After the silly and strange fifth installment in the Star Trek movie franchise, the film takes a very serious, dramatic and successful change for number six. The Undiscovered Country showcases the best that Star Trek can be; it is a statement on tolerance, a space adventure, action-packed and genuinely interesting. It takes the best of the characters and uses them properly, utilising the skills of the original crew.
It is also very aware of it’s place in the franchise. This is a TV show which started in the 60s and a movie series which started in the late 1970s. By the 1990s, the crew are starting to look and feel much older and the idea of them taking to the skies to stop villains and discover new worlds was stretching credibility thinly (not to mention replacement The Next Generation was already in it’s fifth year).
This means it is slightly more feasible that Kirk and his experienced crew would be used for a diplomatic mission, one designed to bring peace to the galaxy, and thus begin the mature side of the story. This is a tale rooted in Kirk’s hatred for the Klingons and it echoes back to past movies (particularly Search for Spock). It makes some very good comments on tolerance and acceptance of cultures, particularly those that may be judged unfairly. It is hidden behind a veil of Science-Fiction but that doesn’t make it any less pertinent or relevant.
Not that this is purely an exercise in politics and society. Like any good Star Trek episode, it manages to deliver this message alongside bouts of action and adventure. In this film there is genuine threat too, with Kirk and Bones being sent to a penal colony on a mining planet. Seeing the two out of their comfort zone and William Shatner depending on the charm that his character has been using since the 1960s is charming and refreshing, without being silly or goofy.
Kirk and McCoy being off ship means other crew members get their chance to shine. Leonard Nimoy steps up once again as acting Captain Spock, teaching his new Vulcan protege, played by a pre-Sex and The City Kim Cattrall, how to be dishonest without really lying. In fact, there is plenty for the rest of the crew to do as well, even having James Doohan’s Scotty getting a heroic turn for the finale.
This isn’t to say The Undiscovered Country is perfect. The opening attack which creates the catalyst for the story has unforgivably dodgy effects, as “blood” floats around a damaged starship, while the “reveal” of a hidden villain is signposted so early that it manages to remove any sense of drama.
This is by-the-by when the rest of the film delivers so much though. Not only is this a good story with action and entertainment but also a clear end for the original crew. Knowing they wouldn’t make another “full” movie again, The Undiscovered Country finds a way to successfully draw an end to their adventures without it feeling too cheesy.
Overall, The Undiscovered Country is how to make a Star Trek film. It takes the action and adventure of the classic series and adds some drama and a well-told story with a powerful message at it’s core. It manages to involve more than just Captain Kirk and sends the original Enterprise crew off in-style.
Rating – 4
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