STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME , also known as ‘The One With The Whales’, was an improvement over the previous installment, dropping the Worship The Space They Float In angle for a more lighthearted go at saving the Earth, with some cute banter and even a bit of restrained slapstick. Critics were kind and fans liked it, making it the 6th biggest grosser of the year. *
When a giant alien probe knocks out the Federation’s power, and starts vaporizing the Earth’s oceans, Kirk and the crew travel back a few hundred years in time to the San Francisco of 1986 with the intent to find two humpback whales to use as a communication aid in a desperate attempt at keeping the probe from destroying the planet.
“This is an extremely primitive and paranoid culture“.
While there is a threat from the aliens, this 119-minute entry dispenses with violence, explosions and ponderous dramatics, going for a gentler, self-kidding tone (instead of the usual self-reverential), which the cast seems to enjoy. As ever, the acting from William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley is up to snuff; that from James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols could best be deemed adequate (or, if you’re a big Trek fan, winning). Pretty and spunky Catherine Hicks is a nice guest this time out. The script has fun with the crew engaging with the backwards citizens of the 20th-century (this was more than three decades back—look how much farther we’ve slid toward the abyss since) and taking up an ever-timely environmental theme with the endangered whales (done mainly with animatronics).
SPOCK: “Your use of language has altered since our arrival. It is currently laced with, shall we say, more colorful metaphors, “double dumb-ass on you” and so forth.” KIRK: “Oh, you mean the profanity?” SPOCK: “Yes.” KIRK: “Well that’s simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays any attention to you unless you swear every other word.”
On the down side, the special effects don’t hold up well, the matte shots are too obvious and the alien probe looks rather like a big silver candy cigarette, plus the music score by Leonard Rosenman is the least rousing in the series. Still, it makes for a diverting trip for the familiar gang.
Costumed up and returning in small bits—Mark Lenard, Robin Curtis and Majel Barrett, while others in support are Jane Wyatt, Brock Peters, Robert Ellenstein and John Schuck. Nimoy directed. He wanted “no dying, no fighting, no shooting, no photon torpedoes, no phaser blasts, no stereotypical bad guy. I wanted people to really have a great time watching this film [and] if somewhere in the mix we lobbed a couple of big ideas at them, well, then that would be even better.”
Nimoy and producer Harve Bennett came up with the story, the screenplay was done by Steve Meerson and Peter Krikes, most of their material was dropped and it was then tooled up by Bennett and Nicholas Meyer (who’d directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.) The Oscars nominated it for Cinematography, Sound, Sound Effects Editing and —mystifyingly—Music Score.
* The film beamed up $109,713,000, easily marking off its $25,000,000 cost. Sci-fi competition was scarce in ’86—heavy hitters were Aliens and The Fly, while lesser efforts were Space Camp, Short Circuit and the Invaders From Mars remake. Without a doubt, Aliens ruled.