9/24/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home"

Vital Information
Series: The Original Series
Episode: MovieIV
Release Date: November 26, 1986
Written by: Steve Meerson & Peter Krikes and Harve Bennett & Nicholas Meyer
Directed by: Leonard Nimoy

Premise
Kirk is prepared to face the charges against him for breaking the rules in the last movie, but before he can get home, he has to go back in time to save Earth from a giant space probe.

Review
Deep in the outer reaches of space, a monstrous space probe passes by the USS Saratoga and knocks its power out on the way to Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, a Klingon ambassador accuses Kirk of murdering a ship full of Klingons in his quest to exterminate the Klingon race with the Genesis probe (that thing will just not go away). The Federation president says that Kirk will face nine violations of Starfleet regulations, the crew of the Enterprise has been stuck on Vulcan for three months, and on top of all that, a computer is trying to find out how Spock feels. There's nowhere to go from here but up.

Well, in The Search for Spock, Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise stole a starship, blew it up, visited a forbidden planet, and apparently six other naughty things, so now they're getting ready to go back to Earth on their stolen Klingon Bird-of-Prey and face the music. There's just one hitch in this plan: the probe. It has now reached earth, shut down main power to... everything... and caused a huge weather phenomenon that blocked out the sun. So, basically, humanity has however long it'll take for Earth to freeze from lack of sunlight to tell this thing to move out of the way.
"When this is over, I'm quitting Starfleet and starting a gumbo restaurant."
In their Klingon ship, Kirk and the crew approach Earth and pick up a distress call from the president with the manly gray beard saying that Earth is under attack, so they pick up the probe's transmissions and analyze it. Since the transmission appears to be directed at the oceans, Kirk has Uhura compensate for the density of the water. When the audio effects are all in, the probe's transmission ends up sounding a lot like whale song; specifically, the extinct humpback whale. There's only one way they can get a humpback whale to answer the probe: The Guardian of Forev-... er... wait, no, the highly dangerous and tricky slingshot time warp maneuver. So there are two ways. We'll go with the dangerous one for now.

When they arrive in 1986, they confirm the date by testing the pollution in the air. Then they go into cloak and land in the middle of a park in San Francisco. After scaring off a couple of trash guys, the crew sets out to downtown. Their mission: 1) find humpback whales 2) get them on board the Klingon ship 3) fix the ship's dilithium crystals so they can go home. They split up to achieve their separate goals. Spock and Kirk go for the whales, Bones and Scotty go to build a proper tank, Uhura and Chekov find some nuclear power to fix the crystals.
Spock would like to take this opportunity to learn karate.
Spock and Kirk easily find some whales after they see an advertisement for the local whale institute where they meet George, Gracie and  Dr. Gillian Taylor. George and Gracie are the whales and Gillian is the nice lady who knows everything about them. So Spock and Kirk get to know about the whales in their own unique way: Spock mind melds with Gracie and Kirk seduces Gillian. Meanwhile, Bones and Scotty are having a time of their own getting some plexiglass to make a whale tank. Luckily, they have an ace up their sleeves. They meet with a guy who deals in plexiglass and trade the secret formula for transparent aluminum in exchange for their required plexiglass. Also, Sulu learns how to drive a helicopter so they can lift all that plexiglass to the ship.

Things are just about set to go; Kirk is ready to pick up the whales, the plexiglass is ready to be delivered, everything is running smoothly until Chekov screws things up. He finds the USS Enterprise, the aircraft carrier, and, with Uhura's help, steals some of its nuclear power. Well, the officers on board sense the power drain and go looking for him. He hands the power device over to Uhura who beams up to the Klingon ship. But there's not enough transporter power to get Chekov, too, and he's captured. After escaping by attempting and failing to stun his captors, he runs and jumps off a high platform and hospitalizes himself.
It's possible they just got too high.
Chekov arrives at Mercy Hospital, so now they have to go save him before taking off. But to make matters worse, Gillian decided she wants to help, so she wandered off into the park and ran into the cloaked ship. So they beam her aboard, explain a few things, and then run off to save Chekov. With Gillian's help, they sneak into the hospital and pretend to be doctors. Chekov, a suspected Russian spy, is being kept under guard, but Bones easily tricks them into believing they have an emergency. He has a bit of a fight with the attending surgeon and then Kirk locks the surgeon and his team in a small room. Bones heals Chekov, and they leave. The guards give chase once they see that Chekov is being kidnapped, but they beam up in the elevator and make a clean getaway.

Ok, so, Chekov is safe, the tank is built, the dilithium crystals are fixed, all they need now are the whales. Kirk gets their tracking frequency from Gillian and says his goodbyes. She can't, after all, go to the future with them. Right? Weellll... as soon as he starts transporting aboard the ship, Gillian hops on him and comes with. She's staying whether Kirk likes it or not. With Gillian aboard, they set out to find George and Gracie. They find them right in front of a whaling ship. Still cloaked, they head right over to them and just hover for a bit while the whaling ship takes aim. And then... the decloakening.
Klingons on the port bow, captain!
Successfully having scared off the whalers, Scotty beams up George and Gracie and they make their way to the future. In a great evolution of Spock's revived character, he makes his "best guess" with the calculations for time warp, and they head out. Back in the future, they crash into San Francisco Bay. While the rest of the crew abandons ship, Kirk releases the whales out of the cargo bay and into the ocean. Once they're out, Kirk joins his crew as the whales start talking to the probe. After a delightful reunion and conversation with its good buddies, George and Gracie, the Probe turns around, says "thank you!" and leaves the Sol system in peace. The day is saved! So, now it's time for Kirk to stand trial.

Oh, right, yeah, this was the whole reason they were coming back to Earth, wasn't it? The crew of the Enterprise all stand in front of the president to be judged. Because for some reason the president is the judge in the future. Ready to be taken out of Starfleet forever, they all, including Spock who "stands with his shipmates", they all hear the charges brought to them. And then the president says he's getting rid of all of them in light of them saving the entire Earth, and all. The only charge that sticks, disobeying a superior officer, is directed solely at Kirk and because of it, he is reduced in rank to Captain. Which is basically like grounding a nerd to his room with the Internet still on. And not only that, it wouldn't be Star Trek and Kirk wouldn't be Captain without the proper ship. They head out to the shipyard and find the brand spankin' new USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A. The only proper ship for them to go and "see what's out there."

Overall Thoughts
This had been my absolute favorite Star Trek movie for the longest time until my tastes matured and I learned to like The Wrath of Kahn just slightly better. I love a good comedy sci-fi, especially when that comedy sci-fi involves time travel! Every good Star Trek series needs a comedy relief. "The Trouble with Tribbles" was that for The Original Series and this movie is that for the movie series. And, in fact, this movie was so monstrously successful, that it was almost entirely responsible for green-lighting The Next Generation. Picard would take command almost a year after this movie was released and Trek would never be the same.