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‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’ Spotlights Greenpeace Efforts

March 28, 1987 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ When Adm. James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise saved the 23rd century Earth from an alien space probe, they also focused attention on Greenpeace’s efforts to stop commercial whaling.

Is it logical to hunt a species to extinction, the half-Vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock asks in ″Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,″ as he and other members of the Enterprise crew go back in time to retrieve two humpback whales to neutralize the probe.

The Greenpeace organization, which for 15 years has fought to save the whales, heartily agrees with Mr. Spock, in real life actor-director Leonard Nimoy, and is grateful to him for the movie’s focus.

″It’s brought attention to the fact that whaling is still going on,″ says Gene Wilkinson, wildlife legislative director at Greenpeace’s Washington chapter. ″The whale population is vulnerable to the point of extinction.

″Also it stands for a whole lot of species that countries are exploiting or losing due to extinction,″ Wilkinson said.

″Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home″ portrays the humpback whale as being extinct since the 21st century. The alien space probe, which is draining power from the 23rd century Earth, emits sounds the crew eventually determines to be that of the whale.

The crew jets back to 1986 to capture two humpback whales, transport them to the future and save Earth.

Since its November release, the movie has grossed $107.3 million, placing it among the top five films of 1986, said Harry Garrison, an analyst for Paramount Pictures. ″Star Trek IV″ also has garnered four Academy Award nominations, including cinematography, original score, sound and sound effects editing.

Translating the movie’s gross into number of viewers is difficult with variables such as discount tickets and complimentary passes, according to Paramount officials.

Greenpeace, though, heard from some of those movie-goers soon after the film hit the screen.

The Washington, D.C., office, one of six regional offices nationwide, noticed a marked increase in phone calls and letters, with school children requesting information for assignments and members of the general public wondering whether whaling was still going on.

Russ Wild, assistant media director, said that of approximately 75 people who saw the movie and wrote to the organization immediately following the film’s release, 60 included donations. The receptionist at the chapter’s office fielded about 25 calls a day, Wild said.

However, the organization did not keep an official count of the calls and letters, Wilkinson said. And although donations increased, Greenpeace is unsure whether a membership drive or the movie is responsible.

″All of the elements ... subtly reinforce why Greenpeace exists,″ said Wilkinson.

Greenpeace officials contend the movie has some factual errors. For example, the minke whale, not the humpback whale, is the target of commercial whalers from the Soviet Union, Norway, Iceland, Japan and South Korea.

″The humpback is no longer being hunted to the point of being commercially extinct,″ Wilkinson said.

But the National Marine Fisheries Service has classified the humpback as endangered, with only 10,000 remaining from the approximately 120,000 that once existed.

The movie also showed a Finnish whaling crew hunting the ocean-dwelling mammals. Finland, however, has honored the full moratorium on commercial whaling that was passed by the International Whaling Commission in 1982, Wilkinson said.

″If this had been a Jacques Costeau documentary, it would be unforgivable,″ said Peter Dykstra, media director for the local chapter. ″For the frame of reference that is Hollywood ... the message is right on the money.″

Greenpeace, which began in 1971 as the 12-member Don’t Make A Wave Committee in Vancouver, British Columbia, has national organizations in 17 countries and 1.5 million members worldwide.

Employing mostly young, idealistic volunteers, the group campaigns on a range of environmental and anti-war issues, with an emphasis on wildlife protection, toxic-waste disposal and nuclear weapons.

The group is known for sending out volunteers in rubber boats in the path of whaling harpooners - a fact not lost on Nimoy, who along with William Shatner, who plays Kirk, are active contributors to Greenpeace.

″There’s a homage to Greenpeace in the movie because the idea of putting the spaceship between the whaling ship and the whales and being hit by the harpoon has Greenpeace roots,″ Nimoy said in a published interview in November.

″Greenpeace used to go out in rubber rafts in front of the Russian ships to try to prevent them from firing their harpoons, and that’s where that idea came from.

″But I did not set out to make a cause film,″ he said. ″It’s a piece of entertainment in which there are some ideas.″