James T. Kirk: [unsarcastically] No, I'm from Iowa. I only work in outer space.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the fourth movie in the Star Trek film series, released in 1986.
Kirk is prepared to face the consequences of his actions in the previous movie, but a powerful alien probe is making its way to Earth (yes, another one), wreaking havoc with the environment and shutting down anything with power. Deducing that the probe is searching for humpback whales, which are extinct in the twenty-third century, Kirk and crew use a Klingon Bird-Of-Prey they stole in the last film to Time Travel to San Francisco in The '80s, where they hope to retrieve some and save Earth. Hilarity Ensues. Instead of the traditional Space Opera, this movie is an outright comedy. It even lacks a villain, outside of the whale probe and a whaler boat. Star Trek IV also concludes a loose trilogy arc that began with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
The wild success of this movie (it was the most financially successful Trek film until the 2009 reboot) proved to Paramount that Star Trek could survive as an expanded franchise. Not only did it greenlight another film, but it gave Gene Roddenberry the opportunity to create a brand new TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and kickstarted 18 straight years of Star Trek productions.
The Voyage Home provides examples of:
- Abandon Ship: Kirk orders this when the ship crashes in San Francisco Bay and starts to sink.
- Acronym Confusion:Kirk: Oh, him [Spock]? He's harmless. Part of the free speech movement at Berkeley in the sixties. I think he did a little too much LDS.noteGillian: L D S?
- Acting Unnatural: Kirk tells his bridge officers, standing around in the streets of 1980s San Francisco, to "break up, you look like a cadet review." Cue entirely unconvincing attempt by the Starfleet officers to look inconspicuous and casual.
- Adam and Eve Plot: With the whales brought to the future.
- Alice Allusion: Kirk's greeting to Gillian as she's beamed aboard the Klingon ship. "Hello Alice, welcome to Wonderland".
- All There in the Manual: The Blu-Ray releases include the Library Computer, an interactive database that will appear on screen as the movie plays offering entries on characters, ships, places, etc. with additional information on them.
- And the Adventure Continues: The film ends with the crew embarking on the Enterprise-A.Kirk: Let's see what she's got.
- Arc Words: "How do you feel?" Later, "I feel fine."
- Armor-Piercing Question:
- By Sarek, in response to the Klingon ambassador's overblown accusations against Kirk.Ambassador: We have the right to preserve our race!
Sarek: You have the right to commit murder?
- During Spock's memory test, the computer asks him, "How do you feel?" Spock is legitimately baffled by the question.
- As things are going wrong, Kirk laments that they have two perfectly good whales and could very well lose them.Spock: In likelihood, our mission would fail.
Kirk: Our mission? Spock, you're talking about the end of every life on Earth. You're half-human. Haven't you got any goddamn feelings about that?!
- By Sarek, in response to the Klingon ambassador's overblown accusations against Kirk.
- Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: Stealing Starships, Disobeying Orders, And Saving The World.
- Artistic License - Computers: It doesn't matter how advanced one's knowledge of future computers is, randomly mashing keys for a few seconds on a first-generation Macintosh is not going to result in a rotating diagram for transparent aluminum. The computer's interface alone, not to mention its processing speed, was incapable of handling such an action. In other words, having Scotty do this on a Mac in 1986 was as realistic as him actually having given it voice commands to do so. It is, however, funny as hell.
- Artistic License Geography: When Gillian meets Kirk and Spock again, Kirk says they're going "back to San Francisco." However, they are already in San Francisco. The scene was shot in the Marina District, which is on the north coast of the city. The Cetacean Institute is in Sausalito, which is on the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge directly behind them.
- The scene where Kirk and Spock are walking and talking with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background was shot at Marine Drive, specifically the brief stretch of road that connects to Fort Point. That area is pretty far out of the way, especially if they're coming from Golden Gate Park; it's about four miles away on foot. However, it's conveniently close to where they shot the Marina district scene mentioned above, and the bridge makes for an awesome background.
- Take a closer look at the movie poster. It's a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge as seen from the tourist viewpoint in Marin, but the city in the background has been flipped; the Transamerica Pyramid should be on the left side. Also, the bridge runs directly north and south, which means that the sun doesn't rise or set in that direction.
- Artistic License Medicine: When McCoy is arguing with the 20th-century doctor about the merits of a fundoscopic examination on Chekov while he is in a coma. The argument implies it will involve the use of a medical drill. In reality a fundoscopic examination is a routine part of a medical checkup where the doctor shines a light in the patient's eye and examines it with an ophthalmoscope.
- Ironically, and this may be played with, just to show how unadvanced 20th-century medicine is, that the doctor is a lot closer to playing this straight, than McCoy is. Neither the doctor or McCoy really say anything incorrect, but a couple of the doctor's lines seem to be odd responses. Most notably responding to McCoy's diagnosis of a torn middle meningeal artery, is countered by asking him if his degree is in dentistry - despite it being the correct diagnosis (completely averting this trope). And when McCoy counters with asking him what he makes of it, the doctor initially responds with "fundoscopic examination". However, even then, McCoy's response shows he's familiar with such an examination, by stating that such a thing would be "unrevealing". McCoy doesn't chide the doctor about drilling holes in Chekov's skull, until after the doctor offers "A simple evacuation of the expanding epidural hematoma will relieve the pressure!" Which indicates Chekov suffered a skull fracture, which cut an artery, that led to blood pooling between the brain and the skull, putting pressure on the brain. In the 20th (and even 21st) century, drilling a hole/holes in the skull to relieve said pressure, is a valid strategy. Since, y'know, we don't have the technology yet to knit bone, repair arteries, and remove blood by waving a tricorder over the patient's head.
- Artistic License Physics: Although averted in the park scenes, played straight when rescuing the whales. Cloaking may indeed make the ship invisible, but that whaling ship would likely have capsized well before they could have fired the harpoon. Between the air turbulence brought on by such a massive, generally non-aerodynamic ship as the Bird of Prey — especially at high speeds, and the thrusters required to keep the ship hovering, to say the waters would have been dangerously choppy, would be a great understatement. Of course, that would have deprived them of the memorable shot of the harpoon colliding with seemingly nothing, or the Bird of Prey decloaking and giving the whalers a massive Oh, Crap! moment.
- "Ass" in Ambassador: The Klingon ambassador, to be specific.President Hiram Roth: Admiral Kirk has been charged with nine violations of Starfleet regulations.
Ambassador Kamarag: "STARFLEET REGULATIONS"? THAT'S OUTRAGEOUS! Remember this well: there shall be no peace as long as Kirk lives!
Crowd Member: YOU POMPOUS ASS!
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Spock and Sarek have a moment. After a brief icy exchange where Spock says (somewhat backhandedly) that he appreciated his father making the effort to attend the trial, Sarek countered softly with "it was no effort, you are my son". Probably as close to a gooey moment as you would get between a Vulcan father and son.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Kirk, McCoy, and Gillian getting into the hospital to rescue Chekov. See Expospeak Gag below.
- Big Damn Heroes: Kirk and the crew seem too late to stop the whalers, only to have the launched harpoon suddenly hit something invisible. Then Kirk's ship decloaks and reveals it had gotten in place to block the shot in time.
- Big Dumb Object: The "whale probe". Presumably to make a point about it being as thoughtlessly destructive to humanity as humanity supposedly is to whales.
- Black Boss Lady: Audiences applauded when Madge Sinclair appeared as the (unnamed) Captain of the Saratoga at the beginning of the film.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: The probe, which is completely inscrutable.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Justified, as Spock has an incomplete grasp on life after being brought back from the dead.Kirk: If we play our cards right, we may be able to find out when those whales are being released.
Spock: How will playing cards help?
Dr. Taylor: Are you sure you won't change your mind?
Spock: Is there something wrong with the one I have?
- Kirk refers to the others as 'My friends' when they commit themselves to help Spock in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock ("My friends, Dr McCoy and I have to do this, the rest of you don't") and again after the resulting trial in this film's ending ("My friends, we've come home").
- Early in this movie, Spock is confused when the testing computer asks him "How do you feel?" and his mother tries to help him get in touch with his emotions. At the end, Sarek asks him if he has a message for her.Spock: Tell her... I feel fine.
- Brake Angrily: Gillian slams the brakes on her truck after Spock declares that Gracie is pregnant.
- Breather Episode: According to Word of God, this was the intention. It's essentially a comedy and it comes immediately after two solid movies of action and drama where significant characters die and the Enterprise gets destroyed.
- Chekov is caught sneaking around a US Military installation and is mistakenly assumed to be a spy. Kirk had the same thing happen to him in the TOS episode "Tomorrow Is Yesterday".
- In II, McCoy notes that the antique glasses were rare because "you don't find many with the lenses still intact." They get damaged at the end of II, and when Kirk sells them, the antiques dealer sighs they would be more valuable if the lenses were still intact. Presumably, the lenses in the Stable Time Loop are 100 years younger than the frames, but still "antique".
- Came Back Wrong: It's implied that maybe we didn't quite get all of Spock back at the end of the previous movie, that there's a certain... something missing. He gets better by the end though. Death apparently isn't something you can just get over straight away.
- The Cameo: Both Majel Barrett and Grace Lee Whitney make appearances in the film. Barrett reprises her role as Christine Chapel, now a Commander at Starfleet Medical.note Whitney also appears at Starfleet Command, and is credited as Janice Rand, also a Commander.
- Cassandra Truth: After failing to come up with a cover story she'll accept, Kirk flat-out tells Gillian exactly who he is and where he comes from over dinner. She naturally thinks he's full of shit.
- Cat Folk: The Caitian admiral at Starfleet headquarters.
- "Hello, Computer."
- Nuclear wessels!
- Double dumb-ass on you!
- Spock's awkward and inappropriate use of the phrase "the hell".Spock: They like you very much, but they are not the hell your whales.
Dr. Gillian Taylor: I suppose they told you that, huh?
Spock: The hell they did.
- Celebrity Paradox: Given that there are references to various aspects of late-20th-century pop culture (punk rock, Jacqueline Susann, etc.), there's an underlying implication that the Star Trek series must not exist in Star Trek's universe. (The implication is even stronger in the novelization. Kirk actually introduces himself to Dr. Gillian Taylor by saying "I'm Kirk, and this is Spock," and she doesn't react as if that's significant of anything—this within a larger sequence in which she marvels at their lack of familiarity with everything from Waylon Jennings to pizza.)
- Changed My Jumper: The short notice for this particular mission results in the crew arriving in San Francisco in their 23rd-century Space Clothes. As it's San Francisco, they don't look that out of place. Truth in Television — they had unknown crew walk around San Francisco in the outfits for a week before shooting started, and got no comments whatsoever. See City of Weirdos.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The Klingon Bird-of-Prey, which was just the enemy ship and later a means of escaping from the exploding Genesis Planet in the previous film, ends up being a vital part of this film's storyline thanks to its ability to cloak and land.
- Kirk's glasses are an unusual case of this; from the perspective of the audience and Kirk himself, this is the last time the glasses are seen. However, 298 years down the line, they're going to be very important once again.
- City of Weirdos: Most people are willing to accept the slightly out-of-touch Spock as a harmless stoner, even as he does weird things like jump into the whale tank...until he says things about the whales that he shouldn't be able to know. Truth in Television as anyone who lives in San Francisco could tell you.
- *Click* Hello: Chekov is greeted by a Marine this way when he is found on board the nuclear carrier USS Enterprise.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Cluster "The Hell" Bomb, thanks to Spock.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Spock, but in all fairness he is still recovering from being dead.
- Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Sort of. Spock isn't exactly complaining about being brought back to life, but he does initially believe that the actions that led to this were less than logical.
- Continuity Nod: Kirk mentions that they've done slingshot maneuvers around the sun before, which they first did in the episode "Tomorrow Is Yesterday."
- Crapsack Only by Comparison: How the crew of the Enterprise see The '80s, largely Played for Laughs. Kirk warns the crew that they're dealing with a "primitive and paranoid culture", Spock confirms they're in the late 20th century by the pollution content in the atmosphere, McCoy remarks (on a newspaper headling concerning nuclear arms talks stalling) that "it's a wonder these people ever got out of the 20th century" and then shows characteristic disdain for 20th-century medical practices when Chekov has an accident and ends up critically injured in hospital.
- Crazy Enough to Work: Even though it's the crew of the mighty Enterprise we're talking about, the whole "get some whales from back in time" thing did sound pretty ridiculous. McCoy lampshades this, to which Kirk simply responds that if McCoy has a better plan, he should speak up. The film is also nice enough to explain why several saner-sounding plans wouldn't work—getting in weapons range would result in being crippled, and attempting to transmit whalesong themselves would just be shouting gibberish into space.
- Critical Research Failure: In-Universe. The crew, knowing only the broad strokes of the sociopolitical environment of the late-twentieth-century United States, failed to realize that putting Chekov, a Russian, on the ground looking for "nuclear wessels" was a bad idea.
- Critical Staffing Shortage: The stolen Klingon bird of prey is manned only by the Enterprise command crew, half of what it should have.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Well, there's no actual battle, but the Probe gives V'ger a run for its money to completely decimate the entire Federation and Earth ships and defenses. It does this as a mere side effect of transmitting its signal and is otherwise completely oblivious to the damage it causes.
- Damage Control: Kirk asks when they can get their captured Bird-of-Prey under way, Scotty quips, "Damage control is easy; reading Klingon, that's hard."
- Death Amnesia: Played with. Spock never says he can't remember what dying and coming back was like. He states that he can't explain it without the other person having a common frame of reference, meaning:Bones: You mean I have to die to discuss your insights on death?!
- Dedication: To the crew of the Challenger at the beginning of the film.
- Demoted to Extra: Saavik, who was a major character in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, made a brief appearance in one early scene on Vulcan in this movie, and then was never seen again.
- Doctor Jerk: The surgeon who was about to operate on Chekov was justifiably upset about McCoy and Kirk intruding into the operating room, but there was no need for him to insult Dr. McCoy's credentials.
- Don't Call Me "Sir": Due to Spock's mental retraining, he insists on calling Kirk "Admiral". Kirk is nonplussed and keeps insisting that Spock used to call him "Jim".
- Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help: McCoy helping the woman on dialysis during their rescue of Chekov. Admittedly, the "stop" didn't take more time than it took to give her a couple of pills, but it still (A) potentially draws attention to what's supposed to be a covert mission and (B) has the possibility of changing history.
- The '80s: The crew travels back to the year of the movie's release: '86. Also, one of the test questions Spock gets are events of historical significance from 1987.
- Emergency Refuelling: After the crew use the Klingon Bird of Prey to travel back in time, the dilithium crystals in the Bird of Prey start disintegrating due to the amount of effort required to travel back in time. This leads to a subplot where Uhura and Chekov have to find a nuclear vessel, collect high energy photons from a nuclear fission reaction and use those to recrystalise the dilithium crystals.
- Everybody Lives: The only Trek film that can boast this.
- Exact Words: Spock's plan.Spock: We could try to find some humpback whales.
McCoy: But you said there aren't any, except on Earth of the past.
Spock: Yes, Doctor, that's exactly what I said.
- Expospeak Gag: With Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, for cramps after eating:McCoy: This woman has immediate post-prandial upper-abdominal distension!
Kirk: What did you say she's got?
- Extinct in the Future: While Star Trek's Earth is generally positive, whales went extinct sometime in the 21st century. Which becomes a problem for Earth when an alien probe arrives wanting to talk to them.
- Exty Years from Now: From 2286 to 1986, the crew travel back exactly 300 years in to the past.
- Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Sulu tells a helicopter pilot that he trained on Hueys at the Academy, as a hobby (though the pilot probably didn't know he meant Starfleet Academy). The Novelization expands on it.
- Face Palm: Kirk's reaction to Spock diving into the whale tank without warning him, following a Jaw Drop.
- The Klingon ambassador mentions attempts to negotiate a peace treaty, and that there would be no peace while Kirk lived. This may or may not have been intentional, but it's picked up as the central theme of the plot in the sixth movie—where, interestingly enough, the same character (and actor) is one of the first to applaud Kirk and the Enterprise crew when they prevent the sabotage of the eventual Federation/Klingon treaty.
- As the crew travels back in time, the audience can hear various lines of dialogue that will later be said throughout the course of the movie. Furthermore, the sequence starts with a brief shot of Kirk sitting in a white room. He's actually sitting on the bridge of the Enterprise-A.
- Fish out of Temporal Water: The whole premise of the film, figuratively and almost literally, thanks to the cetaceans out of temporal water.
- Funny Background Event: While fleeing the aircraft carrier, Chekov happens to run past a sign painted on the bulkhead which reads "Escape Route."
- Gaia's Lament:
- Whales are extinct in the 23rd century. The probe tries to communicate until something responds... if nothing responds, it never stops trying. (It just so happens that its communication drains Starfleet power supplies and screws up's Earth's surface weather...) The designers of the probe were callous and uncaring what side effects this would have, just as the 20th-century humans were callous and uncaring regarding the plight of the whales — at least that's the idea.
- The novelisation expands on this. The probe travelled to Earth to find out why its creators had lost contact with whales (implying whalesong can travel interstellar distances) in a cetacean version of a cut-off distress call. By the time the probe has reached Earth orbit, it has concluded that there will most likely be no response (humanity trying to talk to it does not count any more than fish trying to talk to us) and starts pumping energy into the oceans to create cloud cover and thus freeze the planet in order to start over, but continues to send a signal on the off chance there will be a response. When Kirk and co bring the whales back and they start to sing, the probe immediately pauses (noticable in the movie) and tries to think what to do about a completely unprecedented event. After a brief discussion with George and Gracie, it basically says "good luck with rebuilding" and heads off for parts unknown.
- "Get out of Jail Free" Card: Starfleet can't really punish Kirk and crew too much just after they saved the world, can they?
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Multiple instances of profanity in a PG-rated movie, including Flipping the Bird, some even Lampshaded. In one scene, both Gillian and Kirk utter the word "dipshit", marking the first use of the s-word on screen in the Trek franchise, and the last until Star Trek: Generations.
- Going Down with the Ship: Kirk is the last one to leave the sinking Bird-of-Prey, after opening the cargo bay to release the whales.
- Good Old Ways: A perfect example of the ways in which Bones subverts this trope. See We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future.
- Gracefully Demoted: Kirk has no problem being demoted from Admiral to Captain, as it takes him from his boring desk job and puts him back in the big chair.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: The probe is causing bad weather in 23rd-century Leningrad, although the oblast (province/state) still retains that name.
- Green Aesop: "To hunt a species to extinction is not logical."Gillian: Whoever said the human race was logical?
- Hand Signals: After Chekov falls off the carrier Enterprise, one of the Marines signals "hold" before calling for a corpsman.
- "I Hate" Song: "I Hate You" by Edge of Etiquette, the song played by the punk in the bus scene, is about how rotten humanity is and how we'd be better off nuking ourselves into oblivion.
- Insane Troll Logic: The Klingon ambassador's tortuous case for how Kirk was supposedly a terrorist trying to use Genesis as a weapon/secret base to destroy the Klingon Empire would appear to be this, depending on whether or not you consider it outright propaganda or at least extreme wishful thinking on the part of the Klingons in order to save face.
- Fridge Brilliance: This is the exact same rationale Kruge gave for breaking protocol, crossing the Neutral Zone, and firing upon a Federation vessel in the first place. He did so completely on his own initiative (even telling Torg "tell this to no one"), but it becomes brilliance when you consider that the Klingons figured out in hindsight WHY Kruge would have gone to Genesis, and latched on to that as the only defensible explanation. Not having all the facts hurt them (the Ambassador specifically says the Genesis device was test-detonated by Kirk himself, which is a double falsehood), but with Genesis' existence already causing galactic controversy, protecting their interests makes sense for them.
- The Klingon ambassador's attempts at rebutting Sarek fall into this: Yes, we killed Dr. David Marcus in cold blood. Yes, we blew up a Federation science vessel and killed 80 Starfleet officers. Yes, we committed espionage and stole classified materiel. But it's ok since we are trying to preserve our culture which prizes honor and courage above all else. Sarek calls him out on this with a glorious Armor-Piercing Question in front of the entire Federation Council.
- Large Ham: John Schuck as the Klingon Hambassador makes William Shatner look positively subdued."Behold, the quintessential devil in these matters: James T. Kirk, renegade and terrorist!"
"Starfleet regulations, that's outRAGEOUS!!!"
- Kicked Upstairs: Inverted: Kirk has violated orders to save the world. They "punish" him by taking away his cushy desk job and demoting him to a "mere" starship captain. So Starfleet gets what it wants (a public punishment to demonstrate they don't tolerate such behavior, not to mention their best captain back in the field) and Kirk gets what he wants (the Enterprise).
- Language Barrier: Spock gently shoots down Kirk's idea to 'simulate' a whale song in response to the probe. Just because humans can mimic the whale sound doesn't mean they know how to speak Humpback Whale.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Kirk and Company survived to save the world because they were off-planet rescuing Spock when the probe arrived.
- Lighter and Softer: This is pretty much the most lighthearted Trek film there is.
- List of Transgressions: After saving the world, Kirk and his crew appear before the Federation Council, with the president reading the list of offenses they committed over the last two movies. Kirk pleads guilty to all of them, and then the president dismisses all but one, using that to demote Kirk to "Captain"—which made him very happy.
- Literal-Minded: Chekov during the interrogation, much to the frustration of his interrogator. A possible case of Obfuscating Stupidity.
- Magical Security Cam: When the Klingon Ambassador shows the Council footage of the Enterprise blowing up with Kruge's crew aboard, it's the exact footage from the previous film. The bit with Kruge's crew on the bridge has an overlay added to suggest that it was somehow recorded and transmitted by one of the crew before they died; no effort is made to explain who recorded the external shots of the ship going down in flames.
- Meaningful Rename: McCoy dubbed their stolen Klingon ship the HMS Bounty, with Kirk noting the irony in his log.
- Mistaken for Spies: Chekov. An interesting example as Chekov's behavior eventually leads one of his interrogators to suspect he's more probably an escaped mental patient than a Soviet spy.
- "Mister Sandman" Sequence: An interesting version, seeing as it was applied to what was then the real-life present day.
- Mood Whiplash:
- When Gillian starts showing videos of actual whale disassembling. In theaters, the audiences often got very quiet at this point. Sorta-mimicked in the Novelization, in a way: most of the tour group watch the videos without much trouble, but Kirk and Spock are disturbed to say the least, because to them such violence was uncommon in their century.
- A Downplayed example in the pizza restaurant. Gillian starts tearing up at the thought of saying goodbye to the whales while worrying about their survival in the open sea—and then Kirk gets a call on his "pocket pager." His pathetic attempt to be discreet about it, as well as the dialogue between him and Scotty (including Scotty calling him "Admiral", just like Spock), produce a "You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!" look on Gillian's face as she clearly wonders just what the hell she's gotten herself involved in.
- A captured Chekov plays the fool for his captors, escapes despite his phaser malfunctioning (complete with wacky noises), leads the crew of an aircraft carrier on a merry chase to upbeat music — then runs out of carrier and falls onto concrete hard enough to be fatally injured — at least, by 20th-century medical standards...
- Mundanization: They've triumphed many times in space, but how well do they do on present-day Earth?
- Mythology Gag: The Bridge Computer Sound Effects from The Original Series can clearly be heard in the background as Kirk says "Let's see what she's got".
- Name's the Same: An In-Universe example. "Sir! Ve have found the nuclear wessels! And Admiral....it is the Enterprise!"
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Everyone's reaction to the Humans of the past for hunting the Humpback to extinction.
- No Antagonist: Even the probe is just trying to find out what happened to their friends on Earth.
- No Endor Holocaust: We never do find out what happened to the crew of the Saratoga, or the other ships that the probe disabled en route to Earth. Who knows how many, if any, survivors there were on the ships where the life support was barely functioning, and the crew had to watch their emergency power run lower... and lower. However, one captain mentions attempting to jury-rig a solar energy collector to restore power to life support, and Starfleet crews in general are expected to be resourceful. Word of God Jossed the idea that they died, and the novelization mentions in passing that the captain of the Saratoga managed to save her crew by putting them into stasis, implying that other ships had similar ideas to preserve their crews.
- No One Gets Left Behind: When Chekov is at the mercy of 20th-century medicine, Bones insists on going to save him. Spock backs him up. When asked if it's the logical thing to do, he admits that it is not that; however, it is the human thing to do.
- Not This One, That One: A notable inversion/subversion at the end: The crew arrives at Space Dock to take charge of their new ship. The crew argues about which ship they will get. Dr. McCoy trusts the bureaucrats to give them a freighter, while Mr. Sulu opines he would like the Excelsior. Scotty, of course scoffs at Mr. Sulu, asking why he would want that "bucket of bolts". Their shuttle starts its approach on the shiny new Excelsior ... then flies over it to reveal the smaller ship hiding behind it: the Enterprise-A.Kirk: My friends... we've come home.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: How Chekov deals with his (brief) interrogation by the FBI could be interpreted to be this instead of simple Fish out of Temporal Water naivety. You decide.
- Oh, Crap!: The whaler's crew upon seeing the Bird-of-Prey decloak. Not only could the entire whaler fit in the Bird-of-Prey's torpedo launcher, but these are late-20th-century humans. They have never seen an alien (or even human) starship of any kind before. Naturally, they bend the speediest retreat they can.
- Once More, with Clarity!: During the time travel sequence, the lines spoken by the crew during the sequence are spoken later on.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Kirk is amazed when The Spock of all people has to make a guess.Kirk: Mr. Spock, did you account for the variable mass of whales and water in your time re-entry program?
Spock: Mr. Scott cannot give me exact figures, Admiral, so...I will make a guess.
Kirk: A guess? You, Spock? That's extraordinary. [leaves with Gillian]
Spock: I don't think he understands.
McCoy: No, Spock. He means that he feels safer about your guesses than most other people's facts.
Spock: Oh. So you're saying it is a compliment?
McCoy: It is.
Spock: Hmm. Then I will try to make the best guess I can.
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Gillian's co-worker Bob, who spends his few scenes alternately hitting on her and patronizing her, all while doing this constantly; she's never amused, to say the least.
- Photographic Memory: Gillian Taylor mentions that she has one — "I see words!" — but it comes into play only once, during Spock's Time-Travel Tense Trouble.
- Precision F-Strike: Kirk advises Spock to blend in by "swearing every other word". While he has difficulty at first he finally grasps it, and, in perhaps a running gag, Spock has at least one in parts 5 and 6 as well.Spock: Are you sure it isn't time for a colorful metaphor?
- Product Placement: Used to hilarious effect in the scene where Sulu, Scotty, and Bones were discussing where they can find a a large quantity of plastic to make a whale tank. And they manage to walk exactly by a giant ad for Pacific Bell's Yellow Pages.
- Promotion, Not Punishment: At the end, Kirk actually experiences a subversion. After stealing the Enterprise and subsequently blowing it up in the process of stopping the Earth from being destroyed and saving the humpbacked whales from extinction, he and his bunch manage to almost completely duck the surefire court-martialing and dismissal from Starfleet. Instead, Kirk is demoted from Admiral back down to Captain, a role both he and his superiors prefer him in.
- The Quincy Punk: Kirk and Spock encounter such a punk on a bus in 1980s San Francisco. When he refuses to turn down the loud punk rock music he is playing, Spock nerve pinches him into silence, and everyone else on the bus applauds.
- Rapid-Fire Typing: Scotty goes from not even understanding the concept of a computer without voice commands to apparently being able to type three million words per minute. Also combines with Hollywood Hacking — the action on the computer's screen doesn't even remotely synch with his keystrokes.
- Reality Ensues:
- After setting the (cloaked) warbird down in a public park, Kirk makes a note of the inevitable drawbacks of hiding your invisible starship:Kirk: Everybody, remember where we parked.
- The multiple criminal acts that Kirk and his officers committed in the last movie can't just be Easily Forgiven too quickly — the only reason they don't all get cashiered (and likely imprisoned) is because they save Earth from the alien probe. Even so, Kirk still gets demoted from Admiral to Captain, which everybody knows is an act of Unishment.
- After setting the (cloaked) warbird down in a public park, Kirk makes a note of the inevitable drawbacks of hiding your invisible starship:
- Real Life Writes the Plot: There was actually a scene in the script for Sulu to steal the helicopter by at first taking the pilot away from the helicopter and then take a running leap into the helicopter while he was away. However, George Takei had participated in a marathon and was too sore to do the scene, and with only a few days to complete the film, the scene was scrapped.
- Refuge in Audacity: Chekov, in an obviously Russian accent, going around the streets asking about "nuclear wessels" and getting away with it. Doesn't help him when he is found on board one, however.
- Replacement Goldfish: The Enterprise NCC-1701-A for the Enterprise NCC-1701, beginning a Star Trek tradition.
- Rogue Agent: The Klingon Ambassador tries painting Captain Kirk as this, in an attempt to get him extradited.
- Screw the Rules, It's the Apocalypse!: In that the crew are not averse to breaking the law in the 20th century in order to save the Earth in the 23rd, to wit:
- Scotty and McCoy obtaining a supply of Plexiglass (to house the whales) by trading the formula for transparent aluminum to a Plexiglass engineer;
- Chekov and Uhura illegally boarding a US Navy vessel and stealing power (for the purposes of recrystallizing the dilithium matrix in the warp drive, allowing them to get home);
- Then Kirk and company removing a criminal suspect under arrest (Chekov, who gets captured in the process) from police custody.
- They also flatten a garbage can and damage the lawn of Golden Gate Park when they land the ship.
- Sequel Hook: The crew is absolved of all criminal charges and are given a new ship, a virtually identical Constitution-class USS Enterprise: NCC-1701-A. The adventures of this ship are continued in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, but it also paved the way for the introduction of the Galaxy Class USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Combined with Expospeak Gag, for saying "cramps after eating":McCoy: This woman has acute post-prandial upper-abdominal distension!
Kirk: What did you say she had?
- Sir Swears-a-Lot:
- Kirk tries to be this, with middling success. "Double dumbass on you!"
- Spock tries even harder, with less success.
- Snap Back: After all the trial and tribulation the crew goes through in the last three films, they all end up back where they started: on the bridge of the Enterprise ready for a new adventure.
- Sophisticated as Hell: A major source of humor from Spock.
- Space Whale Aesop: Trope Namer. Don't hunt whales to extinction or an alien probe will come to destroy us all!
- Only an example, though, for the most Literal-Minded interpretation. The intended Aesop is more along the lines of "you don't know what you've got till it's gone", specifically the permanence of extinction.
- Also, don't play your music too loud on the bus or you will be nerve-pinched.
- Just because somebody claims to have come from the future to save the Earth doesn't mean they're crazy or trying to scam you. They're only almost certainly crazy or trying to scam you.
- Spotting the Thread:Security Guard: How's the patient, Doctor?
Kirk: He's going to make it.
Guard: He? They went in with a she!
Kirk: One little mistake... [runs]
- Stable Time Loop: All over the damn place.
- Scotty and transparent aluminum. In the novelization, the engineer he sells the formula to is the one who introduce[d/s] it to the world, and Scotty discusses the trope specifically when McCoy calls him on it.Scotty: How do we know he didn't invent the thing?
- In the Novelization, Scotty practically fanboys over the engineer, Marcus Nichols, when they are introduced, because Scotty recognizes Nichols' name as that of the inventor of transparent aluminum; Scotty hints that he and Bones might be required to tell him about it.
- Nichols says himself it will take years to figure out the matrix, so they aren't even giving him the formula — just enough hints.
- When Kirk sells his glasses at a pawn shop.Spock: Admiral, weren't those a gift from Dr. McCoy?
Kirk: And they will be again. That's the beauty of it.
- No one checks to see if removing Gillian from the timeline will change anything historic. Despite her insistence that "I have nobody here", no one considers the possibility that any future actions of hers could be important.
- In the Expanded Universe, it's explained that this is actually standard Federation policy towards people from the past that wind up in the "present". If their removal from the timeline doesn't cause catastrophic changes, they're supposed to stay rather than risk polluting the timeline by going back with knowledge of the future. Also came up in the Original Series episode "Tomorrow Is Yesterday", where Kirk would've taken USAF Cptn. John Christopher back to the 23rd century, if not for the fact that his yet-to-be-conceived son was commander of the first successful manned flight to Saturn.
- Scotty and transparent aluminum. In the novelization, the engineer he sells the formula to is the one who introduce[d/s] it to the world, and Scotty discusses the trope specifically when McCoy calls him on it.
- Stunned Silence: The reaction of Kirk and his crew when they learn that Earth is in danger.
- Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard: During the FBI's interrogation of Chekov:Agent #1: What do you think?
Agent #2: He's a Russkie.
Agent #1: That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life. Of course he's a Russkie, but he's a retard or something.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Admiral Cartwright for Admiral Morrow, who appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The novelization implies Morrow got replaced due to a scandal that erupted from Kirk's actions.
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Actually averted in the restaurant; for once, a movie remembers that that there's an interval of time between ordering and receiving food that they can put dialogue into. And when Kirk bolts just as the pizza arrives, Gillian has the waiter box it to go.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Kirk does this just before they go back in time:"May fortune favor the foolish."
- Time Travelers are Spies: Chekov and Uhura, big time. Though it might have gone better if one of them wasn't Russian. In the Novelization, the fact Uhura is African doesn't help matters.note
- Time-Travel Romance: Kirk finds a Love Interest wherever and whenever he goes, doesn't he? Though it's very low-key (especially for Kirk) and doesn't really become much more than some flirting and a hug. Which makes sense considering the character becoming a female scientist was actually a fairly late revision to the script... in prior drafts, the character was a conspiracy theorist played by Eddie Murphy.
- Time-Travel Tense Trouble: Spock of all people screws up here. Leonard Nimoy stresses the tense loud and clear, so it wouldn't take eidetic memory to remember it, too.
- Too Dumb to Live: Oh, Chekov. Be grateful you're in the franchise's most upbeat entry when you go right up to the nearest cop, in '80s San Francisco, and start asking him about "nuklear wessels" in a Russian accent.Explanation
- Totally Radical: Kirk doesn't quite have a grasp on 1986 idioms. Nor does Spock.Kirk: Well, double dumbass on you!
- Tranquil Fury: Sarek is incensed with the Klingon Ambassador's attempted justifications for Commander Kruge's actions in the previous movie. Of course, being a typical Vulcan, Sarek is still reserved about it but his tone and words make it clear what he thinks.Sarek: Your vessel did destroy U.S.S. Grissom. Your men did kill Kirk's son. Do you deny these events?
Klingon Ambassador: We deny nothing! We have the right to preserve our race!
Sarek: You have the right to commit murder?
- Troll: Scotty referring to Bones as "his assistant". Scotty's look after implies that he said it just to mess with him. Also, one wonders if Spock's misuse of swears didn't become purposeful over time, especially after Kirk criticized him for it.Kirk: Spock, where the hell is the power you promised?
Spock: One damn minute, Admiral.
- Trouble from the Past: The humans of the past hunted whales to extinction, and that turned out to be a bad idea.
- Unfamiliar Ceiling: Chekov wakes up to see a 20th-century hospital ceiling zooming past.
- Unishment: When Kirk is demoted back to the Captaincy of a starship... which is what he wanted all along anyway.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Chekov gives Kirk a simple explanation for how he and Uhura plan to collect high-energy photons from the aircraft carrier Enterprise. It works perfectly — until the transporter fizzles out and Chekov is captured. And critically injured trying to escape. Although it didn't help that he tempted fate by saying "No one will ever know we were there."
- Villain of Another Story: Admiral Lance Cartwright, who makes his debut here, but does not become one of the primary villains until Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which is a interesting aspect as this installment had No Antagonist unlike the other films and Cartwright doesn't show any signs of villainy at all, unless he is good at concealing it to get on Kirk's good side.
- Weapons Understudies: The nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise is here played by the non-nuclear USS Ranger. The Enterprise's reactor area was highly classified and radioactive to the point the film would have been unusable, and even if filming was feasible, she was at sea at the time. If you look closely, you can see several sailors wearing Ranger insignia.
- Weld the Lock: Kirk uses a phaser to melt the lock on a door he locked some 20th-century medstaff in. This, incidentally, is the only time a phaser is fired throughout the entire movie (successfully—Chekov's attempt fizzles due to a malfunction), showing just how Lighter and Softer IV is compared to pretty much all the other films.note
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Spock and Sarek, by human standards anyway. To a Vulcan, the two were all but weeping Manly Tears and bear hugging each other.
- We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Demonstrated when McCoy, visiting a twentieth-century hospital, is horrified that a woman is undergoing kidney dialysis. "Dialysis? What is this, the Dark Ages?" He gives her a pill, and minutes later, doctors are dumbfounded by her miraculous recovery as she grows a new kidney.
- What We Now Know to Be True: See We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future.
- Wham Line:
- "Gracie is pregnant."
- Kirk, when he realizes the only way to save Earth:Kirk: Begin computations for time warp.
- What Year Is This?:
- Subverted. All official material indicates they travel back to 1986 (the year the film was released), but Spock determines from the pollution in the atmosphere as being "the latter half of the twentieth century" and Kirk doesn't ask to get more specific than that as it doesn't matter.
- Later, Kirk is seen looking at a newspaper machine, but only to confirm that the time period still has a currency-based economy and they will need to acquire some money in order to complete the mission.
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Gillian tells Kirk that the whales will be shipped out at noon on the following day, forcing him to go into a panic. Subverted, as the whales end up getting shipped in the middle of the night to avoid a media circus.
- Wiper Start: Sulu with the helicopter, though it's while he's already in flight.
- You Can See That, Right?: The two sanitation workers who witness the landing of the cloaked Bird of Prey in Golden Gate Park."Did you see that?"
"No, and neither did you, so shut up."
My friends... we've come home.