After a week’s vacation (my very first trip to Disney World — I had a blast!), I’m ready to dive back into my summer Star Trek blog-a-thon. This week I’d like to take a look at another film featuring the Original Series cast, “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” However, before I do, I want to acknowledge a very sad bit of news I learned during my trip: the death of actor Anton Yelchin, who plays the younger version of Chekov in the Star Trek reboot films.
J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot film, simply called “Star Trek,” is near and dear to my heart, since it’s the film that sparked my love for the Trek franchise, particularly the characters from the Original Series. Yelchin was funny, warm, and lovable as Chekov in these movies; like all the cast members in the reboot films, he honored the original show while also bringing something new to the franchise. His promising career was cut short, and watching “Star Trek: Beyond” in July will be bittersweet for fans. It is Yelchin’s last appearance in a role he should have played many times more. He will be missed.
“Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” is one of my favorite Star Trek films, and it’s also one of the most unusual (it’s commonly known as “the one where Spock swims with whales”). Directed by Leonard Nimoy, the film kicks off with a mysterious alien probe broadcasting a signal that inadvertently creates deadly changes to Earth’s climate. The signals the probe is broadcasting are actually humpback whale songs, but there are no humpback whales on Earth to answer because they’ve gone extinct. Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew cook up a plan to travel back in time to the 1980s to rescue some whales and bring them to the future so they can communicate with the probe and save the Earth. Unsurprisingly, the crew has a somewhat challenging time fitting into 1980s culture, particularly Spock, who is still adjusting from being brought back to life in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.”
As I type up the plot synopsis, I have to admit that yes, this film does sound somewhat strange. But somehow, when you actually sit down to watch the movie, it all works. The film is smaller and less epic in scope than many of the other Trek films, but that’s okay. It’s a more lighthearted adventure and shows off the genuine chemistry between the Enterprise crew members.
Some of the funniest moments of the film are made possible by the time travel element, such as Dr. McCoy’s frustration with 1980s medical practices, Scotty’s attempt to speak to a computer, and of course, Spock’s efforts to use profanity so he sounds more like a local. Spock also earns a round of applause from his fellow bus passengers when he uses a Vulcan nerve pinch to silence an annoying man who is playing music too loudly.
The film doesn’t really have a villain or any big, special effects-driven action set pieces, but as I said before, sometimes it’s nice to have a change of pace. “The Voyage Home” feels like an expanded episode of the Original Series, and even comes with a message at the end: respect — not squander — the Earth’s precious resources.
Up next, I’m planning to review “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (interestingly, the even-numbered original Trek films seem to be the best). Then I’m planning to re-watch J.J. Abrams’ two reboot films and a film featuring the Next Generation cast. I’ve actually not watched a Next Generation film before, so I’d love to hear your recommendations about which one you like the best!