The Rewatch 183: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country
Rating: PG
Released: December 6, 1991

My Grade: B/3.9
Redshirt count: 2.

Notable Guest Stars:

Kim Catrall (Valaris)- Kim Catrall is probably best known as Samantha from Sex in the City.
David Warner
Christopher Plummer (Clang) –
Christopher Plummer has quite a few credits to his name, both on stage and in front of a camera.  Film wise, he was Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music.
Grace Lee Whitney (Janice Rand) –
I’m happy to see Whitney returning as Rand, especially as Rand has been given a life outside being eternally crushing on Kirk.
Mark Lenard (Sarak) – W
hile he doesn’t have much to say in this film, he does round out the cast and is our view of things in the President’s office.
Brock Peters (Admiral Cartwright) –
Peters will return in a much more pleasant role as Sisko’s father on DS9.  Honestly a better role for him I think.
Rosana Desoto(Azetbur) –
Desoto might more recently be known from her time doing As the World Turns.
Kurtwood Smith (President) –
Kurtwood Smith is a repeat guest star in StarTrek.  He will appear more times on Voyager and DS9.  However he might be more well-known his time on That 70s Show as Red Foreman.
Michael Dorn (Colonel Worf) –
Michael Dorn appears here as his usual character’s (Worf) grandfather, who serves as Kirk’s defense attorney.
Christian Slater (Crewmen) –
Christian Slater is well known today for many roles, but in the case of this film, he was a Trekie who happened to have a mother who was on the casting team.  It worked out for everyone in the end I think.
Rene Auberjonis (Colonel West) – R
ene Aurberjonis is more well known as Odo, the security officer on DS9.  He also might be known to us 90s kids as the Little Mermaid’s chef who is determined to make Sebastian a meal.

Review:

This film is an interesting mix of really bad and really good.  The general story is not a bad one, but it fails in some of the details.  The cast is amazing, but the script sometimes fails them.  It seems that there were onscreen and off screen problems that led this to be a difficult production.

The overall idea of the Klingons and Federation trying to find a middle ground to help one another was a great idea.  Gorkon is an interesting Klingon Chancellor, and the movie shows more of the Klingon system of government.  The theme was inspired by the last years of the Soviet Union and its relationship with other countries (US in particular).  It was noted one one of the sites I use for my background information that Praxis is a reference to Chernobyl.  All of this works.  The problem however was in the details.

There were a lot of rhetoric in the film that was racist.  Nichelle Nicolls had to refuse to speak some of her lines due to how uncomfortable they made her feel and the racist history behind them.  Brock Peters had to film his scene in bits because it was hard for him to tolerate what he had to say. I don’t consider myself having a high radar for potentially offensive content, but even I raised an eyebrow at the amount of it in this film.  As if the history of these phrases/actions would not be seen because it was focused on an alien race rather then a human subset.

There was also an awkward point which confused me.  Uhura, a communications officer for almost 30 years at least, is forced to use a dictionary for a language I’m sure they come across quite frequently.  She had even helped pilot a ship in a previous film that was all in Klingon.  So I have to wonder why it shows her looking into a Klingon introductory grammar book to respond.  It also bothers me that it seems like the men assisting her are quicker at figuring it out then she is despite being in fields where linguistics would come up less often.  Nichelle Nichols again protested, but this time she got overruled by Nicholas Meyer.

The production of this film seems greatly effected by the inner political turmoil of Paramount Studios.  Several key positions within the communications company where being filled and vacated in secession.  The budget kept changing,  People kept trying to put their input.

It seems to me, after watching the film and reading the behind the scenes info that I could find that the major problem with this film was Nicholas Meyer.  He helped write the script, and choose the editing of the film.  So he made a point of keeping in racist colored phrases, a scene that to me seems a bit misogynistic,  and at one point cut out a scene filmed where William Shatner as Captain Kirk seems apologetic and not truly meaning the words he had just spouted out in anger.  It makes no sense why they needed to cut that minute scene which would have made all the difference in keeping Kirk in character.

One element that had to be cut due to the budget was a prologue that had the crew being gathered up for one last mission.  Apparently it was well loved by the writing duo, but I for one am glad it was cut because it seems out of character for many of them. McCoy was on point, showing up drunk to events he didn’t believe in due to their hypocracy.  I can see that.  Not sure however I can see Chekov, who always seemed very dedicated to his career as a Starfleet officer suddenly deciding to quit to become a Chess Champion. Perhaps if there had been more scenes through out the show of Chekov playing chess.

I am going to give this film a B.  The overall film is good.  The cast is great, and it does give us a look further into how a starship is organized.  The set designers did an excellent job reusing TNG sets for the film, and I think the cast did an excellent job with what they were given.  The screenplay is not 100%horrible, I just wish they had avoided the racial connotations and making these seasoned officers look like they don’t know their own jobs.

Interesting Notes:

  • Written By: Nicholas Meyer, Denny Martin Flinn, Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner*, and Mark Rosenthal*
  • Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
  •  Michael Dorn plays Colonel Worf, the grandfather of Lieutenant Worf who is the character he usually portrays.
  • Nichelle Nichols objected to the fact that her character Uhura wouldn’t have a standard use of Klingon as a communications officer.  She was overruled but her comments were not in vain.  When making the film in 2009, it was added that Uhura studied Xenolinguistics and could have a basic knowledge of a language in case of the UT breaking down.
  • Gene Roddenberry got to screen the film days before his death.  He wished there had been more exploration of Klingon culture and less violence.
  • The effects used in this film would inspire later science fiction franchises including Star Wars and Stargate in their special effects.
  • *the contribution of Konner/Rosenthal seems to be limited to them suggesting things that were rejected.
  • William Shatner managed to earn $240 from Nicholas Meyer due to a challenge about eating the food on the dinner set.  No one else was willing, which from the signs of it was probably the better choice.

Pros:

  •  Adds a little depth to Klingon society
  • Adds some history to develop the time between TOS and TNG
  • It looks like Klingon justice system has done better (Although we haven’t gotten to ENT yet, so never mind)
  • Shakespeare.
  • Janice Rand gets a career!

Cons:

  • “Guess who’s coming to Dinner”
  • “Alien Trash”
  • Admiral Cartwright in general
  • Colonel West in general
  • Uhura not knowing any Klingon that could allow her to do a basic conversation.
  • I find it hard to figure out how little medical know how they have of Klingons.  Surely after so many hostilities and the skirmishes doctors have had to repair Klingons as well as humans.
  • The whole last scene between Azetbur and Kirk

Screencap is from Cygnus-1 Screencap Library.

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