Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Review

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by Chris McEneany Jun 14, 2009 at 12:00 AM

    Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Review

    Firstly, apologies for the late-arrival of this review. A combination of my BD set being delayed - possibly by those pesky Romulans - and my own (never-ending) birthday celebrations have conspired to set this back. But, at last, here we go.

    Considering the power, the clout and the awesome respect that this series of films, and those that succeeded it right on up until JJ Abrams' awesome re-boot, there seems little point in actually attempting to discuss them in any real critical manner. By now, this series is way, way beyond all that. So, instead of ploughing through the plots, assessing the development of the characters, the themes and the quality of the effects, in essence, the successes and the shortcomings of it all, let's just enjoy the best moments of the Star Trek movies 1-6. Having grown up with these adventures and watched some of my favourite characters of all time evolve and age right alongside me, all I can really do is tell you what these movies mean to me and, hopefully, pave the way for some great nostalgic fun along the way.

    These first six movies are all presented in their theatrical versions which, at first, was an irritation. I mean it can't have been all that hard to have provided us with both cuts of The Motion Picture, The Wrath Of Khan and The Undiscovered Country. But, once I got underway with this collection, the odd extended scene here and there, some cleaned-up effects, a vague sub-plot for Scotty's nephew and VI's infamous Scooby-Doo finale mattered less and less. Now, even though I'm sure that we all know the storylines, with six movies to discuss here, you'd better strap yourselves in, because we're sure going to cover some ground with this lot, folks.

    “Why is any object we don't understand always called a thing?”

    The great Robert Wise - a true master of all genres, with The Haunting, The Day The Earth Stood Still and The Sound Of Music to his stately name - brought grace, beauty and a wonderful sense of the vastness of space and its infinite possibilities to the first of the big screen outings. With Star Wars having lifted us out of our cinema seats and transported us so believably across the galaxy, there was a lot riding on how well Trek could pull off a similar trick. It was one thing to be transported from our living rooms for a hour or so once a week in the sixties and early seventies, but we were much more sophisticated by 1979. And, if you had to boil it down to its most vital ingredient, sophistication is the single, divining element that Wise brought to his vision that would ensure the success of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and it is, arguably, something that never quite returned to the series after this epic cinematic debut. Afterwards, as we shall see, the films would be less leisurely or cerebral and would regain the rapid-fire charm of the series in terms of charisma, momentum and humour.

    With the refitted USS Enterprise tasked with intercepting a huge and monumentally destructive force that is heading towards Earth, James T. Kirk (William Shatner), now an admiral, returns to lead a host of familiar faces on a voyage into the unknown. A visual delight from start to finish, Wise, who had no affinity for the characters or the cult saga, itself, took his time with the story and revelled in its imaginative opulence and theme of spiritual redemption. But, in essence, The Motion Picture is all about insecurity, in a way mimicking Paramount's concerns over whether Star Trek would be cinematically viable. Kirk needs to assume command of a starship again. He needs adventure, sure, but the main impetus for his obsession is not so much to go back “out there” but to have that surrogate family around him again. V'ger, as the alien force is called, obviously wants to meet its Creator, to go back home and to be praised for its achievements. For the likes of McCoy (Deforest Kelley), the transition from retirement to active duty is much more overt and blurted out almost within seconds of his arrival on the Enterprise - we know he loves this life of exploration deep down, so our concerns are not essentially with his arc of trying to fit back in to the team. Besides, one good shave and he seems sorted. And for Spock (Leonard Nimoy), curtailing his emotion-shedding Kolinar ritual on Vulcan to seek his own answers from the mysterious Intruder, the journey is a much more ethereal and cosmic affair that will gain enormous momentum over the next three movies. Yet, even for him we feel only an outside empathy. We watch his slow, sure climb back from the stillness and depth of his own soul, and his gradual understanding of a colossal new consciousness, but we feel none of his development. No, the film belongs to Kirk and his trail-by-fire acclimatisation to command, commitment and to pride - in himself, his crew and, naturally, with his ship, the one true love of his life.

    Everyone goes on about it being the Slow Motion Picture, but I love its pace and atmosphere. Personally, I'd probably have enjoyed three hours more of just the infamous V'ger flyover - Jerry Goldsmith's music slyly altering from sweeping majesty and awe to darkness, menace and skittish flurries of the purely otherworldly as the mother of all intergalactic “things” unfolds all around us. Shaven-headed Deltan beauty Ilia (Persis Khambatta) makes an impact in a transcendent role, becoming one of the most tragically eerie characters in the entire Trek series. Killing her off and reincarnating her in the blink of an eye, it appears that Wise doesn't want to play by the rules and yet he manages to construct a strange romance out of it all, making something magical out of the union of the Ilia probe and the smitten Decker (Stephen Collins), rudely elbowed out of his first command by the egotistical Kirk. Even V'ger becomes something of a classically romantic figure - simply a lost child, adrift and longing to find purpose and understanding. The film, which had its genesis in an earlier episode from the TV show, The Changeling, certainly entertains - the fantastic Klingon battle at the start, the horrific tragedy with the faulty transporter - but it sheds almost all the camp excesses of the series that spawned it, making it seem cold and less humanistic although this is precisely the concept that it is attempting to explore ... humanity and the melding of the mind and the soul. One thing was undoubted, though - it sure wasn't Star Wars. This was high concept, hard SF that looked inwards as much as it did outwards.

    “Revenge is a dish best served cold. It is very cold in space ...”

    Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan is, and always shall be, the greatest Trek adventure of them all.

    When I saw it upon its general release back in 1982, I would have been around twelve years old. I'd naturally been a fan of the series for as long as I could remember, but nothing, nothing could have prepared me for the mind-opening experience that Nicholas Meyer's movie bestowed upon me. This was the film that had everything. Adventure. Comedy. Characters with strong motivations and faced with totally credible crises of conscience. And, essentially, tremendous excitement. It had another wonderful score, this time from James Horner. A brilliant storyline that, once more, harked back to the TV show, The Space Seed, and seemed to stop for nothing. Where The Motion Picture revelled in visual and spiritual grandeur, Khan allowed emotions to rule our hearts and adrenaline to spike our veins. And what emotion! A tender, melancholy birthday celebration that actually got inside you and made you yearn for Kirk to reach for the stars again. Khan's raging thirst for revenge - at once frightening, but also totally sympathetic. The discovery of Kirk's son, David (Merritt Butrick) - a moment of anxious drama, amusement and poignancy. And, of course, Spock's ultimate, and logical, sacrifice. Even as a child, I knew and totally understood that Star Wars had now been massively left behind in one of the most awkward and, indeed, alien concepts for a science-fiction film to try to achieve - that of genuine warmth. I felt Spock's death and, more importantly, and resoundingly, Kirk's reaction to it as though it had really happened. And I still do. It gets me every damn time. As the Enterprise finds the power and speeds out of reach of the Genesis shock-wave and everything seems well with the universe once again, McCoy's raspy plea of “Jim ... you'd better get down here ... better hurry,” suddenly breaks the reverie. Horner's music hits those notes of stabbing concern as Kirk whirls around to see the empty chair where his Science Officer should be sitting, and realises instinctively that his own odyssey has now cost the life of his dearest friend. Suddenly, the once pulpish, camp fun of Star Trek mutates and is reborn, right alongside the new Genesis Planet, with a strength and a maturity that told us, die-hard fans and casual lovers alike, that this was no mere SF comic-book for the screen. Whereas The Motion Picture could be quite heavy and was played seriously by all concerned, Khan was able to have its cake and eat it, too, by combining dazzling ideas, heart-stopping action, fabulous in-character humour and sentiment without saccharine.

    It was the best of the times, it was the worst of times. Message, Spock?”

    “None that I am conscious of. Except, of course, happy birthday. Surely ... the best of times.”

    Ricardo Montalban's amazing performance as the “superior intellect” Khan, with a hairdo like a space-faring Peter Stringfellow and the physique of a man half his age, is ripe with brawny obsession. His classical dialogue - timeless threats that can only be uttered with absolute relish - is instantly memorable. We may not have seen Walter Koenig's Chekov in the TV episode that prefaced this adventure but we can believe that Khan may have done - perhaps in passing, or by accessing the Enterprise's computer - and, well, he never forgets a face, does he? The crazy thing is that we actually feel elated for him and his tribe of sand-ball gypsies when they finally find a way off that blighted rock, their years of suffering there acutely reflected in Khan's eyes. And we, too, feel the adrenaline and the blood-rush when these two tribes go to war.

    “You've killed just about everyone else but, like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target. You were going to kill me, Khan. You're going to have to come down here. You're going to have to come down here!

    “I've done far worse than kill you, Admiral. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her, marooned for all eternity in the centre of a dead planet. Buried aliiiiive ... buried aliiiiive ... buried aliiiiive ...”

    In a way, all the Trek films are concerned with ageing. After their five year mission and some time spent in-between, this series just had to commence with meeting the crew's advancing years head-on, and perhaps Khan, out of the lot of them, is the most committed to exploring its effects. “Dammit, Jim, other people have birthdays - why are we treating yours like it's a funeral?” demands Bones after a pair of antique spectacles and some Romulan Ale fail to put a twinkle in Kirk's misty eyes. The whole idea of the Genesis Project - life from lifelessness - is Star Trek's answer to the Fountain Of Youth. Depicted more overtly in Search For Spock, of course, but the foundations of its effect as being some sort of catalyst for Kirk and his mob are laid down here. Khan, aside from vengeance, also finds a new lease of life in his quest to learn the secrets of this new terraforming wonder. A man who has already lived more than one lifetime, he is nevertheless kept alive and vital in the adulation of his adoring people and, through their leader's indomitable presence, they see how their kind can, well, live long and prosper.

    Nicholas Meyer, in only his second film, after the time-travel thriller Time After Time from 1979, shows incredible vigour with some of the most intense battle scenes that the entire series would witness. The nerve-shredding first encounter with the Khan-jacked Reliant is staggeringly well constructed. Suspense is ramped-up to an extraordinary degree as Kirk twitches uneasily with Reliant's refusal to reply to Enterprise's hailing. It may well be “irregular” to keep quiet considering the Federation is “one big, happy family”, but it is downright rude to then fire upon one of their own ships. Bodies tumble across the Bridge and poor cadets get roasted in the Engine Room and then Meyer does the first to two phenomenal shots, as Khan suddenly appears on the viewscreen and Kirk rises into the frame, his stunned expression at seeing his old foe really galvanising and raw. But as good as this initial face-to-face is, Meyer then goes a stage further as Kirk cunningly turns the tables on his attacker. Just look at his calm determination as he orders his counter-attack and the stunned expression that is now Khan's face when the genetically enhanced superman realises that his own shields are dropping and that Enterprise has locked her phasers on them. With steady build from Horner's score and a terrific zoom into Montalban's shocked eyes, all the measured pace from The Motion Picture is suddenly eclipsed by Meyer's rapid-fire intensity. Kirsty Alley's sultry Vulcan helmsman, Lt. Saavik, can quote all the Starfleet regulations that she wants, but there isn't one in the manual that's a substitute for a gung-ho Captain with the bit between his teeth. And we've still got the awesome duel in the Mutara Nebula to come. This battle of wits - bluff and counter-bluff, do-or-die strategy and pure guile - is the backbone of Meyer's peerless filmmaking, the sheer exhilaration of which the passing years have done nothing to diminish. Star Trek II, if I ever had to compile such a selection, would be one of my desert island films.

    “Kirk, you do this and you'll never sit in the Captain's chair again!”

    Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, as directed by Leonard Nimoy, was an entry that I found disappointing at first. Still reeling from the Vulcan's demise, I wasn't sure if his return - which, as the series would demonstrate, was an essential thing, of course - should have been handled so quickly afterwards. It felt almost as if creator Gene Roddenberry, regular screenwriter Harve Bennet and Paramount thought that they'd made a mistake killing Spock off and were seeking very swiftly to rectify it before anybody noticed. But the film was still surprisingly enjoyable considering its theme of going the extra mile for the sake of a friend. There was another major death in this one, but it was dealt out with much less heartbreak than before, Nimoy placing the emphasis, like Khan before it, on action and excitement. Even the destruction of the Enterprise wasn't as emotional as it would have been had Meyer tackled it. With Robin Curtis replacing Kirstie Alley as Saavik and Christopher Lloyd's rampaging Klingon hot on Kirk's heels, a neat role-reversal revelation regarding the stability of Genesis' world creation and our heroes turning renegade for the sake of their fallen comrade, The Search For Spock was a rollicking thrill-ride that upped the visuals and gave us some new angles of the Enterprise - that starship-jacking episode is a stunner. Over the years, I have found new delights in this entry. James Horner's score is typically excellent, and I just love his madcap Klingon theme, which manages to combine threat with a toe-tapping zaniness. McCoy's poetic possession by Spock is one of the most delicious things that could have happened and the beautiful scheming that the crew undertake to keep their own - and our - dreams alive via nicking the Enterprise from its intended moth-balling takes this adventure down a space-lane that the series had never really looked at before. It is also great to see a whole lot more of the Starfleet way of life. We get to meet many new Federation characters and see more of the hardware and infrastructure that puts these brave naval bods into the celestial waters.

    “Klingon bastard ... you killed my son!”

    The rather arrogant attitude of the Federation prison officers seems a tad irresponsible, but James B. Sikking and Miguel (Robocop) Ferrer also crop up as the smug and pompous commander and helmsman of the Starfleet flagship, the Excelsior, and there's a terrific scene in a bar when McCoy - ever the alcoholic, even with Spock lodged in his brain - tries to barter a flight to the Genesis planet from a really freaky looking alien that gave me the creeps then, and still does now. The introduction of the Klingon Bird Of Prey is a fabulously intimidating idea, even if the crew (what, just a dozen of them?) aren't exactly the most threatening bunch, despite Commander Kruge's tendency to kill his own people for displeasing him. Kruge, himself, is actually far too lenient to be a convincing enough foil for our good Admiral. When Kirk, caught with his britches down yet again, haggles for a moment to brief his crew, Kruge actually gives him two! Compare that to Khan's impatience during a very similar set-up in the previous movie - “Admiral ... time is a luxury you don't have!” But I can't be the only one who thinks that the breakout from Spacedock is much more exciting than the actual confrontation between Kirk and the Klingon who had ordered his son to be executed, although Kirk pounding his boot into his crusty bonce is full of agreeable verve - “I ... have ... had ... enough ... of youuuu!” is a great send-off as the Klingon sails down into molten oblivion. Comical off-duty fashions aside, The Search For Spock has grown in stature over the years to become quite a solid entry in the series.

    “Well, a double dumb-ass on you!

    Things would turn in a visually different direction for the next two films and, predominantly, this was because they were opened-up quite considerably by extensive outdoor shooting. Shunted, at least partially, were the bridge sets and the cramped confines of the various starships, the franchise suddenly allowed to breathe in the bustling San Francisco of then-present day 1986 and, afterwards, in the rocky desert environments that had so become the hallmark of the ancestral TV series. This was necessary after we had logged so many shipboard space hours.

    Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home has the dubious honour of being the comedy episode of this series. Time-travelling back to the end of the 20th Century, our guys, in that modified Bird Of Prey, have to rescue a couple of Humpback Whales in order to relocate them into the seas of a future Earth that is being torn apart by another intergalactic “thing” that only they can communicate with. The eco-flavour of this entry was another sociological commentary, this time on Man's insane greed at hunting a species to the brink of extinction. It was moralistic, platform storytelling that gave Kirk and Spock the opportunity to poke an accusatory finger at humanity's lack of, well, humanity. Hugely popular when it came out - though it took me a long time to properly accept it - Voyage Home was full of slapstick, cultural referencing - ghetto-blasters, swearing and, rather coyly, a US warship called Enterprise - and neatly ducked some of that nostalgic Cold War stuff back in again with Pavel Chekov asking SYPD officers where the “nuclear wessels” are in his thick Russian accent. What is clever about Nimoy's second helmed Trek film is how it transforms these space-savvy survivors of countless cosmic dangers into blundering buffoons. The conceit is that they are fish out of water in this era, whose mission just happens to be that they have to take some really big fish out of water. Okay, okay - whales are mammals, but there's no point blubbering on about it. The magic comes courtesy of the banter. Nimoy and The Shat (sounds like an 80's TV show!) are on excellent form - Spock's straight man to Kirk's witty raconteur is marvellously turned on its head with the Vulcan - who is dressed like a celestial monk - parroting foul language, taking the plunge in the whale-tank, nerve-pinching anti-social punks and engaging in wicked, Ben Stiller-esque verbal tennis regarding whether or not he likes Italian food. Despite its weighty subject matter, the movie is played for laughs - broad and daft. The TV show had plentiful episodes like this, so it is only fitting that the movie franchise followed suit.

    “They like you very much, but they are not the hell your whales.”

    “I suppose they told you that?”

    The hell they did.”

    Catherine Hicks's thickly maned cetacean expert is extremely cute, too. Which helps. And this one saw the rather poor Robin Curtis' Saavik ditched in the opening act, which also helped. Some odd visuals reflecting them travelling through time - big clay maquettes of the crew members' faces twirling through the ether and a strangely eloquent pond-vista - almost make a point but, perhaps cleverly, are gone before any true relevance can be latched-onto. A fabulous Shaolin Monk type Starfleet officer creates a startling first impression, as does Michael (The Hills Have Eyes) Berryman, whose unusual face cannot be masked even by prosthetics, as another. And, hey, there's cute pop-pixie Jane (The Go-Go's and Rush Hour - the song, not the film) Wiedlin in the background, too. Plenty to love, in other words.

    “We'll need all the power you can muster, Mister!”

    If Nimoy can direct a Star Trek film, then The Shat will can too. Always considered one of the lesser instalments and even derided by some, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (a great, if rather obvious title) is one that I feel quite defensive of. Sure, Shatner gives himself far too many stunts and allows his beloved Kirk to come across as a much younger version of the Admiral, one who just happens to have put on a “fat” tunic that day by mistake, but this is still fine Sci-Fi and one that attempts, even if it keeps its tongue in its cheek, to probe the theological as well as the galactic. But where The Motion Picture's addressing of a “bigger issue” and a “higher intelligence” was deeply profound and stunningly spiritual, Final Frontier wants to colour such notions with desert battles on the arid Nimbus III, wild-haired and muscular Klingon warriors (and that's just the females) out for Starfleet blood, a sexy, moonlit feather-dance from Nichelle Nichols' Uhura, a partially refitted Enterprise that looks like it has been put together by Basil Fawlty, grinning Vulcans, alluring Romulans, Spock nerve-pinching a horse ... and David Warner in a blink-or-you'll-miss-him cameo. Shatner certainly thinks he is giving the audience what they want and I would say that he succeeds quite, ahem, Admirably for the most part. Yes, I know that, technically, he has been busted back down to Captain by now, but you know what I mean.

    “What does God need with a starship?”

    A camp-fire sing-along, Kirk's rather egotistical ascent of Mount Yosemite (because “it's there”) and a profound lightness of touch throughout have had critics commenting on the silliness of it all. But the point is this - we now have Spock back again and for the crew it is business as usual, just like in the old days. After the soul-searching of part III and the eco-friendly stance of part IV, this combination of notions and merriment was something of a relief. We have a mission that intends to go, quite literally, where no man has gone before and we have an uncanny mind-bender in rogue Vulcan prophet Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill). Revelations abound on the journey to cross the Great Barrier - which is a distressingly simple thing to do, as it turns out - and we smack headlong into the greatest challenge that any Trek film could face ... a dwindling budget. However rushed and lacklustre the climax feels - a lot of bimbling about in the dusty desolation - Final Frontier offers lots of comedy and some decent, if quite unusual attempts at revealing the inner demons of the main three characters. The skeleton in McCoy's closet is actually very affecting and Deforest Kelley does a fine job of conveying his pain, his anger and his overall suspicions about confronting the past. Sybock is also a very unusual villain in that he is, quite plainly, not a villain at all. A clever idea, however, is how well the story plays into American fears of religious extremism and even hostage-taking. But a definite disappointment is the lack of actual threat from the Klingon hunters pursuing Kirk across the Great Barrier. Perhaps Shatner, basking in all the heroism that his bulging tunic will allow him to get away with, realises that he can no longer deliver those two-footed drop-kicks with any credibility, so lets the anticipated scrap between Kirk and enormo-bouffanted Klingon skipper, Klaas, slip away with just a smattering of reluctant professional respect for one another.

    “Bones, are you afraid of the future?”

    Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was the one that turned our space cowboys into sleuths as they fought to unmask a warmongering assassin, expose a heinous plot of betrayal and hate, and to free Kirk and Bones from some ice-bound, prison-planet Gulag. The metaphor, as everyone and his dog knows, was concerned with Soviet Russia's collapse and the suspicions that many harboured about this new period of Glasnost. “Détente, comrade,” as a certain Mr. Bond would utter. But the forces of darkness and anarchy have their roots in the most surprising of locations and The Undiscovered Country makes for a powerful and darkly themed conclusion to Classic Trek's big screen run. Basically, what returning director Nicholas Meyer is saying with this entry is that we've had our fun and that we must acknowledge the fact that the series, as much as we may wish otherwise, cannot go on forever and that this crowd don't always act like clowns. In fact, they can act pretty damn well when they want to and the material, of course, warrants it.

    Iman's wacky shape-shifting prison stooge, ferocious aliens with their genitals situated at knee-height, a super-cool massacre in zero-gravity, excellently tense clue-unravelling and a wilfully goading script that takes in bigotry and the innate difficulties in overcoming it do not mean that this is a cold movie that forsakes fun for a more sombre approach. There are still plenty of chuckles to be had, such as Kirk discovering that he's snogged a chameleon who now looks like himself - “Must have been your lifelong ambition!” he is told laconically by the grinning alien. But there is an undeniable mean streak coursing through this that makes it a much more adult affair than we have been used to. In one of the series' most disturbing moments Spock even mentally rapes one of the conspirators, Kim Cattrell's Vulcan Valeris, in an effort to drag information out of her, but there is also a sense that he is enraged enough to use this power as a tool of punishment as well, which shows a new level of complexity to his character and one that also makes him more humanistic. Now, whilst I totally agree with such tactics under the circumstances, elements such as this do make for a sterner, less free-wheeling adventure.

    “Don't believe them ... don't trust them.”

    “They're dying ...”

    “Let them die!”

    Although I love this movie, I have never cared for its use of Shakespearean quotation. Whilst it is cute and clever, it remains, sadly, an idiotic steal for the Klingon General Chang to claim some cultural ownership of the determinedly Earthly Bard. Chang, himself, as finely emoted as Christopher Plummer makes him is, nonetheless, a simple pantomime villain - even down to the eye-patch. Arguably though, we have actually not had a proper villain in the series since Khan, Star Trek, in the main, tending to enjoy the danger of predicaments, dilemmas and situations far more readily than the actual embodiment of personified threat, so it is still great to have a boo-hiss bad guy. In fact, Undiscovered Country has a few baddies strewn about its deadly, and occasionally grim detective work. Boasting a wonderful prison-break sequence - note the frozen corpse of a less fortunate escapee - and a neat sense of the net tightening around the real culprit, this is a remarkably sturdy endeavour and a vigorous swansong, or baton-change, if you will, for the crew of the Next Generation. Plus David Warner finally gets more of a part to get his teeth into this time around, as the ill-fated Klingon Chancellor Gorkon.

    “Course heading, Captain?”

    “Second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning.”

    Musically, the Star Trek films presented composers with massive orchestral challenges, each and every time. The heroes, unquestionably, are Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner, who, between them, created the most indelible, iconic and unforgettable themes for Trek's big screen universe. Goldsmith's wondrous material for the first film led into Horner's appreciation for the next two, both men adapting, embellishing and glorifying in the splendours of strong characters, mystery, tragedy and tense action. Their main title themes are canonical, their mutual abilities to progress them throughout their respective movies with subtle variations, inflections and tonal asides, unparalleled. Already great individual scenes are made all the more powerful because of their contributions. The beauty of Kirk's return to the Enterprise and the awesome majesty and wonder of the V'ger flyover became benchmarks for rich, symphonic scoring in an age when electronica was beginning to take over - in fact, Goldsmith was the best at combining the two styles. Horner's brilliance at emotional understanding for Khan's most heartfelt moments hauls that lump into your throat with insidious ease, and his knack for pulse-pounding excitement - the seminal first confrontation with Khan's commandeered Reliant and, most adrenal of all, Kirk's explosive reply to the crippling salvo his ship has suffered. “Coming through now, Khan ...” Oh, isn't it just? Both composers also found the unique cadence for the Klingons - weird, tribal, percussive and decidedly “alien”, but exquisitely catchy at the same time. The pasty-headed ones may be treacherous and violent, but, man, they've got rhythm. Goldsmith would return to the series with Final Frontier and would go on to score First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis, although, as yet, Horner has not revisited Starfleet.

    Leonard Rosenman was an unusual choice to score The Voyage Home and his music is a definite skew away from the trademarked sound of Trek. Distinctive and often quite smitten with metallic and discordant themes, Rosenman was an equally unusual option for scoring comedies, which is what Voyage Home is, first and foremost. But his music suits the caper and offers a resoundingly upbeat, almost “twinkly” main title that can't help but grow on you. Similarly, Cliff Eidelman's work on Undiscovered Country was a radial departure in tone, feel and character. Altogether darker and more serious, this was subdued, ominous and menacing. Suspense and dread are key elements and this score marks a curiously intense denouement to the music of Classic Trek.

    “Once again, we've saved civilisation as we know it.”

    “And the good news is, they're not going to prosecute.”

    But one of the most remarkable things about these six movies, and something that totally flies in the face of that alleged odd number curse, is how well they all flow together. Considering the differing directors, the advancement in special effects technology as they went along and the current “theme of the times”, all six make for an immensely satisfying catalogue of extended episodes. You get the serious one, the action-packed and emotional one and its two satellite arcs, a back to basics concept yarn and then the political thriller. There is definitely something for everyone, plot-wise. But the glue that bonds the whole enterprise together - oh, dear, sorry about that - is, and always shall be, the cast and the unshakeable camaraderie that they have. You feel a part of this family. Star Wars never managed to place you within the fold of its characters to such a degree and, for that matter, nor has anything else been so equally tender, intuitive and inordinately pleasing as the ongoing journeys of the Starship Enterprise.

    Classic films, indeed ... and so much better, on the whole, than the Next Generation cycle that followed. With the first two movies clocking-up scores of 9 and 10 out of 10, respectively, The Search For Spock would get an 8, both The Voyage Home and The Final Frontier would get 7 apiece and The Undiscovered Country a borderline 9 ... bringing the collection of films a grand score of 9 out of 10, overall.

    The Rundown

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