Film: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

"Forget the Temporal Prime Directive. From now on, we follow the Rule of Funny!"

Gillian: [sarcastic] Don't tell me; you're from outer space.
Kirk: No, I'm from Iowa. I only work in outer space.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the fourth movie in the Star Trek film series, released in 1986.

This is "The One with... The Whales".

Kirk is prepared to face the consequences of his actions in the previous movie, but a powerful alien probe is making its way to Earth (yes, another one), wreaking havoc with the environment and shutting down anything with power. Deducing that the probe is searching for humpback whales, which are extinct in the twenty-third century, Kirk and crew use a Klingon Bird-Of-Prey they stole in the last film to Time Travel to San Francisco in The '80s, where they hope to retrieve some and save Earth. Hilarity Ensues. Instead of the traditional Space Opera, this movie is an outright comedy. It even lacks a villain, outside of the whale probe and a whaler boat.

Star Trek IV is often considered a Real Life example of when Star Trek can indeed be Actually Pretty Funny. The wild success of this movie (it was the most financially successful Trek film until the 2009 reboot) was proof to Paramount that Star Trek could survive as an expanded franchise.

Not only did it greenlight more films, but it gave Gene Roddenberry the opportunity to create a brand new TV series.

Tropes seen in The Voyage Home include:

  • Acronym Confusion:
    Kirk: Oh, him? He's harmless. Part of the free speech movement at Berkeley in the sixties. I think he did a little too much LDSnote .
    Gillian: L D S?
  • Acting Unnatural: Kirk tells his bridge officers, standing around in the streets of 1980s San Francisco, to "break up, you look like a cadet review." Cue entirely unconvincing attempt by the Starfleet officers to look inconspicuous and casual.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: With the whales brought to the future.
  • Alice Allusion: Kirk's greeting to Gillian as she's beamed aboard the Klingon ship. "Hello Alice, welcome to Wonderland".
  • Arc Words: "How do you feel?" Later, "I feel fine."
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • By Sarek, in response to the Klingon ambassador's overblown accusations against Kirk.
    Ambassador: "We have the right to preserve our race!"
    Sarek: "You have the right to commit murder?"
    • Also, the above-mentioned "How do you feel?"
  • Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: Stealing Starships, Disobeying Orders, And Saving The World.
  • Ass in Ambassador: The Klingon ambassador, to be specific. As he and his party leave, an unseen heckler actually calls him a pompous ass.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Spock and Sarek have a moment. After a brief icy exchange where Spock says (somewhat backhandedly) that he appreciated his father making the effort to attend the trial, Sarek countered softly with "it was no effort, you are my son". Probably as close to a gooey moment as you would get between a Vulcan father and son.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Kirk, McCoy, and Gillian getting into the hospital to rescue Chekov. See Expospeak Gag below.
  • Big Dumb Object: The "whale probe". Presumably to to make a point about it being as thoughtlessly destructive to humanity as humanity supposedly is to whales.
  • Black Boss Lady: Audiences applauded when Madge Sinclair appeared as the (unnamed) Captain of the Saratoga at the beginning of the film.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Justified, as Spock has an incomplete grasp on life after being brought back from the dead.
    Kirk: If we play our cards right, we may be able to find out when those whales are being released.
    Spock: How will playing cards help?

    Dr. Taylor: Are you sure you won't change your mind?
    Spock: Is there something wrong with the one I have?
  • Book Ends: Kirk refers to the others as 'My friends' when they commit themselves to help Spock in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock ("My friends, Dr McCoy and I have to do this, the rest of you don't") and again after the resulting trial in this film's ending ("My friends, We've come home.")
  • Brake Angrily: Gillian slams the brakes on her truck after Spock declares that Gracie is pregnant.
  • Breather Episode: According to Word of God.
  • Came Back Wrong: It's implied that maybe we didn't quite get all of Spock back at the end of the previous movie, that there's a certain... something missing. He gets better by the end though. Death apparently isn't something you can just get over straight away.
  • Cat Folk: The Caitian admiral at Star Fleet headquarters.
  • Catch Phrase: "Hello, Computer"
    • Nuclear wessels!
    • Double dumb-ass on you!
    • Spock's awkward and inappropriate usage of the phrase, "the hell".
    Spock: They like you very much, but they are not the hell your whales.
    Dr. Gillian Taylor: I suppose they told you that, huh?
    Spock: The hell they did.
  • Changed My Jumper: The short notice for this particular mission results in the crew arriving in San Francisco in their 23rd century Space Clothes. As it's San Francisco, they don't look that out of place. Truth in Television — they had unknown crew walk around San Francisco in the outfits for a week before shooting started, and got no comments whatsoever. See City of Weirdos.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Klingon Bird-of-Prey, which was just the enemy ship and later a means of escaping from the exploding Genesis Planet in the previous film, ends up being a vital part of this film's storyline thanks to its ability to cloak and land.
    • Kirk's glasses are an unusual case of this; from the perspective of the audience and Kirk himself, this is the last time the glasses are seen. However, 298 years down the line, they're going to be very important once again.
    • The phaser taken to the Enterprise that fails to stun the interrogators.
  • City of Weirdos: Most people are willing to accept the slightly out-of-touch Spock as a harmless stoner, even as he does weird things like jump into the whale tank...until he says things about the whales that he shouldn't be able to know. Truth in Television as anyone who lives in San Francisco could tell you.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Cluster "The Hell" Bomb
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Spock, but in all fairness he is still recovering from being dead.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Spock initially feels that his shipmates, being illogical humans as they are, made a huge mistake by sacrificing their careers, the Enterprise and Kirk's son David just so they could have him back.
  • Continuity Nod: Kirk mentions that they've done slingshot maneuvers around the sun before, which they first did in the episode "Tomorrow Is Yesterday."
  • Crapsack Only by Comparison: How the crew of the Enterprise see The '80s.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Even though it's the crew of the mighty Enterprise we're talking about, the whole "get some whales from back in time" thing did sound pretty ridiculous. McCoy lampshades this, to which Kirk simply responds that if McCoy has a better plan, he should speak up.
    • The film is also nice enough to explain why several saner sounding plans wouldn't work.
  • Critical Research Failure: In-Universe. The crew, knowing only the broad strokes of the sociopolitical environment of the late twentieth century United States, failed to realize that putting Chekov, a Russian, on the ground looking for "nuclear wessels" was a bad idea.
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: The stolen Klingon bird of prey is manned only by the Enterprise command crew, half of what it should have.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Well, there's no actual battle, but the Probe gives V'ger a run for its money to completely decimate the entire Federation and Earth ships and defenses.
  • Damage Control: Kirk asks when they can get their captured Bird-of-Prey under way, Scotty quips, "Damage control is easy; reading Klingon, that's hard."
  • Death Amnesia: Played with. Spock never says he can't remember what dying and coming back was like. He states that he can't explain it without the other person having a common frame of reference, meaning:
    Bones: You mean I have to die to discuss your insights on death?!
  • Dedication: To the crew of the Challenger at the beginning of the film.
  • Demoted to Extra: Saavik, who was a major character in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, made a brief appearance in only one scene in this movie, and then was never seen again.
  • Don't Call Me Sir: Due to Spock's mental retraining, he insists on calling Kirk "Admiral". Kirk is nonplussed and keeps insisting that Spock used to call him "Jim".
  • Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help: McCoy helping the woman on dialysis during their rescue of Chekov. Admittedly, the "stop" didn't take more time than it took to give her a couple of pills, but it still (a) potentially draws attention to what's supposed to be a covert mission and (b) has the possibility of changing history.
  • The '80s: the time period the crew travel back to is fairly unambiguously this.
  • Emergency Refuelling: After the crew use the Klingon Bird of Prey to travel back in time, the dilithium crystals in the Bo P start disintegrating due to the amount of effort required to travel back in time. This leads to a subplot where Uhura and Chekhov have to find a nuclear vessel, collect high energy photons from a nuclear fission reaction and use those to recrystalise the dilithium crystals.
  • Everybody Lives: The only Trek film that can boast this.
  • Exact Words: Spock's plan.
    Spock: We could try to find some humpback whales.
    McCoy: But you said there aren't any, except on Earth of the past.
    Spock: That is correct, Doctor.
  • Expospeak Gag:
    McCoy: This woman has acute post-prandial upper-abdominal distension!
    Kirk: What did you say she had?
    McCoy: Cramps.
  • Exty Years from Now: From 2286 to 1986, the crew travel back exactly 300 years in to the past.
  • Every Helicopter Is A Huey: Sulu tells a helicopter pilot that he trained on Hueys at the Academy, as a hobby (though the pilot probably didn't know he meant Starfleet Academy). The Novelization expands on it.
  • Face Palm: Kirk's reaction to Spock diving into the whale tank without warning him.
  • Foreshadowing: the Klingon ambassador mentions attempts to negotiate a peace treaty, and that there would be no peace whilst Kirk lived. This may or may not have been intentional, but it's picked up as the central theme of the plot in the sixth movie—where, interestingly enough, the same character (and actor) is one of the first to applaud Kirk and the Enterprise crew when they prevent the sabotage of the eventual Federation/Klingon treaty.
  • Fish Out of Temporal Water: The whole premise of the film, figuratively and almost literally, thanks to the cetaceans out of temporal water.
  • Gaia's Lament: Whales are extinct in the 23rd century. The probe tries to communicate until something responds... if nothing responds, it never stops trying. (It just so happens that its communication drains Starfleet power supplies and screws up's Earth's surface weather...) The designers of the probe were callous and uncaring what side-effects this would have, just as the 20th century humans were callous and uncaring regarding the plight of the whales— at least that's the idea.
  • "Get out of Jail Free" Card: Starfleet can't really punish Kirk and crew too much just after they saved the world, can they?
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Multiple instances of profanity in a PG-rated movie, including Flipping the Bird, some even Lampshaded.
  • Good Old Ways: A perfect example of the ways in which Bones subverts this trope. See We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: The probe is causing bad weather in 23rd century Leningrad, although the oblast (province/state) still retains that name.
  • Green Aesop: "To hunt a species to extinction is not logical."
    Gillian: Whoever said the human race was logical?
  • Large Ham: John Schuck as the Klingon Hambassador makes Shatner look positively subdued.
    "Behold, the quintessential devil himself: James T. Kirk, renegade and terrorist!"
    "Starfleet regulations, that's outRAGEOUS!!!"
  • Kicked Upstairs: Inverted: Kirk has violated orders to save the world. They "punish" him by taking away his cushy desk job and demoting him to a "mere" starship captain. So Star Fleet gets what it wants (a public punishment to demonstrate they don't tolerate such behavior, not to mention their best captain back in the field) and Kirk gets what he wants (the Enterprise).
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Kirk and Company survived to save the world because they were off-planet rescuing Spock when the probe arrived.
  • Lighter and Softer: This is pretty much the most lighthearted Trek film there is.
  • Literal-Minded: Chekov during the interrogation, much to the frustration of his interrogator. A possible case of Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Meaningful Rename: The crew have dubbed their stolen Klingon ship the HMS Bounty.
  • Mistaken for Spies: Chekov. An interesting example as Chekov's behavior eventually leads one of his interrogators to suspect he's something like an escaped mental patient rather than a Soviet spy.
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence: An interesting version, seeing as it was applied to what was then the real-life present day.
  • Modern Humans are Morons: Kirk reminds his crew before exploring 20th Century San Francisco that "this is an extremely primitive and paranoid culture" and believes that no one pays attention to you in the contemporary age "unless you swear every other word." Bones is shocked to find a woman in a hospital on dialysis, asking if this is The Dark Ages, and compares two doctors chatting about a procedure to "the goddamn Spanish Inquisition." When he confronts the surgeon about to operate on Chekov, he manages to make it sound like an attempt to let the evil spirits out, and tells him to put his butcher knives away.
    • Averted strongly by Gillian, who manages to impress Spock and outwit Kirk.
  • Mood Whiplash: When Gillian starts showing videos of actual whale disassembling. In theaters, the audiences often got very quiet at this point.
  • Mundanization
  • Mythology Gag: The Bridge Computer Sound Effects from The Original Series can clearly be heard in the background as Kirk says "Let's see what she's got".
  • Name's the Same: An in-universe example. "Sir! Ve have found the nuclear wessels! And is the Enterprise!
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Everyone's reaction to the Humans of the past for hunting the Humpback to extinction.
  • No Antagonist: Even the probe is just trying to find out what happened to their friends on Earth.
  • No Endor Holocaust: We never do find out what happened to the crew of the Saratoga, or the other ships that the probe disabled en route to Earth. Who knows how many, if any, survivors there were on the ships where the life support was barely functioning, and the crew had to watch their emergency power run lower... and lower. However, one captain mentions attempting to jury-rig a solar energy collector to restore power to life support, and Starfleet crews in general are expected to be resouceful. Word of God Jossed the idea that they died, and the novelization mentions in passing that the captain of the Saratoga managed to save her crew.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: When Chekov is at the mercy of 20th Century medicine, Bones insists on going to save him. Spock backs him up. When asked if it's the logical thing to do, he admits that it is not. It is, however, the human thing to do.
  • Not This One, That One: A notable inversion/subversion at the end: The crew arrives at Space Dock to take charge of their new ship. The crew argues about which ship they will get. Dr. McCoy trusts the bureaucrats to give them a freighter, while Mr. Sulu opines he would like the Excelsior. Scotty of course scoffs at Mr. Sulu, asking why he would want that "bucket of bolts". Their shuttle starts its approach on the shiny new Excelsior... then flies over it to reveal the smaller ship hiding behind it: the Enterprise-A.
  • Oh Crap!: The whaler's crew upon seeing the Bird-of-Prey decloak. Not only could the entire whaler fit in the Bird-of-Prey's torpedo launcher, but these are late 20th century humans. They have never seen an alien (or even human) starship of any kind before. Needless to say they scurry away as fast as they are able to turn the ship around.
  • Once More with Clarity: During the time travel sequence, the lines spoken by the crew during the sequence are spoken later on.
  • Photographic Memory: Gillian Taylor mentions that she has one — "I see words!" — but it comes into play only once, during Spock's Time Travel Tense Trouble.
  • Precision F-Strike: Kirk advises Spock to blend in by "swearing every other word". While he has difficulty at first he finally grasps it, and, in perhaps a running gag, Spock has at least one in parts 5 and 6 as well.
    Spock: "Are you sure it isn't time for a colorful metaphor?"
  • Promotion Not Punishment: At the end, Kirk actually experiences a subversion. After stealing the Enterprise and subsequently blowing it up in the process of stopping the Earth from being destroyed and saving the humpbacked whales from extinction, he and his bunch manage to almost completely duck the surefire court-martialing and dismissal from Starfleet. Instead, Kirk is demoted from Admiral back down to Captain, a role both he and his superiors prefer him in.
  • The Quincy Punk: Kirk and Spock encounter such a punk on a bus in 1980s San Francisco. When he refuses to turn down the loud punk rock music he is playing, Spock nerve pinches him into silence, and everyone else on the bus applauds.
  • Rapid-Fire Typing: Scotty goes from not even understanding the concept of a computer without voice commands to apparently being able type 3 million words per minute. Also combines with Hollywood Hacking — the action on the computer's screen doesn't even remotely synch with his keystrokes.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Chekov, in obviously Russian accent, going around the streets asking about "nuclear wessels" and getting away with it. Doesn't help him when he actually gets found on board one, however.
  • Replacement Goldfish: The Enterprise NCC-1701-A for the Enterprise NCC-1701, beginning a Star Trek tradition.
  • Rogue Human: The Klingon Ambassador tries painting Captain Kirk as this, in an attempt to get him extradited.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Kirk flat out tells Gillian exactly who he is and where he comes from over dinner. Subverted in that Kirk tells her with utter conviction and she naturally thinks he's full of shit.
  • Sequel Hook: The crew is absolved of all criminal charges and are given a new ship, a virtually identical Constitution class USS Enterprise: NCC-1701-A. The adventures of this ship are continued in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, but it also paved the way for the introduction of the Galaxy Class USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D.
  • Shout-Out: According to Word of God, the probe is modeled after Rama.
  • Snap Back: After all the trial and tribulation the crew goes through in the last three films, they all end up back where they started: on the bridge of the Enterprise ready for a new adventure.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Kirk tries to be this, with middling success. "Double dumbass on you!"
    • Spock tries even harder, with less success.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: A major source of humor from Spock.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Trope Namer. Don't hunt whales to extinction or an alien probe will come to destroy us all!
    • Only an example, though, if it's taken too literally. The intended Aesop is more along the lines of "you don't know what you've got till it's gone", specifically the permanence of extinction.
    • Also, don't play your music too loud on the bus or you will wind up nerve pinched.
    • Just because somebody claims to have come from the future to save the Earth doesn't mean they're crazy or trying to scam you. They're only almost certainly crazy or trying to scam you.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    Security Guard: How's the patient, Doctor?
    Kirk: He's going to make it.
    Guard: He? They went in with a she!
    Kirk: One little mistake... [runs]
  • Stable Time Loop: All over the damn place.
    • Scotty and transparent aluminum. In the novelization, the engineer he sells the formula to is the one who introduce[d/s] it to the world, and Scotty discusses the trope specifically when McCoy calls him on it.
      Scotty: "How do we know he didn't invent the thing?"
      • In the Novelization, Scotty practically fanboys over the engineer, Marcus Nichols, when they are introduced, because Scotty recognizes Nichols' name as that of the inventor of transparent aluminum; Scotty hints that it might be Scotty and Bones' job to actually tell him about it.
    • When Kirk sells his glasses at a pawn shop.
      Spock: Admiral, weren't those a gift from Dr. McCoy?
      Kirk: And they will be again. That's the beauty of it.
    • No one checks to see if removing Gillian from the timeline will change anything historic. Despite her insistence that "I have nobody here", no one considers the possibility that any future actions of hers could be important.
      • In the Expanded Universe, it's explained that this is actually standard Federation policy towards people from the past that wind up in the "present". If their removal from the timeline doesn't cause catastrophic changes, they're supposed to stay rather than risk polluting the timeline by going back with knowledge of the future.
  • Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard: During the FBI's interrogation of Chekov:
    Agent #1: What do you think?
    Agent #2: He's a Russkie.
    Agent #1: That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life. Of course he's a Russkie, but he's a retard or something.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Admiral Cartwright for Admiral Morrow, who appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The novelization implies Morrow got replaced due to a scandal that erupted from Kirk's actions.
  • Time Travelers Are Spies: Chekov and Uhura, big time. Though it might have gone better if one of them wasn't Russian. In the Novelization, the fact Uhura is African doesn't help matters.note 
  • Time Travel Romance: Kirk finds a Love Interest wherever and whenever he goes, doesn't he?
    • Though it's very low-key (especially for Kirk) and doesn't really become much more than some flirting and a hug. Which makes sense considering the character becoming a female scientist was actually a fairly late revision to the script... in prior drafts, the character was a conspiracy theorist played by Eddie Murphy.
  • Time Travel Tense Trouble: Spock of all people screws up here. Nimoy stresses the tense loud and clear, so it wouldn't take eidetic memory to remember it, too.
  • Totally Radical: Kirk doesn't quite have a grasp on 1986 idioms. Nor does Spock.
    Kirk: And a double dumbass on you!
  • Tranquil Fury: Sarek is incensed with the Klingon Ambassador's attempted justifications for Commander Kruge's actions in the previous movie. Of course, being a typical Vulcan, Sarek is still reserved about it but his tone and words make it clear what he thinks.
    Sarek: Your vessel did destroy U.S.S. Grissom. Your men did kill Kirk's son. Do you deny these events?
    Klingon Ambassador: We deny nothing! We have the right to preserve our race!
    Sarek: You have the right to commit murder?
  • Troll: Scotty referring to Bones as "his assistant". Scotty's look after implies that he said it just to mess with him. Also one wonders if Spock's misuse of swears didn't become purposeful over time, especially after Kirk criticized him for it.
  • Trouble from the Past: The humans of the past hunted whales to extinction and that turned out to be a bad idea.
  • Unishment: When Kirk is demoted back to the Captaincy of a starship... which is what he wanted all along anyway.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Chekov gives Kirk a simple explanation for how he and Uhura plan to collect high-energy photons from the aircraft carrier Enterprise. It works perfectly—until the transporter fizzles out and Chekov is captured. And critically injured trying to escape. Although it didn't help that he tempted fate by saying "No one will ever know we were there."
  • Weapons Understudies: The nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise is here played by the non-nuclear USS Ranger. The Enterprise's reactor area was highly classified and radioactive to the point the film would have been unusable, and even if filming was feasible, she was at sea at the time. If you look closely, you can see several sailors wearing Ranger insignia.
  • Weld The Lock: Kirk uses a phaser to melt the lock on a door he locked some 20th-century medstaff in. This, incidentally, is the only time a phaser is fired throughout the entire movie (successfully—Chekov's attempt fizzles due to a malfunction), showing just how Lighter and Softer IV is compared to pretty much all the other films.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Spock and Sarek.
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Demonstrated when McCoy, visiting a twentieth century hospital, is horrified that a woman is undergoing kidney dialysis. "Dialysis? What is this, the Dark Ages?" He gives her a pill, and minutes later, doctors are dumbfounded by her miraculous recovery as she grows a new kidney.
  • What We Now Know to Be True: See We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future.
  • Wham Line: (In Universe) "Gracie is pregnant."
    • Sarek, with 7 words, dismantles the Klingon ambassador's entire tirade:
    "You have the right to commit murder?"
    • Kirk, when he realizes the only way to save Earth:
    "Begin computations for time warp."
  • Wham Reveal: The first appearance of the Enterprise A
  • What Year Is This?: Subverted. All official material indicates they travel back to 1986 (the year the film was released), but Spock determines from the pollution in the atmosphere as being "the latter half of the 20th Century" and Kirk doesn't ask to get more specific than that as it doesn't matter.
  • Wiper Start: Sulu with the helicopter.
  • You Look Familiar: Brock Peters plays Admiral Cartwright and would go onto play Joseph Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
    • And Madge Sinclair, who plays the captain of the Saratoga, would later go on to play Geordi LaForge's mother.

My friends....we've come home.

Alternative Title(s):

Star Trek IV