Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home completes the trio of stories which began with The Wrath of Khan and continued in The Search for Spock. In a decided shift in tone, this movie is much lighter in tone and in fact functions as defacto comedy for many of its minutes. Leonard Nimoy is again directing his castmates who welcome one newcomer to the show this time out.
This is a time travel story, something well examined by the vintage series in which our heroes travelled at various points to 1932, 1967 and 1968. So a trip to 1986, the year this movie was released seemed perfectly in keeping with the Star Trek tradition. The reason for that trip is pretty perfunctory as is the plot which surrounds the time travel excursion. The point of this movie is to get our familiar Enterprise crew in the relatively barbaric world of the 20th century so we can see them romp and caper to fulfill a rather hair-brained mission.
Yet another probe descends upon Earth (a well-designed probe but too soon after the debut movie's V'Ger) and sends a signal which is not answered. For reasons unrevealed that results in the probe beginning a process which seems intent on bringing down civilization on the planet. Into this mess fly our heroes after three months on Vulcan where Spock was undergoing treatment after his resurrection in the previous. The crew lost the Enterprise in a flaming spectacle in the last movie and so are flying to Earth in a Klingon Bird of Prey to face the consequences of their actions in the last movie. They find the threat to Earth, diagnose that only a whale will save the day. Since no whales survived into the 23rd century, they time travel to 1986 to pick up a few.
The beauty of watching our familiar crew try to pass as normal in the rough and tumble 20th century is humorous to say the least, especially moments such as when Scotty tries to talk to a computer or when Spock tries to come to some terms with the concept of cursing. Lots is said and done, but it's help of a whale expert named Gillian Taylor (played by Catherine Hicks) who assists them that makes their impossible mission possible. We see them reconfigure the Bird of Prey to hold the whales and we see them pick up the whales for transport to the future where they will do the most good. Soon after bringing the whales to future Earth the probe gets its desired message and wanders away, the Earth is saved.
This is a finale for the series it always felt like to me. The show was supposed to stop here as we find our heroes intact for the most part and even given a shiny new Enterprise to play with by the movie's end. The big screen saga feels complete, but it was not to be. I rate this one as fourth in my ordering of the original movies. It's highly entertaining, but aside from some rather familiar ecological themes lacks much heft, but then that wasn't the point of this one. It sure is the point of the next one. More on that next time.