Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
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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107 comments on this post
Thu, Nov 29, 2007, 12:49am (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 5, 2007, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
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)
Tue, Apr 15, 2008, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
Many of the Klingon actors were excellent.
Wed, May 7, 2008, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Jun 2, 2008, 2:21am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 5, 2008, 10:16am (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 3, 2008, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
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)
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-
Fri, Aug 29, 2008, 6:04am (UTC -5)
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)
Sun, Dec 7, 2008, 12:56pm (UTC -5)
Great review! I look forward to reading the rest of them!
Sun, Apr 19, 2009, 2:16pm (UTC -5)
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)
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)
Sun, Sep 6, 2009, 12:40pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Mar 11, 2010, 9:45am (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Aug 29, 2010, 6:21pm (UTC -5)
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)
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)
Sat, Aug 20, 2011, 9:54pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 23, 2011, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Mar 22, 2012, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 3, 2012, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 3, 2012, 5:53pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 3, 2012, 8:05pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 21, 2013, 1:29pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 21, 2013, 1:59pm (UTC -5)
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)
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)
Mon, Jun 10, 2013, 2:49am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 18, 2013, 12:17am (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 3, 2013, 8:45am (UTC -5)
Though I've also asked myself the question, as @ Paul above, about what happened to the planned evacuation of Kronos?
Still. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 8:06am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 8:10am (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 5:50pm (UTC -5)
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)
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?"
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)
- 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)
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)
Sat, Oct 1, 2016, 12:55am (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 13, 2017, 9:03pm (UTC -5)
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)
Fri, Aug 11, 2017, 5:13pm (UTC -5)
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)
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)
Thu, Jun 21, 2018, 9:43am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 24, 2018, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
Sun, May 19, 2019, 2:52pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 7:23pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Dec 25, 2020, 6:14pm (UTC -5)
The use of Shakespeare throughout is very well done.
Chang asking Kirk 'Have we not heard the chimes at midnight?' is great because Kirk himself grins about it.
Chang yelling “cry havoc!” is one of my favorite quotes.
Plummer’s Chang was a very nice twist on a Klingon.
Fri, Feb 5, 2021, 12:50pm (UTC -5)
"Cry havok, and let slip the dogs of war!"
Fri, Feb 5, 2021, 12:57pm (UTC -5)
Started in 1953. Everything from 'The Sound of Music, to Star Trek The Undiscovered Country, to Danny Collins. What a life.
I've never heard a bad word uttered about the man.
"Oh now, be honest, Captain. Warrior to warrior..."
Sun, Apr 25, 2021, 4:14pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 8:42am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 9:05am (UTC -5)
If you want the historical comparison, the disaster at Chernobyl led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the future of NATO was uncertain. Of course we know now that NATO, like its fictional allegory Starfleet, is still an important strategic coalition.
As for the Klingon Empire not falling like the USSR, perhaps Federation aid did prevent that. However, this too is comparable to a strong but different Russia prevailing even after the USSR dissolved. Certainly, the Klingons we see in TNG are culturally different than their TOS counterparts - more like Samurais than Soviets. Thus, despite the Klingon Empire surviving there was noticeably some sort of shakeup.
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 9:57am (UTC -5)
The Federation is an idealistic version of the UN and Starfleet is the idealistic version of the blue helmets/peacekeepers+NASA.
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 10:08am (UTC -5)
Indeed, GR wasn’t very happy with this movie. :-)
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 11:08am (UTC -5)
As for Starfleet being shut down, while a character did question if that's what would happen, didn't someone else mention that Starfleet's primary mission has always been exploration and that would continue.
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 11:14am (UTC -5)
From what I gather, Roddenberry disliked how this film overmilitarized Star Trek. He lobbied in vain to get the script changed.
The Praxis/Chernobyl allegory is for sure a bit clunky both from a historical and scientific perspective. However, I think the evocation of events such as these adds great weight to the movie's story.
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 11:29am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 11:33am (UTC -5)
That makes sense. Thinking of Russia under Putin now being 30 years removed from the fall of the USSR I can see the Klingons having recovered and developed to that extent.
This also provides interesting context to the first Klingon episode on TNG, Heart of Glory (I think that’s the name) where those two rogue Klingons want to hijack the Enterprise battle bridge and go off and wage war.
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 1:35pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
"You know what I've really never understood in this film: what are the Romulans doing here? What do they contribute narratively?"
Just within the confines of the film, they simply represent their own interests, which are that they will be in trouble if faced with a Klingon/Federation alliance. Naturally they would try to undermine this effort. I think they are present in the Khitomer Conference in the same spirit as the major factions are present in ST: II-IV at Starfleet headquarters. Their ambassadors are always involved in important interstellar affairs, both as witnesses and to give their imput.
"And how do they fit into the film's political allegory? Do they stand in for China here or something?"
I never thought there was a literal comparison being made here. In fact even the USA/Russia parallel is only applicable in broad strokes, in light of Spock's analogy of "only Nixon could go to China" in reference to peace with the Klingons. So to the extent that the Klingons are a perennial antagonist, they are Russia, China, or whatever other analogy sparks our imagination. Romulus is just those forces who stand to lose from peace. You can imagine they are the military industry, or states like North Korea, or anything else that helps. Personally I've always thought ST: VI highlighted the traitors within Starfleet much more than the Romulans, so to me it's more relevant that internal factions within Starfleet exist than the precise nature of who they are working with to disable the peace process.
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 4:56pm (UTC -5)
You think the Federation President would think of this; instead he takes military briefings while the Romulan ambassador is hanging out in his office.
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
"You think the Federation President would think of this; instead he takes military briefings while the Romulan ambassador is hanging out in his office."
Don't forget that of the various Starfleet people advising him, a strong contingent of them are no doubt purposely giving him false advice. To the extent that they may openly argue against peace talks, they would keep a possible Romulan involvement to themselves since they would not want to inadvertently reveal that they've had clandestine meetings with the Romulans.
The UFP President seems to be shown as not being totally aware of all elements of the military/strategic side of things. Maybe he's akin to what we later see in Homefront in DS9, more of a peacetime President.
Sun, Jul 11, 2021, 8:01pm (UTC -5)
Chernobyl was actually far worse for the USSR than this incident for the Klingons because of the negative externalities, like spewing radiation all over Europe.
Anyway, as for the 50 years, well, that was one projection from Spock with a certain agenda. But it's just a projection. 50 years is a very long time in Trek to fix a technobabble problem with all those famed Starfleet Engineers running around.
Romulans: well, the Romulans would have at least an ambassador there on Earth, so their absence would have been very strange in a matter involving the Feds and the Klingons. And he's pretty Obviously Evil.
I've heard Kirk's "let them die!" was followed by him immediately dismissing it as silly, but the dismissal was cut, severely annoying Shatner. And I agree, that didn't sound like Kirk, even with his deep grudge over David.
I also thought the racism angle was way overdone and didn't seem consistent with anything prior. And it was annoying to see the officers basically being racist, then Valeris jump on two grunts for doing the same thing moments later.
The Soviet/US parallel would have been stronger without it, because, obviously, race absolutely zero to do with that rivalry.
Mon, Jul 12, 2021, 1:42am (UTC -5)
" but Chernobyl was most likely the straw that broke its back.
Chernobyl was actually far worse for the USSR than this incident for the Klingons because of the negative externalities, like spewing radiation all over Europe."
I disagree. The Afghanistan war was far more significant, combined with a completely oversized military budget. Infrastructure crumbled, investment in education and technology was lacking. Empires normally fall because they overstretch. Then there was glasnost and perestroika which tried a crash course in liberalization and democratization. The Soviet constitution was one of the most democratic and modern ones when it was conceived but never really implemented because of several restricting laws like enemy of the state laws. Gorbachev tried to give power to the constitution but the reality of the Soviet system made this basically impossible. Intelligence and military were too far entrenched and powerful. The beauracracy was not inefficient. So after a time of economic and political upheaval the state security apparatus led a coup which was successfully countered by a popular uprising led by Jelzin after which the Russians just decided to dissolve the Soviet Union.
Chernobyl was certainly a very hurtful event but far less significant. Sure, it was costly but if the Soviet Union hadn't drained it's resources in the graveyard of empires aka Afghanistan it could have stomached one huge catastrophe.
In the movie they say something like 50% of the Klingon energy production was on Praaxis. Chernobyl was not that significant. To quote from wiki "and the four together (the Chernobyl reactors) produced about 10% of Ukraine's electricity at the time of the disaster." So maybe 2% of the electricity in the Soviet Union.
But for a 2 hour movie it is far easier to say. There was a boom and now we have to negotiate and Chernobyl was an event an American audience could easily connect with.
Mon, Jul 12, 2021, 1:43am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 12, 2021, 11:43am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 12, 2021, 2:50pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jul 17, 2021, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
Yes, it's stretched thin to meet the movie's metaphor, but it makes for such a great payoff that I think the audience can suspend disbelief of it. There's this amazing moment in the film where Kirk realizes that his bigotry towards Klingons was part of a greater evil that seized elements of the Federation:
KIRK: Bones, are you afraid of the future?
McCOY: I believe that was the general idea that I was trying to convey.
KIRK: Some people are afraid ...of what might happen. I was terrified.
McCOY: What terrified you, specifically?
KIRK: No more Neutral Zone. I was used to hating Klingons. ...It never even occurred to me to take Gorkon at his word. ...Spock was right.
McCOY: Try not to be too hard on yourself. We all felt exactly the same.
KIRK: No! Somebody felt a lot worse. ...I'm beginning to understand why.
If you don't have Kirk starting out prejudiced, you simply can't have this realization. Then too, the moment is juxtaposed with Spock's own realization that his bias towards Vulcans made him blindly trust Valeris.
The thing is, in order for a film to really succeed as a film, it should push our characters into situations we're not used to seeing them in where they start to question their own values. This is one reason why say, ST: Insurrection is so mediocre compared to this movie. Was Picard really challenged as a character to question Federation values or was he just doing his same old thing rooting out another badmiral? Many would say the ladder and that's precisely why Insurrection feels like another episode of TNG. It really lacks the punch a two-hour movie needs.
Anyway, I could go on. One day I'd really love to do an Elliott-style review of this movie. There are just so many rich scenes for the audience to discuss.
Sat, Jul 17, 2021, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
I think Star Trek's greatest time was when the Roddenberry idealism was still strong enough to have significant pull but talented writer could test it a little. It is the same with DS9 which was a great show but it gave writers the freedom to more and more and more dilute what Star Trek was at it's core, a future were humanity had made it. Sure, for us primitives it might look a little boring but for humans living today any kind of paradise probably would. In the end it all lead us step by step to the horrors of NuTrek where it is just "anything goes, but be nice if it is not too inconvenient or whatever".
Sat, Jul 17, 2021, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jul 17, 2021, 5:11pm (UTC -5)
And in Trek's recent history up until this point, Kirk not only spent years in either war or detente with the Klingons, with them looking for gaining the balance of power at every turn, but even in the feature films they apparently attack and try to kill humans on sight just to entertain themselves. While meanwhile John Schuck stands around Starfleet headquarters lying through his ass about it like a coward and grandstanding. So this is neither racism nor unreasonable prejudice, nor is it even an animus based on intolerance of any kind. Basically it's their mortal enemy who, when they are anywhere near a Klingon ship, they can expect to be in hostilities almost by default. And we should be surprised that people have trouble trusting them? And these are the pre-honor type Klingons that we later see in TNG. These guys have no problem playing dead and then attacking Earth. So if anything we should be surprised that Spock is so gullible as to trust them immediately. It's nothing short of a miracle that someone like Gorkon was even chancellor, and if anything the film understates to the extreme how unlikely a leader he was for the Klingons, especially right at that moment. He really was a visionary, and it took Spock and him to take an incredible risk for even a chance at peace.
Again, this is all provided we forget ST:V exists, which I think this film does.
Sat, Jul 17, 2021, 5:18pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 18, 2021, 1:08am (UTC -5)
Samno, one of the assassins says:"They all look alike."
while Burke, the other assassin remarks:"only top-of-the-line models can even talk..."
How much more clearly could this be about racism?
Thu, Jul 22, 2021, 7:36pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Aug 15, 2021, 9:42pm (UTC -5)
The first is about age. "Is it possible that we two, you and I, have grown so old and inflexible that we've outlived our usefulness?" Here to be "old" is less a physical condition than a mental outlook, a lazy (or to be more charitable, weary) cynicism masquerading as wisdom. The crew's racism is a parallel/ byproduct of being "old."
And like age, racism sneaks up on you. How can the crew of the Enterprise be racist? Didn't you see their idealistic young 60s selves? Didn't they have a party with the Klingons in the previous film? "I can't be racist, I have Klingon friends!" It happens. It happened right under their noses, but the crew has become old.
You want to know when you've really grown old, when it's time to pack it in and retire? It's when your experience becomes a liability rather than a benefit. The crew's experiences with the Klingons now work against them, which ties into the second thing TUC is doing with the racism...
Sun, Aug 15, 2021, 10:15pm (UTC -5)
Because, you know, the Klingons. They're not enlightened like the Federation. They need help, sort of like children. They're the bad guys, not the Federation. It has to be that way because Star Trek isn't racis--bwahHAHAHahaha, come on now!
'The Undiscovered County' lays bare the hypocrisy of Star Trek and works to correct it. The Klingons were the villains, an example of everything the opposite of humanity's ideals, to be wrong at every juncture, and to top it all off they looked and sounded like a hodge-podge of every "scary foreigner" stereotype all in one. The Klingons as originally conceived were a Bad Race.
The crew couldn't hope but to grow racist against Klingons... Star Trek was freakin' racist! And I for one am glad that the series didn't just try to pretend that wasn't the case but rather tackled it head on and had the courage to be self-deprecating about it. It turns what could've been an embarrassment to be ignored into a part of a larger and meaningful story arc.
Mon, Aug 16, 2021, 12:33am (UTC -5)
Valeris, on the other hand, has a coldness to her that informs her treachery. She casually bends the rules when it suits her (suggesting Romulan ale; firing a phaser in the kitchen) and is not very forthcoming (of her presence outside Kirk's quarters; of her misgivings to Spock), a combination that makes it very, very believable when she's found to be a conspirator.
In short, Valeris being the villain is a betrayal to the other characters. Saavik being the villain would have been a betrayal to *her* character.
(I also think it was a touch of brilliance that Kim Cattrall shaved her sideburns for the role. It makes her look slightly "off" in exactly the most appropriate way.)
Mon, Aug 16, 2021, 1:55am (UTC -5)
"Because, you know, the Klingons. They're not enlightened like the Federation. They need help, sort of like children. They're the bad guys, not the Federation. It has to be that way because Star Trek isn't racis--bwahHAHAHahaha, come on now!"
What kind of argument is that? The core of Star Trek is that the Federation has reached a point of development and cooperation that has turned the Federation into an ideal form of a state with a population that approaches the world in an enlightened way. Arguing that presenting it this way automatically means that it is racist, is another way of saying that you can only make shows or movies where either everybody is racists or nobody because everything else would be racist towards the made up races. I guess Roddenberry has to call the Klingon ambassador and ask for forgiveness.
If you take the idealized Federation out then you rip out the core of the concept that is Star Trek. So what you are complaining about is what made Star Trek unique.
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 4:48am (UTC -5)
The story that Nimoy and Meyer went with is the one that feels truest if it's going to be a commentary on contemporary humanity (which is explicitly what they were going for): the Federation and the Klingons discover they were both wrong about each other.
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 5:39am (UTC -5)
Let me ask you more directly. It is your view that if the Federation is portrayed as not racist and another state-like entity is portrayed as racist, and the Federation then helps that entity to overcome that racism, then that story is in itself always racist?
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 9:23am (UTC -5)
The answer's no. The issue is that the Klingons were specifically invented to be a bad race and that Rodenberry insisted that they again be the bad guys in a story about how racism is bad. The trouble (and irony) with that seems lost on him.
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 10:04am (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 10:09am (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 10:14am (UTC -5)
I think racism is never justified.
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 10:18am (UTC -5)
What about against the botfly?
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 10:20am (UTC -5)
The point is that it's not racism if it's actually accurate and important information. 'Don't approach the Jem'hadar or they will kill you' isn't racist, it's common sense. Where it becomes 'racist' in the modern sense of the word is when you're marginalizing a people who (a) don't have the power to resist, or (b) don't fit that mold and are being subjected to false assumptions. But as Chekhov said, if the shoe fits...
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 11:02am (UTC -5)
I guess we have different interpretations of racism. For me it means that somebody has the view that another race is inherently evil. That this race will always be evil. Furthermore a strong negative emotional reaction towards this race no matter how they act.
Knowing that the Jem Hadar are dangerous right now doesn't mean that they always will be. I agree with Julian's view, I guess. In my view the Federation was beyond racism and that Federation people who develop a negative outlook towards a race work actively against that or maybe cannot even perceive a racist perspective.
This movie was the first little crack which came to fruition in Star Trek Picard where journalists of major news organizations could be openly racist during an important interview which seemingly bothered nobody and entire worlds are racist enough to say:"let hundreds of millions of Romulans die". For me it all started here, in this movie.
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 11:06am (UTC -5)
The botfly is different. They are a vile species that deserves to be hated and we should try to murder them all. #love
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 7:24pm (UTC -5)
That's the way TOS treated the Klingons, and honestly that wouldn't even necessarily be that terrible of a thing except it *also* wanted the Klingons to be analogues for various modern real-life human peoples, usually Russians and "Orientals" (it would've helped immensely if the villainous Klingons were specifically a political group rather than an entire race/ species - Nazis rather than Germans - but alas...).
While I think deep down Kirk still knows better (which is the saddest part), you almost can't even blame Kirk's attitude when all his life the only redeemable thing Star Trek has shown him of the Klingons is the time they grudgingly apologized (for hunting him down for sport) and managed to behave themselves at a cocktail party to make up for it (again: for trying to kill him, out of boredom).
It's good that Rodenberry was committed to showing that the Klingons could be something more than barbarians, but he wanted to do so in a way that proved them inferior to the Federation/ Humanity (Star Trek's analogue for "the West"), which is, well, racist, and exactly the kind of framing that created the problem in the first place.
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 7:40pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 17, 2021, 8:06pm (UTC -5)
"The parallels with the Coke War were very clear when the movie was released"
Indeed, in particular I recognized the allusions to the Pepsi Peace Accords almost instantly!
Wed, Aug 18, 2021, 1:49am (UTC -5)
I never watched much TOS, so I didn't know the what the story purpose of the Klingons was. This discussion with you made me read up on then and yes, I agree, using the Klingons would have been problematic to tell the story Roddenberry wanted to tell.
" it's not immoral to be prejudiced against the Borg collective, or the creatures from 'Aliens,' or any number of fantasy "races" consisting of demons or monsters who are by their nature malicious."
If a species is actually malicious without any hope of every coming to an understanding with us, then acting based on that knowledge is not racism or prejudice, just rational behavior. Only because a lion will eat me, given the chance, doesn't mean that I hate lions for that.
But, as you mention, these are all products of Human fantasy, to give people in movies a justification to murder them without remorse. Let's wait until we actually find out that such species exist before we allow ourselves to hate them. ;)
Wed, Aug 18, 2021, 4:46am (UTC -5)
All good. I think we all are more or less on the same page and just haven't found the-one-size-fits-all description of the concepts we're talking about. :)
Nicolas Meyer has said that his final conversation with Rodenberry just before he died was a heated argument over the film, something he deeply regrets. From what I understand this lead to a small compromise: the theatrical cut removed the scenes featuring Colonel West (his proposal of a starfleet military operation, and the reveal that he was the "Klingon" assassin in disguise) so that Starfleet would look less warmongering and corrupt (and by extension the conspiracy feels more Klingon-involved), and then Meyer got to have his preferred cut on the video release.
Wed, Aug 18, 2021, 5:14am (UTC -5)
Both of Nicholas Meyer's Star Trek films are these meta deconstructions of different aspects of the TV show:
TWOK is about Kirk having to deal with long-term consequences now that his problems can't just be wrapped up and left behind in convenient weekly "episodes."
TUC is about the inevitable nasty implications of simple black-and-white, Good Guys and Bad Guys tropes of episodic genre television when you try to run them through the complexities of a real-life geopolitical event.
Meyer's very well-read (to the point where I can imagine him being kind of a snob, even) but I wonder whether this was all intentional or if it just sort of happened because that's where his interests lean.
Fri, Nov 5, 2021, 10:13pm (UTC -5)
"'Once again, we've saved civilization as we know it,' Kirk says."
To me, citing that line is incomplete without also citing McCoy's response: "Yes, and the good news is, they’re not going to prosecute."
Mon, Jan 31, 2022, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 3, 2022, 9:15pm (UTC -5)
"My favorite things have nearly always been extreme and fantastical, involving some kind of visual effects." - JJ Abrams
Wed, Mar 15, 2023, 2:26am (UTC -5)
-The change between quiet and loud; between still and tumultuous, is a constant interplay in the film. We open with still coffee, which turns into ripples and then an energy wave crashing. The initial conference at Starfleet is filled with tension, and ends quietly with just Kirk and Spock in a darkened room. There are many more like this. Even the tonal contrasts when Chang is attacking the Enterprise are interesting, with him relaxed and even enjoying himself while blasting the Federation ships; his calm smile and casual gestures to go along with the frantic efforts by Bones and Spock.
-The economical camera movements during busy scenes: watch the shots as crew members are searching the ship for gravity boots and then uniforms. How the entire search is choreographed like a dance, with entrances perfectly time, people moving past each other, and never dwelling on any of it for a single moment longer than we need to just see it. Meyer managed to make a ship-wide search for missing uniforms extremely exciting. HOW!? It's just amazing. The same goes for when they're trying to translate their destination into Klingon. Considering how little they really had to say the business going on in the scene made it seem quite busy.
-The sheer amount of old-school TOS material in this film may exceed I-V combined. This screenwriting team really knew their Trek. Chekhov gets his customary Russian fairy tale line, just as an example of sticking to their roots and writing dialogue the way they used to speak on the show - but with more flair and authority (since the main cast are all at least Lt. Cmdr's). Discussion scenes finally have the entire cast involved bouncing comments off each other rather than just the captain making all the decisions like tended to happen in the previous films. It felt more like the show. Kirk even gets a random kiss and gets ribbed about it.
One more thing about the cast - they all get A LOT of screen time, and it is extremely high quality screen time. Chekhov is worth way more than just one joke here (his pretend schtick in ST: V), and even seems to have an important job for a change. Scotty and Uhura are around a lot, chiming in and participating. Sulu had a funny role in relation to the others but even he was quite prominent. The big 3 of course get a lot, but even Valeris and some of the Klingons get quite a lot of screen time, making this the most highly functional ensemble piece in probably all of Trek.
I needn't go into all the Cold War references, but it's clear the Klingons have been re-cast in their TOS conception as the Russian Cold War opponents of the Federation. Chang even literally calls he and Kirk "Cold Warriors", as if it wasn't already clear enough. The Praxis explosion is an obvious reference, so yes, this is a Cold War story, but one that gives more credit to both sides than we could imagine happening in our real world at the moment. And even for them there are serious fears in play.
Kirk and Spock continue to give excellent performances, and Valeris is a welcome addition, who turns out to be on the more engaging, even peppy, Vulcans we've ever seen. I would not have said no to having her be a central main character in a spin-off TV show. Throwing the Shakespeareans into the cast just adds class to the whole thing.
I won't even go into the terrific costumes, great ship locations, terrific use of extras to make the ship feel even more populated than we've ever seen before, excellent FX, a thrilling story, and a climax that's actually inspiring rather than just being melodramatic (such as the end of ST:IV, which is bittersweet in a lovely way but fleeting).
It's pretty much perfect, I don't even know what I'd do to improve on it if I could. Top tier Trek of any era.
Wed, Mar 15, 2023, 2:44pm (UTC -5)
But the bigger loss to the film is on the side of the conspiracy. I think we are meant to sympathize with the conspirators a bit more than we do. As things stand Chang is a fun villain, but has no real point to make other than being evil. Cartwright, likewise, is just a hard-liner and finally a traitor. Valeris seems the most guilty in a way, maybe because of how enthusiastically logical she is about the whole thing. But beyond Kirk's remarks in his recorded log entry, and the general lack of enthusiasm for the crew to dine with the Klingons, there are some other signs in the script that almost anyone would have agreed with the conspirators at first. Uhura at the end even says that if they're going to arrest Valeris they should arrest all of them, because they all agreed with her. The thing, is, though, we in the audience didn't, and I think we were supposed to a little. When Valeris makes her plea to the bridge crew that she did the logical thing, that the Klingons could not be trusted, I think she means it earnestly, and yet her conduct is never accepted as being an honest expression of her logical conclusions. Spock seems positively offended by her conduct, but perhaps it would have been more interesting for there to be some acknowledgement that despite having made a bad choice, she still had the goal of helping of the Federation in her core. Something like that. And this is why it would have helped to have Saavik play the traitor, because we already knew and respected her, and it would mean more coming from that something was terribly wrong with the peace process. If someone with a reputation for honor and even compassion says it, we might take it at least a little seriously. And Valeris was right, Gorkon and his daughter were practically the only Klingons actually trying for peace; Chang and no doubt many others would have preferred to fight to the death. Who could have known that Gorkon was actually a visionary? That would take faith; but logic may well have suggested that the Federation was just being set up for invasion.
Another minor but interesting effect of losing Saavik is that we lose the Romulan connection, since she's half Romulan and it would have assisted in explaining the involvement of the Romulans and how they managed to make a go of working with the Klingons to develop the prototype ship. There was little point as it was, but had Saavik been involved the script would have had more room for at least a short scene or two with Ambassador Nanclus and his part in it.
Tue, Apr 11, 2023, 9:58pm (UTC -5)
Positives: Iman is cool af. The make-up was good, too.
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