Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) (part 5 of 6)
On the non-Klingon side of things, we have decent work from Kim Cattrall as Valeris, the new Vulcan on the block. Her performance is good, though there are issues with the conception of the role that I’ll address later. Still, she does fine with what she has to do.
Supermodel Iman (is she skinny enough to be called that, or does her ability to keep food down count her out?) is also fine as Martia, one of the conspirators.
I also have to say I get a chuckle out of Kurtwood Smith’s small role as the President of the Federation. What can I say? That ‘70s Show has officially made every single other role Kurtwood Smith has played ten times as funny if you just imagine him ending every other sentence with “dumbass”. Whether or not that’s a good thing depends entirely on you.
The special effects/creature effects:
Unlike the previous movie, the filmmakers were able to get ILM back onboard, as well as some makeup artists who actually do feature film work. Together, they manage to deliver a dazzling array of interesting creatures, nicely done practical and optical effects, and some very good morphing work with the Iman character, who just happens to be a shape-shifter.
This movie was released five months after Terminator 2 blew everyone away with its morphing work, so it’s safe to say that 1991 was the year ILM earned the special effects MVP award.
Hell, the effects work was so good, they decided to co-opt a little of it for the next movie! As I said in the Generations recap, Roger Corman would approve. I don’t, but he wouldn’t give a shit!
As tends to be the case with Trek in the ‘90s, there are a few cameos from other Trek actors and celebrity fans. Here, we get a relative of The Next Generation’s Worf—I think it’s supposed to be his grandfather—as the lawyer for Kirk and McCoy (played, of course, by Michael Dorn, so it makes sense), who also gets highlighted in the end sequence.
Also, we get a small Christian Slater cameo as a crew member on the Excelsior, which is now captained by Sulu. They don’t stick around for longer than needed, and in both cases, they actually serve a plot function.
As we saw in the second film, Nicholas Meyer just knows how to make Star Trek appeal to the masses. He doesn’t get bogged down in Treknobabble, he values telling a good story over slavishly sticking to franchise tropes, and he knows how to get good hammy performances from his actors. Meyer is a solid director in general, with some other good films to his name, and he shows once again how to do Trek right, for the most part.
It also helps that Leonard Nimoy was the executive producer on the film, which means that of the six movies with the original cast, half of them had Nimoy in a position of power, with the other two being his directorial turns in the third and fourth movies.
The movie is appropriately dark and serious, thanks to the story, with a few light moments of relief that never devolve into silliness or camp, which shows how valuable it is to not have Rick Berman involved. Can you imagine if this story had been done as a TNG movie? Jesus, I shudder just thinking about it.