Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country ★★★★½

Last July, a pal and I committed ourselves to touring through the Kirk/Spock era of Star Trek in its entirety, starting with the original series, through the animated series, and onto the movies. We meant to get to The Undiscovered Country months ago, but for one reason or another, it didn't happen until around midnight last night. It may not have been grouped with the other five last year, but I adore that it's my first movie viewing of 2014.

I last watched this in 2011, and I don't even care to guess which number viewing this one makes. My viewing pal hadn't seen it in quite some time and didn't remember it very well, so this time around, I found myself reflecting on it more in the context of her observations and criticisms.

One of her points of contention is that the anti-Klingon racism is so heavy handed throughout the film. It isn't subtle, I'll grant you, but I also think it's important that it not be. One of the chief gripes about Gene Roddenberry's vision for the future is that things involving humanity are simply too peachy keen. I appreciated seeing the divided factions, one side willing to work in good faith to secure a peaceful future; the other, so steeped in fear and suspicion that they somewhat ironically ally themselves with like-minded Klingon conspirators to quash peace talks. I've always identified strongly with storytelling that highlights how people can be on the same side as people from an opposing affiliation, and how being part of the same affiliation may not mean people are united.

It's also daring, really, that after 25 years of being our heroic leader, that it would be Captain Kirk to personify the poison of prejudice. William Shatner gives a terrific performance throughout, from lashing out at Spock for volunteering the Enterprise's involvement, his obviously forced civility as dinner host, through to his epiphany and breakthrough at the end. There are a lot of stars who would refuse a role where the hero is so flawed, and I don't know that I ever really gave Shatner credit for what he did here.

Upon reflection, I think this might be what sets The Undiscovered Country apart from the other movies in the series for me. There's a certain willingness to get its hands dirty that we've rarely seen within the franchise (at least, outside of Deep Space Nine). Until this movie, there was lots of nice talk about peacefulness and tolerance, etc., but we hadn't seen that really put to a test. This was really the first time that Star Trek showed us how it would walk the walk that went with all its talk.

Posters of Prominence: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country on Flickchart
Star Trek VI & First Contact Soundtracks on my personal blog

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#26/1610)

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country > 50 First Dates --> #26
50 First Dates has its moments, but this is an easy win for Star Trek VI.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country > Barbershop --> #26
I never gave it much thought, but thematically these two are kindred spirits, with anxieties over Klingons/Lester Wallace moving into Federation space/South Side of Chicago. Both are terrific, but I favor Star Trek VI.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country > Star Wars --> #26
I care more about Trek than Wars in general, and I can easily pick The Undiscovered Country here. Despite loving Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, I always found Star Wars kind of boring, honestly.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country > Toy Story 2 --> #26
Two very satisfying movies here, but The Undiscovered Country means more to me. It gets the nod.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country > The Dark Knight --> #26
I'm going with The Undiscovered Country because it's my favorite Trek movie, whereas The Dark Knight isn't my favorite Batman movie. It's flimsy, but it's the best I've got.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country > American Graffiti --> #25
UGH. So, here's the thing: I love both of these, and I concede that on artistic and technical grounds, American Graffiti is the superior film. However, The Undiscovered Country means more to me, and on that basis, it gets the nod.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country > Tombstone --> #13
Two of my all-time favorites here. I can probably talk along with both of these, I've watched them so many times over the years. As entertaining as Tombstone is, Star Trek VI exerted the greater influence on me.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country < Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid --> #13
After several minutes of contemplation, I've chosen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on the basis I have more nitpicks about Star Trek VI. Also: I hate Flickchart.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country < Glory --> #13
I feel like an animal rights activist having to watch two endangered critters maul one another. Glory has more emotional heft, and that tips the scale.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country > Jurassic Park --> #10
This is a tough one for me, so I channeled my inner adolescent. He informs me that Star Trek VI made a stronger impact on his development. On that basis, it gets the nod.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #10/1610