Released: November 26, 1986
Directed by: Leonard Nimoy
Producer: Harve Bennet
Screenplay: Nicholas Meyer, Harve Bennet, Steve Meerson & Peter Krikes
“Everybody remember where we parked...”
Time travel plots are a staple of sci fi, especially in the world of Star Trek. Frankly, its a bit of a cliché. However, there are some examples of the idea being pulled off really well, and one of those is The Voyage Home. This film was the most successful of the Star Trek series to date, and is still held in high regard by many fans including myself. Its certainly one of my very favourite Trek films, up there with The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country all sharing the top spot in my mind for the best of the TOS era features. The thing that makes The Voyage Home so successful is just how different it is to either of those aforementioned films, and indeed how different it is among all the Trek films. In a noticeable change of pace, our heroes find themselves on 20th century Earth in a “save the whales!” adventure marked with priceless comedy thanks to the unforgettable onscreen chemistry of the cast. There’s no real violence, no Klingon bad guys, no space battles. Star Trek IV is pure, light-hearted fun, and that’s precisely the reason why its so good.
As the final part in the trilogy of films that began with The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home sees Admiral Kirk and co. and returning to Earth to face judgment for their actions in the previous two films. What starts out as something that seems to be along the lines of the other films, takes a sharp right turn. An alien probe is harassing the planet Earth, looking for Humpback whales. In the 23rd century, they’re extinct. Of course, the natural answer is to attempt time travel by the ludicrous means of flying around the sun at warp speed, and after a surreal time travel sequence where do they end up? San Fransciso, 1986. The first shot of our heroes, wandering around the streets of the city, looking sorely out of place and accompanied by roaring contemporary Jazz Fusion replete with impossibly 80s programmed drums and synth (indeed the entire soundtrack is a noticeable departure from standard Trek film music), is one of the most charming, funny and priceless moments in the entire history of this franchise. Their interactions with the “primitive and paranoid culture”, as Kirk puts it, are just effortlessly funny, as are their interactions with themselves. The chemistry between these actors to generate humour was never so obvious as in this film. Having recently just seen this again after several years, the “save the whales” mentality of the film has also never stuck out to me as much. This is undoubtedly a sign of the times, and its nice that they were able to put a relevant and contemporary message into the film. The rest of it is filled with non stop examples of effortless humour and great character interactions; I forgot how funny this film really is. This is one that has me laughing almost all the way through, every time. Let's not forget the inherent humour in a Russian guy, in 1980s America, stopping people in the street to ask where the nuclear vessels are kept.
Of course, everything works out in the end as it should, with our heroes making a successful return to the future bringing with them two Humpback whales and a disenfranchised 20th century marine biologist. For saving the day yet again, they’re rewarded with a brand new shiny Enterprise and the chance to fall flat on their faces in the underwhelming and largely derided follow up, The Final Frontier. The Voyage Home, though, is a fantastic film and one that even non Trek fans will be able to enjoy due to the setting. For many Trek nuts, myself included, The Voyage Home is one of the unmissable highlights of the film series. As with Star Trek II, the version I have discussed is the 2009 remastered DVD, which presents excellent picture quality. The packaging and bonus features are again somewhat minimalist, but the only other version of this film I've owned is an older VHS so the improved picture is very apparent to me. If you want more comprehensive bonus features, nicer packaging and perfectly adequate picture quality, get the 2003 2-disc collectors edition, or indeed the newest BluRay version which combines this edition's image quality (except probably even better, being a BluRay) with the 2003 edition's extensive bonus material.
My rating: 5/5