Director: Leonard Nimoy
Original Release: 1986
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The solution is obvious: travel back in time, grab two whales out of the ocean and bring them back. The Enterprise crew visits San Francisco of the 1980s, because obviously the Bay Area is the best place to find whales. A costume drama in reverse ensues.
As written previously, I am not a fan of how Star Trek generally handles time travel and let's be honest, the premise for Voyage Home is even more contrived than usual. That is not to say, however, that the time travel stories aren't still enjoyable. Indeed, "The City on the Edge of Forever," arguably TOS's best episode, is a time travel narrative and its sequel "Yesteryear" is undeniably the best TAS episode. Voyage Home's closest link to the legacy of the originals is "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" which also chronicles a visit to 20th-century Earth. My post for that episode also includes my most thorough rant regarding Trek's time travel issues.
My basic problem: the writers tend to be careless about the contradictions that are the inherent peril with time travel. If you're going to engage in time travel narrative, there have to be rules and you have to follow them. I have no idea what the rules of time travel are for Trek. My guess is there aren't any. Thus my problem.
A specific offense from The Voyage Home: Scotty shares the secret of transparent aluminum technology with an engineer so it can be produced to transport the whales. Scotty's justification: the engineer may well have been the man who invented it. Convenient but careless. Sure, one could argue that without this bending of the rules, the 23rd-century world could not be saved. But at what cost? None, apparently. Lucky.
As a side note, the first patent for the process for producing polycrystalline cubic aluminum oxynitride was issued in 1980, before Scotty's visit. This is the very stuff that has come to be called "transparent aluminum," because of the movie, naturally. Whether it's actually the same substance used by Scotty for the whales, we may never know.
With all of my kvetching, I imagine you've assumed I don't like the movie. Actually, I think it's pretty good. In fact, if you'd asked me when I first saw it back in the day, I'd have claimed it as my favorite of the franchise so far. I was an awfully romantic teenager and I found the whale story touching. Now, I can see Khan is definitely the better film but Voyage Home is plenty good, even with my issues.
Is it better than Search for Spock? The long-held conventional wisdom surrounding Star Trek films is that the even-numbered ones are superior to the odd-numbered ones before them. 2 is certainly better than 1 and I would say 4 is better than 3, though that's not as clear a choice for me as it once would have been. Spock is better than I remember, Voyage Home hokier. Voyage Home probably has the most appeal of the early movies for the general audience. Good as Khan is - and it is the best - it's most meaningful for those who already know Star Trek. I was not the only casual (at the time) Trek fan who was charmed by Voyage Home.
In addition to whale compassion, the writing offers genuine comedy:
Shore Patrolman: How's the patient, doctor?
Kirk: He's gonna make it.
Shore Patrolman: He? You came in with a she.
Kirk: One little mistake...That's almost Groucho-worthy!
While the comedy is a bit off-Trek (pun fully intended), it is a big part of the general appeal. In fact, the comic plans were originally more ambitious. The part of whale expert Dr. Taylor was initially written for... wait for it... Eddie Murphy! Murphy was eager to be involved with a Trek movie and almost signed on for Voyage Home. He chose The Golden Child instead - much to his own admitted long-term regret. That might have been a bridge too far on the slapstick for me but it certainly wouldn't have hurt box office receipts. Eddie Murphy was just about the closest thing there was to a sure thing at the time.
Also, Dr. Taylor works well as a female character, especially since her relationship with Kirk never crosses past the line of platonic friendship. Perhaps that's a carry over from the Murphy plan - the change too late to overhaul the story for romance. So much the better, I think. Love would have been predictable.
- The big reveal of the new Enterprise ship at the end was genuinely goosebump-inducing for me.
Real world connections
- The film opens with a dedication to the fallen crew of the Challenger space shuttle. The shuttle exploded in January of 1986, killing all seven aboard.
- In the movie, Chekov and Uhura sneak onto an aircraft carrier identified within the story as the USS Enterprise. In truth, the USS Ranger was the vessel ("wessel" per Chekov) used in filming. The Enterprise was at sea at the time and wouldn't have been available anyway as access to nuclear carriers was severely restricted.
- Kirk's reaction to beer is precious. I would have suggested something other than Michelob.
|via Tenor, mislabeled as McCoy on the site|
- I am now curious about The Mutiny on the Bounty after Kirk renamed their stolen Klingon ship HMS Bounty.
- The score was composed by Leonard Rosenman, a friend of Leonard Nimoy's, after James Horner declined to return. Rosenman had already won two Oscars and two Emmys. The Voyage Home brought his fourth Oscar nomination.
- While on a city bus, Spock Vulcan-pinches a punk rocker when he refuses to turn down his music, much to the delight of the other bus occupants. The song is called "I Hate You." It was written overnight by Associate Producer Kirk Thatcher. He formed a one-off punk band with a few production crew members called The Edge of Etiquette.
My ranking of the movies so far: