So now the Captain Kirk era of Star Trek comes to a close with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. And for the crews swan song, I will say it’s an enjoyable outing. I take back my remarks in my Star Trek V review where I said the cast members stopped giving a shit. This film holds some of the better performances from crew members Chekov, Uhura, Scotty, and Sulu. Sulu especially is given a meatier role as the captain of the Excelsior and probably for the first time ever in Star Trek, George Takei actually gets to display his acting chops! Too bad it happens in the final Star Trek outing, but I was glad to see him given his due.
This Star Trek plays more as a political thriller than a space adventure, but one of the reasons I like this film is that for the first time it shows the seedier underbelly of the Federation…it’s dark side if you will. This is something that would eventually be explored further in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But a few characters who were upstanding officers in Star Trek IV, such as Admiral Cartwright (Brock Peters) become corrupted here by refusing to allow peace with the Klingons and bring them into the Federation. The real villain here isn’t just one man, but several individuals on both sides in a corrupt scandal between the Klingons and the Federation. I also enjoyed the presence of Rene Auberjonous as Col. West, and later revealing him as an assassin disguised as a Klingon to assassinate the Federation president. Auberjonous as most of you Trekkies know would later go on the play security officer Odo in DS9. I also enjoyed the presence of General Chang (Christopher Plummer), and no, his obsession with Shakespeare never bothered me. Here he is an effective villain, although I would have liked a little more explanation as to why he disagrees with the two sides uniting. It would have given him a little more grey area than just making him outright villainous.
Occasionally some of the humor is a little forced, such as the somewhat unnecessary scene where the crew is frantic to translate Klingon to an unsuspecting ship in the area, claiming that the universal translator would be detected if they spoke English. That was never a problem when characters on other shows had to fake being a freighter ship of the same species. The other thing that surprised me with this film is that the frame up attack on the Klingon ship was the result of a prototype Klingon ship that could fire torpedoes while it was still cloaked. Why was this technology not developed in later series like Star Trek TNG or DS9? Being able to fire while cloaked seems like important technology to have not developed after all this time. My argument is that it’s a bit of a stretch here, because this sort of technology has not been worked into the mythology of Star Trek.
The visual effects in this film however are a definite step up over the last few Star Trek films. I still find the morphing CG effects used in this film to be impressive. This is during the age when morphing effects were developed more at ILM, as two years prior we had the water creature from The Abyss, and the same year as this film we had the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The plasma explosion from the Klingon moon in the opening of the film is also a pretty impressive effect. The production design and sets are a step up from previous Star Trek films as well.
This isn’t one of my favorite Trek films, but I still like it quite a bit. I admire the political aspect more in that it makes it a different kind of story from all the previous Trek films. This one actually stands on its own and does so pretty well. It’s a fairly decent story, and it’s got a few fun surprise cameos in it, including Christian Slater, who appears briefly waking up Sulu for a communication report. Michael Dorn also makes an appearance as an ancestor of Worf, defending Kirk and McCoy during the trial scene. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, sadly don’t have as much of a dynamic in this film, but it’s not too big of a deal. I didn’t find McCoy to be terribly useful during the scenes where he and Kirk were exiled on the planet, apart from giving Kirk somebody to talk to. I think it would have been a little more interesting if Kirk were alone, which coincides more with his fear of dying alone, and especially his worst nightmare, being killed at the hands of the Klingons. The same fate he would receive as his son.
This concludes my reviews of the films featuring the original series crew. Coming up are the films of Star Trek: The Next Generation. To conclude the TOS section of my reviews, I’d like to know what you think is the most Underrated of all the Star Trek Features (Not your favorite!) Give it some thought and check below!