Welcome to Reel Rewind, a monthly column in which I’ll take a look back at some of my favorite films, bringing along artists that I can’t get enough of. We’ll team up for some fun collaborations and bridge the gap between film appreciation and art. To commemorate Star Trek Into Darkness, Matt Ferguson and I are looking back at the original crew’s first 6 films. Energize!
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Writer(s): Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Harve Bennett, Nicholas Meyer, Leonard Nimoy
Region of Origin: U.S.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
35mm, Color, 119 mins
With the band back together so to speak, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home lets totally loose to deliver one of the most rollicking and ridiculous adventures of the Enterprise crew yet. Up to this point in the film series, we’ve had a big pondering epic, two darker and more personal installments, and now the final chapter in a loose trilogy (that began with Khan) comes to a close. The Voyage Home is a big, boisterous entry, turning the focus slightly away from the crew’s interpersonal relationships to a sincere yet entertaining environmental message. For a series known for exploring deep into the unknown, it’s fresh and fun to see the camera turned on modern day (1985) San Francisco, finding humor out of the most mundane things while delivering a heartfelt story about possibly the most dangerous villains yet: the human race.
The story begins with the crew’s continuing exile on planet Vulcan, a few months after risking everything to return Spock’s katra (essence) back into his body. In the crew’s absence from Starfleet, the events of the previous films have been skewed, holding the crew responsible for all the rules they’ve had to break as well as the consequences of their brushes with death. As fate would have it, that would be the least of their concerns, because before they can finally reach home, a mysterious orb appears, generating storms, blocking the sun and rendering all power and resources inert. As it turns out, the orb is sending out an unidentified transmission of some sort, to which the crew discover is actually the sound of a 20th century humpback whale. Since the creatures are extinct in the crew’s current time (2286), Kirk initiates a dangerous mission to go back in time to find and bring back a few whales (no bigs) with the hopes that they can understand and communicate with the orb. Buckle up and get ready for tons of laughs, because the present it seems might be the strangest thing the team has ever witnessed.
Above all, The Voyage Home highlights the series’ ability to adapt to the times without ever losing it’s sense of purpose, all while proving how relevant it’s core ideas will always be. It’s a fair assessment to say that most of the series’ adventures can be split into stories that can either only be enjoyed by fans or something that can be attuned to a larger audience, and this film might be the one with the broadest accessibility. Taking place almost entirely in 1985 San Francisco, the story finds a fun way to critique both the show’s more eccentric elements with good fun while also contrasting the innocence of it’s characters with the rapidly changing 20th century. It’s pretty profound the way the story finds a way to deliver such a serious message (in this case extinction and preservation of the planet) to hold a mirror to humanity and expose us as our greatest enemies. It’s a keen observation which has been the through line of Trek, but to see it executed in such an understandable and funny way is necessary and still relevant to this day.
Speaking of laughs, it’s all relentlessly generated by absurd character moments coming from a displaced cast and crew. To be honest, person out of time isn’t my favorite humor tactic, but it just works here with the dedicated cast all smartly split up into accenting duos to drive the plot. The deadpan humor between Shatner and Nimoy is at a high here, with Kirk trying his best to fit in through swearing while a confused Spock just can’t understand any of Kirk’s idioms or attempts to stay incognito. The comedic timing of these two is flawless, especially when they can’t corroborate their facts or stories to Catherine Hicks’ biologist character Gillian Taylor, whom Kirk also gets to attempt to woo. McCoy and Sulu get a priceless moment in which they invent transparent aluminum while Scotty acts a fool and doesn’t know how to use a mouse or “quaint” keyboard. Uhura and Checkov probably get the least amount of screen time but they do get to ask a cop where the nearest Nuclear “wessel” is and feed into other great moments, like when McCoy gets to confront the barbaric, medieval nature of 20th century medicine. Needless to say, the cast is in top form here, never funnier and firing on all cylinders to act as a team. On top of all this, the whales which the crew are trying to take to the future are named George and Gracie, a male and female, just to make things that much cuter.
So there it is, a smart use of time travel and two whales later, we’ve got one of Trek’s memorable chapters. Leonard Nimoy did another great job at trying something new and miraculously keeping the film afloat solely on some great character humor. It’s hard to believe that there isn’t any real action in the film like it’s previous entries, and it not only works but stands as one of the best love letters to the show’s ideals and characters. Kirk and Spock might not know what “exact change” means but Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home knows exactly how to entertain, culminating in an ending in which the crew finally realizes that their home is out there, amongst the stars.
Crome Rating: 4/5
And here’s another beautiful poster from Matt Ferguson! With this film much more team based, it was a smart choice to just focus on the Bird of Prey, continuing with the idea of the crew having to operate outside of sanctioned channels to save the world or die trying! The landscape is stunning, and Matt’s captured a peaceful moment with the George and Gracie free below the Golden Gate bridge to juxtapose with the crashing ship; a great parallel to the story’s serious message amidst fun execution. Check out Matt’s website for more art, follow him on Twitter and read a bit about his process down below. Matt also did the art for the recently released Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One box set.
From Matt: “There be Whales here!” Star Trek IV is a very different movie to the rest of the films in the series, but I still wanted my poster to fit with my posters as a whole. With this in mind I thought it best to concentrate on the elements of peril in the film by showing the crashing Bird Of Prey. I also needed to hint at elements of the plot, for example, this film is more earthbound and has Whales! I had great fun watching the film again, what a caper!
See our entire Trek retrospective here: Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Star Trek (2009).