Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home review
Forever remembered as “the one with the whales”, The Voyage Home tells a terrific “fish out of water” story. You don’t even have to really be a Star Trek fan to like it; familiarity with the characters is all that’s required. Anyone who has heard the phrase “Beam me up, Scotty” will have fun watching these characters make their way through 1986 San Francisco.
As with the previous film, my first impression of it began with my dad’s description over the phone. His description didn’t mention anything about humpback whales, only that our heroes become stranded in 1986 San Francisco in their commandeered Klingon Bird-of-Prey, which our heroes have dubbed the “HMS Bounty” (an homage to our heroes’ similarities to the crew on Mutiny on the Bounty). The Bounty’s power levels are dropping, and the only way our heroes can get back to their own time is to steal nuclear-power photons from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. Sounded pretty cool to me! Of course, like everyone else, I was wondering what would become of the former Enterprise crew in the wake of The Search for Spock; would they be exonerated somehow?
Fortunately, not only did this film establish what happened next to Kirk and company, but it also provided Star Trek fans with a broader spectrum of colors and tones than the previous Star Trek movies in general. To have continued on in the same vein as the last two films, with the same sort of themes and operatic action-drama, would have been pushing it. I’m glad that, as the director of this movie, Leonard Nimoy managed to give us a feel-good film that brought the “Genesis Trilogy”, started in The Wrath of Khan, to a tremendous and uplifting conclusion.
The story presented all kinds of great opportunities: humor that flowed naturally from the characters in their “fish out of water” situation (Kirk’s “Double dumb ass on you” line still makes me chuckle to this day), a new love interest for Kirk in the person of Gillian Taylor (played by actress Catherine Hicks), the entire cast once again being brilliantly utilized to where no-one’s role is uncritical to the mission, and a wonderfully inspired Greenpeace scene where the whaling ship’s harpoon bounces off the cloaked Bounty. When the ship de-cloaks (coincidentally, our heroes just happen to be flying in a green-colored ship), the whalers tuck tail between their legs and run; it’s a wonderful climax that had audiences, fan and non-fan alike, cheering.
But for those of us who are fans, it’s the film’s ending — with the exoneration of our crew, Kirk being demoted back to captain (having realized his mistake in accepting promotion before), and the unveiling of a new USS Enterprise, designated NCC-1701-A — that is the real payoff. Just as the previous film gave us Spock back, this film gives us back the greatest spaceship of all time.
While the mainstream appeal of The Voyage Home cannot be denied, I ironically find myself actually watching this film the least of all of them. Perhaps this is due to the lack of spaceship action, the fact it takes place in contemporary American society (which we normally watch Star Trek escape from), or James Horner’s absence as composer (although Leonard Rosenman’s score would work just fine, thanks to the addition of Alexander Courage’s fanfare). Every time I do watch it, though, I always find myself smiling and remembering how good it is, even though it may not be the spectacle for me that The Search for Spock was. It is certainly a great Star Trek film, but I feel there are better ones.
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.