Picking up right after the Search for Spock,, the Voyage Home has the crew preparing to return home and face their punishment for the actions they took to save Spock. But as they near Earth, they find a strange ship has arrived at the the planet. Causing devastation across the planet from the attempts to communicate, the Enterprise Crew discovers the only way to solve the problem is to locate hump backed whales. However, the whales went extinct. This forces the crew to attempt to go back to the 1980’s.
They discover that there is a pair of whales in captivity. Kirk sets about having the group split up to prepare the spaceship to transport whales back to the future.
Star Trek the Voyage Home is interesting. On the one hand, it ties back to a popular trope of the series, with time travel. It also returns to the idea of a mysterious and destructive probe threatening the earth. But it has a rather large tonal shift. There are no space battles and the film largely plays out as a fish out of water comedy.
This causes the film to rely heavily on character moments. We see this mainly in Kirk’s attempts to convince a young scientist to help him with the whales. The Voyage Home really mines a lot of humor from the whole “out of their time” bit. Really, this is such a warm hearted romp, and is sort of outside of any of the other Trek films. I love how the film never really explains the mysterious probe. It fits in with a point that Spock makes early in the film. It is arrogance to assume that an alien presence seeking to communicate with intelligent life would automatically be trying to communicate with humans. Keeping that a mystery for the audience just as much as the characters in the movie is a stroke of perfection.
As I noted, this is a really unique film in the Star Trek film franchise. It is a lot of fun, and is a well loved entry in the franchise for good reason.