As a Klingon moon, Praxis, explodes without warning, the starship USS Excelsior, commanded by Captain Hikaru Sulu, is struck by the shock wave and its crew discovers that much of the moon has been obliterated. The loss of their key energy production facility and the destruction of the Klingon homeworld's ozone layer throws the Klingon Empire into turmoil. No longer able to maintain a hostile footing, the Klingons sue for peace with their longstanding enemy, the United Federation of Planets. Accepting the proposal before the Klingons revert to a more belligerent approach, Starfleet sends the USS Enterprise-A to meet with the Klingon Chancellor, Gorkon, and escort him to negotiations on Earth. Enterprise's captain, James T. Kirk, whose son David was murdered by Klingons years earlier, opposes the negotiations and resents his assignment.
After a rendezvous between Enterprise and Gorkon's battlecruiser they continue towards Earth, with the crews sharing a tense meal aboard Enterprise. Later that night, Enterprise appears to fire on the Klingon ship with a pair of photon torpedoes, disabling the artificial gravity aboard the Klingon vessel. During the confusion, two figures wearing Starfleet suits and gravity boots beam aboard the Klingon ship and grievously wound Gorkon before beaming away. Kirk surrenders to avoid a fight, and beams aboard the Klingon ship with Doctor Leonard McCoy to attempt to save Gorkon's life. The chancellor dies, and Gorkon's chief of staff, General Chang, puts Kirk and McCoy on trial for his assassination. The pair are found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on the frozen asteroid Rura Penthe. Gorkon's daughter, Azetbur, becomes the new chancellor, and continues diplomatic negotiations; for reasons of security, the conference is relocated and the new location is kept secret. While several senior Starfleet officers want to rescue Kirk and McCoy, the Federation president refuses to risk full-scale war. Azetbur likewise refuses to invade Federation space, stating that only Kirk and McCoy will pay for her father's death.
Kirk and McCoy arrive at the Rura Penthe mines and are befriended by a shapeshifter named Martia, who offers them an escape route; in reality, it is a ruse to make their arranged deaths appear accidental. Once her betrayal is revealed, Martia transforms into Kirk's double and fights him, but she is killed by the prison guards to silence any witnesses. Just before the prison warden reveals who set them up, Kirk and McCoy are beamed aboard Enterprise by Captain Spock, who had assumed command and undertaken an investigation in Kirk's absence. Determining that Enterprise did not fire the torpedoes but that the assassins are still aboard, the crew begins looking for them. The two assassins are found dead, but Kirk and Spock trick their accomplice into believing they are still alive. When the culprit arrives in Sickbay to finish off the assassins, Kirk and Spock discover that the killer is Spock's protégé, Valeris. To discover the identity of the conspirators, Spock initiates a forced mind-meld, and learns that a group of Federation, Klingon, and Romulan officers plotted to sabotage the peace talks, fearing the changes their success might bring (the titular "undiscovered country"), and Chang is one of the conspirators. The torpedoes that struck Gorkon's cruiser came from a prototype Bird of Prey that can fire while cloaked, and hovered just below Enterprise at the time of the assassination.
The crew contacts Sulu, who informs them the conference is being held at Camp Khitomer. Both ships head for the talks at maximum warp. As Enterprise nears the planet, Chang's cloaked Bird of Prey moves to intercept. With Enterprise unable to track his ship's position, Chang inflicts severe damage on Enterprise and then Excelsior. At the suggestion of Uhura, the Enterprise's communication officer, Spock and McCoy modify a photon torpedo to home in on the exhaust emissions of Chang's vessel, using equipment originally intended to study gaseous anomalies. The torpedo impact reveals Chang's location, and Enterprise and Excelsior destroy the Bird of Prey with a volley of torpedoes. Crew from both ships beam to the conference and halt an attempt on the Federation president's life. Kirk pleads for those present to continue the peace process. Having saved the peace talks, Enterprise is ordered back to Earth by Starfleet Command to be decommissioned, but the crew decide to take their time on the return voyage. As Enterprise cruises towards a nearby star, Kirk proclaims that though this mission is the final cruise of Enterprise under his command, others will continue their voyages.
Errors and Explanations
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic Trekkers
- After the explosion on Praxis, the shock-wave radiates in a flat plane, even though in space we should expect a spherical propagation (in all directions). Although the filmmakers were obviously more concerned with visual impact than physical correctness, a flat shock-wave is not impossible, if the exploding device had proper dynamical characteristics (and for all we know it might have). Even in nature highly non-spheric explosions do occur. One example is an eruption from a black hole, which propagates in just one dimension (in the form of two polar jets) rather than three. [N 1]
- Spock claiming that the peace initiative will end seventy years of unremitting hostility with the Klingons, despite the imposition of the Organian Peace Treaty twenty six years earlier. The treaty did not completely eradicate the hostility, and may have actually made some individuals on both sides feel more hostile, due to the circumstances in which it was implemented.
- Kirk and his command crew being informed of the situation, and the escort assignment, in a large briefing instead of a discreet meeting. The conspirators probably wanted it that way, in order to control the flow of information.
- tim gueguen on Monday, October 13, 2003 - 10:44 pm: The scene where Spock probes Valeris' mind makes me wonder what kind of legal limits there would be on Vulcan mind melding against one's will. After all things like wire taps are legally limited, and information taken from them will not be legally acceptable if the taps weren't put in place legally. So its not hard to imagine some of the Federation conspirators having charges dropped against them because the evidence comes from the mind meld with Valeris, and this evidence gets thrown out of court because Spock didn't have the legal permission to perform the mind meld. Brian Fitzgerald on Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - 9:09 am: It's just torture, so it could render evidence inadmissible in court, but it was necessary to do it to find out what was going on, so they could stop it. To put it in perspective for the modern day - if some military officers had a suspect who could tell them info on a presidential assassination attempt, they'd probably do it, so they could save the president's life, no matter what that would do in court later on.
- Derf on Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 5:45 pm: Azetbur: Mr. President, let us come to the point. You want this conference to go forward and so did my father. I will attend in one week on one condition. (1) We will not extradite the prisoners, and (2) you will make no attempt to rescue them in a military operation. We would consider any such attempt an act of war. ONE condition!!?? ... hhumph! Brian Fitzgerald on Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 10:49 pm: Meaning one condition, we get to keep Kirk here.
- Jesse on Thursday, November 11, 2004 - 4:30 pm: It occurred to me suddenly that McCoy & Kirk's handcuffs (given to them on Kronos One) seem rather pointless. Yes, they keep their arms together. But their hands are free to, say, grasp a weapon, esp. being cuffed with their hands in front. In fact, I'd think that you could kill someone with a blow to the head from those heavy cuffs. What's the point of them? (I understand that Klingon cuffs might need to be much beefier than the steel bracelets in use today, but....) R on Thursday, November 11, 2004 - 6:38 pm: I thought I read in one of the books that Klingon cuffs have built into them a form of agonizer or other pain inducer. This would make sense in Klingon culture.
Internet Movie Database
- When the shock wave from the Praxis explosion is first detected by the Excelsior's Science Officer, he informs Captain Sulu that the wave is approaching on the port side. At this point we see an exterior view of the Excelsior as the shock wave hits the ship from the starboard side. Not quite - After the officer (Valtane) reports the shock wave, and activates the setting for it to be shown on the viewscreen, the shot cuts to a close up view of the approaching wave, before cutting back to Sulu calling for shields, by which point there has been sufficient time for Excelsior to turn enough for the shockwave to hit the starboard side.
- The name of the character "Uhura" is misspelled "Uhuru" in the end credits. Uhuru is the Swahili word for freedom, and Uhura is the "girly" variant created by Gene Roddenberry for the original Star Trek.
- At roughly four minutes in, Sulu's tea cup is about to fall off the stand in the close up. However, in the shot of Sulu and the crew struggling with the turbulence, the cup is close to the center. It may have shifted back slightly.
- When McCoy is giving CPR to Chancellor Gorkon, General Chang changes position between shots. He probably wanted to get a better view of what McCoy is doing.
- When Kirk and McCoy are arrested, one of the Klingon guards put Kirk's hands into the handcuffs twice. Kirk probably tried to move them out of the way.
- Spock's hands after the mind meld with Valeris. He constantly adjusted their position during the meld.
- When Lieutenant Valeris admits her guilt, stands in front of, and slightly to the left of, the main viewscreen where Kirk is talking to Sulu. Lieutenant Valeris appears in one shot, disappears in the next shot which is slightly closer to the screen, and then reappears on the third shot of the viewscreen at the original distance from it. She is standing in a position where she would not be visible in the second shot.
- During the battle over Khitomer, Scotty is dressed in his engineering uniform, but moments later when the crew beams down to save the President he has changed into his standard uniform. He must have grabbed it and put it on while en route to the transporter room.
- In the briefing room of Kronos 1, after McCoy performed CPR on the Chancellor, the Chancellor is briefly revived. After he talks to Captain Kirk, and then dies, about 24 seconds lapse while everyone contemplates what has happened. Then the General clapped his hands to take Kirk and McCoy into custody. During the next couple of seconds, you see McCoy wearily collapsing down in a chair to the left of the Chancellor and the table his body was on. Yet in the next scene, a second later, McCoy is standing up and being placed into hand restraints. The guard probably dragged McCoy out of the chair.
Incorrectly regarded as goofs
- In the opening scene, Sulu's tea cup faces its printed side toward the camera which looks at Sulu, then Sulu drinks from it, we do not see him place it down. We see the cup next from Sulu's perspective, which is clear because not only is the printed text missing, but the handle is now on the other side. Other than the text and the handle, there is no other reference in either frame to determine which way the cup is facing, so there is no goof.
- Whenever Martia changes shape, her voice always remains the same. Yet when she becomes Kirk, her voice changes to match Kirk's. She can presumably control her voice at will.
- When Valeris is being questioned after her discovery, she quotes Kirk's "Let them die" line, despite the fact that only Kirk and Spock were present in the briefing room when the line was originally spoken. She could've learned that from her co-conspirators, who might have been eavesdropping on Kirk and Spock (after all they just left that room a minute earlier). Also, Spock could've told Valeris about Kirk's opinions for any number of reasons.
- The recording of Kirk's log entry, heard during the trial, does not exactly match what Kirk says during the actual scene. He originally says, "I've never trusted Klingons and I never will, I could never forgive them for the death of my boy." In the trial it is played as, "I've never trusted Klingons and I never will, I've never been able to forgive them for the death of my son." It's possible this was deliberately altered for some reason.
- When Lt. Valeris slides down the pole to join Spock and Scotty on the lower deck, she strikes the bulkhead behind her as she reaches the bottom of the pole and it flexes, considerably. It's probably designed to do this.
- Outside the trap door on Rura Penthe, the snow ripples under the characters' feet, making it obvious it is actually solid pieces of fake snow. More likely patches of snow that has frozen solid.
- The large Wookiee-like prisoner with the feminine voice has long claws that look quite threatening, but a closer look shows that they are made of a soft rubbery material. This could be a naturally occurring protective covering.
- At Kirk's trial, the Klingon officer who lost an arm in Gorkon's assassination testifies "After the first shot we lost our gravitational field." However, only after the second torpedo hit on Kronos One are the Klingons shown to lose gravity. He may not have recognised the first shot for what it was.
- Uhura points out that Enterprise has "all that equipment" for cataloging gaseous anomalies, some of which Spock and McCoy use to modify a torpedo to find Chang's cloaked ship. However, it was Excelsior that had been cataloging gaseous planetary anomalies in the Beta Quadrant, not Enterprise. The cataloging of gaseous planetary anomalies was probably being carried out by more than one ship.
- Kirk and McCoy are on trial for the death of Chancellor Gorkon. Yet, in The Voyage Home, the Klingons were demanding the extradition of Kirk for the death of Commander Kruge and his crew in The Search for Spock, as well as the theft of a Klingon vessel. These charges are not mentioned at the trial. (The film makers wanted to include this plot element, but couldn't for practical reasons - namely the non-availability of the actor who portrayed Maltz, the lone survivor of Kruge's crew.) The Empire were most likely persuaded to drop these charges, possibly as part of the peace talks, due to the illegal nature of Kruge's mission.
- ↑ Listed under Incorrectly regarded as goofs in the Internet Movie Database entry.
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