My Favourite Movies EVER Part 2: Star Trek Edition

by GregFahlgren

Listing my favourite films from Star Trek from worst to best.

Greetings everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve updated this series, life as a writer/artist often forces projects to go unattended for extended lengths of time, but coming back to it I decided to this entry need to be a little different. Today, instead of picking five random movies from my vault, I wanted to focus one series in particular that took up a large part of my childhood, STAR TREK!

Star Trek has been around for over 50 years, the original show a landmark program in the history of both television and science fiction as a genre. Since the original series’ cancellation, there have been four additional TV programs, three of which went the distance and became a few of the longest running Sci-Fi shows in history, and a total of 13 movies. Recently, the franchise has been rebooted (sort of anyway), bringing the USS Enterprise and it’s gallant crew (Search for Spock reference) to a whole new generation of fans. I’ve been watching Star Trek since I was a kid, and though I liked the shows, it was the movies that really got me hooked on the franchise. Thus, I’m going to talk about those movies, ranking them from worst to best (in my opinion), and letting you know why I loved this franchise so much.

Star Trek The Motion Picture

Return of the USS Enterprise

First up on the list is both a very important movie in the annals of Star Trek, as well as its hands down worst entry. For a long time, fans had demanded that Star Trek return in some way to no avail, the show’s horrible third season ratings keeping Paramount from moving forward on any kind of project. However, in 1977, Star Wars was released, and became one of the most successful films in history, reviving Sci-Fi in a way the genre had never experienced. Gene Roddenberry used this newfound interest to push for a new project, and eventually, his persistence paid off, opening the doors for a new project.

What form that project would take however was the real question however. First, it was going to be a TV series, then a mini-series, then a movie, and then back and forth between the three for months on end until finally they had landed on a movie format, creating Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Bringing back the original cast for a new adventure, while adding in two more characters, and featuring the legendary Enterprise, everything seemed poised for the greatest thing to ever happen to the franchise.

Unfortunately, what resulted of all this effort was a fairly terrible movie. Yes, it was a financial success, and featured some truly amazing visuals that were revolutionary for the time period. However, the costumes were bad, the set’s were bland, the story was so-so, and the film overall was quite boring. There were some things I liked about it, Spock’s space walk the highlight of the movie, and the idea of a machine intelligence based on Earth technology was a great one, but the execution was so poor it was a grind to watch. The actors did the best they could, they really did, but it wasn’t enough to save the movie.

Thankfully, its financial success did encourage sequels, the franchise reborn from its ashes, so The Motion Picture did do its job in a way. I just wish it could have been something more enjoyable.

The Final Frontier

Boldly going to meet with God

The fifth movie featuring the original crew, The Final Frontier is the only film in which William Shatner took over behind the camera. As far as movies go, it’s not a bad one. The film, featuring Spock’s passionate brother Sybock, deals with such issues as religion, pain, memory, guilt, and finding ‘God’ in the cosmos. In other words, it’s Star Trek movie.

It wasn’t the best, no denying that, and when compared to other Star Trek movies it’s fairly terrible, but standing on its own it’s still an enjoyable ride. The thing I liked the most about Final Frontier was the humour, the jokes mostly centering around the new Enterprise’s less-than-ideal state of disrepair, and Kirk more than mildly losing it as he discovers Spock has a brother. Speaking of whom, Sybock was a great character, not a true villain mind you, but something different from anything we had seen from the franchise, which is hard to do. The Klingon presence was a little worn out to me, the characters a little predictable and uninteresting, but it did add some drama to the film that wasn’t entirely unwarranted.

The highlight of the movie for me, and why I still watch it, is the on screen chemistry between Spock, McCoy, and Kirk, the trio creating great moment after great moment throughout the film. The other crew members were wonderful in their own way of course, to the three men who had lead Star Trek for so many years got to really show their stuff as three unlikely friends in a stranger than strange situation.

The Search for Spock

The Needs of the One

The third of the original crew’s movies, Search for Spock was the follow up to Wrath of Khan, dealing the emotional fallout of Spock’s sacrifice. The grieving didn’t last long, when Spock’s father arrives, and the crew discovers that there may be a chance that Spock could be brought back. However, in their way stands the Enterprise being decommissioned, Star Fleet quarantining the Genesis planet, and a rogue Klingon commander who wants the Genesis weapon for himself. In other words, it was an average Tuesday for the crew of the Enterprise.

While not as good as some of the others, Search for Spock was still very, very good in my opinion. It was definitely one of the funnier entries in the franchise, the Enterprise’s crew making the rest of Star Fleet look like idiots as they stole the Enterprise and went rogue to save their friend. The humour stopped however once they arrived at Genesis, the Klingons taking more than anyone ever had from Kirk and company. It was the most tragic of the films by far, the destruction of the Enterprise, the death of Kirk’s son, and annihilation of Genesis, Search for Spock was by far the franchise’s most emotionally jarring episode. The payoff in the end, Spock’s return on Vulcan, was a great finale, but the road to get there was not as smooth as fans had anticipated, which was why the film was so compelling.

One of the major highlights for me was the performance of Christopher Lloyd as the more-than-a-little psychotic Klingon Commander. Lloyd, an underrated actor in my view, was absolutely superb, creating a villain that fans could truly hate, and an adversary for Kirk unlike anything we had seen before. Making a memorable villain, especially since the last movie featured the greatest in the franchise’s history, is no easy task, but Lloyd accomplished it in spades. You see, I never really hated Khan. I knew he had to be stopped, of course he did, but I didn’t hate him. I understood him, understood why he was doing this, and even sympathized to a point. Lloyd’s character on the other had was a murderer and psychopath, killing Kirk’s son without mercy, purely to get what he wanted. People like that are scum to me, and that’s what made this character so good, and Lloyd’s performance so memorable, an oft forgotten one in the history of the franchise.

Search for Spock also laid the groundwork for the future of the franchise, the destruction of the Enterprise leading to the creation of a new one, which gave the crew no shortage of difficulty in The Final Frontier. Kirk’s theft of the ship also earned him a demotion in the next film, which followed up on the events of Search for Spock (we’ll get to that in a bit). Most importantly, though, the death of David gave Kirk a deep-seeded hatred for Klingons, a hatred that would be a focal point for the last film for the original crew, The Unidiscovered Country. The more I think about it, the more I realize that in terms of long reaching effects on the franchise, The Search for Spock may be the most important film in the franchise, which is a strange thing to say when you think about it.

Nemisis

The Final Voyage

The last adventure for The Next Generation crew, Nemesis was also billed as possibly the last Star Trek movie ever. And given the somewhat lackluster state of the franchise, it might well have been. The story, centred around a Romulan made clone of Picard, amd was possible the darkest of the Next Generation movies. The film examined what happens when someone meets a reflection of themselves, and explored the question of good and evil in a new and unique way. The movie itself was great, the various twists and turns telling a tale of a young man looking to a father figure as an example, and a man trying to face a demon that is too close to himself for comfort.

There were a few disappointments however. Though the story was great, the reason I rank this so low on the list is because of how much was cut from the final version of the film. The wedding scenes were cut down, though in truth that makes sense given how much it would have slowed down the story, even if there were apparently some really fun moments in there. However, the biggest problem I had was that the whole idea of this movie was that it would be the last adventure for this crew, and that we would get to see them moving forward to the next stages of their lives. We did have the final farewell between Riker and Picard, which was great, and a very emotional scene with Picard and B4 (Data’s brother) that gave a glimpse into the future. However, other such scenes were cut from the final product, two such scenes involving the Crushers. The first was Beverly going to Picard to announce that she was taking a position at Starfleet Medical, while the second deal with Wesley, who who had dropped in to announce that he was going to be serving on the Titan with Captain Riker in Engineering. Small scenes I know, and not wholly vital to the story, but it would have been nice to see Picard have a final moment with two people who he had become so close with, and allow them to say goodbye, to both each other and the fans.

Overall though, Nemesis was a great film, bringing together possibly the greatest cast in Sci-Fi history for one last adventure. Despite its flaws, it gave the fans some closure to a show and cast that had meant so much for so many years.

Star Trek

A New Era

In 2009, Star Trek had been comatose for a few years, the last TV program, Enterprise, wrapping after only four seasons. Under the direction of JJ Abrams, a new film was produced, softly rebooting (sort of anyway) the franchise. While there was a some SERIOUS outcry from fans for anyone messing with the Star Trek canon, but once the film was released, many of those complaints were dashed, the story following an alternate timeline, complete with the appearance of the original Spock to explain how this all came to pass.

The movie itself was departure from previous films, being a fast-paced, action oriented affair, but it still kept with many established Star Trek themes. JJ Abrams brought the characters back to the beginning of their careers, showing them as still young, inexperienced, and ignorant enough to pull off the crazy plans they come up with. It also examined the complexity of Spock’s character, a child of two races trying to find out who he was, not an uncommon feeling for young people frankly. Kirk was different as well, the cocky, highly skilled young man trying to prove something to himself and honour his father by becoming a better man than. The villain, a Romulan survivor of the destruction of their world in the original timeline, was excellently played by Eric Bana. Much like Khan, I didn’t hate him so much as a I felt sorry for him. He had watched his world destroyed in front of him, and by a freak accident, he has a chance to stop it, but the way he goes about it is the part where he becomes the villain. It was an interesting character, and one of the better Star Trek villains in recent memory.

I actually really liked this movie, the action and strong performances making for a fun ride, while the humour and nuisance keeping me invested in characters that I had watched growing up. Yeah, there wasn’t as much of the ‘moral question’ side of Star Trek in the movie, not on the surface anyway, but it was a fun movie that provided some solid entertainment.

Insurrection

Going Rogue

The third Next Generation movie, Insurrection is by far the funniest of the TNG films, and the one that most fans like to forget (I don’t know, people are bitchy). Taking place on a planet that’s atmosphere cures all illness and reverses the aging process, it follows Captain Picard as he does something he never thought he would do: go against Star Fleet.

Personally, I love this movie. Besides the hilarious Data shuttle sequence where he, Picard, and Worf (much to his chagrin), sing ‘A British Tar’, there were so many great gags as the various members of the crew go through the de-aging process. Worf in particular returns to Klingon puberty (though the word hardly does it justice). It also featured the rekindling of the Troi/Riker romance, which many fans wanted to see come to fruition after so many years of dancing around the issue (Woft/Troi... seriously? Who thought that was a good idea?). Data’s arc was the best though, becoming friends with one the village children, learning to ‘play’, which brings not short amount of laughs to the audience.

On the other side of things, the movie featured some wonderful villains, hell bent on relocating and later murdering the planet’s inhabitants as part of twisted revenge mission. These film, and the Star Fleet Admiral they were working with, pose a moral question to the audience of whether it was right or not to relocate (forcibly) a small population to help millions more. In typical Star Trek style, this theme was explored deeply, coming to fruition when Picard goes into his civilian clothes and goes rogue to save the people Star Fleet had deemed outside the Prime Directive.

Though maybe not as epic as First Contact, or emotionally jarring as Nemesis, Insurrection was a fun entry in the franchise, and remains one of my favourite movies to watch when I’m having a rough day and need a pick-me-up.

PS, Data asking Worf if he noticed how his breasts were firming up... classic.

Into Darkness

Good and Evil

The latest film in the franchise, Into Darkness reintroduced the classic villain Khan, played by the enormously talented Benedict Cumberbatch as a re-imagined version of the character. I realize that there are those that were disappointed by this movie, feeling that there was too much focus on the action and not enough on the characters. This attitude (which I don’t get really since I don’t take movies that serisouly) is not giving the movie enough credit in my opinions, especially since the characters and their motivations are what drove this story to its brain-rattling conclusion.

The movie draws on Wrath of Khan and the original series quite a bit, but we see themes from other films as well, such as the Starfleet Admiral wanting to start a war with the Klingons instead of making peace (Undiscovered Country anyone?), despite the fact that they are not a true threat. The movie had a heck of a lot of twists and turns, some UNBELIEVABLE action sequences, and a lot of call backs to the original series and films that any Star Trek fan could appreciate. The entire cast had strong performances (Chris Pine was awesome as the grief-stricken and rage filled Kirk), Benedict Cumberbatch stole the show as Khan, his menacing, low key performance mesmerizing. The story took a stark look at good and evil, how to define it, and why the lines get blurred so often. Do the ends justify the means? And if they don’t, how far is someone willing to go in order to make it right?

Much maligned, Into Darkness was an awesome ride for me, and I would happily watch it again given the opportunity.

Generations

The Captains of the Enterprise

The first of the TNG movies, Generations was a used to wrap up both the story of Captain James T Kirk, and to bring the second show’s successful run to a close. This is probably the movie that really made me a fan of Next Generation, featuring a wonderful villain by Ian McDowell, Data gaining emotion with hilarious results, and the team up of the Enterprise’s greatest Captains that no one thought would ever happen.

There are a lot of things I love about this movie, (Data seriously loves scanning for microns), the destruction of the Enterprise D, the hilarious promotion of Worf (Computer, remove the plank!), Kirk and Picard teaming, this movie had it all. It was also a very emotional film, dealing with the wants and regrets of two men who had given everything for their careers at the cost of a family, a life outside of Star Fleet, and want of getting back in that chair even after years of leaving it.

It also featured the emotional final moments of Captain Kirk’s life, an event that left fans stunned and saddened. Leonard Nimoy has often said this was a colossal mistake, but it doesn’t change the fact that Captain Kirk died a hero, in the thick of it, fighting to save thousands of lives one more time. Can’t think of a better way for him to go out, can you?

I can’t, and that’s why Generations resonates so much with me, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

The Voyage Home

Back in Time

My Mom’s favourite Star Trek movie, The Voyage Home brings to a close a trilogy of movies that started with Wrath of Khan. Forced to travel back in time to save the earth, the crew of the Enterprise find themselves in the 1980s, dealing with boom boxes, public transit, and nuclear wessels as they race to save two hunchback whales and bring them to the future to communicate with an alien probe threatening to destroy the Earth... sounds weird? That’s because it’s STAR TREK!

Anyway, this movie is the nuttiest, funniest, and by far the most heart-warming of the franchise. Kirk and company’s adventures in the past were ridiculous. Bones going crazy at 20th Century medicine (curing a women’s kidney problems with a simple pill in the process), Spock mind-melding with the whales, and Scotty trying to use a modern computer with voice commands (didn’t have those in the 80s kids... you have no idea how good you have it), the movie was a riot from start to finish. And yeah, Kirk got demoted at the end, but it was kind of what he wanted anyway considering being an Admiral was never really his thing.

The movie also dealt with Spock’s return from the grave, and his trying to deal with that whole process. The scene with his mother was especially good, showing the duplicity of his character. This theme was shown throughout the film as he learned to accept his human side and the accompanying emotions like never before, with of course some rather hilarious results, fitting well with the rest of the film perfectly

However, it was the humour that keeps me coming back as I’ve mentioned, and if there was ever a Star Trek movie to watch on a rainy day, The Voyage Home was it.

The Undiscovered Country

Signing Off

The sixth movie featuring the original cost, Undiscovered Country was the last adventure for Kirk and his gallant crew, the final step on a journey that had started over twenty years before hand. The movie was deeply personal for the crew, especially Kirk, who has been volunteered by Spock to negotiate a peace treaty with the Klingon Empire. After the death of his son, Kirk doesn’t trust Klingons (and never will), only taking the assignment because he was forced to, declaring to Spock, “Let them die!” Things are rough to start with, but when the Klingon Chancellor’s assassination by Federation soldiers throws everything to hell, Kirk and company have to search to get to the bottom of this before all out war breaks loose.

The film was the darkest of the original series, and by far the most intriguing. There was a mystery to the plot, the identity of the Klingon Chancellor’s murderers kept secret for the majority of the film, until the plot unravels in front of Kirk and Spock, both men being forced to face the impossible as the revelations came forward. There was still some classic Star Trek in here as well, questions of morality examined with no short amount of humour mixed in.

The thing I appreciated the most however was the sense of closure it gave the fans, Spock and Kirk both having to face the flaws in their character as the world they had known for so long changes, and things that they held to be true are torn down in front of them. The film showcased how far the characters had come since we had first met them, the evolution of every member of the crew being laid in front of us, the highlight of which was Sulu getting his own command.

The film’s villain featured a wonderful performance from a young Kim Cattrall, who is famous for doing a nude Vulcan ears shoot that Rodenberry was apparently not happy about (prude). The show stealer however was Christopher Plumber, playing a Shakespeare quoting Klingon general hell bent on Kirk’s destruction. Plumber was so outstanding in this film I get upset that he isn’t mentioned among Star Trek’s greatest villains. He should be, if for no other reason than McCoy’s declaration, “I’d pay real money for him to shut up.”

The Star Trek film I’ve watched more than any other, Undiscovered Country was an amazing film, and an epic conclusion to the original crew’s adventures.

The Wrath of Khan

The Greatest Villain

The best of the original movies, Wrath of Khan is the most revered and beloved Star Trek movie of all time. It is also largely responsible for saving the franchise after the first film’s less than lackluster response. While The Motion Picture did well commercially, the film was panned by fans and critics alike, and even the actors were less than enthusiastic about doing another project. So when a new writer was brought in to pen the script for the next movie, a change of direction was needed. Sets, writing, composers, everything was changed. The cast even went went to Roddenberry and demanded the uniforms be made more comfortable (wasn’t that hard considering we could see Shatner’s Little Willy the entire time in the first movie).

Anyway, bringing back a favourite villain from the series, the new movie was a story of an aging Admiral Kirk, trying to deal with the fact that his days of command were over, and likely not coming back. Suddenly, he is thrust back into the fight when Khan strikes, bringing the Enterprise and its crew to the brink of destruction. What follows is a high stakes game of cat and mouse, probably the best in movie history. Ricardo Monltalban’s performance as Khan is widely considered to be one of the greatest villains in movie history, and is hands down the greatest villain Star Trek has ever seen.

This movie had everything a movie-goer could want. A great villain, a stalwart hero, a deep, layered story with incredible twists and turns, and plenty of humour to liven things up when necessary. What I liked about it was that it was a darker take on the franchise, presenting a life and death situation that was so rare in science fiction at the time. It was a risk, but the risk paid off in spades, making one of the best science fiction movies of all time.

I never thought, as did many Star Trek fans, that the franchise would ever be able to outdo Wrath of Khan, and it wasn’t until 1996 when they finally managed it with...

First Contact

Resistance Is Futile

I know it’s hard to think that ANYONE would consider ANY Star Trek movie to be better than Wrath of Khan, but if there was ever one movie to top it, it’s First Contact. Since the destruction of the Enterprise D, Picard and his crew have a new Enterprise, bigger and badder than ever, and are faced with an old threat: the Borg, and they’re heading for Earth.

The movie is a follow up to Best of Both Worlds, probably the great episode from The Next Generation, where Captain Picard was assimilated by the Borg. He was saved, but the event left him severely scarred emotionally. No matter how much he tried to put it behind him, Jean-Luc knew in his heart that one day, he would have to face the Borg once again. This time however, the machines have travelled back in time to change human history, and assimilate them before the First Contact with the Vulcans, ending the Federation before it even begins.

The movie was nothing short of phenomenal, a story told from both the Borg infested Enterprise and post-WWIII Earth, where the crew try to make sure that the Earth’s first warp-capable vessel get’s launched on schedule. The power of this film is that it digs deep into the minds of the Picard and Data, pushing them past anything they had ever faced before. It also introduces the Borg Queen, the figurehead of the machine race, played by the amazingly talented Alice Krige, becoming one of the most memorable villains in Star Trek history with one performance.

I don’t want to spoil the whole plot here, but the journey we take in First Contact was nothing short of spectacular. I could watch this movie over and over again, and never be disappointed. It had some great funny moments as well, the cream of the crop drunk Councillor Troi... yeah, it happened, and it was AWESOME!

While Wrath of Khan was the standard bearer for so long, First Contact is the pinnacle of the franchise for me, and I doubt that any Star Trek film will ever close to match it.

Beyond

The Next Story

That doesn’t mean however, that they shouldn’t try. The first trailer for the next Star Trek film dropped a few weeks ago, depicting the new crew stranded on an alien world with the Enterprise destroyed and no way to get out (apparently). The first trailer hasn’t revealed much, focusing on the action that the movie will definitely entail, but according to star/writer Simon Pegg, the movie is going to much more than an action jaunt.

Though some don’t like the new direction of the franchise, I take the new movies for what they are, and am optimistic about Beyond and what it could be. Will it be another Wrath of Khan or First Contact? Probably not, but I hope they give it their best shot. Star Trek has always been an amazing franchise, and deserves nothing less.

Conclusion

Make It So

Star Trek is possibly the greatest Science Fiction franchise of all time, and without question the most influential. From its very beginning, it has challenged the conventions of both society and of entertainment, forcing the audience to face the social issues that no one wants to talk about while keeping us entertained for the past five decades. I grew up with this franchise, learning from it, laughing at it, and ever shedding no small amount of tears for. In that spirit, I will continue to love and enjoy for as long as it remains a staple in pop culture.

Well, I hope this has been a fun read for everyone. If you’re not a fan of Star Trek now, I encourage you to click on the links and check out this monumental franchise that boldly goes where no franchise went before or since!

Until next time fellow Trekkies!

A short list of some of my favourite movies and movie series.
Updated: 01/07/2016, GregFahlgren
 
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