Nichelle Nichols objected to the scene in which the crew desperately searches through old printed Klingonese translation dictionaries in order to speak the language without the standard universal translator being used. It seemed more logical to her that Uhura, being the ship's chief communications officer, would know the language of the Federation's main enemy, or at least have the appropriate information in the computer. However, director Nicholas Meyer bluntly overruled her. In the prequel Star Trek (2009), Uhura specializes in xenolinguistics, intercepts and translates a Klingon communication, and speaks Klingonese in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).
After filming was through one day nearing the end of production, Kim Cattrall posed nude for some steamy photos on the bridge set, but Leonard Nimoy happened on scene and seized the film, destroying it and having studio security toss the photographer out.
For the dinner scene, none of the cast wanted to actually eat the food served to them (which partially consisted of blue-colored squid). Nicholas Meyer then made an offer that anyone who took a bite of the food, he would pay them $20 for every shot of them eating. William Shatner, was the only one who actually took bites, and he did it for 17 shots, meaning Meyer had to pay Shatner $340 to do so. Shatner later goes on to say he did it to get revenge on Meyer who broke a promise to him concerning the "Let them die" scene.
Producers Harve Bennett and Ralph Winter's original idea for this film was a prequel titled "Star Trek: The Academy Years" in which the young Enterprise crew meet at Starfleet Academy. A script was written by David Loughery. Gene Roddenberry and the original cast were vehemently against this idea. So were the fans who sent letters to Paramount demanding the return of the original cast. Paramount decided to cancel the prequel. A disappointed Bennett decided to leave the "Star Trek" franchise. The prequel idea was later used for Star Trek (2009).
The Klingon translating Chang's words into English is Klaa (Todd Bryant), the renegade captain from the previous film, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). Though it isn't said in the film, several sources state the character was demoted to translator duty as punishment for his unsanctioned attack on Kirk.
Kirk makes open references to Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) in his final Captain's Log, by amending "where no man has gone before" in mid-statement to say "where no-ONE has gone before", which is the opening prologue to The Next Generation series. Kirk's comment about "the next generation" was not of the television series but of the next Enterprise, the Enterprise-B. The next film, of course, was Star Trek: Generations (1994), which predominantly featured the Next Generation cast, and also featured the Enterprise-B. The actors' signatures at the end were supposed to be the characters signatures as they signed the final log.
A subplot to this movie was to show that even in the 23rd century humans hadn't totally shed their bigotry and prejudices. James Doohan had a line about "that Klingon bitch", but Nichelle Nichols refused to say it, in reference to the Klingons' "Yeah, but would you let your daughter marry one of them?" The line was dropped.
In a featurette on the Special Features from the 2-disc DVD, William Shatner, talks about how he was upset with Nicholas Meyer for breaking a promise regarding one of his lines. The line in question was when Kirk says "Let them die" during the scene when he and Spock are talking after the classified briefing. Shatner wanted to say the line, then gesture as if he didn't mean to say it, and he made Meyer promise to show it on camera. However in the final cut, after Kirk says "Let them die", it cuts to Spock looking surprised, and only goes back to Kirk, cutting over when Kirk gestures with regret.
Nicholas Meyer met with Gene Roddenberry following a rough cut screening to fulfill Roddenberry's role as creative consultant. Roddenberry, who was in failing health at the time, was bound to a wheelchair and had to be hooked up to an oxygen tank. Despite his frailty, Roddenberry demanded certain cuts to the film and, according to Meyer, engaged him in a heated argument. Roddenberry died several days after the meeting, and Meyer has expressed deep regret over his behavior in the meeting, not realizing just how sick Roddenberry really was at the time.
An allegory about the fall of Soviet Communism. When General Chang demands that Kirk answer a question without waiting for the translation, it is an allusion to the real-life exchange at the United Nations between U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Also, the explosion on Praxis due to "insufficient safety measures" is akin to the meltdown at Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which is believed to have contributed to the decline of the Soviet Union.
The official Star Trek Chronology suggests this film takes place in the year 2293, or 27 years after the events of the first episodes of the original Star Trek (1966) series, which the chronology suggests occur in 2266. This is taken from a line by McCoy stating he has served on the Enterprise for 27 years. According to the Chronology, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) therefore takes place about six years after the events of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), and some 22 years after the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).
David Warner is the only actor to appear in two consecutive Star Trek films back-to-back as two completely-different characters. He first appeared in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) as St. John Talbot (the Terran hostage on Nimbus III) and appears in this movie as Klingon Chancellor Gorkon.
Gene Roddenberry expressed his displeasure with this film's storyline after viewing a rough cut, complaining that the Klingons were simply used as generic villains and their society and cultural viewpoints never really explored. After the release of the film and Roddenberry's death, Executive Producer Leonard Nimoy admitted that Roddenberry had been right. Subsequent episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) explored Klingon society and culture extensively.
The Klingon Language Institute, an organization dedicated to the Klingon language as formulated by Marc Okrand, took it upon themselves to translate William Shakespeare into Klingon based on David Warner's line about hearing Shakespeare in the original Klingon.
The character of Dax in this film (a young crew member questioned during the search for incriminating evidence) cannot be the often-reincarnating character of Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993). DS9's Dax would, at the time of this film, be in the persona of Curzon Dax, a Federation ambassador, which is clearly not the case for the character of this film. The name was a coincidence.
This is the first Star Trek movie to validate that Kirk's middle name is Tiberius. The "T" in James T. Kirk was officially given as "Tiberius" by writer David Gerrold, uttered by Kirk himself in Star Trek: The Animated Series: Bem (1974). (David Gerrold is the screenwriter of Star Trek: The Trouble with Tribbles (1967), Star Trek (1966)'s most famous and consistently most-liked episode.) Sulu's first name is given as Hikaru for the first time on screen (it appears in Star Trek books going back to at least 1981). Uhura first name is not mentioned - Gene Roddenberry had originally offered Penda (which appears in early ST guide books) but later decided on Nyota (also spelled Niota), which was finally spoken on screen in the Star Trek (2009) movie reboot.
Christopher Plummer's character, General Chang, was originally to have had hair, but as his makeup was being applied for the first time, Plummer liked the bald look and had the makeup technician omit the hair.
Rene Auberjonois has said he knew his scenes were edited out of the theatrical release, but was unaware that they had been added to the home video and broadcast releases. He first learned of it appearing at his first Star Trek convention to promote his role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993), and fans were asking him questions about his role in the movie. He added that he had completely forgotten the name of his character Colonel West.
Kim Cattrall initially turned down the part of Valeris, thinking she was to play Saavik. Upon finding out she was to play a new character, she agreed. Cattrall also designed her own hairstyle for the part of Valeris, and also came up with the idea to completely shave off her sideburns in order to more prominently show her Vulcan ears.
When the Klingons return to their ship after the dinner on the Enterprise, Chang speaks a Klingon phrase into his communicator (without English subtitles). Chang says "daHmacheH" which, in English, means "Ready to return now."
The opening was originally intended to be much longer, with Kirk and Spock assembling the crew from their post-Enterprise careers. Scotty was in charge of the engineering team disassembling the captured Bird-of-Prey. Uhura was a radio hostess. Chekov was playing chess with aliens. However, budget limitations forced these scenes to be scrapped and replaced with the introduction at Starfleet Headquarters.
Exterior scenes for Rura Penthe were filmed outside and on location at Bronson Park in Los Angeles. The scenes were filmed in warm weather, with William Shatner and DeForest Kelley trying to cover up the fact that they were sweating, and not freezing to death as was to be portrayed on screen.
The Romulan ale visible in the dinner scene is much lighter blue than in any other Trek-universe movie or TV episode. The ale's color has ranged from pale to dark blue in various productions, and can indicate the ale's "vintage."
The name of Gorkon's flagship (and the name of the Klingon home planet) is spelled Qo'noS and pronounced "kronos" in English. Kronos was a tyrannical, cannibalistic Greek god who swallowed his prey whole.
The network premiere of the movie brings "Star Trek" full circle. The original Star Trek (1966) series aired on the NBC network from 1966-69, as did the Animated Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973) from 1973-74. The first four movies premiered on ABC-TV, and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) on CBS-TV, following with the last film starring the original cast premiering back on original network NBC.
The technique of showing the translators so it appears that Chang is speaking English during the trial is similar to technique used for the German-speaking members of the court in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). William Shatner starred in both films.
The only Star Trek film featuring the original series cast that does not include Hikaru Sulu at the helm of the USS Enterprise. Having been promoted to Captain, he is instead in command of the USS Excelsior.
This is the only Star Trek film to be shot in the Super 35 format (all of the others were shot in Panavision anamorphic). Director Nicholas Meyer and cinematographer Hiro Narita chose this format mostly because they thought it would make the film look different from the previous five.
Director Nicholas Meyer and Executive Producer Leonard Nimoy dispute who came up with the concept of using the film as an allegory for the fall of Soviet Communism, with both men claiming credit for the idea. Nimoy and Meyer also had a bitter dispute during post-production, with Nimoy preferring his own edit of the film to that of Meyer who refused to incorporate Nimoy's changes into the final cut of the film.
Spock's "Only Nixon could go to China" line refers to the 37th US President Richard Nixon having been seen as the best American politician to be sent to China to discuss detente. His strong anti-Communist stance avoided giving the impression that the U.S. had "gone soft" and sent a sympathetic negotiator.
The Enterprise bridge set was designed so Uhura and Spock wouldn't be forced to face the wall in their normal working positions. "Desk extensions" were added to make it easier to film them, and to allow their characters to see the main view screen while working.
Colonel West's (Rene Auberjonois) plan to send in a commando team to rescue Kirk and McCoy is reminiscent Operation Eagle Claw, the failed mission from 1980 to free the hostages at the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran. The Delta Force team that was sent deep into Iran itself encountered many problems including equipment malfunctions, bad weather and conflicting intelligence reports.
In several drafts of the script, there was an early scene where Kirk learns that Carol Marcus (from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)) has died. Although the scene was eventually cut (it is included in the film novelization), the result of this fresh grief remained in the final film: Kirk's renewed blame of the Klingons for David's death in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984).
According to Nicholas Meyer, Brock Peters found Admiral Cartwright's words during the briefing scene to be so offensive he needed several takes to get them all out. In a similar vein, Nichelle Nichols refused to speak the line "Guess who's coming to dinner?" - an intentional reference to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) - which is heard prior to the Klingons' visit to the Enterprise. The line was instead given to Walter Koenig (Chekov).
Marc Okrand, who developed the Klingon language, had originally decided not to have a Klingon translation for "to be." He had to change that for this film, when he was forced to translate "To be or not to be."
Originally conceived as a prequel to the original Star Trek (1966) television series. The story was to follow young Kirk and Spock when they met in Starfleet Academy, with Ethan Hawke rumored for the role of Kirk and John Cusack rumored for the role of Spock. However, partially due to poor box office and reviews for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), and because of the strong desire for a future film involving the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), it was decided to do a final film with the original cast, which would end with their retirement, and allude to the new cast taking over the franchise. A prequel series would later appear in the form of the television series Star Trek: Enterprise (2001), and Star Trek (2009) is a prequel film.
When Spock tells Valeris to have faith "That the universe will unfold as it should", this is a paraphrase of the 1927 Max Ehrmann poem "Desiderata", which say, in part, "And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."
The subtitle, "The Undiscovered Country", had been considered as a title for the installment which became Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). It comes from Hamlet's famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy, as do many of General Chang's William Shakespeare quotes. Two of the more obscure lines Chang speaks during the final battle between the Klingons and the Enterprise are "Our revels now have ended..." from "The Tempest" and "The game's afoot" from "Henry V".
Art department gag: a few seconds before the first Rura Penthe shot, a small cylindrical object can be seen near Valeris' left hand in the two-shot of her and Chekov. It is a lock cylinder for starting the Enterprise with a key.
Nothing from the original draft by Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal was used in the final film. But the two went to the Writers Guild and demanded story credit. The Guild originally removed Leonard Nimoy's story credit but Nimoy threatened to sue the Guild and Paramount if his credit was not restored. Finally, all three of them received story credit.
According to George Takei in his autobiography, in earlier drafts of the script, it was Captain Sulu and the Excelsior crew who discover the Klingon Bird-of-Prey's weakness and use their gaseous anomaly equipment to find it. But William Shatner objected because he felt that Captain Kirk would not need another captain's help and the scene was rewritten.
Nicholas Meyer initially wished to use Gustav Holst's "The Planets" as the music for the film, but found that it would cost far too much in royalties and be far too tedious to edit into the film. He then asked James Horner, a composer to whom he gave his big break with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), to return and wrap up the original series. Horner stated his career had outgrown "Star Trek" and declined. Meyer then went to Jerry Goldsmith, who flatly refused after the failure of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). Finally, Meyer asked for demo tapes to be submitted, and he chose the theme of unknown composer Cliff Eidelman because it combined the best of "The Planets" with the styles of Horner and Goldsmith, while still sounding "fresh and original."
In earlier screenplay drafts, the character of Maltz from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) appeared at the trial as one of Chang's witnesses, answering questions about Kirk's killing of the Klingon crew from that film. The scene was dropped as it was deemed extraneous, and John Larroquette was unavailable to reprise the part anyway.
During the course of the film's pre-production, Paramount was attempting austerity in the wake of a string of high budgeted and profile films which had underperformed at the box office. Due to this, the film's budget was cut, which Nicholas Meyer was initially unaware of. Upon finding out, Meyer immediately began to restore the original budget, but was unable to find a compromise with the studio. As a result the project was officially dead for a few weeks in early 1991. However after a shake up with their executives, Paramount brought in new officials with whom Meyer was able to find agreement with the budget.
Before Kirk and McCoy go to the Klingon ship, Spock places a thin fuzzy strip on Kirk's shoulder, later called a "viridium patch". Veridian was the planetary system set as the final stand in Star Trek: Generations (1994).
This film's title was originally intended for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). It was a reference to Spock's death. It was changed because the executives at Paramount wanted Khan's name in the title.
According to Star Trek 25th Anniversary Special (1991), the contents for the food props during the dinner scene aboard the Enterprise-A were: plastic sperm whale, hardboiled "Klingon" egg, unspecified flower species, chicken a-la-king, and blue Kool-Aid for the Romulan Ale.
In 2006, William Shatner appeared in a TV spot for DirecTV, using re-edited footage from this movie. Shatner is the only one to have new lines, and although Leonard Nimoy and Walter Koenig also appear in the ad, their lines were taken straight from movie footage.
Walter Koenig wrote an outline in which the Enterprise crew, except Spock, are forced to retire. Spock and his new crew are captured by a worm-like race of aliens and the old crew must reunite to rescue them. In the end, all of the original cast except McCoy and Spock die. Koenig's idea was rejected by Paramount.
The original idea for the opening was to have Kirk and Spock round up the officers for their final mission. This would have shown their fates and why they were so eager to return. Scotty would be struggling to understand the cloaking device on the stolen Bird-of-Prey. Uhura would be hosting a talk radio show. Chekov would be playing chess with higher life forms, gloating about his "superior Russian strategies". McCoy would be surrounded by insufferable doctors. Kirk himself would be in bed with Dr. Carol Marcus. However, the budget would not allow for such a pricey sequence, so it was scrapped.
All extras wearing uniforms with a lighter-colored cloth panel on the shoulder and neck area are playing cadets. There are unusually large numbers of cadets standing at attention on the bridges of the Enterprise and Excelsior. Far more than in any other Star Trek film or TV episode.
Spock (Leonard Nimoy) tells the crew, "An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the solution." The "ancestor" Spock quotes is Sherlock Holmes, another fictional character well-versed in logic. Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is often used as a role model for characters in the Star Trek (1966) universe, e.g. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Elementary, Dear Data (1988). Nimoy and co-star Christopher Plummer have both played Holmes on stage and screen. Director Nicholas Meyer wrote several Sherlock Holmes "pastiche" novels, including "The Seven Percent Solution", considered by many to be the best non-Doyle story of Sherlock Holmes.
According to the producers, the Klingon blood was purple to avoid an "R" rating. Also, the use of purple blood was to serve as a visual symbol both metaphorical (showing the vast differences between Klingon and Human values and ideals) and literal (showing the differences between our anatomies; slamming home why McCoy could never have saved the Chancellor's life). Klingon blood has always been red in all other Star Trek Universe portrayals.
At the end, when Chekov asks Kirk for a course heading, Kirk smiles and says, "Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning." That is a reference to the directions Peter Pan gives to get to Neverland in the classic story "Peter Pan" by J.M. Barrie. This was originally intended to be the last line of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982); however, that scene was edited down and ended before reaching those lines.
As this was anticipated to be the last film with the original Star Trek (1966) series cast, there were rumors that Kirk would be permanently killed off in it. The rumors were fueled by a trailer featuring the image of Kirk being vaporized by a phaser. The scene was actually of Martia being killed after shape shifting into a double of Kirk.
Nicholas Meyer was worried that William Shatner would be upset at some of the lines written for the scene where Martia, disguised as Kirk, fights him ('I can't believe I kissed you!' 'Must have been your lifelong ambition(!)'). However, Shatner reportedly loved it.
In both Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Spock says the line "Perhaps you're right" just as he is about to do something sneaky. In "Khan", he says it just before he nerve pinches McCoy and in "Country", just before he stealthily places a tracer patch on Kirk's uniform before Kirk beams onto Gorkon's ship.
Kim Cattrall says that she was allowed to choose the name of her character and decided on "Valeris", integrating "Eris", the name of the Greek goddess of strife and subtly hinting at her character's part in the grand scheme of the movie.
Colonel West, the Starfleet Marine officer who conducts the Operation Retrieve briefing, was meant to be a reference (as well as a play on words) to Colonel Oliver North, the real-life U.S. Marine accused of shredding confidential documents associated with the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s. Colonel West was played by Rene Auberjonois, who would be cast a couple of years later as the shapeshifting Security Chief Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) and had worked with John Schuck on MASH (1970).
When confronted with the fact that she is a shapeshifter, Martia says she thought she would "assume a pleasing shape." Like the title of the film, this is a reference to William Shakespeare "Hamlet". In this case, the line comes from his "rogue and peasant slave" monologue. He states that the ghost of this father could be the devil, saying "The devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape." A demon could be assuming a pleasing shape, to trick him into wrongfully avenging his father's death upon his uncle. Then he resolves to test his uncle's conscience with a play - a moment which provided the title for an earlier Star Trek (1966) production: Star Trek: The Conscience of the King (1966)_.
Theatrical trailer features different/additional footage: the wide shots on Rura Penthe show Kirk, McCoy and Martia escaping during daylight while in the film they escape during dusk or dawn, the arrival of the president of the Federation and Azetbur on Camp Khitomer, and when Martia (disguised as Kirk) is shot, you see a close-up of her, not the wide shot that was used in the film. The last was probably to trick the audience into believing Kirk would be killed off in this picture, so that they would be relieved when they saw the film and saw that he wasn't.