Redshirts Roundtable: The Best Goodbye

2 of 6

Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country

Copyright © Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

James Becker
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier had been received, well… poorly. Even The Original Series had been abruptly cancelled. Star Trek: The Next Generation was airing full blast on television. At the dawn of the 90s, the Original Series cast seemed to be on its way out without a chance to say goodbye. The cast was so obviously aging. How could audiences continue to believe that people, even in the future with advanced healthcare, could continue gallivanting throughout space?

Cue Nicholas Meyer, the screenwriter who had previously rescued Star Trek from the brink with The Wrath of Khan. This time he had the perfect way: a Cold War allegory. The Original Series had been steeped in all sorts of Cold War references (oh god… not “The Omega Glory“), and the geopolitical tension was still happening. And so Star Trek had its next film in the works, a chance at an ending the Original Series had never had before, and a chance to recover after Star Trek V‘s lack of success. Seriously, the late 80s gave so many chances to the whole franchise. Nowadays, a bad season of television is an instant cancel much less two seasons, and even a film that barely covers its production costs at the box office is grounds to halt a whole franchise of films.

What we got with The Undiscovered Country is a film that matches the greatness of other Star Trek films. The cast was back, just shy of retirement, the Enterprise was now obviously aged after audiences had become accustomed to that gorgeous Carnival cruise ship called the Enterprise D. But it all made sense, and the film was quite aware of what it was going for. At the film’s heart was Kirk and others’ hatred for the Klingons, developed after decades of conflict with them, suddenly being challenged by an offer of peace from Chancellor Gorkon amidst a potential environmental, economic, and possible cultural collapse of the Klingon Empire. While you may not be sympathetic to Kirk’s prejudices, his son’s death is a compelling motive for him to hold on to those feelings. To even further magnify the film’s themes and plots, the Soviet Union collapsed only a couple of weeks after the film’s theatrical release.

The movie has action, intrigue, some lightheartedness that doesn’t compromise the tone, a campy yet menacing villain who quotes Shakespeare in Klingon, and finally a catharsis among the characters which paves the way for a friendship between the two powers which we know happens because of The Next Generation. The film both honors and challenges the Original Series one final time. It gives them a chance to overcome prejudices we may have taken for granted in The Original Series, but started to question in The Next Generation, and brings the two series into thematic lockstep despite the time gap between them.

This is the best goodbye a series could hope to make.