A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country centers on an assassination, which, even though it involves ray-guns, spills a lot of (Klingon) blood and shows gore. There are assorted fistfights, a man quick-freezing to death, and spaceships battling. References to heavy drinking, smoking (apparently a marijuana-like drug) and, less obviously, how Captain Kirk manages to have sex with most every attractive alien girl who crosses his path. Unimpeachable military authority (Starfleet) is cast in doubtful light.
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What's the story?
Made after the death of Gene Roddenberry (to whom it's dedicated), STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY is calculatingly engineered as a farewell adventure to the beloved Star Trek TV cast. The plot is a clear parallel to the off-screen thaw in U.S.-Soviet relations. When the dangerous, militaristic Klingon Empire suffers a potential doomsday disaster after their power-station moon explodes (think Chernobyl), the liberal Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (think Mikhail Gorbachev) accepts a historic Federation peace accord to allow an organized humanitarian cleanup. Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) volunteers the USS Enterprise and a shocked Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) for the diplomatic rendezvous, arguing, logically, that the negotiations will be more legitimate if the Klingon's greatest enemy is on board for it. But Gorkon is assassinated in a sneak attack seemingly originating from the Enterprise. Kirk does the unthinkable -- surrenders -- and faces a Klingon court, while Spock and the crew investigate and try to unravel the high-level conspiracy.
Is it any good?
The original cast, spectacular space-battle scenes, and overall good feeling make it easier to ignore the fact that the mystery plot is a klunky affair, filled with question marks. For example, shouldn't there be better security at the most important peace conference in Federation history? If Klingons had a shape-shifting alien spy, wouldn't she have been put to better use? However, the veteran cast of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country appears to be having a fine time going through their paces -- they literally all sign their autographs over the end credits. And fans of Sulu (George Takei) will enjoy how he is now a captain with his own starship.
The U.S.-U.S.S.R. parallel spoke at the time to fears that warriors in America and Russia had lived too long in ceaseless conflict to put down their weapons and face a changed world, and Kirk's ability to surmount his own anti-Klingonism is nicely rendered. Interesting to note that in Roddenberry's original TV show, Starfleet was (like the U.S. armed forces in golden-age Hollywood depictions) an upstanding military that could do no wrong. That sure changed by the time this was made.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Cold War historical parallels in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country . (Gorkon -- Gorbachev, hmmmm...) How is science fiction effective in modeling real life events?
Discuss some of the literary references in the movie (Gen. Chang's frequently quotes Shakespeare and Mr. Spock references Sherlock Holmes). Why do you think they talk about old writers when the movie takes place very far in the future?
What is the benefit of Starfleet having such a diverse membership? How does diversity help people understand other cultures?
- In theaters: December 6, 1991
- On DVD or streaming: January 26, 1999
- Cast: David Warner, DeForest Kelley, Kim Cattrall, Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, William Shatner
- Director: Nicholas Meyer
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: violence and language
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