*** (3 stars out of 5)
Way back in 2293, Captain Kirk's crew is retired or semi-retired. Or, in Hikaru Sulu's case, Captain of starship Excelsior on what sounds like the hands-down dullest mission of all time: 3 years cataloguing gaseous anomalies.
Disaster strikes the Klingon Empire when the overworked energy production facilities on the moon of Praxis cause the darn thing to crack in half.
The Klingon home world is so polluted by this accident that they will run out of oxygen in 50 years. It's fortunate that the Conservatives don't run Kronos: they'd be using their last breath to remind everyone that if Klingon God had wanted them to have air He wouldn't have let them blow up Praxis.
The Klingons sue for peace, sending moderate Chancellor Gorkon (the incomparable David Warner) to end 70 years of hostility.
Special Envoy Spock and Captain Kirk are given the assignment despite Kirk's deep-seated prejudice against Klingons. "Jim... they're dying."
"Let them die." Kirk blames all Klingons for David's death, it seems. That's the gentle voice of reason, mellowing with age.
Enterprise-A has a new helm officer, Lt. Valeris, the first Vulcan to graduate at the top of her class at the Academy. REALLY?!? SPOCK wasn't at the top of his class? SAAVIK wasn't? NO ONE from the Intrepid? I'd joke that they all must have had low grades in P.E., but they're not just geeks, they're super-strong geeks. What gives? Also, that Valeris is such a Samantha.
Because of the sensitive nature of the talks, everyone gets shit-faced on Romulan ale, and for some reason it goes badly.
Gorkon has a bone to pick with you... actually it's his cane. Gorkon's daughter Azetbur makes the (rather plausible) accusation that the Federation is nothing but a Homo Sapiens Only club.
Brigadier Kerla thinks his culture is about to be annihilated. General Chang seems to believe Shakespeare was a Klingon and he can't or won't stop quoting him.
Gorkon understands Kirk's lack of trust. "If there is to be a brave new world our generation is going to have the hardest time living in it."
Gorkon's ship, Kronos One, is fired upon and the Chancellor himself is assassinated in zero gravity by helmeted Starfleet personnel. The severed limbs and gouts of purple blood are most striking... but mysterious. Since when is Klingon blood purple? Side-effect of too much Romulan ale, I'll wager.
McCoy does his best to salvage Gorkon's life. Chang has Kirk and McCoy arrested for the assassination.
The diplomats have their say: K'Shuck sputters in anger, Romulan Ambassador Nanclus offers a receding hairline (but not the beetled brow of his descendants), and Federation President Kurtwood Smith looks a lot more Klingon than one would imagine, except for the John Lennon specs.
Starfleet Colonel West presents a plan to rescue Kirk and McCoy, and if it should accidentally provoke a war, he brags, 'Then, quite frankly, Mr. President, we can clean their chronometers."
The backward sexism of the 24th Century seems absent in the Klingon Council of the 23rd: Azetbur is made Chancellor.
Colonel Worf, (presumably the father of Mogh) and looking a lot like his namesake grandson, defends Kirk and McCoy at the trial on the Klingon home world, Kronos. Chang presents Kirk's personal logs as evidence that he sought revenge against Klingons for the death of his son.
The "merciful" court sentences our heroes to 'The Alien's Graveyard' the dilithium mines on the frozen penal asteroid Rura Penthe. W. Morgan Sheppard as the Gulag Warden demonstrates that mere exile to the surface is death.
Kirk wins a fight with DC's Blue Devil by kicking him in the knee-nads. (They're like knee pads only they're genitalia.) Femme Fatale Martia stands up to Kirk's bully and offers him a smoke.
Ensign Christian Slater works for Captain Sulu, but they say his mommy got him the post.
CSI: Starfleet does a drawer by drawer, deck by deck search for Klingon blood on uniforms and gravity boots. The incriminating footwear is in the locker of Crewman Dax, a guy with trees for feet.
Since the mine doesn't take girl prisoners (what do the girls do, knit Kahless Day Sweaters?), Martia becomes a Wookie, then 'Aliens' Newt. She calls herself a chameloid. Kirk acts like he's never seen a shape-shifter before (instead of at least three on-screen).
Since the Universal Translator would be detected somehow (but not the SHAPE of the most famous ship in the galaxy), Uhura gets them across the border with spoken Klingon. The bit with all the frantic dictionary shuffling is cute, but dumb. Uhura's ENTIRE linguistic career, nearly three decades in communications and she can't say a few simple sentences in Klingon? It's embarrassingly incompetent, like Scotty banging his head on a beam of the ship he knows like the back of his hand. Yuk, yuk, yukkity yuk.
The assassins, Yeomen Burke and Samno, are themselves killed- by... SPOILERS. The new girl. It's Jess! Uh, I mean Valeris.
Enraged by his traitorous protege, Spock slaps the phaser out of her hand and most distressingly, he FORCES a mind meld to dig out the identity of her fellow conspirators. It's Admiral Cartwright, Ambassador Nanclus, and General Chang. Granted, they're murderous, racist jerk-balls. But at least they're multi-racial murderous, racist jerk-balls!
Sulu provides the secret location of the peace conference, Camp Khitomer near the Romulan border. He also battles Chang's cloaked ship: a prototype that can fire torpedoes while invisible. The torpedo battle effects are pretty darn cool. For nearly no reason, Spock and McCoy run down to torpedo room and modify the thing themselves. Is this a crew composed only of cooks?
Our heroes storm the conference, and save the delegates. Scotty guns down the sniper: Colonel West in a Klingon mask.
"Once again we've saved civilization as we know it." gloats Kirk.
"And the good news is, they're not going to prosecute." snarks McCoy.
And people think Jar-Jar Binks is an embarrassing misstep.