Headscratchers: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
open/close all folders
Come back home for your trial. You know, whenever...
- So Kirk and Co. have been hanging out on Vulcan since the conclusion of the last movie, fiddling with the Klingon ship and deciding what to do about, you know, the court marshal waiting for them back on Earth. But why did Starfleet Command let them kick back and come back in their own sweet time? Why not send a starship or two to pick up these fugitives and haul them back post haste?
- The Vulcans gave the crew asylum, meaning that Starfleet couldn't just come kicking down the door to arrest them. Also, with the sudden replacement of Morrow with Cartwright and the political drama going on in the Federation Council, it's possible that there was a lot of stuff happening back on Earth as fallout from the previous movie and getting back a group who were, for the time being, content to stay on an allied planet where they could be kept track of, was a lower priority.
- So Vulcan, a member OF the Federation, can offer asylum FROM the Federation? Isn't that like the state of Georgia refusing to turn over an AWOL Army officer to the military police?
- We simply don't have enough information on what the Vulcan and Federation legal codes permit and don't permit. The Federation is of course less like the US and more like the EU with a commonly funded defence force, so it would depend on the treaties invoked on joining and how much sovereignty they each possessed. The low priority on pushing the matter until the diplomatic row with the Klingons (and presumably other powers too) is sorted out seems more likely.
- Vulcan does have an ambassador on Earth, despite both planets being members of the Federation.
- I've always wondered if maybe the members of the Federation Council are called ambassadors. That would explain Vulcan's having an 'ambassador' on Earth, and why Sarek seems to be implied to have a seat on that body.
Of course he's a Russkie...
- It bugs this troper that nobody knew that it probably wasn't a good idea to send Chekov, a Russian, hunting for "nuclear wessels" in America 1986. I've seen the explanation that they wouldn't have that information on a Klingon ship, but don't they teach history in the future? Somebody should've known this.
- This movie runs on Rule of Funny. If they didn't send Chekov, it wouldn'tve worked.
- Even if they were ignorant of 20th century politics, why didn't they sent their engineer to do an engineering task? Rule of Funny.
- Their engineer had a higher-priority engineering task to do. And they didn't have any redshirts to send.
- Unless you're a history buff, how much do you know about a conflict from 200 years in the past? Plus, these people are from a time where, on Planet Earth, all races and cultures are respected, and where a North American can pass a Russian in the street and not bat an eyelash when he asks where something is. The Enterprise crew had little to no preparation for time spent in the 20th Century, save for Kirk's quick debriefing speech.
- Doesn't really hold water. One of the questions Spock was being asked in his testing/memory/logic courses back on Vulcan was "Identify the political and historical events that occurred on Earth in the year 1987: CORRECT!"
- Aside from the above response (did Spock really have that question?), they might have known the Cold War was mid-20th century and just got the end date messed up or been unfamiliar with the exact situations. I mean, if you traveled back to the American Revolutionary War era and had a crew member with a Dutch accent, would you know which side to keep them away from? Or how about a Mohawk crew member? note .
- Well we can overlook some minor conflicts of the past, but something like a Cold War couldn't be forgotten completely. Even if they didn't know much about it, they should've known who were the main antagonists. And while they respect all cultures, they have rather exaggerated view of how "extremely primitive and paranoid culture" XX century is. If anything I'd expect them to overreact and don't even let Chekov to leave the ship.
- Given the lack of knowledge that many have concerning large-scale conflicts such as World War I, which was less than 100 years ago, it's not entirely unbelievable that a conflict that produced very few comparative casualties would be overlooked in the history books, especially since it was more of a political pissing contest than a real war.
- Except for the fact that Kirk explicitly explains in one TOS episode that his decision to aid one faction in a conflict on a primitive planet where the Klingons are aiding their rivals is to maintain the "balance of power" like in the "brushfire wars of the 20th century". Kirk at least knows about the Korean War, he should know about the Cold War.
- Kirk says "the brushfire wars of the 20th century", he doesn't say "the Korea and Vietnam conflicts, of which I am well aware of the numerous events, political nuances, and all their participants and exactly what dates their interactions occurred upon". One can have a general idea of something without going into detail. Even history buffs, aficionados, and experts tend to exaggerate or layer their own biases over actual historical events... it's no stretch to imagine Kirk thinking "Hm, we're sending a Russian to ask about nuclear items during... I guess the Cold War's going on right now, isn't it? Eh, probably won't be that big of a deal, people might give him funny looks but eventually someone will try to help."
- That seems to be the case: Picard later appears incredulous at the idea that a decades-long conflict could be caused by something as silly as rival economic systems, while Tom Paris, allegedly an expert on the twentieth century, believes that the KGB was still around in the 1990s.
- Paris was off by five years (remember, the KGB was disbanded in late 1991, the episode in question took place in 1996). Hardly comparable, especially considering that a century is still a long time to be a hobbyist expert of.
- Its also worth noting the Enterprise crew's perspective of 1986 is from the far side of a catastrophic nuclear war. Assuming that significant records weren't just flat-out destroyed in the process, its entirely possible that "contemporary" understanding of the Cold War is muddled at best.
- As a point of interest, in the canon Star Trek universe, the USSR still existed in some form until at least the 23rd century. The starship Tsiolkovsky's dedication plaque, as seen in TNG episode The Naked Now, proudly proclaimed that the vessel was constructed at the "Baikonur Cosmodrome, USSR, Earth." The Baikonur Cosmodrome is a real facility located in Kazakhstan.
- That, or the Soviet Union re-incorporated sometime between now and then. In fairness to the franchise, it looks like it begins a clear divergence from our time sometime around the 1960s. By the 1990s, of course, we have the Eugenics Wars, Khan, and sleeper ships.
- The USSR pretty clearly exists at least in the 23rd century, given Chekov's and Star Trek IV's references to Leningrad, and Chekov attributing a well-known legend to Minsk (which is in modern-day Belarus).
- Chekov could still attribute it to Minsk, and Leningrad still exists in Russia today (as the name of a province, ie "oblast").
- Honestly, isn't "they just didn't think of it" reason enough?
- What is with that weird scene where Kirk/the whole crew? have delusions/nightmares/dreams during the time warp? What's it supposed to mean?
- It Was All Just A BLAM.
- It was this troper's belief that the scene is Kirk (or one of the other crewmembers) Dreaming of Things to Come.
- It's something from an episode of the series, I believe. The slingshot effect causes people to enter a sort of dream state for a time. It's even referenced in some of the novels and such that came later as a factor in just how far you can go back in time... you actually spend a certain amount of time in the dream state relative to how far back you're going, so it would be impossible to go back to, say, the Jurassic period without everyone dying of dehydration and starvation in the dream state.
"Directed" at the oceans
- When they're watching the President's warning about the Probe, the President says that, along with all the other things occurring, the Probe is vaporizing the oceans. A few minutes later, during the discussion about who the Probe is trying to communicate with, Spock says "The President did say it was directed at Earth's oceans", which he didn't say and seems to require a bit of gymnastics to conclude considering the Probe's screwing up all of the planet.
- Further, why does the Probe's attempts to communicate with ocean-dwelling lifeforms vaporize said oceans?
- I can speak to that. The Probe was going to Earth to determine why it had lost contact with the whales. When its suspicion about the whales' extinction was confirmed, it started deliberately vaporizing the oceans to end all life on Earth, and eventually help it start anew. (So says the novelization). Spock, in the movie proper, does surmise that the Probe has come to determine why it lost contact.
- When one has to resort to consulting a novelization to clarify plot details, that does not speak well of the film. If that is indeed the Probe's motivation, one is forced to wonder: is the presence of two humpback whales so much better than none?
- That's addressed in the novelization too. The probe does decide that George and Gracie are better than nothing, but takes some convincing.
- So Spock kinda dropped the ball on that one. He sees no evidence that their intentions are hostile, yet vaporizing the oceans isn't going to be doing anything good for life on Earth and the novelization explicitly states its intentions are hostile.
- The probe doesn't view humans as intelligent life, so it's not being hostile per se. From its perspective, its merely wiping out a species of dangerous predators that have killed off a group that was trying to live their lives peacefully.
- Yeah but the whales are *already dead* and killing humans wouldn't bring them back. So what's the point of vaporizing the oceans? Revenge? Doesn't sound very rational or intelligent to me.
- Then the Probe aliens are just deluded. Humans have starships and computers and Genesis Devices (in theory). While they may not consider humans intelligent life compared to them, there's absolutely no way they can reason that whales are intelligent beings but humans are not.
- Novelisation aside, I always just assumed that it was automated and when it couldn't contact the whales it ramped up the power on the transmitter to full and kept looking, uncomprehending of the damage.
- One more vote for that explanation. The movie works better if the probe is merely uncaring, not outright hostile. Especially since the hostile probe implies whales would commit genocide on humans if they could get away with it.
- There was a sequel novel, Probe, dealing with the Probe's origins. The makers were a telekinetic race of superdolphins that were big enough to made earthly Blue Whales look like mice. They once shared their world with "mites" - humanoids - but the humanoids were wiped out in a chance meteor collision, what they referred to as the Winnowing. They considered it their mission to track, encourage, and protect other forms of life like them, i.e., cetaceans. One day, however, the Borg came to visit their system. There was a tremendous fight, where they held off the Borg from their planet - but the Borg still won by snuffing out the system's sun. They had just enough time to construct lifeboats, then departed in all directions, never to be heard from again. At the same time, the Probe also encountered the Borg - it won that fight, but the result was badly damaged memory, and it was unable to return to help its creators. It's an artifact of an apparently extinct race, from a different time, carrying on the only programming still intact within it.
- To sum all of this up, Spock makes a deduction based on a baseless "fact" to get the plot moving, and they either didn't realize it or just hoped viewers would miss it.
Only whales are important to the Probe?
- So if the Whale Probe decides Humans Are Evil and is going to exterminate us (or at least the ones on Earth) for bringing about the extinction of humpback whales, why does it decide the best way to do that is to blot out the sun and thereby kill nearly everything else on the planet too? There are dolphins on the Enterprise-D so they surely existed in the 23rd century and they're roughly as intelligent as humpbacks. So what makes humpback whales so special that their extinction automatically forfeits the lives of every other creature at that intelligence level?
- Perhaps aliens, who made that probe, are whales themselves. And they are speciesists. So, naturally whales are special... to them.
- See above. They were indeed Levianthan-sized dolphins, but exactly how specieist they were remains open to interpretation, since all land life on their planet was wiped out. The Probe, on the other hand, is pretty blatantly hostile, when the cetaceans it was assigned to shepherd actually call out to it for help...
- There are indeed alien whales. And dolphins! Look up the TNG novel Dark Mirror, they're called the Cetaceans, obviously enough.
Unfamiliar with San Francisco? Didn't you go to the Academy?
- In the famous scene with Uhura and Chekov trying to find where Alameda is, one thing strikes me as especially odd. Starfleet Academy is in San Francisco, the cadets live on campus, it takes the same amount of time to graduate as a contemporary university, which means every single one of the crew has lived in San Francisco for around 4 years and none of them know where Alameda Island is.
- Good point; that is odd. It could be that the future sees Alameda renamed or landscaped out of existence.
- In their own time, getting from place to place in San Francisco probably involves advanced public-transportation systems that don't exist at the time they're visiting. Even if they know the approximate position of Alameda, they wouldn't necessarily have a clue how to get there via the archaic methods available to them.
- Alternately, Alameda Island could have been flooded over, the waterway between it and land filled in, or something else catastrophic could have happened to render Alameda Island nonexistent at some point prior to when the Enterprise crew went to the Academy.
- Not living in the area myself, I couldn't say how vital Alameda is to just the average person, but isn't it possible that none of them had any real reason to go there during their stay at the Academy? It is a four year course, but it's a very intense four year course, and apparently many cadets spend some of the last year off-planet either on working assignment on starships or on off-planet facilities like Utopia Planetia. Also one could assume that it's something like what occurs in other cities with famous landmarks... people who actually live there don't really think to go until someone they know visits and wants to go.
- True. It's easy to spend a lifetime in Seattle and never really have cause to visit Mercer Island. For example.
Where'd Saavik go?
- Where'd Saavik go? She was a big character in III so where did she go?
- She hadn't participated in the theft of the Enterprise, simply left stranded on Genesis after the destruction of the Grissom, so she wasn't going to be on trial, and thus, didn't need to return to Earth with Kirk and company. Why she doesn't go along anyway as a character witness or just for moral support is anyone's guess, but, building off of the fact that her status in Starfleet wasn't in question, she may have received new orders from Starfleet to be assigned somewhere and couldn't go with them.
- Out-of-universe, it's reported that the inclusion of Saavik added too many variables to the sequences in 1986 San Francisco - another pair of ears to hide, among other things. One of the ideas in the original screenplay was that she was pregnant with Spock's child after helping him with pon farr in the previous movie. This was removed given behind the scenes discomfort at the idea, but the scenes were filmed, so it could potentially be left to the viewer to decide.
Morality of the probe
- Why does nobody in the film seem to feel like bringing up that the whale probe personifies that absolute worst traits of humanity and treat like it's above our morality?
- The morality of the probe isn't really at issue in the movie. This thing has, without even trying, completely overwhelmed Earth's defences and is effortlessly destroying the planet's biosphere. The only thing the characters can do is to figure out what the probe wants, try to give it to the thing, and hope it goes away before everyone dies. Starfleet can debate ethics after all the water drains back in the ocean and they've buried their dead.
- What good would that have done? Ok, we've discussed it's morality, now let's go back to trying not to drown or starve or suffocate! Alternatively, bringing up the fact that the probe is doing to humans what 20th century humans did to the whales would have made the movie even MORE Anvilicious than it already was.
- It's a machine, or is at least assumed to be. Presumably it was simply assumed what the probe was doing was simply based on faulty programming (the whales are not answering, and the probe's own internal logic means it is going to keep on trying, overlooking the consequences it was never designed to take into account). Alternatively, as an alien artefact of unknown and barely-explainable origin, the probe's designers could work on a system of Blue and Orange Morality.
Common frame of reference
- I brought this up on the fridge page, but its a question that probably goes better here. Bones asks Spock what it feels like to have died, and Spock replies that he can't explain the experience to someone who hasn't been through itnote . Should Spock know how it feels to be dead, though? Forgive the flimsy computer analogy, but Spock uploaded his katra into McCoy's brain before his sacrifice, so if he remembers anything between that and the point his katra was downloaded back into his body, it should be memories he shares with Bones. Spock's body went through a second infancy, so it seems like the body wouldn't have retained any memories of the event—though to be fair, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Vulcans can recall their infancy with perfect clarity—so, if anything, shouldn't Spock be able to describe his experience to McCoy because they have the exact same frame of reference for the event?
- It could be argued that, as the disembodied consciousness occupying McCoy's body rather than being the one who was sharing his body with a disembodied consciousness but otherwise still present as 'him', Spock might have a slightly different perspective on events than McCoy.
- I always assumed it was just Spock trying to politely give Bones the brush off and Bones just reacting as he normally did when he recognised he was about to be given the Vulcan runaround.
- A lot of people that have near-death experiences say that the experience was difficult to describe. Factor in that Spock himself was still trying to understand what had happened, odds are that he was trying to say "I don't want to talk about it." Bones, being his doctor and his friend, was both curious about the experience and wanting to ensure that Spock would be able to function properly on their trip back to Earth (remember, he had voiced concerns about having Spock back on the bridge).
Transparent aluminum for whale tank
- Ummm...why did the aluminum have to be transparent?
- Scotty was just trading the formula for transparent aluminum for material made of polymers. Not sure why they felt they needed to go with a transparent material at all, though. They weren't building an aquarium, they were building a holding tank that they were only going to use as long as it took to get back to the 23rd century. Any strong, light, waterproof, mostly non-toxic material would have worked just fine—and probably could have been scavenged from construction sites if need be.
- You don't put living specimens in a tank with no light, and they must be observable to monitor their health and safety. Putting them in a simple aluminum tank would have been cruel, and dangerous.
- It wouldn't be ideal, but it was going to be a very short trip. You'll notice that even after most of the ship was under water, the emergency lighting was still working, suggesting that they were were water-resistant. Presumably this was also true in the cargo hold, so it should be bright enough to accommodate them temporarily. I'd also assume that the internal sensors would be able to monitor George and Gracie's vital signs enough to assure their well-being.
- George and Gracie weren't merely cargo, they were the two creatures that they needed to happily tell the Probe to get lost. Shove in a sealed box for a scary time travel trip and you've just drastically increased the chance of them either telling the Probe to frag the humans or just gibber at it in terror (and then it frags the humans on its own). Not a smart move there.
- The weight. Polymers are lighter than metals, and they were pushing their luck as it was having 100 tons of whale and water in the cargo bay.
Responding in gibberish
- Supposedly, they could transmit humpback whale-esque sounds to the probe, but it would just be gibberish, not real communication. For one thing, it's still worth a try. For another, they must have some recording of actual humpback songs to compare the probe noise to, otherwise they wouldn't be able to positively say "yes, the probe is making humpback sounds", so why not transmit those recordings? And for a third, why not transmit the probe's own songs back to it?
- To answer the last part of that: The Probe would then proceed to reply, much like a miffed six-year-old, "Stop copying me!!"
- As far as playing taped recordings, while it might a partial solution, there'd be other problems: The difference between a live voice and a copy, and that a recording would not be able to interact with whatever the probe is saying. Anyone who's had to deal with a lengthy recording on the phone knows the futility of that.
- Was it ever established why universal translators didn't work with the probe? Kirk & Company quickly worked out that the probe was broadcasting a language, and Uhura was even able to filter the recording through the computer so that they could hear what the transmission would sound like underwater. We've seen the UT work with less, and it's even been able to translate the languages of all manner of computers and robots, so it seems the issue should have been at least Hand Waved away.
- The universal translators work by finding commonalities between languages... it listens to someone speaking, does its best to figure out syntax and structure from other, similarly structured languages, and then translates it. If the whalesong language was sufficiently different from the majority/all other languages in its databanks, and the probe wasn't giving them enough to work with or was referring to concepts in ways that were sufficiently different from the programmers' understanding, it wouldn't work. Simple as that.
- Did he just leave it on the nuclear wessel? Wouldn't that change the past? It seems like the sort of thing that would have shown up again much later.
- Yeah, that was a major concern in A Piece of the Action, and it seems like something that should have been a major concern, here. Scotty's already created one weird Stable Time Loop this movie, so who knows what sort of crazy new technologies could spring from a misplaced phaser in, say, thirty years or s— Wait a minute...