Director: Leonard Nimoy
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Catherine Hicks, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig
Plot: On the way to Earth to face the consequences of their crimes, the crew of the U.S.S Enterprise find their planet under siege from a mysterious, deadly probe.
The Voyage Home is definitely one of the more interesting of the Star Trek movies. For one, it doesn’t even involve a villain. For another, after a terrifyingly high-stakes set-up, the movie switches to the setting of San Francisco in the 1980s and becomes a ‘fish-out-of-water’ comedy. However, despite these two facts feeling a little like a quick way to make the fourth Star Trek a total failure, it is actually up there with one of the better films.
In a weird way, this is down to Star Trek embracing the opposite of what made the movies so good, and going with the kind of thrills that we loved from the show. The biggest compliment I can give the original movies over the original series was the fact that it finally felt like the story Gene Roddenberry wanted to tell. The series was the best they could do with a television budget, but with restrained spectacles and an episodic fashion, there was only so much that was possible. When we hit the movies, while it did take them until the second film to get the tone right, there was a bigger emphasis on a cinematic experience and a higher level of story-telling. The stakes went through the roof, the characters were experiencing emotionally hard-hitting character arcs and major shocks were promised throughout. However, three movies in and it was time for a natural change. Therefore, while the Earth is technically at stake, perhaps more so than ever before, this is by far the most light-hearted movie yet. After a probe speaking a language that no human can decipher or respond to turns up to Earth, accidentally draining the power from anything in its path, Kirk finds himself looking in on his home planet getting destroyed. Spock, currently getting used to his rebirth, theorises that the probe is actually meant for humpback whales, a species that went extinct in the 20th century. Until the probe gets an answer, it will continue transmitting until Earth is destroyed. It leaves Kirk with a quandary: the only place to get a humpback whale that can answer the probe and save the Earth is back in time. As daft as the ease of the time travel is (any franchise that embraces time travel opens itself up to so much scrutiny, it hurts), when we do land in the 1980s, the movie’s tone changes into something quite refreshing: fun. Star Trek used to be played for laughs, Kirk’s captain, a sarcastic, adventurous rogue, and while it did get tiresome episode in and episode out, that style wasn’t inherently bad. Merely over-used. The Voyage Home sees the humour come back in force, taking us away from the dramatic and putting a bigger emphasis on character. Besides, it turns out that watching seven people from the future try to navigate the 20th century is endlessly entertaining.
And a lot of this is down to Leonard Nimoy being back in the director’s chair. Nimoy’s greatest strength is the fact he knows this franchise inside out and can work wonders with the characters. Search For Spock saw everyone get minor flashes in the spotlight. Here, with the group split up to accomplish several tasks across San Francisco, Nimoy has the chance to give everyone so fantastic material. McCoy finds himself in a modern hospital. Chekhov, not realising America and Russia are in the middle of the Cold War, asks for directions to the nearest nuclear ship. Scotty trying to speak to a modern day computer is one of the best gags in the whole film. Nimoy has so much fun taking these intelligent characters and throwing them totally out of their comfort zone. How is Spock going to come to terms with 80s slang and a reliance on profanity? How can you explain money to people who have never used it before? Even if Nimoy was tempted to throw some more dramatic plot-lines into the mix, he probably wouldn’t find space in the edit, seeing as there is so much to be explored with this setting. In the show, the time travel episodes were poor, and mainly a means to an end (Star Trek was always best when comparing the morality between past and future, never thinking to stop for fun). William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are superb here, a true comedy double act. Walking around America in a dressing gown and a headband hiding his Vulcan ears, Spock doesn’t have to do anything to bring you to tears of laughter. But there are nuggets of serious moments to keep the story flowing. Mainly the discussion of the ecological damage humans are causing to the Earth. It is clearly a topic that Leonard Nimoy is passionate about, showing us a future where humans are mourning the fact that their past selves killed off whales due to their primitive ways. This gives the movie its beating heart and as the team conquer all odds to preserve this majestic species, the thrills are up there with the best of the Trek movies. And Nimoy didn’t even need to write in a villain figure. Besides, seeing as we have already ruled out the movie’s prediction that whales would be extinct before the 21st century, and humanity are far more conscious towards the extinction of such species, it could be argued that perhaps this movie brought that attention to the movie audiences and changed their fate. In short, Leonard Nimoy quite possibly saved whales from extinction. RIP Spock. You will always be sorely missed.
Final Verdict: Nimoy’s second turn as a director proves that Star Trek can still be played for laughs and keep its cinematic standing. An impressive entry.