Star Trek: The Original Series is not the only entry in the classic science fiction franchise to celebrate an anniversary this year. As The Original Series commemorates 50 years since its premiere, feature film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home will celebrate its 30th anniversary. The fourth Star Trek movie arrived in theaters on Nov. 26, 1986, and took the original series crew back in time to find the only way to save Earth from a mysterious probe: humpback whales. The film contained a clear message about the environment for viewers to take seriously while not shying away from comedic moments, for a tone that has contributed to it being considered one of the best of the original series films.
The first time Walter Koenig, who portrayed Pavel Chekov in the original series TV show and films, saw the script he thought it was excellent, with a terrific story structure.
“It really involved all the characters. Each one had their own moment, and it spoke to the original concepts of commenting on topical issues in a future time, social political issues in a future time,” Koenig told Blastr. “In this case, it was involving the environment and preservation of animal species. I loved the scenes that I had. It’s the only one that I was really sure was going to be a big success.”
To Koenig, how the film commented on the present day through a future situation made it the most similar to the TV show, setting it apart from the other original series films.
“Gene [Roddenberry] was very socially, politically conscious, and was concerned about not only human life and not only civil rights, but the rights of having a habitable planet,” he said. “One that we can all continue to thrive on so we underscored the environmental issue with the saving of the whales.”
He said the film was the most fun he’d had on the franchise, referring to it as his “most pleasant memory of being on a Star Trek.” While he sees it as generally considered as one of the two best films, with the other being The Wrath of Khan, for him, he told Blastr, “it will always be The Voyage Home.”
“Simply because I was more engaged in the story and because I thought it was as close to being a perfect film as we could have had,” he said.
The movie saw the return of not only the original cast on screen, but a number of important people behind the scenes as well. Leonard Nimoy would direct the film while Harve Bennett would return as producer and Robert Fletcher as costume designer. Nicholas Meyer, who had worked on The Wrath of Khan, also returned to co-write the script. Koenig said he’s concerned Meyer, who was recently announced as writer of the new TV series, does not receive the recognition he should for his work on The Voyage Home and called Meyer's contributions “extremely important.”
Among these Star Trek veterans working on the movie, a new face was also brought into the mix on screen. While searching for the whales in the film, Kirk and Spock encounter marine biologist Dr. Gillian Taylor, played by Catherine Hicks. Hicks told Blastr she didn’t know anything about Star Trek when she received the movie’s script, but she adored the character.
“I loved her intelligence and her commitment to these animals, and I just thought, I’ve got to play this role,” she said.
Since she didn’t know anything about the franchise, Hicks said her audition with director Nimoy was quite funny. She didn’t know any of the references and so would react weirdly to things in the audition, making Nimoy laugh.
“I think my innocence was refreshing to him, because that’s what the character is," Hicks said. "She doesn’t know anything about it, either."
As she came to know more about Star Trek later on, she became impressed with the franchise and its community.
"Because it’s always about something intellectual, or a good cause ... humanitarian and how we can do better on the planet, be better people and think of others," Hicks said. "The themes of Star Trek are very important and ours with the whales was also what got me. I watched a documentary on a real marine biologist and how she had to say goodbye to her humpback whales when they turned them loose again after rescuing them, and it so moved me I wanted to play her with that commitment that marine biologists have."
Hicks called her experience working on the film wonderful. As the newcomer on set, she said everyone was very nice and welcomed her. She’s grateful to have been a part of it and that people can still see and enjoy it today.
The fact that people do still enjoy the film and think of it rather fondly as the Star Trek “with the whales” is certainly a testament to its success. There are many moments to love in The Voyage Home, and we discussed with Koenig and Hicks what their favorites were as we looked back at the film. Here are 10 of The Voyage Home's best moments, including input from the two Star Trek actors and a few of our own favorites!