Stars: *** out of Four
Summary: The least serious of the series was also the highest grossing until 2009’s reboot, and this one deserves it.
Review: ‘The Motion Picture’ had a giant sentient machine, ‘The Wrath of Khan’ had KHAAAAN!, ‘The Search for Spock’ had Doc Brown in Klingon makeup, and ‘The Voyage Home’ has a giant probe that’s looking for whales.
This is why I love ‘Star Trek’.
Captain Kirk and crew are on Vulcan as per the events of ‘Trek III’, and they’re refurbishing a Klingon bird-of-prey (noticeably, its bridge is completely different from the last time we saw it) to head back to Earth. If you’re wondering why Starfleet won’t just send a ship to pick them up and bring them back to Earth, so was McCoy, and apparently its because they want the Klingon tech. Well, whatever, Starfleet. Why not just pick them up and pick up the ship later? Do you not trust the Vulcans?
So with no Enterprise to take home (Kirk blew it up to defeat the Klingons in ‘III’), and other considerable charges against him, the future does not look bright for everybody’s favorite crew. They’re going to be sent away to some mining colony, McCoy assumes, but no-one knows what will happen when they reach Earth.
They take off, along with the resurrected Spock, who is regaining his memories.
Meanwhile, Earth is beset by the signals of a huuuuuuuuuuge space probe, which is directing its communications to the Earth’s oceans. Once Kirk and crew find out, Spock is quick to reveal that the probe is attempting to reach the now-extinct population of humpback whales. With the Earth doomed to unintentional destruction at the probe’s proverbial hands, Kirk orders a slingshot around the sun, a tried-and-true method of time warp in ‘Trek’, with the hope that they can pick up some whales from Earth of the past.
This is the most lighthearted entry in the series, as has been said. It manages to take an environmentally friendly message about saving the whales, along with a fish-out-of-water situation for the time travelers, and builds them into a surprisingly well done movie. The effects are used sparingly and are of a much higher caliber than ‘The Search for Spock’, the music by a once-off ‘Trek’ composer gives it a sense of identity and wonder, and the cinematography feels much more natural and isn’t as overlit at the previous movie. Definitely an improvement.