I hope you’ve got the popcorn ready because Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the ultimate Star Trek: The Original Series popcorn flick. Of all The Original Series films, it’s hard to say whether The Voyage Home or Wrath of Khan is more beloved. In fact, it might be equal among the fandom at large, and at least for me, it’s just about a tie. Let’s learn why in this next installment of my Star Trek Summer Rewatch. But first, let’s watch the Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home trailer, and then we’ll get started.
Now that we’ve seen that, let’s break down what I think works and doesn’t work in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home aka “The One with the Whales.”
What Works: Great Story
There are a few different schools of thought regarding how to interpret Star Trek in general. One school prefers action-oriented stories. Another prefers more cerebral storytelling, and then there are these other Star Trek stories that are so wacky that they lean more into the action-comedy genre. That’s what you’ve got here with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. And man, am I HERE FOR IT! I love to laugh, and as Spock calls them in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1×05, “hijinks.” There’s no shortage of either in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
We’ve got time travel, fish-out-of-water humor, and a reminder to do your part to care for the planet and its creatures. You never know when you might need them or how their absence might negatively impact the world around you. In this case, the lack of humpback whales in the 23rd century is quite literally cataclysmic. The premise seems a bit out there, but it sure is fun to watch. If you like a fun story that leans a bit into the silly, you should definitely watch Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
What Works: Great Supporting Cast
One thing that really stood out to me as I’ve rewatched these Star Trek films is that even if the script isn’t exactly my cup of tea, the supporting cast in these films elevates the material. And please don’t read that as a slight on this script because it isn’t. I really love Star Trek IV. But Catherine Hicks as Gillian really knocks this film out of the park. If her name is familiar, it’s because she’s got two main roles that she’s known for by what are likely wildly different crowds. Two years after Star Trek IV, Catherine would land the role of Karen Barclay, aka Andy’s mom in the horror classic, Child’s Play. 90s kids would likely know her best as Annie Camden in the WB show, 7th Heaven. Now, if that doesn’t give you genre whiplash, I don’t know what will.
Regardless, Catherine is fantastic in this role. She takes no guff, and for Kirk, she might as well be “The One That Got Away.” Appropriate for a fish story, right? Right?! Screw you, that joke was great. I’ll see myself to the brig.
While Catherine Hicks is our main supporting cast member, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the return of Mark Lenard as Sarek, sci-fi standout John Schuck as the Klingon Ambassador, and the brilliant Brock Peters as Admiral Cartwright. Peters is known for his landmark role as Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird and in sci-fi at large as Chief Hatcher in Soylent Green, but I know him best as Joseph Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Though the rest of these supporting roles bookend the story at large, their performances are still top-notch. If you like a movie with a strong supporting cast, look no further than Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
What Works: Unique Movie Score
It’s hard for me to pass up any film with a great score. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is no exception. We have a new composer for this film’s score, Leonard Rosenman. Rosenman has some great genre credits, including Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings (which is either nostalgic or terrible, depending on who you ask, but you can’t say that the score isn’t gorgeous). He also composed the score for the iconic sci-fi film, Fantastic Voyage.
Now, what sets The Voyage Home apart from the scores of the previous three films is that it tends to leave the primarily orchestral nature of those scores. Sure, there’s plenty of orchestral music in the film, but when our crew lands in the modern day (the modern day of the mid-80s, that is), the score goes a bit more synthesizer, slap bass, and drum machine pop. And boy, if there’s something that really gets in my blood, it’s 80s synth pop. My favorite track on the record (I do mean record, as I own a copy on vinyl) is “Market Street,” which is deliciously 80s. If you’re up for a score that helps you go to the future, but also the 80s, then you best add Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home to your playlist.
I would normally include a section of what didn’t work for me, but I’ve got to be honest, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home fires on all warp thrusters for me. I love its humor. Catherine Hicks’ performance really stands out. The plot is just the right amount of silly without being absurd, and it leans into the fun this cast can have with a comedy plot, just like the hilarious “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode. Additionally, the 1980s aesthetic is captured so well that I can’t help but love it. This is a perfect summer popcorn flick, and I think it’s truly my favorite of The Original Series films.
What do you think of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.