Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

3 stars

Theatrical release: 12/6/1991
PG; 1 hr. 53 min.
Screenplay Nicholas Meyer & Denny Martin Flinn
Story by Leonard Nimoy and Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal
Produced by Ralph Winter and Steven-Charles Jaffe
Directed by Nicholas Meyer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

September 17, 2004

"There is an old Vulcan proverb: Only Nixon could go to China."

So quoth the sage Spock early in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It's a sublime line of dialog, cleverly appropriate, because it gets to the heart of what this film is about while at the same time issuing a wink to the audience. The line gets a laugh — not just because it's funny, but also because it conveys a certain cagey poetry. By the time this film has come around, as the original cast prepares to retire, Star Trek is a piece of Americana that has earned its right to be self-referential: Spock isn't really the one telling the joke, because he exists in a fictional mythos where Nixon perhaps is the inspiration for a Vulcan proverb. Spock delivers it straight and means it.

The line is said to Kirk, who has just been informed, much to his dismay, that the Enterprise will be commencing a diplomatic mission to meet with the Klingons, who have extended their own controversial olive branch under the initiative of Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner), a man genuinely interested in a historic negotiated peace. Of course, there's also the more pragmatic impetus: the catastrophic destruction of the Klingon moon Praxis, their key energy-generating facility, which has exploded in the film's attention-getting-with-a-bang prologue. The explosion was witnessed by the captain of the USS Excelsior, Hikaru Sulu.

Starfleet's military hard-liners are not moved, and believe this would be a good time to force the Klingons "to their knees." In a particularly interesting choice by the filmmakers, Admiral Cartwright (Brock Peters) makes an argument that predicts how in peace the Klingons will become "the alien trash of the galaxy." With the line being said by a black actor, Cartwright's prejudice has a disturbing, ironic dimension — even though his race is irrelevant in the movie itself.

Already, in its first 15 minutes, Trek VI has shown more legitimate and literate content than the entire sum of its disastrous predecessor, Star Trek V. Where The Final Frontier was simultaneously ambitious, misguided, and incoherent, The Undiscovered Country is focused and confident about something concrete and in tune with the spirit of Star Trek. As was the goal of many original series episodes, this is a story that exists in the Trek universe while also reflecting upon contemporary world events.

On the original series, the Klingons were often seen as stand-ins for the Soviets, and that definitely is an allegorical point here. In 1991, of course, the Soviet Union collapsed. Yes, it was already well along in its wane, but the timing is still eerie. Star Trek VI was released on December 6. Amid the rapid disintegration around him, Gorbachev resigned as president of a dead union on December 25.

In the DVD commentary track, writer/director Nicholas Meyer explicitly admits that Gorkon was supposed to represent Gorbachev, hence the name. And the destruction of Praxis is a very obvious parallel to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. What most characterizes Star Trek VI (other than being the original cast's swan song) is that it's the only historical allegory in the film series.

It's also one of the more demonstratively literate of Trek scripts — even if the film's use of Shakespeare is mostly to spice up the taunting dialog of General Chang (Christopher Plummer). Although, it's Gorkon who says, "You've not experienced Shakespeare until you've read him in the original Klingon."

For these and many other reasons, The Undiscovered Country ranks on my scale among the better of the 10 Trek films (at the high end of the three-star range, it ranks fourth behind Wrath of Khan, First Contact, and The Voyage Home). This is a good, solid film, although not powerful enough to rank as a standout.

The dinner scene provides a reasonable microcosm of the movie. It's a moment of good, classic Star Trek if I've ever seen one. Here we have Starfleet and the Klingons sitting down to a formal dinner on the Enterprise, which provides the opportunity for some expositional give and take — an arena for polemics. Good things are accomplished in this scene: There's Chang saying "to be or not to be" in Klingon; there's Gorkon's daughter (Rosanna DeSoto) criticizing Chekov on his use of the phrase "inalienable human rights"; and there's Kirk's humorously inappropriate blurting of "Earth, Hitler, 1938."

There's also a sense that the scene could've and should've said more. When McCoy, for example, refutes Kerla's (Paul Rossilli) allegation that peace means the annihilation of Klingon culture, the moment seems to be building toward an intriguing debate that never happens. What we end up with in the dinner scene is solid story texture, but a sequence that might've been even better with more arguments and specifics.

The subsequent siege on the Klingon ship is an intriguing new spin on standard Trek battle fare, showing what happens when a ship's artificial-gravity generators are disabled. Two unidentified assassins beam aboard the vulnerable ship and kill Gorkon in an attempt to derail the peace initiative. Gorkon's dying words to Kirk are those of an idealist with conviction: "Don't let it end this way, captain."

From here, with the plot well under way, we're supplied a lot of story elements — so many, in fact, that the movie at times resembles a pastiche. Not only is it the backstory for TNG's Federation/Klingon political landscape, it's also a Cold War allegory, a convoluted murder mystery involving forensic investigation (dried blood, magnetic boots, phantom ships, etc.), a courtroom drama, a prison movie, and finally a race against the clock to stop the plotted assassination of the Federation president (Kurtwood Smith).

Meyer combines these elements into an entertaining story that keeps on moving, even if some of the pieces feel a little conveniently manipulated or undercooked. The most obvious example would be the overall use of Valeris (Kim Cattrall), whose function in the plot comes across as a bit too obvious and at the same time not strongly enough motivated. This is clearly an example of the plot leading the character and not vice versa.

One problem might be the fact Valeris was rewritten from what was originally to be Saavik, reprised by Kirstie Alley, who was unavailable for the role. I'm not sure why the part wasn't simply recast, especially since the part had already been previously recast for Star Trek III. For whatever reason, we instead have this new Vulcan named Valeris, and the result is a character that shows all the indicators of having a legitimate history but nevertheless feels hastily inserted into the franchise. She has significant dialog with Spock, who is her mentor, but it might've had more natural impact coming from Saavik.

Since Valeris is the conspirator hidden in plain view, she also becomes one of those functional constructions whose actions must be maddeningly reevaluated after her true nature is revealed. It doesn't quite jell. Her motivation is sketchy, and her knowledge is sometimes too handily scripted. The way she has Kirk's personal logs used against him in court, for example, is a stretch (convenient that Kirk said what he said and she happened to be there to hear it).

Though the movie has its share of plot quirks, it covers a lot of ground relatively quickly, and most individual scenes work well. When Kirk and McCoy are arrested and put through a Klingon show trial, the results are darkly Kafkaesque, with great production design by Herman Zimmerman. (The scene is so effective as pure atmosphere that it became the basis for Enterprise's "Judgment" more than a decade later.) While the arguments over the case facts will not impress viewers of Law & Order, Meyer and his co-writer, Denny Martin Flinn, set a high bar for theatrics and charge the dialog with energy, as in one line shouted by Chang, repurposed from Adlai E. Stevenson: "Don't wait for the translation! Answer me now!" The use of Michael Dorn as Colonel Worf, the defense counsel, is a nice generational tie-in.

Next it's on to Rura Penthe, the brutal, icy penal colony, presided over by a one-eyed Klingon warden who breaks down the situation economically: "Work well, and you will be treated well. Work badly, and you will die." In prison, Kirk and McCoy meet Martia (Iman), a shapeshifter who is suspiciously prompt in her willingness to help them. She's actually a plant to lure them into a trap, which leads to a scene where Kirk fights the shapeshifter, which takes on Kirk's own appearance. Twenty-five years later, it's shades of "The Enemy Within."

Even the warden is in on the conspiracy, and here there's an amusing moment of self-parody. When the depth of the conspiracy becomes clear, Kirk asks the warden: Who set everything in motion? The warden responds, "Since you're all going to die anyway, why not tell you?"

While Kirk and McCoy face their prison ordeal, Spock works on a plan to try to get them out, and launches an investigation to prove the Enterprise was not responsible for firing on Gorkon's ship. The search for the truth involves clues that lead to more clues, which lead to two bodies, which lead to Valeris. This is handled reasonably adeptly, although it's worth noting that the technology on Star Trek is often a flexible device that allows or prohibits whatever a plot needs. You'd think the disposal of evidence in the 23rd century wouldn't be so hard, but no — even the use of phasers to vaporize boots or bodies is circumvented by plot cleverness.

A subsequent ruse uncovers Valeris, which has a good payoff when Spock gets angry enough to smack a phaser out of her hand. I was less thrilled, however, by Spock's forced mind-meld on Valeris — in public view on the bridge, no less. This makes for a potent scene, yes, but the concept itself is disturbing, and seems to throw ethics and decency out the window. Necessary under the circumstances? Perhaps. But no one seems to acknowledge that it's wrong.

Among the conspirators is General Chang — no surprise there — but also Admiral Cartwright, which shows a corruption in Starfleet that is rarely seen in Roddenberry's universe. Indeed, this film strays from the Roddenberry "rules" a bit more than some, but of course it must, because it is about overcoming the problems that exist today so we might grow tomorrow. "Klingons and Federation members conspiring together," muses McCoy. Interesting, how those on both sides with the same military self-interests are willing to put aside the fact they are enemies in order to continue being enemies.

The film's climax is skillfully executed as a Ticking Clock Crescendo, crosscutting between the speeches at the conference and the Enterprise's battle with Chang's invisible Bird of Prey. Chang, the best Trek villain after Khan and Dukat, has an engaging flamboyance, quoting lines of Shakespeare to Kirk in between torpedo volleys. His eventual destruction is one of the great Trek death scenes — staged larger than life in its moment of realization and yet still acted with the right amount of restraint. And so satisfying.

Reverberating here and all throughout the film is Cliff Eidelman's dark and atmospheric score, which for Trek qualifies as avant-garde. It's one of the best Trek scores, and the most memorable in terms of confidently staging the mood.

Of course the assassination is stopped at the last possible moment, with a perfectly timed stunt. Of course Kirk makes a closing speech that moves everyone. Of course there is a standing ovation that employs the Applause Crescendo Cliché. Of course it's all obligatory. But the moment has been earned; the plot has paid its dues and told its tale, and Kirk delivers the moral of the story — and not a bad one at that. This is a dignified exit for this crew.

"Once again, we've saved civilization as we know it," Kirk says. The writers, and the franchise, have earned that self-aware line. One message of Star Trek has always been that we can become better as people, and maybe change the world. Kirk begins Star Trek VI with his own deep prejudices; he couldn't see past the death of his son at the hands of Klingons. He ends it by helping to realize a Klingon's vision. The film is high on optimism and sentiment and messages of making a difference. If that sounds like a Trek cliché, then so be it.

We should be so lucky that our own sagas end this way.

Previous: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Next: Star Trek: Generations

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52 comments on this review

Thomas A. McDonald
Thu, Nov 29, 2007, 12:49am (UTC -5)
Hello! I have been a fan for 30 years, & I'm sorry about the passing of DeForrest Kelly, Mr.Roddenberry, & of course, James "Scotty" Doohan, who made me laugh when I was very down, I am Glad to hear about Star Trek 11, I enjoy everything I have on Star Trek, Including this one, Please! contact me soon!
Wed, Dec 5, 2007, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
In addition to being a great send off for the original Trek crew(how I wish we could say the same for Nemesis, but at least we still have "All Good Things..."), this films serves as an epilogue of sorts to the "Space Seed"-II-III-IV storyline.
After all, Kirk's initial racism for Klingons comes from the fact that Klingons took his son from him in number 3.
When Valeris tells him "Did you not wish Gorkon dead? 'Let them die' you said. Did I misinterpret you?" you can tell from Kirk's reaction that those words are hitting him like a sledgehammer.
Tue, Feb 26, 2008, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
This is actually my favorite of all the Trek films--although the parallels are obvious, it makes for an engaging story independent of the allegory. Many of the Shakespeare references are quite subtle--my favorite is the Chameloid's remark "I thought I would assume a pleasing shape"--reference Hamelet II.ii.
Tue, Apr 15, 2008, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
This is the movie that got me into Star Trek in the first place. Strange that I started with TOS end. But it still stands out, great movie awesome adventure ride!

Many of the Klingon actors were excellent.
Wed, May 7, 2008, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
While WOK is the best trek film, the Undiscovered Country is my favorite and deserves 3.5 stars imo. I thought it was advancing and changing the trek world (even if TNG was already around and established that Klingons are OK people) and that's not something you see often in Trek, let alone a movie. What I like most about it, however, is seeing how people react to this change. Some people embrace it, some people embrace it grudgingly, and some people try to stop progress. Great material and a good story to boot.

Of course, I find the GOOD inclusion of Klingons in anything star trek to invariably help the episode/movie. So... UC probably gets a little extra worth from me because it includes Klingons and does so in a very good way.
Dan Z
Mon, Jun 2, 2008, 2:21am (UTC -5)
When I was a kid, I owned two Trek books, and the novelization of this movie was one of them. In the novelization, it is made extremely clear how Spock's forced mind meld with Valeris is wildly inappropriate. Thus, I never noticed that the movie left this out until your review --- I've always just "known" that the mind meld was a deeply questionable act done because there were no other options. When I eventually rewatch the movie, I'll have to watch for the reactions and see how I think it's played.
Thu, Jun 5, 2008, 10:16am (UTC -5)
Great sendoff for the original crew, and it's a shame some of them returned to sully it with Generations. The plot does have some generously labled "quirks" that don't really hold up to close scrutiny (the motivations of the Valeris character seem pretty thin), but in the end it's so well-executed and entertaining you just don't care. I left the theatre on opening night with a big grin, and so did everyone else that night. This is a well done movie with a great concept and great dialogue that for the last time exploits this cast's chemistry to the nth degree, and also features the best special effects of the original movies. This is a movie that knows how to give its audience what it wants.
Sun, Aug 3, 2008, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
I have to mention a disagreement with your review on this point: Necessary under the circumstances? Perhaps. But no one seems to acknowledge that it's wrong.

I find the reaction shots of Scotty and Uhura entirely telling... it may be necessary to get this information, but clearly they are both bothered, especially when it's obvious that Valeris is being is suffering pain by the forced meld.
Sun, Aug 3, 2008, 9:08pm (UTC -5)
Funny. There are several comments about Valeris' shaky motivation... I've never been bothered by it in the least. She's a gun-ho Starfleet Officer and 'everyone' knows that Klingons are untrustworthy... now the Federation is trying to cut the corp off at the knees instead of remaining strong... sounds a lot like current arguments of "soft on terrorism" diatribes to me.
My problem is how Valeris tells them that any ship to shore communications will be intercepted... from the ENTIRE Federation?! Kirk couldn't dispatch a signal to every planet, every colony with instructions to find a way to inform Starfleet Command and the civilian authorities in the Federation? Really?
Naturally I engage my 'suspension of disbelief' muscle and enjoy the ship-to-ship battle, instead. -grin-
Tim Carroll
Fri, Aug 29, 2008, 6:04am (UTC -5)
My favourite in the series, although it's a *very* close tie with TWOK. Reason being that although TWOK is the definitive Trek movie, TUC gave us that most rare of all gems in the Trek canon: a dignified end. Trek has historically had problems in delivering satisfying payoffs to its bigger stories, no matter which part of the franchise you look at. (Even DS9 - bless its dark little soul - couldn't deliver a satisfactory resolution to its longest-running tale. Namely, Sisko's "destiny". Which as it turned out, was to push a guy and a book off a cliff. Wow.)

TUC gave the TOS characters a beautiful sentimental send-off, wrapped up in an exciting, fast-past plot. Even though it doesn't hold up to close scrutiny quite as well as TWOK, it's forgiven by the fact that this is *it*. The last adventure. There's a pervasive sense of finality throughout the film, and the closing "goodbye photo" and log entry where Kirk hands off to TNG is note-perfect.

Final chapters as good as this are a rare thing. A four-star outing for me, easily.
Thu, Oct 9, 2008, 9:07am (UTC -5)
Did you actually watch this? It is by far the weakest of the films, with more holes in it than a net curtain. The whole Praxis explosion destroying an interstellar civilizations environment, the explosion hitting the Excelsior in deep space, the Enterprise being able to leave Earth and travel to the Klingon border in less than a day, anyone least of all the crew of the Enterprise being fooled into thinking the Enterprise fired at the Klingon Battle cruiser. No one noticing the huge tracking device Spock stuck in Kirk's shoulder, Uhura fooling Klingon Border security that a Federation Star Ship was a Klingon freighter by reading from a phrase book..........the stupidity of this film just goes on and on. Should have been given 0.5 stars.
Nick Illes
Sun, Dec 7, 2008, 12:56pm (UTC -5)
I just read this review, and I found it to be totally awesome! It was helpful, and really grabbed my attention the whole way through. You brought up some interesting points that I didn't consider. For example, when you mentioned the use of Valeris and why it would have been more logical to use someone as innocent as Saavik as a conspirator, I thought to myself, "yeah, that would have been interesting." However, I'm guessing the producers figured that since Saavik was such a well-liked character, it would be hard to see her betraying everything she fought for in the previous films. We've grown to like the character, and to have Valeris, a Vulcan we've never seen, nor will ever see agan, come in and drive the plot, that made things interesting.

Great review! I look forward to reading the rest of them!
Eric Dugdale
Sun, Apr 19, 2009, 2:16pm (UTC -5)
The "necessary under the circumstances" part of the forced Valeris mind-meld may hold up for getting the conspirators' names, but not for the later part of it in which she actually seems to suffer.

When Spock finds that she doesn't know the location of the peace conference, Kirk simply contacts Excelsior and gets Sulu to tell him where it is. So where's the "necessity" here?

Overall, though, I found this to be the deepest and best-done Trek film of all of them, for all the reasons others have put forward.
Thu, Jul 23, 2009, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
I have to disagree with you Nick. I would have loved having the Saavik character be a conspirator. Maybe that would have seemed forced but it certainly would have made the scene where Spock confronts her in sick bay have all the more resonance.

One question. During the mind meld as Valeris names off the conspirators were there always flashbacks showing the faces of those she names with an accompanying gong sound? I watched this last night on the 2-disc special edition and I don't recall that being there. I was actually out of the room making dinner during that scene (hey I've seen it like 12 times anyway) and I heard this *GONG* sound and I thought what the heck was that? lol
Thu, Jul 23, 2009, 5:39pm (UTC -5)
^ Those flashes were added for the special edition DVD. I find them kind of silly. It's as if they thought the audience was too dumb to remember who the names of the characters were and so they had to remind us.
Sun, Sep 6, 2009, 12:40pm (UTC -5)
I couldn't get past the notion that the Klingons were the sole reason for Starfleet existing, and that peace with the Klingons would somehow call for the end of Starfleet, as if it served no other purpose. I found it beyond ridiculous.
Thu, Mar 11, 2010, 9:45am (UTC -5)
Finally saw it on Blu-Ray. It's been years since I last saw it. It was the first time I saw it in the theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Stunning 7.1 Dolby TrueHD surround.

Loved the original DVD commentary with Nick Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn. Flinn, who died of cancer a few years back, is really one of Trek's unsung heroes. Great energy and enthusiasm for the script and the story on the commentary.

Also loved the new Blu-Ray commentary done by Larry Nemecek (who did the TNG companion), and DS9's Ira Steven Behr. Interesting perspective having Behr commenting on one of Kirk's films. Also quite entertaining. Evidently, they both enjoyed Trek VI as much as I have.
Jeff O'Connor
Sun, Aug 29, 2010, 6:21pm (UTC -5)
I need to get this movie on Blu-Ray. It's my favorite of the bunch to this day, and the review nailed all the reasons for it. It's also sort of the piece that got me into Trek; I grew up in a household that was always watching TNG, and while I learned to love that show, when I was four it was just too stuffy and I didn't understand it.

Then comes TUC with its epic battle at the end and that's all I needed then. I'd watch it on VHS all the time and as I grew old enough to grasp TNG, around the time DS9 was entering its fifth and sixth seasons, I was still there watching TUC a couple of times a year and really digging into all its powerful statements about humanity. Love it.
Wed, Jan 19, 2011, 2:09am (UTC -5)
One of the little things I like about the space battle is that the Enterprise and the Excelsior combine forces to take out Chang's ship. Always thought it was a nice way of coming back to the "rivalry" between the two that was presented in ST3. And of course, the scene at the end in which the two ships are flying together was perfectly done.

Also a nice touch to make Sulu captain of the Excelsior, given how much he seemed to admire it.

I do wish they'd found a way to bring back Robin Curtis as Saavik rather than create a new character.
Fri, Feb 18, 2011, 11:16pm (UTC -5)
General Chang plays it perfect without the gruff voice. The guy who played Martok in DS9 would be a close second. But of course everyone loves Warf :)
Sat, Aug 20, 2011, 9:54pm (UTC -5)
A long time ago my father was on call in Stratford, Ontario. Stratford has the “Stratford Shakespeare Festival”. Christopher Plummer was performing. For some reason, my father had to go to the theatre and “stick a hypodermic needle in Christopher Plummer’s ass”!! The Kilingon cussing, according to my father, was unbearable!!
Sun, Oct 23, 2011, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
Odo, er, Colonel West's 23rd century presentation was printed on paper and he used a laser pointer. Really.
Thu, Mar 22, 2012, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
You mentioned that Brock Peters had to make a pretty racist comment in the film, and how ironic it was, since Peters is Black. Here's something else that's interesting. Peters also played the Black man in To Kill a Mockingbird who was wrongly convicted because of his race. It's little things like this that really elevate this film into something truly significant and special.
Mon, Sep 3, 2012, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
Khan and Dukat? How could you leave out Q in that listing of Trek's greatest villains? (Admittedly, he's less "hands on" being a god-being)
Mon, Sep 3, 2012, 5:53pm (UTC -5)
I don't really see Q as a "villain" per se. Certainly not in the same sense as these others.
Mon, Sep 3, 2012, 8:05pm (UTC -5)
Misanthrope I think is the best word. Picard called him that in "Deja Q".
Mon, Jan 21, 2013, 1:29pm (UTC -5)
An OK flick....not the best. Here are some problems I have: Checkov looks like a total idiot and seems confused for the entire film. The shape-shifter keeps the same voice no matter who she morphs to look like...except when she looks like Kirk. Then she sounds like him. Kirk thinks shapre-shifters are legends? What about the Salt Vampire in "Man Trap"? The way Garth morphed his appearance in "Whom Gods Destroy"? Wasn't Excelsior doing research on gaseous anomolies? Why does the Uhura state the Enterprise has this equipment for researching gaseous anomolies?
Mon, Jan 21, 2013, 1:59pm (UTC -5)
@Mahoney: I think Marta was a type of shapeshifter considered legendary.

I've always liked TUC, but it's got a lot of little logical gaffes that put it below TWK or FC.

- Technology has somewhat regressed. The Enterprise has actual cooks and Colonel West's presentation was on paper. WTF?

- For all the dialog about Praxis's effect on Kronos -- that the planet would have to be evacuated -- Kronos is still the Klingon homeworld a century later.

- The line about mothballing Starfleet was particularly crazy. What about the Romulans?

- Why were there no other ships in orbit of Camp Khitomer at the end? How did all the dignitaries get there?

- Why couldn't the Enterprise scan the weapon signatures of the torpedoes that hit Kronos 1 and determine that they weren't from Starfleet? Archer and Co. were able to do that more than 100 years earlier. Did Cartwright and Valeris provide Chang with the torpedoes?

Last question, and it's more of a puzzlement than a criticism. What the heck have Kirk and Co. been doing since the end of Star Trek V?

The timeline indicates six years passed between STV and STVI. I can understand why they did this -- they needed to account for the cast members' aging, because it seems only about a year passed between STII (released in 1982) and STV (released in 1989).

It's too bad a line or two about the Enterprise A's mission between 2287 and 2293 wasn't mentioned.
Tue, Apr 30, 2013, 5:30am (UTC -5)
Undiscovered Country is may favorite for a lot of little nuances. The scenes on the bridge of the Enterprise are well done. We get to observe conversations between the crew without the constant cutaway for a close up. There isn't an overabundance of chirps and flashing lights cluttering the scene. Although I did find the prescene of so many extras just standing around bridge like mannequins a bit bothersome. If these people aren't doing anything, why are they here?

The Klingon courtroom was very effective in filling me with a sense of dread and fear of Klingon "justice". I wouldn't risk getting so much as a traffic ticket on the Klingon home world.

I found the Rural Penthe scenes a bit too prison movie cliche but tolerable anyway. I found Kirk's escape just a little too easy. Klingons are obviously eager warriors but they are so terribly slow witted and stupid it's a wonder they have spaceships.

The reason the script introduces Valeris instead of bringing back Saavik is simply that Leonard Nimoy and the producers didn't want to turn Saavik into a traitor. Bringing in a new Vulcan was necessary. I thought Kim Catrall did a marvelous job. I don't have a problem with the forced mind-meld. These were dire circumstances.
Mon, Jun 10, 2013, 2:48am (UTC -5)
Kirk's escape from Rura Penthe was supposed to be too easy. That's why Kirk himself gets suspicious and slugs Marta. Chang helped engineer their jail-break so that he could have them both "killed while attempting escape."
Mon, Jun 10, 2013, 2:49am (UTC -5)
Totally agree on the courtroom stuff of course. Chilling show-trial stuff. I loved the nod to Adlai Stevenson ("Don't wait for the translation; answer me now!") from the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Thu, Jul 18, 2013, 12:17am (UTC -5)
Azetbur inherits her father's role as Chancellor here, but Redemption (which came out earlier the same year, but set a century later) had Gowron announcing that women can't even serve on the High Council...
Sun, Nov 3, 2013, 8:45am (UTC -5)
This is my favorite of all the movies.

Though I've also asked myself the question, as @ Paul above, about what happened to the planned evacuation of Kronos?

Still. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
Latex Zebra
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 8:06am (UTC -5)
There isn't a series of Star Trek that shows the evolved human sensibilities to be wanting somewhat.
We have members of the Federation/Starfleet conspiring for war, members of the Enterprise crew not suing for peace.
Captain Kirk wanting a race to die, die no less, out of revenge for his son. Jesus. Sisko gets grief for doing a few nasty things to get the Romulan’s involved in the Dominion War, a cause that was just in the fact it could help win a war that was killing millions. But people turn a blind eye to this!

Face it, aspects of the Federation are not as squeaky clean or evolved as it purports to be, it fails on numerous occasions to live up to its own expectations…
But the actions of a few do not detract from the ideal.

So, with that said can we finally put to bed the constant bickering over the values of evolved humans in Star Trek because throughout every series and in this case a movie, it is wishy washy at best.

Oh, this is a great movie though.
Latex Zebra
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 8:10am (UTC -5)
That doesn't show... Jeez Dan, get it right mate!
Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 5:50pm (UTC -5)
The Khitomer battle sequence is probably one of the best battle scenes in the entire Trek franchise, purely due to the suspense/tension factor. I felt the battle was kept relatively simplified in terms of effects, which actually worked to its benefit, unlike many other movies being too overly dependent on elaborate CGI and stretching out battle scenes for way too long *cough Transformers franchise cough*

And Jammer hits the nail on the head - the moment when Chang gets blowed up is one of the most satisfying villain deaths in all of Trek - in fact one of the best villain deaths of all time. I cheered very loudly the first time I watched this movie.
Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 5:58pm (UTC -5)
Review: "With the line being said by a black actor, Cartwright's prejudice has a disturbing, ironic dimension — even though his race is irrelevant in the movie itself."

I read somewhere that the actor playing Cartwright had to shoot that in multiple takes because he was very uncomfortable saying those lines due to the racial undertones. Nichelle Nichols also refused to read some lines she considered racist so Chekhov ended up saying "Guess who's coming to dinner?"
Captain Jon
Wed, Apr 8, 2015, 11:48pm (UTC -5)

When a key Klingon energy production facility explodes, leaving the Empire with only 50 years of life, the Klingons pursuit peace negotiations with the Federation. The U.S.S. Enterprise and crew, only three months from retirement, are grudgingly assigned to escort the Klingon Chancellor to Earth for the negotiations. But when the Klingon flagship is attacked and the chancellor assassinated, Kirk and McCoy are arrested as the only two suspects, leaving Spock and the Enterprise crew to prove their innocence while discovering who is behind the plot to begin an interstellar war.

Following the commercial and critical failure of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the future for the Star Trek cinematic universe appeared uncertain. Though Star Trek: The Next Generation was a hit on television, the producers weren't prepared to end their show to move that cast to the big screen just yet. With Star Trek's 25th anniversary on the horizon, Paramount sought ways of having a feature film ready in time. Harvey Bennett, who had produced every film since Star Trek II, wanted to revisit Ralph Winter's original idea for the fourth film; a prequel that recast the characters with younger actors meeting at Starfleet Academy.With Star Trek V writer David Loughery, Bennett wrote a script entitled The Academy Years. However, Paramount rejected the script and Bennett opted to leave the franchise.

Walter Koenig approached Paramount with a script that featured the Federation and Romulans going to war with the Klingons in which all the principal characters, except Spock and McCoy, would ultimately be killed. Paramount rejected the idea. Thus, Paramount chief Frank Mancuso turned to Leonard Nimoy to come up with a swan song for the original cast. Nimoy approached Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer to come up with an idea. Gradually, the two originated what would become The Undiscovered Country, a story that would serve as an allegory for the collapse of the Soviet Union. Because of the failure of Star Trek V, Paramount wanted to produce Star Trek VI cheaply, thus the producers spent two months battling the studio over the budget. Adding to the complications was Gene Roddenberry's dissatisfaction with the script, particularly the use of the character Saavik as well as the portrayal of his characters as being flawed and bigoted. Ultimately, however, Star Trek VI went into production with just about all of Roddenberry's concerns left unmet.

With the help of cinematographer Hiro Narita, director Nicholas Meyer set out to create a darker, moodier and more dramatic setting for The Undiscovered Country. The results succeed, creating a film that is far different from any of it's predecessors. Even with a limited budget, Meyer manages to make Star Trek VI feel larger and more epic in scope. There are numerous characters scattered across multiple planets and ships with galactic peace at stake. Sprinkled throughout the screenplay by Meyer and Denny Martin-Flinn are numerous literary classics, especially Shakespeare, which give a sense of style to the whole affair. Meyer's direction keeps the story moving at a fairly brisk pace and successfully juggles the various plot points. The pace drags slightly during the Rura'Penthe scenes but immediately picks up once Kirk and McCoy execute their escape.

Despite the dramatic mood, the returning cast members seem to be having a blast. They slip so easily into the characters they've played for 25 years that their performances seem natural and comfortable. They allow that comfort to infuse plenty of humor throughout that's neither forced nor out of place. Walter Koenig, in particular, gets several good moments of humor.

William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley are at the top of their game, giving performances that are more reserved than what we're accustom to but remain at the heart of the film. Nimoy allows more of Spock's dry humor to come forward than before while Shatner and Kelley (who spend most of the film's run time isolated from the rest of the cast) display their strong chemistry. They part with the roles in a very dignified fashion.

The cast is filled with strong actors giving good performances. Having been wasted in a thankless role in Star Trek V, David Warner is put to much better use as Klingon Chancellor Gorkon. Though he doesn't get much time before being killed off, Warner succeeds at making Gorkon sympathetic while at the same time leaving the question hanging as to whether or not he can be trusted. Kurtwood Smith and Rosanna DeSoto both make the most of their limited screen time. Iman does well in portraying a shape-shifting prisoner who uses her good looks at charms to try to seduce Kirk.

Of course, the biggest additions to the cast are in Christopher Plummer's General Chang and Kim Cattrall's Lieutenant Valeris. Plummer hams it up with every chance he gets, chewing the scenery in a court room scene that's sold solely upon it's atmosphere and his performance. He's at the top of his game as he spouts Shakespeare to taunt Kirk while his cloaked bird-of-prey blasts away at the Enterprise in a heart-pounding climax. It could've been over-the-top but Plummer keeps his performance reigned in just enough that it doesn't go too far. He's by far one of Star Trek's most entertaining villains.

Kim Cattrall gets saddled with a role that's pretty transparent once the story's mystery begins to unfold. Cattrall brings sass and a certain arrogance to Valeris that's entertaining but the ultimate revelation of her true intentions false flat. Had Meyer been successful in using Saavik it's most likely that the character's betrayal would not only have been shocking but tragic as well. But with Valeris it's neither of those things as her role is pretty obvious and predictable early on. Cattrall does well nonetheless though she's no Kirstie Alley.

Thus brings our attention to the story. Due to the presence of Valeris, the crew's search for a traitor is fairly obvious though still entertaining and well-executed. The dinner scene between the Enterprise crew and Klingons successfully conveys the tensions between the two sides but feels like it's missing something. The scene tries to say something yet doesn't go quite far enough. The court room scene, too, is good but not great as far as trials go. What makes the scene is the wonderful atmosphere established by Meyer and Plummer's performance. There are some pretty big conveniences that take place to get the plot into the third act. It's pretty hard to believe that the Enterprise could travel so deep into Klingon space to rescue Kirk and McCoy from a prison planet without encountering any Klingons. I also find it to be a stretch that the one Klingon who does discover the Enterprise doesn't have the equipment to tell him it's not a Klingon ship.

Those points aside, the story is still strong and very appropriate for when the movie debuted. The characters are challenged to accept peace after decades of conflict and their private introspections are well written. Though the Enterprise crew had never shown such signs of bigotry or prejudices in the past, there's no reason for Kirk to not hate Klingons after the death of his son. Meyer again portrays these characters as imperfect and human. It's also nice to see events from past entries acknowledged, including the death of Kirk's son, Kirk being demoted for disobeying orders and a humorous reference to Spock's death. Once again, these references make Star Trek VI feel like another piece in a bigger picture.

Visually The Undiscovered Country is a big improvement on The Final Frontier. Most notable is the clever assassination scene where Klingons float without gravity and the floating Klingon blood is well-realized. The shots of the Rura'Penthe planet as Kirk and McCoy escape are also beautiful and enhanced by Cliff Eidelman's score. The climactic space battle is tense and thrilling as the Enterprise is shot up again and again while frequently intercutting with the assassin's preparations. It's a great climax with the destruction of Chang's bird-of-prey at the hands of the Enterprise and Excelsior a very cheer worthy moment.

Cliff Eidelman's score is also stellar and amongst the frenchise's best. It's brooding and dramatic yet sweeping with moments of romance and brilliance. Eidelman sets his score apart from his predecessors by making it different. It's very engaging and one of my personal favorites.

The Undiscovered Country's closing moments are both touching and bittersweet as the Enterprise crew bid farewell after 25 years. The final scene is very effective and incorporates a nice bit of humor. It's a good instance of less is more.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country not only serves as a great celebration for the franchise's 25th anniversary but also as a swan song for the original Star Trek cast. The crew receives a well-earned round of applause as the Starship Enterprise sails into the sunset.

Writing: 1.5 / 2.0
Characters: 1.75 / 2.0
Acting: 1.75 / 2.0
Entertainment: 1.75 / 2.0
Music: 1.0 / 1.0
Visuals: 1.0 / 1.0

TOTAL: 8.75 / 10
Wed, Jun 3, 2015, 7:13pm (UTC -5)
I was in high school when this first came out, and I didn't much care for it. Some of my issues have been pointed out in the review & in the comments above. There are a few other things that bothered me:

- the inclusion of a shapeshifter already seemed like an "early 90's" cliche to me. There wasn't any particular reason why they needed a shapeshifter in the jailbreak scene.

- using Trek to make such a straightforward parallel to something that was happening at the moment seemed a bit jarring. I know that happened all the time in the 60's, but I didn't watch those episodes until nearly 20 years later.

-As others have commented, I would have expected some sort of more nuanced arguments. Pulling back forces from the border & starting commerce with Klngons makes sense, but the idea that you have some sort of large-scale disarmament when there are threats both known (Romulans) & unknown is an argument that could intelligently be attacked without racial slurs.

Anyway, I watched this on blu-ray recently. As I was watching it, I realized I probably hadn't viewed it in its entirety since that day I saw it in theaters (I've definitely seen bits & pieces since then on cable). It still has all the problems, but I accepted them & enjoyed the ride. And the shapeshifter gave us one last Kirk vs. Kirk fight, so I'm fine with it now, especially since the 90's is now retro.

A few more thoughts on the movie that haven't been remarked on above:

-Kim Cattrall was excellent as a Vulcan. It's a shame this was the only time we got to see her in that role. I never really had any problem with her character's motivations since it seems there may be logical reasons not to trust a long-term peace with the Klingons to hold. The pro-peace argument itself wasn't made detailed beyond the generic "wouldn't peace be nice?" (the answer, "of course, but at what risk?")

-I know it would have made the movie 10 minutes longer, but if they wanted to do a mystery, they should have introduced 2 more new characters to the crew. That way we could have been wondering which new person was a conspirator. It was just a bit obvious the only character we hadn't known for 25 years was the betrayer.

-The scenes where a bridge officer confronts someone during the investigation with 10 or more crewmen standing around in the background struck me as odd, but I think it gives the impression of a trial, with the crewmen there as a jury. There is an actual (show) trial with the Klingons, but everyone's beliefs are on trial during this movie.
Thu, Nov 26, 2015, 7:17am (UTC -5)
I wasn't surprised that Brock Peters, a black actor, said the most overtly racist line. Trek directors love using that bit of irony. They did the same thing in Enterprise when they made black Terra Prime members who were as vile as Klansmen about Vulcans.

This is my favorite Trek movie but the script had way too much exposition in the dialogue. And forgive me but I'm really tired of how Trek ignores basic astrophysics. 1. If Rura Penthe is just an asteroid then it wouldn't have enough mass for Earth like gravity let alone an atmosphere. 2. How did the Excelsior feel the way shock of the explosion of Praxis from several light years away?

My problem with the plot was how they CONVENIENTLY find the two crewmen who wore the gravity boots right there dead in the hallway. Took them half the damn movie to find the boots and zero seconds to figure out who wore them because, hello, two dead bodies are right here where the dialogue needs them.
Sun, Jul 17, 2016, 1:05pm (UTC -5)
@Gatton @Jammer You are both so right about the newly-inserted "gong" shots of the conspirators, in which the face of each conspirator is shown with an accompanying "gong" sound). Time and again, Nicholas Meyer has said that "art thrives on restrictions," on not showing that which it would be more effective for the audience to imagine for itself. I would like to think that this material was inserted over Meaer's (proverbial) rwad body. If it was his idea, when did he start to think audiences became so stupid?
Sat, Oct 1, 2016, 12:55am (UTC -5)
I thought the movie did show that Spock's forced mind meld on Valeris was a huge violation of her person. Look again at the crew's faces as the camera pans on them-most of them are horrified, Uhura looks almost like she's witnessing a rape. Spock and Valeris are both nearly in tears afterwards, it's clear he didn't want to have to do it and she's been horribly violated. No one says anything because he did what he had to, and none of them were Vulcan, so even though they could sort of sense how horrible what he did was, they probably didn't truly know the depth of it. What could they say, really? "Captain, I wish you hadn't had to mindrape that girl in order to save the galaxy"? What would that accomplish? I thought the more subtle reaction shots of the crew, as well as Spock and Valeris' reactions, we're enough to drive the point home.
Mon, Feb 13, 2017, 9:03pm (UTC -5)
The whole "mindrape" accusation annoys me. As a preface, I believe torturing people in an attempt to gain information is unethical and immoral. That said, Spock wasn't torturing her. He was extricating information from her that he knew she possessed using a technique that was painful solely because she was resisting it.

It's Saavik's gender that has everyone squirming in their seats. If Saavik were male, this wouldn't be a topic of conversation.
Sat, Apr 22, 2017, 3:47am (UTC -5)

I don't speak for everyone, but if you're referring to my comment, I call all "forced psychic entry into someone's mind" scenes that come up in Trek mindrape, because that's what it's called. It's portrayed as a deep violation of a person to do that to them without consent, force your way into their mind, and in the common vernacular it is referred to as "mindrape".

It has nothing to do with Saavik being female. There's a TNG episode where a guy mindrapes two female characters and one male character and it is explicitly called rape by the characters in that episode. A scene from the original series where Spock mindmelds with an unaware sleeping Kirk is often referred to as mindrape as well.

It's called mindrape because it's considered a horrible violation of a person, not because it's implied that it's saying something bad about Spock. The term is meant to make you uncomfortable, to emphasis what the writers are trying to get across: that it's a horrible violation and thus a truly last-resort when Spock does it. I don't use the term because I am accusing Spock of being a bad person, I use the term because in Sci-fi, that is the term used to describe the event that took place. It's not a 100% accurate term but it's the term used.
Sat, Apr 22, 2017, 3:59am (UTC -5)
**Valeris, not Saavik
Fri, Aug 11, 2017, 5:13pm (UTC -5)
As the story goes, only 18 months or so passed between the time Meyer and Nimoy hatched out the movie's concept, and the premiere date. The production does appear to come off as rushed. Certain lines of dialogue appear to not have "ended" the way humans (or even Klingons) normally finish a sentence. The resolution murder mystery itself would probably give Nancy Drew a chuckel (expand search to include uniforms.... find uniforms... conveniently run into the wearer of the uniforms who had just been shot)... OK, so the plot isn't air-tight.

There is plot, though, and then there is story, and Star Trek VI, unique among all 13 of the Star Trek films, is actually ABOUT something from beginning to end. And unlike the other movies - for examlple, the overly referential III and VII - ir is not about the Star Trek universe - it is about something in our universe.

it's about the fear Kirk described when "the end of history" is perceived by a society to be upon it. " The "end of history" line came from phiolosopher Francis Fukuyama, who mused the end of history was upon us once the Cold War ended. He wondered, at that point, whether nations had reached the end point of their evolution, with certain nations with certain ideals to be forever history's "winners" and others with discarded ideas to be history's "losers."

As Fukuyama would admit, though, September 11 proved that , "We haven't run out of history quite yet."

I found the storyline of the Berlin Wall coming down in space to be compelling - uniike shopworn science fiction staples like the search for God or the Robot God, the fountain of youth, time travel, and so forth.

Also, for the first 45 minutes or so, this movie is a genuine curveball. We REALLY don't know what's going to happen once Kirk and McCoy are arrested. Sure, we know that in the end things will be OK, but the screenwriting in this movie was much less paint-by-numbers than in previous (or subsequent) entries. Even a pretty good movie iike VIII had a conclusion that was fore-ordained (we knew First Contact would indeed happen...., Again. Not much suspense there).

Director Nicholas Meyer is a crowd please who knows how to use the camera, how to frame the action, and how to tell a story in visua terms. There is nothing wrong with that. Every one of the regulars was given something to do. Uhura got a chance to save the day, as did Sulu, and Chekov and Scotty played important roles in the investigation. These characters were actually portrayed, for once, as competent - not as comic weaklings or burn victims.

The special effects hold up even today, the music fit the tone of the movie, the action scenes were reasonably well-staged, and at times, you even got the impression that the things in the movie that were happening, were indeed actually happening. For example, the scene where Spock, Scotty, Chekov, Sulu and Uhura deduce (in true Holmes fashion) how the attack on the Klingon vessel occurred. 3 minutes of just dialogue and characters thinking. Try finding that in an action movie today - or in any movie made for mass entertainment.

My one complaint (other than the cheap theatrical trick that was the Spock mind-rape scene, which demeaned the character and the audience) was that the movie did take itself a little too seriously.... Some of the time. That's an offense, to be sure, but the movie is in good (or bad, as it were) company here: The Motion Picture, III (which was staged with the solemnity of a funeral), VII (with that mind-bogglingly awful scene of Picard's vision of fantasy life in the Nexus), IX (with its shallo pontification about genocide), took themselves and their ideas at least as seriously, and their ideas were seriously crummier than the ideas in VI.
Tue, Dec 19, 2017, 8:30am (UTC -5)
Always enjoyed this one, and brings back fond memories. The allegory is a little heavy-handed, but TOS never shied away from that. Nimoy, Meyer, and co. made a great team.
The Klingons' behaviour in this film seems more akin to the way it was in TOS, not in keeping with what previous films and TNG had begun to establish. It's not really a complaint, since the plot demanded it.
The Romulans could have been substituted for the Klingons with almost no changes required, right down to sending Kirk and McCoy to Remus instead of Rura Penthe. Valeris could have easily been a Romulan spy, which would have explained a lot. Kirk's personal history with the Klingons makes it essential that they are the main antagonists in this film, but if Star Trek III had gone the way Harve Bennett originally intended (with Romulans as the antagonists) then VI would have worked beautifully that way too.
Wed, May 23, 2018, 6:26am (UTC -5)
Without a doubt my favorite Star Trek movie (sorry khan). I just find I can watch again and again. Kirk is bit too old to fight etc but apart from that its very well done.
Cody B
Thu, Jun 21, 2018, 9:43am (UTC -5)
Not sure how you could give Star Trek The Motion Picture the same rating as Search for Spock and Undiscovered Country. Of course ratings are subjective and differ between everyone but not many people are going to watch Trek 1 and then Trek 6 and say “I don’t know, I liked Trek 1 more or atleast the same”. No when asked to compare the two it would be trash (pretty looking trash though) against treasure. I think you MIGHT be looking at Trek 1 with nostalgia goggles on. I’m not saying it deserves to be torn apart, I myself seem to enjoy it more than most people, but giving it the same rating as Trek 3 and Trek 6 seems to be a bit crazy to me
Tue, Jul 24, 2018, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
I have not yet seen the entire movie, but I have seen several film clips---including the one about which there has been so much controversy that I have to comment on it. We all know that Valeris was subjected to an extreme interrogation. What most people do not know is that she asked for it, and she got it in spades, and here is the reason: she represented a perfect example of something that was told to me a long time ago by a New York City homicide detective. He said, "There is nothing worse than a lousy one of your own." He knew whereof he spoke. And Valeris was just that, a lousy one of her own, a Starfleet officer turned bad apple, a turncoat who not only betrayed the Federation but also proved a terrible disappointment to the one who had trained her and all that---and one has to feel for Spock, for Captain Kirk who presided over the interrogation, for his crew, for just about everyone present. I for one could feel only sympathy for all of them, and although they all recovered from that episode it was never the same after that. And so, even after all things were resolved, I had a sour taste in my mouth, and so if I ever get to see the entire movie I will do so with that uncomfortable memory. A shame, too.
Other Chris
Sun, May 19, 2019, 2:52pm (UTC -5)
Just saw this again for the fifth or sixth time. Boy, do I love this movie! It's the best retirement these characters could ever get, and the Cold War commentary is so very inspirational. Everything about it just works, especially that boldly different soundtrack. What a joy.
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 7:23pm (UTC -5)
The clocks are annoying, and the phaser storage in—- the galley??— are goofy.

This is no WOK, but there is a lot of very good stuff here. Kim Cattrall is wonderful. I’m aware that they wanted this to be Saavik, and that Mr Roddenberry vetoed it.

I can see that it feels like a plausible arc for Saavik, and obviously lines here were meant to echo WOK. But at the same time, especially in light of recent shows attempting Trek, I’m really respecting Roddenberry’s vision.

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