Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) Director: Nicholas Meyer
With a title alluding to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Star Trek VI was bound to be superior than its rather mediocre predecessor. The sixth Star Trek film was released during the end of the Cold War and the film’s themes echo the historical contemporaneous events, with the Klingons representing Russia and the United Federation of Planets representing the United States and the West. The Klingon Empire is in a state of decay and dissolution, set to collapse in a handful of decades. There is a mixture of hope and mistrust between the two cultures. This is a surprisingly topical and enjoyable installment in the Star Trek franchise in my view. Sadly Gene Roddenberry died before Star Trek VI was completed.
The film opens with Sulu, now the Captain of the U.S.S. Excelsior, as his ordinary mission heads home when the moon Praxis suddenly explodes in what seems to be a Klingon cover-up. Back at Star Command a classified meeting is convened which reunites the old crew of the Enterprise on a mission to engage a Klingon vessel headed by the Klingon Chancellor (David Warner) who is interested in making peace. The Enterprise reluctantly host their sworn enemies the Klingons for a meal, but that evening treachery is afoot. The Enterprise appears to fire on the Klingon vessel destabilizing its anti-gravity system, and two disguised figures donning gravity gear beam aboard the Klingon vessel and assassinate several guards along with the Chancellor. When the Klingon vessel stabilizes it turns to fire on the Enterprise, but Kirk and Bones beam aboard unarmed in a gesture of goodwill and they find the dying Chancellor whose last words to Kirk are: “Don’t let it end like this.”
Kirk and Bones are promptly brought before a tribunal and found guilty of murder (in a wonderful crossover with The Next Generation, they are defended by Mr. Worf). The prosecution is played by a deranged, one-eyed KGB-esque leader named Chang (Christopher Plummer). They are sentenced to a lifetime of grueling work in the mines of Rura Penthe, a “graveyard” not unlike the Russian gulags. However, they quickly meet a shapeshifter who helps them escape, but of course she is a traitor. Back aboard the Enterprise, Spock has been leading an internal investigation into who may have assassinated the Chancellor. He also deliberately disobeys orders and remains nearby to rescue Kirk and Bones when they escape outside the energy field blocking the ability to beam outside Rura Penthe. Once they are back aboard the Enterprise, a conspiracy of Klingons, Romulans, and Federation crew are discovered to have led the sabotage of the peace talks, including Valeris (Kim Cattrall), Spock’s young protege. They prevent a terrorist plot at the peace assembly and destroy the prototype of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey that can cloak itself while firing. The film ends on a beautiful note as Kirk quotes Peter Pan and directs the Enterprise to carry on toward the second on the right, straight on ’til morning. The film closes with his final log entry as the torch is handed to the next generation:
“Captain’s Log, Stardate 9529.1:This is the final cruise of the Starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man – where no one – has gone before.”