OK, I'm going to launch into this one...Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Now, part of my review – I'm going to be honest – is affected by the movie I think we should have had. The movie that people would have been expecting when they turned up to watch the fourth Star Trek movie on opening night. Not to be controversial, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the answer wasn't an 80s fish-out-of-water comedy. Now this movie had a pretty rough pedigree, with the initial casting for Kirk's love interest being Eddie Murphy. Yeah. There were an awful lot of threads left dangling – hell, the Enterprise crew were outlaws! Their ship was destroyed, and they were stuck with only a cloaked enemy ship on Vulcan. They could have gone anywhere with that one...
But, instead, they set course for home, only to find that a super-galactic space probe with amazing terraforming powers...has turned up and thrown Earth's circuit breaker, turning electricity off. The only thing that can save them is the power of whale song! Mankind having exterminated the whales centuries ago, all that can save them is Kirk and his crew returning in a Klingon Bird-of-Prey going back in time, hijacking a pair of whales, dumping them in the oceans and hoping that they tell the probe something other than, “Help, save us from these evil bastards who just tried to kill us!”
As an 80s comedy, it works reasonably well. Kirk and Spock do a nice double-act and get some one-liners, McCoy and Scotty get the same, Sulu's big scene gets axed (so, nothing out of the ordinary there – George Takei really drew a short straw time and again in these films), Chekov gets to scare everyone with his Russian accent. The problem is that it all seems very obvious, and a series that is supposed to be science-fiction thinking action-adventure is relying on comedy to make it work, and it doesn't hold together the plot. They're treating Earth as if it was another 'planet of the week', but act less credibly in blending in than they ever did before. They even managed better on Planet of The Space Nazis...and a lot better in Planet of the Space Gangsters.
Sigh. I think it really comes down for me to disappointment in what we should have had. This should have tied up the Genesis Trilogy, working out the return of Spock and the aftermath of that in a really meaningful way, instead of an excuse for some more jokes, the redemption of Kirk and his crew (demotion to Captain is actually a reasonable get-out here), and Kirk's recovery from the death of his son. (Which really goes unmentioned.) Crazy idea – do the plot of Star Trek VI for this movie. Peace with the Klingons, perhaps based on some sort of Genesis SALT disarmament treaty, and it is being sabotaged – with Kirk and co the only ones who can stop it, because they are now rogue agents – the only ones that can be trusted not to be a part of the conspiracy. That would have worked very well at this point in the franchise.
Heck, do something. If you must use time travel – which is a bit of a cop-out...why isn't Kirk travelling back in time to save his son? Why time travel back to the 20th century at all, why not go back to the 20th century BC? Lots more whales then, and no natives to interfere. With Search For Spock, I forgave the chained-together plot because the performances were good. It felt believable and true to character. This doesn't; and with the best will in the world...it just doesn't work for me. Having said that, it is a believed part of the franchise, so what do I know?
And there are worse ones to come.
1: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
2: Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan
3: Star Trek I: The Motion Picture
4: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home