Why The Voyage Home is always included in the good even numbered Star Trek flicks is pretty darn strange. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't hate Star Trek IV, actually it's a pretty fun watch, it's just that...
Star Trek has always had a sense of humour to it and that's fine. Usually in the Original Series it kept its lols for the very last scene, though. And that was usually enough. But a whole movie of just lols?
The Voyage Home takes place right after The Search For Spock, though it really doesn't need to, and the gang is still using that Klingon ship Christopher Lloyd so generously lent them. The Federation is pissed off at them for going on their nutty searching-for-one-dead-Vulcan mission but it turns out that the Earth itself is in peril due to a probe that's... making whale sounds and that's... bad for some reason because... whales... don't exist in the future? No, I'm not making this up. I know, you'll just have to accept that plot, I'm afraid. So, instead of chilling on Vulcan and peacefully waiting for J.J. Abrams to heartlessly blow it up to smithereens, our ageing pals decide to go on a wacky, unlikely mission to save the world! The mission involves going back in time with a Klingon ship, which is weird because couldn't the Klingons have done just that and taken over the Earth ages ago? First Contact-style? Whatever, the plan is to go back in time, pick up a couple of whales and bring them back to Earth. AGAIN, wasn't there an easier way to save the world using time travel? This all happens 10 minutes into the movie and I'm already having trouble buying any of it but fine, let's move on.
They finally get to Earth, San Francisco, in the 80's and they all stick out like a sore thumb which, of course, lends itself to a lot of sitcom fish-out-of-water jokes. Suddenly Star Trek turns into The Dream Team, the gang splits up and everyone works to complete the mission: Chekov tries to find and pronounce a nuclear vessel, Scotty shows off his computer skills despite not knowing what a mouse is and Kirk and Spock (in full Vulcanwear, by the way) make contact with the whales and a young woman who mistakes them for a couple of crazy hippie hobos. The hijinks are hit-and-miss, some of them are funny, others are a bit heavy-handed. It's basically a cartoon with the plot and the whales becoming nothing more than thin pretexts just to have these guys go back in time and frolic around what looks like a cheap movie (but probably isn't). Everything falls into place conveniently and, of course, everything works out in the end.
Now, there is something I like about this movie: the idea of joyfully going on a nonsense mission that shouldn't work in a million years is very Star Trek and it's something these guys would attempt and succeed at. It's good to see the gang have some fun for once. That said, The Voyage Home feels too much like a kids' movie which is fine as it probably got a new generation involved in the franchise as well as people who weren't necessarily into Star Trek to begin with but if you were into the movies for their space-set action, their political drama, the threats to your favourite characters and their personal developments, you'll find yourself missing good old Khan pretty quickly. This is Star Trek taking a break and if you just want to sit back and watch a light-hearted flick with a not-at-all subtle environmental message then you could do a lot worse than this. Actually, if I'm honest, the characters are likeable enough to make this movie enjoyable and make it somewhat work, had it been any other cast The Voyage Home would have been made fun of more often than not I think.
Overall, this is the On Her Majesty's Secret Service of Star Trek movies: it's a franchise on holiday. Its plot is ridiculous and a poor excuse for an adventure but it has enough charm and lols to keep you entertained. It's not bad, it's just... strange that this is often listed as one of the best Star Trek movies. It's... really not.
A fun, if not-at-all necessary, watch.