Star Trek: The Original Series is not the only entry in the classic science fiction franchise to celebrate an anniversary this year. As The Original Series commemorates 50 years since its premiere, feature film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home will celebrate its 30th anniversary. The fourth Star Trek movie arrived in theaters on Nov. 26, 1986, and took the original series crew back in time to find the only way to save Earth from a mysterious probe: humpback whales. The film contained a clear message about the environment for viewers to take seriously while not shying away from comedic moments, for a tone that has contributed to it being considered one of the best of the original series films.
The first time Walter Koenig, who portrayed Pavel Chekov in the original series TV show and films, saw the script he thought it was excellent, with a terrific story structure.
“It really involved all the characters. Each one had their own moment, and it spoke to the original concepts of commenting on topical issues in a future time, social political issues in a future time,” Koenig told Blastr. “In this case, it was involving the environment and preservation of animal species. I loved the scenes that I had. It’s the only one that I was really sure was going to be a big success.”
To Koenig, how the film commented on the present day through a future situation made it the most similar to the TV show, setting it apart from the other original series films.
“Gene [Roddenberry] was very socially, politically conscious, and was concerned about not only human life and not only civil rights, but the rights of having a habitable planet,” he said. “One that we can all continue to thrive on so we underscored the environmental issue with the saving of the whales.”
He said the film was the most fun he’d had on the franchise, referring to it as his “most pleasant memory of being on a Star Trek.” While he sees it as generally considered as one of the two best films, with the other being The Wrath of Khan, for him, he told Blastr, “it will always be The Voyage Home.”
“Simply because I was more engaged in the story and because I thought it was as close to being a perfect film as we could have had,” he said.
The movie saw the return of not only the original cast on screen, but a number of important people behind the scenes as well. Leonard Nimoy would direct the film while Harve Bennett would return as producer and Robert Fletcher as costume designer. Nicholas Meyer, who had worked on The Wrath of Khan, also returned to co-write the script. Koenig said he’s concerned Meyer, who was recently announced as writer of the new TV series, does not receive the recognition he should for his work on The Voyage Home and called Meyer's contributions “extremely important.”
Among these Star Trek veterans working on the movie, a new face was also brought into the mix on screen. While searching for the whales in the film, Kirk and Spock encounter marine biologist Dr. Gillian Taylor, played by Catherine Hicks. Hicks told Blastr she didn’t know anything about Star Trek when she received the movie’s script, but she adored the character.
“I loved her intelligence and her commitment to these animals, and I just thought, I’ve got to play this role,” she said.
Since she didn’t know anything about the franchise, Hicks said her audition with director Nimoy was quite funny. She didn’t know any of the references and so would react weirdly to things in the audition, making Nimoy laugh.
“I think my innocence was refreshing to him, because that’s what the character is," Hicks said. "She doesn’t know anything about it, either."
As she came to know more about Star Trek later on, she became impressed with the franchise and its community.
"Because it’s always about something intellectual, or a good cause ... humanitarian and how we can do better on the planet, be better people and think of others," Hicks said. "The themes of Star Trek are very important and ours with the whales was also what got me. I watched a documentary on a real marine biologist and how she had to say goodbye to her humpback whales when they turned them loose again after rescuing them, and it so moved me I wanted to play her with that commitment that marine biologists have."
Hicks called her experience working on the film wonderful. As the newcomer on set, she said everyone was very nice and welcomed her. She’s grateful to have been a part of it and that people can still see and enjoy it today.
The fact that people do still enjoy the film and think of it rather fondly as the Star Trek “with the whales” is certainly a testament to its success. There are many moments to love in The Voyage Home, and we discussed with Koenig and Hicks what their favorites were as we looked back at the film. Here are 10 of The Voyage Home's best moments, including input from the two Star Trek actors and a few of our own favorites!
Finding the nuclear wessels
In this scene, Uhura and Chekov are searching for Navy vessels that use nuclear power. When they discover the vessels are at the naval base in Alameda, they begin asking strangers on the street for directions to the nuclear vessels. This leads to one of the funniest scenes in the film and contains a moment memorable for Koenig.
“There’s a fun moment which was improvised, when we’re looking for the nuclear vessels, Uhura and Chekov. That was an improvised moment where I stopped and talked to people and they ignored me and they just shot what I was doing and it went together very well,” Koenig said. “As it turned out, a young woman who was walking past the crowd of paid extras with her little dog hadn’t been directed not to talk to me, because she wasn’t in the film, but she did and stopped, telling me where Alameda was, and that was incorporated into the story even though it wasn’t in the script, and it worked well.”
“The scene with the FBI agent where he’s asking me who I am and what I was doing there. That was a fun scene, as well,” Koenig told Blastr.
In this scene, Chekov is being interrogated and trying to explain he’s a member of Starfleet to the complete confusion and frustration of his interrogators. Everyone’s reactions and misunderstanding of the conversation leads to some amusing banter back and forth between the two, and eventually allows Chekov to escape!
At the restaurant
For Hicks, she loves the restaurant scene between her and William Shatner. One aspect about it she enjoyed in particular was how Nimoy shot it.
“It’s very fair to both characters. Sometimes, when you play a character in a movie, you don’t have control over the audience getting to see what’s going on inside you, because you don’t know if they’re going to use the shot that was on you,” Hicks said. “They can cut away to the other character and your reactions are not seen. They’re on the other person listening. What I appreciate are all the moments that were important to me in that scene, the camera’s on me long enough to get that out and then it goes back to Bill. That’s not why it’s my favorite scene, I think it’s really funny!”
A drive with Dr. Taylor
“I thought the scene between Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk in the truck was delightful,” Koenig told Blastr.
The scene in the truck between Spock, Kirk, and Dr. Taylor is definitely an interesting one. Kirk tries not to give anything away with little help from Spock as the Captain and Taylor question each other looking for information. As she tries to understand what they were doing with the whales, he tries to find out more about their fate. The serious conversation is intermixed with some funny moments thanks to Spock, as well as Kirk not knowing much about the current time, making it one of the best in the film.
The music on the bus
As Kirk and Spock take a bus to see the whales, they sit across from a man listening to extremely loud punk music on his boom box. While everyone on the bus looks annoyed, only Kirk asks him to stop “that noise.” Of course, the man only increases the volume and ignores Kirk’s polite requests, leading to Spock saving the day with the Vulcan nerve pinch. It’s hilarious how the whole bus just claps as the guy passes out, instead of being even slightly curious or concerned about what happened. The ensuing quiet then leads to a funny conversation where Spock asks Kirk about the profanity of the century in an attempt to understand it.
Professor Scott vs. the computer
Scotty is quite enthusiastic in embracing his role as a professor from Edinburgh as he and McCoy try to get what they need to build a tank for the whales. While his interactions with McCoy are priceless in these scenes, it’s when Scotty finds himself face to face with a contemporary computer that is particularly unforgettable. He talks to it expecting it to react, even speaking into the mouse to Dr. Nichols’ confusion, and calls the keyboard quaint!
McCoy’s view of current medicine
When McCoy sees what’s going on in the hospital where Chekov is located, he’s horrified. It’s interesting to see his reactions to the doctors’ approaches to medicine and how he’s able to easily help not only Chekov, but also an older woman on kidney dialysis. It’s almost depressing he can’t stick around to help everyone else! At least McCoy reaches Chekov in time and our heroes make a quick, entertaining escape, during which we see the older woman extremely happy having grown a new kidney thanks to McCoy’s pill from the future!
Spock swims with whales
As Dr. Taylor guides the tour Kirk and Spock are at the Maritime Cetacean Institute, Spock slips away, unnoticed. Dr. Taylor is showing the tour the whales George and Gracie underwater for a better view, when Kirk spots Spock with them. Kirk’s silent reactions are hilarious, while Dr. Taylor’s anger is completely understandable. There’s something sweet about Spock’s attempt to communicate with the whales and seeing him peacefully swimming with them, especially after hearing on the tour all the horrible things man has shortsightedly done to whales.
Saving the whales
After scaring off some whalers, the crew is able to transport the whales aboard and crash back to the future! Kirk frees the whales and the crew watches them swim away as they hang onto the ship laughing and cheering in the rain. It’s great to see them celebrating together, pulling and pushing each other into the water as they let themselves be happy about their victory. It’s one of the happiest scenes in a Star Trek film!
The whole conversation Spock has with his father at the end of the film is touching, as Sarek admits he might have been wrong about opposing his son’s choice to enlist in Starfleet. However, the moment in which Spock is finally able to answer the question the computer posed to him at the beginning of the movie is most memorable as it marks, after a multi-film adventure, the return of a Spock closer to the one we knew before his death. Spock telling his father to give his mother the message that he feels fine shows he understands the question, “How do you feel?” and can acknowledge his emotions. It's a great moment to end such an emotional conversation.
Tell us what your favorite moment from The Voyage Home is in the comment section below!