Review for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Following the resurrection and rescue of Spock at the Genesis planet, the crew of the late starship Enterprise have been taking sanctuary on Vulcan while Spock recovered from his ordeal. But the time has come for them to take their stolen Klingon ship, return to Earth and face the charges brought against them, not least of which is the theft and destruction of the Enterprise. But as they return to Earth, it becomes clear that the planet is in peril of imminent destruction. A probe has arrived and its energy emissions are disrupting all power supplies, and altering Earth’s climate to destructive effect. All ships have been ordered to stay away, but Spock has recognised the transmissions of the probe, and that gives Kirk a chance to save the world. But the solution to this crisis can only be found in San Francisco, that’s San Francisco of the year 1986.
There’s an unfortunate degree of consistency in most of the original cast films in this collection, and The Voyage Home is no exception. It too gets the DNR treatment to the degree that the image is degrained, and skin tones are left somewhat waxy. Detail levels could be better, and it essentially looks like the same source material as used for the DVD release, given some added post-processing. Other than that it’s clear, sharp, and stable, with strong, consistent colours, and clean of print damage and other signs of age. Star Trek IV looks better than it has done before on home video, but it doesn’t look good enough for Blu-ray.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 7.1 English, DD 5.1 Italian, and DD 2.0 Surround German, Spanish, and French, with subtitles in these languages plus, Arabic, Danish, Croatian, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Finnish, and Swedish. The sound quality improves on the previous two films; certainly there isn’t that slight muddiness to the dialogue that makes you worry about the source material. Everything is crystal clear and well-defined in this film, while the surround up-mix is expressive enough in the action sequences, while remains subtle and unobtrusive otherwise.
Once more there are two commentaries on this disc, one from the original 2-disc DVD, the other recorded for the Blu-ray. You’d think that the commentary with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy would be a highlight, but alas this one’s a little too gappy. On the other hand, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are more voluble on the ‘fan’ track, but of the two, it’s not the one that you really want to listen to.
The Library Computer trivia track is present and correct.
Production has 5 featurettes, 4 of them in SD from the DVD release running to 51:06 in total while the HD featurette runs to 6:09.
The Star Trek Universe has 7 offerings, 4 in SD running to 33:10, and 3 in HD running to 19:34.
There are two featurettes on the visual effects which together last 17:31 SD.
There are three original interviews with the big three running to 43:15 SD.
There are two Tribute featurettes lasting 21:01 SD.
Finally there is the theatrical trailer in HD and the BD-Live link.
Star Trek IV is the best Star Trek movie. It’s the most popular, the most entertaining, and it’s the one that most non-fans watched. It’s not my favourite, but then again, I was a Star Trek fan inculcated with some 20 years of continuity at that point, and I knew what a big deal a sequel to Space Seed was. But if you had never seen Star Trek before, this was the movie to watch. It also managed to work without the benefit of continuity; I watched Star Trek IV before I had seen The Search for Spock and I had no problem understanding its story.
The Voyage Home was the last Star Trek film without a villain. There was no need for a lunatic with a doomsday weapon back then. The fourth film was like so many of the television episodes, the crew having to deal with an issue, solve a problem. An unfathomable probe attacks Earth, and the way to communicate with the probe lies on Earth of the past, which sets up the time travel plot. Come to think of it, The Voyage Home was also the last Star Trek film with a message aside from midlife crises for the main characters. We may be greener now, aware of the impending climate change apocalypse unless we act, and can see that mindset filter down to all aspects of conservation and awareness of green issues, but even in 1986 people were aware of issues such as acid rain, of deforestation, of the ozone layer, and yes, the Greenpeace imperative to ‘Save the Whales’. Star Trek IV’s story did much to promote that message.
Best of all, Star Trek IV was fun. After a whole lot of death and destruction in the previous two films, this one was light, entertaining, and charming. Time travel brought our futuristic galactic adventurers to then present day Earth, and threw them into a whole lot of comedic culture clash situations. It was delightful and it was fun, and it was something that broad audiences could relate to in a way that they wouldn’t engage with warp drives, mind melds, phasers and beaming. It is the funniest Star Trek movie to date, but in many ways it is closest to the Star Trek ethos, using futuristic sci-fi as a lens to examine an issue that is very human, and very now. That it added a layer of comedy to proceedings only made that process more effective.
The Wrath of Khan is my favourite Star Trek movie and always will be. After all, it’s the movie that made me into a trekkie in the first place. And including that VHS recording of the TV broadcast, it’s the Star Trek film I have watched the most. But if I was being brutally honest, and kept the count to home video releases, pre-recorded VHS, DVD and now Blu-ray, I’ve actually watched Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home more often.