A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 327 – Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – January 21st, 2011

After last night’s farce, it’s good to be back on track with a decent movie with a decent plot and decent writing and no fan dance. Oh, it’s got a moment or two that I quibble with, but I’ll get there. For the most part this is a nicely solid movie that slots in well with the timeline and continuity from the rest of the movies. Kirk’s antipathy towards Klingons is explored in depth, as is his reputation among them. The Excelsior shows up, there are familiar faces in Starfleet and in general it’s moving the whole wider universe along. It lays ground for a few things and explains other things and contains some nice moments for some of the crew (though I feel that, as usual, Chekhov is underused). Oh, and it’s got Kim Catrall and Iman in it, along with some familiar-to-Star Trek faces such as David Warner, Rene Auberjonois and Michael Dorn.

Let me get my quibbles out of the way first. There’s a scene where the Enterprise is en route to Rura Penthe and they have to communicate with some Klingons. On board the Enterprise the crew is frantically scrambling for paper copies of Klingon dictionaries so they can figure out what’s being said and respond correctly. It’s got some humorously mangled Klingon and forced laughter and helpless shrugging and it’s cute and all, but. In the movie’s trivia there’s a note that Nichelle Nichols protested this scene, saying that it would make more sense that Uhura would either speak the language or have the technology to look things up without resorting to hardcopy dictionaries. She was overruled, but I agree with her. I mean, hell, if I want to translate something into Klingon I’m sure there are computer programs out there and I sure as hell am not in the 23rd century. It’s a comedic anachronism and it serves that purpose well, but it sticks out like a Horta at a dinner party. My other quibble is with the Klingons’ response to Kirk holding a grudge after the death of his son. Granted, a lot of development has been done with the Klingons as a civilization since this movie was released, but the Klingons I know about would totally get someone wanting revenge or at least being irrevocably pissed off after someone murdered a family member. But I suppose that’s pretty geeky, even for me.

Quibbles aside (and no, I won’t go complaining about the purple blood), it really is a solid movie. Maybe not the best of the first six, but certainly a tighter story than the fifth movie. And it’s not just that I’m comparing it to the weakest of the bunch. It really does hold together well. With the explosion of their primary source of power, the Klingons are in a weakened position and unable to sustain a prolonged military opposition to the Federation. Talks are planned so as to reach some sort of peace accord between the two groups, but while accompanying the Klingon ambassador to Earth someone on the Enterprise shoots up the Klingon ship, killing the ambassador and some of the crew and framing Kirk and McCoy for it. They’re put on trial and sent to Rura Penthe, a prison planet, and the rest of the Enterprise crew has to figure out who the traitors in their midst are before Kirk and McCoy get themselves killed and the peace talks are completely ruined by more assassinations. It’s a sci-fi murder mystery with some big political concepts providing backdrop. Overall, while I think Star Trek has done philosophy fairly well at times, it does much better with politics.

And really, the political meanings here aren’t precisely difficult to grasp. After all, the whole thing was made not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall and it was released right at the end of the Cold War. The Klingon ambassador’s name (Chancellor Gorkon) is supposedly a portmanteau of Gorbachev and Lincoln. So really, we’re dealing with some political meanings that were, at the time, striking very close to home. And Star Trek does have a history of touching on political and social issues. There are nods to bigotry and fear of change, uncertainty over old enemies suddenly no longer being okay to hate. It doesn’t go too far in depth there. Not for many more than Kirk and Bones, who get a good deal of screen time, but it is touched on. And I like that the effort was made. One of the things I love best about Star Trek is its portrayal of the future as being one to hope for. I noted to Andy the other day that the casting for the movies was very nice indeed, putting both men and women as well as members of several different ethnicities on the bridges of starships in roles of command. The characters we see on screen are ones who acknowledge their own prejudices and face them, regretting that it took them so long to recognize them. Of course it could be handled better at times, but in this movie, as with the Trek universe as a whole, there’s true effort being put in and I like that.

I’m not usually a suspense or mystery fan, but there’s something about a sci-fi mystery that I enjoy. And in this movie there are so many great little exchanges and winks for fans to notice (like Sarek’s portrait in the dining room on the Enterprise and Bones saying ‘fascinating’ to Spock). It makes it all the more fun to watch to have it follow something dreadful, but even if it had followed The Voyage Home directly it still would have been just as good.

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January 21, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I agree that this movie was a quantum leap in quality from ST:TFF, and it remains one of my favorite Star Trek films. However, there’s one plot hole that bugs me every time I see it — at the beginning, it’s the Excelsior that has been charting gaseous anomalies. How did that equipment get on board the Enterprise at the end of the movie? Sure, they could have been on the same mission in different areas. But there’s no mention of the Enterprise having been doing that, and the mention of the Excelsior’s mission seems to be a set up that was botched in the follow-through. It’s like they forgot the beginning of the script by the time they got to the end.

    Comment by Jeff | January 22, 2011 | Reply

    • Andy actually mentioned that near the end of the movie. I didn’t quibble about it because it’s a plot hole, not a display of ignorance about the universe the story’s taking place in.

      And, well, there’s no fan dance.

      Comment by ajmovies | January 22, 2011 | Reply

      • Fair enough. Any movie in which there is no fan dance automatically earns an extra half-star from me, solely because of ST:TFF.

        Comment by Jeff | January 22, 2011


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