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Gillian: [sarcastic] Don't tell me; you're from outer space.
Kirk is prepared to face the consequences of his actions in the previous movie, but a powerful alien probe is making its way to Earth (yes, another one), wreaking havoc with the environment and shutting down anything with power. Deducing that the probe is searching for humpback whales, which are extinct in the twenty-third century, Kirk and crew use a Klingon Bird-Of-Prey they stole in the last film to Time Travel to The Eighties to retrieve some and save Earth. Hilarity Ensues. Instead of the traditional Space Opera, this movie is an outright comedy. It even lacks a villain, outside of the whale probe and a whaler boat.
The wild success of this movie was proof to Paramount that Star Trek can survive as an expanded franchise, and gave Gene Roddenberry the opportunity to create a new series, Star Trek the Next Generation.
Tropes seen in The Voyage Home include:
Kirk: Oh, him? He's harmless. Part of the free speech movement at Berkeley in the sixties. I think he did a little too much LDS.
- Adam and Eve Plot: With the whales brought to the future
- Arc Words: "How do you feel?" Later, "I feel fine."
- Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: Stealing Starships, Disobeying Orders, And Saving The World.
- Ass in Ambassador: The pompous Klingon ambassador, to be specific.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Kirk, McCoy, and Gillian getting into the hospital to rescue Chekov. See Expospeak Gag below.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty:
- In a more traditional application of this trope, it's often claimed that there isn't a single weapon fired in the movie. This isn't really correct, as there are two actual weapons firings (Kirk using his phaser to weld a door shut, and the whalers trying to harpoon George and Gracie) and one attempted (Chekov trying to stun the interrogation officers). This is likely a mix-up with a real fact, namely that this is the only Star Trek film with a body count of zero.
- Big Dumb Object: The "whale probe".
- Black Boss Lady: Audiences applauded when Madge Sinclair appeared as the (unnamed) Captain of the Saratoga at the beginning of the film.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Justified Trope, as Spock has an incomplete grasp on life after being brought Back From the Dead.
Kirk: If we play our cards right, we may be able to find out when those whales are being released.
- Brake Angrily
- Came Back Wrong: It's implied that maybe we didn't quite get all of Spock back at the end of the previous movie, that there's a certain... something missing. He gets better by the end though. Death apparently isn't something you can just get over straight away.
- Catfolk: The Caitian admiral at Star Fleet headquarters.
- Catch Phrase: "Hellllllo, Computer"
- Changed My Jumper: The short notice for this particular mission results in the crew arriving in San Francisco in their 23rd Century clothes. As it's San Francisco, they don't look that out of place. Truth in Television -- they had unknown crew walk around San Francisco in the outfits for a week before shooting started, and got no comments whatsoever. See City of Weirdos.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The Klingon Bird-of-Prey, which was just the enemy ship and later a means of escaping from the exploding Genesis Planet in the previous film, ends up being a vital part of this film's storyline thanks to its ability to cloak and land.
- Kirk's glasses are an unusual case of this; from the perspective of the audience and Kirk himself, this is the last time the glasses are seen. However, 298 years down the line, they're going to be very important once again.
- Chekov's Gun: Fails him at an important moment, thanks to the effects of being next to a nuclear reactor.
- City of Weirdos: Most people are willing to accept the slightly out-of-touch Spock as a harmless stoner, even as he does weird things like jump into the whale tank...until he says things about the whales that he shouldn't be able to know. Truth in Television as anyone who lives in San Francisco could tell you.
- Cluster "The Hell" Bomb
- Crapsack Only by Comparison: How the crew of the Enterprise see The Eighties.
- Crazy Enough to Work: Even though it's the crew of the mighty Enterprise we're talking about, the whole "get some whales from back in time" thing did sound pretty ridiculous. McCoy lampshades this, to which Kirk simply responds that he should offer a better plan if he can think of one.
- Death Amnesia: Played with. Spock never says he can't remember what dying and coming back was like, but it was such an alien experience that he can't discuss it in terms anyone else will understand.
- Dedication: To the crew of the Challenger at the beginning of the film.
- Defictionalization: There are no less than three formulas for transparent aluminum in reality.
- Did Not Do the Research: In-Universe, the crew, knowing only the broad strokes of the sociopolitical environment of the late twentieth century United States, failed to realize that putting Chekov, a Russian, on the ground looking for "nuclear wessels" was a bad idea.
- Directed by Cast Member: Leonard Nimoy again.
- The Eighties
- Enforced Method Acting
- Everybody Lives: The only Trek film that can boast this.
- Expospeak Gag:
McCoy: This woman has acute post-prandial upper-abdominal distension!
- Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Sulu mentions he trained on Hueys at the Academy as a hobby to a helicopter pilot (though the pilot probably didn't know he meant Starfleet Academy). The Novelization expands on it.
- Fish Out of Temporal Water: The whole premise of the film, figuratively and almost literally, thanks to the cetaceans out of temporal water.
- Gaia's Lament: Whales are extinct in the 23rd century.
- "Get Out of Jail Free" Card: Starfleet can't really punish Kirk and crew too much just after they saved the world, can they?
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Multiple instances of profanity in a PG-rated movie, including Flipping the Bird, some even Lampshaded.
- Good Old Ways: A perfect example of the ways in which Bones subverts this trope. See We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: The probe is causing bad weather in 23rd century Leningrad.
- Green Aesop: "To hunt a species to extinction is not logical."
- I'll Take Two Beers, Too!: Kirk orders his own large pizza.
- Inferred Holocaust: We never do find out what happened to the crew of the Saratoga, or the other ships that the probe disabled en route to Earth. Who knows how many, if any, survivors there were on the ships where the life support was barely functioning, and the crew had to watch their emergency power run lower...and lower. Word of God, however, Jossed the idea that they died, and the novelization mentions in passing that the captain of the Saratoga managed to save her crew.
- Large Ham: John Schuck as the Klingon Hambassador makes Shatner look positively subdued.
"You pompous ass!"
- Lighter and Softer: This is pretty much the most lighthearted Trek film there is.
- Literal Minded: Chekov during the interrogation, much to the frustration of his interrogator. A possible case of Obfuscating Stupidity.
- Mistaken for Spies: Chekov.
- "Mister Sandman" Sequence: An interesting version, seeing as it was applied to what was then the real-life present day.
- Modern Humans are Morons: Kirk states to his crew before exploring 20th Century San Fransisco that "this is an extremely primitive and paranoid culture" and believes that no one pays attention to you in the contemporary age "unless you swear every other word." Bones is shocked to find a woman in a hospital on dialysis, asking if this is The Dark Ages.
- Mythology Gag: The Bridge Computer Sound Effects from The Original Series can clearly be heard in the background as Kirk says "Let's see what she's got".
- Name's the Same: "Sir! Ve have found the nuclear wessels! And Admiral....it is the Enterprise!
- No Antagonist
- Oh Crap: The whaler upon seeing the Bird-of-Prey decloak. Not only could the entire whaler fit in the Bird-of-Prey's torpedo launcher, but these are late 20th century humans. They have never seen an alien (or even human) starship of any kind before.
- Photographic Memory: Gillian Taylor mentions that she has one -- "I see words!" -- but it comes into play only once, during Spock's Time Travel Tense Trouble.
- Precision F-Strike: Lampshaded. "Are you sure it isn't time for a colorful metaphor?"
- Reality Subtext: At the end of the movie, when the crew are speculating what ship they're going to get:
Sulu: I'm counting on Excelsior.
- Sarcastic Confession: Kirk flat out tells Gillian exactly who he is and where he comes from over dinner. Subverted in that Kirk tells her with utter conviction and she naturally thinks he's full of shit.
- Sequel Hook: The crew is absolved of all criminal charges and are given a new ship, a virtually identical Constitution class USS Enterprise: NCC-1701-A. The adventures of this ship are continued in Star Trek V the Final Frontier and Star Trek VI the Undiscovered Country, but it also paved the introduction of the Galaxy Class USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D.
- Shout-Out: According to Word of God, the probe is modeled after Rama.
- The Whales are named after George Burns and Gracie Allen
- Sophisticated As Hell: A major source of humor from Spock.
- Space Whale: the likely pilot of the probe.
- Space Whale Aesop: Trope Namer. Don't hunt whales to extinction or an alien probe will destroy us all!
- Only an example, though, if it's taken too literally. The intended Aesop is more along the lines of "you don't know what you've got till it's gone", specifically the permanence of extinction.
- Also, don't play your music too loud on the bus or you will wind up nerve pinched.
- Spotting the Thread:
Security Guard: How's the patient, Doctor?
- Stable Time Loop: All over the damn place.
- Scotty and transparent aluminum. In the novelization, the engineer he sells the formula to is the one who introduce[d/s] it to the world.
Scotty: "How do we know he didn't invent the thing?"
- In the Novelization, Scotty recognizes the name Dr. Nichols, and immediately pegs as him being the actual inventor of transparent aluminum, and actually invokes the Trope, saying that it could be necessary to tell him about how it could be done. Regardless, it could cyclical in that Scotty recognizes Nichols as the inventor - and might have realized that he's supposed to make him the inventor.
- When Kirk sells his glasses at a pawn shop.
Spock: Admiral, weren't those a gift from Dr. McCoy?
- The Expanded Universe has also established in some form that the whole movie is one as well -- that Kirk's theft of the whales from 1986 helped cause them to become extinct, thus resulting in the probe nearly destroying the Earth, thus needing the whole movie to happen in the first place.
- No one checks to see if removing Gillian from the timeline will change anything historic. Dispite her insistance "I have nobody here", no one considers the possibility that any future actions of her's could be important.
- Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard: During the FBI's interrogation of Chekov:
Agent #1: What do you think?
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Admiral Cartwright for Admiral Morrow, who appeared in Star Trek III the Search For Spock.
- Throw It In: They actually had Nichols and Koenig asking real San Franciscans where the nuclear submaine in Alameda was. The police officers staring suspiciously at the pair was a real cop who didn't know what was going on. The woman who answers, "Ooh, I don't know. I think they're in Alameda", had to be chased down to sign a release form for providing such a hysterical line in response to their queries.
- Time Travelers Are Spies: Chekov and Uhura, big time. Though it might have gone better if one of them wasn't Russian.
- Time Travel Romance: Kirk finds a Love Interest wherever and whenever he goes, doesn't he?
- Time Travel Tense Trouble: Spock of all people screws up here.
- Totally Radical: Kirk doesn't quite have a grasp on 1986 idioms. Nor does Spock.
Kirk: And a double dumbass on you!
- Unishment: When Kirk is demoted back to the Captaincy of a starship... which is what he wanted all along anyway.
- Weld the Lock: Kirk uses a phaser to melt the lock on a door he locked some 20th-century medstaff in. This, incidentally, is the only time a phaser is fired throughout the entire movie, showing just how Lighter and Softer IV is compared to pretty much all the other films.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Spock and Sarek.
- We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Demonstrated when McCoy, visiting a twentieth century hospital, is horrified that a woman is undergoing kidney dialysis. "Dialysis? What is this, the Dark Ages?" He gives her a pill, and minutes later, doctors are dumbfounded by her miraculous recovery as she grows a new kidney.
- What We Now Know to Be True: See We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future.
- Wham! Line: (In Universe) "Gracie is pregnant".
- Wham Reveal: The first appearence of the Enterprise A
- Wiper Start: Sulu with the helicopter.
My friends....we've come home.