Back in my youth, I used to sit every weekend and re-watch every Star Trek film (although not Star Trek V) ever made featuring the original cast of William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei and Leonard Nimoy. As I got older, my tastes changed and the crew of the starship Enterprise started to look lame to me. When the franchise was given the once-over with a new, younger cast in the latest film, I decided it wasn't so bad to be a Trekkie after all.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which was released in 1986, was directed by Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in the original series, and in the films featuring the original cast. For people who never watched the older Star Trek films, nor bothered to see the television series, the plot of this film will be confusing. The sheer quality of the direction, the script, and the acting, however, should be enough to encourage a non-fan to watch Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search For Spock in order to understand the logic behind the plot of The Voyage Home.
The plot is fairly easy to follow. A strange probe looking to communicate with some humpback whales indirectly sucks the life out of the planet Earth. The crew of the Enterprise, which faces charges upon their return to Earth for stealing the ship after being put down and rescuing Spock, find themselves the only folks who can save Earth from the probe by returning to a 1980s-era Earth for some humpback whales to talk to it.
The original Star Trek now and then dealt with the notion of time travel. Here rather than merely focus and concentrate on the mission, Nimoy's direction and the clever script written by Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett allowed for this Enterprise crew to relax and have a laugh. Rather than feeling paranoid and uneasy around a 1980s Earth setting, they treat it as if they are in a fantasy land where their superior knowledge allows them to run amok and possibly improve the future sooner than later.
The supporting cast, while normally given very little to do but follow William Shatner's orders, are given more to do here than in any other Trek film. The scenes that especially stick out for me are Chekov (Walter Koening) attempting to explain to an officer of an aircraft carrier his purpose for being on board and Scotty (James Doohan) attempting to control a Macintosh computer by talking into a mouse.
The themes of environmentalism and preservation might come off as a bit on the tree-hugging liberal side. Those of you who puke at these topical themes in science fiction may feel more comfortable with more general "races at war" nonsense such as we find in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country and Star Trek: First Contact (which is good, but we've been there before).
The music for this particular entry, which was scored by Leonard Rosenman, is lighter and less serious than previous Star Trek scores. At times Rosenman seems to score his music as if he was scoring for a madcap comedy featuring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. I'm kind of glad James Horner decided to bail after The Search For Spock; his scores for Trek always make you want to cry a lot.
It's rather interesting that this Trek film is my favorite, given that for a large part of the film (until the end) you don't see the Enterprise. For most of the story, the Enterprise crew is mostly flying in a Klingon ship (if you watch The Search For Spock, you'll understand why). One can only hope that the new rebooted franchise will live up to this standard of quality in the future sequels planned.
Leonard Nimoy deserves endless kudos for this entry in the franchise. Why on earth didn't he direct the last one with the original cast? Why were we given Star Trek V?