10/6/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "The Undiscovered Country"

Vital Information
Series: The Original Series
Episode: MovieVI
Release Date: December 6, 1991
Written by: Nicholas Meyer & Denny Martin Flinn, Leonard Nimoy and Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer

Premise
On the eve of interstellar peace, Kirk and Bones are charged with the assassination of a Klingon Chancellor for plagiarizing Shakespeare.

Review
Somewhere deep in Klingon space, a moon explodes. And somewhere along the neutral zone, Captain Sulu is enjoying a sip of tea. The subspace shockwave from the explosion of the Praxis moon roll through space and shakes up the Excelsior, causing Captain Sulu to drop his tea and hold on tight while the shields struggle to hold. Tracing the source of the explosion back to Praxis, Sulu offers the Klingons help, but the Klingon High Command on Qo'nos says that everything is under control and not to cross into the neutral zone. So, Sulu, undoubtedly wishing to distinguish himself from the actions of his old commander, obeys the order.

Two months later, Starfleet holds a meeting and says that the destruction of Praxis has polluted the atmosphere on Qo'nos. Without diverting resources away from military expenditures, the Klingon homeworld has only fifty years left to live. And while in a cold war with the Federation, they can't divert resources away from the military. The solution, then, is peace, and the disassembly of the Neutral Zone and the bases at its border. To accomplish this peace, Chancellor Gorkon is to be escorted into Federation space to hold peace talks. And guess who Spock volunteered for the job.
Who's got two thumbs and a grudge against Kruge??
On their way to pick up the chancellor, Kirk meets his new token Vulcan, Lt. Valeris, who is even more stuck up and strict than Saavik. But Spock says she's bright and she volunteered to be helmsmen since Sulu is a fancy-pants captain now. While they get underway, Kirk makes a personal log in which he highlights his utter distaste and loathing for Klingons; how he could never forgive them for the death of his son, David. So, yeah, lots of racist hatred being tossed around in this movie.

So Gorkon beams on board and introduces his posse, including his daughter, and his chief of staff, General Chang. Chang is the baddest Klingon you've ever seen, with a patch drilled onto his eye socket and bald head with only a sliver of hair on the back tied up in small ponytail. The foreheads all around are slightly less defined in the ridges than what we've seen in previous movies, so I'm just gonna go ahead and say that all these guys are still slowly coming off the augment virus. More on that later. After lunch.
The Last Supper
During lunch, the Klingons are actually quite civil, despite the cultural differences in eating styles. Quoting Shakespeare and philosophising over their blue squid meals. Gorkon jokes that you haven't experienced Shakespeare until you've heard it in the original Klingon. The meal ends on an awkward moment when Kirk attributes something Chang said to Hitler... and then they go their separate ways. And then the crap hits the fan. While the Klingons are minding their own business, a torpedo seems to shoot from the Enterprise and cripples the Klingon ship. And then two federation officers beam over and shoot up the place, dismembering a guard and mortally wounding Chancellor Gorkon.

Completely surprised, Kirk and Bones beam over and try to help. Thick, pink, yogurty blood is everywhere, lending further credence to my retcon theory that this particular group of Klingons are still holding fast to the final vestiges of the augment virus. Without knowing Klingon anatomy, Bones rushes to help Gorkon, but when he dies on the operating table [read: dining table], Chang puts the two humans into custody. And from there, they go on trial.
Also playing that night: Kortok, the Klingon Magician!
The trial is pretty much a kangaroo court, but at least Kirk and Bones are represented by a familiar face. General Worf, father of Mog, grandfather of Lt. Worf of the USS Enterprise-D, goes to our heroes' defense. While Chang gets the crowd riled up and convinces the judge that they are guilty, Worf convinces the judge to forego the death penalty in the interest of peace and send them to Rura Penthe, the Klingon mining colony. On Rura Penthe, Kirk and Bones meet a new friend named Martia who says she knows a way to escape. What she doesn't immediately say is that she is a shape-shifter. She helps them out, but in the end it turns out to be an elaborate ruse. She set them up to be killed while attempting escape.

Meanwhile, back on the Enterprise, Spock channels his ancient ancestor, Sherlock Holmes, and investigates the murder of Chancellor Gorkon along with his very own John Watson, Lt. Valeris. He postulates that the Klingons have a new weapon; a Bird-of-Prey that can fire while cloaked. The crew sweeps through the ship looking for the incriminating gravity boots and environment suits, but the boots turn up in a locker of a man for whom they wouldn't fit. And it's Scotty who eventually finds the suits tucked away in a ventilation shaft. Ain't nobody got time for that, though, 'cause they gotta go pick up Kirk and Bones. Hastily trying to read Klingonese to the border patrol, they sneak into Klingon territory and beam them up just as the warden was about to explain the whole plot.
Impeccable timing, Mr. Spock.
Now back to the investigation, Bones, Kirk and Spock randomly run into some dead bodies in the hallway. They are the men who were responsible for shooting Gorkon. Naturally, the person who hired them, saw fit to dispose of them. So, in a flash of brilliance, Spock calls the court reporter to sickbay to take statements from the dead bodies. The idea being that the person who hired them would come to finish the job they started. Imagine Spock's surprise when in walks Lt. Valeris with a phaser. In fact, Spock is more than surprised. He is enraged. This is the woman he intended to take his place on the Enterprise and she has betrayed him. He smacks the phaser out of her hand, and they all go to the bridge.

On the bridge, Valeris is questioned, but she stubbornly refuses to talk. So Spock takes the liberty of initiating a mind meld with her. After a few seconds, they know the names of all of the conspirators. Including General Chang. What they don't know is the secret location of the new peace talks. So Kirk calls up Captain Sulu, who obviously has the inside track, and asks him. Sulu tells them the peace talks are to be held at Camp Khitomer. It's now a race to get there before Chang. Which they do... but then Chang arrives cloaked. And fires on the Enterprise.
Really, Kirk, how many Enterprises are you going to
end up destroying before you retire?
Chang opens comm frequencies and heckles Kirk with Shakespeare before giving him the final blow. Spock, however, comes up with the brilliant plan to track the gasses from Chang's tailpipe with a modified torpedo. So while he and Bones to go to make the modifications, who arrives to help? Captain Sulu! The Excelsior beams into the area and draws some of the fire away from the Enterprise. Chang holds them both off in his cloaked ship, but Spock and Bones finish their torpedo just in time. They fire and Chang watches as the torpedo seeks him out. "To be, or not to be," are his final words as the Bird-of-Prey explodes in a fiery storm. Sulu commands the Excelsior to target that explosion and fire. The Enterprise does the same and Chang is utterly defeated.

Down at Camp Khitomer, however, an assassin has his sniper pointed at the Federation president. Peace talks are underway, and disaster is about to unfold. Kirk and a security party beam down. Kirk runs to the podium and tackles the president. The assassin picks a new target: Lt. Valeris. But before he can get off a shot, Scotty bursts into the room and pushes the Klingon through the window onto the floor. The Commander in Chief and Colonel Worf rush to the assassin, and take off his mask. It's not a Klingon, it's Colonel West. All the conspirators are accounted for. And as Cartwright attempts to flee, a security team from the Excelsior, including Sulu, beam down to stop him.
Where do you think you're going, sailor? ;D
When it's all said and done, Kirk is exonerated of the assassination charges, the conspiracy is uncovered, the Khitomer Accords are signed and the Federation is at peace with the Klingon Empire. Meanwhile, the Enterprise bids a fond farewell to the Excelsior and Captain Sulu. And space dock calls the Enterprise back home to be decommissioned. Spock thinks about it for a minute and says, "If I were human, I believe my response would be, 'Go to Hell.'... If I were human." So Chekov asks for a heading and Kirk says "Second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning." Thus ending the adventures of the original crew of the USS Enterprise.

Overall Thoughts
I almost got a little choked up at the end there. The Undiscovered Country is certainly not the best of the original crew movies, but it certainly isn't the worst. It's quite possibly the only way The Original Series could have ended, and most definitely the only movie that played out like a normal episode of the series (with Kirk as Captain on a regular mission, and not on vacation). Achieving peace with the Klingons was a vital step in solidifying the history of The Next Generation with a Klingon on the bridge (brilliantly brought to light by casting Michael Dorn in the role of Worf's grandfather). It also allowed us a unique insight into what Klingons are really about. They aren't the dumb savages that we assume them always to be. There are those, but some are actually brilliant and quote Shakespeare at the drop of a hat. With themes of racism and making peace, it may have had a few downsides with so many things going on and maybe a couple deus ex mechinas running around the script, but overall, it worked. I liked it. And I totally look forward to finally getting into The Next Generation!