BQB Reviews Star Trek – Star Trek 6 – The Undiscovered Country (1991)

“The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”

BQB here with a review of the final Star Trek film featuring the OG Shatner and Friends Crew.

Star Trek 5 faced heavy criticism, ultimately with many wondering whether a philosophical sci-fi series where characters spend a lot of time debating and contemplating would survive in an era of blockbusters where moviegoers expected characters to kick ass first, second and third and maybe think about it later, four or more steps down the line.

This film closes out the voyages of Capt. Kirk’s Enterprise well, providing a decent mix of action and ass kickery.

Everyone’s least favorite warmongering species the Klingons have suffered a terrible disaster. A mining explosion on Praxis destroys the Klingon moon as well as the ozone layer of their home world, Kronos. If you can cite these intricate details of the Klingon Empire as well as I can then fear not, for one day you can be like me and spend all of your time blogging about Star Trek and not tapping any pussy whatsoever.

Moving on.

Reeling from disaster, Klingon Emperor and total peace-nik Gorkon proposes to turn a crisis into an opportunity – namely, since the Klingon Empire can no longer afford to fund its warmongering expansionist ways throughout the galaxy, they must make peace with their dreaded enemy, The Federation of Planets, i.e. those who gave us Starfleet.

Kirk is not a fan. He is pretty vocal in his hatred of Klingons. Ever since they killed his son in The Search for Spock, Kirk becomes a rabid species-ist and if some sort of KKK-like organization existed in space for the purposes of shitting on, destroying and defiling Klingons, then Kirk would totally volunteer to be its grandmaster. OK, maybe he isn’t that bad but even so, the dude really despises Klingons.

Klingons feel the same way about humans and tensions are high when Kirk is voluntold by Starfleet to escort Gorkon and his contingent to a peace summit where negotiations with the Federation will ensue. A state dinner between the humans and the klingons is fraught with strife, though not without occasional moments of common ground and lots of Romulan ale, which according to the film is the quickest way to get mad drunk in space.

Alas, treachery ensues. The Enterprise fires upon Gorkon’s ship, taking out much of his crew, as well as the ship’s gravity. Left defenseless as they float around, two mysterious humans in unidentifiable helmets and magnetic boots beam aboard and bat cleanup, zapping the shit out Klingons in a bloody mess that a) seems a bit much for a Star Trek film and b) I can only assume this scene inspired a young Quentin Tarantino.

Kirk and Bones beam aboard the Klingon ship to offer assistance, but no good dead goes unpunished as they are quickly taken prisoner by the film’s villain, General Chang (Christopher Plummer.) Yeah, it was 1991 so some writer somewhere thought it would be cool to make an alien sound exotic by giving him a Chinese name but whatever. It was a different time, right? No, that’s not cool? OK fine. Build a time machine and travel back to 1991 and protest the movie then.

Fun sidenote: Shatner and Plummer are both Canadian Shakespearean actors. Shatner served as Plummer’s understudy in a production of Henry V in the 1950s. Flash forward to the 1990s and Plummer is decked out in heavy alien makeup, hamming it up and chewing on scenery as he convinces a Klingon judge to find Kirk and Bones guilty.

Blah, blah, blah. Kirk and Bones must escape the space prison work camp they have been transported to while Spock and crew, working with she-vulcan Lt. Valeris, scour the Enterprise for clues that will absolve their captain and doctor and point to the true traitors.

Another fun sidenote: Before she became a total Samantha on Sex in the City, Kim Cattrall was a staple in many of your fave 1980s flicks. Mahoney’s love interest in Police Academy. Kurt Russell’s love interest in Big Trouble in Little China. A hot lady vulcan in this film.

Overall, the film is a political thriller, one might call it a Tom Clancy-esque flick of espionage, sedition and intrigue but with dudes in alien makeup grabbing their knees when Kirk discovers that sometimes when you kick an alien in the knee, you are kicking an entirely different and sensitive body part altogether. Whoops!

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Shatner and Plummer’s love of Shakespeare shows in this film. Gorkon is a fan of the bard and quips to his human colleagues that they simply “must read Shakespeare in the original Klingon” one day. While Hamlet referred to “the undiscovered country” as the afterlife, the place humans go after they die, i.e. the last place to explore, this film sees it as a state of peace, i.e. a state long sought after yet never achieved…until now?

Bonus points to the movie for being woke in a time when woke wasn’t really a word, at least not one used in the sense that it is today. Gorkon and Shatner discuss how for peace to be achieved, their elder generation will have to be the ones who suffer the most, learning how to move on and work together while setting longstanding grudges and memories of the other side’s bad acts aside. Younger generations who never saw war and conflict will find it easier to embrace the other. This film came out in 1991, just after the Berlin Wall fell, so one wonders if there aren’t some undertones about America and Russia working together in the wake of the Cold War.

NOTE TO 1990s STAR TREK WRITERS: RUSSIA’S OLDER GENERATION BOSS CONTINUES TO BE AN A-HOLE.

Double Bonus Points – Kirk does grow in this film in that he eventually learns that holding a grudge against an entire species because one of its members killed his son is not cool. We also gain some insight into why Klingons aren’t fans of humans. Throughout the series, Klingons are treated as vile scum for Kirk to fight but we learn that Klingons see the Federation as an organization that is racist against all non-humans and that while the Federation claims to represent many different lifeforms, only humans seem to grab the highest ranks of the organization.

A fitting ending to the 6 film series featuring Shatner and the original crew. Kirk and his crew retire, having played their parts in negotiating what will hopefully be a longstanding peace between two feuding factions of the galaxy.

Even so, Scotty still can’t get the damn warp drive to work.

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