Star Trek 50th Anniversary: The First Ten Movies.

So, I reviewed the good, the bad and the importance of my top ten Star Trek: The Original Series episodes. Here, I do the same for the first Star Trek films. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Overview: A large space cloud is headed towards Earth destroying everything in its path including a Klingon fleet. Admiral Kirk takes command of the newly re-fitted USS Enterprise from Captain Decker to go look for it. Spock on Vulcan feels the cloud’s presence and reunites with his former crew. Spock is a bit distant from the others, so distant that he goes out in a space suit to mindmeld with it. Spock after the mindmeld returns to being old Spock and explains the cloud has no idea what friendship or love or anything is. At this point, the cloud decides to take control of Decker’s ex-girlfriend Ilia to make her its avatar named V’Ger. After threatening to blow up the ship, V’Ger takes Kirk, Spock, Decker and McCoy to his main hub. There we see its the satellite Voyager from the 1970s. Its deep space mission encountered something and wants to report home. However, V’Ger cuts a wire to stop the report. Decker knowing it will kill him puts the wire back, so he can be with Ilia. Kirk and the others get to the Enterprise in time as a new life form is created..somewhere.

What Works: The Enterprise is beautiful. Everyone has their Enterprise whether it be the original series or the movie version or even the TNG ones. To me, this is my Enterprise. We get a lot of money shots of her thanks to Scotty showing Kirk around. Its cool to see the cast re- unit. The Klingon battle is pretty neat. Deforest as McCoy is the only interesting original series character. He is interesting, because he is playing the McCoy we all know and love.

What doesn’t Work: Sit down, this is going to take a bit. While everyone rightfully agrees Star Trek V or Star Trek: Nemesis is the worst one. This is very close, very close. It is boring. So, boring. V’Ger makes zero sense. It also won’t be the first time, something named Voyager damages Star Trek. Kirk is an jackass as well. He bullies his way into command to the point McCoy has to call him on it several times. Kirk is borderline the villain at times. Shantner goes full Shatner at times when he is reaming out Decker. You feel bad for Decker then you remember in real life, the actor molested some kids, so that goes away real quick. Sulu, Chekov and Uhura might as well be cameos. Scotty has some good scenes, but he is hidden away in engineering.

Why its important: Its the first one. Honestly, if Wrath of Khan was the first one and this was a follow up, there would be nothing here. As I said before, the Enterprise having a new design is significant as well. Decker and Ilia are proto-Riker and Troi. That is about it

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

Overview: You’ve seen it. Even no-Star Trek fans have seen it. If you saw Star Trek: Into Darkness, you saw it again. Ok,fine, lets review it. Chekov now an Executive Officer aboard the USS Reliant is out trying to find a planet suitable for Project Genesis. Genesis is a device that can turn a dead planet into a living one. However, if the device is used on a planet were life exists, it would wipe out the living beings on there to form its new matrix. Thus its unfortunate that the planet Chekov investigates happens to be were Khan lives. After City Alpha V exploded, it caused Khan’s world to be turned into a desert warzone. Khan uses Chekov and his captain to take over the USS Reliant to avenge himself on the man who stranded him there, James T. Kirk.

While all of this is going, Kirk is feeling his age. His time as Admiral has made him feel old and useless. So, probably a good thing Khan decides to trick Kirk into taking the Enterprise full of cadets and the rest of his old crew to meet him. The Reliant attacks the Enterprise while her shields are down. Kirk is able to override the Reliant and counter attack. The Reliant runs away while the Enterprise heads to Regula I, the birthplace of Genesis and Kirk’s family. Kirk is introduced to his son, David, by his ex-girlfriend Carol Marcus. They created Genesis, but Khan steals it. Kirk and Spock bluff the time it takes to repair the Enterprise. When Khan comes to finish them off, the Enterprise is long gone. Kirk taunts Khan to follow him into a nebula. There, the Enterprise is able to render the Reliant useless. However, Khan turns the Genesis Device on. The Enterprise with no warp power is stuck until Spock decides to sacrifice himself to save to save the crew. Spock’s body is sent to the new planet that Genesis created as the Enterprise flies off.

What doesn’t work: Nothing. Its perfect in every way. We shall not blasphemy here.

What works: The reason, I didn’t want to do the review is because the plot is tight. While the movie only runs an hour and 45 minutes, it has a lot going on. It might be one of the most thought out and engaging plots in Star Trek history. Everyone is awesome in their roles especially Ricardo as Khan. Khan is so, so great as a villain. He actually has a plan, follows it up and almost gets away with it. His own ego stops him, yet he is able to take out the most beloved member of the crew. That is what makes him great is that he is a three dimensional threat. The Genesis Device is a fascinating concept. That humans would comes so far that we are actually almost God like in creating a new planet. The fight scenes are some of the best in sci-fi history. You feel every blast that the Enterprise takes. The tactics used are practical in that setting.

Why its important: It saved Star Trek. While the Motion Picture made money. A lot of money for a very boring film. This saved Star Trek, because the budget was cut in half and there were some real rumors if it failed, this would be it. It did not fail and became one of cinema’s best movies. The death of Spock is heartbreaking, especially with the recent lost of Leonard Nimoy. It is one of the best death scenes on film. Spock is so noble as he faces the end of his life that it is a perfect note to end on. Shatner really shows off his acting abilities in the death scene as well as through out the movie as we see Kirk dealing with the choices of his past. This would be the movie to which all Star Trek movies are compared to and to some degree all things Star Trek is compared to. It is brilliant.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Overview: Spock is dead. The Enterprise is to be decommissioned. McCoy has gone nuts. Saavik and David are monitoring the now very controversial Planet Genesis. So, Kirk decides to throw a party for his crew, because is probably the last time they will get together. It is crashed by Sarek, Spock’s Dad. Sarek says Spock can be returned to life. All Kirk has to do is get Spock’s memories out of McCoy, find Spock’s body on Genesis and return them to Vulcan for some weird ritual. Standing in his way just happens to be the Federation. The Federation doesn’t want Kirk to go, so Kirk steals the Enterprise. While this is going on Kruge, a Klingon commander, decides to take Genesis. There is a problem, Genesis doesn’t work. David cheated using some illegal materials to create it. Yet, somehow it resurrects Spock, but without his memories, he is an unstable child. Kirk goes to Genesis to find Kruge’s ship there and after a short battle, the Enterprise is rendered useless. Kruge then orders his men to kill Saavikk, but David sacrifices himself instead. Kirk tricks the Klingons into boarding the Enterprise then blows it up. Kirk and Kruge fight to the death on Genesis as the rest of the crew are taken as captives. Kirk is able to kill Kruge and take command of the Klingon Bird of Prey from the lone Klingon warrior aboard. The crew heads to Vulcan where after a bizarre ritual Spock is back to being Spock. Sort of.

What worked: Stealing the Enterprise. It is great to see each character have a moment to get her back. It is probably the most exciting sequence in the entire movie. David is more fleshed out as a character. Unfortunately, he is dispatched at the end of the film. Kirk doing everything to save Spock is really good stuff. Christopher Lloyd as Kruge continues the trend of good Star Trek villains.

What doesn’t work: For a logical group, the Vulcans have a lot of mystical beliefs. The ritual is a cheap way to get Spock back. The battle with the Enterprise and the Bird of Prey is really short, ridiculously short compared to the battle with the Reliant. It is a very short flick and a few character moments with Scotty and Sulu were edited out. Why? I have no idea.

Why its important: Its my first Star Trek in a theater. Yes, its all about me. To be fair, I thought it was fairly weak. Later in life, I like it more. The Destruction of the Enterprise is a huge moment. For many fans, this is as devastating as losing Spock. However, it is done to buy Spock back. What do I mean by that. In story writing, if characters want something back, they have to spend something to get it back. Here, it is in all of its glory. Kirk loses his ship, command and his son to get Spock back. Its a pretty big price to pay.

Star Trek IV: Star Trek: The Voyage Home

Overview: The funny one. A probe is causing widespread outages to ships and space stations as it heads to Earth. Kirk and crew agree to return to Earth to face the mutiny charges for stealing the Enterprise. On the way, they receive Earth’s distress call over the probe. Spock, who is not fully back to being Spock, decodes the probe’s signal. It is communicating using Humpback Whale songs. Unfortunately, the whales are extinct. So, Kirk takes the crew back to the 1980s. They meet Gillian who works at a Sea World type place that has two humpback whales. After a series of misadventures, the crew is able to get the whales and a stowaway Gillain back to the future. The whales talk to the probe and it leaves. After saving Earth again, Kirk is demoted to Captain the Enterprise-A.

What works: The comedy. Nimoy does a great job directing the cast to let their hair down. The save the whale message is pretty good since we still need to do it, today. I do love the opening scene where Sarek confronts the Klingon Ambassador and asks if he has the right to commit murder. Good stuff.

What is wrong; The probe is V’Ger. Its another thing from Earth’s past to come to inflict some pain, because the ways of communications have gone by the way side. Its like if someone you knew got pissed off at you for not responding to their telegram that was sent in 1979 and you only got it in 2010.

Why its important: It is the first Star Trek, I enjoyed in a theater. Again, its all about me. We get the Enterprise and a fully form Spock back at the end. It is a lot of fun to watch the characters interact in the past. There is a lot of character building for Scotty, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov. This is probably the most fleshed out those characters got in the movie series. Spock and Sarek have a good moment at the end to cement their rocky relationship through out the series. This gives Star Trek a breath of fresh air of the downer endings of the last two.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Overview: Oh boy…this one. After getting the Enterprise back, it breaks. The Enterprise-A is not very reliable. That kinda sucks which is another theme for this movie. Spock’s half brother, Sybok is leading a cult for some reason. A cult that finds away to take over the Enterprise to search for God. Sybok has some mental ability to overtake people’s minds by showing them the worst moments of their lives, so they can release their pain. Sybok, Kirk, Spock and McCoy meet “God” after crossing the Great Barrier. “God” turns out to be evil and wants to take over the ship. In the background of this story, some random kid Klingon wants to kill Kirk, because…just because. Anyway, Spock and the Klingons kill “God”. We do get Kirk, Spock and McCoy singing at a campfire at the end.

What Works: What does God need with a starship. That is the best line in this film. A question that can be applied to just about anything when someone says God told me to do this. Its the best counter argument to religion. McCoy having to unplug his Dad is a powerful scene and probably one of Deforest Kelly’s best work as McCoy.

What Doesn’t Work: How about everything. Ok, its bad. There have been people who try to defend this for being kitsch. Its not kitsch, its awful. The plot to find God would seem interesting in any other form, but Star Trek has seen and beaten a lot of God like figures at this point. Sybok being Spock’s brother makes no sense. Why hasn’t Spock talked about him earlier? The Enterprise not working is tired in these films at this point. Scotty and Uhura being a couple is a bit out of nowhere. The rest of the characters just get taken over for no reason. The plot is weak, the special effects are awful and the characters are borderline useless.

Why its important: It almost killed the original crew. Well not literally. It started the debate about getting rid of the original actors and replacing them with younger versions. Other than that, this is a very forgettable event in Star Trek history.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Overview: Captain Sulu of the U.S.S. Excelsior watches the Klingon Moon, Praxis exploded. Praxis was a major part of the Klingon Empire’s R&D program. The Klingon Empire will not last long without those resources. The Federation sends Kirk and the Enterprise to meet with the Klingon Chancellor, Gorkon, to negotiate peace. Kirk is not happy about the situation since the Klingons killed his son. Their first dinner with the Klingons is a bit awkward. What gets more awkward is when Gorkon’s ship is attacked. The Klingons think its the Enterprise especially after two people in Starfleet uniforms kill Gorkon and a few Klingons. Kirk and McCoy are taken prisoner and tried on the Klingon Homeworld. Spock’s new protegee, Valeris, suggests they keep the Federation in the dark while they investigate what really happened.

Kirk and McCoy are sentenced to a Klingon prison world. Thanks to a changeling they are able to escape, but its really a trap to kill them. Fortunately, The Enterprise beams them up. Kirk and Spock find two dead crew members connected to the uniforms. Kirk tricks the assassin that the crew members are alive. The assassin turns out be Valeris. She was ordered by a cabal of secret players including a Federation Admiral and Gorkon’s adviser, Chang. Chang has a Bird of Prey that can fire while cloaked. The Enterprise and The Excelsior head to the peace conference. Chang intercepts them and we get a pretty good battle. Uhura suggests using the devices use to find gaseous anomalies to find the Bird of Prey. McCoy and Spock tear apart a torpedo to put the device in to track the Bird of Prey. The torpedo finds its mark and Chang’s ship is destroyed. Kirk is able to save the Federation President from another assassin. The Federation and Klingon agree to peace terms. The Enterprise is ordered to be decommissioned, but Kirk and crew take her out for one last ride.

What works: The plot is really good. Its a nice Cold War political thriller instead of America and Russia, its the Federation and the Klingons. Kirk has a nice character arc going from someone who hates the Klingons to a guy who realizes his prejudices and tries to makes amends for them. The battle with the Bird of Prey is almost as good as the battle with the Reliant maybe even better with the Excelsior being involved. There is a lot of good work being done by the actors as well. Christopher Plummer as Chang, the Klingon who loves Shakespeare, has a lot of awesome moments and lines.

Why doesn’t work: Spock putting a tracer on Kirk that the Klingons never see is odd. Really odd. I was never really sure what the Federation, the Klingons and the Romulan conspirators hoped to gain. A war in which they all kill each other? It can’t be for profit, because the Federation doesn’t believe in it. It would have been better if their was a more concert reason for the vast conspiracy.

Why its important: Even though members of this crew pop up in Next Generation or other movies for all intensive purposes, this is the last adventure of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and crew. This is the last time we get them working together to solve a problem. The movie ends with their autographs as a final good bye to the fans. The plot is a nice reflection of the early 1990s as America and Russia deal with the end of the Cold War. Its a good time capsule for this movies. To a lot of fans this is the end of the first era of Star Trek as the Enterprise flies into the sun.

Star Trek VII: Generations

Overview: The Enterprise-B is being sent out on its maiden voyage. Kirk, Chekov and Scotty are there to see it off. However, an energy ribbon called the Nexus has captured two ships in its wake. The Enterprise-B is so new, nothing has been installed. So, Kirk goes to the deflector array to generate a pulse to free the Enterprise-B when it gets sucked in as well. Scotty is able to beam some of the survivors off which includes Guinan and Soren. Kirk is lost after the ribbon hits the spot he is in the Enterprise-B.

In the future, Soren decides he wants to go back to the Nexus and aligns himself with the Klingon sister, Lursa and B’etor Duras. He has developed trilithium which can destroy a star. However, the Romulans find out about it and they try to kill him. Luckily, the Enterprise-D headed by Captain Jean-Luc Picard rescue him. This Enterprise crew is going through some changes as Data decides to take the emotion chip that Lore stole from him. The chip causes to be a bit irrational. It doesn’t help when Data and Geordi investigate Soren’s lab and Soren decides to attack them. The Duras sister arrive to get Soren, the trilithium and now a captive Geordi. Data and Picard figure out where they are going. Picard trades himself for Geordi who now has a camera inside his visor that the Duras sister can see what he sees. The sisters attack the Enterprise-D after they get the code for their shields. Picard fails to stop Soren who sends his weapon into the star. The Nexus captures Soren and Picard as the Enterprise-D is destroyed. In the Nexus, Picard is able to see through the illusion. He asks a Guinnan who maybe a ghost or something in the Nexus for help. She can’t help, but she directs him to James T. Kirk. Kirk refuses at first, but Picard convinces him the Nexus is just an illusion. Kirk returns to stop Soren. Picard is able to take Soren out before he can fire the weapon, but Kirk dies in the process. The Enterprise-D is still destroyed and the crew is saved by other Federation ships.

What works: The beginning with the Enterprise-B is a nice beat and has energy the rest of the movie lacks. Picard and Kirk together are fun. Patrick Stewart has some good moments as Picard and shows why he is the Captain of the Enterprise-D. Shatner knowing this might be his last shot at Kirk, brings us Kirk at his most fun.

What doesn’t work. Here is the thing. The National Enquirer released an early script where the Romulans play a bigger role. They actually show up in the fight between the Enterprise-D and the Duras’ Bird of Prey. The Enterprise-D actually survives the fight. Kirk is shot in the back to save Picard from Soren. Picard then outright kills Soren. What I am saying is there is a better version of this film in print. It just happens to be in the National Enquirer. Minus that, most of this film doesn’t work. What really doesn’t work is the Enterprise-D crew. Minus Data and Picard, they are just there. We don’t get much of them at all. Riker looks like a fool for losing the Enterprise-D to a 20 year old Bird of Prey. It would be like World War II era battleship taking out a nuclear aircraft carrier. Its just a bad way to get rid of a starship for many fans consider to be there home. I know it was done to get to a ship that looks more bad ass. They should have done a re-fit it like they did with the original series Enterprise going into the movies.

Why its important: Kirk meets Picard. It is the first of the torch passing that goes on in Star Trek franchise. It helps that Stewart and Shatner are having a good time with each other. However, it only lasts for a fifteen minutes though. Still, it is cool to see the Captains working together and Star Trek acknowledging their long history.

Star Trek VIII: First Contact

Overview: The Borg return to go back in time to stop First Contact between with the humans and Vulcans. Picard and his new Enterprise-E goes after them. The Borg attack the base of Zefram Cochrane, the father of Warp Drive. The crew divides up into teams to take on the Borg. Riker, Troi and Geordi deal with a very drunk Zefram who is very leery of all of this. Picard, Worf, Crusher and Data have to deal with the Borg Queen, who is the avatar of the Borg. Picard also has to deal with Lilly, Zefram’s assistant, who is not really happy about being kidnapped aboard a starship. Data is captured by the Borg Queen who tries to seduce him. Picard while fighting the Borg becomes increasingly unnerved as his past history with them continues to be revisited. At one point, Picard becomes so unhinged Lilly of all people has to reel him back to reality. Picard decides the only way to stop the Borg is to destroy the Enterprise-E. However, he is going to go alone to save Data. He learns Data has been turned and the Borg have control of the Enterprise-E. Riker convinces Zefram to complete his flight. Data reveals he has not turned and helps Picard destroy the Borg Queen. Zefram’s flight is a success and we get to see the first meeting between the human race and the Vulcan people. The Enterprise-E returns back to their own time.

What Works: The battle between the Borg ship and the Federation while short is still very good. The introduction of the Borg Queen, Lilly and Zefram are nice characters to add to the mythos. Cochran as this not so polished hero of the Federation is really cool. The Enterprise-E is a nice design. The plot does a nice job of balancing Picard’s revenge story with the dark seduction of Data to the comedy of getting Zefram to be the hero that the crew idolized.

What doesn’t Work: They have no idea how many decks on the Enterprise-E. Lilly being the one to bring Picard back from Revenge Land is a bit problematic. It would have been better if it was Crusher than Lilly to get him back.

Why its important: Its the great TNG movie. After how lukewarm Generations was received, this was a home run. The Borg were brought in as the big threat they were in the television show and they did a good job in the movie doing that. Picard also becomes a bit of an action star which becomes a theme for the rest of the series. Data is also great in tricking the Borg Queen. This is as good as Wrath of Khan at times.

  1. Star Trek VIV: Insurrection

Overview: Data has gone nuts. He was working on a secret joint project between the Federation and a race called the Son’a. They are inspecting a group of aliens that seem normal. Data is attacking the Federation and Son’a thus making the secret project known to the aliens. Picard and the crew go after Data. When they stop him, Picard finds out that the planet and its inhabits have a connection. The planet regenerates body parts and the people living there are over hundreds of years old. Picard questions the leader of the project, Admiral Dougherty, about it. Dougherty admits that they are going to take the inhabits off the world. Once off the world, they are going to take the materials that makes the regeneration and place it in a device to use on other worlds. Picard leads a rebellion that the rest of the crew joins him on. We later found out that the Son’a are actually part of the same race on the planet. Riker takes the Enterprise-E to alert the Federation of the conspiracy, but are attacked by the Son’a. Riker defeats them and then returns to save Picard after he destroys the Son’a device that would steal the regeneration. The Federation decides against the action and the divided races come together at the end in peace.

What works: Picard. Really, this is the Picard, we love. The guy who loves to give the morality speeches and acts on them. Stewart is amazing when he does stuff and he has one scene in particular with Dougherty that defines who he is. The fight between the Enterprise-E and the Son’a is good. Riker acting like the military genius that he is and not the moron he was in Generations is good. Most of the cast gets to have fun. I also like the idea of the regeneration planet as well as a race divided that comes together again.

What doesn’t work: Data. Data is really off as the comedy character. He has interactions with a young boy that just doesn’t work. Data acting like a child after being seduced by the Borg Queen in the movie is just awkward. The rebellion is sorta weak. All Picard does on the planet is just trying get people out of the town into the caves where they get trapped near the middle of the film.The remote control to drive the Enterprise-E, what is that about?

Why its important: I wish to say it is important, but it really isn’t. The theme of forced immigration is important especially today with the events in the Middle East and with  building pipelines on Indian soil. However, I get the feeling they really wanted Picard to be the rebellious hero Kirk was. It makes sense for Picard to go rogue, but he really doesn’t since he is fighting the Son’a instead of other Federation members. The film is short and forgettable. There is also the missed opportunity of The Next Generation crew to deal with the Dominion War that was going on in DS9. It is mentioned in the film, but it gets glossed over.

Star Trek X: Nemesis.

Overview: Shinzon, a clone of Picard, has murdered the Romulan Senate. Shizon was created by the Romulans and left for dead on a worker planet. He works his way up the ladder with the help of the Rema, an off shot of the Romulans. He became a big deal during the Dominion Wars. So, he now he is in control of the Romulan Star Empire thanks to other conspirators. Troi and Riker are getting married and moving on to Riker’s new ship, the Titan. In their last mission together, Picard is asked by Shinzon to come to Romulus for peace talks. The other part of the movie is Data finding another androids like himself called B-4. B-4 is a Trojan horse designed by Shinzon. Even though Shinzon acts peaceful, Picard sees through the threat especially after he mind rapes Troi. Shinzon’s battleship is huge and puts a beating on the Enterprise-E. The Romulan conspirators turn on Shinzon after realizing how crazy he is. Picard has the Enterprise-E ram into Shinzon’s ship, but has to go aboard to stop Shinzon’s super weapon. Data follows him by jumping out of the Enterprise-E into space to land on the Romulan ship. Picard kills Shinzon, but cannot get out until Data gives him a device to beam out and stays to destroy the ship. Data is destroyed and the Enterprise-E returns to Earth for repairs. Riker and Troi leave to their new ship. Picard is left to help repair the Enterprise-E.

What works: Well…the space fight is awesome. It really is amazing piece of work. Data having one last scene with Geordi has he goes off to save Picard is a nice touch to their friendship.

What doesn’t work: Where to start. The film forgets a bunch of things about Star Trek’s past. B-4 is not the only android like Data which is a phrase that is uttered. It also forgets that Worf is the Ambassador to the Klingon Empire. It also forgets Riker has turned down a number of assignments, because he wants to captain the Enterprise. It forgets Picard had hair as a young man, so why is Shinzon bald? It forgets that the Romulans are ok as bad guys, so we don’t need clones and vampires. On top of being forgetful, it is a bad plot. Shinzon kills the Romulan leadership to help the more aggressive Romulans who later turn on him for being really aggressive towards the Federation. Its head scratching. The mind rape. Just…I….shit….moving on. B-4 is an awful idea when we had Lore who could have easily have been the villain instead of really any of these people. Lore killing the Romulan leadership sending it into chaos that the Federation has to intervene and then Lore goes on a killing spree when Data gets there makes more sense.

Why its important: Meet the movie that killed Star Trek. It was so bad critically and at the box office, Star Trek was mothballed for almost a decade. It didn’t help that the TV show Enterprise was a bit of a disaster itself. The combo of those two lead to Star Trek leaving the airwaves until the year 2017. A franchise that was printing money for almost decades hit the wall, because of this film. It is sadly the last time, we will see the TNG crew in action. They deserved better than this. We all do.

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