|Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country (Collector's Edition)|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 27 January 2004|
This was the final voyage of the Starship "Enterprise" under the command of Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner), the last time he would rally all of the original crew: half-Vulcan Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Dr. "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and the others. Sulu (George Takei) is off captaining his own Federation spaceship, but joins the others at the end. The last scene in the movie was also the last sequence filmed, and closes with a perfect last line: "Second star to the right, and straight on to morning." Even if you only sorta liked "Star Trek," this ending can be very affecting.
As can the whole movie. Sulu and his crew witness a mammoth explosion on a moon controlled by the Klingons; it's their principal power source, but the Klingons immediately deny anything has happened. Back in San Francisco, Kirk and the other "Enterprise" crew gather at Federation headquarters. Spock speaks before the council, saying that the Klingon empire has only 50 years of life left, unless the Federation intercedes on their behalf. Some of the council is highly prejudiced against the Klingons, long the Federation's main rivals in space.
Kirk himself has no love for them -- they killed his only son _back in "Star Trek III" -- but Spock cites an old Vulcan saying, "Only Nixon could go to China." Only an avowed enemy of the Klingons like Kirk could convincingly make peace with them. And so the "Enterprise" crew, now including Vulcan Lt. Valeris (Kim Cattrall), sets out to rendezvous with Gorkon (David Warner), the Klingon honcho who's all for peace. He arrives in a Klingon ship captained by the sly General Chang (Christopher Plummer), a Klingon so tough his eyepatch is bolted on. At dinner, he says that the Earth people should hear Shakespeare in "the original Klingon," and quotes from the Bard throughout the movie. (Plummer is clearly having a grand time being a sardonic villain.)
Kirk doesn't trust Gorkon's vows of peace, and when he and the other Klingons have returned to their ship, a photon torpedo explodes against the Klingon craft. The missile -- and others like it -- seem to have come from the "Enterprise." Before artificial gravity can be restored on the Klingon ship, two spacesuit-clad figures beam aboard, clomping along in magnetic "gravity boots," and open phaser fire on Gorkon and other Klingons. This results in globules of lavender Klingon blood floating about. The two assassins beam out, presumably back aboard the "Enterprise."
To avoid launching open combat between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, Kirk immediately beams aboard the crippled Klingon craft with McCoy, and is present to hear Gorkon's last words. Kirk and McCoy are arrested and taken to the Klingon home world to stand trial. (Their defense attorney is played by Michael Dorn, here as the ancestor of the character he played on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." There are other small touches linking the original series and the follow-up.) They're found guilty and sent to Rura Penthe, a prison asteroid and dilithium mine. Will they get free and save the universe once again? Will Spock and the others solve the mystery of the attacks on the Klingons?
Yes, of course they do, but following the progress of all this is a great deal of fun; "Star Trek VI" follows the even-bad, odd-good pattern of the Trek movies. Nicholas Meyer, who hauled the Trek fat out of the fire with "Star Trek II," again returns to direct and co-write (with Denny Martin Flinn). They worked from a story by Nimoy, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal.
It's a sturdy vessel for this last flight of the original crew. There's plenty of humor, colorful characters, glimpses of areas of the "Enterprise" not seen before (like the galley -- you thought replicators precluded a galley, right?), and a story that holds interest all the way through. And you get to see a stern Spock do a TWO-HANDED Vulcan mind meld. It's not an action movie, really, and at times bogs down in too much talk. But it's interesting from beginning to end, a good wrap-up for these aging actors who, being unable to avoid being thought of as the "Enterprise" crew, finally embraced the idea.
The movie is given an excellent DVD presentation, with excellent surround-sound work highlighting the inventive sound effects and the rich, moody score by Mark Eidelman. As pointed out in some of the supplementary material, the movie was made as economically as possible; many of the sets are re-dresses of sets built for "The Next Generation," and some are left over -- like a few of the characters -- from earlier Trek movies.
The commentary track by Meyer and Flinn is repetitious and not very interesting. They seem to think that they have struck a blow for -- well, it's not very clear just what they were aiming at, but they're sure they hit their target. You may disagree. The story was largely derived from the fall of the Soviet Union. The asteroid explosion at the beginning was based on the Chernobyl disaster, and Gorkon on Gorbachev (and also Abe Lincoln). The Klingons are the Soviet, and the Federation is America. Okay, all well and good, but most people who see the movie won't recognize these elements, and even those who do won't have much of a reaction. Meyer seems convinced that he has somehow made the movie more relevant, or something, by simply basing it on real events. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. Similarities alone do not constitute commentary. Even if it is commentary, it's mild and diffuse.
But it is a good story for the Star Trek team. Everyone gets to do something, even if Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Chekhov (Walter Koenig) are limited to brief expository scenes. Scotty (James Doohan) does get to figure heroically in the "Manchurian Candidate"-inspired ending.
The text commentary in the form of subtitles is far liverlier and more amusing. It's directed straight at those who have at least a touch of the Trekkie in their souls, full of references to episodes of the two series that existed at the time the movie was made, other Trek movies and so forth. The comments are brief, informative and funny, a highlight of the disc.
There's a throng of other material, some of it interesting, such as the paired comments by fellow Canadians William Shatner and Christopher Plummer. Plummer got started in theater just ahead of Shatner, and they've known each other for years. This is the only movie (so far) they've both appeared in, and both seem to have been
delighted by the experience.
Others appearing the the wide variety of supplemental material include Nimoy, Ralph Winter, David Loughery, Steve-Charles Jaffe and other members of the production team. I don't think "The Perils of Peacemaking" really needed comments by an academic and a former ambassador, but the hobbyhorse of the USSR-Klingon resemblances is ridden to death anyway. Shatner makes amusing comments about a dinner scene, and there's a fairly dull visit to a room storing old Trek props. The history of the Klingon is outlined, explaining how they originated in the original series, and the advent of the armor-headed Klingons in the first "Star Trek" movie. Nobody explains why they changed so much, though.
Despite some weaknesses, the supplemental material is a bounty for Trekkies and those who like the show and what has been spun off it. These "Special Editions" of each of the Trek movies have been extraordinarily well done, and are by far the best way to acquire the films on video.