Star Trek VI at 20 -- An Appreciation
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country opened in theaters nationwide on December 6, 1991 and, for all intents and purposes, it closed out the TOS era and the big-screen adventures of the original Enterprise crew. And it did so in style – with a thoughtful, often action-packed conspiracy/assassination tale that let William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei and Walter Koenig take a final bow.
The story – with its political intrigue involving the Federation, Klingons and Vulcans – echoed the realities of the day, most notably the Cold War, but also perestroika. Rura Penthe is unmistakably a gulag. Spock even invokes a Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China.” Meanwhile, Kirk contemplates his own prejudices and the possibility of a universe without an enemy to fight. Beyond that, Nicholas Meyer, who’d helmed The Wrath of Khan, returned to the director’s chair, working from a script he co-wrote (with Denny Martin Flinn) based on an idea developed by Leonard Nimoy. And Meyer made the most of state-of-the-art technology, including the very-cool CGI that enabled Martia (Iman) to morph. At the time, the effect was only just starting to wow people who'd seen it put to use in the music video for Michael Jackson's song “Black or White” and in the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Guest stars included David Warner as Klingon Chancellor Gorkon, Christopher Plummer as the Shakespeare-quoting General Chang and Kim Cattrall as the duplicitous Lt. Valeris. Grace notes included the sight of George Takei as Captain Sulu racing to assist the Enterprise and Captain Kirk, and appearances by Michael Dorn (as Colonel Worf), Mark Lenard (as Sarek), John Schuck (reprising his Star Trek IV role as the Klingon Ambassador) and Brock Peters (reprising his Star Trek IV role as Admiral Cartwright).
Star Trek VI isn’t perfect. It’s a little slow, a little dated. Some of the costumes worn by the original cast look a tad worn, as if they were simply pulled off a hanger and dry cleaned rather than remade for the latest production. And there’s plenty more to love and to debate. We'll start the ball rolling with the following:
-- Kirk vs. Kirk, mano a mano
-- Uhura saves the day (“The thing must have a tailpipe.”) Great moment for Nichols and the Uhura character, but, really? A tailpipe on a starship?
-- Montgomery Scott, action hero
-- Purple blood... or fuschia... or... what color is that, actually? (Whatever it was, it was a digital effect)
-- Christian Slater’s cameo
-- “I’d give real money if he’d shut up”
-- "If I were human I believe my response would be 'Go to hell.'... If I were human."
-- “Must have been your lifelong ambition”
-- "You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon."
-- "Is it possible that we two, you and I, have grown so old and so inflexible that we have outlived our usefulness?"
-- The cast’s farewell signatures during the end-credit sequence
-- References to not just Shakespeare, but Sherlock Holmes and Peter Pan
So, what did you think of Star Trek VI? What are your favorite/least favorite moments? And where would you say it ranks among the TOS features?