PG. Oddly, the most kid friendly one is probably that has the most language. It's a running gag. People in the '80s swear a lot. The crew of the Enterprise tries to swear. They aren't great at swearing, so it is funny. It is possibly the least offensive swearing in history. There aren't really scary parts outside of a trippy time-travel computer generated sequence that is more odd than frightening.
DIRECTOR: Leonard Nimoy
I don't know what I was thinking. I was adamant that my wife watched Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. It was the one you showed to non-Star Trek fans. I even tried selling it as the rom-com Star Trek entry. Okay, that's kind of true...if the couple ended up together. My wife kinda sorta watched it. She said it was the equivalent of watching a Mystery Science Theater episode. This was the one that everyone watched at some points. It's included in lists (along with Star Trek II) as the one you have to see. People refer to it as "the one with the whales, right?" Yeah, it's the one with the whales. I mentally call it the big time-travel one assuming people don't leap to Star Trek: First Contact. But Star Trek IV is such a good time that I'm going to gush about it the whole time.
It's such a Nimoy movie. I know. It's like I know Leonard Nimoy. I did watch the documentary, For the Love of Spock, after all. Leonard Nimoy has such an odd relationship with Star Trek that it is interesting to see him really embrace the whole concept. People list Leonard Nimoy as the perfect Star Trek film director because of Star Trek IV. But people also forget that he directed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. You would think a movie that had the word "Spock" in the title would be the movie that Leonard Nimoy would be known for, but his opus really is The Voyage Home. I think that's because The Voyage Home is about being inclusive. This movie is the least Star Trek-y of them all. You wouldn't necessarily know that from the first twenty or so minutes of the film, but it almost isn't a Star Trek movie. Instead, it is Nimoy and company playing around with the format while addressing environmental issues in a playful way. I always used to groan when I heard it referred to as "the one with the whales" because the whale thing always got under my skin. I don't know why people knee-jerk reaction to political messages that aren't their focus. But I also realized what it takes for a director to make something kind of special. Leonard Nimoy, possibly for the first time in his long career as Spock, was making something that he absolutely loved. Spock was always a double edged sword for him. He wrote that book, I am not Spock. He wanted Spock to be killed off in The Wrath of Khan. But then he'd always come back. Sometimes, I have to believe, Paramount showed up at his house with a dump truck full of money. Sometimes there was probably pressure to show up. But Nimoy would be an icon from this character. Then he was allowed to direct. One of the movies had to bring the character back to the franchise. But The Voyage Home feels like the carte blanche movie that he wanted to make. Nimoy gets a bit preachy, sure. But in the process of getting the message out about whaling and environmental awareness, he had to make sure that people were going too actually see this movie and care about this movie. To do that, he had to strip down all of that Star Trek mythology and just focus on the adventure elements of Star Trek. Now, I wouldn't say that I watched Star Trek for the adventure element. I watched it for the trippier philosophical arguments that the stories told. It was about exploration sci-fi that got me jazzed. But Star Trek IV offers a lot to both Trekkies and plebs alike.
For me, the die hard Star Trek fan, the whole movie is kind of fan service. The crew of the Enterprise was never starving for time-travel antics. Whatever set was left up on the Desilu lot often offered a story that allowed the cast to cut corners budget wise. Chicago gangsters? Check. Greek / Roman gods? Check. The Wild West? I think even The Next Generation followed that idea. But even when Star Trek would tease going back to a contemporary era, it went back to the sterilized version of television. It wasn't real. It wasn't a commentary on society. But Star Trek IV was there to say something about us. It was about the viewing audience. Were we filthy and silly and far away from the standards of the Federation? Heck yes, we were. The San Francisco of Star Trek IV hits every major commentary moment I can think of. Within minutes, the crew of the Enterprise has to deal with something that the Federation only touches on with extreme characters: people actually speak their mind and are selfish. The Enterprise dealt with Harry Mudd, who was more braggadocios more than anything else. Instead, the whole world of 1986 was crass and simple-minded and that's funny. Think about how bizarre it would be to be transported to Kirk's 23rd Century? Everyone is elevated and trying to benefit society. You tell that a cab driver who almost hits a moron with his car. Nimoy is just letting loose with the satirical comedy and it works really well. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home works because it knows its target audience at the same time. I keep telling my students that the key to writing is knowing your audience. Nimoy is making this movie where he's lambasting his viewers. He has to make our world seem dirty and disappointing, but in such a lighthearted manner that you could take your kids to it. It's fun laughing at ourselves while watching this movie. Some of the references are really dated. The authors who are name dropped are intentionally meant to be dated, but we kind of all get the joke. That's the point. Even though this is a sendup of the 1980s, it really is pretty easy to get all of the jokes. Is it odd to think that the commentary that Nimoy is offering seems so innocent compared to the junk we deal with now? Sure. But we also still relate to these problems as well.
It's so weird watching a Star Trek movie without the Enterprise, for the most part. I always hated that Bird of Prey. It seems like a betrayal. I know, we get an Enterprise at the end. (Deal with that. I'm not bolding "spoiler" or anything.) It works so well for this story because of the cloaking device. I mean, a cloaked Klingon ship in the middle of a park makes a pretty solid joke, but it also really reminds me that this movie is the least Star Trek-y. The Enterprise is a character and I love me the Enterprise-A. But for the entire film, we have the crew of the Enterprise walking around, most of them without their uniforms. They are technically fugitives from Starfleet. They have a Bird of Prey. Kirk is wearing that absolutely hideous pink shirt, red sport jacket combo that makes me want to gouge my eyes out. I mean, I'm thank for Uhura and Scotty for at least being low-key Starfleet officers during this. But the completely odd thing is that The Voyage Home might be the most crew-focused movie out of all of them. We removed some key elements of Star Trek, not to mention the time period. But The Voyage Home has the most activity for everyone to do. Don't get me wrong. This movie is still very Kirk / Spock heavy. Heck, McCoy is kind of relegated to second fiddle in this movie. But every crew member on-board has a job that actually matters in this movie. Uhura and Chekhov, thank the maker, actually have something to really do in this movie. I know the joke is going to Chekhov, but Uhura actually does some heavy lifting. I mean, it's no fan-dance, but she has something to do. Scotty's narrative is fantastic. Bob pointed out that Scotty's narrative doesn't make a lick of sense because there's no reason that the whales have to be in a transparent tank for the whole ten minutes of transportation to the 23rd century. But who cares. His story works. McCoy's hospital sequence is absolutely hilarious. I thought my wife would get on board that section. Actual spoiler: She didn't.
I like Catherine Hicks's Gillian. I know that Carol Marcus was meant to be the love of Kirk's life. But we were more told that she was than shown. The entire relationship between Kirk and Marcus happened off screen. It was Marion without the actual payoff. I called this movie a rom-com because I think that the movie pushed for sparks between Shatner and Hicks. It's weird to think that this movie might have considered William Shatner to be the romantic lead in a rom com. But the entire movie is flirtation between those two. There actually is a date sequence in the movie that is cut really short. Is it a lost moment that Kirk didn't get to try 1986 pizza that wasn't replicated? (Note: I forget if there are replicators in the Kirk era of Star Trek. I'm pretty sure that Discovery has replicators.) But to not end with them together at the end is actually kind of disappointing. When a franchise swaps out of a female lead in every movie, it's a bit icky. As I write that, I kind of shudder, but I'm moving on. When a franchise decides to replace a female lead to spice up the story, usually the movie leaves this unaddressed or has a throwaway line in the next film. Instead, Gillian gets her own science vessel. That's a weird choice that I both love and hate. I hate it because it just seems too easy. Also, let's live in a world where we pretend that they are together. Or why not just stick her on Enterprise? (Because Kirk didn't know that he would get Enterprise! Stop asking questions that you know that answers to!) But it also weirdly gives her an agency that I haven't seen a lot of movies do. The movie acknowledges that Gillian just met Kirk, like, 24-48 hours ago. She discovered that time travel existed, went into the future, and saved the whales while becoming the only marine biologist in the future that knows about whales. The idea that she would sacrifice any element of that for a guy she just met and has mostly lied to her is actually kind of interesting. They leave in this amicable place and that's fun. But the superficial version of me knows that they had good chemistry and I'm selfish.
I always hated that everyone loved Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home the most. My favorite entry is Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. But it makes sense. Star Trek IV is the least pretentious in the franchise. It is closer to what Star Trek is all about. It provides commentary on our society through a science fiction premise. On top of that, the jokes actually work. While I'll laugh at other Star Trek jokes, they tend to be a bit inside baseball. It's a bummer that my wife didn't latch on, but that's to be expected. The movie is way better than I remember it being and I really had a good time during it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.