Whales? Yes. Whales. Leonard Nimoy once again took the helm (behind the camera) for the next episode of the Star Trek movie franchise, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). I think this movie divides public opinion as to its quality and place in the hierarchy of science fiction fandom. We once again see the faithful crew return fresh from their adventures on Vulcan and I think the writers decided that in the aftermath of the last two harder hitting storylines regarding death and re-birth, we needed a movie that was a bit more light-hearted in its approach and The Voyage Home delivers just that.
So what happens in this movie? Well the crew of the captured Bird Of Prey decide that the time is right to return to Earth and face the music for stealing (and subsequently destroying) Enterprise, disobeying orders and generally making nuisances of themselves at the expense of Starfleet. Meanwhile on Earth, a strange probe that is emitting a peculiar noise is causing all sorts of havoc. The planet is literally being torn apart by the distortions caused by this probe and there is no hope of rescue. Starfleet has no choice but to issue a planet alert in the hopes that someone can help. Fortunately for them, on their way home, Kirk and his crew pick up the message and manage to work out that the probe is looking for humpback whales on Earth to communicate with. Since the species is long since extinct, Spock devises a plan that entails the ship going back in time, picking up a couple of whales and then travelling back to the future to save Earth from the probe. Wow! do you think it can be managed?….
I like time travel movies. Usually they are pretty decent storylines and although the typical time paradoxes will occur, it doesn’t matter that much. Science fiction is just that and you can pretty much do what you want. However, the fact that they had to go and rescue some whales was a storyline that left a lot to be desired in my opinion. The makers of the film made it a little too light-hearted I think. There are some good lines in it though, and the comic relief is largely supplied by Chekov’s accent. In a time when the cold war was at its height, a Russian officer wandering around on an American nuclear navy wessel was quite a humorous concept and this was one of the highlights of the film.
On the whole though, the film was a little disappointing, but still much better than the very first movie. The Voyage Home steps away from big battles, huge special effects and explosions, alien races and takes things a little closer to home with a family movie that has a bit of everything in it, sci fi, comedy, perhaps even a little romance and an environmental/conservation issue that is still important today. At this point in the movie series the franchise was starting to tail off a little and a new series was being developed – The Next Generation that was cheaper and had many more little known actors (in the USA) starring. How much time the movies had left in them would depend a lot on the reception of this movie and perhaps the next one.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Stats
Budget – $24M
Worldwide Box Office – $133M
Film Length – 122 Minutes
Score On Rotten Tomatoes Review Site – 84%
IMDB Rating – 7.2
Smurfin’ The Web Rating – 2.5 Stars