Friday 19 February 2016

Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home

Brutish Whale Rays

Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home
USA 1986
Directed by Leonard Nimoy
Paramount Blu Ray

Warning: Some spoilers here for Star Trek virgins.

And so on to the fourth and what is, in actual fact, my personal favourite of all of the Star Trek movies.

Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home has a lot going for it with a brilliant script, mostly played for laughs, the usual solid performances from both the regular and guest cast and even Leonard Nimoy’s direction seems more confident in this one. The camera movement, shot set ups and editing seem a lot less ‘quick and dirty’ and more graceful. Some of the sets, effects and even alien make-up still seems a little less than special in this one... although nowhere near as ropey as some of the stuff in Star Trek III - The Search For Spock (reviewed here).

The story is a continuation and conclusion to the events depicted in the last two movies, with Kirk and his shipmates still fugitives from justice and on their voyage home from Vulcan to the planet Earth, ready to turn themselves in for their breaches of Federation law in the last installment. The scenes from Vulcan don’t look all that realistic in places, it has to be said, and the opening of the movie features the third and final appearance of Saavik, played for the second time by Robin Curtis. Again cut from the film, as it was cut from being mentioned in the last one, the reason Saavik stays behind on Vulcan (appearing in only a couple of brief scenes), is the detail that she is pregnant with Mr. Spock’s child, after helping him out through his ‘pon farr’ phases in the last cinematic installment.

This is also the only film in the franchise to feature both Spock’s father and mother as played by the original actor and actress returning from their TV appearance in the Star Trek episode Journey To Babel, in the same film... although they never actually appear on screen together. This was Jane Wyatt’s last performance before she died but Mark Lennard would, of course, play Sarek at least four more times... twice in the next two Star Trek movies and twice in episodes of Star Trek - The Next Generation. I always find Sarek a reassuring presence in these moves as he seems to lend an instant sense of gravitas to any given situation.

The plot of the film is very simple... the scriptwriters needed to devise a way of having the crew of the now destroyed Enterprise redeem themselves and be able to continue serving in starfleet. Nimoy also throws in a very clear and present plea to “save the whales” and although some people might find this absolutely noble message a bit preachy... well, it may be but it’s a welcome message for a Star Trek movie to deliver and its obviously pursued and presented with a lot of passion.

And so we have an alien vessel beaming down sound rays to the oceans of planet Earth and almost destroying our planet in the process. Kirk and his chums make it back to Earth in time to witness this near ‘destruction by accident’ but Mr. Spock realises the probe is trying to communicate with hump backed whales, a species now extinct in this future era. So the crew of the H.M.S Bounty, as McCoy christens our heroes’ ‘acquired’ Klingon Bird Of Prey (which was never supposed to be a Klingon ship but that’s another story) realise they have to go back to Earth’s ancient history and bring back some whales to the future... which they do. By calculating a time warp (something they’d done before in the TV series and which would be done again in a later Star Trek productions) and landing in San Francisco in 1986.

And , of course, like the various episodes of the original TV show where the crew of the starship Enterprise found themselves either back in Earth’s history, or on a planet mimicking Earth’s history, the script writers have a field day using various ‘fish out of water’, future versus the ‘present day of the contemporary audience’ jokes... making this movie a very light hearted affair and that’s possibly why I like this one so much. The writers, quite frankly, seem to be having a whale of a time with this one and the humour is infectious.

Another thing that’s infectious is the music but it’s also problematic. Rather than keep musical continuity with the previous two films in the franchise, which form an unofficial trilogy within the movie series, Nimoy wanted to use his friend Leonard Rosenman to do the score. This means that, once again, the only musical continuity with the other movies is a few quotes from Alexander Courage’s original Star Trek TV series theme... but the tone of the rest of the score is completely different, once again, from any of the previous films in the series.

Now some of my regular readers might remember I have some personal problems with Leonard Rosenman’s music which, I have to say, is absolutely nothing to do with his ego and more about his use of those damn, irritating ‘tone pyramids’ which have always sounded so dated and clich├ęd to me. Rosenman is, of course, noted for being a composer who uses a lot of atonality in his work and this is a style which I love, although for some reason I always seem to be less than inspired by this composers own explorations of that style of music. That being said, there are also some great melodies in this one including two truly great pieces of music for when Chekhov is being chased by the navy and a second when he is being rescued from a hospital.

Rosenman’s main titles are also great but they’re similarly problematic in that they’re very close, in some sections, to the main titles for his score to the 1978 version of Lord Of The Rings. I know some people who can’t even tell the difference although they aren’t that used to listening to ‘scores’ and any similarities are usually picked up on. But, yeah, play them both together and some sections do sound almost identical... which is unfortunate because it’s really not a bad piece of music. I do enjoy certain sections of Rosenman’s score for this film, tone pyramids aside, but I do think the choice to use him was possibly a bad decision in the case of this one and its ‘shared story’ with the previous two installments, both of which were scored by James Horner using the same themes (not necessarily all his themes but the less I say about that the less I’m going to get in trouble, methinks).

And that’s about all I’ve got to say about this one. A greatly entertaining movie which even has a cool trick ending...

After saving the Earth from certain doom, all charges are dropped against our heroes apart from one remaining charge for Kirk. However, as his punishment, he is demoted in rank back to Captain and once more given a starship to command... something he’s been trying to get back to in his rank of Admiral since the first movie. He even gets given a new Starship Enterprise, the first of the ships to end with a letter in its serial number... NCC 1701-A (the one Captain Pickard commands in Star Trek - The Next Generation is NCC 1701-D). So a crowd pleasing end all round in a Star Trek movie that pretty much gives the audience everything they could want from it and, as it turns out, was the highest grossing of all ten of the first wave of movies... something which was finally toppled with J. J. Abrams reboot of the movie series a few years back. Regardless of the back story being somewhat essential in terms of picking up the constant references, if you see only one Star Trek movie in your life and you are looking for something to give you a way in, then Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home is the one to go for.

Star Trek @ NUTS4R2
Star Trek Series 1
Star Trek - The Motion Picture 
Star Trek II - The Wrath Of Khan
Star Trek III - The Search For Spock
Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home 
Star Trek V - The Final Frontier 
Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country
Star Trek - Generations (aka Star Trek VII) 
Star Trek - First Contact 
Star Trek - Insurrection 
Star Trek Nemesis 
Star Trek Beyond

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