Star Trek 04: The Voyage Home (1986)


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is a 1986 American science fiction film directed by Leonard Nimoy and based on the television series Star Trek.

It is the fourth feature instalment in the Star Trek film series, and is a sequel to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984); it completes the story arc begun in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and continued in The Search for Spock.

Intent on returning home to Earth to face trial for their actions in the previous film, the former crew of the USS Enterprise finds the planet in grave danger from an alien probe attempting to contact now-extinct humpback whales.

The crew travel to Earth’s past to find whales who can answer the probe’s call.


In 2286, an enormous cylindrical probe moves through space, sending out an indecipherable signal and disabling the power of every ship it passes.

As it takes up orbit around Earth, its signal disables the global power grid and generates planetary storms, creating catastrophic, sun-blocking cloud cover.

Starfleet Command sends out a planetary distress call and warns all space-faring vessels not to approach Earth.

On the planet Vulcan, the former officers of the late USS Enterprise are living in exile following the events of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Accompanied by the Vulcan Spock, still recovering from his resurrection, the crew – except for Saavik, who remains on Vulcan – take their captured Klingon Bird of Prey (renamed the Bounty, after the Royal Navy ship) and return to Earth to face trial for their actions.

Receiving Starfleet’s warning, Spock determines that the probe’s signal matches the song of extinct humpback whales, and that the object will continue to wreak havoc until its call is answered.

The crew uses their ship to travel back in time via a slingshot manoeuvre around the Sun, planning to return with a whale to answer the alien signal.

Arriving in 1986, the crew finds their ship’s power drained by the time travel manoeuvre.

Hiding the Bounty in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park using its cloaking device, the crew split up to accomplish several tasks: Admiral James T. Kirk and Spock attempt to locate humpback whales, while Montgomery Scott, Leonard McCoy, and Hikaru Sulu construct a tank to hold the whales they need for a return to the 23rd century. Uhura and Pavel Chekov are tasked to find a nuclear reactor, whose energy leakage can be collected and used to re-power the Klingon vessel.

Kirk and Spock discover a pair of whales in the care of Dr. Gillian Taylor at a Sausalito aquarium, and learn they will soon be released into the wild. Kirk tells her of his mission and asks for the tracking frequency for the whales, but she refuses to cooperate.

Meanwhile, Scott, McCoy, and Sulu trade the formula of transparent aluminum for the materials needed for the whale tank. Uhura and Chekov locate a nuclear powered ship, the aircraft carrier Enterprise. They collect the power they need, but are discovered on board. Uhura is beamed out but Chekov is captured, and subsequently severely injured in an escape attempt.

Gillian learns the whales have been released early, and goes to Kirk for assistance. Gillian, Kirk, and McCoy rescue Chekov from a nearby hospital and return to the now recharged Bird of Prey.

After saving the whales from poachers and transporting them aboard, the crew returns with Gillian to their own time.

On approaching Earth, the Bounty loses power due to the alien probe, and crash-lands into the waters of San Francisco Bay.

Once released from near-drowning, the whales respond to the probe’s signal, causing the object to reverse its effects on Earth and return to the depths of space.

For their part in saving the planet, all charges against the Enterprise crew are dropped, save one for disobeying a superior officer, which is solely levelled at Kirk.

Kirk is demoted from Admiral to the rank of Captain and returned to the command of a starship.

Kirk and Gillian part ways, as she has been assigned to a science vessel by Starfleet.

The crew departs on their ship, the newly christened USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A), and leaves on a shakedown mission.

Star Trek Films

You can find a full index of Star Trek films here.

Star Trek TV Series, Films, and Documentaries

You can find a full index of Star Trek TV series, films, documentaries here.

Trivia (Film)

  • After directing The Search for Spock, cast member Leonard Nimoy was asked to direct the next feature, and given greater freedom regarding the film’s content.
  • Nimoy and producer Harve Bennett conceived a story with an environmental message and no clear-cut villain.
  • Dissatisfied with the first screenplay produced by Steve Meerson and Peter Krikes, Paramount hired The Wrath of Khan writer and director Nicholas Meyer.
  • Meyer and Bennett divided the story between them and wrote different parts of the script, requiring approval from Nimoy, lead actor William Shatner, and Paramount.
  • Principal photography commenced on 24 February 1986.
  • Unlike previous Star Trek films, The Voyage Home was shot extensively on location; many real settings and buildings were used as stand-ins for scenes set around and in the city of San Francisco.
  • Special effects firm Industrial Light & Magic assisted in post-production and the film’s special effects.
  • Few of the humpback whales in the film were real: ILM devised full-size animatronics and small motorised models to stand in for the real creatures.
  • The film was dedicated to the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which broke up 73 seconds after takeoff on the morning of 28 January 1986.
  • The Voyage Home was released on 26 November 1986 in North America by Paramount Pictures, and became the top-grossing film at the weekend box office.
  • The film’s humour and unconventional story were well-received by critics, fans of the series, and the general audience.
  • It was financially successful, earning $133 million worldwide, and earned several awards and four Oscar nominations for its cinematography and audio.

Trivia (General)

You can read interesting trivia and background details about the Star Trek franchise here.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Leonard Nimoy.
  • Producer(s): Harve Bennett.
  • Writer(s) (Screenplay): Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer, and Harve Bennett.
  • Writer(s) (Story): Harve Bennett and Leonard Nimoy.
  • Music: Leonard Rosenman.
  • Cinematography: Donald Peterman.
  • Editor(s): Peter E. Berger.
  • Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures.
  • Release Date: 26 November 1986.
  • Running Time: 122 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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