Connect with us
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Image: Paramount Pictures


35 Years Ago: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home brought Kirk and Spock to Modern America

How on Earth can they save the future?

Revisiting Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

The Star Trek franchise has done a lot of things with time travel, and a lot of things with social commentary. But in 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, it brought its mythology somewhere where (those) men had never gone before: A United States city, in the then-present day. 

Following the second and third Star Trek movies with the original cast, which dealt with the death and resurrection of Mr. Spock, the fourth film offered quite a bit more levity- or at least, as much as is possible for a movie that features the possible end of life on Earth. 

The film was directed by Leonard Nimoy himself in his second consecutive turn in the director’s chair, while the film had four writers, Steve Meerson, Peter Trikes, Nicholas Meyer, and Harve Bennett, the latter two veteran Trek hands. 

The plot first deals with the fallout of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, with the Enterprise crew in exile on Vulcan while waiting to face punishment for their actions in the previous film. 

Star Trek IV: The Voyage
Image: Paramount Pictures

Spock himself is still recovering from his death and resurrection; in a time when death in movies has become essentially meaningless — especially in Star Trek: Into Darkness, which re-enacted the ending of The Wrath of Khan but kept Captain Kirk dead for about three minutes, rather than an entire additional movie — it was good that these films actually did the work to acknowledge that Spock’s death, however temporary, actually affected him. And with the Enterprise having been destroyed, a captured Klingon Bird of Prey from the third film is the crew’s ship for the run of The Voyage Home

It’s a movie where the plot is somewhat convoluted, roping in time travel and whale signals, without really having a major villain. But it’s a tremendous amount of fun, perhaps the most of any Trek film. 

As The Voyage Home begins,  a mysterious probe has threatened life on Earth. But the newly resurrected Spock notices that the probe emits a signal that sounds like that of humpback whales. But because that species is extinct in the future, the crew must go back in time to 1984 San Francisco, grab a whale, and bring it back to the 23rd century. 

Before this multi-phased plan can be brought to fruition, the film makes room for a great deal of fish-out-of-water comedy, such as Spock executing a Vulcan nerve pinch on a loud bus passenger, and Spock jumping into the tank to speak to the whales (“maybe he’s singing to that man!“) 

Star Trek IV: The Voyage
Image: Paramount Pictures

The Voyage Home was part of the pattern that held for a long time in which the even-numbered Star Trek movies were much better than the odd-numbered ones. It was followed by the despised, Shatner-directed The Final Frontier, before the sixth film, The Undiscovered Country, the last film with the full original cast, was much more successful. 

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, like a lot of Trek, is currently streaming multiple places, including Hulu and Paramount+. It’s a film that represents the franchise at its best.

Now Streaming

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.



Anti-War Anti-War

Three Bestselling Anti-War Novels, Three A-List Film Adaptations…Three Flops:  Castle Keep, Catch-22, Slaughterhouse-Five


Vesper poster Vesper poster

Vesper: Sci-Fi That Thinks Big With Limited Means


Unforgiven movie review Unforgiven movie review

Unforgiven Ushered the Western into its Afterlife 


Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies

A Full List Of Upcoming Marvel Studios Film And TV Releases


Robocop 1987 Robocop 1987

RoboCop is a Social Satire That Gets More Relevant With Age


Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues


Nope Nope

Jordan Peele’s Nope Explained: A Spectacle of “Bad Miracles”


Alex's War (2022) Alex's War (2022)

Alex’s War, a Documentary Study of Alex Jones, Misses the Big Picture 


All Out 2022 Predictions All Out 2022 Predictions

Way Too Early Predictions for All Out 2022


Signs movie review Signs movie review

M. Night Shyamalan Signs Finds Comfort at the End of the World


Biography: WWE Legends’ Look at Goldberg is One of the Best Wrestling Documentaries Ever 


Detective vs Sleuths Detective vs Sleuths

Detective vs. Sleuths: Buckle Up for a Bumpy Ride


Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con

Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con 2022: A Full Recap


Bullet Train movie review Bullet Train movie review

Bullet Train Makes All the Wrong Stops


High Noon at 70: When Time is of the Essence


Sci-Fi And Superheroes Sci-Fi And Superheroes

Buried Treasures, Hidden Gems – Movies Due For a Revisit: Sci-Fi And Superheroes