The 20th anniversary of one of the most iconic franchises in history saw with it the release of a new film. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, directed by Leonard Nimoy moved the action from the future to present day San Francisco and proved a commercial success taking $133m from a budget of $21m.
Following the events at the end of The Search for Spock, the crew of the USS Enterprise are piloting the stolen Klingon Bird of Prey back to Earth to face trial. They hear a strange probe in Earth’s atmosphere, which Spock (Nimoy) determines is the song of a humpback whale. Resolving to answer the probe’s call, they use a ˜slingshot’ manoeuvre around the Sun to send themselves back in time to the 1980s, to steal two whales and prevent any damage to Earth in the future.
As barmy science fiction premises go, this one is right up there. Nimoy’s confident direction and full-blooded refusal to turn the film into full-blown parody really helps turn The Voyage Home into the unsung hero of the Star Trek franchise. It’s easy to cite The Wrath of Khan, The Undiscovered Country or First Contact as the best instalments, but it is with whales, time travel and the 1980s that Star Trek really branches into the mainstream.
What’s more surprising is how fun Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home actually is. The crew, having worked together for two decades have an easy chemistry. They know each others characters perfectly and this allows the steady flow of light-hearted comedy which may not have been there with a new group of actors. Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock have the best moments, like a long-suffering comic duo, their understand each others licks and their verbal sparring is fantastic.
Unlike previous instalments, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home has no out-and-out villain. The overarching enemy are the whalers who graphically kill the creatures that the crew are attempting to save It is illogical to hunt a species to extinction Spock muses in one of the films more heavy-handed moments. The ecologically-friendly message may put off some of the more cynical viewers, but there’s no denying that it’s in keeping with Gene Roddenberry’s original ideal Star Trek world and The Voyage Home is one of the more enjoyable and well-directed films in the entire franchise. It’s too silly in premise to knock of the dramatic heavyweight The Wrath of Khan in fans’ minds, but in terms of quality it’s very close.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)… Coming Soon