Monday, May 29, 2023

Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country!

Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country wraps up the big screen saga of the original crew of the mighty Enterprise (almost). (There is one more movie which shows Captain Kirk's ultimate fate and hands off the big screen franchise to "The Next Generation" of Enterprise crew members.) This is one of my favorite of these movies overall and great way to wrap up this run of flicks which had hit both some high and low points over the dozen years or so over which the movies had run. Sadly Gene Roddenberry had passed away before this movie hit theaters, and it is appropriately enough dedicated to him. 

Klingons have always been a blessing and a bit of curse for the Star Trek universe. They are among the earliest antagonists in the show's history, albeit confined in look to the make-up limitations of the 60's. When we meet them in the film franchise they are much more ferocious and savage looking. A Klingon captain kills Kirk's son in the third movie and a Klingon Bird of Prey becomes the ship of necessity in the fourth movie for the wayward crew. A rogue Klingon captain supplies some required opposition in the fifth movie as well. In this second movie featuring them, the make-up is altered to allow for more expression from the actors and that's a fantastic move. By this time we'd seen Klingons on The Next Generation and they all looked more or less like lions, often undistinguishable from a distance. 

This movie is marked by tremendous acting outings from not only our regulars but from guest stars  such as David Warner, Brock Peters, and especially Christopher Plummer. The latter as a Shakespeare-spouting Klingon warlord is magnificent in every scene he appears in. Rarely have I been so disappointed to see a good villain dispatched. Series regulars Rene Auberjonois and Michael Dorn also show up in surprising roles. It's a great cast and even the sexy Kim Cattrall is not wasted as a gorgeous Vulcan. 

The plot is simple enough. Praxis, the mining moon of the Klingon home world explodes and assures that the society will be poisoned beyond repair withing fifty years. The first Federation ship to discover this is the Excelsior commanded by Captain Sulu. This moment is seized upon by both those who seek peace and those who want to end the long cold war between these cultures. When a peace envoy is murdered Kirk is accused and along with Bones is sentenced to a penal planet. It's up to Spock and the Enterprise crew to get to bottom of this murder mystery while Kirk and Bones work to free themselves. Everything ends up counting on the Enterprise reaching peace talks before more sabotage wrecks them and assures a deadly all-out war. 

The movie's themes of racial animus are well developed, and giving some of those dark thoughs to our heroes gives the movie a greater depth. They too have a journey ahead of them to learn the error of their dark emotions.  The echoes of the end of the Cold War are also welcomed, placing all of the characters in a historically transitory state, not unlike the reality of the movie cast itself which is moving on from things Star Trek. This movie has great pace. It's the second outing as director for Nicholas Meyer who also directed The Wrath of Khan. Some regard the latter as the best Trek flick, but I demure on that point. It's still a good one and I think this one is even better. I rank Star Trek VI as my second favorite among the the six original-cast Star Trek flicks. Here's my list:

1. Star Trek - The Motion Picture

2. Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country

3. Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan


4. Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home

5. Star Trek III - The Search for Spock

6. Star Trek V - The Final Frontier

Let me take a moment to praise the poster art of Bob Peak. His graces all of the posters for the series and are at once dramatic and handsome. They have a wonderful unity when viewed together. 

Star Trek was a fantastic television series which despite network enmity was able to survive and thrive in syndication. It became more than a show, it became a cult for its most ardent fans and the need for a movie was inevitable. The movies made using the original cast of the show are incredibly fun for me. The later incarnations of the Star Tek legacy are all good, some great, but the nothing can ever recapture the magic of that first show. It was like a bolt form the blue, from Gene Roddenberry's mind and assisted by his many stalwart helpers. It transformed those who watched it and felt compelled to watch  again and again. Many argue which is better - Star Wars or  Star Trek. I don't engage in that debate, but I will say without qualm that Star Trek is the more hopeful and inspiring of the two, the one that makes me fear the future just a little less, becaue there are people who are inspired by the show in it still. 

I'm not quite done with Star Trek yet. There is another movie some regard as one of the best "Star Trek" movies. More on that tomorrow. 

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  1. I think this is my favourite ST movie out of all of them. Shatner sends himself up in the scene where he fights 'himself' and Christopher Plummer is absolutely excellent.

    1. And effectively "kissing" himself too. Wonderful humor and I agree -- Plummer was masterful.

  2. The title "The Undiscovered Country" refers to death and what lies beyond death. It comes from the famous "To be or not to be" speech in Shakespeare's play Hamlet.

    1. A much more subtle reference to the end of days than the previous movie which lingered on it way too much.

  3. I remember watching this and wondering why they made the bridge of the Enterprise look like the Red October.

    Nonetheless, I really love this movie. I love how the cast gets a chance to close the book on their adventures, to exit with dignity and grace. Being released at a time when the Cold War was finally ending and being able to address that situation was pretty timely and awesome as well.

    1. The militaristic look the movies adopted with the second film really make sense in this one which is all about war. I really like how Sulu has his own ship, it shows change even as the shows are coming to an end.