Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) closes the trilogy that began with Star Trek II in 1982 and continued with Star Trek III in 1984. More than any other, this film bears the signature of the late Leonard Nimoy directed it and wrote its story together with Harve Bennett, while the screenplay was written by a multitude of authors. With the movie’s strong environmental themes, Nimoy’s influence is undeniable.
Star Trek IV is a brilliant, upbeat film, full of irony like no other Star Trek product, which uses science fiction to tell a very topical story about how we humans are destroying life on the only planet we have (at least until Zefram Cochrane will invent the warp engine, of course).
The plot is the following: an unknown probe approaches Earth and causes a planetary crisis (the probe is similar to that of the episode The Doomsday Machine). Apparently, the probe is trying to communicate with someone, but receives no response and the resulting climate crisis is endangering life on the entire planet. The only hope lies in our heroes who are going home on the Bounty (that’s how they renamed their Klingon Bird of Prey). They decide to go back in time (as in the episode Tomorrow is Yesterday) to retrieve two humpback whales to put in contact with the probe…
Having the crew of the late Enterprise going around in 1980s San Francisco gives rise to a series of scenes one more hilarious than the other. Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) together are great (I burst out laughing every time with the punk on the bus, or when Catherine Hicks’s character asks if the two like Italian food). Then, imagine Checov (Walter Koenig) looking for nuclear vessels in the middle of the Cold War, McCoy (DeForest Kelley) complaining about modern-day butcher medicine, and Scotty (James Doohan) struggling with antiquated computers. Pure gold.
And what about the profound theme of the film? Nimoy is not afraid to explicitly emphasize how stupid it is to hunt whales to the point of extinction, and he does so without weighing down the story, but rather closing with some optimism since in the grand finale two whales are saved (and one of the two is pregnant). Luckily, the population of humpback whales has grown somewhat compared to the levels of 1986, although unfortunately there are still countries that allow the hunting of these splendid animals, above all Japan, and five of the 16 existing humpback whale groups are still endangered.
But back to Star Trek IV, the sense of adventure is palpable, the film’s pace is amazing, Leonard Rosenman’s soundtrack is perfect, and the tone is always the right one. Furthermore, more than ever, all the officers play a role in the adventure, each contributing something fundamental to the success of the mission, instead of leaving everything in the hands of the Kirk-Spock-McCoy trio as usual.
I conclude by adding that I would put this film on the second step of the hypothetical podium of the best films of the saga, and I’ve seen it more than a dozen times already… Ciao!
PS: touching is the dedication to the victims of the Challenger accident, which exploded 73 seconds after take-off just before the film was released in theaters (January 28, 1986, to be precise).
PPS: It should be noted that the film opens with a Star Trek cliché, a trial against Kirk and company that highlights how the Klingons don’t miss an opportunity to ask for the head of our favorite admiral.
- Movie trailer on Youtube
- Movie page on Internet Movie DataBase
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