29 April 2013

Trek Review: Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country

Still my favourite of the films featuring the cast from the Original Series, The Undiscovered Country brings us the last voyage of the original crew. A devastating explosion of a Klingon moon could spell the end of the Klingon Empire who come to negotiate a treaty with the Federation to allow for their continued existence. While escorting the Klingon High Chancellor to Earth, the Enterprise appears to attack the High Chancellor's ship and he is assassinated. Kirk and McCoy are detained and it's up to Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew to piece together what happened. It is also nice to see Sulu get his own ship - the Excelsior.

Following a less than stellar performance with The Final Frontier, The Undiscovered Country returns to 'good Trek' by being an even numbered film, having Nicholas Meyer back in the directors chair and instead of searching for God, we're dealing with real world issues - the fall of the Klingon Empire akin to the fall of the Soviet Union.

We begin with Captain Sulu in command of the Excelsior, encountering a shockwave emanating from what is left of Praxis, a Klingon moon. The incident sparking dire consequences for the Klingon Empire.

At a meeting of officials within Starfleet, we learn the Klingon Empire has roughly 50 years left in it and that Sarek and Spock have been in contact with Gorkon, the Klingon High-Chancellor to begin peace talks between the Empire and the Federation. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are selected to meet with Gorkon's ship and escort them to Earth.

In Spacedock, we meet Lt Valeris, the new Vulcan helm officer aboard Enterprise and we are soon on our way to meet with the Klingons where Kirk makes a log entry about his feelings towards Klingons and Spock talks to Valeris about her replacing him aboard Enterprise.

After meeting their ship, Kronos One, Kirk surprises the crew by inviting the Klingons over for dinner aboard Enterprise where we meet Gorkon, his daughter Azetbur and General Chang. An interesting 'dinner from hell' comes together with the sharing of Shakespeare, interesting table manners and clashes of cultural ideals. After dinner, recovering from what they've just gone through and headaches from too much Romulan Ale, Spock detects a large radiation concentration emanating from Enterprise, right before two torpedoes strike Kronos One, disabling her artificial gravity and sending her spinning out of control.

While the Enterprise crew work to find out what happened, two officers in Starfleet space suits and gravity boots board Kronos One and shoot Gorkon and some of his crew. Kirk surrenders when Chang regains control and prepares to attack. Kirk and McCoy attempt to assist Gorkon but he passes away before them.

General Chang arrests Kirk and McCoy. They are put on trial and sentenced to life imprisonment on the penal asteroid, Rura Penthe. Once there, the duo meet Marta who offers them information and a possibility of escape. Once outside the barrier that prevents beaming, Kirk suspects Marta isn't all she appears - aside from the fact she's a shapeshifter. They are soon discovered by the prison guard and on the cusp of finding out who's responsible when Kirk and McCoy are beamed aboard Enterprise.

Putting some theories together, Kirk and Spock work to oust a mole aboard Enterprise and reveal Lt Valeris is involved in a conspiracy that goes to the highest levels of Starfleet and the Klingon Empire as well. On top of all this, it is discovered that the Klingon's have themselves a prototype Klingon Bird of Prey that can fire whilst cloaked (which was used to disable Kronos One).

Sulu and the Excelsior stand ready to help Kirk and the Enterprise as both ships and crew head to Khitomer to prevent another assassination attempt. The Enterprise takes the first few hits from Chang's Bird of Prey before Excelsior arrives on the scene, also taking damage. Spock and McCoy reconfigure a Photon Torpedo to track the Bird of Prey's ion trail and are able to defeat Chang and continue to Khitomer.

Kirk and crew barely save the Federation President and uncover high-ranking Starfleet officers involved in the attempted shooting.

Nicholas Meyer returns to the director's chair after his work on The Wrath of Khan and it shows. The Enterprise looks her best in this film with nice details throughout the interior. Cliff Eidelman composes a wonderful score for this last instalment including the building and climatic opening theme. The score for VI is also among my favourite of the Trek scores, even though it was Eidelman's only effort in the franchise.

The Undiscovered Country takes us through light and dark and talks of endings, suited to this film's position for the Original Series crew. While keeping a humour about itself, it also takes a look at people's prejudices and opposition to change and in classic style, it pits Kirk once more against the Klingons.

The final adventure for Kirk and crew is a great ride and puts events in motion that would lead to peace between the Federation and Klingons as seen in the series Star Trek: The Next Generation. The final sign-off by Kirk and the signatures of each cast member before the closing credits is an excellent and fitting way to bring the Original Series to an end.

My Rating: 4 Stars or 8/10
Eleonor's Rating: 4 Stars or 8/10 (as well!)

Interestingly, my favourite of the Original films doesn't out-score The Wrath of Khan (4.5 stars) but who says that favourites have to also be the best? :)

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