"There is an old Vulcan proverb: only Nixon could go to China."Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is the sixth movie in the Star Trek film series, released in 1991.It is 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. In part because of its more political themes and real-world connections, 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.While this is the finale for the majority of the TOS cast, Kirk, Scotty and Chekov appear in the next film to "pass the torch" of the film franchise to The Next Generation.
The Undiscovered Country includes examples of the following tropes:
- 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.
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Before the climactic battle, Kirk and Spock wonder if they've both gotten too old to still be useful in a changing galaxy.
- Air Fiction One: The Klingon battlecruiser that carries Chancellor Gorkon to the rendezvous with the Enterprise is Kronos One, Kronos being the name of the Klingon homeworld.
- Alien Blood: The Klingons have Pepto-Bismol pink blood in this film (and only this film), 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, but only in the extended cut. The Star Trek staff (particularly Mike Okuda) Hand Waved this by claiming the pigment change to be a side-effect of microgravity.
- All There in the Manual: The bizarre joke the Klingon border guard makes is smuggler's code; he knows they aren't who they say they are but thinks they're just illegal traders and just can't be bothered to bust them.
- 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.
- Apocalypse How: One destroyed mining planet and the near-irrevocable atmospheric desolation of the Klingon homeworld (which, thanks to the Federation, would ultimately be saved).
- Armor Is Useless: The shields of the Enterprise don't appear to do very much. Every (single, leisurely-paced) torpedo hit results in massive hull burns; bridge consoles blow out; and "auxiliary circuits are destroyed"... a significant time before Scotty calls out, "Shields weakening!" A cynic might very well ask, "What shields?" Then again, after the Enterprise's shields collapse, a torpedo shot from below bursts through the saucer and does an impressive amount of damage, so ultimately this is a Downplayed Trope.
- Artificial Gravity: A rare example where the artificial gravity actually fails.
- Artistic License – History: Valeris repeats as truth the story that the word "sabotage" comes from Luddites throwing their wooden sabot shoes into the machinery during the Industrial Revolution. This is a popular folk etymology, but it is, alas, most likely apocryphal.
- Ask a Stupid Question...: When Janice Rand asks if they're going to report the destruction of Praxis to the Federation, Sulu whirls on her incredulously and asks, "Are you kidding?!"
- Assassins Are Always Betrayed: Burke and Samno are killed by Valeris after the attempt to hide the evidence backfires. Lampshaded in the same scene.Kirk: First rule of assassination: kill the assassins.
- Bad Vibrations: Captain Sulu's vibrating tea cup heralds the shockwave from the exploding Praxis at the beginning of the film.
- Batman Gambit:
- Sulu's strategy to draw fire from the Enterprise. His ship is no better equipped to detect the Klingon warship than Kirk's is, but he is able to buy enough time for Spock and McCoy to rig a cloak-seeking torpedo. Had Chang not taken the bait, he could have continued to dismantle the Enterprise, leaving himself with only one ship to fight instead of two.
- Kirk's plan to draw out the mole (Valeris) by having a "court reporter" summoned to Sick Bay urgently to take statements from the (actually already dead) assassins Burke and Samno.
- A failed Batman Gambit exists in the conspirators' original plan. They were banking on Kirk getting gun-happy after Chang got Kronos One back in fighting shape, shooting back and destroying Kronos One. What happens instead? Kirk surrenders in a hasty attempt to de-escalate the situation. Chang then has to engage in Xanatos Speed Chess to compensate.
- The assassins specifically kill Kronos One's chief surgeon, which leaves Gorkon's fate in the hands of a physician who doesn't know much about Klingon physiology, Dr. McCoy.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: Though Chang acts as the main villain for most of the movie, he's part of a larger conspiracy which includes Lieutenant Valeris, Admiral Cartwright, Colonel West, and the Romulan Ambassador.
- 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 slight subversion; Excelsior doesn't do much but provide a second target at first, giving the Enterprise a much-needed breather. Once Chang's ship is revealed by the first hit on its hull, though, Sulu takes full advantage of the reveal to add his ship's weight to the fight. Sulu states quite explicitly that he knows all the Excelsior is on their arrival is another duck in Chang's shooting gallery.Captain Sulu: Alright... now we've given them something else to shoot at.
- In the novelisation, Enterprise is specifically described as trying to hold out until Excelsior can arrive with better sensors and stronger shields. Compare Wellington deciding to hold on at Waterloo until Blucher could arrive with the necessary reinforcements to beat Napoleon, but it being the British who, in shooting Napoleon's Old Guard to a standstill, triggered the French rout.
- 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 slight subversion; Excelsior doesn't do much but provide a second target at first, giving the Enterprise a much-needed breather. Once Chang's ship is revealed by the first hit on its hull, though, Sulu takes full advantage of the reveal to add his ship's weight to the fight. Sulu states quite explicitly that he knows all the Excelsior is on their arrival is another duck in Chang's shooting gallery.
- Bluffing the Murderer: "Code Blue Urgent: Court reporter to Sickbay. Statements to be taken..."
- Blatant Lies: Quite prevalent.
- Brigadier Kerla responds to Excelsior's message after the explosion of Praxis.Kerla: There has been an incident on Praxis, however, everything is under control, we have no need for assistance.
- Starfleet orders the Enterprise to report back after the assassination, but they are still trying to root out the assassins.Uhura: We are experiencing technical malfunction; all backup systems inoperative.
Chekov: Excellent. I-I mean—too bad.
- Brigadier Kerla responds to Excelsior's message after the explosion of Praxis.
- Broken Pedestal: Valeris to Spock, and vice versa.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The main difference between Valeris and Saavik is that Valeris has a tendency to defy regulations. For example, she fires a phaser on the kill setting, which triggers every alarm on the Enterprise, in order to demonstrate why the conspirators didn't just disintegrate the magnetic boots and uniforms used in the assassination. She is also the one who suggests breaking out the very illegal Romulan Ale for dinner with the Klingons.
- 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.
- Several stylistic ones in the final battle to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, also directed by Nicholas Meyer:
- A floor panel explodes in Spock's face, reminiscent of how he "died" in the Kobayashi Maru simulation.
- The shot where Spock speculates on the Bird-of-Prey's weakness is from the exact same angle as the one where he speculates on Khan's "two-dimensional thinking".
- Romulan Ale, being both illegal and leaving a terrible hangover.
- When Spock wants to go to the Klingon ship but Kirk overrides him, Spock says "Perhaps you're right," and puts his hand on Kirk's shoulder like he's going to administer the nerve pinch... and puts the tracking patch on his shoulder.
- The Klingon Ambassador from The Voyage Home is back too.
- The design of the makeup for Christopher Plummer shares a number of similarities with the design of the smooth-browed Klingons from the Original Series, particularly the moustache, and his more subdued ridges.
- Cameo: Christian Slater as the Excelsior communications officer who wakes Sulu, which made him a Promoted Fanboy. Probably not coincidentally, his mother, Mary Jo Slater, was the casting director.
- Captain's Log:
- Captain Sulu of the USS Excelsior has the honor of opening the movie this way.
- A log entry that Kirk makes early in the movie (about how much he hates Klingons) becomes a Chekhov's Gun when it's used against him at his trial, and a Chekhov's Boomerang when he realizes that Valeris was lurking outside his door when he recorded it, and provided the quote to her fellow conspirators.
- Kirk ends the movie by recording his final log entry as captain of the Enterprise.
- Characterization Marches On: Sulu has adopted a more authoritarian, strict (but fair) personality as a captain, contrasting his easygoing, affable one in prior movies and the TV series.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The Phaser Alarms. Firing a phaser on a kill setting triggers the alarms, as Valeris demonstrates in the kitchen when Chekov asks why the assassins didn't vaporize their incriminating clothing. When Burke and Samno are found dead, McCoy wonders why they were not vaporized and Chekov replies (while comically making it sound like a dumb question) that it would set off the alarm. Valeris had used a phaser on stun to the head at point blank range to kill them; her inability to dispose of the bodies leads Kirk to his plan to flush out the assassin by saying that they had survived and were willing to talk about everything.
- The pink Klingon blood. Some of it floats into the path of one of the transporting assassins; later, it is discovered on the transporter pad by Chekov and Scotty. In the extended cut, when the "Klingon" sniper is shot at the peace conference, Worf quips that the (red) blood does not belong to a Klingon.
- A Chekhov's Gun example is left hanging on the wall when Kirk pulls out a concealed pistol of identical make.
- In a Captain's Log, Sulu mentions the Excelsior is cataloging gaseous anomalies. Apparently, the Enterprise had been doing the same, since they have the equipment on board and use it to track the cloaked Bird-of-Prey.
- Chekhov's Gunman:
- Burke and Samno, seen in the transporter room when Gorkon and his party beam aboard, are later revealed to be the two assassins responsible for his death. The extended cut takes this further: they make disparaging remarks about the Klingons after the party has left the room, only to be stopped by Valeris.
- Colonel West, seen only in the extended cut. He is the architect of the plan to rescue Kirk and McCoy from Rura Penthe, and is later the sniper shot dead by Scotty.
- Admiral Cartwright is another, albeit minor, example: his unease of peace with Klingons makes him a party of the plot to shoot the Federation President.
- Chewing the Scenery: Chang in the final showdown; especially "CRYYYYY HAVOC ... and let slip the dogs of war!" where it's not so much that he's shouting it at the top of his lungs, but that he's shouting it at the top of his lungs while spinning in his self-rotating captain's chair.Chang: I am constant as the Northern Star...
McCoy: I'd pay real money if he'd shut up!
- Clear My Name: Kirk and McCoy.
- Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like and/or Inconvenient Summons: Kirk and McCoy get caught escaping from a Siberian prison camp - oops - Klingon prison colony and are about to be executed...Kirk: "Killed while trying to escape."
McCoy: Damned clever if you ask me.
Kirk: It's a classic.
Klingon Warden: That's what he wanted.
Kirk: Who? Who wanted us killed?
Klingon Warden: Since you're all going to die anyway, why not tell you? His Name Is...
Enterprise: (transporter beam!)
Kirk: [dematerializing] Oh! Not... SON OF A...
Klingons: [start shooting futilely]
Kirk: [rematerializing back on the Enterprise]Son of a... Couldn't you have waited two seconds?
Spock: [utterly perplexed] Captain...?
Kirk: They were just about to tell us the whole thing!
Chekov: You vant to go back?
McCoy: Absolutely not!
Kirk: ...It's cold!
- Comic-Book Adaptation: By DC Comics.
- Continuity Nod:
- Sulu mentions at the end of The Voyage Home 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. Even earlier than that, when the ship is first shown in the beginning of The Search for Spock, Sulu is gawking in amazement at it. Scotty also continues his nonplussed attitude about the ship, preferring to tip his hat to her Captain instead.note
- During Kirk and McCoy's trial, General Chang brings up Kirk's demotion in Star Trek IV, simultaneously referring to the events of Star Trek III that precipitated it.Chang: Indeed, the record shows that Captain Kirk once held the rank of Admiral, and that Admiral Kirk was broken for taking matters into his own hands in defiance of regulations and the law!! [whirls on Kirk] DO YOU DENY BEING DEMOTED ON THESE CHARGES?! DON'T WAIT FOR THE TRANSLATION!! ANSWER ME NOW!!note
- Cool Old Guy: Pretty much the main cast.
- Covers Always Lie: The main poster has the Enterprise battling a Klingon cruiser and Bird-of-Prey at the same time. It only fights a Bird-of-Prey in the movie.
- CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Bones, miracle doctor that he is, can revive someone with no pulse by straddling them and beating on their chest. But only after trying several more sophisticated techniques, including inserting some sort of medical device into the open chest wound. The Klingons who witness this are absolutely horrified. The patient dies after delivering his Famous Last Words despite the doctor's best efforts.
- Crazy-Prepared: Gorkon, according to the novelization. He expected something to happen to him on his way to Earth, so he used his influence among his allies to ensure that Azetbur would succeed him as Chancellor. He also suspected Chang to have a part in a betrayal, hence why he tells someone to find him when Kronos One loses artificial gravity.
- Creative Closing Credits: The cast's signatures are written out on screen before the credits.
- Credits Pushback: The signatures at the end generally get clipped thanks to this practice.
- Damage Control:
- The space battle has Scotty doing his usual thing while the Enterprise is pummeled by torpedoes. We can also see crewmen running around with fire extinguishers on the Excelsior.
- Damage control of the political kind is shown in the opening scene. When Sulu and the Excelsior send a message offering assistance after Praxis explodes, a message from a Klingon miner screaming for help is blocked and replaced by a political response, acknowledging an internal incident, but refusing any assistance.
- Deadly Environment Prison: The underground Klingon labor camp Rura Penthe where Kirk and McCoy are imprisoned has nothing preventing prisoners from escaping—except the extreme cold and storms of the surface, where death by exposure would be a certainty. In fact, prisoners are threatened with expulsion to the surface if they don't work.
- Deconstruction: Of Kirk again. This time, his Fantastic Racism makes him an easy Fall Guy for Gorkon's assassination.
- Dedication: To Gene Roddenberry, who passed away weeks before the film's release.
- Description Cut: After Kirk and Bones are sentenced to life imprisonment.Spock: If I know the Captain, he is already deep into planning his escape.
[cut to Kirk getting his ass kicked]
- Deadpan Snarker: Many characters get a few lines, but McCoy gets the most.
- When meeting Valeris and hearing of her academy accomplishments.Kirk: You must be very proud.
Valeris: I don't believe so, Sir.
McCoy: She's a Vulcan, all right.
- During Kirk and McCoy's incarceration on Rura Penthe.McCoy: Three months before retirement... What a way to finish.
Kirk: We're not finished...
McCoy: Speak for yourself. One day, one night: [makes throat slitting sound] Kobayashi Maru.
Kirk: Bones, are you afraid of the future?
McCoy: I believe that was the general idea that I was trying to convey.
Kirk:I don't mean this future.
McCoy: What is this, multiple choice?
- During the battle with Chang, as the general's hammy snippets of Shakespeare are broadcast throughout the Enterprise.McCoy: I'd give real money if he'd shut up.
- When meeting Valeris and hearing of her academy accomplishments.
- 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 and the Excelsior are the ones performing this task at the beginning of the film. The true explanation is a combination of executive and cast meddling (Shatner insisted that the Enterprise save itself). This is also explained in the novelization as being Starfleet's current ongoing giant research project of the past few years, so most ships are 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. The coup that briefly deposed Mikhail Gorbachev happened in Real Life while the film was still in production. Gorkon is a clear expy of Gorbachev, as both were reform-minded leaders of a dying empire who felt co-operation with the Federation (or the West) was key for their survival.
- In addition, Praxis exploding and contaminating the Klingon homeworld is a clear reference to Chernobyl, which Gorbachev said bankrupted the Soviet Union due to containment and decontamination.
- In the extended cut, there's a very shady Starfleet officer named Colonel "West". Hmm, I wonder if there was an American military figure from the 1980s named after a cardinal direction they were satirizing?
- Don't Answer That: Colonel Worf tells Kirk this during the trial. The judge insists otherwise.
- Dramatic Downstage Turn: Occurs when Kirk and McCoy are lying in their prison beds.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: Spock initially doesn't get Valeris's concern over this upcoming peace. Nicholas Meyer described the scene in Spock's quarters as Valeris having a mental breakdown, which, being a Vulcan, happens so subtly that even Spock fails to notice.
- Dramatic Shattering: Sulu's tea cup falls to the ground when the Excelsior gets rattled by the shockwave. Not a moment after it's in pieces on the deck, alarms and klaxons start blaring. Notably, it is not the same teacup which Sulu drinks from—the decoration was seen by the prop team as too nice to ruin.
- Drinking on Duty:
- After the disastrous dinner, several still-drunk senior officers immediately return to duty. Chekov, in particular, is noticeably struggling to make it through his watch. Later, Chang uses this as evidence against Kirk and Bones during their trial.
- The watchman at the Klingon observation post is clearly hammered, which makes Uhura's task easier when she has to bluff her way past him in Klingon without the aid of the universal translator.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The explosion of Praxis that kicks off the events of the movie. The real-world analogue is the Chernobyl plant disaster that weakened the Soviet Union just enough to get the ball rolling.
- Eiffel Tower Effect: Apparently, the Office of President of the Federation is in Paris.
- ...or Las Vegas.
- Or Disney World!
- 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 she who was outside his quarters at the time.
- Everyone Has Standards:
- For all the Jerk Ass tendencies that Kirk has about "letting the Klingons die", he turns a complete 180 when Gorkon's ship is attacked, and not of his own doing either.
- Valeris falls for a trap that exposes her as the mole. Spock is part of the trap. He tells her that logically she must shoot him to have a chance of getting away. She cannot bring herself to do it.
- 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. This is lampshaded by McCoy, who ponders the thought of it out loud.
- Evil Twin: Martia, the shapeshifter who takes on Kirk's shape during their fight.
- Fridge Brilliance: It's easy to tell which "Kirk" is the fake. Martia morphed into a little girl prior to this and isn't wearing leg irons. Kirk still has his on.
- Explosive Overclocking: The Excelsior is really bookin' it to Khitomer in the climactic scene, with galactic peace hanging in the balance. Captain Sulu says to fly her apart if that's what it takes.
- Expy: Valeris, for Saavik.
- In relation to Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Spock is Holmes and Chekov is his Watson.
- Eyepatch of Power: Chang. Bolted directly to his face, no less. For extra cool factor, each of those three bolts has the Klingon emblem on them, thrown in by the costumer despite him knowing nobody would ever see them (unless in HD...)
- Face Death with Dignity: Chang. Offering only a resigned, "to be, or not to be."
- 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?"
- Faking Engine Trouble: Starfleet orders the Enterprise to return to Spacedock, but since Chancellor Gorkon's assassins are on board, to keep them from escaping the crew keep coming up with reasons not to return, at one point telling Starfleet Command the warp core is malfunctioning.
- False Flag Operation: The two assassination attempts. General Chang's special Bird-of-Prey makes it look like the Enteprise fired on Kronos One. Towards the end, Colonel West disguises himself as a Klingon and attempts to shoot the Federation President.
- Fantastic Racism:
- The film really runs with this, which even caused some behind the scenes problems for most of the cast. In the film, it provides Character Development for some, especially Kirk. He goes from "Let them die" and "I never could forgive them for the death of my boy," to "I was used to hating Klingons" and "Gorkon had to die before I realized how prejudiced I was." By the end Kirk realizes that while he didn't kill Gorkon, he had an indirect involvement in his murder due to his reputation. Gorkon's sincere wish for peace with his last breath moves Kirk to re-evaluate the Klingons as a whole, as well as himself.
- With regards to the behind the scenes problems, according to director Nicholas Meyer, Brock Peters found Admiral Cartwright's words during the briefing scene to be so offensive he needed several takes to get them all out. In a similar vein, Nichelle Nichols refused to speak the line "Guess who's coming to dinner?"—an intentional reference to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner—which is heard prior to the Klingons' visit to the Enterprise. The line was instead given to Walter Koenig.
- After the Klingon party leaves the transporter room, crewmen Burke and Samno make vaguely racist comments about the Klingons until Valeris starts bossing them around. All three are conspirators.
- Gorkon has a pretty good idea as to who betrayed him once the shooting starts.
- Spock and Scotty discuss the possibility that someone has hacked the Enterprise's computers. Then Valeris slides down into the room.
- Final Speech: Gorkon begs Kirk with his dying breath to save the peace process, leaving Kirk shocked by cognitive dissonance. It also serves as emphasis to the foreshadowing above. He knows Kirk didn't pull this stunt.Gorkon: [weakly] Don't let it end this way, Captain...
- From a Certain Point of View: Spock says that his lies are "An error" and "An omission." Valeris then says that her lie is "A choice."
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Klingon border guards are shown to be quite amused at the crew's stumbling Klingon, but then make a weird joke about it and send them on their way anyway. The explanation didn't make its way into the movie, but basically they're just lazy (and drunk) and think the crew is part of a smuggling ring that's bribing them.
- Gender Is No Object: Scenes of the crew quarters aboard both Enterprise and Excelsior reveal that enlisted crew share bunk space regardless of gender, rather than having segregated male and female berths.
- General Ripper: Chang. And Admiral Cartwright too, it seems.
- The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: Subverted. The boots of the conspirators are found in the locker of Crewman Dax (no relation)... who has large webbed feet that don't fit.
- Godwin's Law: Kirk makes a comparison between the Klingon's request for "living space" with Hitler's demands for Lebensraum at the diplomatic dinner (whilst not being very diplomatic). Needlessly to say, this comparison goes down really really badly. Becomes worse when the two Klingons most likely to get it are the traitorous one obsessed with Earth culture and the one who had probably done his research on their planet and history. I.e. the two worst of the group to offend with the comparison.
- Got Volunteered: Kirk and the Enterprise are volunteered to escort Chancellor Gorkon to the peace conference without his knowledge, with Spock "personally vouching" for him. He is not amused.
- Grand Finale: Advertised as such, with Star Trek: The Next Generation going strong and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in development, this movie was intended as a swan song and made explicit in the end. The following Trek movie Star Trek: Generations serves as more of a coda for Kirk.
- 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.
[beat, Kirk and McCoy look confused]
Martia: Not everybody keeps their genitals in the same place, Captain.
Kirk: Anything you wanna tell me?
Martia: [big grin]
- Gunship Rescue: Downplayed, as the Excelsior arriving on the scene in the climax doesn't do much more than give Chang another target. Once they find a way around the cloak, however, their combined firepower makes short work of the Bird-of-Prey.Sulu: Target that explosion and fire.
- 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.Kirk: I can't believe I kissed you.
Martia-as-Kirk: Must have been your life-long ambition!
- Harsher in Hindsight: In-Universe, Camp Khitomer is chosen as the site for the renewed peace talks. The Khitomer Outpost would be the site of a Romulan-perpetrated massacre of a Klingon colony there during the next generation. Worf's parents died there.
- Also In-Universe, in TNG's "Unification: Part II", which was meant to promote this film, Spock tells Picard that because of how badly negotiating peace with Klingons almost went during this film, he opted to take matters into his own hands trying to negotiate unification between the Vulcans and Romulans. With Gorkon's assassination and Kirk and McCoy almost getting executed, Spock was unwilling to risk anybody's life but his own.
- The Heavy: General Chang is the most prominent antagonist for the Enterprise, but he is really only the enforcer of an interstellar conspiracy, not its leader. It's not even clear if he is the most highly-ranked Klingon who is party to it, or which side initiated the conspiracy in the first place.
- Heel Realization: Kirk realizing his intolerance of the Klingons made him the perfect patsy for Chancellor Gorkon's assassination. During his prison stay, Gorkon's last words haunt him as well.Kirk: Gorkon had to die before I realized how prejudiced I was.
- He Knows Too Much: The assassins are killed before they can be discovered and interrogated. Valeris is nearly killed herself at the end, when she's presented as evidence against the conspiracy, but Scotty shoots the would-be assassin first.
- High-Tech Hexagons: Sulu's tea table on the Excelsior's bridge is an illuminated oblique hexagonal prism.
- His Name Is...: The warden of Rura Penthe engages in a little Just Between You and Me with Kirk and McCoy, but an inopportune rescue by Spock ruins the reveal.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Kirk and McCoy would have never escaped if Chang hadn’t ordered the Gulag warden to help them escape. Instead, Kirk and McCoy would have simply languished in prison, the Enterprise would have been waiting around in Klingon space for nothing, the Federation President’s assassination would have gone on as planned, and Chang and his crew would have lived... at least until the Federation–Klingon War.
- Homage: The speech that the warden gives Kirk and McCoy upon their entry to Rura Penthe is a paraphrase of Colonel Saito's speech to captured British P.O.W.s in The Bridge on the River Kwai. For comparison:Colonel Saito: If you work hard, you will be treated well. But if you do not work hard, you will be punished! A word to you about escape. There is no barbed wire, no stockade, no watchtower. They are not necessary. We are an island in the jungle. Escape is impossible. You would die.
Rura Penthe Warden: This is the gulag Rura Penthe. There is no stockade. No guard tower. No electronic frontier. Only a magnetic shield prevents beaming. Punishment means exile from prison, to the surface. On the surface, nothing can survive. Work well, and you will be treated well. Work badly, and you will die.
- Homeworld Evacuation: As part of the peace treaty, the Federation agrees to help evacuate the Klingon homeworld before the planet runs out of breathable oxygen in fifty years. However, as The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine show Qo'noS to still be the Klingon capital and seemingly no worse for wear eighty years after the events of this movie, the Federation and Klingons apparently found some way of fixing the problem.
- 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.
- Human Outside, Alien Inside: As Bones points out while trying to treat Gorkon, Klingon anatomy is not the same as Human anatomy, and Bones has no medical training in helping Klingons. Gorkon ends up dying of his wounds.
- Valeris argues that the Klingons are untrustworthy because they've conspired with the Federation to assassinate their own chancellor, when that very same conspiracy plans to assassinate the Federation president. Not to mention the fact that she herself is in on the conspiracy...
- Azetbur deriding the Federation as racist and a "Homo sapiens only" club, when Klingons themselves seem to have no non-Klingons from worlds within the Empire serving in the IKF. At most, you could argue that the Klingons make no pretensions about their Klingon supremacy. It's also worth noting that despite her Inhumanable Alien Rights rant, the Klingon language used in the film, tlhIngan Hol, does exactly the same thing: the word "nov" is used for both "member of another species" and "foreigner", just like "alien" in English.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Spock's reaction to the forced mindmeld with Valeris is made entirely of this trope.
- Identical Grandson: Worf's grandfather, Colonel Worf, is also played by Michael Dorn. There was going to be a scene showing Colonel Worf talking with his young son, Mogh, but it was unfortunately cut. Colonel Worf being the father of Mogh, and thus the 24th century Worf's grandfather, was confirmed by Michael Dorn and by supplementary materials.
- IKEA Weaponry: The sniper rifle used at the conference.
- 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." Ironically, he's already drunk at the time, making this "I need to sober up".
- In the Original Klingon:
- Gorkon's claim that William Shakespeare was Klingon and the English versions of his plays are inferior is the Trope Namer. In context, though, he's clearly being sarcastic.
- Likewise, Spock's deadpan humor is on display when he says that "Only Nixon could go to China" is an "old Vulcan proverb."
- Chekov gets one more "invented in Russia" gag in this, the final TOS movie.Chekov: Perhaps you have heard Russian epic of Cinderella? If shoe fits, wear it!
- Incoming!: Chekov when the Bird-of-Prey is blasting away at them. Rather than shouting it, he mutters it with resignation.
- Incoming Ham: "I can see you, Kirk. Can you see me?"
- Invisibility Flicker: Klingon warships have to decloak before they can fire. Except Chang's. Even then, the exception is briefly lit up by its own torpedoes every time it fires one.
- 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." Which is a callback to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:Saavik: You lied?
Spock: I exaggerated.
- When Kirk and Chang first meet, Chang says "I've always wanted to meet you, Captain. One warrior to another?" Later, during Chang's Incoming Ham moment he says, "Now be honest Captain, warrior to warrior. You do prefer it this way, don't you? No peace in our time, as it was meant to be."
- 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." Which is a callback to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:
- 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.
- It's All My Fault: Kirk believes this, for not taking Gorkon at his word, and also for his prejudice as a whole against Klingons.
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: William Shatner was once Christopher Plummer's understudy. Here they play enemies.
- Jabba Table Manners: The Klingons disgust the Federation's delegation with their eating habits.
- General Chang was actually confused over his silverware napkin roll until he watched the Federation delegation use theirs.
- Jerkass Has a Point: The Klingon ambassador is an ass, but even Sarek has to admit that he's correct in his legal interpretation that the Klingons have every right to try Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy for Gorkon's assassination. Of course, that was General Chang's plan all along.
- 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 Identical Grandfather and namesake, Colonel Worf) is actually trying. Indeed, his efforts are likely the only reason they aren't executed immediately.
- The Kingslayer: The assassination of Klingon Chancellor Gorkon threatens to derail the burgeoning peace process between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. While Kirk initially takes the fall for it, Spock launches an investigation aboard the Enterprise to find the two hitmen, which he does after they've been killed to protect the rest of the conspirators.
- Kirk Summation: Happens one last time. Kirk and Spock set a trap for The Mole on the Enterprise sabotaging peace talks between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Spock sees it's Valeris.Spock: You have to shoot.(Valeris stares in shock)Spock: If you are logical, you have to shoot.Valeris: (pause) I do not wish to.Kirk: I'd just as soon you didn't.
- 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.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The TOS cast was aware that this would be their last story together, and it shows in the film.
- Literary Allusion Title: To William Shakespeare. Allusions to Shakespeare were a regular occurrence in episode titles in The Original Series. The Undiscovered Country was likely intended to be a nod to tradition. Gorkon's Title Drop during the dinner on board the Enterprise directly references this allusion.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Subverted. Once outside the Rura Penthe shield, Kirk notes that they couldn't just have himself and McCoy killed in an "accident". Martia clarifies that an accident would have only been reasonable for one, so the conspirators required a more "convincing" alternative.Kirk: An accident wasn't good enough.
Martia: Good enough for one. Two would have looked suspicious. Killed while [transforms into Kirk] attempting to escape. Now that's convincing for both.
- Make the Bear Angry Again: A Recycled IN SPACE! variant.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": When Kirk's log entry, in which he says "I have never trusted Klingons, and I never will..." is played in the trial, everybody in the Federation realizes how screwed Kirk and McCoy are now.
- Mind Rape: Galactic peace hangs in the balance. Spock knows 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.
- 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.
- 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 are on the precipice of war. It was... logical.
- Morton's Fork: Chang gets Kirk to admit that he's disobeyed orders in the past, then asks him if he was either obeying or disobeying orders when he arranged the assassination of the Chancellor. Such a blatant trap is easily avoided by Kirk (he cannot speak to actions he did not witness), but in turn allows Chang to lead him into admitting that he would be responsible if his men were involved (which they were).
- Murder by Inaction: Kirk refuses to help the Klingon by proclaiming they can just die for all he cares.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- Spock has this aura to him after he Mind Rapes Valeris to get the information to spot the Presidential assassination.
- In a more minor example, Kirk has this reaction after he bites out "LET them die!", especially when the words are later thrown back in his face.
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Uhura, "expert linguist", attempting to communicate with the Klingon ship. The film gives us a throwaway line explaining that they couldn't use the Universal Translator because the Klingons could not only detect it but tell what language was really being spoken.
- 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 also wiped the Klingon language data from the memory banks 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 destroy them.
- Star Trek canon indicates that Klingon was one of the first languages decoded and added to the Universal Translator. By Kirk's era, it's rendered perfectly by the universal translator in almost every circumstance. This means that there's no real need to have an expert aboard for Klingon along. Since Enterprise is on a five year mission to explore strange new worlds and new civilizations, Uhura's job would be to deal with obscure and new languages, so it would make sense if her studies had focused on really bizarre languages, not ones that are commonly studied. To put it in real world terms, if someone was exploring tribal nations in the middle east, we would expect them to learn languages from that area. It wouldn't make sense to expect them to know Spanish even though it is a common language in many parts of the world.
- Mythology Gag:
- Near Villain Victory: The Big Bad nearly destroys the Enterprise and the conspirators nearly succeed in assassinating the Federation President, but the Excelsior helps buy the Enterprise time to complete its Plasma-Seeking Torpedo to find and kill Chang so they can get to the planet in time to save the day.
- Never Trust a Trailer: Trailers for the movie showcased a scene of Kirk getting phasered and vaporizing. Turns out it was just a shape-shifter.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Kirk and McCoy wouldn't have been able to escape Rura Penthe if not for the villains' plot to engineer an escape attempt to have an excuse to kill them.
- No Gravity for You: One Klingon tactic involves doing this to an entire boarded ship.
- No, You: When Admiral Cartwright demands the crew of the Enterprise arrested for crashing the Khitomer Conference, Spock responds by saying, "Arrest yourself!" while holding up Valeris, revealing to him that they knew.
- No OSHA Compliance: This is cited as one of the reasons for Praxis exploding. Overmining and under-regulation turned it into a disaster waiting to happen.
- Noble Bigot: Despite their grievances against the Klingons, the Enterprise crew, including Kirk, who initially was unable to forgive the Klingons for his son's death, still pursue their crusade for intergalactic peace between Starfleet and the Klingons.
- Not So Stoic: Spock is legitimately angry when Valeris is revealed to be The Mole and it shows when he slaps the phaser out of her hand with a clear look of anger on his face.
- Ominous Latin Chanting:
- 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 (and by extension everyone else on the bridge with a look at the main viewscreen) at the beginning, when he sees the Praxis Shockwave hurtling towards his ship:Sulu: My... God! Shields! SHIELDS!
- Chang leaps out of his chair and slowly gets this look all over his face during the finale when the Enterprise fires out the Homing Projectile that gradually works its way toward them...
- The entire senior staff of the Enterprise has one at around midnight, all severely hung over (Except perhaps Spock).Kirk: What's happened?!
Spock: We have fired on the Chancellor's ship!
- When Crewman Dax is questioned about the assassination after the gravity boots were found on his locker, the crew realize his webbed feet cannot possibly fit into those boots. Cut to Valeris having a dismayed reaction on her face. We later find out that she too was in the plot, and her face was actually a very subdued Oh, Crap! when she realizes Burke and Samno clumsily disposed of evidence that can now be used against (potentially) all three of them. This sets her off to kill both Burke and Samno in an effort to hide her role in the assassination. She gets another one of these moments when she is exposed as The Mole in Sick Bay.
- Admiral Cartwright has this expression when Spock shows up with Valeris in tow, as the whole conspiracy is about to be revealed.
- Older and Wiser: The TOS crew by this time. Spock shows this in his private conversation with Valeris:Spock: History is replete with turning points, Lieutenant. You must have faith.Valeris: Faith?Spock: That the universe will unfold as it should.Valeris: But is this logical? Surely we must...Spock: Logic? Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris, not the end.
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Kirk and Spock's chat before the final battle. Kirk is regretting that his distrust towards Klingons indirectly caused this mess, while Spock is beating himself up about being too biased towards Valeris and her achievements to notice her hidden agenda..
- Only One Plausible Suspect: Towards the end of the movie we discover there's a traitor aboard the Enterprise. Since the movie has only one major character among the Enterprise crew who's not a series regular, it's not very hard to guess who the traitor could be.
- Only Sane Man: Chancellor Gorkon.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
- Spock angrily smacking Valeris's phaser out of her hand after she is caught as the mole. Nimoy even said he wanted Spock to do something very un-Vulcan at that moment.
- Later, when he's about to interrogate Valeris, he roughly yanks her around to face him, and pulls her close when she tries to get away.
- When Kronos One recovers from the attack it turns around ready to attack the Enterprise, with Chang vowing revenge. Kirk immediately surrenders rather than raise shields, as submitting to them is the only course of action to continue peace talks. The crew knows the reasons why, but are stunned because this is Captain James Tiberius Kirk surrendering to the enemy.
- Spock angrily smacking Valeris's phaser out of her hand after she is caught as the mole. Nimoy even said he wanted Spock to do something very un-Vulcan at that moment.
- Orbital Shot: The forced Mind Meld.
- Our Presidents Are Different: President Target of the United Federation of Planets and Chancellor Target of the Klingon Empire.
- Out-of-Character Moment:
- Kirk surrendering the fight when the Klingon ship recovers and prepares to return fire. The Enterprise almost certainly would have won, but in doing so would have kicked off a war between the two powers (undoubtedly the conspirators' plan). He is doing everything possible to keep the chance for peace alive after what happened. Uhura's response says it all.Kirk: Signal our surrender.
Kirk: We surrender!
- Spock is legitimately hurt and angry over Valeris' betrayal, and makes no attempts to hide it. Even throwing logic in her face by outright daring her to shoot him. You can see the scorn on his face as he slaps the phaser out of her hand.
- Kirk surrendering the fight when the Klingon ship recovers and prepares to return fire. The Enterprise almost certainly would have won, but in doing so would have kicked off a war between the two powers (undoubtedly the conspirators' plan). He is doing everything possible to keep the chance for peace alive after what happened. Uhura's response says it all.
- Overly Nervous Flop Sweat:
- During the climax as the conspirators are preparing to kill the Federation president, one of them, Admiral Cartright, is shown with sweat soaking his face.
- One of the engineers in the Enterprise's engine room is dripping nervously as well, as an invisible foe is probably lurking around Khitomer, waiting to tear the Enterprise apart.
- Peace Conference: The First Khitomer Accord, ending decades of hostility between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.
- Planar Shockwave: Thanks to this movie, it's commonly known as the "Praxis Shockwave." It also has plot significance, when most uses are just to look nice. Here, it smacks into the Excelsior, revealing the situation to the Federation, when the Klingons might have covered it up (similar to how, in Real Life, the radiation cloud from Chernobyl made a cover up impossible).
- Plot-Induced Stupidity:
- So, Commander Uhura, veteran communications officer and linguist extraordinaire, never bothered to learn the common language of one of the galaxy's major powers?
- Nichelle Nichols brought this up but director Nicholas Meyer shot her down. Being an avid fan of literature, Meyer wanted to show books on a starship. So, yeah. Her exasperated look after closing the communication was probably a case of Throw It In!, as she was apparently not pleased at all about this scene.
- Alluded to in Star Trek Into Darkness, where the alternate Uhura states that her Klingon is good, but not great.
- It was explained in the movie with a throw-away line of how the Klingons would recognize the Universal Translator, but this makes even less sense than using the books.
- The unbelievably stupid plan to get Kirk and McCoy out of the way (even though it would seem they already are out of the way, in an inescapable prison). Have Martia verify they have a way off the surface once outside the beaming shield, then help them get outside the beaming shield and wait. When the assassins arrive they spend some time gloating and are then caught completely off guard when Kirk and McCoy beam away in front of their eyes. Of course Kirk and McCoy have a way to beam up; they wouldn't be there if they didn't! The plan simultaneously depends on, and completely fails to anticipate, them having a way to beam up. How is that even possible? Simple: the plot needs Kirk and McCoy back on the Enterprise, so the bad guys are obliged to help.
- Chekov, the goddamn chief of security, needs the youngster Valeris to tell him that firing a phaser on full power will set off an alarm on the ship. The scene would have worked fine with Chekov explaining it to Valeris instead of Valeris to Chekov; why they chose to do it the way they did is mystifying.
- So, Commander Uhura, veteran communications officer and linguist extraordinaire, never bothered to learn the common language of one of the galaxy's major powers?
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "Target that explosion and fire."
- Precision F-Strike: Though remarkably tame, it is certainly one for Spock after hearing the Enterprise is to be decommissioned:Spock: If I were human, I believe my response would be, "go to hell." ... If I were human.
- Prevent the War: The Enterprise's crew has to figure out the plot to assassinate Gorkon and jail Kirk in order to save the peace conference and stop war from breaking out.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: Although the theme of the movie is an allegory for the end of the Cold War, the plot is basically the trope Make the Bear Angry Again (a popular plot in contemporary thrillers) applied to the Klingon empire.
- Revenge Before Reason: Kirk certainly walks the line at first.Kirk: They're animals!
Spock: Jim, there is an historic opportunity here.
Kirk: Don't believe them! Don't trust them!
Spock: They're dying.
Kirk: Let them die!
- Riding into the Sunset: In this case, going to warp toward a nearby star. Or Neverland, as Kirk alludes.
- Rousing Speech: Kirk, in the aftermath of averting the assassination, though it's rather more poignant than rousing.Azetbur: What's happened? What's the meaning of all this?
Kirk: It's about the future, Madam Chancellor. Some people think the future means the end of history. But we haven't run out of history just yet. Your father called the future "the undiscovered country." People can be very frightened of change.
Azetbur: You've restored my father's faith.
Kirk: And you've restored my son's.
- Scenery Porn: The aerial shot of Kirk, McCoy and Martia trudging across the wastes of Rura Penthe (in actuality the Knik Glacier in Alaska) is stunning.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale:
- Praxis must be really close to the neutral zone in order for the Excelsior to have been caught in the Planar Shockwave. (It is said to be a subspace shockwave rather than a plain old STL shockwave.)
- The Excelsior is said to be returning home on impulse power, which is unlikely unless they were already near their destination. It would take years to travel between stars at sublight speeds.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Admiral Cartwright tries to high-tail it as The Plan to assassinate President Ra-ghoratreii falls apart—only to run into Captain Sulu and his team, phasers at the ready.
- See the Invisible: Once the plasma-homing torpedo hits Chang's Bird-of-Prey, the Excelsior and the Enterprise are able to target the resulting explosion. Their continued fire soon knocks out the cloaking shield, rendering the Bird-of-Prey visible just before it comes apart.
- Shapeshifting Squick: Kirk is a little weirded out when the female alien he made out with shows up as a furry male alien.
- Ship Tease: Very subtly between Spock and Valeris, reflected in their UST-filled nightcap and his emotional response to her betrayal. This is likely a remnant of the original script, which was to have the established character of Saavik instead of Valeris (reflecting the fact Spock and Saavik were strongly implied to have mated in Star Trek III and a deleted scene in Star Trek IV had established that Saavik was pregnant with Spock's child; in the Expanded Universe novels, Spock and Saavik eventually marry.)
- The last line before the final voice over is a reference to the 1953 Disney film Peter Pan (the directions to Neverland).Kirk: Second star to the right... and straight on till morning.
- 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-TOS, 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.
- Rura Penthe shares its name with the penal colony from the 1954 film adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
- The last line before the final voice over is a reference to the 1953 Disney film Peter Pan (the directions to Neverland).
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Just about every other line, especially if it's said by General Chang.
- Its very title is from Hamlet: "[D]eath—the undiscovered country, from whose bourne/No traveler returns". (III.i)
- Henry IV, Part II
- Chang: Have we not heard the chimes at midnight? note
- Henry V
- Chang: Once more unto the breach, dear friends.
- Chang: The game's afoot.
- Julius Caesar
- Chang: Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!
- Chang: I am constant as the northern star.note
- The Merchant of Venice
- Chang: Tickle us, do we not laugh? Prick us, do we not bleed? Wrong us, shall we not revenge?
- Richard II
- Chang: Let us sit upon the grass and tell sad stories of the death of kings.
- Romeo and Juliet
- Chang: Parting is such sweet sorrow.
- The Tempest
- Chang: Our revels now are ended.
- Silent Whisper: Right after the bodies of Chancellor Gorkon's killers are found, Kirk takes Spock aside and they have an inaudible conversation. At the end Spock says, "Possible." It turns out to be an idea to lure the killers' killer out.
- Sixth Ranger Traitor: Valeris
- Slasher Smile: William Shatner gives a great one as Martia!Kirk, when saying, "killed trying to escape."
- Slow Clap: After Kirk saves the peace summit, the participants all start up.
- So Once Again, the Day Is Saved: Having saved the Federation so many times, the TOS crew can joke about it:Kirk: Once again, we've saved civilization as we know it.McCoy: And the good news is they're not going to prosecute.
- Space Cold War: One of the more blatant allegories to come out of this period.
- 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 moreso 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 the Excelsior.
- The climactic battle gives the impression of two surface warships attempting to hunt down an enemy submarine. It does have 3D aspects, as enemy fire comes from all directions and heights. No one ever saw, for instance, the saucer section of the Enterprise being struck from below.
- If ships having to uncloak to attack are like a diesel submarine needing to surface for air and to run the engines, then a ship that can fire while cloaked is like a nuclear submarine, with no need to surface at all. Thus, the gas-seeking photon torpedo is like an acoustically-guided anti-sub torpedo.
- Spot the Imposter: The reason Martia is able to escape is the same reason the Warden is able to figure out she isn't Kirk when he kills her: she took off her leg cuffs. Of course, given the Warden's plans for Kirk and McCoy, it wouldn't matter if he chose wrong anyways. There are a couple other giveaways. Martia always has gold eyes, and she points above Kirk instead of at him, since she is used to being shorter than him.
- Stock Footage:
- The scene where the Enterprise glides towards the spacedock doors is a reuse of the "zoom in on Enterprise" shot from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, just with the Excelsior removed and the background tint changed to blue.
- The second trailer has a minor scene from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, of the Enterprise getting shot by a torpedo.
- The Excelsior racing at top speed and the Klingon Bird-of-Prey exploding are re-used as stock footage in the next movie, Star Trek: Generations.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Valeris in place of Saavik.
- Tactful Translation: The subtitles compensate for the Klingon listening post operator's lazy apathy by translating his simple utterance of just the post's name (Morskika) into, "This is Listening Post Morskika."
- 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".
- Teleportation Rescue: Kirk and McCoy are saved from their impending murder "for attempting escape" at the hands of the Rura Penthe warden by the transporters. Shame about the timing, though.
- Title Drop: Subtitle 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. And, considering what happens to Gorkon in his next scene, actually makes quite a bit of sense.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Chancellor Gorkon. Dr. McCoy describes him as "the last, best hope for peace."
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Admiral Cartwright. He was previously shown in a more heroic light in Star Trek IV. However, here he comes off as a racist jerk during the briefing, and this is even before we find out he is a part of the conspiracy.
- Touch Telepathy: After Spock realizes that Valeris is a traitor and murderer, he grabs her by the head and performs a forced Mind Meld on her to learn the details of the conspiracy.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The fact that there is a Bird-of-Prey involved, and that Chang is commanding it.
- 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 had trouble chewing scenery in Klingon.
- Tricked Into Escaping: The villains want Kirk and McCoy dead, not just imprisoned, but don't want to be too obvious about it. They arrange for the pair to meet someone with whom they can team up in an "escape attempt", which the commandant can then violently quash. Kirk eventually realises that the situation didn't add up. (Kirk, of course, would certainly have attempted escape on his own, but it would have taken time to learn the layout and find his best option.)Kirk: She didn't need our help getting anywhere. Where did she get these convenient clothes? And don't tell me that flare is standard prison issue. It's to let them know where we are. [...] An accident wasn't good enough.
Martia: Good enough for one. Two would have looked suspicious. [shape-shifts into Kirk] Killed while attempting escape? Now that's convincing for both.
- Understatement: Two related to the destruction of Praxis:
- The first is Brigadier Kerla admitting that "there has been an incident on Praxis." Yeah, an entire moon exploding goes well beyond just "an incident."
- The second is Spock opening a briefing at Starfleet Command with "Two months ago, a Federation starship monitored an explosion of the Klingon moon Praxis." By "monitored," he means that the Excelsior was knocked off course and nearly shaken to pieces by the Planar Shockwave.
- Unwanted Rescue: At least not for a few more minutes after Kirk's captor explains the plans.
- Villain Has a Point: Both sides of the conspiracy to assassinate Chancellor Gorkon and the Federation President are partially proven to be correct in their paranoia, when Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine later show their fears coming true. The Federation does corrupt Klingon society to the point that a Starfleet officer later becomes the one to decide who would become the next Klingon chancellor, while the Klingons later betray the Federation and launch a war against them after abandoning the Khitomer Accords (albeit, largely due to the influence of a Changeling mole).
- Wasn't That Fun?: After General Chang's Bird-of-Prey blasting away at the helpless Enterprise with yet another Screen Shake:McCoy: This is fun.
- We All Live in America: As unlikely as it may seem, the Klingon court of the 23rd century is shown to be very similar to American courts of the 20th century, with the accused being questioned publically by the prosecutor, defense attorney Worf throwing in an "objection!" every now and then, the judge overruling them, etc.
- We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Or at least the Klingons will on their prison planets. Then again, it's Rura Penthe, the Klingon equivalent of a gulag. The warden outright calls it "the gulag Rura Penthe" during his introductory resistance is futile speech. Hardly meant to be comfortable.
- Wham Line:
- "Signal our surrender." Derails the firefight between Enterprise and Qo'noS One that the scene appeared to be leading to. It even shocks the bridge crew:Uhura: Captain?
Kirk: We surrender!
- During the last scene:Uhura: Captain, I have orders from Starfleet Command. We're to put back to Spacedock immediately... to be decommissioned.
- "Signal our surrender." Derails the firefight between Enterprise and Qo'noS One that the scene appeared to be leading to. It even shocks the bridge crew:
- Wham Shot: The torpedo hitting Kronos One.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Spock's disturbed reaction to Kirk's desire to see the Klingons die off.note
- This was prompted by Spock "volunteering" the Enterprise and crew for the peacekeeping 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.
- The dinner scene spreads a lot of the blame around to all of the main characters—with the exception of Spock, who really is trying—who drink too much Romulan ale and come off as bigoted against Klingons. That most of Enterprise's senior staff returned to duty still drunk from dinner is used as evidence of gross negligence against Dr. McCoy in their trial.
- Spock seems to be giving himself one after he publicly Mind Rapes Valeris for information on the conspiracy.
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: When the prison warden finds Kirk and McCoy outside, he shoots the shape-shifter who was helping him immediately, but inexplicably agrees to explain who is behind the conspiracy before shooting Kirk and McCoy. This gives them enough time to escape.
- Why We Are 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.
- Worthy Opponent: In the novelisation, Chang spends his last seconds reflecting on his own mortality, and that being beaten by the likes of Kirk is no disgrace. Even in the film, the mere fact that Chang considers Kirk a "warrior" is a testament to his respect for him as an adversary.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: The conspirators of the plot manage to avert Kirk's attempts to stop it until the very end.
- They are expecting Kirk to fight it out after the Chancellor is killed, but when he surrenders they put him in a show trial and schedule a new assassination attempt at the peace conference.
- They send Kirk to an inescapable Penal Colony but know he would probably find a way to escape, so they use a stooge to "help" him and betray him later.
- They believe Kirk would never find the location of the conference, but have a ship ready to deal with him if he does.
"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."