Star Trek finally finds a personality, which would be a step forward except that the filmmakers – including Leonard Nimoy, returning as both Spock and director – decided that this personality would be a humorous one.
The fourth installment in the Gene Roddenberry franchise finds Kirk (William Shatner) and crew back in time – to 1986 San Francisco to be exact – where they must bring a pair of humpback whales back to the future to save Earth (don’t ask, or you’ll really laugh).
And so we get a lot of forced, fish-out-of-water “humor,” complete with clown music and even a brief mime gag. “Don’t bury yourself in the part,” DeForest Kelley’s “Bones” tells James Doohan’s “Scotty” at one point, but they all do, shamefully mugging as if they were doing Star Trek: The Comedy at some regional dinner theater.
This includes Shatner, whose Kirk has finally reached his full lounge lizard potential (it’s as if the comedy has freed him from his remaining inhibitions). He winks his way through the end of the world, even pausing at one moment for a dinner date with a feisty marine biologist (Catherine Hicks) in order to woo her out of the two captive whales at her oceanarium.
When he’s finally back in his captain’s chair at the end, the hamminess has set in for good. “(We’re) out of control and blind as a bat,” he declares with Shakespearean grandeur.
Perhaps the good bad era of Star Trek has begun?