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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Reviewed by Nov 21st, 2013

The Voyage Home starts off looking fairly serious. Kirk and friends are still on Vulcan, and have decided to go back to Earth to face charges ranging from disobeying orders to theft and destruction of Starfleet property (blowing up the Enterprise) which were all the result of deciding to go back to the Genesis planet for Spock. Spock has been using computers (several at a time) to relearn everything he’s lost during the whole rebirth thing, but is confused when a computer asks him how he feels. He decides to return to Earth with the others.

And this is where things get silly. They pick up an emergency transmission from Earth. A space probe is destroying the planet, and they don’t expect to survive much longer. They transmission tells ships not to approach earth. Even the ships orbiting Earth are losing power and being destroyed. Spock suggests that perhaps the probe isn’t trying to communicate with humans, and figures out it must be humpback whales. The space probe is destroying Earth because it only speaks whale and it’s not getting a response because humpback whales are now extinct.

It would be pretty easy for this to get preachy really fast, but thankfully, it really doesn’t. Instead, the whole thing just turns into a comedy with a “save the whales” undertone. Some of this stuff is really funny, and I give it credit for that. However, it’s terrible as sci-fi and not good as Star Trek, either. It’s possible to forgive (and/or enjoy) the silly episodes of the original series, but I guess I hold the movies to different standards. It must be the lack of cardboard sets and styrofoam rocks. (“Operation-Annihilate” comes to mind, when the really poorly made creatures look like melted pieces of plastic and a yeoman exclaims, “Captain, it doesn’t even look real!”) Many of the TOS attempts at comedy fell flat on their face. I assume that “Plato’s Stepchildren” was at least partly intended to be funny, but I just found it painful to watch, for example. So it’s kind of nice to see them actually get it right with the comedy with this cast of characters.

The plot is quite stupid, though. The crew is in self-imposed exile on Vulcan, but then Kirk asks if they will willingly go back to Earth to face charges. Since, in the last film, they stole the Enterprise, disobeyed orders, trespassed on an off-limits planet, and blew up the ship to take care of most of the Klingons, things are looking a bit grim. But then they learn Earth is in trouble from a probe that only speaks whale, so they just travel back in time, as if that’s the easiest thing in the world. (Hell, if it’s that easy, why didn’t they just get some extra dilithium crystals and go back in time to save Spock in TWOK? It would’ve saved a lot of time and trouble, and Spock wouldn’t have ended up being dumb as a rock for a while. Or, as the whale scientist refers to him, “that ditzy guy.”) Anyway, the time travel aspect is a bit too convenient. Need whales to answer a space probe? Just travel back in time and pick a couple of them up in San Francisco using your small, crappy Klingon ship.)

There are some funny lines here, like when Kirk says he’s not from outer space. “I’m from Iowa. I just work in outer space.” And Spock just wandering around in a robe the whole time, and no one seems to think that’s odd. I can understand why this film did well. It’s certainly suitable for general audiences, and one need not like or know anything about Star Trek to enjoy watching it. That being said, it’s a bit too light and fluffy to be taken seriously.

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