For the longest time, The Voyage Home was my favorite Star Trek movie if not outright favorite overall Trek story. As I got older, my tastes started to move towards Wrath of Khan, but this one is still a damn good entry. It’s the humorous one, one that takes advantage of the fact that the original cast were pretty comfortable in their respective roles by this point, and they could come across as relaxed and themselves more than anything else. It’s very approachable, even for people who aren’t big Trek fans, and can probably make a good gateway to the franchise.
And, because I am sometimes wrong, I had said for the first movie that it was the last time we’d see Yeoman Rand and Nurse Chapel, but no, they both appear in this one. True, they only have about a line apiece, but they’re there. Heck, Majel Barett even has her name in the opening credits. It probably helps when you’re married to the series creator as far as that goes…
But overall, I still find Voyage Home a very comfortable movie to return to. Star Trek is often a little silly in its basic premises, so sometimes it helps when the show embraces it. Humor is also not exactly alien to Star Trek, so having a movie that is functionally just a comedy helps there. Let’s face it: stories like this may make the audience wonder why the future doesn’t send more people to the past to revive extinct species. True, the future really needed those humpback whales, beautiful animals I’ve seen on more than one whale watching trip, but the thought still occurs to me. Why not save the dodo? It wouldn’t be any sillier than anything else that happens here.
And so, we have a movie with a plot that requires the crew of the Enterprise to use a stolen Klingon ship with a cloaking device to go back to the past, find some whales, and come back and hope they tell this destructive space probe to stop doing stuff that will wipe out all the humans. That leads to a lot of fish-out-of-water comedy, and while this isn’t the crew’s first trip to the 20th century, it is the first time they had to directly mingle with the population at large without backup from an entire starship. Their Klingon vessel is losing power and makes for a nice place to touch base but that’s about it. The crew needs to do three things: find some whales, recharge the dilitheum crystals, and build a tank in the cargo bay with whatever materials are available.
The end result is, perhaps for the first time, all the different members of the crew have distinct tasks and most of them get a decent spotlight (Sulu doesn’t really, and Uhura as always doesn’t have as much to do as the other men, but even she gets some good moments). Scotty is, as he usually is in the movies, a bit of a scene-stealer, and McCoy’s reactions alone show how comfortable DeForest Kelley was by that point in playing the irascible doctor.
Heck, the most understated comedic performance may come from Walter Koenig. It’s the Cold War and the guy with the thick Russian accent is asking where the naval base is, and his interrogation scene when captured shows a lot of fun wordplay that I generally appreciate. And then McCoy and Kirk need to go to a hospital to rescue him, during which McCoy cures an old woman’s kidney issues with a single pill while grumbling about the primitive nature of 20th century medicine.
Basically, I’m not sure there’s a scene in this movie that just doesn’t work for me. We get some payoff to the previous two movies, the first appearance of actor Brock Peters in a Trek story in a role he’ll repeat two movies from this one, and it ends with Kirk being demoted from Admiral back to Captain, a move I didn’t care for as a kid but as an adult I realize, especially in light of the previous two movies, is more of a reward than a punishment.
Besides, we get to see Spock swear, and Leonard Nimoy gets to have fun in front of the camera as well this time. Spock just doesn’t have the knack for the colorful metaphors, but that doesn’t mean he won’t give it a shot. Heck, my favorite line in the entire movie is more of a throwaway joke than anything else, as Kirk asks Spock for some calculations and Spock replies, “One damn minute, Admiral.” He seems more oblivious to McCoy’s barbs this time around, owing perhaps to his recent resurrection making his mind not-quite-all-there, and when the time comes, he’ll rejoin the others on a brand new Enterprise.
As such, when Spock tells Sarek to tell Amanda, in response to concerns she had in the beginning of the movie, that he feels fine, well, so say we all.
And with that in mind, the franchise then followed it all up with what was probably the weakest entry in the entire set of movies for the original cast.