i remember before VI came out reading the updates of info from various sources like the letters editorial in the back of the Trek DC comics at the time (which I bought monthly for a couple of years), The Official FanClub magazine (which I bought occasionally) and various magazines like Starlog and Starburst (which I very rarely bought, just flicked through). Obviously there was no net back then so checking out the magazines in comic stores on a Saturday was they way to do it.
I remember being fascinated that it was to be a klingon based story (the first proper klingon film since III), that it would involve the klingon homeworld, an ice prison planet, Captain Sulu, the excelsior, a new BOP and battle cruiser (not seen since TMP!), new space dock scenes (not just reusing FX from previous films), romulans, possible TNG connections, a TNG tie in episode, and of course Meyer directing again...there were also rumours a major character would die (Kirk?). It all sounded really exciting - far more so than the previous one. Almost like the ultimate Trek movie was being made - encompassing elements of all the previous films (unlike V which was pretty stand alone) and even TNG, whilst also being a sort of 25th anniversary capper so expect some strong visual ties to TOS (which I felt the previous films didn’t do so much). I don’t think the regular film goers/media were that bothered about VI - due to V being ridiculed, TNG becoming a real force (due to its great 3rd season), and the fact it was the sixth film (so in the eyes of non fans it was almost getting like Police Academy in terms of cracking them out) But for me the anticipation was HUGE (despite the disappointment of the last film) and usually when its at that level a film can only disappoint - but it didn’t. in fact it surpassed my expectations, and for a while (maybe a couple of years) I considered it the best Trek film (yes even better than Khan!). Actually I think it was pretty much the same in Trekdom e.g. Check out the Trek VI Cinefantastique issue and in there Ed Gross reviews all the films in a sidebar that goes throughout the magazine and he gives VI a higher rating than II and said it was now considered the best Trek film.
It was also good to see the regular Movie goers/media give it great reviews, buzz etc. almost like a ‘sleeper’ they weren’t expecting anything of due to the reasons mentioned, yet it turned out to be a great film so it became one to see for even non fans