Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991.
Directed by Nicholas Meyer.
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Kim Cattrall, David Warner, Christopher Plummer, and Iman.
After the poor response to the fifth film, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country proved to be a wonderful send-off for the original cast. Not only did it bring closure to the battles between Kirk and his crew and the Klingons, but it also bridged the original series and The Next Generation. Star Trek VI looks beautiful on this new 4K edition, which also includes the film on Blu-ray, along with a code for a digital copy. The extras from past editions were ported over too.
Now this was more like it: Coming off Star Trek V’s tepid box office performance and poor reviews, Nicholas Meyer returned to writing and directing duties to send the original cast off with a flourish. Taking a cue from the history found in Earth’s 20th century, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country finds our heroes grappling with a new galactic order in which the Federation tries to make peace with the Klingon Empire.
As in real life, however, not everyone on both sides is on board with the idea, and galactic peace is threatened when the Klingon Chancellor is murdered before the peace talks and Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy are found guilty of the crime in a Klingon court. While Kirk is not 100% on board with the idea of a peace treaty with the Klingons, he’s dismayed to find that his old friend Spock is part of the group advocating for the move.
Given the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV show’s move to make the Klingons allies of the Federation in the 100-plus years after the adventures of the original crew, it made sense to cap this era of the franchise in this way. As Kirk points out at least once in this film, a Klingon murdered his son, so it’s understandably hard for him to get past that resentment and work with his former enemies.
While Kirk’s comrades are mostly on board with that view, Spock, with his cold logic, is the one who understands that it’s inevitable that the two sides put their differences aside. An explosion on a Klingon moon threatens to render their home planet uninhabitable within a few decades, so the Federation needs to show some compassion and extend an olive branch. As Spock notes, only former US President Richard Nixon could go to China.
The cast is in fine form in this one, with Christopher Plummer joining them to gleefully chew the scenery as Klingon general Chang, David Warner coming onboard to provide a more measured presence as the Klingon chancellor, and a pre-Sex and the City Kim Cattrall assuming the role of the Vulcan Valeris. Meyer’s script, which he wrote with Denny Martin Flinn, is on par with the Star Trek IV script that he collaborated on.
As with Meyer’s Star Trek II, there’s a Director’s Cut of this film, and it’s included here along with the theatrical version. Like the second film, though, there aren’t major differences in the longer version, although I have read that it’s now cropped at the proper aspect ratio, unlike previous home video editions.
And, of course, Paramount remastered The Undiscovered Country for 4K, capping off the original cast’s movies in as close to theatrical quality as you can get on a disc these days. Unlike Star Trek V, ILM was onboard to do the effects for this one, and the 4K remaster really enhances their quality.
This edition features the both versions of the film on the 4K disc, while the included Blu-ray only has the theatrical edition. There’s also a code for a digital copy. The studio ported over the bonus features from past home video releases, which include:
• Theatrical cut audio commentary with Meyer and Flinn: Among many other things, the director and his screenwriting partner talk about the real world parallels with the plot of this film, the progression from the first draft of the script to the final one, and how they sought to fit this installment into the overall Trek mythos. I found it interesting that Meyer still sees himself as a Trek outsider, despite the outsized impact he had on the original cast’s film series.
• Theatrical cut audio commentary with Trek expert Larry Nemecek and writer Ira Steven Behr: This is an interesting chat that actually digs into the film’s flaws a bit, without, of course, engaging in the kinds of rants that are all over the Internet.
• Director’s cut text commentary with Michael and Denise Okuda: Found only on the 4K platter, this is a trivia-filled track that’s sure to be of interest to many Trekkies.
• Library Computer: This is an extra found on other Trek discs too. It allows you to watch the movie and press the Enter button on your remote at various points to read various bits of information about the characters, Trek’s technology, and more. You can also go straight into an index and browse through all of the information without watching the film again.
• The Perils of Peacemaking (26.5 minutes): While “Only Nixon could go to China” was an iconic line from this film, Star Trek VI was made as the old Soviet Union was falling apart, so this featurette is a great opportunity to dig into that history. Meyer and Nimoy are joined by Georgetown University professor Dr. Angela Stent and Ambassador Dennis Ross as the four discuss the parallels between fiction and reality.
• Stories from Star Trek VI (57 minutes): Composed of six featurettes that come with a handy “play all” option, this is a solid documentary that covers the making of the film from beginning to end, with comments from many members of the cast and crew. The final featurette, Farewell & Good-bye, is a nice send-off of the original cast. (Having the film’s closing credits begin with the cast’s signatures was a really nice touch too.)
• The Star Trek Universe (76.75 minutes): This is a group of eight featurettes that cover everything from Nicholas Meyer’s thoughts on being part of Trek to a real world production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Klingon. (If you’re not aware, there’s a great line in the movie where Plummer’s character talks about reading Shakespeare “in the original Klingon.”) There’s also an in-depth look at the Klingons throughout the movies and TV shows, some fun trivia about Star Trek VI supporting cast members who popped up in other Trek productions, and a tour of the Undiscovered Country props found in the Paramount archives.
• DeForest Kelley: A Tribute (13 minutes): The actor had passed away a few years before Star Trek VI was released on DVD, so this was a timely tribute then. It’s still nice to look back on him, of course, but it does make me wish Paramount had created new extras to commemorate the cast members who have died since then.
• Original interviews (43.5 minutes): William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, and model Iman (she has a small role in the film) appear in archival interviews shot in 1991, as the film was hitting theaters. It’s a nice time capsule view of how the cast members felt then; interestingly, all of the interviews are similar in length, so no one gets shortchanged.
Rounding off the platter, we find a production gallery, storyboards for four scenes, the teaser and theatrical trailer, and a 4.75-minute presentation by Meyer that was used to hype the film at conventions in 1991.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★