Epic Movie (Re)Watch #158 - Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Have I seen it before: Yes
Did I like it then: Yes.
Do I remember it: Yes.
Did I see it in theaters: No.
1) This would be the last Star Trek film to feature the entirety of the original series cast (as it was followed by four films with the Next Generation cast and now the three films in the rebooted timeline) and is intended as such. Nicholas Meyers (director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) returns as director, Gene Rodenberry died just days after seeing a cut of the movie, and it seeks to give the original cast a fitting send off.
2) Even though it at times keeps his involvement in the plot minimal, I like that Sulu is Captain. It shows that there are officers who are as competent as Kirk and who seek to be more than just his inferior officers.
3) The opening of the film (where a mysterious wave knocks around Sulu’s ship only for it to be discovered to originate from parts of Klingon space) is an incredibly strong way of opening the film. It establishes the conflict and sense of mystery which will come to define the story.
4) Sassy Sulu is the best Sulu.
(GIF originally posted by @williamtriker)
5) I think deciding to end the stories of the original characters with a plot based around peace between Klingons and the federation is a great one. It pushes each of these characters into an alliance they are uncomfortable with. Klingons have been antagonists towards them since the original series, that’s 25 years at this point. And it forces all of them to examine things they are uncomfortable with, ESPECIALLY Kirk.
(GIFs originally posted by @readysteadytrek)
Kirk is obviously horrified and disgusted at the idea. He refers to the Klingons as admirals and calls Spock, “arrogant and presumptuous,” after learning he recommended him as a peace ambassador. How many times have Kirk and the Enterprise gone up against Klingons? How many times have they threatened them? And, most relevantly, what was the species of those who killed his son in Star Trek III? He is pushed into a place he never thought he’d be and never wanted to be. It is so much easier to vilify them and hate them than it is to work towards peace. But that is what Kirk has to do over the course of these two hours. Work towards peace. And that is an amazing conflict to see play out.
6) According to IMDb:
The film is largely an allegory about the fall of Soviet Communism. When General Chang demands that Kirk answer a question without waiting for the translation, it is an allusion to the real-life exchange at the United Nations between U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Also, the explosion on Praxis due to “insufficient safety measures” is akin to the meltdown at Chernobyl nuclear power plant in present-day Ukraine, which is believed to have contributed to the decline of the Soviet Union. Spock says that there was seventy years of “unremitting hostility” between the Klingon Empire and the Federation, which is not how long the Cold War lasted, but is the approximate length of time that the U.S.S.R. (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) existed in the twentieth century, with a communist form of government.
That makes the conflict all the more ripe in may opinion & I love it all the more.
7) Kim Cattrall as
(GIF originally posted by @readysteadytrek)
According to IMDb:
Valeris was originally written to be Saavik, Spock’s trainee from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) lending greater impact to her character’s betrayal. However, Gene Roddenberry objected to the character’s actions, ending up in a battle with Nicholas Meyer (who believed the Saavik character was his to do with as he pleased). Roddenberry won the dispute and the character was re-written into Valeris, who is played by Kim Cattrall. Cattrall wanted to play a different character rather than be the third incarnation of Saavik, following Kirstie Alley and Robin Curtis. Meyer had originally wanted Cattrall to play Saavik back in 1982, but she was unavailable.
I prefer that Cattrall is playing an original character. I don’t see it as being in line with what we’ve seen of Saavik in the past that she be a traitor and I think Cattrall is able to play a unique character because of it. Saavik - for me - will always be the somewhat proud closer-to-Kirk-than-Spock Vulcan in Wrath of Khan (as opposed to her more logical portrayal later on) so allowing Valeris to be her own character works. Cattrall is able to portray her as logical but with her own strong sense of morales and beliefs which leads her to some very interesting places/decisions by the film’s end. I think she’s a worthy character/actress to join the original crew on their final voyage.
8) Look how much Spock has grown!
Spock [to Valeris]: “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.”
9) I have to say the kinship Spock and Valeris are portrayed as having is done very well. Even though this is the first film she is in, we understand how and why Spock trusts/is proud of Valeris. This makes her betrayal by the film’s end all the more painful.
10) I can never get past the fact that Chancellor Gorkon is played by David Warner who was Sark in the original TRON.
11) There are a lot of lines in this film which allude to the racism the Enterprise crew feels towards the Klingons.
Chekov: “Guess who’s coming to dinner.”
Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura originally had this line but the actress referred to say it. According to IMDb there was another line she refused to say which ended up being dropped from the film and that was, "Yeah, but would you let your daughter marry one of them?“
12) Christopher Plummer as General Chang.
I truly enjoy Plummer’s performance as Chang and the character himself, although he runs out of steam a little bit by the film’s end. He is a poetic man, quoting Shakespeare often throughout the film, but a warrior through and through. A proud man who wishes to see the continuation of his race in what he believes is the best way (which isn’t necessarily the actual best way), Chang has an intense focus which Plummer performs well. A wonderful final villain for the original crew to face off against.
13) Remember how this film analyzes future bigotry?
Crew Member #1: “They all look alike.”
Crew Member #2: “And what about that smell? You know only top of the line models can even talk.”
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
Also the filmmakers are doing a good job of drumming up sympathy for the Klingons right now. I am very much pro-Klingon in that moment.
13) The dinner scene.
There are a lot of mixed emotions at play in this scene. Hope for the future - championed by Chancellor Gorkon - quickly turns into fear, distrust, and discomfort. It becomes apparent that most Klingons are not comfortable with this situation either.
Azetbur [Gorkon’s daughter]: “ ‘Inalienable.’ If only you could hear yourself. ‘Human rights.’ The very name is racist.”
14) And the conspiracy begins.
Kirk [after the chancellor’s ship is fired upon]: “What happened.”
Spock: “We have fired on the chancellor’s ship.”
Honesty I think it is the conspiracy and mystery which makes this film as good as it is. It helps to set it apart from the epic which was Wrath of Khan or the more lighthearted fun if The Voyage Home. It plays out very akin to a Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie mystery and I am a sucker for a good mystery.”
15) Kirk may be struggling with peace but damn if he doesn’t immediately do the right thing.
And then Bones - who is always a doctor first - goes with Kirk to tend to the wounded and tries to save the chancellor’s life. They put aside their fears and their prejudices in an attempt to do what’s right and I applaud them for doing so.
16) I don’t know why, but something about this exchange makes me smile.
Scotty [after the data is says they fired at the Klingons, even though all torpedoes are accounted for]: “No way!”
Spock: “I sympathize with you, Mr. Scott.”
I think it’s just Spock being Spock really.
17) Kurtwood Smith (of “That 70′s Show”) as the Federation President.
The nicest part about Smith’s character is that I found this line nicely refreshing:
“This president is not above the law.”
(GIF originally posted by @marshmallow-the-vampire-slayer)
18) The trial.
I think the trial of Kirk and Bones for the attack on the Klingon chancellor is the best part of this film. It makes you wildly uncomfortable the entire time, as it is meant to. While this film is an allegory for a post-Soviet-Union world, there is a lot of McCarthyism at work here. Their verdicts were clearly determined before they took the stands, with even Bones’ intentions as a doctor challenged.
Bones [after Chang accuses him of incompetence]: “I tried to save him [Gorkon]. I was desperate to save him.”
Bones has always been a doctor, so to accuse him of not doing his best to save a patient is such a painful strike to his soul. The scene also gives us this line from Kirk.
Kirk [after it is suggested some of his crew were the assassins]: “As captain I am responsible for the conduct of crew under my command.”
There is a difference between responsibility and culpability. There is a difference between responsibility and guilt. That is important to know.
18.1) Also we get this wonderful Michael Dorn cameo during the trial!
Dorn is most famous for playing fan favorite Commander Worf on “The Next Generation” which was already airing when he filmed this part as Kirk’s/Bones’ legal council in front of the Klingons. Although he is not credited as such in the film, it is understood that Dorn is playing Commander Worf’s ancestor Col. Worf here. I like the continuity, it’s a nice touch.
19) Ah, the connection between Spock and Sherlock Holmes.
Spock: “If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains - however improbable - must be the truth.”
I love when Spock uses his logic skills in a Holmes-ian nature. Detective Spock is a lot of fun to watch.
20) The prison asteroid Kirk and Bones end up on I think is a great example of place in the film. It’s cold and desolate nature is an incredibly powerful atmosphere which conveys not only where theses characters are physically but emotionally by this part of the movie.
21) Expectations vs reality at its finest.
Spock: “If I know the captain, by this time he is deep into planning his escape.”
[Kirk is in a fistfight with another prisoner, trying not to get crushed.]
Kirk [to Bones, in the prison, while they’re waiting for sleep]: “Are you afraid of the future?”
THIS is Kirk’s conflict right here. He’s TERRIFIED of the future and his place in it. It’s a conflict which goes all the way back to Wrath of Khan: he is afraid of being obsolete. Of the march of time. That’s what truly terrifies him and that’s what he has to deal with in this film.
23) Hey look, it’s Christian Slater!
According to IMDb:
The Casting Director was Mary Jo Slater, mother of Christian Slater. Thus, his small role as a Communications Officer aboard the Excelsior.
Christian Slater wore the trousers made for William Shatner in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). "It was an honor to get into Shatner’s pants”, he quipped during a BBC interview.
Christian Slater framed his 750 dollar paycheck for his walk-on part.
24) According to IMDb:
Nichelle Nichols objected to the scene in which the crew desperately searches through old printed Klingonese translation dictionaries in order to speak the language without the standard universal translator being used. It seemed more logical to her that Uhura, being the ship’s chief communications officer, would know the language of the Federation’s main enemy, or at least have the appropriate information in the computer. However, Nicholas Meyer bluntly overruled her. In Star Trek (2009), Uhura specializes in xenolinguistics, intercepts and translates a Klingon communication, and speaks Klingonese in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).
I agree with Nichols.
25) So in the prison Kirk makes out with a woman who turns out to be a shapeshifter, and when he learns she was a shapeshifter kind a recoils from her. Then she tries to kill him and Bones (which was her plan all along) and shifts into Kirk to cause confusion. Shatner seems to have a lot of fun playing the shapeshifter Kirk. It’s almost like he’s doing an impression of himself, dialing all the Shatner-isms up to 11. It’s brief but enjoyable.
(GIF originally posted by @trekgate)
26) Damn, Spock is PISSED when it turns out Valeris is the traitor. He is hurting, and the mind meld he performs with her is super intense. It’s a nice side of the Vulcan I haven’t seen much of in Nimoy’s tenure as the character (Zachary Quinto would have some wonderful angry scenes though).
27) Dude, I love this.
Scotty: “Then we’re dead.”
Spock: “I’ve been dead before.”
28) Spock and Kirk have one last heart to heart before the climax and resolution of this film and I appreciate that the film took the time to analyze their friendship one last time.
Kirk [while Spock is beating himself up over Valeris]: “Spock you want to know something? Everyone is human.”
Spock: “I find that remark offensive.”
29) The film creates some great climactic conflict by creating the dual scene of the Enterprise fighting off Chang’s ship and the nearing assassination at the peace conference. You know they can feasibly beat Chang, but do it in time to stop the assassination which gets dangerously close to fruition? THAT is the conflict. That’s the double jeopardy.
30) And this is the resolution of Kirk’s conflict with time.
Kirk [to Azetbur at the peace conference]: “People can be very frightened of change.”
Azetbur [realizing Kirk just saved the treaty signing]: “You’ve restored my father’s faith.”
Kirk: “And you’ve restored my son’s.”
Kirk has made his peace with the movement of time and is ready for its march.
31) Spock sass!
Spock [after the Enterprise is ordered to return to port to be decommissioned]: “If I were human, I believe my response would be, ‘go to hell.’ If I were human.”
Chekov: “Course heading, captain?”
Kirk [in his final line as captain of the Enterprise]: “Second star to the right, and straight on ‘til morning.”
32) Having the final credits for the main cast be their signatures is a nice touch.
When it comes to the original cast Star Trek films, Star Trek VI is second only to Wrath of Khan in my opinion. The added elements of conspiracy and mystery as well as themes of prejudice and bigotry help to set the film apart from the others. The characters are pushed to a place they’ve never been before personally and the entire cast shines in showing that. It’s a wonderful final film for the original stars after 25 years.