Friday, December 07, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) ***

PG, 119 min.
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Writers: Harve Bennett, Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer, Leonard Nimoy
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Catherine Hicks, Mark Leonard, Jane Wyatt, Robin Curtis, Robert Ellenstein, John Schuck, Brock Peters

If it were a “Friends” episode, it would be titled “The One with the Whales”. “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” was actually a mainstream favorite of the franchise. Employing the old time travel premise to place the Star Trek crew in present day San Francisco (well, present in 1986 that is); it allowed second time franchise director Leonard NImoy to better employ his budget by saving on building sets and shooting space sequences. I think the animatronics whale tales took a big chunk of the money he did spend.

One thing they didn’t spend money on was the design of the alien threat to Starfleet for this film. It looks like a big sushi roll that hasn’t been cut up yet. Still, the whole premise works two fold, it makes for an exciting and humorous final act to the trilogy within the series; and it makes use of the themes that helped to make the original series a cult hit. Time travel back to the present day or similar practices were used regularly in the first season of the original television series for the same budgetary reasons I mentioned above. It also made it easier for the writers to clarify the science fiction themes and how they commented on our current society.

Environmentalism was experiencing a revolution during the eighties as mainstream media was making the public aware of many different environmental causes. It may have been a response to the early eighties threat of nuclear war, but it seemed everybody was more concerned about the environment than they had been previously. “The Voyage Home” was Star Trek’s big screen swing at one very specific issue, the dangers of whaling and the depopulation of the humpback whale.

Beyond the sci-fi commentary of the film, it’s also very funny to see the crew trying to relate to modern America. For probably the first time in the series, all of the original cast members carry out equal roles in their mission in San Francisco. They all show a good penchant for comedy. Again their familiarity with their roles serves them well.

On another note, last week marked the official deactivation of the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. She ran her final deployment from March to November of this year and is scheduled to be officially decommissioned in March of 2013 once Newport News Shipbuilding has removed all her nuclear fuel. She appeared as herself in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” to play a key role in the plot as the time warp to the past has drained the nuclear reactor of Kirk’s borrowed Klingon Bird of Prey. They need to borrow some nuclear energy from the naval vessel to get back to their own time. With the destruction of the Starship Enterprise in “Star Trek III”, the aircraft carrier’s cameo allows the Enterprise to play its usual important role in the story. The naval vessel also appeared in the movies “Top Gun” and “The Hunt For Red October”. May we all stand and salute her service to our country.

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