Sometimes the hardest part of embracing the future is letting go of the past, especially when that “letting go” requires a difficult act of forgiveness. For Captain James T. Kirk, that means advocating for peace and relinquishing his long-held grudge against the Klingons — and coming to terms with his son’s death.
In “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” the Klingon moon Praxis explodes and threatens to collapse the Klingon Empire. In a surprising move, the war-like Klingons turn from their long history of hostility and reach out to the Federation with an offer of peace. Although Kirk is skeptical this offer is genuine, he’s dispatched with the crew of the Enterprise to meet the Klingon chancellor and escort his ship to negotiations on Earth. Kirk hasn’t forgiven the Klingons for the death of his son, David, but he accepts the assignment anyway.
Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to take the high road like Kirk and his crew. After the ships rendezvous, the Klingon ship is hit by torpedoes, which appear to come from the Enterprise. Two mysterious assassins wearing spacesuits beam abroad the Klingon vessel and kill the chancellor. Although innocent, Kirk and his crew are blamed for the incident, and they have to scramble to find the real assassins and clear their names before all hope for peace is lost.
“The Undiscovered Country” is the last film to feature the cast of the Original Series in its entirety, and it’s a bittersweet send-off for these well-loved science fiction icons. In many ways, it’s actually two films in one: there’s a suspenseful “whodunit,” which requires the crew of the Enterprise to play detective and find out who really killed the Klingons, and then there’s the political parable that examines the difficulty of letting go of past prejudices for the sake of progress.
It’s tough to blame Kirk for his mistrust of the Klingons, and I’m sure that to him, offering peace to the Klingons feels like giving them a free pass and glossing over their past crimes. However, he comes to realize that by offering forgiveness, he is giving future generations a chance to live in a better world with less conflict. This is a new way of “boldly going where no man has gone before,” and Kirk’s final mission with the Enterprise becomes one of his most important.
Although there are some serious themes in “The Undiscovered Country,” one of the things I appreciate most about the TV episodes and films featuring the Original Series characters is the use of humor and the spirit of fun. “The Undiscovered Country” has some nice lighter moments, including a culture clash at a dinner party with the Klingons (that leaves many of the Enterprise crew members with a killer post-Romulan ale hangover); some Klingons who unexpectedly spout Shakespeare; and a jab at Kirk’s reputation for romancing his way across the galaxy.
The special effects in “The Undiscovered Country” and many of the Original Series films haven’t aged as well as “Star Wars,” but the stories and characters are still just as good. Although I’ll always wish we got more than three seasons of the TV series, it’s pretty remarkable that the show built up enough of a following in its short run to generate six movies and then many spin-offs. I’m also glad J.J. Abrams was able to bring the characters back in his 2009 reboot, and the new actors do a good job carrying on the spirit of the original show.
And speaking of J.J. Abrams, up next on the blog-a-thon schedule is the first of his reboot films, “Star Trek”!