Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, also known as Star Trek 4 or “The One With The Whales” is the 4th motion picture featuring the cast of Star Trek The Original Series. It also happens to be my favourite Star Trek movie. I actually got into Star Trek by watching The Next Generation, and was never much into the original series. But this particular movie is so much fun, it’s always a good time.
The plot of the movie is a bit silly. The Enterprise crew travel back to present day (as in the 1980s) to bring two humpback whales to the future. They are needed to answer an alien probe which only speaks in whale song. Despite the odd premise, the movie is considered one of the best of the series.
As the movie takes place in San Francisco, a much of the location filming was done in the area.
The Cetacean Institute
The Cetacean Institute in Sausalito is where Kirk and Spock first meet Gillian and come across George and Gracie, the humpback whales. In the movie, the two humpbacks are in a large tank in the outdoor area next to the Pacific Ocean. In real life, these scenes were filmed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a couple hours away from San Francisco. This aquarium does have a large deck overlooking the Pacific, but there are no captive whales here. The whales were a mix between animatronics for closeups, and special effects for further views.
“A Double Dumb Ass On You” Intersection
The scenes where the crew first arrives in San Francisco was filmed where Columbus, Kearny and Pacific Avenues meet. This is where Kirk is almost hit by a cab and gives him the oft-quoted “A double dumb ass on you” quote.
Kirk and Spock’s Bus Stop
At this same intersection is where Admiral Kirk and Spock try to get on a public bus. They are turned away for not having exact change. This particular scene was filmed at 145 Columbus Avenue which is now My Happy Donut.
The Yellow Pages Alley
As they explore the city, we see Scotty, Sulu, and Dr. McCoy walking by an alley and a building with a Yellow Pages ad on it. This was filmed at the corner of Grant Ave and Fresno St.
Chekov and Uhura Look For The “Nuclear Wessels”
Chekov and Uhura are tasked with finding the Nuclear Vessels (or “wessels” as Chekov says). This was filmed at the corners of Columbus, Mason, and Greenwich Streets. These scenes were actually filmed with the actors approaching real passers-by, who didn’t know they were being filmed.
After visiting the Cetacean Institute, Kirk and Spock take a walk along Marine Drive, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. My friend Brodie and I took a stroll along the exact same location.
Kirk and Spock then end up in Marina Green, where Gillian spots them. She pulls up in her truck and offers them a ride. Many of the houses in the background, along Marina Blvd, look the same as they did in the 80s.
The scenes near the start of Star Trek IV with the crew on the planet Vulcan were filmed at Vasquez Rocks, near Santa Clarita. The area is used often for filming due to it’s unique rock formations and close proximity to Los Angeles. The scenes of Vulcan were enhanced using matte paintings.
The Bird of Prey Water Scene
Near the end of the movie, we see the Klingon Bird of Prey crash into the waters of the San Francisco Bay. These scenes featured the actors swimming in the water next to the spacecraft, and couldn’t be filmed in the real bay due to safety reasons. The production actually used the large water tank located at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. This tank is often used for parking, but it can be filled with water for filming. It also has a large backdrop which can be painted or used as a blue screen.