The crew of the Enterprise return to Earth to find the planet in mortal danger from a probe that wants to talk to whales.

The Lowdown

While this is the most successful Star Trek movie, the most profitable of the original series, I never liked it when I saw it as a kid. Hell, this movie is what made me not return for future installments of the franchise. I thought it was stupid at that time and the entire “saving the whale” subplot was ridiculous to me. This was Star Trek and I thought it had officially jumped the shark, causing me to shut it out for a long time.

Looking at the movie now, I realize how wrong I was. The movie is very funny, much lighter in tone to the previous two installments, and a much needed break from the pathos that had been built into the series. It is not as good as Wrath of Kahn but it does trump Search for Spock and, as an adult looking back in reflection, it is a pretty damn good movie.

The crew is travelling back home after rescuing Spock and are facing criminal charges for their actions in the last movie. When they reach Earth, they find that a probe has shut down everything and has blocked out the sun. Earth will perish if they don’t figure out a way to eliminate this danger. The probe is sending an audio signal to Earth and they realize it is waiting for a response, but no one knows what it wants. It is very similar to the plotline from the first movie in that aspect until Spock realizes the sound similar to the humpback whales songs, a species that had been extinct on Earth for years.

The plot makes no sense, the crew deciding to go back in to the past to capture two humpback whales to bring back to the present day so they can respond to the probe. The movie becomes a fish out of water film with McCoy horrified at the “barbaric” medical practices, Spock unsure about the 20th Century dialect, Scotty teaching an engineer how to develop the technology they need to fix their ship and Chekov getting his chance to shine as he is captured by the U.S. Military while trying to gain some nuclear power for their ship. The entire movie is hilarious, their time spent in our time keeping it light and fun.

It is most like the television show when displaying this fun atmosphere, reminding me of favorite episodes like Trouble with Tribbles, and that makes this one of the best movies in the cannon, most definitely the most enjoyable.

The Package

There are two commentary tracks on this Blu-Ray and both are really good. The first is with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. The bad news is Shatner is on his best behavior in the commentary and doesn’t make fun of Nimoy at all. That was a huge disappointment for me. However, the two carry on a great discussion about the movie, from the behind the scenes information to the plotline. They delivered a comfortable commentary that was easy to listen to and flowed throughout the movie. The second track is a “fan” track with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the writers of JJ Abram’s Star Trek reboot. They talk about the movie as fans, mentioning their reactions from the first time they saw the movie and pondering questions raised through re-watching the film. It is a fun track, not giving any real information about the movie, but allowing us to listen to two guys like us watching the movie. The same Library Computer feature that was on the other movies is also available here.

Similar to the Captain’s Logs features on the other discs, Future’s Past looks at the making of the movies, talking to everyone involved. Everyone talks about adding humor to the story to make it lighter fare, making sure things less serious than the other movies. William Shatner also talks about not approving of the time travel aspects of the story because that allows you to cheat the viewers but admits that, on this one occasion, Leonard Nimoy was actually right for a change. Like the Captain’s Log features, this one is great as well. I love these featurettes.

On Location is a fun look at the location shooting of the movie. What makes this unique is that most Star Trek movies are shot on sound stages. This is one of the first times they actually shot outdoors. Dailies Deconstruction is a short feature where you see the separate shots in a scene and the differences between camera angles, dialogue and more. It is decent but nothing important to watch. Below the Line Sound Design is exactly what it sounds like, a discussion with the man who created the sounds for the movie, from the phasers to the transporter. The sound editor says that Nimoy was a huge stickler for all the sound effects in this movie, preferring them to an actual score in some cases.

Pavel Chekov’s Screen Moments (HD) is an awesome interview with Walter Koenig about his big moments in this movie. He is so appreciative about the big moments he got in this movie. Koenig mentions that prior to this, he only got sound clips on the ship and when he got the big chase scene, with a Russian score, he was happier than he ever was making a Star Trek movie. Time Travel: The Art of the Possible has three physicists talk about time travel and its real-world possibilities. The Language of Whales is about various types of whales and their dialects.

A Vulcan Primer is narrated by a Star Trek novelist and discusses the Vulcan race, touching on their controlled emotions as well as the rules and lives of these beings. Kirk’s Women looks at the women that Kirk has courted in the movies. It has the women who starred as his love interests talking about both Kirk and William Shatner and is pretty much just a love fest for The Shat. Star Trek: Three Picture Saga (HD) looks at the “trilogy” that occurred from the second through the fourth movies. The fact that it was not meant to be a “trilogy” is explored as writers and crewmembers discuss the storyline, the inconsistencies and more. Star Trek: For a Cause (HD) is a Greenpeace special talking about how the movie helped their cause. They also mention that if you join Greenpeace today, you will get a personal call from William Shatner thanking you. Starfleet Academy Scisec Brief 004: The Whale Probe is more of the same old crap.

From Outer Space to the Ocean is a look at the visual effects in the movie. They talk about how the more difficult effects were caused by the present day sequences. They look at the ocean, planetary and futuristic Earth effects and discuss how they made it work with present day San Francisco was thrown in as well. The Bird of Prey is another look at the spacecraft, much of it shown on the last film’s features. There are three original interviews with William Shatner, Deforest Kelly and Leonard Nimoy included as extras as well. Shatner is very difficult to interview in his segment, making the interviewer work hard for his answers. Roddenberry’s Scrapbook talks to the creator’s son about his father’s life and work. Featured Artist: Mark Lenard talks to the family of the man who portrayed Spock’s father about his life and career. There is also a production gallery, storyboards and trailers.