Tidings from the Crew – star trek IV: the voyage home (1986) movie review – old sci-fi movie for Sci-Fi Month!!

Ahoy there mateys!  I am not a big movie watcher but sci-fi month of 2019 started this trend with total recall (1990), sphere (1998), and galaxy quest (1999).  The First Mate has seen practically every movie of the 80s and 90s and this movie came up somehow.  I had never seen it but somehow come under the impression that it had space whales.  So we decided to watch it together for Sci-Fi month.  So you get one from me and a bonus additional review from me crew.  Please note that I write like I talk and the First Mate writes like he thinks.  Hope you enjoy!

Side note: No movie plot here from me and there will be spoilers.  I will assume that everyone else previously saw this movie.

From the Captain:

Confession time: I do not care about Star Trek or Star Wars.  The only reason I watched any of them is because me best friend made me at some point in our friendship.  Her wedding cake had Leia (sp?) and Luke on it.  The tables were named after SW things.  The parents all sat at the Death Star table.  She was also me introduction to ST through watching Patrick Stewart reruns on tv while at her house.  Later when I met the First Mate, he happened to be a ST fan too.  He and his brother spent many an afternoon in the galley watching TNG and DS9 (whatever that means) while gnawing on their hard tack rations.  I get both SW and ST confuzzled and just don’t care.  Though I remember enjoying an episode with tribbles that we were required to watch in a math class.

So when it comes to STIV (or whatever) it was the space whales that I wanted to see.  Whales in space!  How did they travel from planet to planet?  Did the whale song travel well in zero gravity?  I readily agreed to watch movie 4 because whales are cool.  So were me expectations met?  Ummmm no.  Did I still have fun?  Aye, indeed.

The whales were basically lame.  The fake up-close whale shots made me laugh.  The plot around the whales and the alien probe was nonsensical.  The time travel came out of nowhere.  What I did end up loving about this movie was the comedic timing of William Shatner and his relationship with Spock.  Watching the two of them interact in the “modern day” 1986 San Francisco was excellent.  The movie is full of cheese but also heart.  I also enjoyed Gillian very much even if whales made her kooky.  I also loved making fun of all the things that the space people didn’t think about and 1986 humans didn’t question.  The big hole in the turf of the park where the ship sat.  The fact that only Gillian ran face-first into the invisible ship.  Or Spock attacking the person on the bus and no one cares.

Other fun non-Spock and Kirk aspects.  The doctor-dude being appalled and making snide comments about 20th century medicine.  The Russian dude being involved in the nuclear interrogation scene.  Uhura and her awesome boots being bad-ass and running around the city.  How the whaling boat turned in a circle at a pace that defies physics.  The group clumping in the city street and Kirk telling them they looked like a cadet review.

The end of the movie was not so great.  It should have ended with the crew in the water laughing and being happy while the whales swam off into the 80s rainbow mural.  The probe aspect was dumb.  The atmosphere climate change stuff was dumb.  The trial was super dumb.  I did like that Gillian went to be with her whale loves.  I still thought the whales were superfluous.

That said, I had a great time watching this with the First Mate while I made fun of it and he gave me nostalgic memories as we watched.  The humor was fun and I have no regrets about watching this film even though I have not magically become a ST fan.  I am not adverse to watching more ST films though I am told they are not as funny.  So I am in no rush.  I would be interested in hearing which films be the crew’s favorites and in which order I should watch the others should the occasion arise.  Arrr!

From the First Mate:

A confession: The Voyage Home was my introduction to Trek. My perceptions of what Trek is were irrevocably shaped by this silly film. Not the “Wagon Train to the stars” that was the original series that fascinated my parents. Not the competence porn of The Next Generation that was beloved by my scholastic peers. Not even the interpersonal character drama of Deep Space Nine about which I read a thousand and one essays in the 90s. No, my introduction was the Star Trek comedy film, and I loved every minute of it.

The Voyage Home is usually referred to as “the one with the whales.” While that description is accurate, the whales really are only the MacGuffen that drives the crew to travel back to 1986 for a…ahem…fish out of water tale. Our crew splits up and explores San Francisco of the past while trying to acquire whales and materials to bring those whales back to the future. And what we get are about sixty minutes of comedy set pieces that amused me when I was a child and still amuse me to this day.

Many of the comedic quotes of the film have entered the common lexicon I have with my siblings. I know a “hello, computer” will always elicit a laugh. We’ve referred to profanity as “more colorful metaphors” for over thirty years now. “Do you deny these charges?” is always met with “We deny nothing!” “Did you see that? No, and neither did you, so shut up.” And so many more.

Structurally, The Voyage Home isn’t really anything special. There’s no villain; the probe that advances the plot might as well be a force of nature. The facility of time travel is so casually brought up that it almost makes one believe Kirk and co. were routinely popping back into the past to fix some problem or another. And there’s no real sense of tension in the film as Kirk himself admits that he doesn’t even necessarily need the particular whales that they’re trying to acquire for most of the film (they could find other whales in the oceans). It’s a lowkey, charming film that bops along from comedic set piece to comedic set piece before it eventually brings it home for the expected conclusion. It’s probably my nostalgia talking, but I’d say that The Voyage Home is kinda cozy.

Past their prime starfleet officers genially saving the world and constantly cracking jokes at each other’s expense while evading any responsibility for their rule breaking set an odd standard in my mind for Star Trek. Two more classic Trek films followed that mostly kept the same tone and ethos. I’ve tried to enjoy the earlier Trek films, but I keep wondering where the humor went. And, of course, I do love TNG and DS9, just in completely different ways than this wonderfully goofy movie with time travel and whales.

Though I’d previously watched The Voyage Home nearly a dozen times over thirty years, it was surprising to me that I’d completely forgotten the ending. Not the resolution to the plot, no, that I remembered. I’d forgotten the last moment that was probably supposed to be a sentimental gift to the fans. The space comedy movie with the whales ends with a bit of schmaltz. And it ends kind of cozy, too.

There ye have it. ARRRR!

x The Captain

7 thoughts on “Tidings from the Crew – star trek IV: the voyage home (1986) movie review – old sci-fi movie for Sci-Fi Month!!

  1. The one with the whales! That’s how I always remember this film. It’s so silly. In fact, whenever I run into computer problems I will pick up my mouse and speak to it in Scotty’s voice, “Computer? Computer.” Hahaha. Like I can get it to listen to me. So silly.

    I’m glad it entertained you, even if it didn’t meet expectations. That’s about all we can ask for, eh?

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  2. So, you should watch them in order. And as a rule of thumb the even numbers are good and the uneven numbers are crap. ST #5 is one of the worst movies ever. My favorites are Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock (yes, uneven, #3, so?), Return Home. And then the STNG movies…. I really only love First Contact. And I quite like the Kelvin movies, because I think Pine and Quinto are great as Kirk and Spock. A lot of old trekkies like me don‘t consider them proper ST, but whatever…

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  3. I loved the description of The Next Generation as competence porn. I’m so guilty of that, it is exactly why I fell in love with Voyager. Of course I want to look at competent people having amazing adventures while being competent.

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