This is definitely one of my
favorite Star Trek movies. It manages to carry everything Star Trek,
without being bogged down in technology, and most importantly, without
One of the problems I have with all of the Next Generation movies is
that they feel forced. Every movie has a bad guy who is about to destroy
the universe, or at least the moral fabric of the Federation, they
over-rely on technology, have giant firefights, long chase scenes, and
forced humor. The humor always bothers me, because it is not natural.
Data and Worf are the typical characters who get laughed at, but they
are not funny. They weren't funny in the series, for the most part, so I
don't know why the humor was brought into the movies.
These characters, however, have such a natural chemistry on the big
screen, something the Next Generation cast only achieved on TV. The
humor is funny, and they react so well to each other.
There are two types of humor in this movie. The first comes from the
natural Star Trek universe, and is mostly between Spock and McCoy. They
have some great banter, even though those two aren't at each others'
throats like in other stories. Kirk's "a guess... Spock, that's
extraordinary", with Spock's reaction to it is one of the best lines in
The second type of humor comes from the out-of-place Starfleet
officers in the 1980s. Almost every part of it is funny, just because it
arises naturally from the situations and the characters. Nobody tries to
play stand-up comic, the way Data does in the later movies, for example.
The other great thing that really works in this movie is the way
everybody gets their parts. Even though Kirk and Spock get the bulk of
the movie, it doesn't feel that way, because there is a lot of time
devoted to everybody else. My favorite part deals with Scotty ("...I've
travelled millions of miles... thousands of miles"!) and the transparent
aluminum, as well as Sulu and the helicopter (he has to get used to the
controls of a starship again because he got used to a Huey!). The part that
doesn't work here is Scotty's cute use of a Macintosh computer. There is
no way the computer could accept keyboard commands that fast, and Scotty
didn't even know what software they were running. I guess Starfleet
engineers really are miracle workers!
Uhura and Chekov's search for the nuclear "wessel" is funny,
as well as the capture of the radiation. The subsequent capture of Chekov allows McCoy to have
an outing later in the movie. I love the hospital scene, where McCoy
heals an old woman with kidney failure, and the way he debates Chekov's
condition with the surgeons.
Of course, most of the movie is devoted to finding the whales and
securing them for transport to Kirk's time. I liked Gillian, as she felt
really natural, not high-tech, but passionate about her work. I think
this is partly due to the writing, as she felt like just a normal woman
who loved those two whales.
One thing that I had never noticed before watching the special
features on the DVD was that this movie doesn't have a bad guy. I don't
even think a single phaser was fired! I wonder if some of the Next
Generation movies could have been better if they had been focused on
exploration rather than saving the world.
Of course, this movie is about saving the world, from the probe that
came from who-knows-where to find out why the whales stopped responding
to them 300 years earlier. The two whales successfully transported into
the future get to tell the probe, presumably, that they were extinct,
but now humans appear to have their act together. Or maybe they don't
care, and the probe is just happy to have somebody to talk to... I think
that's the beauty of the probe, and it's something that is not
permitted anymore, by either most fans, or Paramount management: we know nothing
about the probe, even when the movie is finished! It's like the ending
of Rendezvous with Rama, which was essentially ruined by the sequels.
My favorite line in the entire movie once again goes to Scotty. He
sums up the awe and majesty that is the true Star Trek, when he says,
"Admiral, there be whales here!" The look on his face is the novelty of
something he's never done before, which is saying a lot for that
The parts of the movie that take place in the 23rd century feel
great, too. They don't have the glossy features of later movies. It's
nice to see Vulcan again, and to see Kirk and his crew charged with so
many crimes from the acts they committed in The Search for Spock. There
is even a nice little recap of the end of that movie, in the form of a Klingon petitioning for Kirk's extradition (which would happen two
movies in the future).
One of the most understated characters in this movie is Sarek. I love
the character as he is presented in this movie. I don't know what makes
him different from the same character in the last movie, or in The Next
Generation, but here he seems so stately, so calm, reserved -a true
Vulcan, and what I think they should have modeled the Vulcans after in
Speaking of Enterprise -the starship this time, it had to make an
appearance, and not just in the form of the exploding ship we see in the
Klingon recap. When I first saw this movie, in the theatre back in 1986,
I didn't understand the naming convention of putting an A after the ship
designation. Now, I think it's a terrific tribute.
The music is normally something that I comment on about great movies,
though usually it's in a positive way. This movie didn't have a great
score. I don't know what it was, but except for the main theme, nothing
caught my interest. Actually, there were several sequences that I
actively disliked. One example is running down the hospital corridor
with Chekov- the chase music was way too cheesy.
The video quality could have been better in some of the effects
shots, too. They did so much work on the original
Motion Picture, I
wonder why they didn't remove the matte lines from the alien probe,
which are very, very visible at the end of the movie, for example.
What about the DVD extras? As with the other DVDs in this series,
they are forgettable. I don't know when Paramount will understand that
the extras should have some meaning. The only one worth watching, of all
of them, is the look back, and a bit of the on location video. The sound
design is a guy talking for fifteen minutes, while the visual effects
featurettes were not very interesting, for the most part. The tribute to
Gene Roddenberry was mildly interesting, while the tribute to Mark Lenard was quite moving, but both were just people talking. Some actual
footage of these people would have been nice.
Then there are the bad features. I don't know where they dug up the
interviews, but they are hideously bad, especially the Shatner one,
where the actor is actively being arrogant and snotty. The questions
asked by the interviewers could barely be heard. Finally, the four
featurettes on "the star trek universe" are horrible, horrible,
horrible, though if they are watched back to back, each one is better
than the one before. The time travel one was remarkably bad, while the
whales one was at least interesting. The Vulcan primer didn't say much
of anything, and while it was nice to see interviews with three of
Kirk's women, once again, they were mostly talking heads, and they
didn't say much.
As I said on the last movie, it's a good thing I really like this
movie, because the DVDs are not worth having for the bonus material. At
the very least, however, the production quality of the bonus stuff is
better. There were no shaky cameras, and the screen wasn't filled with
noses from shots taken too close up.
However, although I may never put disk two in my player again, at
least I can watch the movie -in widescreen- whenever I want, and I can
laugh and enjoy it to my heart's content.