Rating the Star Trek Franchise
by Martin Hafer
Like any self-respecting Trekkie, I’ve seen every episode of every show, and, of course, all the Star Trek movies. Heck, when the first movie came out, I stood in line for hours in order to make it into the midnight show. However, you wouldn’t know it coming into my home, as I never have a Christmas tree adorned with Star Trek ornaments nor do I have other Trek merchandise (aside from the signed picture of all the Trek captains in my bedroom)!
I’m sure many will disagree with how I’ve graded the franchise, but, take it or leave it, I’m the first to admit that some of the films sucked pretty hard. The films are listed in order of their release dates.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
A giant cloud comes to attack the Earth. On the way, it kills some Klingons who are nothing like any Klingons from the old TV show. Then, for the next 134 hours (or what seems like it), the Enterprise crew is reassembled to go on a slow-as-molasses journey to stop a freakin’ cloud.
I consider this movie like waking up on Christmas morning and seeing a ton of presents…and all of them are boxes filled with long underwear! This is because Trek fans like me had been foaming at the mouth for over a decade as rumors of a new Trek series or film abounded. Finally, in 1979 the film came out and us Trekkies lined up for hours to see the movie. It actually made a lot of money–mostly because so many people were chomping at the bit to see it. And then, like those gift wrapped boxes of long underwear, folks realized that the film was a huge disappointment. At the opening night show I attended, the audience became hostile after a while…and this was when the film actually improved. Folk began yelling at the screen as the film rolled…and many of the comments were downright hilarious! After a while, it seemed more like an audience for The Rocky Horror Picture Show than a Star Trek film! “Slut!” Despite this fond memory, the film was glacially slow and offered very few moments which held our attention or roused one from sleep.
The Best: The theme song was great; DeForest Kelley’s surly version of Dr. McCoy; the transporter accident was cool and the uninteresting new characters were dead by the end of the film!
The Worst: The Vger character was basically a retread of a robot from the old series, and the film could have easily had an hour trimmed with no negative effect.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
When this film debuted, there really wasn’t that much excitement. Burned by the wretchedness of the first film, many Trekkies (like me) waited a bit to see the movie because we were afraid it would be more of the same. Plus, like the first film, the villain was a re-tread. Fortunately, it was everything the first wasn’t–it had lots of action, some wonderful over-acting which fans loved and seemed to be exactly what fans wanted.
The Good: While some cringed, I loved seeing those earwig-like things tossed into the helmets early in the film. And who could forget Shatner yelling out “KHHHHHHAAAAANNNN!!!!”
The Bad: Shatner yelling out “KHHHHHHAAAAANNNNN!!!!”
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
At the end of the last film, Mr. Spock dies. Fans at the time were confused — how could one of the most beloved characters in the old show die?! Well, it took two years to find out that, while dead, he wasn’t 100% dead. It seems that the Genesis probe could possibly have brought Spock back to life, and fans flocked to the theaters to see exactly what everyone knew had to be the case…that Spock was one spunky guy who wouldn’t let death get him down. Despite a silly premise (even for a sci-fi film), it was rather enjoyable and also exactly what fans wanted.
The Good: Back to the Future‘s Christopher Lloyd playing a Klingon! ‘Nuff said.
The Bad: The premise is kinda silly.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
This film features a plot many should hate. After all, it’s all about saving the whales, and the premise that the Captain and his friends must use a Klingon ship to time travel back to 1986 is just insane. Yet, oddly, because of its wonderful sense of humor and light-hearted style, the film is terrific fun. Just turn your brain off to enjoy this one.
The Good: Chekov, with his Russian accent, asking where he can find the “nuclear wessels.” Spock dealing with a jerk whose boombox is blasting out on the bus.
The Bad: It has an ultra-lightweight plot and apparently whales are needed to save 24th century Earth?! Huh?!
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
Many consider this the worst Star Trek film ever made and I have a hard time arguing with that assessment. Spock meets his goofy brother (who we never heard about until now) who uses anti-logic as he and his followers search for their god. At the end of the film, Kirk and the gang have a giant showdown with the “god” and kill him/her/it.
The Good: Absolutely nothing other than the fact it’s much shorter than Star Trek: The Motion Picture!
The Bad: Where to start?! Seeing Kirk, McCoy and Spock sitting around a campfire singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as well as pretty much everything in this cringe-inducing trainwreck.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
This one was actually pretty good but apparently no one remembers it very well. Kirk and McCoy are falsely convicted of murder by the Klingons, resulting in them being sent to a hellish ice planet. This is to cover up a huge plot involving mayhem, murder and a bizarro Klingon (Christopher Plummer) who keeps quoting Shakespeare! The plot has a lot of neat twists, including Captain Sulu coming to the rescue!
The Good: It has a huge scope and introduces the notion that the Klingons and Federation could, perhaps, become allies. Considering all the Klingons Kirk has killed, that would be something!
The Bad: While nothing was really bad in the film, nothing was great either and it plays a bit like an extended TV episode…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Star Trek: Generations (1994)
This film pairs two legends, Kirk with Picard–a pairing all Trekkies were hoping for since Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted. Together, they defeat the baddie (Malcolm McDowell) and Kirk dies in the process! I know a lot of folk loved this pairing but I just thought the film was logically problematic.
The Good: It’s great to see the two captains together.
The Bad: So much of this film actually makes no sense. Since the Nexus (don’t ask) can take them anywhere they want in time, why doesn’t Picard just go back and save his family as well as Kirk at the end of the film? I’m sure I’m not the only one who wondered this.
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
This film contradicts some of the original Star Trek canon, however, it is fun and the showdown with the Borg is a huge improvement over the villains in the last few Star Trek films. It also manages to satisfy on many levels, as Picard is (for once) a crazed action hero and there are many light-hearted moments.
The Good: Watching Picard pretending he’s Captain Ahab as he machine guns the Borg, is something everyone loves to see. James Cromwell’s weirdo portrayal of Zefram Cochrane is magical. It’s by far the best The Next Generation film.
The Bad: This Zefram Cochran looks nothing like the one from the original series. Here he’s a scruffy goofball instead of a handsome guy like Glenn Corbett.
Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
This is the film no one went to see. The plot involving the Federation actually being the baddie is oddly like just another episode of the TV series. The Federation seem to have forgotten their own “Prime Directive” in this movie. So it’s up to the Enterprise crew to stand up for the simple residents of some crappy planet. Overall, it’s not particularly good or bad and because of this and the next mediocre film, it spelled the end of the The Next Generation films in my book.
The Good: It wasn’t Star Trek: The Motion Picture or Star Trek V!!
The Bad: Completely forgettable and ordinary despite Anthony Zerbe playing the baddie.
Star Trek: Nemesis (2004)
The most forgettable Star Trek movie ever made. The Romulans make ovations like they want peace, however they’re actually planning on an invasion of the Federation. When I asked friends what they thought about this film, they couldn’t remember that it was made in the first place. And, although its plot involved the Romulans (which was admittedly interesting), ultimately the film manages to be very, very ordinary. Like Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, this one felt more like a TV episode than a movie.
The Good: It has a cool title!
The Bad: I think everyone involved with the film had been given tranquilizers throughout the shoot.
Star Trek (2009)
Like the Marvel comics and films, this one is an alternate universe reimagining of Star Trek. In other words, much of what you see in this film violates a lot of what you saw in the original series. Spock getting it on with Uhura?! Spock’s mom dies?! Planet Vulcan is blown to bits?!?! To purists, this movie is evil…though I must admit that it was a lot of fun. I wanted to hate it but couldn’t.
The Good: The special effects are slick and well-crafted and the film looks great. It also revived the franchise and made the public want more.
The Bad: To fans of the original series, it’s a bit hard to watch because in this alternate universe anything can happen. Much of what you saw in the TV series’ is violated routinely.
Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)
I’m one of those folk who likes this one more than the previous film — mostly because it sticks a bit closer to the original series. Khan is back and he’s once again a jerk. The film manages to pack even more action and excitement into it than the last one.
The Good: Really enjoyable from start to finish.
The Bad: Despite Benedict Cumberbatch being Hollywood hot property, he was a terrible choice to play Khan (full name Khan Noonien Singh), a Sikh who hails from India. I think Cookie Monster would have been no worse a choice to play this part!!
So, there we have a very quick summary of all eleven Star Trek films. Perhaps you object to my grading. Like always, I’d love to hear from you — even if you think I’m completely dumb and don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to Star Trek. Just add your comment below the article.