Depending on the day, my favorite Star Trek film is either The Wrath of Khan or Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home. They are very different films, but they each excel at what they are.
A mysterious alien probe has arrived at Earth and is disrupting the weather and all technology on the planet. All attempts at communicating with the probe have failed. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are on their way home from the events in The Search for Spock, and determine the communications from the probe are actually humpback whale song (though how this is determined is extremely convenient and very unlikely, in my humble opinion). Unfortunately, the humpback has been driven to extinction on Earth, so there are none to respond to the probe.
So Kirk and his crew decide to attempt jumping back in time to when there were humpbacks on Earth and bringing a couple back with them. Eventually, this takes them to 1985, and they land in San Francisco. The best part of The Voyage Home deals with how they fit in, but also don’t fit in, and how much trouble they have to go through to get their cetaceans and return home.
The dialog in this film was wonderful. Leonard Nimoy improved on his directing from The Search for Spock, and really hit it out the park here. Where The Wrath of Khan was full of revenge and battles, in The Voyage Home, there is no antagonist (not really…not even the probe is really antagonistic). The crew is just trying to make things right again and they go about doing it in a delightful and entertaining way.
The music was different from the other films, but different in a good way. As this film was meant to be a return to some of the more light-hearted episodes from the original series, the music was written and incorporated to create that effect. One of my favorite parts was how the punk song was created, based on distilling the essence of most hard punk down to “I Hate You”, and the song was written and recorded to match that. It worked really well for that scene.
I loved the whales in The Voyage Home, and after watching it, I was surprised to learn almost all of the scenes with whales were done with various models and animatronics. Apparently, the effects were so realistic that Paramount got letters and phone calls complaining about the film crew harassing the humpbacks during filming (watch the extras to see Harve Bennett talking about this). I think that speaks for itself.
As I wrote earlier, this is one of my favorite Star Trek films. It is extremely fun to watch, and I watch it as often as I can get away with it. I highly recommend watching this film if you haven’t, and I highly recommend watching Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home again if you have already seen it. You won’t be disappointed.
Release Date: November 26, 1986 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief social drinking, mentions of drugs)
Language: 2 (mostly done for comedic effect, one s-word)
Violence: 1 (Chekov hurt during a chase, weather damage and injuries, no real violence)