Top 5 Star Trek Films
The phenomenon that is "Star Trek" is an experience that we will never see again. First airing in the late 60's, the show was met with a luke-warm reception with the original series barely making it to 79 (debated) episodes. With the over-saturation of television now and the never-ending, cheaply made reality shows, it's increasingly rare to see something that changes how we live our daily lives. "Game of Thrones" is a quality made show, but it hasn't changed culture as we know it, Star Trek did. "Warp drive", "transporters" and "phasers" to name just a few from Star Trek have become globally understood concepts.
Some time after the final episode of the Original series aired, Star Trek made its way to the big screen in one of the single, most boring films ever conceived. How they managed to get the funding and permission to do "Wrath of Khan" is a mystery, but luckily for Trekkies, they did. The series carries on even today, with new casts and crews, but not all the films are or were good. There's a non-factual "curse" on the films saying that the even numbered films are brilliant and the odd numbered films are bad. This oddly enough does seem to be the case for the original series crew, but that would start to get more contentious towards the "Next Generation" era.
I enjoy all the films to some extent, even finding the first one to be a fascinating display of how not to make a film, but of course I have favourites. The following are not intended to be reviews, but more generalized thoughts. There will be spoilers for all films.
Here are my top 5 Star Trek films; starting with my favourite.
1. The Undiscovered Country
Most people will instantly put "Wrath of Khan" first and I'm not trying to be different for difference's sake, but I do feel I enjoy "The Undiscovered Country" just a little bit more than "Wrath". I feel the urge to explain why.
I love the racial tensions brought up in "Country". The uneasy peace being brokered between the Federation and the Klingons is intriguing, so much so that it's set to be explored (and probably ruined) in more depth in the new 2017 show "Star Trek: Discovery". The story goes, Kirk and the Enterprise have been ordered to meet up with a Klingon Ambassador to escort him to a peace conference. Something goes wrong and the Enterprise fires upon the Klingon ship... or does it?! In the meantime, someone has boarded the Bird of Prey and murdered the Ambassador, causing purple doughnut jam to ooze out of him. Klingons can't operate without delicious gooey preservatives coursing through their veins, so even after the exhaustive efforts of Doctor McCoy; he dies. Due to McCoy's failure to save the ambassador and a damning diary entry stating how much Kirk hates the Klingons, Captain K and Bones are sent to a prison planet, duly escape, then proceed to get to the bottom of what truly happened.
The reason I like this film the most is that I think it's a really tight, focused story. It knows what it wants to be, has very little actual sci-fi gibberish thrown around and is actually slightly relatable to real life. It's hard to relate to a giant space ribbon sending you to Victorian times so you can fail to recruit Whoopie Goldberg, but this is about seeking peace between two enemies and trying to make a better future. I'm sure this was a message Roddenberry could get behind. It was an allegory for the "Cold War" which didn't ram it's message down your throat, but allowed you to pick up on it if you were paying attention. Of course, if you are too young for that real-life reference, replace "Cold War" for "Ash vs Team Rocket".
My favourite moment is when Sulu tells the helmsman to "fly her apart then!". Sulu is so cool and it's criminal that he never got to do any sort of spin-off or truly Sulu-centric episode. The Excelsior is one of the best starship designs (shout out to the Akira class though) in my opinion and I love the friendship on show when Sulu refuses to leave Kirk and the Enterprise to it's seemingly dire fate. It allows fans to appreciate that they've had hundreds if not thousands of adventures together and that history is not being thrown out the airlock.
Also, you have Spock pimp-slapping someone. Need I say more?
2. Wrath of Khan
The obvious one next. It's not plain fanboy-ism that always puts this film on everyone's top lists, it's a great film regardless of it's sci-fi setting. The film stars the late, great (but hammy), Ricardo Montalban as the eponymous "Khan" as he seeks revenge on Captain Kirk for having the nerve to refuse to let him take over the Enterprise and kill everyone. To anyone wondering where this bitter rivalry came from, I point you towards the original series episode "Space Seed", if only for some amazingly naff fight scenes. Khan, banished to Ceti Alpha V by Kirk, tries to live what we guess is his version of a normal life with his wife and the rest of the crew of the "Botany Bay". Unfortunately, stupid Ceti Alpha VI decides that being a planet is boring and explodes, causing Ceti Alpha V to become a desolate, desert-like planet. In this newly hostile environment, Khan loses his wife and his shipmates get super-offended at being left to die.
Then Chekov and Captain Disposable arrive, get captured, have worms inserted into rubber molds of their heads (which they were good enough to bring with them) and go mental. Khan uses this setup to spring a trap on Kirk and trap him deep inside a planet with no means of escape. Luckily Kirk and Spock had a cheeky plan ready to go and Kirk, along with his son, escape. Khan meanwhile has managed to steal the "Genesis" project which has the potential to unleash Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel all over a planet (actually, it's just a terraforming device). After a pretty slow but cool space battle in which Khan exhibits "two-dimensional thinking", Kirk wins, Khan loses, Spock dies, bagpipes play, Shatner acts and sequel bait occurs. If you don't tear up just a little bit by the end of this film, you are a green-blooded hobgoblin.
*Cue cheesy, playful music used to mask Bones' innate racism*
3. First Contact
In "Star Trek: The Next Generation", the crew of the Enterprise-D are hurled towards an encounter with a uniquely terrifying enemy called "The Borg". The Borg are a cybernetic life-form, connected via space-Bluetooth (actually scrap that, they'd never get a stable connection) who wish to make everyone like them because they are better. Think "Doctor Who" Cybermen (which I'm convinced the show stole from) but with better effects and more abilities. The Enterprise survives this encounter and a future one which takes place in a little known double episode called "Best of Both Worlds". #sarcasm.
The Borg, being as unrelenting as they are, decide rather than send the 200+ ships which they've been seen to actually have (thanks Voyager), they'd just send one with a giant Pokeball in it. The Enterprise has been ordered to stay away from the big smackdown on Earth's doorstep because Picard was once Borg-ified and they feel he may have his brain hacked or something. Sensing that Starfleet are getting their asses handed to them, Picard defies orders and heads to Earth just in time to stop them. Unfortunately, the Borg fire the time-sphere at Earth and this forces Picard to follow after it. Lots of time-shenanigans occur and eventually everything is good again.
"First Contact" isn't a perfect film, but it is an entertaining and enjoyable one. The newly christened Enterprise-E looks epic and having it's first ever action scene take place alongside both a Borg cube and the Defiant was genius. Jonathan "Riker" Frakes directed this one and did a brilliant job. At no point in the film do you feel that a "lesser" director was at the helm. The only downside to this film was throwing in "Lily" for what I honestly feel was a move just to get the "black woman" quotient up. Her character was given little to do and anyone else could have caused Picard to have his mini-breakdown and break his little ships. As well as the aforementioned scene, there are some slightly odd moments from other characters as well but it's mostly Picard that's just a little off. He's not the TV show Captain here, instead he's an angry and bitter man who resents the Borg for what they did to him. Although no-one could argue that he should be cheesed off, it's bizarre seeing him lose his rag with the Borg on the holodeck and go all "Stone Cold" on them.
The film also throws some tensions between the Captain and Worf which results in Picard actually apologizing, which is exactly his character. Picard is not so big headed that he can't say sorry. There's some actual humour too (remember when films did that?!) with Troi getting drunk and Robert Picardo doing a cameo as the Emergency Medical Hologram from "Voyager". The Borg effects and makeup have been vastly improved from the television series as have the CGI effects in general.
This is a good film with great pacing and I think even if you were a non-Trekkie, you could find some elements to enjoy here.
This one will be quick to write up. You have Kirk in it, you have Picard in it, you have Malcolm McDonald in it (if you get that reference, well done) and you have the single most bad-ass set-piece in Star Trek history with the destruction of the Enterprise-D.
Seriously, there's about 5-10 minutes in this film where there isn't a moment's peace. The Klingons work out how to get through the Enterprise's shields by using Geordi's GoPro and start to shoot the ever living crap out of the ship. Riker, ignoring that they could modulate the shields because that would make the film more rubbish, asks Data to come up with a plan. After Clown-Data manages to shut down the Bird of Prey's shields by causing a hoojimmy in their whatchamajig, the Klingon ship is blown to Stovokor, but not before the warp drive on the Enterprise is critically damaged. They attempt to separate the saucer section from the main drive (something I guess the Enterprise-E can't actually do. Downgrade much?) but the core has too large a shock-wave and they plummet to the planet below. The Nexus flies over, the Enterprise is turned to dust and then finally, there's silence. It's awesome sauce!
Then there's some silly stuff with Ghost-Guinan, time-travel, Picard choosing to get help from the least capable person ever and admittedly a dreadfully disappointing ending, then credits.
I think the set-pieces in this film are great and I love finally seeing some actual spaceship fighting, something the TV show didn't do much of due to budgetary constraints. There are plot holes galore, stupid sub-stories involving Picard's "here one day, gone the next" family which we simply could not care about and the film is considerably more miserably looking than you've come to expect from it's television counterpart. All the bits with Data seem to exist solely to give Brent Spiner's ego something to do and the ending goes down in history as one of the least ceremonious deaths of a major character ever, so bad in fact, that there was a novelization which undid it. If only we had some Tribble-blood which can cure anything... (Don't get me started).
"Generations" is an acceptable film and is certainly more fun than others that haven't made this list.
5. The Voyage Home
A.K.A "The One with the Whales". Directed by the late, great Leonard Nimoy (may he rest in peace), "The Voyage Home" was a complete tonal shift from "The Search for Spock". For one, it didn't really take place in space but was transposed to Earth. This was likely to save money on sets but against expectations, this ridiculous concept actually worked.
The story is, a giant stick of space rock is heading towards Earth, disrupting all electronic devices along the way and causing spacial instability which is destroying planets and stations. The Enterprise crew have since commandeered a Klingon vessel which they have named "The Bounty", due to the Enterprise being utterly obliterated in previous film. They arrive too late and Earth is mangled by the space-liquorice. Not content with that outcome, Kirk orders Spock to fly around the sun "Superman Style" and take them back in time. This works because science.
Why did they do this? Well you see, the giant space-baton appears to be speaking whale. Unfortunately, because humans are no good, we've killed all the whales in the 24th century and therefore there is nothing left to respond to it's horrible, mono-tone warblings. Also Harry Kane was unavailable. (For American audiences, replace "Harry Kane" for a sports personality that is barely able to form sentences and sounds like a single note cabbage).
Of course, the crew of the future "Not Enterprise" have no idea how to mingle with the primitive humans of 1986. This leads to many "fish out of water" moments including Kirk and Spock trying to catch a bus, Scotty trying to use a computer and Chekov being interrogated. On their travels, they bump into a lady who just so happens to know where some whales are. Kirk goes on a date with her (which includes some brilliant dialogue and Shatner actually acting well) and she agrees to help them save the whales. Scotty sets up a tank inside the Bird of Prey and they beam the whales up and take them... uh... back to the future (at speeds in excess of 88mph I'll add). They speak to the space-log and save the day. Starfleet instantly forgive Kirk for stealing and subsequently destroying an entire spaceship and life goes on.
Luckily for current day audiences, you can watch the films in quick succession. At the time this was released, the next film would be "The Final Frontier", meaning that it'd be five years before anyone saw a "good" Star Trek film again when "The Undiscovered Country" arrived.
I really enjoy "The Voyage Home", but it lacks the very thing that made Star Trek what it was; space. Setting it on Earth did mix things up and had audiences had enough of space, it was a good way to give them something fresh. I do however miss seeing the Enterprise and it's always been my opinion that the films didn't do enough with the actual ship, so not seeing it at all was like having a Doctor Who film without the TARDIS. The writing is good if maybe a little goofy at times, but it's a harmless film that doesn't always hit the mark, but it isn't a franchise killer either.
And that concludes my top 5 Star Trek films list. I wouldn't go expecting a top 5 worst Star Trek films any time soon as frankly, I think you can work it out from here.
And yes, I did put Wesley Crusher in the article picture. Why? Because it wasn't his fault he was given such a poorly-written, shoe-horned in character even that Laurence Olivier couldn't have portrayed decently. Wil Wheaton seems like a top bloke (check him out on Youtube's "Tabletop") and he certainly doesn't deserve the stick he gets. When you are that age, you don't argue with the script writers!
Thank you for reading! Please feel free to comment below and if you enjoyed this, check out my other articles.