What is so notable about the fourth movie in the Star Trek series is how “un-Star Trek” it really is. It doesn’t take place in space, it doesn’t have the Enterprise and there is no major villain to fight. What makes it even more unusual is how good this film is despite those differences.
This is because it focuses on a very different area of the Star Trek franchise: humour. The Voyage Home is the funniest of the movies and probably the most lighthearted and it definitely benefits from these points. It doesn’t concern itself with a major dramatic issue to resolve, there is no tension-filled battles in space or explosions throwing people across the bridge. This is a film about saving the planet a different way.
The main focus of The Voyage Home is saving the humpback whales. The humpback whales are extinct in the time of Captain Kirk and his crew but are needed to avoid the destruction of the planet. This is where the movie makes it’s master-stroke; Kirk and his crew must go to “modern-day” San Francisco and “blend-in” to bring two whales back to their time and save Earth.
Reading like that, it may sound like a silly and implausible plot but this is just a great excuse to play the crew of The Enterprise as fish-out-of-water. This is where the funniest moments of the movie lie, with Spock learning how to swear, Kirk misunderstanding currency, Scotty inventing new materials and McCoy using space-age medicine to cure people. It all equates to a very funny and very enjoyable movie which works regardless of how different to feels to any other Star Trek movie.
Not that there aren’t links to the Star Trek films of before. You have to give credit to the way that this movie links with the events of the previous film. The crew are still without the Enterprise, their “crimes” are being questioned and they are being held accountable while Spock is still recovering from the events of the last movie as well. It means that regardless of the quality of the films, they are still being treated as proper chapters in the series.
It won’t matter if you haven’t seen those films though as this is so self-contained and unique that there is little chance of confusion. The best way to watch it is with an open-mind and enjoy the spectacle. It is also great to see the well-known actors have fun with their characters. William Shatner seems to be in his element while Leonard Nimoy’s raised eyebrow has never been worked so hard.
Overall, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is a unique but great entry in the Star Trek franchise. It is funny, lighthearted and well-pitched, offering something the other movies (and the Star Trek TV series) have done very little of before. There are some notable links to previous movies but enjoying this is as a stand-alone film is possible (and recommended).
Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)