Star Trek VI:
The Undiscovered Country

directed by Nicholas Meyer
(Paramount, 1991)

Star Trek VI begins with one hell of a bang.

I approached this film with trepidation. Knowing it was to be the final outing for the original cast and crew, I worried that their last performance would flop.

I was not disappointed. Not only is the story one of the finest in the Star Trek lexicon, but it also boasts some of the best performances as well. All of the usual cast are at their peak, and the guest stars likewise shine.

The events of The Undiscovered Country are set into motion when a Klingon moon explodes (a la Chernobyl), devastating their society and bringing them to the brink of extinction. The explosive wave which crashes into Excelsior (commanded by Captain Sulu) is an incredible effect -- the moment the wave slams into the starship is a grand bit of film-making.

Peace may be the Klingons' only chance of salvation, and Spock is dispatched to make initial overtures. When negotiations are arranged, Kirk and the Enterprise are sent to escort the Klingon party.

In this film the Klingons, always portrayed as vicious, two-dimensional thugs, achieve a certain grandeur and nobility at last. Their state dinner aboard the Enterprise is a coup both for writing and acting. Tensions run high, fear and distrust lying beneath a thin veneer of civility as the sides fence with barbed words and lines from Shakespeare.

The mystery behind the attack on the Klingon flagship and assassination of its top official provides the most suspense ever seen in the Star Trek universe. The assassination itself is a high point in drama and staging -- as is the trial of Kirk and McCoy on the Klingon homeworld.

The tension is maintained right through to the end, with a climactic space battle exceeded only by the ships' duel in The Wrath of Khan.

The captain and crew do a spectacular job in this movie. Leonard Nimoy in particular sparkles as Spock, taking his lead from Sherlock Holmes in his efforts to uncover the architects of the crime. His barely controlled rage and pain upon discovering the traitor is masterful, as is his icy carriage masking breaking emotions during a forced mindmeld to uncover further details of the plot.

William Shatner is also excellent, mixing his usual devil-may-care attitude and loose interpretation of Star Fleet regulations with his devotion to duty and his conspicuous hatred for the Klingons. DeForest Kelley gives his best show as McCoy, the eternal backbone of the crew.

George Takei finally comes into his own as Sulu. After several key scenes were deleted from earlier films, he steps out from under Kirk's shadow to run his own starship -- and it was enough for me to wish Takei had gotten his desire for a film titled The Adventures of Captain Sulu. Likewise, James Doohan (Scotty), Walter Koenig (Chekov) and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) do some of their best work of the film series.

Joining them are some top-notch additions to the cast. Kim Cattrall keeps you guessing as Valeris, Spock's Vulcan protege, who joins the bridge crew for this mission. There are several excellent performances from members of Star Fleet and Federation leadership, as well as the Klingons -- the outstanding actor here is Christopher Plummer as the Klingon chief of staff General Chang. His cool delivery in some scenes is good; his high passion and soaring Shakespearean emoting in others is superb. Plummer has obvious relish for the part.

The ending is about as good as any long-running series could ever hope to end. Kudos to everyone involved; Star Trek's first, best cast took their final bows on a high note.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 15 September 2001

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