Generally, when time travel is introduced in a later entries to a franchise, it feels forced and contrived. What better way to continue a series then by sending characters off into different dimensions or different times? In the fourth Star Trek film, The Voyage Home, time travel is explored. However, much like the death and resurrection of Spock in the previous film, this seemingly tired idea comes off as fresh and logical – as logical as a story about space travel in the 23rd century can be, anyway.
The crew of the USS Enterprise are returning home after a renegade mission to retrieve Spock, while also being accused of war crimes against the Klingons after the events which transpired in the previous film. But while on the way back to Earth, they receive a transmission: the planet is under siege by an alien life form, and it’s sucking up the oceans. What do these beings want from us?
Spock, ever the logical being, points out that it’s entirely too egotistical to automatically assume that a visiting lifeform could only be trying to contact the human race. After all, we are only but one species on a planet full of living creatures. Once it’s discovered that the beings are, in fact, trying to contact the extinct species of the humpback whale, there is only one thing for the crew of the Enterprise to do: get a blue whale. Using the ship’s time traveling capabilities, Kirk and company must travel back to the late 1980’s and bring some of the creatures back with them.
So maybe it is a bit outlandish – but we’ve already got beings that can come back from the dead and read minds. Time travel really shouldn’t be out of the question. In a universe where beings can travel from planet to planet, a little fantasy must be accepted.
What follows is one highly entertaining and extremely funny film. Star Trek manages to reinvent itself by giving us a film about protecting the ecosystem in a way that doesn’t come off as preachy or overly serious. It’s anything but; it’s actually a straightforward comedy, tinged with science fiction.
Much of the success of the film would be directly attributed to director Leonard Nimoy. While he had been more or less put under observation while directing the previous entry, the success of the film granted him free roam over the project. Nimoy was approached to do this film and to give it his personal vision by Paramount; the vision that Nimoy had for them had been initially described as either the worst or the best idea that the franchise had ever come up with. It ended up, undoubtedly, being one of the best.
The film was shot almost entirely on location in San Francisco. Watching the crew attempt to exist in a “primitive” world is flat-out hilarious. The crew of the Enterprise wanders around the streets asking for nuclear reactors and using foul language, as that was how the people of Earth spoke at the time. But even weirder may be the fact that there really was no clear cut villain. This enabled the film to retain a light heart as opposed to the drama-heavy sequences found in the previous two films. Highlights include Kirk yelling “double-damn you!” while a car hits him, screaming obscenities, and Spock walking around the city with a bandana over his ears to conceal the points, making him look like a ninja the entire film. So, yes, you could say it’s much different than previous films in the serious – to say the least.
If nothing else, The Voyage Home is simply a fun watch. It’s got some great things to sat about the environment, but really, that’s not the focus of the film. It is simply meant to entertain and take the viewer on a journey. It’s well-acted, well-scripted, and very funny. If you’re in the mood for some Star Trek but don’t feel like getting too deep, this is the film for you.
The Franchise Files returns next week with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Don’t miss it!