STAR TREK IV, 1986
To save Earth from an alien probe, Kirk and his crew go back in time to retrieve the only beings who can communicate with it, humpback whales.
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Usually, when a movie franchise reaches the fourth installment, it starts to grow thin and tired. Not so with Star Trek. The fourth film in the series, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, was proof positive that the Star Trek franchise was still going strong and showed no signs of running out of gas.
Voyage Home capped off an inadvertent trilogy that began with The Wrath of Khan, and is a constant source of debate among Trekkies as to being the best film in the series, as opposed to the general Trekkie consensus that awards TWOK that honour. For myself, TVH, hands down, is the best Star Trek movie. After viewing it in my tween years, I became a Trekkie. While Wrath of Khan is a solid second that contains all the elements that made the original television series special, Voyage Home doubles it, especially the warmth and the fun.
Pleased with Leonard Nimoy delivering a financial, if not entirely critical, success with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Paramount gave both he and producer Harve Bennett free reign on the next film. Both agreed that up to that point, for the most part, the movies were dark and serious in tone and greatly lacked the fun and humour that was commonplace in the original series. The decision was made to make a film that was fun, lighter in tone and had more of a mainstream feel to appeal to and attract non fans.
The film resumes three months after the events in Search for Spock. The Enterprise crew are in exile on Vulcan and the resurrected Mr. Spock is regaining his faculties. The crew plan to return to Earth in the refurbished Klingon ship they acquired at the end of TSFS, and face the consequences of their actions from that movie. While en route, they discover that an alien probe is wreaking havoc on the Earth with an indecipherable communication signal. The crew determine that the signal matches whale song sung by humpback whales, a species long extinct. The signal must be answered, or the probe will continue to wreak havoc and possibly destroy the planet. The Enterprise crew decide to travel back in time to Earth’s past to retrieve a humpback whale and bring it back to the 23rd century to communicate with the probe, in the hope that it will cease its destruction.
The present day (1986, when Voyage Home was made and released) section is the centerpiece of the film. All of the humour, which is clever, witty and uproariously funny, is contained in this section and brings to mind other recent at the time and now classic fish out of water and time travel comedies such as Crocodile Dundee and Back to the Future.
While Trekkies were delighted with a superb film after the uneven Search for Spock, the lighter touch and more mainstream approach struck a chord with non fans and helped TVH achieve blockbuster success at the box office. The movie grossed $100 million plus in North America and $133 million worldwide, making it the one of the biggest hits of 1986 and the highest grossing in the franchise until the recent J.J. Abrams reboot.
The film’s anti whaling message also resonated, as it introduced many people to the issue and the World Wildlife Fund chose to screen the film in Moscow in June 1987, to celebrate a ban there on whaling.
Other positive effects of the phenomenal success of Voyage Home were it landing Leonard Nimoy the job of director on Three Men and a Baby, (which would become the highest grossing movie of 1987, giving Nimoy two blockbuster hits in a row and making him an A-list Hollywood director) and Paramount green lighting a new Star Trek televisions series, Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is most definitely one of the highlights of my fanboy tween years, as well as one of my all-time favourite films. It insured that the Star Trek movies would continue and I, along with all the other Trekkies, eagerly awaited the fifth movie. Unfortunately for us, the bottom would fall out.