Posters of Prominence: “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”
In the early 90s, one of our frequent biweekly excursions was to River Falls Mall in Clarksville, Indiana. There were dining options beyond the standard food court fare, plenty of time-consuming walking to be done and, amazingly enough, an actual movie theater! We didn’t make it to a lot of movies in my childhood, but we made it to enough. One Sunday afternoon strolling outside the Loews Theater on the second floor, I found my eye settling on a poster that changed my life.
It was the teaser poster for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I’d love to tell you what it was that captured my attention, but it’s been nearly twenty full years and I still can’t articulate it. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t just another head shot collage. Maybe it was the color scheme, combining black and purple (a favorite combination of mine). It’s important to note that as of the moment I saw this poster I had never once in my life paid the slightest attention to Star Trek. If I’d watched any of it at all, it was entirely by accident and did not register with me in any meaningful capacity.
I was determined, though, based entirely off just that one poster, that I would see the movie. Knowing it was the sixth movie in the series, I set about renting the previous five movies (two of which I was able to check out from the public library, not that it matters). I was in luck; one of our local TV stations at the time not only showed new episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but aired reruns of the original series on Sunday mornings. I started reading paperbacks, magazines and comic books. Simply put, I was able to gorge on the show and was entirely caught up by the time The Undiscovered Country opened in December.
In addition to learning all kinds of geek minutiae, Star Trek came along at just the right time in my development as an adolescent. I saw in those tv shows and movies a philosophy that aligned very neatly with my own ideals of tolerance and optimism. Was I picked on for geeking out? Yeah. There were a few incidents that were genuinely upsetting but I suspect I’d have been picked on at that age regardless of my enthusiasms. At least Star Trek told me everything would be alright.
For Christmas 1991, Mom ordered me a copy of that Star Trek VI teaser poster from the official fan club store. It came late, but I didn’t care. It was the full 27 x 40 release size, so I had to wait even longer until we were able to find an appropriate sized frame for it. I’d have just tacked it up, but Mom was wise enough to insist on framing it. I’m glad she did. I still have it, and every now and again I find myself just staring, remembering the curiosity it first evoked in me nearly twenty years ago.
This poster was created by one of cinema’s most prolific and versatile designers: the late John Alvin. Below are a few variations and early concepts by Alvin: