There is a common misconception throughout most of the motion-picture viewing world (the filmmakers concerned included, most probably) that STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME is part three of a trilogy. This fallacy is based on misleading, mainly circumstantial evidence: the fact that STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN and STAR TREK III: THE SEACH FOR SPOCK, presenting an obvious but incomplete unity of theme and action, were followed by THE VOYAGE HOME.
The theme in question is that of man's - or specifically, James T. Kirk's - eternal quest to cheat Death. The action is the activation of the Genesis Project.
The time travel journey of THE VOYAGE HOME is both literally and literarily a detour from the theme and the action of the story to that point. Granted, token bows are made by THE VOYAGE HOME to each of them. The trial at the end addresses Kirk's professional crisis, an aspect of the theme. The return of Spock's memory is an aspect of the action. But these two scenes could be transplanted from the end of THE VOYAGE HOME to the end of THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK without making any substantative change to the story of THE VOYAGE HOME (you'd just have to knock Spock on the head at the beginning to explain away the humorous or touching amnesia bits). THE VOYAGE HOME is not part three of a trilogy: it is a separate story, with patches at the end for the previous two film's theme and action, leaving them neither wrapped up nor tied off.
When it is seen that THE VOYAGE HOME is not part three of a trilogy, it can also be seen that a third episode is indeed called for.
In THE WRATH OF KHAN Kirk finally faces Death head-on for the first time. In THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK Kirk conquers Death. In the universe where STAR TREK is set, James T. Kirk has proven that death is a reversible condition.
Surely this must be the most important revelation in the history of the human race, as well as most or all of the other races in the Federation and out of it. Yet no one seems to take any notice of it besides Kirk's staff and Spock's family. And most of a century later, Jean-Luc Picard still believes Death to be man's last, ubiquitous adventure.
There must be a reason for this.
The Legacy of Kirk
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