“Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Whether you’re a fan or not, the Star Trek franchise has been one of the largest and farthest-reaching media phenomena of all time with 6 series and 13 movies under its belt. Not only has it inspired fiction in all its different forms, but it has also affected the real lives of ordinary people, inspiring minorities to take centre stage in mainstream media and turn wide-eyed children into the astronauts of the future. 2015 marked the sad passing of Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Mr Spock, one of the most iconic characters in the whole of sci-fi, with the 50th anniversary of when it all started following the year after; as celebrated by the release of Star Trek Beyond. This year we’ve seen Star Fleet return to the small screen, so I thought this Trek hat-trick would be a good marker to look back on Star Trek’s previous outings on the big screen, because, let’s be honest, they are all memorable – be it for good or bad reasons – and many lessons can be learnt not just on how to make good Trek, but also on how to make a good movie in general.
So, for your delectation, I have ranked all of the Star Trek movies from worst to best. I have tried to rank them in terms of critical acclaim, fan popularity, enjoyment for casual viewers, and their influence. But, at the end of the day, it’s down to my own sweet opinion, so I welcome disagreement with open arms; for what is life without arguing over Star Trek movies? Unfortunately, Galaxy Quest and Star Trek Renegades have been omitted from this list (because the Editor of this website is an ignorant unbeliever) but you should check them out anyway. For now, enjoy!
THE WORST STAR TREK MOVIE – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
I really wish I could give a one-worded review for this movie. If I could, the word I’d use would be “dumb”. But, I don’t think I’m allowed – to be frank I am honestly upset that I actually have to write about this movie for a whole paragraph [UUUUUUUUUGGGGGH]. Basically, in the fifth instalment of the movie series, William Shatner followed Nimoy’s suit of occupying the director’s seat and obviously tried to make some deep, philosophical points in a quest to discover heaven with Spock’s half-brother [what?], but the result is laughable, like watching a wooly-jumpered vicar trying to do youth outreach. It wasn’t helped by the fact that the film was also trying to simultaneously be light-hearted and goofy – yeah some of the scenes are funny and touching (why couldn’t the whole film be Kirk, Spock and Bones camping), but the crew’s banter is just plain cheesy and simply detracts from the emotional depth the film attempts to invoke. Also, Uhura and Scotty have the hots for each other… WTF? If anything, the overall emotional experience during the movie is ‘meh’, as at no single point did it move me or bring me to question life like the rest of the Trek franchise. In fact, the strongest urge I got was to check my phone throughout. Even so, there is an incredibly moving moment in which the secret pains of Spock and McCoy are revealed; a satisfying moment for any of the fans who had watched the series since ’66 and after 23 years finally received more backstory. Unfortunately, overall the film is just stupid and dumb, and then God turns up at the end, which is… weird, to put it politely. Basically, this film deserves a slating, not only because of all that I’ve already covered but also because it’s the only Star Trek movie to win (or be nominated for) a Golden Raspberry. Simply put, this abomination has forever tarnished the beautiful reputation of this beloved series. I have put this film at the very bottom because there is boring, but then there is so stupid you can feel your brain die – Star Trek is supposed to challenge your ideals and I feel like the only thing I pondered in this movie was: what happened to Kirk’s old chair? It’s even been described by fans as “a mess”2 and “silly”1. Unfortunately, cute OT3 moments2 and hilarious Shatner memes1 are not the basis of a good movie. It’s just too boring and too stupid.
Star Trek Generations (1994)
You know this movie could have been a relatively unremarkable but enjoyable Trek movie, with an adequate sprinkling of action sequences and quirky snippets of humour; BUT NO! Unfortunately, this film will never be held in very high regard for it is forever stained with the sin of… (uhm, I don’t even know how to articulate what it is…) they did a really shit thing basically – they killed off Kirk and it was totally rubbish. How dare they? We are talking about James T Kirk who they just snuffed out. Talk about “So this is how the World ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper?” It also ruins another of my personal favourite characters, Data, who is turned from an interesting metaphor of humanity into just plain annoying. Also what is with his apparent crisis? Pushing Beverley Crusher, in what is essentially not real water (and don’t get on my case about holodeck Physics) does not warrant such drastic crushing self-evaluation. Dude, it’s ok, Crusher needs to lighten up, no need to install an Emotion chip because of a badly timed practical joke – he should have at least murdered someone to be that guilt-ridden. Talk about shoe-horning plot and character development! So yeah, I was left a bit underwhelmed at this point in the marathon with this movie reiterating the trend of the odd-numbered movies being a bit crap. The film is kinda weird in general: the first hour flies over leaving you with the realisation that nothing actually happened. And suddenly Kirk’s regrettable cameo with Nexus is messily cobbled together and violently wedged into the last half hour, but yet the timing seems to work, it feels like one of the longer episodes of the “The Next Generation” series such as “All Good Things” or something. But then there is the issue that there are two main story arcs, and I felt more interested in the fate of the Enterprise than the whole Nexus bollocks. Like when did Picard ever have paternal urges? It’s a universal fact that he hates kids! Okay, I admit, his nephew did just burn to death in a fire but I was still massively unconvinced at his dilemma of the lack sowing his seed (sounds fake but whatever Jean-Luc). I did secretly love all of Kirk’s screen time, although the whole affair definitely strayed into the realm of cringe-worthy fanfic: Picard and Kirk cooking eggs sounds like some sort of prompt on LiveJournal (and the writers are supposed to be professionals… sigh). But so far, all movie transgressions weren’t too major and this should have been a middling Star Trek movie, but Generations just can’t be forgiven for squashing James T. Kirk, the poster-boy of The Federation, under some rocks. Damn… too bad. This film irritated fans so much they even hate the lighting: “horrible”3. Some more cuttingly describe it as“a gimmick to link TOS to TNG”1. The wasted Picard and Kirk duo has been amusingly described as: “massive loser who thinks he’s a hero fails miserably and goes and gets the real hero to save his ass… only to get him killed too. Oops”2 . But yet again, what hurt fans the most was Kirk’s demise: “embarrassing, anticlimactic and meaningless”2 , “fucked up”4, “should not be spoken of”11.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Some hardcore trekkies may have been disgruntled by Star Trek (2009) but I can guarantee that there was a butt-load hate for its sequel by all audiences. Into Darkness, carried on the more insulting tropes of the 2009 movie: the original Star Trek philosophy was trumped by action, sleek effects and cool quips; sexism was still rife; and there continued to be total mis-characterisation of long-established beloved characters. Some scenes were entirely lifted from the previous movie including the alien sex and Kirk’s jumps through space, and this copycat attitude didn’t stop there: Star Trek Into Darkness is basically a hackneyed and whitewashed rip-off of The Wrath of Khan. I enjoyed the idea of an Alternative Universe, because it meant that these new movies would not be shackled by 43 years of canon and were to be given room to breathe, mind you so as to breed originality and creativity; instead it harboured laziness. [YOU THINK WE WOULDN’T NOTICE?!?!?! YOU THINK SWAPPING AROUND WHO DIES WOULD COVER IT UP!?!?!] At least in The Wrath of Khan, Spock was actually dead. Dead. It took an entire movie to get him back. BUT NOOO, let’s insult the viewers even more. We’ll just take all those emotions experienced by the audience during that tearful scene and just toss it back into their faces. You can’t revive a character within 10 minutes through the use of “MAGIC BLOOD” (and I’m actually quoting the bloody movie there). There is absolutely no attempt to cover up the laziness and sloppiness in the writing. Yeah, we know, none of the Trek movies have exactly been Oscar material but none had stooped to such a level. I couldn’t hear the dialogue in the death scene over the distinct sound of the bottom of a barrel being scraped and my own laughter. It’s such a shame because the TOS episode “Space Seed” and the movie The Wrath of Khan are intriguing, dramatic, and heart-in-mouth intense. This movie is an actual faecal stain on the Khan story. Also, why Benedict Cumberbatch?! That casting is borderline racist. Gene Roddenberry was trying to make a point by making a genetically superior human that wasn’t white. How ignorant. Also, what is with Kirk’s mischaracterisation in this movie? I admit I can sort of get why you made him into a bit of a womaniser, Kirk has always been a ladies guy, but in TOS Kirk is a risk-taker, a rule-bender, but not reckless to the point of getting his crew killed. He also has a sense of duty and wouldn’t beat a man once he surrendered; TOS Kirk wasn’t perfect but he always tried to be the bigger person – he invited Klingons on his ship (after grieving the murder of his son by their hands for the sake of peace). These little mischaracterisations signify a lack of respect to the material and it feels that the Star Trek dream of human development is being tarnished each time one reveals itself. Yes, this movie looks better than all the TOS and TNG movies combined. Yes, it’s cool, and casual fans may argue it’s a good movie, but it’s certainly not a good Star Trek movie. Also, I can never forgive it for reducing McCoy (my absolute favourite Star Trek character) to a catch-phrase-spouting caricature. I know I’m not alone in my disdain; some fans have actually called it “an assault on Star Trek”2 , “The absolute worst”2 , “Tried to rip-off the greatest Star Trek story ever”,2 “Whitewashing”2 “Really Bad”5 “Left behind the meaning of Star Trek”6 “An occasional shit-show”4 “Absolute mess of a film”1 “No philosophy behind it”1 “Would have been better to not write a Khan-centric movie”1 “I would only get depressed by watching them”7.
Star Trek Nemesis (2002)
Anyone remember when Tom Hardy was a Star Trek villain? Oh wait, no-one does. This movie is one of those that some fans pretend don’t exist. Admittedly these are all Data fangirls [but who doesn’t love Data!?] and watching your favourite android be blown into smithereens does not make for an enjoyable viewing experience – first rule of Star Trek: be nice to Data. However, with much dismay I must announce that it is not Data’s sad demise that is the sole reason for why Nemesis stinks. It’s upsetting because I think they really tried on this one. Excluding the reboots, this has to be the shiniest, sleekest and most modern of the lot. It also does involve both a lot of light hearted moments yet also gritty moments which are always key components to excellent Star Trek movies; and also goes knee deep into the politics, which worked very well in The Undiscovered Country. However, the result is just pure rubbish. The plot is hugely convoluted and over-complicated. I mean, the Romulans freaking made a clone of Picard: there must be a better way to do galactic espionage, surely?! The result is a villain more whiny and petulant than Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels and is as threatening as a duckling. Again, like in Insurrection and The Final Frontier, big metaphors are trying to be made but fail as there are much better examples out there. Picard’s mini-me is supposed to be a mirror of how things could have been, Shinzon’s hard little life (boo hoo) has turned him into an over-reacting pervert and yeah, we know it’s trying to make some nature vs nurture point, but no real arguments are made except Shinzon being like “oooh, I’m you, Picaaaaaard, and I’m a Twat so you’re a twat too, wooooh!”. Ewww. Also, it’s just boring. In an attempt to add drama, it hoys in a rape scene which just serves to offend and is shockingly in bad taste for Star Trek (this supposedly progressive franchise should know better). In its defence, I did enjoy the introduction of a new Soong android, the adorably oblivious B-4, and some fans (well no… the die-hard Data fankids) find it enjoyable: “They’re not typical Star Trek movies but I really enjoyed them”13 some even liked the villain but these people are obviously masochists as they enjoyed “the ending hitting you pretty hard”13. Yeah, it hits you hard, but why Data? PORQUOI!? Like me, a lot summarised it perfectly with “…a piece of shit”8“Too sad at the end and kinda weird”5 “Suffered from a case of bad writing”1 . Ooooh cutting. And, finally “terrible because it wanted to be cool”2. Let that be a lesson to Star Trek, to not succumb to peer pressure (oh whoops the reboots exist though..).
Star Trek Insurrection (1998)
This film does provide a lot of enjoyment for fans, it really does. It epitomises all the little character quirks of the main crew, which fans would have grown to love while watching the series. I couldn’t help but sigh “Imzadi..” at Riker’s and Troi’s rekindled romance; Worf was in his best constantly restrained grumpy Klingon mode; Geordi’s small story arc concerning his eyesight was suitably poignant, and; I couldn’t have been the only one to laugh out loud at the Gilbert and Sullivan recital, right?.. oh Data. The thing is, cute character moments are obviously not enough to make a good movie, and apart from somewhat impressive visual effects and mildly exciting action, Insurrection hasn’t much to offer. This is bad enough with regard to film in general, but it is paramount that any Star Trek movie is more than just ‘cool looking explosions’. This film really fails with regard to its plot – it’s so bad I really struggle at trying to remember what happened – but I think it’s supposed to serve as some sort of reflection of human history in which small isolated cultures have been expelled from their homes due to the selfish needs of the many, and so on; themes that have been done to death and only seems watchable when the poor souls involved are sympathetic and actually likable. The, whatever they’re called, are a bunch of super-clever, eternally youthful, techno-phobes – oh look another cliché – whose insistence of living like ignorant plops is an inexhaustible source of smugness to them, which makes you not really care about them; which is really unfortunate as the crux of the entire film is based on their fate. Ergo the film is almost pointless. It’s made even worse by Picard’s shoe-horned romance with one of the smug hipsters, which is just grating and causes enormous disappointment when she doesn’t die in the crisis-causing landslide. In general, this film is a bloated, boring and confusing TV episode which is too underwhelming for the big screen. In its defence, it hasn’t actually committed any major transgressions against Star Trek, hence why it’s not so low down on this list, and is what I would describe as being mildly enjoyed by fans: “a solid film”1 “…it does deliver a lot to fans, and it was the first I saw of TNG, which made me want to see more”6, that alone is a good review, because The Next Generation is AMAZING; and “not really all that bad” is, well, not so convincing. Lots said the same thing: “long”4, “bloated”2 “expensive4” extensive series finales, so yeah not quite a good movie… “weird plot”5 “doesn’t add much to the Star Trek universe”2.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Star Trek: The Moton Picture was the first feature length outing for Star Trek. Made in the aftermath of the frenzy for Star Wars, the movie tries very hard to be a sci-fi wannabe Star Wars/Space Odyssey epic, with long swooping shots of star ships and outer space phenomena. Models and space scopes are rather charming and it lacks any of the tattiness from the series to give an overall hyper-sleek look. However, the visual focus of the film unfortunately results in a drawn out and rather dull movie, with fans describing it as “zzzzzzzzzzzzzz”7 . It could have had at least an hour removed from its run-time – it’s more than halfway through the film before anything interesting starts to happen. There is an interesting twist at the end, but this is, again, spoiled by the fact it takes ages for anything to be done in this movie, and it unfortunately strays into the realm of schmaltz, especially with the thrown-in contrived romance which is out of character for Star Trek. One of the major things this movie has going for it is that without it, we wouldn’t have the rest of the movies or any of the other series of this fantastic franchise; and it’s the first time we saw Star Trek as it should be: MADE WITH A $35 MILLION BUDGET! [Ooh, it does look very sleek.] It’s very satisfying to know when this quote exists regarding the 60s TV series budget: “Sometimes I get the feeling the only way we could achieve a Star Trek segment on budget would be to have 60 minutes of Mr. Spock playing kazoo solo as Captain Kirk holds him in his arms while standing in a telephone booth.” —Robert Justman (1967), an associate producer of Star Trek. The movie provides breathing room for Spock’s character development, making his already fascinating persona even more complex with such touching moments as: “I weep for V’Ger as I would for a brother”. Also, some viewers do appreciate the whole Kubrick rip-off… the space existential crisis thing; and it undoubtedly adds to the rich Star Trek universe including new aspects of Vulcan culture such as Kohlinahr, helping to make this world seem more tangible, though most fans seem to agree that “it didn’t age well”1 .
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
The Search for Spock was the sequel to The Wrath of Khan; starting off immediately from where the second film ended, actually recounting its shocking ending. It starts with an obviously sombre mood – Spock’s absence being “an open wound” in the Enterprise family. However, things get kicking when it is realised that Spock’s body, which was committed to space, has landed on the “Genesis planet” featured in The Wrath of Khan. Hope for Spock is further brightened by the revelation that in his last moments, Spock transferred his “Katra” (basically his soul) into the mind of Dr McCoy. Thus, begins the frantic race to bring the two together. This movie has a story rooted in family, friendship and the sacrifices we would make for them – all of the Enterprise crew has their moment to shine as they help each other out to go AWOL against Star Fleet. It’s also full of the delightful humour seen amongst the crew of the TV series, re-assuring us these are the same characters. The result: warm fuzzy feelings inside, or; impossible to suppress laughter at such lines as “That Green-blooded Son of a bitch! This is revenge for all those arguments he lost!”. Oh, classic Bones! The movie also marks the return of old favourites: the Klingons, who serve as the antagonists. It’s good to see them (after a very brief moment in The Motion Picture) in their intended alien design, that was un-achievable on the TV series. The appearance of Mark Lenard as Sarek – Spock’s father, who had appeared in ‘The Original Series’ works in this regard too. The Search for Spock certainly has much fan service to offer, providing the close knit atmosphere of the Enterprise family, who are willing to risk their careers for each other. More importantly, the film provides an emotionally satisfying resolution to Spock’s untimely death, and not without perils and tragedies along the way (yeah who cares about Kirk’s son, BUT NOT THE ENTERPRISE!). This allowed the loss of Spock to really settle in with the viewers and helped to build up the anticipation towards the climax at the end of the movie; it did not throw the emotions of the audience back into their face as in, erm… later movies. However, The Search for Spock, though with its fair share of action, seems to lack the gravitas of other Trek movies, especially with its mostly two-dimensional villain. The film admittedly feels like filler between the more popular second and fourth instalments of the series. The crew banter moments can also be on the cheesy side and it delves quite deep into Treklore, like the Pon Farr scene between Saavik and Spock, which casual viewers might not understand or might find off-putting. However, it is a very human story, and I hold it in higher esteem than I probably should for it hits me right in the feels.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Film no. 6 was an absolute breath of fresh air after the sloppy mush of The Final Frontier. It dropped all the goofiness and cheese, and replaced it with tense drama, believable performances (even from Shatner…stop the presses), and a story with actual weight… thank God. Like The Wrath of Khan, The Undiscovered Country is an age-old human story that happens to be set in space. The movie, made in memoriam of Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek), tells the ever-familiar story of deception: our beloved heroes are framed so as to get them out of the way from stopping the nefarious plans to “kill a king”. A load of Shakespeare quotes are tossed in too; hocked out in both Klingon and English in absolute style. The story begins with the witnessing of the obliteration of Praxis, a moon which homes the Klingon Empire’s main energy facility. As a result, the explosion has seriously polluted the Empire so that only 50 years of oxygen is available for those living in the territory. The Klingons are forced to hold out the olive branch as they can no longer fund their long, drawn-out war with the Federation and instead focus their resources on relieving the horrendous effects of the disaster. Walking on eggshells does not begin to cover it – Kirk is commanded to escort the High Klingon Chancellor to Earth and it’s his vehement hatred towards the Klingons that provides the perfect opportunity for those who fear the apparently inevitable peace to set him up for the assassination of the Chancellor. It is up to Spock and the crew to find the enemies within before more blood is shed. Not only does the film carry significant stakes and action (a welcome feature in any Trek flick), but there is also deep emotion and reflection, being one of the first movies of the series to show imperfections of humans in the Trek universe; they are still not free of stigma and bigotry, thus making it a far more effective social commentary than the usual boasting of how wonderful everyone is that often happens in the Star Trek saga. It also helps close the circle between ‘The Original Series’ and ‘The Next Generation’ series, which was currently being aired, in which the Klingons are now allies of the Federation and the Romulans are the bigger threat. Fans love continuity, man. However, this film is so much more important than everything mentioned so far – this is the original Enterpise crew’s final appearance, and this is one of the cast’s most moving and natural performances, with honest hatred, regret and even humour displayed. Their signing off with their autographs during the end credits is incredibly melancholic yet also hopeful as it is a very explicit metaphor of the handing over the baton to the ‘Next Generation’ franchise (and how right they were for after TNG, there were three more series and six more movies). It is certainly a relief that the last film for this series had an enjoyable and even relevant story, making an incredibly watchable and unforgettable movie. Fans themselves have described this movie as “powerful”2 and fittingly summed it up as “Good Star Trek”1 – Klingons sure know how to shake things up.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
I feel like everything I write in praise for this movie, especially in comparison with the other reboot movies, may be invalidated by the fact I haves slid this right under Star Trek (2009). However, the only reason I rank this lower than the first of the reboot series is because it lacked the impact of the first – shots of the Enterprise don’t make the jaws drop after the third time, but that is all that there is to it! Beyond was the first of the reboots to harbour the true Star Trek spirit, with the first two being the super slick dude-bro show of Spock and Kirk (and in the case of Into Darkness, a terrible update of a superior movie). There was a greater emphasis on the relationships of the whole Enterprise crew rather than just the aforementioned pair, and as a consequence, they were far more fleshed out, likeable, and most importantly bad-ass. Gotta holler for my boy Sulu and my lass Uhura for being beautiful, selfless leaders, protecting the crew they are imprisoned with. But dudes, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of how much of a joy this film is, as everything was working against it, especially time, showing up all the piss-poor movies in this list that good Trek can and will be made in the most difficult of situations. The entire script had to be re-written within schedule as directors and writers were hired and booted out in quick succession, yet the resulting story was a gripping heart-in-mouth experience as our beloved crew were stalked and hunted by ruthless alien killers. The writing also made the most beautiful, sumptuously refreshing leaps in character development: after largely being a narcissistic, pig-headed womaniser, it was genuinely heart-breaking to watch Kirk become doubtful in his abilities as his worries of mortality loomed over his five-year-mission. And how on Earth after barely 5 lines of exchanged dialogue between them in the two preceding movies, did Spock and McCoy become the best friends to make everyone else jealous? Like seriously, it is far too easy for the biggest Trekkie to mischaracterise this pair as pure antagonists, yet in Beyond, there was no mistaking of their mutual respect, and dare I say it, affection. Oh, Simon Pegg, I would shower you in a thousand delicate kisses if I could. But, what really brought these elements together to make a thumping good Star Trek movie were all the small reverent nods to previous series and movies, some so quick, you blink and you miss them. From a glimpse of the “Enterprise” uniforms, to giant green hands in space, it all built up into one earth-shattering 50 years in the making climax of one well deserved nerdgasm. I am not afraid to say that on watching Spock discover his older self’s portrait of the crew as the original cast that I may have shed a tear.
Star Trek (2009)
Around the time of The Voyage Home, Leonard Nimoy and Harve Bennet ended up flirting with the idea of making a prequel featuring The Enterprise Crew’s academy days, which would have been due out in 1991, after The Final Frontier, for the show’s 25th anniversary. However, Gene Roddenberry, the original cast, and multitudes of letter-writing fans were vehemently against the idea. Paramount dropped the prequel script with the result being the incredible The Undiscovered Country. However, the story does not end there… by 2009 there had been 4 spin-off Star Trek series, with the less than popular Enterprise running its course in 2005, with the last Star Trek film being produced 7 years ago. It really did feel like Trek had fizzled out. But no… BOOM! 2009 saw the release of the sizzling alternative universe flick, with a fresh, hot new class playing the original crew. It brought in a gross Box Office earning of $385 million worldwide, trumping the fan favourite The Voyage Home. To contend with but respect the franchise’s 43 year history, the movie is set in an alternative universe to all of the other previous movies and series (through some timey-winey magic) letting it go against stringent established history while remaining canon (which prevented some heads rolling, but let creativity and originality be injected into the movie). Now, wherever I put this movie in the list, I won’t please everyone as this movie really splits opinion. I believe its massive success is due to the fact that this was the most appealing of all the Trek movies to casual viewers: it has the largest emphasis on action and damn does that action look good; not one special effect is laughable at all, in plain-talk it looks ‘shit hot’. The cast is fresh and young, a drastic contrast to Star Trek VI and, dare I say it, this is also the sexiest movie of the entire franchise. On the flip side, Star Trek 2009 managed to deeply upset a lot of fans: many were infuriated by J. J. Abrams’ total apathy to the philosophical basis of Roddenberry’s human dream the show was supposed to embody, with many feeling like it was exploited with the intention to deliver mindless action and alien women. On what was supposed to be a part of a progressive idea, it was shockingly sexist: Kirk’s and Spock’s mothers were rendered nameless [she was called AMANDA!]; Uhura was plonked into a totally random relationship with Spock, which is totally insulting as Uhura was a solid independent character in the GODDAMN 60’S SERIES (also a million Spirk fans cried…oh T’cry’la); none of the female crewman’s uniforms showed their ranks (yet again something that happened in the bloody 1960s series for crying out loud) and Kirk was changed from the adorable flower-picking nerd we all know and love, into some womanising dick that spied on non-consenting undressing women, grrrrr. Also, fans were left aghast at Vulcan’s destruction and Spock’s mother’s death adding to the overall feeling that many plot points were thrown in for cheap intense thrills and emotional bursts. However, it is an alternate universe… butt-hurt fans can easily sleep at night safe in the knowledge that at least in one universe Vulcan is thriving. In Star Trek’s defence, the movie is so undeniably fun and cool; it simply oozes style and the Enterprise has never looked more beautiful. Also, the movie has one of the larger explorations into Spock’s duality, and feels like the first time after 43 years of restraint, that Spock finally lets loose. This aspect is made more poignant by Prime Spock’s appearance, who at this point in the continuity, was from a time after the tenure of TNG; a Spock working for reunification with Romulus and Vulcan and thus forced to face his ultimate failure, dealing with the destruction of either Romulus or Vulcan in either universe. Spock Prime lived through finding out Kirk survived the attack on the Enterprise B (in Star Trek Generations) to then only be killed as soon as he was found… and then to come across another Kirk… one he was unable to form a bond with as it’s not his place or destiny anymore. Oh T’cry’la. For all of the film’s problems, this is an incredibly important film to the franchise as it literally injected new blood into the fandom. Without this movie, I wouldn’t be writing this piece now. This was the movie that drew me in. Star Trek’s fresh new look drew in young audiences who then set up to stay and started to explore the vast Star Trek universe. Star Trek 2009 reinvigorated the fandom and breathed new life into it, guaranteeing its continued flow of creativity. Split opinions are rife amongst the fans I interviewed: “Nothing but blinding special effects”2, “REALLY BAD”5, “outraged” with the flip-side being “fuel for community-building and fan creativity”4, “great filmography”6, “gave really big hopes for the next one”4 well that last one’s a bit awkward considering Into Darkness so we’ll leave it at that!
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Hot damn, this is my personal favourite out of all the Trek movies. It’s the best from ‘The Next Generation’ series and possibly the most frightening in the entire saga. The movie starts doing what the Enterprise crew does best: being rebellious little shits and disobeying their orders from those pencil pushing bastards back at Star Fleet headquarters. The Enterprise comes swooping in for the rescue, as the fleet are being hammered by the Borg (Star Trek’s most terrifying villains) who are hurtling towards Earth to assimilate mankind. They destroy the Borg cube, but a surviving shuttle travels back in time and our heroes are appalled as they witness time change around them as the Borg assimilates humanity in the past. To prevent this travesty, they follow the Borg into the time vortex. They find themselves in the mid-21st century – around the time Zefram Cochrane (of Trek folklore) undertakes the first successful warp-speed flight – and our heroes work to make sure this future becomes a definite reality, for it is at that moment in which a nearby Vulcan ship catches interest in Earth and makes first contact, thus birthing the Federation. Again, this film establishes an actually gripping premise, making the threat tangible and getting the viewers invested. It’s also the first film since The Wrath of Khan where you see how dangerous the work of the Federation is and how high the stakes are in terms of life: over half of the Enterprise crew suffer a fate worse than death as they are converted into a Borg drones (the series was so long overdue for some Red-shirt deaths). Also, we can be invested in the fate of Zefram Colchrane, as his mission epitomises the Star Trek philosophy of the human journey just beginning, and who doesn’t hope for that? That we’ll rise above our faults and bring an end to poverty and war. We also see some of the best character studies from the Next Generation series, lest the whole saga. The crux of the story focuses on Picard’s struggle to do the right thing and put his personal needs for vengeance aside as his conflict with the Borg stirs up the trauma he suffered from when he was assimilated himself (The Best of Both Worlds – one of the best episodes of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’). So much better than Generations’ attempts to start the water-works. It also gives Data a real dilemma, as he is tempted in betraying the Enterprise by the Borg who offer him flesh and blood; a far more complexing conundrum in the development of humanity than “ooh I’m a bad robot cos I pushed someone in water, so now I have to have an emotion chip – which was kind of underwhelming” in Generations. The result is a sleek, sexy and smart movie which most importantly gives hope: Zefram Colchrane’s mission were purely for materialistic goals, but we see him develop as he realises the historical momentum of his actions, and it’s a truly satisfying moment to see the exact point in which friendship was formed between Vulcans and Humans. AWESOME! Fans, particularly those of TNG, simply can’t get enough of this movie: “The Wrath of Khan for the TNG crew”2, “really good”5,, “my favourite”3, “dark”6, “The best Star Trek movie I’ve ever seen”4, “Why the fuck did brent Spiner get awards for this!?!”8, yeah tell me about it! And, finally: “Star Trek’s scariest viallain”1.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
One of the most beloved of all the Star Trek movies, endearingly termed “The One with Whales” by fans. For many Trekkies, The Voyage Home is the the Bee’s Knees, the Cat’s Pyjamas, the Dog’s Bollocks of all the Trek movies, and after watching it, I can certainly see why – the film is an absolute joy; a bundle of fun. The movie starts where The Search for Spock left off, with the crew exiled on Vulcan. Immediately, the tensions are high as imminent danger is introduced as soon as the movie starts: the Enterprise crew are in the shit as they kinda stole a Klingon Warbird and were general little rebels. The Klingons are also pissed off with them as Kirk killed some of them and stole their ship. The icing on the cake is that there is some big-ass space probe heading towards Earth, destroying everything in its path. Oh dear. By the time our heroes arrive back to Earth, quarantine has been placed on it as the Probe has managed to knock off all the power on Earth and is now boiling away their oceans, oh dear… again! The plucky Enterprise crew realise the probe is sending a message that only Humpback Whales can understand and reply to (and how do they know this? Well duh, the Enterprise crew is better than everyone else in Star Fleet). Unfortunately, Humpback Whales have been extinct since the 21st century (because humans in the past are considered dickheads by 23rd century society). Thus, Kirk and his crew come up with a half-baked plan to travel back in time, find some whales and come back to save the Earth. The film carries much drama in the beginning, but as the film progresses, it exponentially lightens up – The Voyage Home was the biggest box office hit of the Star Trek series, topped only by the 2009 reboot, showing it hit the perfect balance between appealing to both fans and casual viewers. This definitely can be attributed to the comedic situation of the familiar Star Trek characters being the fish out of water in our time era with hilarious consequences: Kirk’s and Spock’s attempt at swearing; Chekov’s and Uhura’s less than subtle enquiries into the location of “Nuclear Wessels”; Scotty’s attempt at working a 20th century computer by talking into the mouse… ooooh ho ho ho. And, most importantly, the film is so wholeheartedly Trek: Enterprise crew are on trial, but because they’re all amazeballs all of the charges are dropped and they even get a brand spanking new Enterprise – it should be really dumb but it just works. This movie is a great example of the philosophy of the Star Trek franchise, actually making positive impacts on the world of today: not only does it provide great entertainment but it also makes social commentary relevant to current world issues, with the movie bearing a “Save the Whales” slogan which isn’t condescending. The film itself was dedicated to the crew of the Challenger that was involved in the tragic accident in which all hands were lost – touches like this keep the Star Trek philosophy relevant, which is not seen as much in current sci-fi. The human journey is just beginning and we will eventually rise above our faults and transcend into the universe and beyond. Many fans consider this to be the best movie of the lot: “put the one with the whales first”9, “a masterpiece”10, “The best Star Trek movie”11, “A good Star Trek movie needs no villain”11, “really funny”12, “Genuinely funny… a ridiculously satisfying ending”2, “most quotable and unintentionally hilarious”1.
So, why haven’t I put this at the top? Well, as the last comment said… it’s “unintentionally” funny… there was a deliberate effort to lighten this film up but it definitely reeks of cheese and in some moments it is hard to tell whether we are laughing with it or at it. This is not the case at all to the movie at the top, which achieves all the emotions in the audience it set out to do.
THE BEST STAR TREK MOVIE: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
The Wrath of Khan was the ever-popular, critically acclaimed first sequel to the clinical and squeaky clean The Motion Picture and it surely makes up for everything the first movie lacked. As the second movie in the series, it is what Star Trek should be: human stories set in space; full of humour and hot-blooded emotion. It tells the age-old tale of treachery and revenge! “He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I’ll chase him ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round perdition’s flames before I give him up!” The movie could have really failed using a villain that had appeared in only a single episode of ‘The Original Series’, however Khan had such presence and charisma in ‘The Space Seed’, and was such an affront to the Star Trek philosophy of the Enterprise crew, that he easily transfers into a genuinely threatening and frightening villain in the movie (something its predecessor dreadfully lacks). Ricardo Montalban’s crazed and bloodthirsty Khan, spouting Shakespeare and Dante, drives this story of vengeance comparable to “The Count of Monte Christo”, Mad Max and Gladiator. As a result, The Wrath of Khan is a Star Trek movie with satisfying amounts of fan service but is also very accessible to casual viewers. All Star Trek elements are shining at their brightest in this film. The banter and interactions between “The Golden Trio” is absolutely on point, being moving and hilarious; the movie is action packed, with moments of danger in which the audience feels the stakes are high; enough Enterprise star-ship porn which doesn’t become drawn out; iconic campy Trek moments that are the bread and butter of Star Trek – Shatner must have popped a lung with the ever famous “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!” shout – and, most importantly, a genuinely emotional story, powered by relationships where you will find your eyes welling with tears towards the end. The Wrath of Khan re-established the all-important family-feel essential to the series. In my Opinion Star Trek II set the bar for which all other movies of the series should reach for. It is an absolute classic that should be left well alone in movie history… oh wait… let’s just ignore Into Darkness right now. Before the reboots, if you asked a random non-Trekkie to name a Star Trek movie, the reply would be The Wrath of Khan. The movie is so intense that not only do we get behind Kirk’s rage but also Khan’s all-consuming hatred. This is the Star Trek movie with the most devastating ending… Kirk’s and Spock’s final moments in the radiation chamber is almost as iconic as “No Luke, I am your father” when it comes to sci-fi as a whole. Its analogies and metaphors of aging, death and relevance in a changing world doesn’t fall flat on its face as they tend to in a lot of Trek movies; it can stand its ground against more critically acclaimed, Oscar-worthy movies in this regard. “The Best”2 “Classic. Tragic”1. I think we can call it a day.
My eternal gratitude to:grrrlaus.tumblr.com7, silverdragoninmydreams.tumblr.com5, Robyn (datasoong.tumblr.com)4, constanzel.tumblr.com3, leoanrdsnimoy.tumblr.com2, Mysti (soong-type-princess.tumblr.com)8, Aubrey (biggertigers.tumblr.com)1, Miriam (claude-debooty.tumblr.com)6, former-cardassian-oppressor.tumblr.com11, thewinterfuriosa.tumblr.com12, gingersaurusrex.tumblr.com13, star-spangled-bum.tumblr.com10 and Emily (spookyscarykirk.tumblr.com)9 for all your shared love of Star Trek and your forthcoming opinions on which movies sucked and which rocked.