My BluRay Shelf: 'Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home' not quite what I remembered
Wrap-up of the unofficial 'trilogy' deserves its place in fans' hearts
So here's a practical question for you: how do you explain time travel to a four-year-old?
I spent so much time fretting while we were watching "Wrath of Khan," thinking about how to put Spock's death in the proper context, that it never occurred to me that I might end up engaged in a conversation about quantum physics with someone who believes werewolves live in our pool. The conversations are the entire point of watching something with Toshi, though, so I don't try to dodge it when I'm not sure how to explain something. It's good practice. After all, if we can't discuss something like this, how am I ever going to explain the important things to him later, when it counts.
And then to complicate things, I told him there was time travel in JJ's "Star Trek."
"What you say?!" That's a big one for him right now. He says it like you just called him an asshole. "Not in the theater 'Star Trek.' You know, what you and me saw? Just us in the theater?"
"Yes. That's why Old Spock and Young Spock talked. Old Spock went back in time so he could talk to himself."
"No way. You're crazy."
"It's like if you went back in time to see yourself as a baby."
"I'm not a baby. I'm a kid."
"I know that. But what if we went in your room right now, and in the crib... instead of your brother, what if it was you when you were a baby?"
[more after the jump]
We had to go in his room and check, of course, and it was only after he was completely convinced that the baby version of himself was not in the crib that he told me he was ready for his snack and the movie, pleeeeeeease, and hurry.
I've always been a little rough on "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home." I was working at a theater when it came out, and even though we didn't book it, the theater where my girlfriend was a manager did, all summer long. It was a crossover hit, too, playing to crowds that weren't typical "Star Trek" types. It played like a Farrelly Brothers comedy, huge screams of laughter at every little gag. I've always called it the sitcom episode of the series, and I've never been as fond of it as everyone else seems to be.
Like I said, though, I'm watching all of this with fresh eyes this time around because of the way Toshi engages with the films. And this time, I found the film so much more enjoyable that I'm actually sorry for all the years I've spent beating up on it. "The Voyage Home" was a nice step forward for Nimoy as a director. You could tell he was more relaxed in his role as director, and it makes sense that this was the era of the mega "Star Trek" conventions, the heyday of their involvement with the fan community. The cast all knew by this point just how beloved their character were, and this movie feels like them taking a victory lap. It's interesting how this "trilogy" that lies in the middle of this series of films was never designed that way. Each time out, they were making that one film, not thinking ahead at all. And yet, in the end, "STII," "STIII," and "STIV" all end up telling one big story arc about a crew refusing to be put out to pasture and realizing what a family they really are.
One of the strangest things about this film... it's the only "Star Trek" movie without the Enterprise. They did, after all, blow up the ship at the end of the last film. They've got a Klingon Bird of Prey, but that's it. And at the start of the film, everyone's still on Vulcan, where they are waiting for Spock to get himself together again. It's a narrative problem to be solved, and they have a great big fun solution in store, leading to a finish that puts everything where it should be, which could have been a perfect springboard for a whole new set of adventures.
One of the things about the '80s that distinguishes it was just how deeply in love with itself the era was. Pop culture was profoundly, unashamedly masturbatory, so it makes perfect sense that the crew would go to 1987, so the humor comes from playing these familiar characters off of the things that made the '80s so very, very rough.
Toshi loved the adventure and the comedy, but I will say that the experience was marred every so slightly by Toshi asking me, "Daddy, where is the Enterprise?" about 27,000 times during the film. That's mitigated only by his reaction when it did finally show up, "A" newly affixed. He cheered, then strutted around my office saying, "I told you," as the credits played out another lovely afternoon of "Trek."
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