Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise are heading back to earth to face the music after they disobeyed a direct Starfleet order in order to rescue Spock from a dying planet. During there journey back to earth they learn of an alien probe that has arrived at the planet and is directing its communications attempts at the sea.
The probe is unaware that its signals are causing devastation on a global scale and that its message will never be answered. It is directed at the long extinct whale and there's only one solution - the crew the Enterprise must travel back in time and trap their own. The crew arrive in the late eighties with the usual problems of over population, pollution and the threat of nuclear war ever present. The group are soon greeted by loud music, extremely rude people and newspaper headlines warning of the arms race. McCoy is certainly correct when he wonders just how the human race made it out of the 20th century.
Split into groups Chekov and Uhura are tasked with replenishing the ships dythithimum crystals by infiltrating an appropriately named nuclear aircraft carrier and heading for the reactor. Trying to look inconspicuous is going to be difficult for the pair, especially when a bloke with a Russian accent is stood in the middle of the road asking where the nuclear vessels are. McCoy, Scott and Sulu are tasked with locating and manufacturing a material capable of housing the whales in the spacecraft for the journey back to the future whilst Spock and Kirk head off in search of the whales. Their task is made much easier when they learn that there are two on show at a local aquarium. However, as is the case with most things in life, the task is about to get even more complicated when they learn that the whales are to be returned to the ocean.
As appears to standard with back catalogue releases, the picture quality is dubious indeed. Although there seems to have been some sort of attempt to clean up the picture there is still no real improvement over the VHS release. Although the space scenes are reasonable enough, once they reach earth things go quickly down hill. Although there are no real problems with artifacting or outlining, the picture tends to suffer from some hideous amounts of contrast and washed out colours. Heaven knows where they obtained the print from as there are picture imperfections and dust specks galore.
The sound is much improved with a fair Dolby Digital soundtrack. The rear channels are active enough, especially during the time travelling section, whilst the dialogue is crisp and clear in the centre channel. With this being pretty much a dialogue intensive film there is little scope for major rear surround effects or LFE's. However, it does enough to add to the overall ambience of the film.
Finally a Star Trek disc gets a set of extras that actually consist of something more than a trailer. There's a short director's series featurette presented by Leonard Nimoy that looks into the making of the film and how a long lost water water tank was rediscovered in the Paramount lot car park. Surprisingly, it even manages to explain the advantage of widescreen over full screen material.
With only stereo sound a grainy picture, plus some awful clothes, it manages to add some real value to the disc. Although I wouldn't class myself as a 'Trekie', I'll admit to liking a bit of the old Star Trek every now and again, and Star Trek IV is one of my favourites. Although there were howls of protest from the aforementioned Trekies over this film I thought it was rather fun and wonderfully tongue in cheek. It even manages to put an important message about the state of the planet and species - something that has quickly been forgotten. There's even a clever moment when Spock informs the crew of mankind's ignorance in assuming that an alien probe wishes to communicate with them. A fair point indeed.
It even manages to cleverly deal with the problem of time paradoxes. When McCoy objects to Scotty giving a manufacturer the formula for transparent aluminium he responds with "How do you know he didn't invent it in the first place?". There's a similar situation when Kirk pawns his antique glasses knowing that he'll still receive them as a gift in future.
One of the reasons why this film did so well at the box office was the fact it tried to broaden its audience from the hardcore Trekies. It even spends the first five minutes of the film informing the audience of their previous adventures. It is something that was successfully reproduced for the crossover from television to cinema for the X-files film.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Director's Series Featurette Featuring Leonard Nimoy