1986 Certificate: pg

Synopsis

The crew of the Starship Enterprise touch down in '80s San Francisco for the most accessible movie in the series, at least for non-Trekkers. With a plot that sees Kirk and the crew racing to take two humpback whales back to the future in order to save Earth from destruction, it's a reminder of what made the original TV series so great, eschewing flashy space battles for warmly witty fun and great character moments.

Director

  • Leonard Nimoy

Cast

  • William Shatner

  • Leonard Nimoy

  • DeForest Kelley

  • Catherine Hicks

Review

With no villain, an overly-worthy concept that borders on the ridiculous and virtually no space-based action, this might well have been a complete disaster.

Instead, under the playful direction of Spock himself - Leonard Nimoy - it's a hugely enjoyable romp that, by stripping away the series' trademark special effects and exotic intergalactic locations, highlights the remarkable chemistry between the cast and the strength of their characterisations.

When a gargantuan alien probe suddenly arrives above Earth and begins destroying the planet while emitting strange high-pitched noises, James T Kirk (Shatner) and his crew are called to help.

Having lost the USS Enterprise in battle, they fly to the scene in a captured Klingon Warbird, Spock quickly determining that the shrieking sounds are actually whale song.

Coming to the conclusion that the probe is attempting to communicate with the long-extinct humpback whale, the crew hatch a plan to jump back in time and bring back the mighty mammal.

Finding themselves in San Francisco, circa 1986, Kirk, Spock and the gang do their best to adapt to local customs as they split up and try to gather the materials they will need for their vital mission.

Purists may balk at the sight of Spock using his Vulcan nerve pinch on an obnoxious punk rocker, but for those with a sense of humour, this fourth instalment is extremely entertaining.

Wisely, Nimoy falls back on the strength of the characters that Star Trek guru Gene Roddenberry created, bringing their endearing idiosyncrasies and squabbles to the fore, and letting the blockbuster pyrotechnics take a backseat.

The roguish Shatner in particular is in his element as he wines and dines local whale expert Gillian (Hicks), the effortlessly charming aspects of the film always overriding the silliness at the centre of its cloying, tellingly-eighties "save the whales" storyline.

Nevertheless, compared with the ham-fisted anti-nuclear stance of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, released a year later, the ecological message here is positively profound, and it's all carried off with a flip humour that invites you along for the ride.

One of the most financially successful films in the franchise, The Voyage Home proves that the essence of the series is not found in phasers and space skirmishes but in the basic human (and half-human) relationships at the heart of the saga.

And any film that sees Captain Kirk shout "Double dumbass on you!" at an irate taxi driver has got to be worth a look, no?