This was an emotional film for the cast of the Star Trek TV series. It was the last film in which they appeared together. From left to right we can see Spock (Leonard Nimoy), McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Chekov (Walter Koenig), James T. Kirk (William Sharner), Scotty (James Doohan) and Uhura (Nichelle Nicholls). Who's missing? The tattered chair at the front is empty, because Sulu (George Takei) has been promoted to captain of a shiny new starship, the Excelsior.
Sulu appears in a few scenes, but never together with the others because he's on board a different ship. I've never seen him smiling as smugly as in the opening scenes when he's just recorded his captain's log with the information that he's completed his first three-year mission. It's as if he's out of character and he's smiling in front of his fans, telling them "Look how far I've come".
Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) also appears as the communications officer on the Excelsior. There's no reason that she should be there, as far as the story is concerned. She was just included to make the Star Trek fans happy. She was a minor character who only appeared in eight episodes of the original series, but she won over the hearts of the fans and they wanted to see her again.
This film answers questions that fans had been asking for the last four years. When "Star Trek: The Next Generation" started in 1987 the Klingons were members of the United Federation of Planets after being bitter enemies in the original series. How did it happen? "The Undiscovered Country" tells the story in a very elegant way. The Klingons are a race of warriors, so it would have been infeasible for them to suddenly become peaceful. They began negotiations out of a position of weakness. A natural disaster polluted the atmosphere of the Klingon Empire, so they were facing extinction within 50 years. In theory they could have started a war to conquer planets where they could relocate, but they chose to seek peace with the Federation instead.
Peace isn't easy after so many years of war. An alliance of humans, Vulcans, Romulans and Klingons tries to execute the leader of the Klingons in order to torpedo the peace deal.
Unlike the previous five films there are subtle humorous touches in "The Undiscovered Country". The Klingons are of the opinion that William Shakespeare was a Klingon playwright whose works were later translated into English. That's an interesting theory. Kirk's main enemy in the film is Chang, a Klingon general who is constantly quoting Shakespeare. It's difficult not to like him, because his literary quotes give him an aura of dignity. Am I too old to start quoting Shakespeare?
After having re-watched the first six Star Trek films over the last six months I have to praise their quality. They're nowhere near as bad as many people claim. I can see how they sometimes depart from the atmosphere of the original TV series, but they're a worthy epilogue to the adventures of Captain Kirk and his comrades.
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