Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

star trek iv the voyage home

“I’m from Iowa. I only work in outer space.”

The Scoop: 1986 PG, directed by Leonard Nimoy and starring William Shatner, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and Catherine Hicks.

Tagline: They travelled back where 23rd century man had never gone before. To a mad, crazy, outrageous time. 1986.

Summary Capsule: Kirk and his crew head back to 20th century Earth to get some humpback whales, redeem their careers, and find Kirk a new plaything to bring back to the future with him.


Kyle’s rating: Khan is best, but humor makes this #2!

Kyle’s review: It is often a fool’s endeavor to attempt to rate and Star Trek films in any kind of order. There are so many different viewpoints out there, so that reaching any kind of consensus is impossible. Some people actually believe Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the best of the films. Others think ST III: The Search for Spock is more light-hearted and “fun” than ST IV: The Voyage Home. This is one of those areas where it’s best to recognize we live in a diverse world, where Trek fans can peacefully coexist without sharing a common favorite film entry. But if you’re dealing with a Trek virgin, you have to admit that continuity issues aside, ST IV is probably the best film to indoctrinate the newcomer with so he won’t head screaming for the hills.

Voyage Home is one of the most surprising successes in science fiction, in my opinion. After the seriousness of the first three Trek films, especially with the morose darkness of Search for Spock, who ever imagined that ST IV would not only nicely wrap up all the loose threads from the first few films but also do it with astounding good humor and charm?

Spock has been returned to life, but he has no memory. Admiral Kirk’s son has been killed, the Enterprise has been destroyed, planet Genesis is gone, and our beloved crew is returning to Earth to face certain wrath from the disobeyed Starfleet. Not the best of times, eh? But as luck would have it, a giant probe of unknown origin has come to Earth, searching for something and setting into motion forces that will destroy the planet if it isn’t placated. Fortunately, Kirk and company manage to determine that the probe needs to speak with humpback whales. Unfortunately, in the 23rd century humpback whales are extinct! No problem, in their stolen Klingon Bird-of-Prey it will be child’s play to zip back to the 20th century, grab some whales, zip back to the 23rd century and save the Earth (again!). No, really, it will! And it’s funny!

Yes, the film delivers the crew to “our” time, circa the 80’s, and the shenanigans that abound in the first half put us at ease so that in the second half when the action heats up we’re ready to get caught up in the suspense of whether it will all work out in the end. Obviously if you’ve seen it you’ll know all the funny parts, and I don’t want to ruin it for those who will see it based on my expert recommendation. I will say that the whole “Do you like Italian?” exchange is worth your rental dollars and can be easily performed among three friends at the dinner table to the delight and amusement of your dining companions. Man, that’s good stuff. And not to ruin anything else, but clearly the ending of IV leaves our characters, especially hero-to-millions Kirk, in the best place he could ever hope to be. Sounds like fun, eh?

So while ST II: Wrath of Khan remains the best Trek film ever, ST IV remains the funniest and most easily rewatchable. Buy copies for friends, loved ones, and all those in need whether you have spare change handy, because it can really make a difference in someone’s life, possibly. It sure makes you realize how we have to protect ourselves and all the denizens of our planet, yeah? Save the whales! Thanks for everything you’ve done for us, Kirk and friends! Next time you slingshot in time back to “now,” the drinks are on me!


Justin’s rating:
Ahoy, me maties! (the spell check wanted to replace the word “maties” with “panties”, which might have improved that sentence somewhat)

Justin’s review: I really don’t get animal rights activists. Now, generally I’m not for unnecessary maiming and torturing of animals on our planet (unless it’s in a fun context, like Fierce Creatures), and exterminating any species is not the brightest thing to do. Except if they’re mosquitoes. You don’t see a lot of “Save The Blood-Sucking Malaria-Transmitting Insects” signs around, but there might be some day. In any case, while I think that we as a race of people with devices such as gatling miniguns and microwaves should be responsible of the planet we live on, there’s no reason to get carried away and fight for sacred protection of animal species that, quite frankly, never asked for our help in the first place. Plus, there’s some billions of people today who are starving, enslaved and living in completely brutal conditions; but by all means ignore them and spend time instead saving the snowy owls, because they’re cuter than malnourished African children.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home has one of the most bizarre eco-friendly messages ever seen in a movie. As the result of our humpback plundering (don’t look innocent, mister, I know you lather up with whale blubber in the shower every morning!), Earth is in danger in the 24th century. It seems an Alien Irony Probe wants to communicate with the extinct species, and when Earth can’t respond, it’s we who will become the extinctees.

Fortunately, there’s Captain James “Pause” T. Kirk and his merry crew of mutineers coming home after a two-film saga, just in time to set things right. After conferring with “The Hilton Let Me Keep This Terry Cloth Bathrobe” Spock and Bones “I’m The Only One Who Dresses Sensibly In This Flick” McCoy, they up and decide to go back in time, assassinate Hitler, save JFK and stop the Coca-Cola company from launching New Coke. While the whole time-travel concept has precedence from the old Star Trek episodes, it seems to be a fairly blasé thing for them to do. Just a few magical “computations”, some chair rattling, a trip around the sun later, and they’re in the wondrous land of 1986. Time travel is yet another example of why the mythos of Star Trek cracks me up. In the realm of traditional science fiction, time travel is a serious, complicated and paradox-laden thing to deal with. Except, of course, when a Trek script doctor can’t figure out a solution to something, and throws a dart at a board listing “Silly Plot Devices”. Ask any Trekker how many times that someone in Star Trek has traveled back or forth in time, and then compare with how many times you’ve ever seen someone in Star Trek use the can. You’ll be amazed.

It’s some sort of geeky fanboy dream when you have the world of sci-fi and the world of John Hughes collide, but here it is. 1986, preserved in all its synth music glory, peppered with anachronisms like Shatner’s toupee. As the Enterprise (well, now the Klingon ship H.M.S. Bounty) crew try to track down a couple humpback whales, construct a holding tank, and recharge their engines with radioactive material (obviously inspired by Back To The Future), they manage to stick their fingers into history’s pie and diddle things around in the process. Oh no, there’s never any problems with tampering with history in the slightest, as long as Kirk’s ego is there to ignore the consequences. I really wish they had gone back to the future and all of the earth people would have tentacles growing out of their foreheads or something because of what these guys did.

You have to ignore a bit of common sense to enjoy this movie. Hum loudly when Kirk starts yammering about how they don’t have money in the future (see my rant on Star Trek: First Contact), or when Scotty alters history by providing the formula to “transparent aluminum” to a company, or when the whole crew becomes fixated on stealing these two specific whales from an aquarium, despite the fact that they can pick up the sounds of (and reasonably track) whales in the ocean.

But since we’re dullards, we’re capable of ignoring logic and going straight to the enjoyable sweets of past shock hysteria. The Voyage Home is a funny flick, and the crew gets to stretch their comedic acting, waddling around in the Reagan era like the obvious Future Fish Out of Water that they are. I think they all act a bit dumber than they should have been, considering their characters’ smarts and all, but it makes for good comedy. The eighties are funny in their own right, particularly a punk on a bus who gets a well-deserved neck pinch by Spock. It’s good to know that punk isn’t dead, it’s just unconscious.

In the end, everyone gets to hug their whale, even if the whale’s a bit too wide to get their arms around, and the barnacles exfoliate pink human flesh. Try to appreciate the humor of Kirk caring about whales while having exterminated several intelligent alien species in the past. I think you’ll find it a diverting pastime.

Space-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat!

Intermission!

  • The film has an opening dedication to the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, who died in an accident during liftoff on January 28th, 1986.
  • So the recorders that the counsel watches had external camera views of the Enterprise exploding? Where was the camera, floating in space?
  • The Voyage Home is the third Star Trek movie where the Genesis device demo is shown.
  • The HMS Bounty… hehe.
  • What’s up with those Vulcan horn hats?
  • The testing computer voice is funny.
  • I love Spock’s face when the computer asks, “How do you feel?”
  • No, that probe isn’t phallic at all. Noooooooo.
  • If the probe was impacting on all of the Saratoga’s systems, wouldn’t their artificial gravity cut off too?
  • The Saratoga listing with the lights cutting off is a creepy little moment.
  • Yeah Starfleet, don’t send rescue vessels to your stranded ships or anything…
  • The McCoy-Spock “death” discussion never fails to crack me up
  • The one long-eared alien with the computer voice in Starfleet HQ is, like, cool.
  • Time warp? Is this a common enough thing now?
  • The heads morphing in the clouds is a neat sequence.
  • More colorful metaphors. Heh.
  • Yes whales attack! Why do you think they have “killer” whales?
  • Hey, that nun is kinda cute.
  • Spock doing the mind meld with the whale is classic!
  • Let’s try not to laugh when the scientist starts crying over the whales.
  • McCoy grouching in the hospital never fails to crack me up. It’s his finest hour.
  • Watching the hospital chase from Chekov’s POV is neat.
  • I’m fairly sure that it’s not a good thing to go to warp speed inside of a planet’s atmosphere…
  • So what did that probe want to know, anyway?
  • The device Dr. McCoy uses to heal Chekov’s head injury is part of a model of Spock’s Vulcan Transport from the first movie.
  • The symbol for the Cetacean Institute is actually the logo of the real-life Monterey Bay Aquarium.
  • When Kirk, McCoy, and Gillian first enter the hospital and are walking around trying to locate Chekov, a voice on a loudspeaker in the background says “Paging Dr. Zober… Dr. Sandy Zober.” Sandra Zober was director/star Leonard Nimoy’s wife at the time.
  • The people that Chekov and Uhura ask for directions to Alameda are not actors. The scene was filmed with a hidden camera on a San Francisco street.
  • The whale hunters speak Finnish (though very crudely). Finland has never hunted whales.
  • The entire layout of the Klingon bridge changed completely from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock to include new panels and new doors; the overall area of the bridge increased dramatically.
  • During romp in water after crash landing, emotionless Capt. Spock is grinning.
  • “On the Bounty, you know, the Klingon Bird of Prey, in the room with Kirk, Spock and McCoy where Spock had figured out which marine creature the probe was trying to communicate with, looks a lot like the same room on the Enterprise where Spock died on Star Trek 2, only with different lighting. Hope Spock doesn’t have nightmares.” [Thanks, Robert H!]
  • The punk on the bus is Kirk Thatcher (associate producer), who also wrote and performed the song that is playing on his stereo at the time.
  • The film was originally supposed to have Eddie Murphy instead of Catherine Hicks. Murphy was supposed to be a professor concerned with UFO’s who spots the decloaking Klingon ship at the Super Bowl. Apparently, all others are convinced the ship is a half-time special effect while Murphy believes it is real. Paramount declined this script for two reasons: Paramount didn’t want to combine their two most profitable franchises (Star Trek and Beverly Hills Cop), and Murphy had signed on to do The Golden Child instead.

Groovy Quotes

Spock: Your use of language has altered since our arrival. It is currently laced with, shall we say, more colorful metaphors, “double dumb-ass on you” and so forth.
Kirk: Oh, you mean the profanity?
Spock: Yes.
Kirk: Well that’s simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays any attention to you unless you swear every other word.

Gillian: So you’re from outer space?
Kirk: No, I’m from Iowa. I only work in outer space.

McCoy: This woman has acute post-prandial upper abdominal distension.
[The guards let them enter the operating room]
Kirk: What did you say she had?
McCoy: Cramps.

[Explaining Spock’s odd behavior.]
Kirk: Oh, him? He’s harmless. Part of the free speech movement at Berkeley in the sixties. I think he did a little too much LDS.

Spock: They like you very much, but they are not the hell “your” whales.
Gillian: I suppose they told you that.
Spock: The hell they did.

[Faced with a 20th century computer.]
Scotty: Keyboard! How quaint.

Gillian: Do you guys like Italian?
Kirk: Yes.
Spock: No.
Kirk: Yes.
Spock: No.
Kirk: I love Italian, [looks at Spock] and so do you.
Spock: Yes.

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3 comments

  1. …or when the whole crew becomes fixated on stealing these two specific whales from an aquarium, despite the fact that they can pick up the sounds of (and reasonably track) whales in the ocean.

    My best guess is that they didn’t want to risk the chance of ending up with two males or something like that.

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