Review: The Voyage Home is the jolt of energy that I felt the Star Trek movies were looking for. It’s such an audacious premise that is played out perfectly in terms of tone and pacing that it just works. Leonard Nimoy returns as the director of this worthy sendoff for the Genesis trilogy.
The audacity of The Voyage Home. This would never get made today, which I’m overwhelmingly upset about. It’s too quirky and ridiculous that no studio and franchise would dare to make something this fun and outlandish anymore. One franchise tried (welcome to the conversation, The Last Jedi) and nailed it, and then was crucified for it quickly after. Since then, franchise genre filmmaking has gotten so stale and safe that I rarely get worked up about it – hell, I’m worried that the newer Star Trek movies will be so derivative of the ideas and characters that work so well here.
And then I watched The Voyage Home, which involves our usual cast of crew members aboard the Bounty (the USS Enterprise is in fragments following The Search for Spock) having to go back in time to retrieve a set of humpback whales because they’ve gone extinct in their version of the present. Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) lead the way, with the two reconvening following the latter’s resurrection towards the end of the previous film.
It has hints of a hangout movie as we watch Kirk, Spock, and company react to the idiosyncrasies in society that feel so odd in retrospect – moments like Spock knocking a punk music fan out in a public transit bus for not turning down his boombox, or the crew offhandedly trying to adapt to slang in the 1980s. This displaced feeling lingers throughout the entire story, adding irony and relentless fun to each individual plot point throughout.
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The Voyage Home is the jolt of energy that I felt the Star Trek movies were looking for. It’s such an audacious premise that is played out perfectly in terms of tone and pacing that it just works. Shatner gives arguably his best performance in one of these movies as he’s swapping between being the leader of the Bounty crew, and exploring an inopportune crush with Earthling Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks).
If I were to conjure some reservations I have about the film, it may be that The Voyage Home feels like a vignette to a story rather than a concrete and necessary entry into a universe. I still typically tend to like movies in this vein, but it doesn’t add nearly as much to the overall franchise narrative as, say, The Search for Spock or The Wrath of Khan. It’s more interested in dealing with the ramifications of those two movies than developing its own new set of ideas. The franchise was due for a film tying up all these loose ends, though, and I’m not sure one could’ve done a better job than The Voyage Home does here.
Leonard Nimoy returned to the director’s chair for this film after having served as the director on The Search for Spock as well. The most obvious change between the two films is that Nimoy is acting in the film much more this time around, and he seems to effortlessly balance his time in front of the camera and behind it. Shatner directs The Final Frontier next, and I’m curious if he’ll be able to strike the same balance there.
It’ll be tough to do because Nimoy’s touch ultimately makes The Voyage Home one of my favorite Star Trek movies so far. Now obviously there’s only been four up to this point, but The Voyage Home is a remarkably dense and vast rewriting of the rules for Star Trek. I’m curious to see where the next film heads because this is simply unreplicable.
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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Cast and Credits
William Shatner as Admiral James T. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Captain Spock
DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard McCoy
James Doohan as Montgomery Scott
George Takei as Lt. Commander Hikaru Sulu
Walter Koenig as Commander Chekov
Nichelle Nichols as Commander Uhura
Catherine Hicks as Dr. Gillian Taylor
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Cinematography: Donald Peterman
Editor: Peter E. Berger
Composer: Leonard Rosenman