By the time the Franchise reached the sixth installment it was at a bit of a crossroads. The previous film, The Final Frontier had been a critical and commercial failure. The cast was ageing and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the start of the TV series was looming. With a smaller budget due to the previous film’s problems the production team were up against it. What they managed to get onto the screen was nothing short of amazing considering the issues.
There are problems in the galaxy. The Klingon moon, Praxis, explodes without warning. Praxis was the main energy production facility for the Klingon empire. Alongside environmental problems on the their home world the Klingon empire can no longer afford to wage war against the Federation. For its part the Federation are all for a peaceful settlement to years of hostilities. Spock has been carrying out secret talks with diplomats from the Empire. The talks are now at the point where a final summit is to be organised.
The Enterprise, much to Kirk’s disgust, is chosen to escort the Klingon Chancellor and entourage to the talks. After a strained dinner on board the Enterprise the two sides seem no closer to becomming Allies. Unexpectedly the Klingon ship is fired upon,apparently from the Enterprise, causing extensive damage. The Klingon ship is boarded by two people in Starfleet uniforms who proceed to assassinate the Klingon Chancellor. Kirk and McCoy beam over to the ship after the trouble to try to explain that the Enterprise did not fire. The Klingons do not see it that way and Kirk and McCoy are arrested for murder.
Originally The Undiscovered Country was to be the second Star Trek film. It was going to be based at Starfleet Academy and feature younger versions of the Enterprise crew. This idea did not come to fruition but the title was then taken for the sixth film with a completely different story line. The story is in fact based on an idea from Leonard Nimoy who wondered what would happen if one or other power started to fail. As chance would have it the film was made during a time of enormous political upheaval that echoed the themes in the film with the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union and the Berlin wall coming down.
The film is much leaner film than The Final Frontier. The film has little in the way of extraneous scenes and the humour has been toned done to a few comical asides. It shows that if the story is engaging enough then there is no need for these distractions. In part this was probably a choice of the director. Adding in all the funny bits adds to the screen time and increases the overall budget of the film.
Even though we are back to a Klingon foe for Kirk to deal with, it is an adversary of some substance. In a way Chang (Christopher Plummer) is the mirror of Kirk. A warrior who does not trust peace and has no love for the politicians he serves. It was good to see an actor of Plummer’s stature taking on the role. A good Star Trek film needs a strong bad guy. With his eye patch and his penchant for quoting Shakespeare (In the original Klingon of course) he is the best baddie in the series so far.
In addition to Chang there are a couple of strong female roles. Kim Cattrall plays the role of Valeris, a protege of Spock and an honours graduate from Starfleet Academy. Also in a stand out role is the model Iman. She is impressive as a shape shifter stuck in the Klingon prison with Kirk and McCoy.
The visual and special effects are a leap forward in this film. The shape shifting sequences are very well done and have dated well. The overall look of the film is in line with the previous films. Given that the same production design team were involved makes all the difference. There are subtle changes as there would be naturally but the overall feel is consistent.
Overall a fitting finale for the majority of the original crew. An engaging story with some nice visual flair. Recommended.