Armchair criticism: Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country

star_trek_vi_the_undiscovered_countryThe Undiscovered Country (TUD), was the last of the “original” cast Star Trek movies. Directed by Nicholas Meyer (of many movies and books fame, particularly the best of the Star Trek movies, Wrath of Khan), TUD premiered in 1991.

I’ve wanted to analyse the mystery for a while so since writers block is holding back the book edit, today’s clearly the day.

The premise

At the time the movie came out, the Cold War was pretty much at an end, and Glasnost was flowing across the world like Vodka at an after party.

So writers Nicholas Meyer and Leonard Nimoy used this as the premise of TUD: The bad guys are in trouble, and need the good guy’s help; peace between the two old enemies is now possible. But there are those on both sides who don’t like the idea of a “brave new world”, the Undiscovered Country of the movie’s title. They work together to end any chance of peace.

The execution

The execution of the story begins quite literally with the murder of the Klingon leader, Chancellor Gorkon (played by the ever interesting David Warner).

It’s a real “Oh Shit” moment; the Enterprise has apparently fired on the Klingon ship, Kronos One; we’ve seen Starfleet officers kill the Chancellor and transport away, all the while our heroes have been “Caught with their britches down”.

At this point, everyone is scrambling for answers while the Klingon ship is coming around to fire back. War seems imminent.

A lesser Captain might have stood and fought. But thanks to Captain Spock’s intervention, Kirk is in charge. And he does the unexpected.

He surrenders.

The end of act one has us on the knife edge; The Chancellor is dead, Kirk and McCoy have been arrested, the Enterprise may have fired the shots.

The mystery unfolds

As the story progresses, various people are identified as collaborators and active participants in an attempt to bring the two sides to war.

By the end of the movie, all is well in the Star Trek universe. But should it be?

Transporters can go anywhere

Where the Assassins go next is problematic.

Scenario one

If the Assassins transport to the Klingon ship that really did fire the shots, the Klingons have them. They can say they’ve caught the murderers and start a shooting war.

This would make for a quite short movie, so we go to Scenario Two.

Scenario two

The Assassins transport back to the Enterprise. This shows they are definitely Starfleet.

Finding these people becomes Captain Spock’s priority. But if he does, his options are limited.

First problem: they’re Starfleet, which is grounds for the Klingons to go to war.

Second problem: he has to get to them while they’re still alive and hope they know who hired them for the job. If they were approached by a guy in a pub, the game is over.

That said, the assassins also have problems, specifically their guns, uniforms and magnetic boots.

You or I might just put them all back where they found them. However, as we found in Star Trek the Motion Picture, the computer keeps a record of things like this (as it should).

But we have a problem here too.

Computers are fallible

A second plot point is that the Enterprise computers have been altered to show she fired on Kronos One. This is eventually proved incorrect with a visual confirmation of torpedoes by Mr. Scott and Captain Spock.

But that takes time, which could easily be used to erase the record of the guns, spacesuits and gravity boots being taken for the assassination.

Who has done this is a much more logical (haha) mystery to solve. If you identify them, you identify someone with enough knowledge of the operation to be of use.

But again, they’re starfleet. Which gives the Klingons a shooting war.

It’s not what you know, it’s who

Valeris (Kim Cattral in a pre Sex in the City role) is the leader on the Enterprise, and knows the whole story.

An interesting side note: Nicholas Meyer originally wanted the turncoat role to be Lt. Saavik, who featured in the second, third and fourth Star Trek movies. Dramatically this would have been far more dark, but he was vetoed by Gene Roddenberry.

Valeris reveals the three main conspirators, one from Starfleet, one Romulan, and one Klingon.

Again, this is hearsay, even if Captain Spock dragged it from her head via a Mind Meld.

So again, we’ve got a war. Even if you’ve got the conspirators, the Chancellor was murdered by human Starfleet officers.

Once more unto the breach

With Kirk back in command, the mystery solved, there’s still another assassination to avert. This time, it’s the President of the Federation, Starfleet’s political boss, in the crosshairs.

But standing between the crew of the Enterprise is the same Klingon ship that fired the shots in the first place. The cat and mouse fight is reminiscent of Star Trek II in the Mutara Nebula; one ship can’t see the other. And the dialogue between Kirk and Christopher Plummer’s General Chang ups the tension greatly.

But the bottom line is that this ship is concrete evidence of the conspiracy, and proves the Klingons were involved with the assassination of their own leader. With it, Starfleet has a tool to balance the books and potentially avert war.

But with its destruction they’ve got nothing. And that’s what happens. Basically what looked good on celluloid was a poor plot choice.

The final denunciation

Our heroes transport into the peace conference; Scotty goes in search of the assassin, while the others beat their way through the throng save the President, while the Assassin is shot.

The day is saved. Or is it?

Houston, we have a problem

The only thing Starfleet has on its side is that it’s been proved the Enterprise did not fire the first shots.

But the rest is not good for our heroes.

Gorkon’s assassins were human. And they were killed most likely by Valeris, another Starfleet officer.

Valeris has admitted her involvement and given hearsay suggesting General Chang, a high ranking Klingon commander, was involved.

But Chang can’t be questioned because he was on the Klingon ship which was destroyed and is now raining down on the planet in tiny little pieces.

Finally, the second assassin looks Klingon, but upon closer examination turns out to be human.

At the end of the movie, all the evidence points to a Starfleet conspiracy to start a war. And at that point, the Klingon Empire would be well within their rights to call the whole peace conference off and declare war.

In conclusion

I’m a writer and this was an interesting exercise. The story stands on its own, is perfectly enjoyable, and has far less plot holes than the first or second “New” Trek movies.

So I’ll still watch this than “Into Darkness“.



Author: gotheek

Sometime writer, full time human.