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Stardate 2013 - The Undiscovered Country (1991)

Kirk and McCoy are imprisoned for the murder of the Klingon High Chancellor.

Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Christopher Plummer, Kim Cattrall, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Mark Lenard, David Warner, Christian Slater

When Praxis, the Klingon moon and site of their energy production facility, explodes, the Klingons decide they must come to a peaceful agreement with the United Federation of Planets in order to survive. Much to his chagrin, Kirk (Shatner) is ordered to take the Enterprise to meet with Gorkon (Warner), the Klingon High Chancellor, and escort him to Earth to begin negotiating peace. After sharing a meal with the Klingons, someone on the Enterprise fires torpedoes at Gorkon's battlecruiser, disabling the anti-gravity mechanism. Two assassins in Starfleet suits, equipped with gravity boots, beam aboard and kill Gorkon. When Kirk and McCoy (Kelley) beam aboard to explain they weren't responsible, the Klingons refuse to listen, placing the pair on trial for Gorkon's murder.
The original series of 'Star Trek' was known for tackling the contemporary issues of the day through a science fiction filter. While 'The Voyage Home' had addressed environmental issues, it did so in a blatant manner rather than an allegorical one. For the sixth film, Leonard Nimoy suggested a plot-line which would mirror the ending of the cold war, as the Berlin wall had just come down in 1989. The relationship between the Federation and the Klingons had always been a thinly veiled allegory of that of the U.S and U.S.S.R so it made sense to now bring the onscreen cold war to an end.
With the preceding three movies directed by Nimoy and Shatner, the director of the series' best installment, 'Wrath of Khan', Nicholas Meyer, was brought back. As a result, this movie has a level of class that had been absent from Nimoy and Shatner's work. Despite working with the same level of budget, Meyer's film looks like a much larger scale movie, utilizing the relatively modest sets (many of which were borrowed from 'The Next Generation') to great effect. It's a shame Meyer never went on to bigger things as few of today's Hollywood directors have either his talent or integrity. Should you ever get the chance to listen to one of his DVD commentaries, I thoroughly recommend it, as he provides some great insights into the story-telling process.
This was the final film to feature the original crew in its entirety and, although he would return in a reduced role in the next installment, Shatner really milks his screen time here, putting in a tour de force like only he can. Kirk had fought himself in the original series and does so again here, thanks to the shape-shifting alien played by Iman. The dialogue here references the actor's notorious ego as Kirk exclaims "I can't believe I kissed you", only for his adversary to reply "Must have been your life's ambition!". The legendary Plummer is fantastic as the  Klingon, Chang, replete with an eyepatch nailed into his skull. Cattrall, relatively unknown at this point, is perfectly cast as a deceitful Vulcan.
Youthful composer, Cliff Eidelman, took over soundtrack duties, providing one of the series' best. The opening credits theme is a rousing riff on Gustav Holst's 'The Planets', at Meyer's suggestion. There's little reference to previous Trek themes as Meyer wanted the score to feel like a "fresh start".
This is the sort of Hollywood movie that's all too rare now, fun without being dumb, involving without being convoluted. It's a shame the cast found themselves at an age too advanced to be taken seriously any longer as, under Meyer's guidance, this film feels like a new beginning, with Trek just hitting its stride as a big-screen franchise. Although 'Generations' ends the story-line of Kirk, it's 'The Undiscovered Country' which really acts as a farewell to the original crew. A fitting farewell.
8/10



Eric Hillis