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Release Year: 1991
Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi
Director: Nicholas Meyer
It's hard to say goodbye.
After one short-lived television series and five motion pictures, the original cast of Star Trek will be leaving Enterprise—and our screens—for the last time. (We're conveniently forgetting about Spock and Kirk's later returns via time travel in Star Trek: Generations and the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Time travel hijinks rarely age well in the Star Trek franchise.)
Fortunately, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is one of the better entries in the series. That's crucial, because the previous film, the Shatner-directed Final Frontier, was a critical and box office bomb of interstellar proportions. To right the ship, producers hired long-time collaborator Nicholas Meyer to direct and co-write this latest film in the franchise.
Meyer, of course, directed and wrote The Wrath of Khan and co-wrote The Voyage Home, two of the most highly regarded films in the series. Trekkies everywhere rejoiced to find that The Undiscovered Country was a welcome return to form. In fact, the film scored the highest opening weekend of the series at the time, and it earned two Academy Award nominations.
The film upends one of the central themes of the Star Trek series: the conflict between the Klingon Empire and United Federation of Planets. With the Klingon Empire on the verge of collapse, Spock begins secret negotiations with their High Council to reach a peaceful resolution. To that end, he charges Captain Kirk to be the Federation's lead envoy.
That would be a great plan, except for one thing—Kirk hates Klingons. Hates them. On top of that, a shadowy conspiracy emerges that threatens to derail the peace process entirely, forcing Kirk to choose his side once and for all.
Top that off with some cool metaphors that relate this interstellar conflict to the Cold War and with one creepy, Shakespeare-quoting villain, and you have a recipe for a top-notch Star Trek movie.
We promise that it goes down a whole lot better than a cask of Romulan ale.
The Undiscovered Country makes this one easy for us. Thanks, Kirk.
The film is a big, elaborate metaphor for the Cold War, with the Federation representing the U.S. and the Klingon Empire representing the Soviet Union.
Like the Klingon Empire, the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse due to internal issues when it finally approached the U.S. for peace talks. And, like the Federation, the U.S. was torn between advocates for peace and those who wanted war.
The movie's insight in this regard can be applied to a range of historical events. We see how internal politics prevents beneficial solutions from being reached. We see how paranoia fuels decision-making. We see how those who profit from war fight to perpetuate it.
Yeah, it's quite a bit of insight for a silly sci-fi movie, but that's just how Star Trek rolls. When's the last time Luke Skywalker taught you something about political science?
Walter Koenig—better known as Chekov— wrote his own treatment for the film called In Flanders Field. He even planned for most of the cast to die. We like you, Chekov, but that's a bridge too far. (Source)
Klaa, an antagonist from the previous Star Trek film, makes a brief appearance as a translator during Kirk and McCoy's trial. Dude got demoted for getting beaten so badly by Enterprise. Ouch. (Source)
Before The Undiscovered Country went into development, Paramount wanted to recast the lead actors and make a prequel set during their time at Starfleet Academy. And, somewhere, J. J. Abrams was born. (Source)
Christian Slater has a low-key cameo in the film. The dude is such a hardcore Trekkie that he didn't even cash his check for the gig—he framed it. There's a nerd after our own hearts. (Source)
Star Trek Homepage
If you're a real Trekkie, this should be the first page you visit each day.
Klingon Language Institute
Visit this website so you can watch the movie with your eyes closed. Plus, the hotties love themselves someone who can speak Klingon.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: The Novelization
Like all good science fiction films of its time, The Undiscovered Country boasts a book adaptation.
General Chang as Shakespeare
We're upset that this article exists—solely because we wish we had written it ourselves.
Interview with Cliff Eidelman
Check out this killer retrospective with Cliff Eidelman, who composed the score for The Undiscovered Country.
A Comparison Between the Theatrical and Director's Cuts
If you're as insane as we are, you'll love this comparison between the various cuts of the film.
Star Trek: The Soundtrack
In this piece, Kevin Fong compares the utopian vision of Star Trek to the rather humdrum reality we all inhabit.
How Star Trek Changed the Sound of Science Fiction
This brief clip reveals how influential Star Trek has been on the world of sound design.
On Set with Star Trek
This is a killer behind-the-scenes shot featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and director Nicholas Meyer.
A Map of Space in Star Trek
If you want a better sense of the geopolitical layout of the universe, check out this handy map.