Making Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
What would become of the former Enterprise crew in the wake of The Search for Spock? Would they be exonerated somehow?
Upon conceiving the next film in the series, Nicholas Meyer (who didn’t want to be involved in Spock’s resurrection but obviously didn’t mind returning to the Star Trek fold once Spock was back) as well as Harve Bennett and director Leonard Nimoy were thinking not only of this, but also of providing Star Trek fans with a broader range of colors and tones to the Star Trek movies in general. Nimoy was foresighted enough to realize that to continue on with more of the same a third time would be pushing it.
In essence, Nimoy also had much more free reign this time. Because Paramount studio head Michael Eisner was immensely pleased with the performance of The Search for Spock, he told Nimoy, “Leonard, the training wheels are off! We want YOUR Star Trek! Give us your vision!”
Needless to say, this was music to Nimoy’s unpointed human ears. He, along with Bennett and Associate Producer Ralph Winter, mandated that a lighthearted adventure without a villain would be the way to go this time.
Nimoy really wanted to do a theme about the Earth’s ecology where the crew would return home to discover that Earth was facing a problem due to humanity’s short-sightedness in the past. For a while, he was thinking that there might be a plant that would be extinct in the 23rd Century that could be found in our present, but they could not come up with a satisfactory adventure with that.
When someone brought to Nimoy’s attention the plight of the whales, particularly humpbacks, they had found their niche. One scene in particular, where a whaling ship’s harpoon bounces off the cloaked HMS Bounty, was inspired by Greenpeace (coincidentally, our heroes just happen to be flying in a green-coloured ship).
Although the studio was no longer breathing down Nimoy’s neck, making The Voyage Home would still not be an easy task. The ante had been increased both with a story that demanded weeks of location shooting in San Francisco (the first Star Trek film to have any significant outdoor location shooting) and the fact that Nimoy would have to simultaneously deal with a logistically more difficult shoot than The Search for Spock and act full-time as Spock. In the interview documentary Mind Meld, Nimoy described to William Shatner (and us) that this was a very painful time for him.
Although it was quite rewarding in the end, Nimoy had apparently taken out some of his frustrations, during this period, on both the cast and Harve Bennett, straining his relationship with Bennett to the point where Shatner would have to give him a good verbal shoulder-rub to get him to agree to line produce Star Trek V: The Final Frontier later down the road. How much this had to do with why Nimoy didn’t direct another major feature after Three Men and a Baby is anyone’s guess, but he did manage to stick it out and give us this film that brought the “Genesis Trilogy”, started in The Wrath of Khan, to a conclusion.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was eventually released on 26 November 1986. It turned out to be the last entry in the movie-only era of the 1980s, since the next film (1989’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) went on to be released while the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation was airing.
A freelance writer, Douglas has several years experience writing newsletters, sales copy and movie reviews. He is also the author of the screenplays Supralight and Bloodstone: The Sorceress and the Warrior. His reviews of Star Trek films (as well as a DS9 retrospective) have been published on the TrekSphere website.