Shiny Shelf

Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country

By Lance Parkin on 22 March 2009

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

‘Star Trek VI’ is ‘Star Trek’ like you always remember it being – funny, action-packed, political, a little cheap around the edges, with performances wrought from the purest ham and gold. It’s the first movie of any kind of the post-Cold-War era and it’s a fancy dress, pantomime version of the end of the Soviet Union that’s happy to go back to the show’s 1960s origins and to show Kirk as an ageing Kennedy-era optimist. It’s completely comfortable sending itself up, and then shifting gears to make impassioned pleas for hope and change. The movie came out just as postmodernism hit the ultra-mainstream – the era of ‘Last Action Hero’ and the early ‘The Simpsons’ – and ‘The Undiscovered Country’ has more playfulness and self awareness than many actual people.

All ‘Star Trek’ should be like Nicholas Meyer makes ‘Star Trek’ – a series that’s utterly realistic in the tiny details like the cooking pots and people doing the cleaning, but utterly stylized in terms of characterization and plotting. It’s one of the last movies to use traditional modelwork, rather than CGI. This suits the material – later entries in the ‘Star Trek’ canon ape the fighter planes of ‘Star Wars’, but the starships are meant to be what the name suggests: more like naval ships. It’s why two of the best ‘Star Trek’ movies ever made are ‘The Hunt for Red October’ and ‘Master and Commander’. Nicholas Meyer’s version of ‘Star Trek’ has a solidity and plausibility to it that marks it out, makes it immensely fun, gives it a nice firm platform to launch off into some breathtaking ”I-can’t-believe-they-did-that” moments.

‘Star Trek VI’ is a proper culmination of Kirk’s adventures – marking the points in both fact and fiction when the real world finally caught up with him. It’s also the last time, in any series, ‘Star Trek’ was ever quite as good as this.

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By Lance Parkin

Lance Parkin writes lots of things, including a biography of Alan Moore that's due out late next year. Find out more at his website.

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