Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" Gets Better with Age (Happy B'day, Star Trek)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 233 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Running time: 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Meyer
WRITERS: Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn; from a story by Leonard Nimoy and Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal (based upon the TV series “Star Trek” created by Gene Roddenberry)
PRODUCERS: Steven-Charles Jaffe and Ralph Winter
EDITORS: Ronald Roose with William Hoy
Academy Award nominee


Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Kim Cattrall, Mark Lenard, Grace Lee Whitney, Brock Peters, Leon Russom, Kurtwood Smith, Christopher Plummer, Rosanna DeSoto, David Warner, Michael Dorn, Iman, and Christian Slater

The cast of the original “Star Trek” (1966-69) returned for its sixth and final feature film, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (also known as TUC).

After the explosion of its moon, Praxis, the Klingon Homeworld has only a 50-year supply of oxygen left. The subsequent economic and environmental instabilities mean that the Klingons won’t be able to continue their long-running hostilities with the Federation, so they sue for peace. Starfleet, the diplomatic, exploration, military defense, and research arm of the Federation, sends the U.S.S. Enterprise to meet the Klingon ship Kronos One, which is carrying Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) to Earth for negotiations. The Enterprise’s Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is not only upset about escorting a Klingon ship, but also about peace with them because it was a Klingon officer that murdered his son.

While en route to Earth, the Enterprise appears to fire on Kronos One, and assassins, apparently from the Enterprise, murder Gorkon. The Klingons arrest Kirk and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley) for the death of Gorkon and imprison them on the penal mining colony, Rura Penthe. Gorkon’s daughter, Azetbur (Rosanna DeSoto), becomes the new chancellor, and she vows to continue negotiations with the Federation.

Meanwhile, Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) assumes command of the Enterprise. Spock must discover how or if the Enterprise fired on Kronos One when the ship’s computer says it did, but no weapons were expended, and he must clear Capt. Kirk of Gorkon’s murder. With the aid of the U.S.S. Excelsior, commanded by former Enterprise crewman, Captain Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), Spock must also rescue Kirk and Dr. McCoy from their imprisonment. The heroic Enterprise crew is running out of time to discover the identities of the Gorkon’s assassins and of the traitors aboard the Enterprise before they strike again to stop peace negotiations between the Federation and Klingon Empire.

An allegory for the fall of communism in Eastern Europe (which had occurred around 1990, just before this film went into production), Star Trek VI is a poignant expression of the need to end cold wars, constant hostilities, and old grudges. It emphasizes letting go of yearnings to avenge personal and painful losses that come about because of war (the death of Kirk’s son).

The film also has a melancholy edge because the Enterprise is to be decommissioned after this adventure, and this is the last time the original crew would be together. The performances, all of which are good (especially Christopher Plummer as Klingon General Chang), portray the essence of something grand coming to an end. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is not the best Star Trek feature film, but its sense of purpose and determination, and the engaging mystery that hangs over the narrative make this a nice farewell.

7 of 10

1992 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing” (George Watters II and F. Hudson Miller) and “Best Makeup” (Michael Mills, Ed French, and Richard Snell)


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