Star Trek IV:
The Voyage Home

directed by Leonard Nimoy
(Paramount, 1986)

Within days of the release of Star Trek III, my brother and I had the plot for Star Trek IV completely plotted.

With the destruction of the Enterprise during The Search for Spock, it seemed like getting the ship back would be a top priority. It occurred to me that the destruction scene showed only the primary hall burning up as the rest of the ship drifted into the Genesis planet's atmosphere. What if the secondary hall and warp nacelles survived and were captured by the Klingons, who have nothing so advanced? What if the events of that film precipitated a war between the Klingons and Federation? What if Kirk and crew were pardoned for their crimes because they were needed on the front lines of the war? What if they sallied forth toward combat and met the Enterprise as the enemy flagship?

Well, needless to say, Paramount did not consult me or my brother before selecting a script and filming The Voyage Home. And, while I think our storyline had promise, I can't say I'm displeased with their alternative.

Kirk and crew are returning to Earth after three months' exile on Vulcan, where they've been since resurrecting Spock. They expect to face charges for the theft and destruction of the Enterprise, sabotage, conspiracy and other violations of Star Fleet law -- but as they draw near the planet, they find it under apparent attack by a massive space probe.

The probe is directing a powerful signal at Earth's oceans, the effect of which is disrupting all energy systems and is converting the seas into a massively dense cloud cover. After determining that the signal is attempting to communicate with humpback whales -- a species extinct since the 21st century -- Kirk takes his crew on a timewarp to the late 20th century to try and find whales and bring them forward.

The delight of this film is the crew's interactions with 20th-century San Franciscans. After a trio of serious movie plots dealing with revenge, death and destruction, the producers opted for a lighthearted tale akin to episodes such as "The Trouble with Tribbles" and "I, Mudd." At the same time, there's a serious message about extinction in our own time.

Dr. Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks) is the always-perky cetacean expert recruited to aid Kirk's quest. (I'm surprised her appearance didn't usher in a new wave of wet sweater contests!)

There are a lot of nice scenes here, including Spock's dip in the whale tank and his dunking in San Francisco Bay; Scotty's impersonation of a visiting scholar and his attempts to use an "old-fashioned" mouse-driven computer; McCoy's treatment of an elderly kidney patient; Chekov's flight from U.S. military personnel, interrogation and rescue from a heavily guarded hospital; and Kirk's first encounter with modern American beer. Oh yes, and there's the face-off between a Klingon bird of prey and an evil whaling ship ... with predictable results. An extra nice touch is the cameo of the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise from our era.

Some have said the environmental message of The Voyage Home is a little heavy-handed; well, considering our global track record, we probably need a few more of 'em.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

This movie also had the byproduct of leading Leonard Nimoy to cetacean scientist Roger Payne
and environmental musician Paul Winter. See our review of the resulting recording, Whales Alive!.

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