Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

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"Second star to the right... and straight on till morning."

A Grand Finale for the classic Trek crew (as played by the original actors, at least) which resolves the previously ongoing conflict between The Federation and the Klingons with a Tom Clancy IN SPACE! storyline. Perhaps due to its political intrigue plot, The Undiscovered Country is Darker and Edgier than its predecessors.

After an environmental calamity, the Klingons' infrastructure collapses and their leader sues for peace. Does This Remind You of the end of the Cold War? It should. The Iron Curtain was coming down at the time of production and the Klingons had always been stand-ins for the Soviets. Kirk, ever the cynical cowboy, still doesn't trust the Klingons, but is volunteered by Spock to escort their leader to the peace talks without asking him first. But Kirk is not the only one who doesn't want peace - a mysterious conspiracy with accomplices from both sides of the conflict means to drive the Federation and Empire into a full-scale war, framing Kirk and McCoy for murder in the process.

Nicholas Meyer, the director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, returned to the helm for this one. As evidenced by the page quote, the film lacks anything resembling subtlety, but its tongue-in-cheek satire and heavy handed moral is just as good if not better that way. If nothing else, it's considered much better than The Final Frontier. In any case, most fans consider it a worthy send-off for the original cast.

Tropes used in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country include:
  • 2-D Space: Subtly averted. When the Enterprise and Kronos One first rendezvous, they are not aligned in the same plane. Enterprise very diplomatically adjusts to match the Chancellor's ship. Later, the Bird of Prey fires one of its torpedoes perpendicularly to the plane of the saucer section of the Enterprise, damaging it extensively.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: McCoy's quip about feeling pretty good "aside from a touch of arthritis" is met with stone cold silence. Accompanied by one Klingon laughing his frigging ass off.
    • McCoy looks pleased by his reaction, too. Chang, however, was not amused.
    • Here's the situation: General Chang was inquiring as to what McCoy's status is as a medical practioner is. The way he asks it though, leaves it open to interpretation. Dr. McCoy is only happy to reply. Here is the full quote:

Chang: Dr. McCoy...Would you be so good as to tell me, what is your current medical status?
Bones: Aside from a touch of arthritis, I'd say pretty good!

  • Alien Blood: The Klingons have Pepto-Bismol pink blood, in order to keep a PG rating. Becomes a minor Chekhov's Gun in the final act when an assassin is identified as not being Klingon because he has red blood.
    • The red blood only appears in the extended cut. The reason the Klingon blood is pink in the film was to avoid a rating higher than PG. Ironically, Klingon blood is quite red everywhere else save this film.
    • Klingon blood becomes red in all series taking place after the events of Star Trek VI. The Star Trek (particularly Mike Okuda) staff Handwaved this; saying Klingon blood only appears pink in microgravity.
  • And the Adventure Continues...: The end narration:

Kirk: Captain's log, stardate 9529.1. This is the final cruise of the starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man, where no one, has gone before.

  • Artificial Gravity: A rare example where the artificial gravity actually fails.
  • Bad Vibrations: Captain Sulu's tea cup at the beginning of the film.
  • Big Bad: General Chang.
    • Also, Admiral Cartwright.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Sulu and the USS Excelsior swooping in to even up the fight against General Chang and his Bird of Prey. While the original plan was to play this trope straight, the end result is a subversion; Excelsior doesn't do much but provide a second target, giving the Enterprise a much-needed breather.
  • Bluffing the Murderer
  • Call Back: Klaa is the interpreter at Kirk and McCoy's trial. After his conduct in The Final Frontier, it would make sense that he's been demoted.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Klingons have pretty much never again been portrayed as having purple blood.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Subverted via Executive Meddling. At the film's start, we learn that the Excelsior has been cataloging gaseous anomalies... but in its Big Damn Heroes moment, it's the Enterprise that uses a gas-seeking torpedo to find Chang's ship. Chekhov's Gun is left hanging on the wall, and Kirk pulls out a concealed pistol of identical make.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Chang in the final showdown; "Crryyyyyy HAVOK ... and let slip the dogs of war!"
  • Clear My Name: Kirk and McCoy.
  • Cold War: One of the more blatant allegories to come out of this period.

Klingon Overseer: Since you're all going to die anyway, why not tell you. His name is -
[Kirk and McCoy get beamed up]
Kirk: [disintegrating] Son of a...
Kirk: [rematerializing] Dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit all to hell... [to Spock] Couldn't you have waited a few more seconds? He was about to explain the whole thing!
Chekov: You vant to go back?
McCoy: Absolutely not!
Kirk: ...it's cold.

  • Continuity Nod: Sulu mentions at the end of IV that he hopes the ship they're being sent to is the Excelsior. In this film he turns up as a starship captain... commanding the Excelsior.
    • This would have happened a lot sooner if... everybody? ...William Shatner hadn't protested Sulu becoming Excelsior's captain in Star Trek II, where it was supposedly supposed to happen.
    • Hang on, the Excelsior debuted in Star Trek III. How does this work?
      • The novelizations of the previous movies explain it - Sulu's promotion has come through in Wrath of Khan, but he's still on the Enterprise training cruise as a favor to Kirk. Then, because Genesis and the events surrounding its creation result in such public backlash, Excelsior is given to the guy in The Search for Spock because Sulu needs to be kept 'available' for debriefings and such.
  • Cool Old Guy: Pretty much the main cast.
  • Credits Pushback: The signatures at the end generally get clipped thanks to this practice.
  • Description Cut
  • Deus Ex Machina: The Enterprise is getting owned by the cloaked Bird of Prey, and then suddenly the crew realizes the ship just happens to have some never-before-mentioned equipment to catalog gaseous anomalies that can be used to totally obliterate the enemy ship. What makes this particularly bad is that Sulu is the one performing this task at the beginning of the film. The true explanation is a combination of executive and cast meddling (see the reference to Shatner insisting that the Enterprise save itself, above). This is also explained in the novelization as being Starfleet's current ongoing giant research project of the past few years, so most ships were carrying equipment for gaseous anomalies, not just the Excelsior. Admittedly this could have been somewhat fixed by modifying Sulu's opening narration to something like "for the past three years we have been leading the fleet in cataloguing gaseous anomalies in planetary atmospheres", but alas, l'esprit de l'escalier...
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The whole film is an allegory about the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. It was released less than a few weeks before the Soviet Union actually fell.
    • In addition, Praxis exploding and contaminating the Klingon homeworld is a clear reference to Chernobyl.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Spock initially doesn't get Valaris's concern over this upcoming peace.
  • Engineered Public Confession: During the trial, Kirk's log entry in which he says "I have never trusted Klingons, and I never will. I've never been able to forgive them for the death of my boy." is presented as proof of his motive for assassinating Gorkon. This fact is later used to incriminate Valeris as a conspirator, since it was her who was outside his quarters at the time.
  • Eucatastrophe: The Big Bad nearly destroys the Enterprise and the conspirators nearly succeed in assassinating the Federation President, but Excelsior helps buy the Enterprise time to complete it's Plasma Seeking Torpedo to find and kill Chang and get to the planet in time to save the day.
  • Evil Is One Big Happy Family: An ironic version. Despite their motives, the members of the Human-Klingon conspiracy to destroy the peace process are pretty unified in their goals. Though the vitriol is not far away given the comments from Valeris about the others.
  • Evil Twin: Martia!Kirk.
  • Expy: Valeris for Saavik.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Chang. Bolted directly to his face, no less.
  • Face Palm: Uhura's response to Chekov believing he has the culprit and missing the very obvious fact that their suspect can't fit in the incriminating boots.
  • Facing the Bullets One-Liner: "To be, or not to be?"
  • Fantastic Racism: Kirk acts this way towards the Klingons at first. He's hardly the only one, though.
  • Final Speech: Gorkon begs Kirk with his dying breath to save the peace process, leaving Kirk shocked by cognitive dissonance.

Gorkon: Don't let it end this way, Captain...

Spock: If I know the Captain, he is already deep into planning his escape.
[cut to Kirk getting his ass kicked]

  • The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: Subverted. The boots of the conspirators were found in the locker of Crewman Dax (no relation)... who has large webbed feet that don't fit.
  • Giving Up on Logic: Spock shows the long term character growth version of this trope. He hasn't given up on logic at all, but he has accepted that it is not the be all and end all.
  • Groin Attack: Kirk gets in a fight with a big blue alien and ends it by kicking the alien in the knee. Or so he thinks.

Martia: That was not his knee. Not everybody keeps their genitals in the same place, Captain.

  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: William Shatner vs. Christopher Plummer. The survivors likely envy the dead.
    • At one point, it's Shatner vs. Shatner, which reaches hamageddon levels.
  • Heel Realization: Kirk realizing his intolerance of the Klingons led to Chancellor Gorkon's death.
  • Homing Projectile: The torpedo that attempted to catalog the gaseous anomaly that was the fire-while-cloaked Bird of Prey's tail pipe.
  • Honor Before Reason: The Klingons are a violent, aggressive people whose Empire represents the antithesis of every Federation value. "Let them die" would be the expected response from anyone short of a saint. And yet the Federation offers them an olive branch anyway.
    • Let them weaken themselves more first so we can be in a stronger position and force them to accept our way of life, maybe. But it doesn't take anywhere near a saint to not wish an entire space empire dead.
  • Identical Grandson: Worf's grandfather, Colonel Worf (also played by Michael Dorn of course).
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Spock's reaction to the forced mindmeld with Valeris is made entirely of this trope.
  • IKEA Weaponry
  • Incoming Ham: "I can see you, Kirk. Can you see me?"
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Just after the diplomatic dinner on the Enterprise, McCoy leaves the transporter room proclaiming, "I'm going to go find a pot of black coffee".
  • In the Original Klingon: Trope Namer.
  • Invisibility Flicker: Klingon warships have to do this. Except Chang's.
  • Ironic Echo: Several times Valeris asks Spock "A lie?" and he responds that it is something else (e.g. "An error"). After she is caught as a traitor, he asks her "A lie?" and she responds "A choice."
  • Ironic Echo Cut: Spock: "If I know the Captain, by this time, he is deep into planning his escape." Cut to Kirk getting the crap kicked out of him in a prison brawl.
  • Irony: The conspiracy proves Federation/Klingon cooperation is possible.
  • Jabba Table Manners: The Klingons disgust the Federation's delegation with their eating habits.
  • Just Between You and Me: Subverted, Kirk and McCoy are beamed out before the warden can give them a name.
  • Kangaroo Court: Kirk and McCoy's "trial".
    • At least their defense lawyer (Worf's grandfather) was actually trying.
      • And doing pretty well under the circumstances. If he hadn't, it's almost certain Kirk and McCoy would have been executed.
  • Large Ham: Christopher Plummer as Chang, rivaling even Khan.
    • Lampshaded when McCoy exclaims, "I'd give real money if he'd shut up."
  • Latex Perfection: The Klingon assassin is Starfleet's Colonel West with some rubber on his forehead.
  • Literary Allusion Title:
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: A variation: once outside the Rura Penthe shield, Marta mentions this as such but the conspirators required a more "convincing" alternative.

Kirk: An accident wasn't good enough.
Marta: Good enough for one. Two would have looked suspicious. (transforms into Kirk) Killed while trying to escape. Now that's convincing enough for both.

  • Mind Rape: Galactic peace hung in the balance. Spock knew they needed that information now.
    • On the DVD Commentary, Nicholas Meyer and screenwriter Denny Martin Flinn actually say that scene is "very erotic" and "sexy stuff". Some might consider that Squick, and some might consider that Fetish Fuel.
    • Of course some would consider it erotic. This is Kim Cattrall we're talking about, after all.
    • This scene is more difficult to regard lightly in the War On Terror era, though it may be more difficult to apply since a mind meld doesn't work in the way that torture does.
    • In the novelization, it's very different: Valeris is terrified by the knowledge that Spock could force his way into her mind with his superior mental training, but Spock doesn't do this. He gently inquires telepathically and she is so relieved that she yields without resistance. As to whether the threat of mind rape is morally superior to actual mind rape, YMMV.
    • In a promotional interview for the film, Cattrall revealed that her character and Nimoy's have a mind meld, and then crowed "I got to have safe sex with Mr. Spock!" Um... yeah, not so much.
      • A similar act in Enterprise is very much depicted as rape, and with rather a lot of consequences.
    • It has to be added that the actual scene is not as bad as this exchange makes it sound. Nimoy's acting make it painfully apparent that it isn't something Spock takes on lightly, and he is almost as badly affected as Valeris. His voice cracks badly as he delivers the information, and he is clearly struggling to hold it together himself.
  • The Mole: Valeris.
  • Moral Dissonance: Words to this effect have also been leveled at the public Mind Rape of Valeris on the bridge of the Enterprise by Spock, although it could be considered an example of I Did What I Had to Do since the Federation and Empire were on the precipice of war. It was... logical.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Uhura, "expert linguist", attempting to communicate with the Klingon ship.
    • The novelization, at least, provides a slightly more rational explanation for why they were scrambling to look up Klingon phrases in old paper books, instead of using the Universal Translator — namely, that the same saboteur(s) who had altered the ship's logs to make it look like the Enterprise had fired on the Chancellor's ship, had also wiped the Klingon language data from the memory banks specifically to keep the Enterprise from crossing Klingon space without giving themselves away as soon as someone tried to establish communications with them (the books were part of Uhura's personal collection, not part of the ship's library, so the saboteur presumably didn't know about them, or didn't have any opportunity to get to them and destroy them).
  • Mythology Gag: Worf's identical grandfather.

Kirk: Still think we're finished?
Bones: More than ever.

    • This exchange:

Kirk: I can't believe I kissed you!
Martia!Kirk: Must have been your life-long ambition!

  • No Gravity for You: One Klingon tactic involves doing this to an entire boarded ship.
  • Oh Crap:
    • Kirk gets two of them during the movie: Once, when McCoy tells him that he doesn't know anything about the Chancellor's anatomy, let alone if the Klingon leader will live, and the second when he is being questioned, and Chang forces him to admit to Guilt By Association in the Chancellor's death.
    • Sulu at the beginning, when he sees the Praxis Shockwave hurtling towards his ship:

Sulu: My... God! Shields! SHIELDS!

Spock: Jim, they are dying.
Kirk: Let them die!

Kirk: Second star to the right... and straight on till morning.

      • The line in the actual book was "second to the right, and straight on till morning", so technically Kirk was referencing the 1953 Disney film.
    • There is also a Shout-Out to Sherlock Holmes, when Spock says, "One of my ancestors once said, 'When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.'" Gene Roddenberry had established as part of Spock's Backstory that Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was one of Spock's ancestors on his mother's side.
    • Chang's demand that Kirk not wait for the translation of a question, but answer it immediately, is straight from an earlier (pre-The Original Series, in fact) US-Soviet confrontation, the Cuban Missile Crisis. In that case, it was Adlai Stevenson insisting that the Soviet delegate to the UN answer simply yes or no as to whether they were putting missiles in Cuba.
    • The Warden's speech is almost a word-for-word paraphrasing of Saito's "There is no escape" speech from The Bridge on the River Kwai.
  • Shout-Out/To Shakespeare: The title, and 75% of General Chang's dialogue.

McCoy: I'd pay real money if he'd shut up.

  • Shown Their Work: Watch the film again - you can see when Spock slaps the patch on Kirk's back.
  • Slow Clap
  • Space Is an Ocean: Nothing new to Trek but this movie subtly does a lot to give the feeling that the Enterprise is a naval vessel in space, right down to the computerized ship's bell dinging in a few scenes.
    • Even more so for this movie's Bird-of-Prey, which is the only one in the entire franchise to use a large ship's wheel at the helm.
    • The explosion of Praxis sends out the space equivalent of a tsunami, which happens to be at the exact height in space to hit Excelsior.
  • Spot the Imposter: The same reason Martia was able to escape is the same reason the Warden was able to figure out she wasn't Kirk and killed her: She took off her leg cuffs.
  • Stock Footage: The scene where Enterprise glides towards the spacedock doors is a reuse of the "zoom in on Enterprise" shot from Star Trek IV and Star Trek V, just with the Excelsior removed and the background tint changed to blue.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute. Valeris in place of Saavik.
  • Take That: It's quite nicely worked in, but Kirk's remark in the end speech that "some people think change means the end of history" is likely a jab at neo-conservative Francis Fukuyama's proclamation (and epynonymous book) that the collapse of Soviet communism meant that liberal bourgeois democracy was the only option for developing countries and was, thus, "the end of history".
  • (Sub)Title Drop: In the ill-fated dinner scene, Gorkon proposes a toast to "the undiscovered country," earning bemused stares from the audience as well as the main cast before he explains he meant "the future".
    • The cause of the confusion is that within the context of Hamlet's speech, "the undiscovered country" is death.
      • Which Spock himself points out in the novelization. Gorkon's counter-argument has a good point.
    • Which, considering what happens to Gorkon in his next scene, actually makes quite a bit of sense.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Trailers for the movie showcased a scene of Kirk getting phasered and exploding. Turns out it was just a shape-shifter.
  • Translation Convention: During the trial, the Klingons begin in their own language, then the camera cuts to a box where translators are giving a running translation in English, which is being piped through radio-like devices that Kirk and McCoy are listening to. When the camera cuts back to General Chang, all spoken dialogue for the rest of the scene is in English, but it's still clear the Klingons are speaking their own language, particularly when Chang yells at Kirk not to wait for the translation before answering a question.
    • This trope is mostly avoided for all other scenes involving the Klingons on their own, however. Subtitles are used in all-Klingon scenes in almost all movies.
    • For some reason, it almost always switches to English whenever Chang starts talking, sometimes right after some untranslated Klingon. Maybe Christopher Plummer has trouble chewing scenery in Klingon.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: After General Chang's Bird-of-Prey blasting away at the helpless Enterprise with yet another Screen Shake:

McCoy: Well, this is fun.

  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Or at least the Klingons will on their prison planets. Then again, it's Rua Penthe, the Klingon equivalent of a gulag. Hardly meant to be comfortable.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Spock's disturbed reaction to Kirk's desire to see the Klingons die off.
    • In commentaries, Shatner expressed dismay that they cut out a subsequent self-dismissive gesture from Kirk suggesting it was impulsively said.
    • This was prompted by Spock "volunteering" the Enterprise and crew for the peace keeping mission. Considering just two films ago, Kirk was accused by the Klingons of developing the Genesis device as a superweapon, he seems like a poor choice - but the implication is that the Klingons respect Kirk's legendary fighting abilities and will deal better with a tough guy than a nice guy. The conspirators have no problem leveraging this reputation to frame Kirk for Gorkon's murder.
  • Why We're Bummed Communism Fell: The whole film is a metaphor for the fall of communism, and even seemed to predict the failed coup that preceded the final collapse of the USSR.
  • Wicked Cultured: General Chang might be willing to plunge the quadrant into war, but damn if he can't quote Shakespeare with the best of them!
  • Wild Hair: The Federation President's mustache almost earned its own acting credit.