You simply aren’t ready for a nerd-out of this magnitude.
Still with me? Okay.
Most any Trek fan is going to say Wrath of Khan is the best film (also written/directed by Nicholas Meyer), but they’re wrong. Khan is one of the greatest villains in science fiction, but The Undiscovered Country is the better film. Regardless as to what you think of the first five films (in order: boring, awesome, boring, awesome, stupid) Star Trek VI has a place in every nerd’s heart as the cast-off flick for the Kirk-Spock-McCoy crew before the Next Generation was misdirected into oblivion.
Why is TUC the best Trek film? Easy: it’s the best story in the entire Trek universe. The tone in previous flicks varied, but no other film treated these characters with the respect and depth that TUC did. Nimoy recruited Meyer again after the success of Wrath of Khan and his hand in writing The Voyage Home – and after the failure of The Final Frontier (Shatner’s flick) – deciding to go for a contemporary, the-Klingon/Soviet-empire-is-collapsing story. The Klingon homeworld is devastated when its moon, Praxis, detonates and the crippled empire decides to get along with the Federation to negotiate the dismantling of starbases along their borders. Still ever available in the future, the haggard notion of racism rears its head, enlisting the legendary Captain Kirk whose son was killed by Klingons in The Search for Spock, and many aren’t comfortable on either side about the notion of moving their assets around and dealing with them.
Kirk and crew rendezvous with Chancellor Gorkon (the ever-reliable David Warner), one thing leads to another, and he ends up dead. The Klingons capture Kirk and McCoy and sentence them to life on Rura Penthe, an icy Gulag hellhole. Spock and the rest of the crew work around the clock trying to rebuild what happened with Gorkon’s ship that night Sherlock Holmes-style while plotting to rescue their fearless captain. As the crew was sent off to the cosmos on their last journey, you get a feeling that this is a road coming to an end; a tribute that their successors never received. A highlight performance by Christopher Plummer as Gorkon’s top general is worth a viewing alone while Cliff Eidelman’s dark, brooding soundtrack is epic. Twenty years after its release (we saw it three times in theaters) its budget-grounded production isn’t as impressive as it was back then – it was shot in the Next Generation‘s off time – but the space battles and the explosion of Praxis are still amazing effects, as is Hiro Narita’s photography.
Also, Wrath of Khan dragged a bit, so there. TUC is better.