As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country, we find ourselves in the midst of the 50th anniversary celebration of Star Trek as a whole. I can’t help but feel as though we’ve already been there. I was 11 years old when this movie graced the screen. It turned out to be the last film to star the entire original cast of Star Trek and I was old enough to go see it. It came out at the time where we were already celebrating the 25th anniversary of Star Trek. As I knew nobody in my immediate circle that were trek fans, and we were, in the UK, 3 years behind on Star Trek, The Next Generation — thanks to short shited, I mean “sighted” BBC producers who didn’t think the British, Scottish, Irish and Welsh people weren’t interested in science fiction.
Anyways, way back in 1991 I was still wrapping my head around the chronology of Star Trek. The BBC had finally reissued the original Star Trek for a rerun and with the 25th Anniversary as well as Star Trek 6 hitting the screens; I was able to clear out some misconceptions. They go like this:
A: Star Trek the Next Generation wasn’t the first Star Trek series: Seriously, I believed this based on the first season which in all honestly, by the time we were hitting the third season when Ronald D Moore jumped in on the writing, I thought TNG was the 1969 series. Jonathan Frakes in that first season looked very much like an actor you’d see in the 60s. The lighting, the planet sets all seemed to point to the idea that this was old hat, even 3 years after its initial run in the US. Thankfully, when the original series came to air on reruns in 199I, I saw bell bottoms, hippies and heard dramatic stings a-plenty. Needless to say, I figured it out pretty fast.
B: Nobody liked Star Trek, but everybody watched it: It seemed that there was a time a place to show your trek colours. Conventions! Conventions that were sadly too far away from me — at the time only really being popular in the US, Canada and Germany. As I knew nobody who watched Star Trek, let alone were fan enough to wish they were in Starfleet or had a desire to learn Klingon. To say you liked Star Trek was uncool. People would watch it but never say that they did. Years later, I now know many people who at the time would never dare say that they watched it. Why, I don’t know. I would be more embarrassed if I said I watched Doctor Who and it makes me wild, just wild with mouth splutters and vigorous head shaking to think that people are open to say they watch that crap. The truth was, there wouldn’t be a 25th Anniversary special if nobody liked Star Trek. Star Wars had a “Holiday Special” years before, but we all know how that went down. The truth was that people were fans. People loved the show and it seemed only in America and Canada was it cool to expose that truth.
Side note: I threw one of my Mom’s boyfriends out of the house for mocking Star Trek Deep Space Nine, and not realising that both my Mother and I were fans, he sat there and made remarks throughout the whole episode. We gave him the three strike rule. On the fifth (just to show I wasn’t that hard an ass, I let him go beyond the point of no return) I told him to leave and said to my Mother “I don’t like him, he has to go!” Thankfully she agreed. THE POWER OF STAR TREK RIGHT THERE! The moral there being DON’T FUCK WITH A STAR TREK FAN!
C: This was NOT the only sci fi thing out there at the time: In all honesty, outside of Star Wars there was only Star Trek as a direct opponent, even in 1991. Yes there were great science fiction TV shows in the 70s-80s: Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, Land of the Giants and “THE INVADERS”… which may have been the 60s, I’m not sure… but really, Star Trek and Star Wars were the two main camps. Star Wars was still a trilogy and really lagged behind as a fandom at this time, compared to Star Trek. Who knew? Mainstream audiences were starting to get into series like The X Files and Quantum Leap, but only because they were grounded in the realm of a certain amount of reality. Doctor Who made no effort at that time to be any good, and really, Star Trek was at its peak. I had no idea… I thought it was just for me.
So to get down to brass taxes, Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country came out and I went to see it on my own. It was incredible. It was explosive, well-paced and a lot of fun. The only thing it lacked was Columbo putting the pieces together and sticking around that female Vulcan officer like glue, asking her questions and getting on her fricken nerves! “Dammit Lieutenant! Stop stalking me!”
Directed by the masterful Nicholas Meyer — who directed Star Trek 2 the Wrath of Khan — this was a parable about cold war Russia and, looking back now from a standpoint of 2016, it wreaks of the situation with Syria, Ukraine and other countries that are experiencing a crisis beyond any human understanding. It shows that even in the depths of despair, the Klingons — who were under the threat of extinction as a space race, about to be forced to run for the safe haven of Starfleet as their only option to survive — were however still treated with mistrust and a complete lack of empathy.
The idea that Star Trek always mirrors our own society is certainly at the core of the Original Series, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. I don’t see a lot of familiarity with Voyager or Enterprise but then they were simply schlock of the week shows — albeit enjoyable. We were by 1996 ready to get our teeth into something more than just another Star-ship lost in the nether regions of our space pants. That something was Battlestar Galactica Reimagined which came about in 2003. Star wars didn’t really touch upon any great issues other than the difference between dark and light, good and evil whereas Star Trek covered everything from racism to the constructs of gender in our society. Trust me, there’s a lot in-between those two items.
The less said about the issues tackled in the new films starring Chris Pine, etc.… for they have more in common with a Transformers movie than anything that carries meaning. There, I said it. The reboot film series is shallow schlock.
As I watch Star Trek 6 on what is now its 25th anniversary, I can’t help but wonder — has it dated? Certainly, as I mentioned up there, the social references are applicable no matter what era you watch this. The special effects keep us locked in the science fiction world. The less said about the pink blood the better. Whoever suggested that should be behind bars!
The only thing that dates this movie is the fact that the main cast has either died or remains somewhat retired — unless you call Tweeting funnies on Twitter a job… Takei? Really what do you do?
We lost DeForest Kelley in 1999, James Doohan in 2005 and we then lost Leonard Nimoy in 2015.
The rest of the main cast are still doing all they can to service the franchise, and even though William Shatner has blocked me on Twitter for no reason I can see (There has been no interaction between us at all… other than me saying I love Boston Legal… which is not a blocking offense) I consider the surviving cast to be true ambassadors of the Star Trek universe. Outside of the cast, I would cheer the work of Michael and Denise Okuda who are every bit part of the Star Trek lore as anybody and so far, neither Michael nor Denise has blocked me on Twitter.
So to conclude, Star Trek 6 marks its’ 25th anniversary as an anniversary for me too. I learnt all there was to know from the first 25th anniversary when it debuted in the cinema. I can however say that with the launch of a new series set to air in 2017, the franchise has a lot of catching up to do.
Let’s hope they do it without pink blood. It’s not a lot to ask, is it?