Star Trek movie retrospective Part 6: the Undiscovered Country.
I admit I have been putting this off a bit, as this is the last of the “good” Star Trek movies. After this the franchise stops circling the drain and finally goes down. By no small coincidence it was directed by Nicholas Meyer, the man responsible for all the best Star Trek films. They were pretty much done with the actors directing films by this point, although Nimoy did a decent job. (The Undiscovered Country image courtesy of the Star Trek t shirt category)
I have fond memories of this film, and enjoyed seeing it. However, this film really drove home the fact that instead of the young action figures I was used to seeing I was watching some older men kind of fumble around on the screen. When James Doohan was the one to save the day at the end I knew the action days of the Star Trek crew were pretty much over (we’ll talk about Kirk fighting it out with Malcolm McDowell in Generations later).
What was happening in 1991? Well, I was a sophomore in my second try at college. I was grinding my way through the mechanical engineering program and hating it (I would later switch to Studio Art). We attacked Iraqi forces in Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm (good thing we were done there and never had to go back. Oh, wait…). Iraq also agreed to eliminate all WMD’s and, as far as all evidence since has shown, complied. Russia has its first free elections and votes in Boris Yeltsin. A big fire in my home town of Oakland, CA burns thousands of houses. The Prime Minister of India, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandh, is assassinated. South Africa adopts a new constitution that was multicultural. The Balkan war started. Mike Tyson was arrested and charged with rape. The phrase “going postal” started up by a postal worker shooting up a bunch of people. Freddie Mercury died of AIDS. The Rodney King video tape is shown. The Internet is opened to the public and has over 1 million computers on it (ha ha ha ha aha ha). The first web browser is released.
Movies were kind of ok. Good ones included T2: Judgement Day, Silence of the Lambs, Backdraft, Father of the Bride, and Thelma and Louise. Less good ones include Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, Hook, the Addams Family, Beethoven, Beauty and the Beast, and the Naked Gun 2 1/2: the Smell of Fear. Popular music included Pearl Jam, Brian Addams, Phil Collins, Guns ‘n Roses, Metallica, Gloria Estephan, R.E.M., U2, Van Halen, the Clash, Garth Brooks, and Nirvana.
So, the Undiscovered Country. The Klingon moon Praxis (by the way, there is a series of books called Dread Empires Fall that talks about the Praxis as a philosophy. Great science fiction, especially if you like space battles that actually take most real physics into account) blows up and more or less wrecks the Klingon Empire. They sue for peace and send Kirk to transport the Klingon ambassador even though it is known that he hates the Klingons for killing his son David, who he knew for all of 2 weeks or so. Kirk is framed for killing the guy, and surrenders to the Klingons. He and McCoy are convicted and sentenced to a prison gulag. Some prison stuff happens, including an attempted escape with the help of a shapeshifter who really plans to kill them. Spock beams them out after he discovers what really happened. They find two assassins dead but trick their accomplice to reveal herself. Turns out it was Samantha from Sex and the City. Anyway, a bunch of Klingon, Romulan, and Federation officers are working together in a conspiracy to prevent the treaty that would allow them all to work together(?). The crew finds the cloaked Bird of Prey that did the original attack and blow it up. They all beam down to the conference and save the presidents life.
What it had:
The full crew. Captain Sulu. Captain Spock. Captain Scott(? I guess all the S names got promoted). Some cool space battles. A decently complicated plot that didn’t drive me berserk. Some decent humor. An illustration of the bonds of friendship between the crew that was organic and not shoved down our pie holes in the form of an awkward dumb speech made around a campfire. A dumb cameo by Christian Slater. Super hot Imam as the shape shifter. A shockingly large number of minor continuity failures. A generally good movie experience.
What it didn’t have:
Sulu on the bridge with the rest of the crew. That’s pretty much it. I can’t think of a lot from this one.
So a very positive experience, especially given the dross we were forced to watch in the last one. Unfortunately this would be the last positive Star Trek film experience, pretty much for ever (and don’t give me any crap about the J.J. Abrams movie. If you are really a Star Trek fan than you know it’s garbage). I warn you now that the following retrospectives, starting with (de)Generations, are going to take a much darker and bitter tone so if you feel you need positivity in your life you might want to skip them. It’ll be a couple more posts before I get to it, especially since I am about to go see Friends with Benifits and expect it to burn up my bile reserves pretty easily.