Director: Nicholas Meyer
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForrest Kelley, Kevin Spacey Christopher Plummer*
Have I Seen it Before: Well, this is the first film in the Star Trek series I’ve reviewed, so unless we happen to be dealing with a new release, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ve seen it before.
Did I Like It: It might objectively be the best Star Trek film of all time. Does that mean it is the best Star Trek film of all time, or even the best Star Trek film directed by Nicholas Meyer? Well, that’s a different story.
I’ve written a couple of times in these reviews about timelessness in films. It’s appropriate to broach the subject of the film, because the notion was put into my head by Meyer, and he perfects the reach for a timeless quality in this film. Beyond a few scant special effects that might have been a little ahead of their time, there’s not really an aspect of this movie, from the music, to the cinematography, all the way to the hair styles, there is almost nothing about this film that restricts it to being made in the early 1990s. It’s a marvel to behold, and a phenomenon that Meyer’s other great space-opera Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) can’t even claim, even though that is one of my all-time top five movies.
Even the one element that threatens to make the film strictly of its time manages to transcend. Clearly a parable about the end of the Soviet Union (with just a pinch of Watergate-esque intrigue thrown in for good measure), the film is clearly commenting about the end of the 80s and the beginning the 90s. The Klingons have their own version of Chernobyl, unrelenting hostilities are coming to an unfathomable end, and the old guard is to varying degrees uncomfortable with the forthcoming future, or the titular undiscovered country**. But I think it may be a byproduct of living in a political era that could—politely—called “interesting” that the macro machinations of the galaxy here can’t help but feel relevant to the here and now. This is when Star Trek often works the best, and it shows.
* Could you imagine? Don’t. #2017jokesfiresale
** Which is a strange title for this film, if treated to any further scrutiny. The Wrath of Khan was originally called The Undiscovered Country, and as it is an allusion to Hamlet, and specifically death, it feels more appropriate to that film. Here, it is essentially saying that the sometime arduous road to peace only ends in death. Ominous. Mad ominous, folks.