William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Deforest Kelley and James Doohan make one last journey together on board the Enterprise in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Where Star Trek V seemed to be a stand-alone episode with no real connection to the other films, Star Trek VI gets back on track and seems a natural progression from the previous movies. If The Undiscovered Country could only have followed The Voyage Home instead of the dreadful Final Frontier, Star Trek's II through V would have been an unbroken series of entertaining movies.
Many of the original series plotlines mirrored current events and the Klingons obviously represented the Russians, in the same way that the Romulans were always representative of the Chinese. It seems natural then that when the cold war ended in real life that the cold war between the Federation and the Klingon empire should likewise end. And that it should be the final plotline for the original series crew of the Enterprise seems as logical.
Despite being hampered by a lower budget (punishment from the studio for the failure of Star Trek V), writer/director Nicholas Meyer (who also directed and co-wrote The Wrath of Khan) manages to create an entertaining movie that is a return to Star Trek form. Clearly an effort was made to create a more serious and darker tone than the previous outing, but without losing any of the warmth and camaraderie we've come to expect from these characters.
The plot tells of how following a Chernobyl-type disaster on a Klingon moon, it is revealed that the Klingon Empire is in serious trouble and wishes to negotiate a dismantling of the Neutral Zone and an end to all hostilities. Kirk and company are sent to escort the Klingon Chancellor to the Earth for a Peace Conference. When the Chancellor is assassinated, it is Kirk who is blamed and put on trial by the Klingons. It's up to Spock and the crew to uncover the true murderer and ensure that the peace process won't be halted before it's begun.
Reportedly William Shatner and Gene Roddenberry didn't like it that Kirk was portrayed as prejudiced against the Klingons. They couldn't have been more wrong. Kirk's feelings towards the Klingons are at the heart of the movie. It's hardly surprising that he would bear a grudge against them since his son was murdered by Klingons and he has faced off against them for almost his entire career. It is his prejudice that gives the movie its tension.
Even though Star Trek is rarely about defeating a bad guy, it helps to have an adversary for Kirk to play off of. This time around the villain is played by Christopher Plummer. His Shakespeare quoting General Chang provides a great foil for Kirk, especially during the dinner scene.
The addition of Kim Cattrell as a Vulcan never quite worked for me. Originally the character she plays was to have been Lt. Savik from Star Trek's II and III, but Roddenberry objected to the use of that character in this role, which is a pity as having someone already established in the Star Trek Universe perform her character's function would have given it further weight.
There are also a couple of cutesy scenes thrown in again this time around such as when Uhura has to respond to a Klingon over the Communicator and the entire crew rummages through some books trying to find the correct translation. In the first place, why are there books? And secondly, even if the universal translator would be recognized, it could still have told Uhura what to say and she could have repeated it. Also, would it have hurt to finally give Uhura something serious to do since this was to be her last appearance?
Although several of the crew would show up in later films and episodes of the various Trek incarnations, this is the last of the Classic Trek stories ever put to film. This knowledge makes the ending seem rather bittersweet, but it is a fitting one. As Sulu says at the end of the movie, "Nice to see you in action for one last time, Captain Kirk."
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (1991)