Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) / Sci Fi-Adventure

MPAA Rated: PG for some language and mild violence
Running Time: 118 min.

Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Catherine Hicks, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Jane Wyatt, Robert Ellenstein, Mark Lenard, Robin Curtis, John Schuck, Brock Peters, Jane Wiedlin (cameo)
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Screenplay: Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Harve Bennett, Nicholas Meyer
Review published April 11, 2005

A breath of fresh air in the Star Trek movie series, and easily the lightest of them all, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home rounds out the trilogy which started in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, albeit with a decidedly different tone.  While it does continue three months after Star Trek III: The Search for Spock left off, it is still easily accessible for those who have a passing familiarity with the series but who haven't seen the previous chapters.  What sets it apart from all other Star Trek adventures, whether movie or television show, is the ingenious idea behind the story, which boldly goes where no other has gone before, with a heartfelt ecological message and thoroughly entertaining premise and execution.  It shouldn't have worked, but it does, and quite wonderfully at that. 

The film starts off with our heroes on planet Vulcan, loading up to go home and face punishment from the Federation for their hijacking of the Enterprise and its subsequent destruction, as well as the sabotage of the Exelsior.  As they approach Earth, they find that a giant space probe is threatening to destroy the planet, emitting a signal that those on Earth are baffled how to respond to.  It is determined that the probe is sending signals in the language of humpback whales, which have been extinct for over 200 years.  With seemingly no known solution, Kirk and crew decide to time warp back to the late 20th Century in order to snatch a couple of humpbacks to bring back with them in the hopes of saving the Earth.  They discover two whales in captivity at a San Francisco Cetacean institute, but they have only a limited amount of time to figure out how to transport these whales in tons of sea water, in addition to needing to harvest enough nuclear energy to send their tapped out ship back to the future.

Some viewers might dismiss The Voyage Home as too slight to truly consider a genuine Star Trek film, but I think this is a misguided conclusion.  While it is the funniest of the series, it isn't really a pure comedy at all.  it is a real Star Trek adventure with some moments of seriousness, except that the creators knew well enough that the plot can't be taken all that seriously, or people would really laugh at it, and not in the good way.  Actually, it is one of the smartest Star Trek stories ever created, with a very good sense of the characters and some scenes that are easily some of the best in series history. 

There was a conscious decision on the part of the makers of this film to not have a discernable enemy, and also to return the title out of the dark and violent path it had been on in the previous movies.  While it does have an overt message, the use of it is so outlandish, that it is just part of the overall fun, and never heavy-handed in the approach.  Not to all tastes, but definitely one of the best of the Star Trek films in the minds of many viewers, and my personal favorite.

Qwipster's rating

©2005 Vince Leo