Mar 30, 2012

[Movies] Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

I'm pretty sure this was the first Star Trek movie that I consciously remember watching, which is somewhat ironic since this is the last movie to feature the cast of the original series. That didn't make the movie any less special - in fact it played a big role in how I formally got started as a Trekkie. And thus I suppose this movie will forever play a special role in my geek heart.

And what's ironic is the fact that I don't remember watching it in the theater. I distinctly remember it as a home video or perhaps something showing on a channel like HBO or some other movie channel. I find this ironic given how the year of release was well within my movie-watching age. Then again, I don't think I was a Trekkie yet.

As a "last" movie, at least for the TOS crew, this was a pretty good way to go out. It was a satisfying story with some great action, a good villain and still a lot of good fun. The movie was definitely tailored to deliver a message of one crew making way for the next - in this case the TOS crew leaving the franchise behind and leaving the TNG crew to later on fill the movie void.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is the 6th movie in the Star Trek movie franchise and was released in 1991. The movie was directed by Nicholas Meyer, who had also directed the second movie and had also helped with the writing for both the second and the fourth films. He also helped write the screenplay for this movie together with Denny Martin Flinn. The movie went on to be nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Makeup and Best Sound Effects.

The movie begins with the destruction of the Klingon moon Praxis, as discovered by the USS Excelsior under the command of Captain Sulu (George Takei). The crisis has severe effects on the Klingon homeworld, thus forcing them to sue for peace with the Federation. Thus the USS Enterprise-A, as commanded by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), proceeds to pick up the Klingon delegation and bring them back to Earth. Now given Kirk's biological son David had been executed by Klingons some years before, Kirk has some natural reservations when it comes to peace with the Empire.

A "weightless" Klingon is thrown bac...
A "weightless" Klingon is thrown back into a bulkhead, spurting violet blood. In reality, the sets were rotated 90 degrees to give the illusion of the actor floating horizontally; the digitally animated blood globules were added in postproduction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
During the trip back to Earth, the Enterprise fires two torpedoes at Gorkon's battlecruiser and two unknown figures in Starfleet environmental suits beam aboard the Klingon vessel an nearly kill Gorkon. While Kirk is able to avoid a confrontation by surrendering himself to the Klingons, this still does nothing to stop the chain of events that is set to unfold that threaten not just the peace talks but perhaps the balance of power between the two groups as a whole.

This movie was fun for a number of reasons.

First, there's the clear transition of time with the likes of Sulu and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) clearly taking on their ranks as Captain. Then again, a lot of the crew had increased in rank, which would make sense given how much time had passed. Plus the movie opens with the whole gift of spectacles for Kirk, yet another poke at the fact they weren't the same young men exploring the unknown space beyond that they used to be.

Second, we had a Shakespeare-quote Klingon for the main villain in the person of Chang (Christopher Plummer). And to have such a respected actor play what may have been perceived to be such a "silly" role was a bit of an achievement for the franchise, but then again Star Trek had been known for quality talent at this point especially with The Next Generation already making a name for itself. But back to Chang, he certainly made for a good counter to the likes of Kirk. And given the, well, exotic technology that he has access to, it really pushes things along.

But come on, a Klingon quoting Shakespeare of all things!

What was also very impressive about this movie was how the core concept - the negotiation of a truce between the Klingons and the Federation - was a perfect analogy for the end of the Cold War. And the original Star Trek TV series, in many ways, was itself an analogy for the cold war with the Federation being the sterling example of Democracy and the likes of the Klingons and the Romulans representing these secretive, oppressive regimes. But now that peace was attainable in the real world, it was nice of the writers to reflect this change within the Star Trek universe as well.

The movie certainly had its fair share of campy moments - most of them involving the shapeshifter Martia (Iman). And for a model, she did rather well in her role - no significant offense meant by that particular statement. And of course all the discussions about the future and thus an excuse to mention the title of the movie during the first dinner scene. I mean come on, I know we do this a lot of Filipino movies, but to work it into this same script, too? Truly hilarious.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is definitely one of the more entertaining Star Trek movies and one that I certainly enjoyed a lot. A lot of fond memories will forever be associated with this particular movie but even without that side of things, this movie deserves a lot of praise. And so I rate this closing chapter of the TOS franchise as 4.5 quips McCoy (DeForest Kelley) makes while he and Kirk are incarcerated out of a possible 5.

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