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 classicTrek crew (as played by the original actors, at least) which ruins the previously ongoing conflict between goodies and the baddies with the Creators Topsy and tim IN SPACE! storyline. Perhaps due to its dictatorship themes ,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 being the TOS Finale, Kirk, Scotty and Chekov would at least return one more time to "pass the torch" to The Next Generation.
Chang: Dr. McCoy...Would you be so good as to tell me, what is your current medical status? Bones: Aside from a touch of arthritis, I'd say pretty good! (cue lone klingon laughing his ass off) (beat) Chang: You have a singular wit, Doctor.
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 (particularly Mike Okuda) staff Hand Waved this by claiming the pigment change to be a side-effect of microgravity.
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).
Batman Gambit: Sulu's strategy to draw fire from the Enterprise. His ship was no better equipped to detect the Klingon warship than Kirk's was, but he was 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.
Big Bad Ensemble: Though Chang acts as the main villain for most of the movie, he's part of a larger conspiracy which includes 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.
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.
Bizarre Alien Biology: 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.
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 those who had outlived their usefulness. She is also the one who suggests breaking out the very illegal Romulan Ale for dinner with the Klingons.
At this point, however, Saavik would have understood humans enough to loosen up - also, keep in mind Saavik is half-Romulan. Unfortunately, Saavik getting Put on a Bus robbed her of Character Development.
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 Voyage Home is back too.
Brock actually had problems doing Cartwright's anti-Klingon rant during the classified meeting because it was morally unpleasant for him personally. Multiple takes had to be done and pieced together. (That is, he had problems getting the lines out. According to the DVD, he was supportive of the message itself.)
This was at least partially a coincidence, as Brock had already played Admiral Cartwright earlier in the film series.
A bit of one with Christopher Plummer, a respected Shakespearian actor as the Shakespeare-quoting Chang.
Characterization Marches On: Sulu adopted a more authoritarian, strict (but fair) personality when he became a Captain, contrasting his easygoing, affable one in prior movies and the TV series.
Chekhov's Gun: The Phaser Alarms. Setting off a phaser while vaporizing an object sets off the alarms, as was demonstrated in the kitchen when Chekov asked why they weren't vaporized. 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 led Kirk to his plan to flush out the assassin by saying that they had survived and were willing to talk about everything.
The Klingon blood. Some of it floats into the path of one of the transporting assassins where it is discovered by both Chekov and Scotty. Later (in the extended cut), when the "Klingon" sniper is shot at the peace conference, Worf quips that the blood does not belong to a Klingon.
Another example subverted slightly via Executive Meddling. At the film's start, we learn that the Excelsior has been cataloging gaseous anomalies... but in its Big Damn Heroes moment, it's the Enterprise that interestingly just had the same technology installed recently to create a gas-seeking torpedo to find Chang's ship. Though another, straighter Chekhov's Gun example is left hanging on the wall when Kirk pulls out a concealed pistol of identical make.
Chekhov's Gunman: Burke and Samno, seen in the Transporter room when Gorkon and 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.
Prison Warden: Since you're all going to die anyway, why not tell you. His name is - [Kirk and McCoy get beamed up] Kirk: [dematerializing] Oh! Not... SON OF A... [Klingon guards start shooting wildly to no avail] Kirk: [rematerializing back on Enterprise] SON OF A BI... BI... BI... Dammit to hell! Of all the... Son of a! [to Spock] Couldn't you have waited a few more seconds? Spock: [utterly perplexed] Captain?! Kirk: He was about to explain the whole thing! Chekov: You vant to go back? McCoy: Absolutely not! Kirk: ...it's cold.
Continuity Nod: Sulu mentions at the end of IV 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 "III", 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.
This would have happened a lot sooner if ... everybody? ... William Shatner hadn't protested Sulu becoming Excelsior's captain in Star Trek II, where it was supposedly intended to happen.
Worse, rumors circulated at the time of a possible Star Trek series based on Captain Sulu of the Excelsior...and Shatner seeing to it that it never saw the light of day. (Even if not true, George Takei has plenty of reasons why he wouldn't appear in Star Trek: Generations. Shatner was not nice to any of the cast members outside of his Power Trio.)
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.
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 Excelsior.
Damage control of the political kind was shown in the opening scene. When Sulu and the Excelsior sent a message offering assistance once Praxis explodes, a message from a Klingon miner screaming for help was blocked and replaced by a political response, acknowledging an internal incident, but refusing any assistance.
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 the battle with Chang.
I'd give real money, if he'd shut up.
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 is the one performing this task at the beginning of the film. The true explanation is a combination of executive and cast meddling (see the reference to Shatner insisting that the Enterprise save itself, above). This is also explained in the novelization as being Starfleet's current ongoing giant research project of the past few years, so most ships were 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 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) is key for their survival.
In addition, Praxis exploding and contaminating the Klingon homeworld is a clear reference to Chernobyl, which Mikhail Gorbachev said bankrupted the Soviet Union due to containment and decontamination.
Don't Answer That: Colonel Worf tells Kirk this during the trial. The judge insists otherwise.
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.
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.
Chang uses this as evidence against Kirk and Bones during their trial.
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.
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 her 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 outloud.
Evil Twin: Martia, the shapeshifter who takes on Kirk's shape during their fight.
Fridge Brilliance: It was easy to tell which "Kirk" was the fake. Martia morphed into a little girl prior to this and wasn't wearing leg irons. Kirk still had his on.
Executive Meddling: Gene Roddenberry. Again. He had a hard time with Saavik being the traitor.
Klingon blood is pink for the first and only time in the entire Star Trek property because had it been red, the film would have been slapped with an R rating.
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 realized 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 moved Kirk to re-evaluate the Klingons as a whole as well as himself.
Giving Up On Logic: Spock shows the long term character growth version of this trope. He hasn't given up on logic at all, but has accepted that it is only the beginning of wisdom, not wisdom in itself.
Got Volunteered: Kirk, with Spock "personally vouching" for him. He is not amused.
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. Not everybody keeps their genitals in the same place, Captain.
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.
Heel Realization: Kirk realizing his intolerance of the Klingons made him the perfect patsy for Chancellor Gorkon's assassination.
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.
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.
Hypocrite: 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...
The Klingons deriding the Federation as racist and a "Homo Sapiens only" club, when they themselves seem to have nonon-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.
Invisibility Flicker: Klingon warships have to decloak before they can fire. Except Chang's. Even then, said exception briefly does it every single time it fires a torpedo.
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.
Also, 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? As it was meant to be."
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.
Jabba Table Manners: The Klingons disgust the Federation's delegation with their eating habits.
Allusions to Shakespeare was a regular occurrence in episode titles in The Original Series. The Undiscovered Country was likely intended to be a nod to tradition.
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". Marta 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.
Marta: Good enough for one. Two would have looked suspicious. Killed while (transforms into Kirk) trying to escape. Now that's convincing enough for both.
Mind Rape: Galactic peace hung in the balance. Spock knew 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.
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.
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 were 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).
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 he 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.
Near Villain Victory: The Big Bad nearly destroys the Enterprise and the conspirators nearly succeed in assassinating the Federation President, but 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.
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 around 2 in the morning...
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.
Out-of-Character Moment: Kirk surrendering the fight when the Klingon ship recovers and prepares to return fire. Enterprise almost certainly would have won, but in doing so would have kicked off a war between the two powers. He was doing everything possible to keep the chance for peace alive after what happened. Uhura's response says it all.
Kirk: Tell the Klingons we surrender. Uhura: Captain!? 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.
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.
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).
Recycled Script: Accidentally, as the writer didn't know there had been an episode of the series where Kirk fought a clone of himself. Though it does still work as twenty years of special effects advances allowed this fight to be much more convincing than the last one, which was mostly done through single shots of both Kirks.
Recycled Set: This movie was filmed while "Star Trek: The Next Generation" was still in production. As a result several of the TV show's sets found their way into the movies. However, these sets were originally designed for the first Star Trek movie and late redressed for television. Some sets, such as corridors and crew quarters had a few different paint jobs and cosmetic touches, however, others were a bit more obvious:
Main engineering of the Enterprise-A was essentially the Enterprise-D's main engineering set with different graphics in the displays and a different paint job.
The officer's mess hall was the Enterprise-D's observation lounge set. This is why the little Enterprise statues that are present in that set during the first four seasons of the show mysteriously disappear.
The Federation President's office is the Enterprise-D's Ten Forward with some curtains and different lighting.
Rousing Speech: Kirk, in the aftermath of averting the assassination, though it's likely 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 shots of Kirk, McCoy and Martia trudging across the wastes of Rura Penthe are stunning.
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.
There is also a Shout-Out 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 Back Story 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.
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 turned out to be an idea to lure the killers' killer out.
Slow Clap: After Kirk saves the peace summit, the participants all start up.
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 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.
Stock Footage: The scene where Enterprise glides towards the spacedock doors is a reuse of the "zoom in on Enterprise" shot from Star Trek IV and Star Trek V, just with the Excelsior removed and the background tint changed to blue.
The second trailer has a scene from Star Trek III but it's minor (Enterprise getting shot by a torpedo).
The Excelsior racing at top speed and the Klingon Bird of Prey exploding were re-used as stock footage in the next movie, Star Trek: Generations.
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".
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.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Admiral Cartwright. He was previously shown in a more heroic light in Star Trek IV. However 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. Watch it here.
Trailers Always Lie: Trailers for the movie showcased a scene of Kirk getting phasered and exploding. Turns out it was just a shape-shifter.
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.
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.
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." Derailed the firefight between Enterprise and Qo'noS One that the scene appeared to be leading to. It even shocks the bridge crew:
In commentaries, Shatner expressed dismay that they cut out a subsequent self-dismissive gesture from Kirk suggesting it was impulsively said.
This was prompted by Spock "volunteering" the Enterprise and crew for the peace keeping 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. The suggestion is even made 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 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 were expecting Kirk to fight it out after the Chancellor was killed, but when he surrendered they put him on a show trial and scheduled a new assassination attempt at the peace conference.
They sent Kirk to an inescapable Penal Colony but knew he would probably find a way to escape, so they used a stooge to "help" him and betray him later.
They believed Kirk would never find the location of the conference, but had a ship ready to deal with him if he did.
The Klingon Ambassador would later look familiar in an episode arc of Star Trek: Enterprise involving Klingon augments.
The communications officer on the Excelsior is played by the same actress who was Yeoman Rand in the original series. However, she's credited only as "Excelsior Communications Officer," so it's unclear whether she's supposed to be Rand or not, making this a borderline example.
The Voyager episode featuring the crew of the Excelsior later confirms that it is Rand.
This also could be considered a book end for the whole Original cast series, as Rand and Sulu shared an extended scene way back in 1966 in the very first episode aired "The Man Trap".
"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."