Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 12/6/99
Star Trek IV: The
1986 (1999) - Paramount
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/C
Specs and Features
118 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:17:46, in chapter
13), Amaray keep case packaging, featurette with director Leonard
Nimoy, theatrical trailer, film-themed menus, scene access (18
chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD
2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned
"My God, what is
this - the Dark Ages?"
I just couldn't resist starting this review with a good Dr. McCoy
line. Think of it as my own little tribute to the late DeForest
Kelly. Trek just ain't the
same without him.
Arguably the most popular Star Trek
film among non-fans, The Voyage Home
is certainly the most accessible film in the series, and is also one
of the more entertaining. Directed by long-time series regular
Leonard Nimoy (that's Spock to you and me), the film falls back on a
tried and true plot device of the franchise - time travel.
The story takes place immediately after the events in Star
Trek III. Captain Kirk and his crew have broken almost
every regulation in the book to rescue their friend Spock. Acting
against orders, they've stolen the starship Enterprise to retrieve
Spock's body from the Genesis planet, destroyed the Enterprise to
escape Klingon treachery, and then commandeered the Klingon's ship
to return Spock to his home planet Vulcan, where his mind and body
were restored. Star Trek IV: The Voyage
Home begins with our heroes preparing to return to Earth
from Vulcan, to face the music from Starfleet for their actions.
Meanwhile, an alien probe has arrived from deep space and is
wreaking havoc back on Earth, its strange signals causing serious
damage to the planet's atmosphere. En-route in their captured Bird
of Prey, Kirk and company hear the news and make a discovery - the
probe's signals match the songs of humpback whales, which have been
extinct for centuries due to human negligence. So our heroes
formulate a desperate plan to save the day, by time traveling back
to the Earth of 1987 to find a pair of humpback whales, and then
returning with them to the future so they can answer the probe's
call. Still with me? As goofy as the plot sounds, it works
surprisingly well. And along the way, the film manages to deliver a
number of decent laughs. Think of it as the ultimate fish out of
water story (no pun intended). After all, just imagine what someone
from the idyllic 23rd century depicted in Star
Trek would think of life in the good old 20th century?
Leonard Nimoy surprised more than a few filmgoers here, proving
that he's a darned capable director. The
Voyage Home rarely bogs down, and taking our heroes out
of their familiar futuristic setting manages to make them seem that
much more human and engaging. Just watching Kirk and Spock
attempting to fit in with the crowd in 1987 San Francisco is worth a
few good laughs ("Oh yeah? Well a double dumb-ass on you!").
You've gotta love Scotty's reaction to 80's computer technology: "A
keyboard? How quaint." And because of damage done during the
timewarp, one of the film's subplots has Chekov and Uhura attempting
to collect energy particles that will help fix their ship's engines
- particles that can only be collected from a "primitive"
nuclear reactor. So they decide to sneak aboard a nuclear-powered
aircraft carrier to get them
and naturally, it's the U.S.S.
Enterprise. Gotta love it.
One of the most welcome things about this DVD, is its surprisingly
crisp and clear video. This film looks better on disc than I ever
remember it looking before. The print used to make this DVD is of
excellent quality, and the transfer has been very well done. The
colors are accurate and the contrast is excellent, with good detail
even in the darker picture areas and only a minimum of edge
enhancement visible. I was also pleased to notice little digital
artifacting, even in scenes which might give MPEG-2 compression
trouble - the murky, smoke-filled interiors of the Klingon ship for
example. This isn't reference quality, but it's damn good. I hope
the first three films in this series look as nice when they're
released on DVD next year. On the other hand, the audio isn't quite
up to the level of what we've gotten used to in more recent Trek
DVDs, but it's plenty solid and does the job here. While there
aren't nearly as many nifty surround sound tricks as you'd expect,
there are just enough to keep the Romulans at bay. And the dialogue
is clear and well centered in the front of the soundstage, with good
bass and nice ambient fill on occasion from the rear channels.
The extras here are nothing new - a theatrical trailer and the same
"director's series" featurette that appeared previously on
the VHS and laserdisc versions of this film. Still, that's more than
we've gotten on other Trek
DVDs, so I suppose I shouldn't complain. The trailer is of so-so
quality, but the featurette is actually not too bad. It runs for
some 15 minutes, and has Nimoy talking about the film's ecological
theme and the amazing creation of remote-controlled whales for the
film. Nimoy even gives a pitch for the widescreen presentation of
films on home video. I always knew Spock was a widescreen kind of
As a longtime fan, I must confess that I've given up on Star
Trek in recent years, and I know there are lots of other
fans out there like me. Paramount has sadly run this franchise into
the ground, creating a seemingly endless stream of TV series that
fail entirely to capture the imagination (a 5th Trek
series is even now on the drawing board - gasp!). But when Star
Trek was still good, it was darned hard to resist. Such
is the case with The Voyage Home.
And on DVD, it's better than ever. This disc is a welcome addition
to the collection of any Trekkie (or Trekker, if you prefer), and
it's one even non-fans should enjoy.