This is my favorite film of the 11+. It has a huge heart, gives everyone something to do, has Shatner's best work, and sports a beautiful companion score to TWOK. I love this film without reservation or apology, it just moved me from the first time I saw it opening night. It was the first film to show just how much these people mean to each other and the last where everything was played straight. After this, TVH would be a comedy and the final two TOS film would just take the characters too lightly, as if they had to poke fun to make up for their advancing age rather than dealing with it. Star Trek 6 had humor just as broad and distracting as Trek 5.
This was also the last film where I felt Shatner was really playing "older Kirk" rather than "Shatner in a costume." The humor is all character based and appropriate, there's a feeling of maturity, again for the last time, and real risk here. I'll always prefer the first 3 films because of this maturity and the efforts to take it seriously. The first 3 felt like they were made for the fans while the last 3 were obviously tilted toward crossover appeal (Paramount: "keep it funny, that's how we got non-fans to see the one with the whales!")