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Neil Middlemiss

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Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is one of the top-tier Trek films. Nicholas Myer, who gave us the revered Wrath of Khan, returns to bring us the final voyage of the full Original Series crew and proves once again how adept he was at understanding Trek and the essence of Roddenberry’s characters. Trek always had a gift for allegory and tapping into the real-world politics of the Cold War’s thawing was genius. I travelled to Russia in 1991, visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg (still widely called Leningrad while I was here), and it was thrilling and upsetting. The Communist government’s fall and the restoration of relations between Russia and the West showed a country in decline, unable, it seemed, to project its appearance of strength any longer. It was a powerful moment in history and Star Trek VI tapped into that idea a little to give us a “what if” scenario, wondering what certain factions sought to thwart the chance for peace. Though Russia has become a disaster of a...

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Sam Favate

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One of my favorites of the original series of films. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when this was released in ‘91, which might have been Star Trek’s peak popularity.
 

ScottRE

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This was never a favorite of mine, i have a love-hate relationship with it. There are a lot of ill conceived jokes that are either too meta, make the crew look like idiots or just Nicky Meyer indulging in his old Naval and Holmes obsessions, as well has having Chang spout Shakespeare without provocation and our crew being a bunch of racists. The Rura Penthe sequence is kind of pointless with no tension and the shipboard mystery is cheesily done. Meyer over-directs his (far too many) extras as each one out hams the next in order to get noticed by their families in the audience. Do you really need a dozen people to check one room for boots? The Crewman Dax scene is an embarrassment.

Having said that, I gave this one a spin on the 4K and damned if I didn't get into it. It's not nearly on the level of Star Trek II, it shows its budget like no other film and the rush to get it made shows up in a variety of plot holes and editing gaffes, yet it's still hugely involving with great performances. Skip the Directors Cut and sick with the theatrical, Meyer's added scenes are never vital and usually self indulgent. If he really wanted to make the DC special, he should have added back Kirk's full speech at the end (it's in the novel and the comic adaptation). It's lean, fast paced with high stakes. Nimoy is at the top of his game and his makeup even LOOKS better than previous films. Shatner does mostly great work, but one standout awful moment is the "lifelong ambition" bit that is more a joke about Shatner than Kirk and Shatner's facial tics are all over the map.

But again, the film is populated with great moments, fine photography and a lovely "signature" ending that Avengers Endgame shamelessly borrowed. The battle finale is extremely exciting and the "target that explosion and fire" scene still gives me chills.

I feel it's overrated but there's really no such thing as a bad classic Trek film (I will defend Star Trek V with my dying breath). still a fine exit for the cast. They went out with class and style making you wish they stuck around for at least one more.

The 4K transfer is excellent, the best I've seen this film look on home video.
 
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B-ROLL

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... having Chang spout Shakespeare without provocation ...
Perhaps if you'ld hear Shakespear(e) in the Original Klingon you would have understood the Shakespearean undertones (I'm sure Captain von Trapp understood the subtext :D) ;)! *

*Many of the guest stars of classic Trek and the captain in Next Generation had quoted the Bard in their professional life.



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Adama from Battlestar Galactica and Capt Kirk in Julius Caesar by Christopher Marlowe under his penname: Wm Shakespear(e) ...
 

Josh Steinberg

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What a wonderful review, Neil. I love how you’ve related the film to your personal experience of visiting Russia. I wish in some of my reviews I had stepped more outside of the objective voice into one that relates more personal experience and feelings, and I feel inspired now to do so in the future :)
 

Bryan Tuck

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Thanks for the review, Neil. This fan actually prefers the theatrical cut, but like you, I'm glad they're finally both included in the same release.

My opinion on this one has gone up and down over the years. There are some scenes that haven't aged all that well, but I do think most of the ideas the film presents are still quite relevant. I love the quiet scene of Spock and Kirk contemplating their place in the universe right before the big climactic battle. It's an example of how Trek was already getting meta with itself and interrogating its own past long before it became the fashionable thing for franchises to do.
 

Josh Steinberg

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That’s such a great scene - Nimoy wrote in his autobiography that he felt the veneers of their characters slipping away as he performed that scene, feeling that he was talking as much to Shatner as Spock was speaking to Kirk.

Because this movie was my entry point to Trek as a kid, I obviously didn’t have the context to pick up on these nuances on my first viewing. But that means that once I did see all of the episodes and the other movies and read the different books by the cast members, I was able to view the film as if it were new again, and saw all of those layers for the first time.

And I concur with Neil about the film’s conclusion leaving one feeling emotional - watching the disc a couple weeks ago, I found myself very moved by the time the crew disembarked at the end and the signatures came up. They knew it was the last time and I’m glad that they had the opportunity to make a final film knowing it was their farewell. I agree with Scott that there are things one could nitpick, but my enjoyment of seeing everyone together one last time overrides any critical complaints I might make. Over the years in my real life, I’ve rarely known that a visit with a friend would be the last time we’d be together, and it’s just a nice thing that these “friends” of mine got to say goodbye on their way out.
 

Josh Steinberg

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As an old guy - may I ask what "meta" means in the context of these comments?

That’s a good question - like “self-aware” or “self-referential”

Like in the scene mentioned, there are two contexts going on at the same time. When Spock is asking Kirk if perhaps the two of them have grown too old and too stuck in their ways to be of use to Starfleet anymore, there’s also a subtext there where Nimoy is asking Shatner if perhaps the time has come for Star Trek to move on without them.

That’s the best I can think to explain it - hope that makes some sense.
 

B-ROLL

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That’s a good question - like “self-aware” or “self-referential”

Like in the scene mentioned, there are two contexts going on at the same time. When Spock is asking Kirk if perhaps the two of them have grown too old and too stuck in their ways to be of use to Starfleet anymore, there’s also a subtext there where Nimoy is asking Shatner if perhaps the time has come for Star Trek to move on without them.

That’s the best I can think to explain it - hope that makes some sense.
It arguably didn't end for at least one of the cast members ...
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Osato

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Thanks Neil! Great review! I’m preordered this disc right away. I haven’t watched it yet as I’m going through the films with my boys. We’ve only watched TMP and Khan so far.
We are on season 2 of TOD as well. Part of me wants to finish those before finishing the films.
I saw wrath of khan as my first ever Star Trek and then on tv watched a lot of the episodes.
 

Bryan Tuck

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As an old guy - may I ask what "meta" means in the context of these comments?

Basically what Josh said. I'm not sure when that term came into popular use, but of course the concept has been around for a while. :)
 

Nelson Au

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Thanks Neil for another great review! I received the 4K releases of Star Trek The Motion Picture DE, Star Trek 5 and Star Trek 6 on release week. I still have not been able to get myself to watch Star Trek 2 The Wrath of Khan and the others. I much prefer Star Trek The Motion Picture. Which is to say a much unexpected reversal of opinion. As does happen as one goes through life, their opinion and point of view shifts. (Though I loved Star Trek TMP at the release time and never disliked it)

In my youthful days when these films first came out, I took the day off with friends to go the big screens in San Francisco to see the first showing on the first day of release. I loved them each one. And as they came out on video tape, then laserdisc and DVD, I picked them up and indulged in many more viewings of them!

I guess you can say that the advent of the Next Generation films and especially the JJ Abrams films, those films really soured my enjoyment and took some enthusiasm out for the original series films. What I find difficult is Star Trek 2-The Roth of Khan, as Shatner pronounces it, became the blue print of nearly every movie after it. An evil Villain to do battle with with predictably similar plots and destructive outcomes. Star Trek The Motion Picture was about something. There’s nothing wrong with doing fun movies where spaceships are doing battle. But I’ve gotten tired of it and I’m surprised to say that!

But as I’ve been reading all these reviews of the TOS films coming out on 4K blu ray, it’s renewed interest in these once favorite TOS Star Trek films. At some point soon, I will try to watch the remaining 5 TOS films. I am curious how they look and sound. And taking time away from them, they should be almost like new again.

Just one question Neil, your review said the original series cast was on their 4th decade on the Enterprise? At that point in history, it was the 25th anniversary of the franchise. Unless you are referring to some in-universe aspect I’m missing. Spock’s 13 years with Pike, and then Spock’s time with Kirk in command. That’s 38 years, so that makes sense from that point of view. :)
 

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