Where a Bunch of People went Numerous Times Before

I don’t spend a lot of time talking to people about Star Trek movies. Possibly because a significant number of people would think I was some sort of weird, nerdy loser if I tried to. (By most people’s definition, by the way, I am a weird, nerdy loser). But I do like Star Trek movies, and so I’m going to share my thoughts on them, in order, from best to worst.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – the best Star Trek movie, in my opinion, and also one of my favorite movies of all time. This movie not only salvaged the entire franchise — and I can’t say that strongly enough, if this movie hadn’t been made there would have been not only no more Star Trek films but also no Next Generation series — but it built the first template for what it meant to make a great Star Trek movie. The idea to go back through the original TV series and pull out a memorable villain for a rematch was absolute genius. And Ricardo Montelban… well, words can’t do justice. One other triumph of this movie did was to reintroduce Star Trek to the concept of the allegory. In the original series, episodes were often thinly veiled references to some sort of contemporary issue, such as race relations. In The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek became an allegory for the consequences of revenge, drawing heavily from Moby Dick to tell the tale.

Star Trek VIII: First Contact – the best of the “Next Generation” films. Amazingly, this movie is almost a retelling of The Wrath of Khan. In both films, the writers went back to the TV series for a villain, and the movie tells the tale of the rematch with the crew of the Enterprise. Even more amazingly, both films reference Moby Dick heavily, with Ricardo Montelban directly quoting the novel in Star Trek II and Patrick Stewart doing the same in Star Trek VIII. What this film really did well was to get the second-string characters off to the sidelines quickly so the story could focus on Picard and Data – the two characters we actually care enough about to watch them for 2 hours.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – my Mom’s favorite Star Trek film; (“the one with the whales,” she calls it). Great because it’s not about anything about Star Trek at all other than the characters. In this film each of the actors was able to step forward and play his or her character: not just reacting to some alien monster, phaser beam, or navigation console, but actually acting.

Star Trek VII: Generations – not everyone liked this movie, but I thought it did an admirable job of passing the torch from the original crew to the Next Generation crew. Again in this movie we see a villain from the series come back, or rather villains in this case. The story doesn’t stand a lot of scrutiny, but the scenes of the Enterprise being destroyed are edge-of-your-seat literally.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – weak in too many parts, but still a strong film overall. Having Christopher Plummer as the villain was an inspired choice, and the allegory to the fall of the Soviet Union does resonate even today.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – ah, the middle child. Star Treks II through IV form a trilogy, and in most trilogies the middle part suffers a bit of an identity crisis. Still, Christopher Lloyd as the Klingon commander is a hoot, and his fight with Kirk stands up as one of the best.

Star Trek IX: Insurrection – the beginning of the end. This movie would have been an amazing episode of the TV series, but there wasn’t enough meat on the bones, so to speak, to turn this into a full length film. Also, you start to see how the actors were tiring of their characters by this point, and some of the performances feel a bit mailed-in.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture – interminable is the only way to describe this. Watching it now doesn’t even feel like watching Star Trek: it’s just so weird. Late seventies 2001: A Space Odyssey weird. Still, credit is due for reviving the franchise after more than a decade.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – wow, what a stinker. Why did they let Shattner write a movie? And were they too afraid to tell him it sucked? Let’s just pretend this movie was never made, shall we?

Star Trek X: Nemesis – I know what you’re thinking: “how could anything be worse than Final Frontier?” Well, it is. The worst thing about this movie is that they knew they had incredible material to work with. Data was going to die and the whole Next Generation concept was going to be wrapped up forever. And this is what they came up with? A new villain from out of nowhere, doing a bunch of unexplainable things to no purpose other than to seem like a villain? Here’s what I would have done: I would have brought back Lore as the villain, firstly working in the background, manipulating events to drive the Federation to war with the Romulans. Then the big showdown has Data and Lore in mortal combat – I can see their fight reaching epic proportions as they punch each other through the hull of the Enterprise and keep fighting in space, plunging through some planet’s atmosphere to keep going at it on the surface – just a fist fight for the ages. The Data grabs Lore and self destructs, blowing them both to pieces. Awesome.

You’ll notice that I’m not mentioning Star Trek here. I actually liked that film a lot, but to me it’s a different animal; it’s a reboot and not part of the original storyline.

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