made sense to me (though word-nerd me did love the in-universe explaining of sabotage), but mostly I detested Spock using the mind-meld to invade her mind like that. I found that truly disturbing, as a woman, at the time, and it's even more disturbing to me now. None of my male Trek fan friends understood why I hated that so much. More women behind the scenes would help with this kind of garbage. I was a bit more oblivious to some of the racial aspects back then, so thanks for including that information; it really helps shine a light on what still needs changing even now.

But overall? Yeah, this was next best to WoK, and those floating purple globules of blood and the zero-G boots and just all that stuff was fantastic. Plummer dropping Shakespeare all over the place, whirling around in his chair shouting "Let slip the dogs of war!" was just aces. It's one of the couple out of ALL the movies I rewatch happily.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:45 AM on August 20, 2020 [7 favorites]

I think it's because it leans into the "Starfleet's a military organization" factor without becoming what we consider "military SF": you know, where the militarism is the point and the highest social good is obtained by following orders.

In other hands Star Trek got there in the end. A pretty repellent message in these times.
posted by StarkRoads at 11:48 AM on August 20, 2020

The DJs said it was "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country" and that it was about "discovering some previously unseen country or something out in space, like a country orbiting Earth or something,"

Sounds like the Venn diagram of Shakespeare scholars/Klingons/DJs’ understandings of the phrase “the undiscovered country” is best plotted on three sheets of paper in three separate rooms.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:51 AM on August 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

Maybe I'm misremembering things, but isn't there a major error in this movie? Excelsior is equipped with tools to analyze gaseous anomalies. But at the end when the Enterprise can't locate the cloaked ship, someone says "Hey, aren't we carrying a load of gaseous anomaly detecting equipment? Let's use that!" and it's happy endings, but I was all like "No! You're not! That's the OTHER SHIP!!!"

I remember paying attention to that on a subsequent watch and confirming the error, but it's been a while since I thought about it and I've never seen it mentioned anywhere else.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 2:32 AM on August 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I noticed that issue on rewatch, it feels like it might have been something that crept in during editing or maybe rewrites and nobody noticed.

It also doesn't make a whole lot of sense, that they basically solve cloaking devices right then and there because no one had ever thought to just look for the exhaust from a ship before. I mean, they basically made a heat-seaking photon torpedo, and that destroyed the ship. If cloaking technology was that limited, it wouldn't really be that useful.
posted by skewed at 6:22 AM on August 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've actually never seen this movie. But, fortuitously, I picked it up at Big Lots a few weekends ago for 3 bucks. It's on my list of things to do this weekend, so I was excited to see this posted. I'll report back.
posted by kathrynm at 7:56 AM on August 22, 2020

If you ever wondered what Shakespeare's Klingon name is, as I recently did, apparently it's "Wil'yam Shex'pir." --=* The More You Know
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:49 PM on November 4, 2021

Old thread, but this movie has replaced TMP as my "go to sleep to this movie" choice, so I've seen/heard it a lot in the last few months, and one thing not mentioned above that struck me is Uhura's "the thing's got to have a tailpipe" remark. It seems unlikely that features of internal-combustion cars from 3-400 years ago would be a common reference on interstellar vessels.

Also, the ridiculous translation scene. The Klingons are the Federation's primary adversaries, the Enterprise is specifically on a mission to interact with Klingons, and there's nobody on the ship who is fluent in Klingon? We have to bring out the paper phrasebooks? Yeah, sure.
posted by chazlarson at 10:20 PM on October 22, 2022

And then in a later movie, get this, they just use their empath to zero in on their cloaked enemy with BRAINWAVES! Yee-hah!
posted by valkane at 9:21 PM on January 2, 2023

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