With Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to the surprisingly good reboot opening this weekend it seemed like a good time to look back at an older Star Trek movie. And as I own the movie on VHS it is also joins my ongoing video vault feature. It is often argued that The Wrath Of Khan is the best of the original movies, it probably is but I cant help enjoying The Undisclosed Country.
The Enterprise is no longer the gleaming new flagship of the federation, like its crew, it is old and ready to be superseded. The Next Generation TV show had already been running for four years by this time. Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are sent on a peace mission to escort the Klingon Chancellor to negotiations on Earth. When the Chancellor is murdered Kirk and McCoy are arrested and put on trial. They have to escape, find the real killers and prevent the new president of the Federation from being assassinated at the conference. Put simply all in a days work for Kirk, Spock and the rest of the old regulars.
Filled with comedy moments and references to the previous movie and TV show, it is a fitting final mission for the Enterprise’s original crew. The real appeal of the movie is a simple but effective conspiracy plot making the movie a perfect blend of whodunit and action adventure. The story is credited to Leonard Nimoy who also executive produces and reprises his role as Spock. After the dreadful Star Trek V: The Final Frontier directing duties are taken away from William Shatner in favour of Nicholas Meyer whose previous credits include Wrath Of Khan. The plot feels very much of the time, made in the late 80’s / early 90’s with an ecological disaster providing the catalyst for the plot and the Klingons empire in crisis shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is also full of timeless ideals and themes as you would expect for anything carrying Gene Roddenberry’s name. All the familiar old faces return and are joined by some new ones. Look out for a supporting performances from Kim Cattrall, Iman and Michael Dorn (Worf in The Next Generation) as well as a cameo from Star Trek fan Christian Slater (his mother, Mary Jo Slater was the movies Casting Director).
As the final outing for the original crew, The Undiscovered Country is an apt title. As explained in the movie dialogue is a reference to the future from the “To be, or not to be” speech from Hamlet (translated from the original Klingon. We aren’t just looking back at the history of the franchise but forwards to its future and the message of the movie is very much about putting aside differences to help make the best future possible. As mentioned this is a movie made at the beginning of the final decade of the 20th century. A centenary that saw two world wars and humanity found many new ways of destroying itself. The literary references don’t end there with Shakespeare, there are also mentions for Milton and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (an ancestor of Spock). A lot of the Shakespeare quotes come from Christopher Plummer who is clearly having a great time a superbly villainous Klingon, but they are at their most poignant when spoken by Kirk who actual has a small character arc within the movie as he finds a little humility. Possibly not the best Star Trek movie, but it is up there with the best and it is certainly one of the most fun.