Review – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home returns to our look back at past Trek films and what can be learned from them.

Paramount monitored Leonard Nimoy’s every move as director of Star Trek III, but when it came time for IV, studio president Jeff Katzenberg told him, “the training wheels are off.  Give us your vision of Star Trek.”  Years later, when I interviewed him in 2004, Nimoy said that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was his “Star Trek statement.” So now that Nimoy is conspicuously associated with the next Star Trek movie, as well as being Trek’s most active elder statesman, what did he mean?  What makes this movie his Star Trek statement?

Together with producer Harve Bennett, Nimoy made two immediate decisions about “Voyage”.  First, it would complete the accidental trilogy that began when story elements of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (and its box office success) provided the perfect set-up for a sequel.  And second, and after multiple character and starship deaths in the first three movies, it was time to lighten up. (More on that decision later.)

From its theatrical release in 1986, Star Trek IV became the most popular film in the series, and remains the best known, particularly with the “crossover” general audience.  Fans generally rate it among their top three favorites.  It also has an instant identity—it’s “the one about the whales.”

The Whales Tale

The next decision was to tell a time travel story that brings Captain Kirk and companions back to the 1980s.  But to do what? Nimoy looked for the answer in a book by biologist Edward O. Wilson called "Biophilia" a word that Wilson defines as the innate "emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms." During a conversation with a friend about the book, the near-extinction of several species of whales came up, and Nimoy had his answer.  The Trek crew would need to bring a pair of whales, extinct in the 23rd century, back from the 20th, to save the planet Earth.

In the 1980s, the plight of whales was becoming known to the general public from the “Save the Whales” campaign begun by the activist organization, Greenpeace.  For years Greenpeace boats had been confronting whaling ships at sea, and Greenpeace volunteers placed themselves between the harpoons and the target whales.  Those activities became the specific inspiration for one of Star Trek IV’s key scenes: the whaling trawler’s harpoon bouncing off the Klingon Bird of Prey.   

The Humpback whale caught the public imagination when its mysterious songs were first recorded in the 1960s. The songs were complex, changing, and were audible over large distances, but scientists couldn’t figure out their purpose.  They weren’t even sure how they were sung: these whales have no vocal chords.

Ecological concerns were clearly on Nimoy’s minds, but he wasn’t alone. William Shatner didn’t particularly like the time travel device, but he loved the whale theme.  Inspired by Greenpeace, he had already toured with a program to benefit the ecology cause that featured recorded whale songs and his reading of D.H. Lawrence’s poem, “Whales Weep Not,” which he would eventually quote as Captain Kirk in “The Voyage Home."

The ecological concept that the future can be threatened by heedless destruction of the web of life today would be the underlying theme, symbolized by the whales’ extinction.  But what would bring them into this story?

Nimoy thought of a favorite old Ray Bradbury story (“The Foghorn”) and came up with the answer: what if whale songs were calling to interstellar travelers, who came around to find out why they weren’t hearing the songs anymore?

Greenpeace influenced Star Trek IV

Failure to Communicate

This idea gave Nimoy his theme: communication, and the failure to communicate. It’s everywhere in this movie, beginning with the Klingon ambassador making his case for Kirk’s villainy before the Federation President and Council by giving a Klingon spin to the facts of what happened in Star Trek III.  On Vulcan, while Scotty and crew struggle to translate Klingon symbols and technology on their captured Bird of Prey the reborn Spock discovers his memory is sharp but his understanding is lagging. In his top-speed computer review, he is stopped cold by the question, “How do you feel?”  His mother, Amanda, enters to explain that his Vulcan education may be insufficient to communicate with his human crewmates.

This is our first moment with Spock since his rebirth, and Nimoy plays him with a new color: a childlike innocence, befitting the fact that in a way he’s only a few months old.

As the ship heads for home, they learn that Earth is besieged by a whale of a big probe sending a signal no one can understand.  Spock (with actually very little evidence) decides the probe is not hostile, and is unaware of the havoc it is causing on the planet below.  It is merely trying to communicate. "Oh, really?" McCoy the skeptic says. "You think this is its way of saying ‘hi, there’ to the people of the earth?" "There are other intelligent forms of life on earth, doctor," Spock replies with Vulcan acidity. "Only human arrogance would assume the message must be meant for man."

A basic Star Trek premise has been restated, and the terms of the adventure are about to be set, but with this exchange we also come up to the controversy of this movie’s “tone,” that tends to divide those who love it from those who loathe it.   

Probe: Hello? Helloooooo?

To Laugh or Not To Laugh

Some people like the humor in “Voyage,” others see it as violating what a Trek movie should be.  Some think the jokes are funny, others find some or all of them cheesy and embarrassing.  I usually find myself on the side that laughs.  So allow me to present the case, not of why the jokes are funny (that’s a matter of taste) but why the humor is there.

The failure to communicate is often tragic, but in many instances it’s the basis of a lot of humor. We see it here first in its most familiar Trek form, the Spock-McCoy confrontations: the Vulcan and the Doctor Show.  This time the characters are in slightly different places.  McCoy, both suspicious of Spock’s grip on reality and solicitous because of what Spock’s been through, is more gently probing than usual.  Except for the above exchange, Spock’s usual self-possession is lacking—he’s uncharacteristically vulnerable, and clearly a little lost.  So their banter has a different comic quality (Spock interrupts McCoy’s interrogation on what it’s like to be dead by noting that he’s receiving a number of distress calls.  “I don’t doubt it,” McCoy replies.) 

The basic situation of the crew is very dislocated: they are on an enemy vessel that’s now their ship, returning voluntarily to face charges on Earth, with a first officer who was quite recently dead, and, in McCoy’s old fashioned space movie phrase, “not exactly working on all thrusters.”

But the biggest dislocation is the device of time travel, which all by itself creates a basic condition of movie humor: the so-called “fish out of water.” For Nimoy, one of the appeals of time-traveling back to the 1980s was to permit Trek-like social comment on the present.  For Bennett, I suspect, it was for the comic potential.  If so, they both got what they wanted.  

The humor gets ratcheted up when time travel is achieved, beginning with Spock’s line, “Judging from the pollution content of the air, I believe we have arrived in the latter part of the twentieth century.”  This is also the first line of the script written by Nicholas Meyer. There had been the usual crises and false starts of almost every Trek movie before he was hired to write a quick final script with Harve Bennett.  Bennett took the beginning and end, Meyer took the scenes on Earth in the middle.

Kirk tries out some 1980s colorful metaphors

Some fans that criticize the humor, contrast this movie with “Khan,” and praise Meyer’s direction of it.  So it’s worth mentioning that the parts of “Voyage” with most of the humor were written by Nick Meyer. Some of the San Francisco scenes in fact were bits that Meyer wanted to include in his own time travel movie, Time After Time, also set in that city, but didn’t get to do.

The comment continues with Kirk warning that they are entering “a primitive, paranoid culture,” and McCoy’s observation that "It’s a miracle these people ever got out of the twentieth century." Spock’s problems with "colorful metaphors" suggests another communication problem and a classic displacement gag– foreigners who mangle English, though in this case it’s given a satirical spin: Spock speaks perfect English, even if he’s still a bit too literal. It’s the natives who are mangling it.

Beginning with the sight gags of the “exact change” scene and the punk with the boom box who gets the Vulcan neck pinch, the movie riffs on classic film comedy influences. The tip-off is in the name of the whales: George and Gracie.  I’m not sure who today knows that these names refer to George Burns and Gracie Allen, a classic movie and early TV comedy team. Leonard Nimoy has said that for the Spock-McCoy verbal confrontations in the series, he patterned his performance after George Burns responding to Gracie Allen.

Kirk and Spock, on the other hand, do an Abbott and Costello-type "Who’s on first?" routine to the tune of "Do You Guys Like Italian?" (No, yes, yes, no, no, yes, no, yes, I love Italian, and so do you. Yes.)  Scotty and McCoy do a Laurel and Hardy turn, with the help of a straight man and a quaint computer that lacks voice recognition. Off to collect some fresh photons from the nuclear wessel they found ("And kepten, it is the Enterprise"), Uhura and Chekhov do a kind of Martin and Lewis, with Uhura playing the good-looking “straight man,” and Walter Koenig getting to do physical comedy, as well as some verbal miscommunication with a no-nonsense naval officer. (This is his best movie until “Generations,” even if it’s meant that he has to repeat “nuclear wessels” at every convention he attends.)

Take my Vulcan…please

There is even a romantic comedy pairing, a Tracy and Hepburn moment at a pizza restaurant between Kirk and the young cetacean biologist, Gillian Taylor, played by Catherine Hicks.  The hospital rescue of Chekhov suggests the Marx Brothers with McCoy as Groucho, or at least Grouchy, with his view of 20th century medicine: "it’s the goddamn Spanish inquisition!"

Shatner’s Captain Kirk perhaps shows the most difference. "We discovered something in Star Trek IV that we hadn’t pinpointed in any of the other movies," Shatner said (as quoted in ‘Great Birds of the Galaxy’) "and it just shows how the obvious escapes you. There is a texture to the best Star Trek that verges on tongue-in-cheek, but isn’t… It’s as though the characters within the play have a great deal of joy about themselves, a joy of living. That energy, that ‘joie de vivre’ about the characters seems to be tongue-in-cheek but isn’t, because you play it with the reality you would in a kitchen-sink drama written for today’s life."

I personally believe that Shatner sensed this potential when he parodied a Kirk-like character in the 1982 comedy, Airplane II: The Sequel.  Though he may have hammed it up a bit too much in his reactions to Spock swimming in the tank with the whales (though that always reminded me of George C. Scott mugging as General Buck Turgidson in Doctor Strangelove), I think he was onto something that gave another dimension to the Trek movies and the Kirk character, and for my money really paid off in how he played Kirk in Generations.     

As DeForest Kelley once wisely said, Star Trek movies are all about Moments, and this one has moments that are still powerful, and they’re spread around: all the regulars get at least one. There are too many to mention, but the ones that stood out in my latest viewing were McCoy explaining the Captain’s confidence in Spock’s guesses, and Spock’s response; the Spock and Sarek exchange at the end, and especially Scotty’s “ Captain, there be whales here!”

 a classic DeForest Kelley ‘moment’

Legacy for new ‘Star Trek’

So the time has come to suggest what might be profitably learned from this movie for making the next one—especially for its crossover appeal– as well as why Leonard Nimoy considers this his Star Trek statement.

It remains a point of pride for Nimoy (and Harve Bennett) that this movie had very little violence, and no villain (except human unconsciousness.) It’s often repeated that a successful Trek movie needs a larger than life villain, like Khan.  In fact, Star Trek II was the only successful Trek movie that had a single such villain.  The second most popular Trek film to this one, “First Contact”, had the Borg, but the real battle in that movie was inside Picard—between his conscious judgments and his unconscious need for revenge.

This movie shows that even without battles, the stakes can still be high and the subject can be important.  In the second and third movies, the stakes were mostly personal, but this comedy concerned the fate of the earth.  Now that the Us vs. Them Cold War is over, and despite the warfare in our time, we’ve got headlines about hurricanes, heat waves, droughts and the melting of the Arctic.  These may represent our greatest challenges to the real future, and our greatest enemies are unconsciousness, denial and cynicism. “When man was killing these creatures, he was destroying his own future,” Kirk says. The whales represent what we’re still doing—presiding over the greatest era of extinction since the dinosaurs.  (Even the humpback whale population has not appreciably increased since 1986.)  If a new Star Trek movie is going to deal with a current issue, it may well be time to revisit this one.

I asked Leonard Nimoy this question: What makes Star Trek Star Trek? "It’s all about story," he said. "It’s all about ideas." Perhaps it was because he’d just talked about this movie, but he referred to Star Trek in 2004 as “like a beached whale.” Some of it, he felt, had to do with storytelling. Many recent movies have been “driven by the enormously successful development of special effects…We were an entirely different ilk, we didn’t have that. The dependence was on the story, story, story. Not image, image, image.”

Nimoy’s Spock standing with his crew

Most of the other original cast movies, but Star Trek IV in particular, represent a kind of storytelling that worked extremely well for Star Trek.  The story progresses logically, stating and solving problems.  In terms of structure, it has great symmetry.  It begins with the charges against Kirk and ends with the trial.  Spock hears a question with his mother at the start, and answers it to his father at the end.  And so on.

Particularly important in an ongoing saga with mythic proportions like Star Trek is the ritual aspect of it: it begins with the ship getting ready.  Then the voyage, and the return.  But there’s one more very important part of the Star Trek ending.

In Star Trek IV it ends the trilogy as well as the movie: the crew is on the shuttle to their new ship, and—in another Trek Moment—it’s revealed as the new Enterprise.  “My friends,” Captain Kirk says, “we’ve come home.”  This is the voyage home—not to Earth exactly, but to the Enterprise, and the Trek adventure.  But the Star Trek movie is not over until the Enterprise warps into unknown space, and the next voyage begins, in our imaginations.  It’s the nature of the Star Trek myth—and most of the time, the only way audiences are going to leave a Star Trek movie happy is if they see this ending. 

The voyage continues

In our 2004 interview, which was basically about the future of Star Trek, Nimoy noted all the terrible things that were going on in the world during the original series.  "There was a lot of negative stuff happening. Against that background, there was this very positive idea, to boldly go and solve problems–a group of people solving problems on a large, almost operatic scale. Which was very desirable for an audience, and I think we may see that again. There may come a time when films that are positive are again welcomed."



Other Reviews In the series: ST: TMP   |  STII: TWOK   |   STIII: TSFS

Kowinski NY Times interview with Leonard Nimoy

More on Star Trek IV at Soul of Star Trek.


Bill Kowinski (aka Captain Future, William S. Kowinski) is an author and freelance writer living in Arcata, CA.  Thanks to his Soul of Star Trek blog, he chaired a panel on that subject at the Trek 40th anniversary gala in Seattle last year.  He’s been published in the New York Times, L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle and other international, national and regional publications, as well as Internet sites.


Star Trek IV products at Amazon 



Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures, screencaps by 

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

first !

Trek IV was the ONLY “humorous” Trek movie that I actually found to be funny. Most of the humor in Trek V doesnt really work (although some of it does, IMHO) and there isnt a single bit of humor in any of the TNG movies that works at all. Its silly and goofy, not funny, especially in Insurrection.

I really like Trek IV a lot, but I do prefer my Trek to be a bit darker and more serious.

oh and Star Trek IV The Voyage Home , was great , for one reason , they put some humour in it , sure there has been humour in TOS ,TNG, VOY ,DS9,ENT . but not really in other movies ( first contact had that great “star trek ” comment , and other TNG movies , tried to make DATA into a comic sidekick which did not really work in my opinion.

“Great for one reason, they put some humor in it” — spoken like a studio executive. You don’t put humor in, you find it.

NO , more like they wanted humour in it from the start , it was not just something tacted on like in the other movies

Excellent review, I really don’t have a lot to say, it did an incredible job at looking at the roots of Trek mythos and how it led to ST:IV, the Nick Mayer involvement, environmonatal issues, the logical problem solving of the TOS crew, and the symmetry of the story (which is something I hadn’t conciously considered before, but I think is why I and most others like TVH).

The original series had a great sense of humor…be it a totally comedic episode, or just humorous moments between characters. It was good to see it again in Trek 4.

What a great review. Thanks Anthony and Mr. Kowinsky for bringing it to us.

Yes this was a great outing for our intrepid crew.

The only sad part of all this is that the new film is partially to be filmed in Iceland, which. sadly, recently reconstituted its sanctioned whaling practices.

As I said in a previous thread- if Spielberg can influence China by way of his participation in the ’08 Olympics … certainly our Trek producers or Paramount can speak to someone of Influence in Iceland.

After all Whaling makes, what- a few Millions at best?
How much is to be lost by discouraging nascent film industry?

I wonder if Mr. Nimoy knows of the planned Iceland shoots?

If you’d like to help- (or are simply imterested in this very Star Trek IV -ish issue), Go to the link below..

Roberto Orci- I hope this is one thread you happen to catch.

Good, thorough review, which brought up things I hadn’t heard before and/or hadn’t thought of. I’m on the “the humor is mostly cheesy/embarassing” side myself, but there are things about the film that I like. Nice work.

Editorial note: wasn’t George C. Scott’s “Strangelove” character named “Buck Turgidson”?

Great review of a great Trek film. I loved the humour in the movie and the time travel element as well.

I was six years old when the movie came out and it was the first Star Trek movie I got to see on the big screen. I still remember being blown away and from that moment on I was a Trekkie for life!

The Voyage home is my second favourite Trek movie, with the original cast, behind The Undiscovered Country.

Cool review.

Yeah, in many ways Trek 4 was the last ‘real’ Trek we ever saw on the big screen. Beginning with Trek 5, but characters simply lost a dimension that they once had. I suspect studio interference…they don’t see the larger picture…they just see…”hey, this Trek 4 was funny and it made a lot of money…all Trek movies must have humor to appeal to a wider audience from this day forth”…and that’s what we got with Trek 5. Trek 6 was better, but the characters didn’t ring true in it. I think Meyer went too far with the military aspects in Trek 6…it lacked humanity in many ways. Every Trek movie after that has tried to throw in everything from the kitchen sink…to the dirty dishes waiting to be washed. The films just got muddied.

I’m hoping that this new Trek film will forge new ground, inspire new writers to see what Trek COULD be. As someone asked Gene Roddenberry when he was creating next Gen, “Do you think there are any stories left?”…his answer was…”My God, YES. There is a whole universe out there full of stories.” Not the exact wording…but you know what I mean.

Please Mr. Orci…don’t retread the same tired path. No time travel, no lame humor. Show us something NEW.


Although I could have done without the brief preaching by the author on the environment, that was a really good article. I’ve got a lot to think about now. Thanks, Mr. Kowinski. And thank you Tony for once again securing the best for TMR.

You can rationalize the so called merits of STIV from beginning to end, but fundamentally, it is a weak film. First, to have it be the capper to a trilogy, then, it should follow in both the wake and flavour of the previous two films. The Voyage Home doesn’t even attempt this objective. We go from death, honour, friendship and sacrifice in TWOK and TSFS, to farcical humour in TVH. That makes the third film of the “trilogy” both jarring and disappointing. The second main flaw of said film is the fact that there is no dramatic conflict to the storyline. To have our beloved crew go back to the 20th century in pursuit of two humpback whales is insipid in it’s approach to create tension for the audience. Once Kirk and crew have arrived back in that time period, they can take all the time they want (pardon the pun) in procuring two whales. It didn’t HAVE to be George and Gracie, as ANY two whales would suffice. The Enterprise crew could have taken FIVE YEARS to capture a couple of whales at open sea and still made it home in time for dinner! Once THAT fact is established, the time constraint of what they’re doing becomes meaningless, thereby negating any drama to the proceedings. Finally, and this a contentious issue, it could be suggested that the only reason STIV was such a huge box-office success is because of the tremendous “word-of-mouth for STII+III. The general masses out there were so charmed and thrilled with the dramatic impact of TWOK and TSFS, they lined up in the opening weeks of TVH expecting more of the same excellent storytelling. By the time it got out as common knowledge that STIV was a “weak” film, it was too late, the movie had already established “legs” at the box office. Paramount, seeing the huge returns on STIV mistook this as a sign that the general public desired more of the lighter tone Treks and thus began the begining of the end for our beloved franchise, with each successive film after that (with the original crew) becoming more and more like a Three Stooges movie: Kirk: “hey, Spock, how many fingers am I holding up? Woo, woo, woo…..nyuk, nyuk….” culminating in the worst Star Trek of all, The Final Frontier! No wonder Star Trek is but a pale shadow what it once was! Let’s hope Abrams can breath some life back into this coma victim!!! Do we have to teach these “suits” at Paramount everything?Sheeeeesh!!!!!!


Trek IV remains my favorite and the humor is precisely why. I did love a lot of the lines in TSFS as well.

The jokes are funny because they are character driven, not insipid one-liners that are peppered throughout today’s sitcoms.

I liked TVH because, while the TOS characters generally hold to a 23rd century ideal, this was really the first time we as the audience could really relate in a real way to the characters. Everyone’s been in that situation where you go to a strange place where you don’t really understand why the people there behave as they do. The best thing about this film, if you were not really a fan of Trek, was that this was the one Trek movie where you didn’t need to know very much about Trek going in.

Trek IV shows one of the great things about science fiction: it can litterally be about anything in the universe. To Hollywood it is little more than westerns with ray guns. Trek IV shows otherwise.

When it comes to Nimoy’s two Trek movies, the thing I love most about them is just how incredibly LUSH and ATMOSPHERIC they were. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, but the Trek universe somehow seemed a bit more WONDROUS in his movies than in any of the others.

Hell, he made something as simple as a starship orbiting a planet seem like a magical, awe-insipiring event. None of the other directors even came close to capturing that feeling.

I really hope Abrams studies Nimoy’s two movies closely, because THAT’s the kind of Trek movie I want to see again.

I think this one might be more highly regarded than it is should enviromental problems surface in the future; very prescient. A fun show that left me with a good feeling. The only element I missed was the Enterprise, until the end, of course. No villains or space battles either, amazing.

1) Nice to see Mr. Orci here!

2) Respectfully disagree with Mr Harry(#14)

If it (IV) were comedy in a vacuum I’d agree. Mudd, Tribbles and Piece of the Action are funny, but SAY LITTLE.

Trek IV, SAYS quite a bit. and honestly, It was time for a little life after all that after death.

Perhaps its tone was a bit light, but some months has passed, and the characters were ready to stop mourning and get back in the saddle, so to speak. (so was the audience)

In terms of Quality, If I may borrow a phrase from TV, Trek II and IV “hammock” Trek III and it’s the one strengthened by it’s inclusion in a trilogy.

Star Trek is a vehicle for all sorts of things… adventure, drama, pathos, honor, heart, humor, and a bit of preaching from time to time. Judged in those terms Trek IV is a success. (except for the creepy plaster 3-d head thingies and the somewhat derivative “V’ger II/” Whale probe attacking Earth) )

I think, as far as the pacing, I was under the assumption that the whale they found was pregnant, and the Klingon dilithium was none too stable. plus regarding the (somewhat) valid point: above

Re: “The Enterprise crew could have taken FIVE YEARS to capture a couple of whales at open sea and still made it home in time for dinner”

How long would YOU want to stay cloaked in the park with no money and with a crew dressed like a bunch of middle aged mambo kings?

As for V- blame Shatner and Harve Bennett for not knowing the difference between funny and silly; and that putting God in a movie is bound to lead to a climactic let-down.

“a crew dressed like a bunch of middle aged mambo kings?”
Heh, heh, heh…….I like the way you coin a phrase…..FUNNY!!

What makes this film remarkable is it’s so good even with the ununremarkable music score.

Thanks for all the comments–and for catching Turgidson misspelled.

Really good review on the film, added perspective from standpoints I did not realize. I found it enlightening.

Star Trek IV was a really good compliment to the other good Trek Movies. Too many movies where the crew go and fight the bad guy start to wear on you. Star Trek V for me may have been one of the worse of the lot, but at least attempted to do something different. This is probably why I enjoyed IV so much. Thanks to Mr. Nimoy for a great story and to the shirts for letting him tell it.

My opinion of the 3 best Trek movies:

Wrath of Khan
The Voyage Home
First Contact

473 dtST

Great review. I’ve read many for this movie over the years, but this one was really thought-provoking.

It’s my favorite film too. Watching this got me interested in Star Trek again after a five year hiatus.

I might have enjoyed it more had the Enterprise crew taken Saavik back with them, but who knows?

Nice review.
I totally agree that Trek must have a theme. The plot (is it really time-travel and fighting nasty Romulans?) is almost secondary. The theme and how our beloved characters interact and solve the problems of the moment are what matter.
Characters! Interesting ideas. Sure, throw some ‘splosions at us, but never skimp on the real juicy stuff.

Awesome review.


You call that preaching? He stated facts that within the context of discussing Trek IV were relevant.


Oh man. Usually I’m pretty entertained by your OTT comments, but I disagree with you in almost every way. Hitting on one major point – if Trek IV had really been such a dip in quality from II & III and been ‘weak’, it wouldn’t have had legs at the box office, regardless of what people thought of the previous two. You act as though they tricked people into the theatre and they then had no choice but to watch it again and again. The fact is, it’s revisionist Trekdom that’s labeled Trek IV as ‘weak’. Not that finances are a basis for quality, but it’s still one of the highest box office sucesses Trek has experienced, not to mention that when it comes to ‘non-fans’ it’s still the most popular. I can say from my personal experience that no one in 1986 (or really, until very recently) thought TVH was ‘weak’.

In terms of it being inconsistent with the trilogy, I’d disagree there as well. The themes of death, honor, friendship & sacrifice are all still front-and-center in TVH. They’re simply presented in a slightly different format, which actually works for the film instead of hurting it. The crew are out their risking their lives to save the planet and organization that’s about to put them on trial. The reprucussions of TSFS are still very real, and Spock’s journey is certainly a key element here as well. Chekov’s peril may not seem as extreme as some the characters have experienced before, but certainly it’s a critical step in Spock’s ‘re-education’ when he says they can’t leave him behind.

As far as the dramatic tension being lacking, your reasoning seems odd. Speaking plotwise, we can reasonably assume they couldn’t simply stay in the past forever. The Klingon crystals were deteriorating, so A)they’d lose their cloak & B)they’d lose the ability to return to the 23rd Century. Yes, they did figure out a way to re-energize them, but that wasn’t until halfway through the movie. We also don’t know how long they’d last or how permanent a solution it would be. The time travel was shown to be hard on the ship, so maybe they could only withstand one more trip and perhaps the re-energizing was merely a temporary fix (given everything seen on screen, I think that’s sensible). All that aside, what would be the purpose in staying in the past any longer than they did? The events of the future were real and immediate to them, even if they were in the past. They’d want to hurry and do what they could to save their world asap. I don’t think that negates the drama at all.

Yes, Trek V was a mistake. However, it was mostly Harve Bennett & William Shatner’s mistake. Why the studio allowed it to be greenlit or let WIlliam Shatner direct is still a mystery to this day. But the excessive humor ended there, as Trek VI was a return to the more formal tone of the previous movies.

Trek IV is a GREAT Trek film, and if JJ Abrams & Crew make a film with 1/2 the heart and joy that this one had, they’ll be sucessful.

Sean, your points are well taken and very well thought out…I will take them under consideration in my future thoughts regarding this particular movie……it’s fun to debate, don’t you think?

hey guys heres a question , how do you think star trek would have turned out different. if other people had starred in the movied , what i mean is the Star Trek IV , was surpose to have a big part for Eddie Murphy, as a guy who see the bird of prey land and ends up going to the furture with them , also Sean Connery was going to be sybok in star trek V ( not sure even Connery could save V) ,
But the Eddie Murphy one is interesting he was a big actor at the time , but i think he would have taken away from the Kirk and co. And even if the movie would have done better in the box office , as a star trek fan i think its better he was not in it.

so any ideas on this ? plus where therr any other actors or big changes the could have happened in any of the movies that you think would have changed star trek in a big way for better or worse ?

An excellent review.

I love Star Trek IV and make no apologies about it. I think its perfect for what it was intended to be, and its the one “Star Trek” work that average, non-Trek people see and think “okay, I think I understand what people see in this whole Star Trek thing”. From beginning to end, its a celebration of the then-20 year history of the show, the people in it, behind it, and who watched it. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its one I never get tired of drinking. Nimoy should be very proud of the film. Future Trek projects should be so lucky as to be as good and as satisfying as “The Voyage Home”.

Trek 4 had a calmness about it that I liked, like everyone involved making it finally relaxed and just made a good movie.
Most of the other Trek movies felt as if they didn’t know what to do for sure and it showed.

I agree with trektacular – this film seemed to know where it was going –
I loved (and still love) this trek film. I first of all i saw it the day it came out as i was on holiday in from Scotland in California, so i got to see it the day it opened with my wife – we were on our honeymoon!

Even the opening titles still send chill up my spine.
At the cinema in LA where we saw it they had the heads that they scanned for the time travel “dream” sequence – I have some pics of them somewhere! Also to top it all off – we got a private visit to the sets at Paramount, met Mr Nimoy, sat in the captain’s chair on the bridge, got tho walk the Enterprise corridors, and stand in the transporter room (where my wifes high heel cracked a perpex deck plate..ooops) sheer heaven!

For me it was the perfect Star Trek film – humour, adventure, sci fi and we got to see our heroes in a different light.

But then!!!! STV…..what happened!

At the time of release, I thought this was a weaker movie than it was, but time(and numerous sequels) have made me appreciate it more. :-)

Very good review. IV was not the epic everyone continually wanted but it hit the heartstrings. Trek movies after that neither were epic or touching.

Thank you for this great review.

Movies like ST IV emerged and developed from an interplay of three major forces: the unique triumvirate, the vision and the passion of TOS and, last not least, the very special kind of humour no other series that followed could achieve.

ST V may be a weaker film in comparison but it still has its moments and, as we just learned from DeForest Kelley, “Star Trek movies are all about Moments”.

“When man was killing these creatures, he was destroying his own future”

What an awesome line – delivery to perfection by Shatner…

btw does anyone they should have got a different looking ship at the end?

IMO getting the exact same design was a little bit of a cheat..we already had got Spock back and at the end Kirk gets the Enterprise back too (ok i know its not the same one but still)

I think the model makers should have come up with something a little different…. after all – its supposed to be the next step up (all the other Enterprises B,C, D, E are different)

I dont mean something like Excelsior but maybe just added a few bits and pieces of to the Enterprise model they had to make it look different – like an upgrade (like the changes made from TOS Ent to the TMP Ent)

What they could have done is had it look like a cross between the previous Enterprise and excelsior…. the model makers could have just added a few things onto the existing movie Enterprise model – therefore avoiding the need to build a new one.

I notice that even fans get confused about the Enterprise NCC 1701 and the Ent NCC 1701-A thinking its the same one refereing to it as the “movie enterprise”…having the A look alittle different wouldnt have caused any confusion.

Fantastic article! Thank you for giving us such a well-researched and thoughtful retrospective of The Voyage Home.

ST IV had the best cross over appeal of all the Trek movies. And there is something inherently funny and appealing about the ‘fish out of water’ story lines like Crocodile Dundee.

It was an excellent choice of tonal change given the preceding two movies. Though I wish the Kirk trial aspect of it had been handled with a more serious approach.

#37, Snake-

re: Enterprise A

I think that someone somewhere mentioned that in the Trek Universe, it was another ship that was hastily re badged for our heroes. And the new Bridge set looked great. Granted they could have addded a few touches.

Keep in mind, Enterprise B was changed mainly to serve the plot, and to preserve the structure of the ILM Excelsior model after that “explosive” plot-pont in Generations.

I think that in V, they redid the bridge to make it look more like an evolutionary precursor to Next Gen, and in VI, Meyer repainted it, added that damn view screen clock (just like in my Train station!) and made all the sets look smaller and more submarine-like.

40 – yes i believe it was the Yorktown..

also as we saw in III the Enterprise was going to be decommissioned because it was so old so having built another Constitution class vessel from scratch with the same exact design didn’t really make sense…

I always figured the EXCELSIOR was going to show up re-christened “ENTERPRISE II” (not thinking of the 1701-A angle). Was very surprised and a bit disappointed they used the same ship/model again (though the TMP Refit ENTERPRISE remains my favorite).

#41 – yes, as I recall from “Mr. Scott’s Guide to the ENTERPRISE” (one of my few TREK books to survive Katrina), the 1701-A was actually built as the YORKTOWN but renamed for Kirk & crew.

Loved the review, Bill. Spot on.

My biggest “problem” with TVH is the whole fish out of water motif, from which depending almost all the humor. It always struck me as odd how these guys who are presumably trained to interract with totally alien cultures have their most unprofessional moments when trying to fit into Earth’s past. They did this in the original series as well. As students of Earth’s history, and Earth-people themselves, wouldn’t they be able to function in Earth’s past at least as well as they function when encountering unknown cultures? Just a thought.

That said, I loved TVH and enjoyed almost all the humor contained therein. It was the perfect Trek movie in the context of its times, and as cliché as it sounds, is second only to Wrath of Khan IMO.

And every time I watch it, and those scenes with John Schuck’s angry Klingon ambassador, I wistfully think how wonderful it would have been if Star Trek 5 had been an anti-war war movie where the Klingons and the Federation finally have the interstellar war we’d all been wanting since the maddening resolution to “Errand of Mercy.”

Scott B. out.

I never liked ST VI I and I guess I ain’t gonna like it in the future. But it’s not because of the humour, but because of the plot…

I meant Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, of course, and not ST VI. Sorry!


Agreed buddy! Everyone’s got their take on these films, and I respect that.

For me, it’s my least watched of the films. It’s great, but suffers from “Good Song Overplay Syndrome”. I like to revisit the DVDs when I upgrade a part of my video system.

Oh, I’m really disappointed with this Review -> where is the critical part of it (that’s what I most enjoyed about the reviews of I-III on this site and also on the “Generations” commentary).

I guess it really makes me disappointed cause IV is my LEAST FAVORITE Trek movie.
It’s too silly, too right in your face and I hate the mid 80s look of the whole movie.
There are as many plot holes as in “Nemesis” and I only enjoyed thie movie ONCE and then never again.

Sure as ol’ Trekker I love the no villain and no violence part something what ironically the TNG movies lost as well as the mystery part which the probe to me has as appeal (OK I could count the Nexus in “Generations”).

well a double dumb ass on you!!!