Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home [DVD]
Screenplay : Steve Meerson and Peter Krikes and Harve Bennett & Nicolas Meyer (story by Leonard Nimoy & Harve Bennett)
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 1986
Stars : William Shatner (Capt. James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Capt. Spock), DeForest Kelley (Lt. Cmdr. Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy), James Doohan (Capt. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott), George Takei (Cmdr. Hikaru Sulu), Walter Koenig (Cmdr. Pavel Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Cmdr. Uhura), Mark Lenard (Ambassador Sarek), Catherine Hicks (Dr. Gillian Taylor)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home established a completely new tone in the film franchise that began in 1979 with Robert Wise's stately, cerebral Star Trek: The Motion Picture and was followed by 1982's violently operatic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and 1984's solemn and somewhat dull Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The Voyage Home made its mark with its lightness and comedic tone, and also by returning to Gene Roddenberry's liberal-hearted conception of the original TV show, which was less about fighting individual villains than it was about enlightening us about homegrown social wrongs.
The Voyage Home picks up right where Part III left off. Having literally brought Spock (Leonard Nimoy) back to life and directly disobeying Federation orders in the process, the crew of the Starship Enterprise (which, as we remember, was destroyed at the end of the previous film) are on the planet Vulcan with a hijacked Klingon vessel. Meanwhile, a mysterious alien probe begins pounding the planet Earth with signals that no one can decipher and that are destroying the planet. Spock determines that the sounds the alien probe is making can only be answered by humpback whales, which have been extinct since the early 21st century.
So, the only way to save Earth is to go back in time to the latter part of the 20th century, beam aboard a couple of humpback whales, return to the 23rd century, and deposit them in Earth's oceans where they will hopefully respond to the alien probe and cause it to stop destroying the planet with its attempts at communication. Having just written that brief synopsis, I realize just how patently ridiculous it looks on paper, so it may be one of the film's primary triumphs that this labored set-up actually works on-screen.
Of course, all the business with the alien probe is just that: a set-up. It doesn't really matter what it is or what it wants. It is, in Alfred Hitchcock's terms, a "macguffin," that plot device that sets the narrative in motion, but it is ultimately unimportant. The primary plot element here is sending the well-known Star Trek crew back in time to deal with, to use Capt. James T. Kirk's (William Shatner) phrase, the "primitive and paranoid culture" of the United States circa 1986.
It is one of the film's funniest and most understated jokes that, because they land in San Francisco, the Enterprise crew doesn't really stand out, even in their 23rd-century Federation uniforms (Spock, on the other hand, is wearing what looks like a white terrycloth bathrobe and an aerobics headband to hide his Vulcan ears). Director Leonard Nimoy (who also helmed Part III) does a wonderful job of getting laughs out of this scenario without making the beloved and respected characters look foolish. He milks the fish-out-water jokes for all they're worth (this includes a run-in on a bus with a punk-rocker who won't turn down his boom box, an exchange of words with a foul-mouthed taxi driver, and Scotty's silly attempt to use a computer mouse as a voice-activation device), but somewhat Kirk, Dr. Bones McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and the others maintain their dignity--if just barely. One of the funniest moments involves Chekhov (Walter Koenig) asking random people on the street where he can find the naval base at Alameda, the place where the military keeps their nuclear vessels (which, in his accent, sounds like "wessels"). The joke is not just in the absurdity of asking people on the street where to find nuclear warships, but the fact that Checkhov sounds decidedly Russian and 1986 was the height of the Cold War.
Unlike the previous films in the Star Trek series, The Voyage Home is a largely nonviolent affair. The main goal is not to destroy an enemy, but to save a pair of humpback whales and repopulate the species. To this end, Kirk and Spock become involved with a whale biologist, Dr. Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks), who is defined primarily by her love of two whales being held in captivity, amusingly referred to as George and Gracie. Kirk and Dr. Taylor have several good scenes together, including a brief dinner scene in which she jokingly says, "Let me guess, you're from outer space," to which he replies in his perfectly deadpan way, "No, I'm from Iowa. I just work in outer space." Their generating a palpable sexual chemistry was a new element to the Star Trek film series, which up until this point had completely avoided any hint of romance.
Overall, The Voyage Home is one of the most purely enjoyable of the Star Trek films (which is probably why it''s the favorite among non-fans). It doesn't have the over-the-top brilliance of Wrath of Khan, but it has a unique tone and appreciable sense of fun that never steps on any toes. Gene Roddenberry was probably proud that it returned to the TV series' more didactic roots, giving us a clear thematic statement about the need to preserve life on Earth and not take anything for granted. That it does so without being overbearing or losing the film's inherent sense of humor makes it that much better.
|Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: Special Collector's Edition DVD|
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 (anamorphic)|
|Distributor||Paramount Home Video|
|Release Date||March 4, 2003|
| 2.35:1 (Anamorphic)|
This appears to be the same anamorphic widescreen transfer from the previously available bare-bones DVD edition. Overall, it's a good transfer, with accurate colors and relatively good detail, although the image is sometimes a little too soft and dark. No compression artifacts were noticeable, and the print looks to have been clean of dirt and scratches.
| English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround|
English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is a solid piece of work, showcasing the film's impressive sound effects, particularly the creepy resonance of the alien probe's signals and the out-and-out chaos of the climactic sequence back on Earth in the 23rd century.
| All the supplements on this DVD are presented in anamorphic widescreen. |
Commentary by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy
Text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda
The Star Trek Universe featurettes
Visual Effects featurettes
Copyright &cop; 2003 James Kendrick