Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) – Vonda N. McIntyre

This week’s Book Shelf brings me to the movie adaptation of Star Trek IV, as I continue to enjoy, discover new stories and revisit old ones with the Pocket Book novels.

Working from the film’s original script, McIntyre expands on the film’s story, as well as tying it more strongly into her own stories and the Original Series in general.

The story sees some things explored as a strange probe heads to Earth, leaving disabled starships in its wake. Upon reaching its destination, the probe directs its calls at the ocean, and not receiving an answer, begins to destroy the planet, causing storms and flooding.

Kirk and company are still on Vulcan, following the climax of Star Trek III which saw Spock’s katra or soul, restored to his regenerated body, removing it from Dr McCoy who was carrying it.

The crew plan to return to Earth to stand trial for their actions; stealing the Enterprise, its destruction, sabotaging the Excelsior, and disobeying direct orders. But as they leave Vulcan in their captured Klingon Bird of Prey, they discover the probe, and realise that it is trying to communicate with an extinct species… humpback whales.

What follows is a fish out of water tale as the intrepid crew travel back in time, to find a pair of humpback whales, bring them forward in time to repopulate the species, and tell the probe that all is well.


For those who know the story, there are some nice additions, like moments with the Excelsior crew, an expanded connection between McCoy and Spock, and some fun stuff with the two garbage men who witness the arrival of the Bird of Prey in 20th century San Francisco.

There is also some great stuff with Kirk trying to get in touch with Carol Marcus to talk about the death of their son, David.

The one thing  that stands out, more so than it does in the film, is the leaving behind of Saavik. In the film we see her left on Vulcan, standing next to Spock’s mother, but in the novel, she’s given an extended, unspecified assignment by Starfleet to stay on Vulcan on detached duty.

Back in the 80s, there is more stuff with the crews’ arrival including Sulu bumping into his great-great-great-grandfather, and Scotty and McCoy’s encounter with Dr. Nichols. Gillian the cetacean biologist gets a little more to do as well and an introduction to her musical tastes.

The whales themselves are a little more interactive, and once they encounter the probe, we actually get an impression of their actual conversation.

It’s a solid adaptation, hints at McIntyre’s continued affection for Sulu, who is a captain in the novels following the events of Star Trek II. She also makes sure to do some very nice tie-ins, callbacks and nods to the Original Series continuity.

It’s a fun tale, and the Human Adventure continues…


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