More noise than signal

Star Trek: The Voyage Home

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Or, as I think a more appropriate subtitle would be, The One Where They Go Back In Time And That. With Spock more or less returned to his old self, the crew look to head back to Earth in their hijacked, cloak-enabled Klingon Bird of Prey to face the music for that whole hijacking the Enterprise and blowing it up thing, but before they arrive word gets to them of a great danger the Earth faces.

An alien probe of unimaginable power has made a direct course for Earth, broadcasting a powerful signal that’s shutting down all power in the vessels and facilities it comes across. Seeing as no-one in the film comments that this is basically the plot of the first film, maybe we should refrain from mentioning here. Perhaps no one will notice.

A warning from Starfleet to stay away is hardly likely to stop Kirk and Co, so they get close enough to figure out that the signal the probe is broadcasting happens to be a whalesong. Unfortunately humpback whales no longer bestride the plains of FutureEarth, their lithe forms no longer gliding through the air as they do today, vaulting from mountains and burrowing their warrens through the deepest of valleys. I think that’s whales, right? Anyway, point is, they’re dead, and it doesn’t look like the probe is taking that for an answer.

So, the ex-Enterprise crew theorise, what we need to do is find a whale in the past and bring it back to the future, Marty. Where’s Christopher Lloyd when you need him, eh? They drive the wrong way around the sun and somehow fly back in time, this apparently being a thing that can be done, appearing in contemporary San Francisco.

Parking the cloaked vehicle in what one assumes must be the least used park in town, they set about their new objectives. They need nuclear material to refuel their ship, they need a container for a whale and associated water, and they need a whale. Easy. Send the Russian to sneak on board a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, Scotty to get someone to build a giant fishtank out of material that doesn’t yet exist, and Kirk to seduce the nice lady at Seaworld into letting them borrow their humpback.

That’s glossing over it a little, but this isn’t a film where any of the obstacles are being treated for anything other than laughs, especially as soon as they’ve gone back in time and everything is treated more as a fish-out-of-water story about the crew trying to blend in than any remotely serious piece of science fiction.

There’s not a great deal of drama or suspense to be mined in The Voyage Home, as even on the very few occasions it looks like there might be a significant obstacle it’s treated as a way to wring a few more laughs out of the situation. Thankfully most of these attempts land, and makes this an entertaining outing that walks right up to the line of self-parody, waggles a few toes over it and then steps back, ensuring that there was still scope remaining after this to attempt something rather more serious.

It’s a fun film for fans of the series, and the much lighter tone might make this a more palatable entry point for people on the fence about watching any of them, but in many ways it’s the slightest of the original cast’s series of films – I have never found anything new to like on rewatching this, which is not to say that it’s not worth watching once. It is. You should.