Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index

THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY

Directed by Nicholas Meyer (1991, Paramount Pictures)
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Kim Cattrall, and Christopher Plummer

On a mission to escort a vessel to a peace conference, Kirk and McCoy are arrested for the murder of the Klingon Chancellor.

 

 

+

April 16th, 2014 on DVD for the 6th time  
   

No matter the strange decisions and illogical actions in many scenes (are Uhura and McCoy really wandering around the ship so close to the galley to investigate the phaser being fired before security can get there? Does Valaris really believe waiting until night to kill her contacts prevents them from divulging information, when the court stenographer was called for hours earlier and must have a record by now? ...and so on...), I still like this movie. It moves quickly, and doesn't slow down enough to take itself too seriously, even making fun of itself several times in the process (Kirk says once again they are the only ship in range, so it falls to them, and once again they've saved civilization as they know it, implying it's time to move on...).

 

 

4 stars

February 15th, 2004 on DVD for the 5th time  
   

I like this Star Trek movie a lot, because it contains all sorts of different themes, including the fate of the Federation, some humor, character reflections, and action. It does all of these things well, which is one of the problems I have always had with the Next Generations movies (which I've lamented on before...).

One of the things that this movie overdoes, however, is the humor. Although the production is awesome, outdoing The Voyage Home in every aspect, the humor here is much more forced, at least in many of the scenes. A lot of the Shakespeare could have been excised without damage to the script. Some of it was useful, but not to have the villain spouting it every time we see him. I see no evidence that Shakespeare is Kirk's favorite author, as Chang accuses, but he is certainly Chang's! (How does a Klingon General turn into a lawyer, anyway?)

Aside from Shakespeare, there was a little too much of people claiming possession of somebody else's work, like the Klingons saying Shakespeare was theirs, Spock claiming Nixon was Vulcan, and so on. The only one that works is Chekov saying Cinderella was Russian, because he was often doing that in the past. Individually, they would be fine, but to pack them into a single movie was too much.

I also wondered what the Enterprise crew was doing with a bunch of Klingon dictionaries on board, and why they were books instead of a searchable database, especially when Chang seemed to think that Kirk knew how to speak Klingon in the courtroom scene. Fortunately, scenes like that didn't diminish the terrific quality of the rest of the movie.

The movie works well in terms of story and the characters who inhabit it. Spock and Kirk actually have a run-in, because Kirk is getting old, and Spock is still in the prime of his life, despite his claim of being too old. Kirk has prejudice, especially against the Klingons, not only because of them murdering his son, but also because he has hated them all his life, and fought them all through the series and the movies. Spock, on the other hand, fought them because they were the enemies of the Federation. When their prime energy supply is destroyed, he sees a unique opportunity to make peace. While the reaction of the other Starfleet officers was understandable, to let the Klingons die, and even help them along, the Vulcan doctrine of diversity is what Spock lives by.

I found the opening scene, in the council chamber, to be incredible, in terms of set, atmosphere, and especially the characters. The introduction to all of them was extremely well done, giving them each a close-up, reiterating that they are close to retirement, and wondering where Spock is. The trip to the rendezvous with the Klingon ship was uneventful, but still wonderfully done, however, I really enjoyed the dinner, especially afterwards, when Kirk asks if there was any other way they could screw the evening up... somebody found a way.

The investigation of the sabotage, the firing of the two missiles that disabled the Klingon ship, and to find the saboteur, was a little too easy, but was well played, nonetheless. With only one new character in the bridge crew, perhaps the saboteur was a little too obvious, but the writers kept Valeris as a logical and sympathetic character, too. It was logical for her to help in the investigation, even though she was partly responsible. I never thought much of the scene where Spock finds the names of the saboteurs from her mind until I read another on-line review that described it as mind-rape. I guess they really didn't need the information that she gave them, as even though they were arrested, other officers must certainly have continued where these ones left off in trying to sabotage the peace, even if the talks were saved.

Kirk and McCoy's trip to the trial and then to the prison planet was enjoyable, from a character standpoint. I didn't appreciate Marta's cigar (how would it keep Kirk warm, after one puff?), but worse, Kirk doesn't even cough after inhaling. The fight with the big alien was fun, especially McCoy's comments about "what if he is holding a grudge?", though I've always wondered why the thug had his genitals hanging out in the open, anyway...

I think one of the best things about this movie is the growth of Kirk's character. I like the way he takes a hard line against the concept of trustworthy Klingons at the beginning, and then follows diplomatic protocols almost against his will, trying very hard to be kind and courteous, and failing, because he doesn't reign in his crew. Probably the most surprising part of the movie is his surrender of the ship. Instead of getting into a firefight, one that he could probably win (notwithstanding the cloaked warbird), he doesn't even raise his shields. As his character continues to grow, he actively fights for peace. That is something that resonates, because it is good character.

I enjoyed the thoughts that Kirk expresses to McCoy in this part of the movie. McCoy always tries to do his best, no matter what the species, Klingon, or even thug! I was surprised that nobody tried to take the "fluff" off of Kirk's uniform, though, through all of what they went through -and what was Spock doing with it on the bridge, anyway? He couldn't have known that Kirk was going to beam over to Gorkon's ship.

On the other hand, many of the crewmembers who got lots to do in The Voyage Home, for example, didn't get a lot of work here, but that's okay, because they still played their parts well, and very much in character.

Finally, the battle scene was terrific, by far the best battle seen on Star Trek movies. It had incredible suspense, roaring torpedoes smashing through the ship, and a grand climax where the Enterprise and Excelcior pummel the Klingon ship to pieces! Which brings me to Sulu -I love seeing him in command, both when he's helping Kirk, telling his crewman to ignore Starfleet's orders, and saying goodbye, and his shock at the beginning of the movie -the first cast member we see in this film.

The production of this movie is the best of the classic movies, and perhaps better, even, than the Next Generation movies, because those ones look very fresh and computer generated. Here, the sets were tight and dark, which made the Enterprise, Starfleet meeting room, and especially the Klingon places, look very good on camera. There were no matte lines visible anywhere, and, of course, we even got a shapeshifter.

As opposed to the music that I disliked on The Voyage Home, the music this time was grand, chilling, rousing, and exciting, where it needed to be. The climactic battle, followed by the beam-down to save the peace conference, were particularly noteworthy.

The special features on disc 2 of the DVD are again by far the best of all the Star Trek DVDs that I've seen. The "stories from Star Trek IV" were interesting and informative, and have better interviews than I've seen before. The "Star Trek universe" featurettes were mostly interesting, especially the conversation with the director, the discussion about Klingons, and the list of actors that played in other Trek roles.

The trailers actually made me want to see the movie again, which is a first for these ones, and the production archive was not just a bunch of pictures, but video shots from behind the scenes! The vintage interviews were so much better than anything on the other movies, that I was totally amazed, especially with Shatner, who seemed to be in a good mood. The others had a lot of good things to say, as well, though the interviewer needed to find some original questions.

Finally, "The Perils of Peacemaking", comparing the movie to the end of the Cold War, was simply terrific. The US negotiator managed to speak about foreign affairs without mentioning Star Trek, but everything he said related to the movie amazingly well, and is still relevant today. He was interspersed with Nimoy and the director, who did mention Star Trek, and showed us directly the parallels with history. The quality of that feature was also great, not just interviews, but with footage from the movie to let us know what they were talking about. The only thing missing was a little behind-the-scenes work.

So with this DVD, we not only get a great movie, in widescreen and its full glory, but also some features that are worth watching more than once! Amazing!

 
   

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