Resistance is Futile

Star Trek: First Contact is easily the greatest Star Trek movie with The Next Generation cast. Further proof that the genuinely good even numbered installments extended past the original cast. Although not everyone was confident in the success of a Star Trek film with only the newer cast involved. Despite Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager keeping the franchise relevant on the small screen, Trekkies were still mad that The Next Generation was cancelled. Generations had the intrigue of Captain Kirk meeting Captain Picard, but it was nothing more than an extended episode. So the writers made the wise decision to essentially do what made The Wrath of Khan and even The Voyage Home work so well.

Starting with two separate story concepts that blended perfectly together. Time travel wasn’t done too frequently on The Next Generation, but it led to some of the most fascinating episodes. Rather than focus on the Renaissance, First Contact explores a pivotal moment in Star Trek history. Much like The Wrath of Khan, genuinely intimidating enemies from the past were chosen as villains. The Borg are so intense that First Contact became the first Star Trek movie with a PG-13 rating. Unlike the many close calls of the original cast, Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, and Marina Sirtis were always loyal to the franchise. When more high profile directors turned the project down, Jonathan Frakes was just the Star Trek enthusiast for the job…

11. Star Trek First Contact

Captain Picard encounters the Borg Queen

Star Trek: First Contact is also similar to The Wrath of Khan for representing everything fascinating about the USS Enterprise-D crew of The Next Generation. Jonathan Frakes understood the franchise better than most Trekkies. In addition to playing the always charismatic Commander William T. Riker, Frakes directed 8 episodes of the series. Including 3 episodes each for Deep Space Nine and Voyager. So directing the eighth installment in the franchise wasn’t a difficult task for number one. It practically became a tradition after Leonard Nimoy worked so well. The only trick was thinking more cinematically. Although budget was still a partial concern, First Contact took advantage of technological advancements by incorporating more CGI into starships and the robotic nature of the Borg. Since the movie was more distant from the series than Generations, Starfleet uniforms are now grey & black with color underneath. The destruction of Enterprise-D also meant a more modified Enterprise-E.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 99115.82: First Contact begins with Captain Jean-Luc Picard suffering from a nightmare. Star Trek has far more antagonistic alien races than just the Klingons. Since the Klingons established peace with the Federation, the number only grew with The Next Generation. Enterprise-D faught the Romulans, the Firangi, and the Cardassians, but none of them could ever hold a phaser to the Borg. The Borg are a cybernetic collective with a hive mind that assimilate alien races to achieve perfection. Ever since their debut in the episode “Q Who?,” the Borg were not a threat to take lightly. They were so unstoppable that they only ever made a handful of appearances. Their last substantial role was in the season 3 finale/season 4 premiere special “The Best of Both Worlds.” Picard’s nightmare recaps his traumatic experience as Locutus of Borg. Whoopi Goldberg was strangely never asked to appear as Guinan despite her personal history with the Borg. When Starfleet is faced with the Borg Cube, Picard avoids confrontation by ordering his crew to patrol the Neutral Zone for Romulans. They make it so, but disobey orders by joining the fight anyway.

An epic space battle breaks out between the Borg Cube, the Enterprise, and any other Starfleet ship in range. One of which is the USS Defiant captained by none other of than former chief of security Commander Worf. Although I’ve yet to watch Deep Space Nine, I do know that Worf was added to the series to boost ratings. Since the Enterprise wouldn’t be complete without the honorable Klingon, they find a way to insert him in the conflict. The Cube is destroyed before it can reach Earth, but a smaller ship manages to fly into a vortex. The Borg successfully assimilate the planet by traveling to the past. So the Enterprise travels from the 24th century to the 21st century where the Borg attempt to prevent first contact. The title refers to the pivotal meeting between humans and Vulcans. Thanks to the invention of the warp drive by key Star Trek figure Zefram Cochrane. The character was actually introduced as far back as the original series episode “Metamorphosis.” It was a strange introduction that saw a younger Cochrane stranded on a planet with an entity that fell in love with him.

Star Trek alumni James Cromwell plays an older Zefram Cochrane who isn’t exactly the hero everyone was expecting. After the fallout of World War III, Cochrane became a cynical drunk womanizer who only built the Phoenix rocket ship for financial gain. First Contact gives the entire crew time to shine whether on the ship or on Earth. Riker leads a team on Earth that slowly realizes Cochrane isn’t what they were expecting. Deanna Troi tries to counsel Cochrane, but she ends up drunk in a hilarious moment with Riker. Chief engineer Geordi La Forge tries to help Cochrane work on the warp drive. Although Geordi is known for his visor, Burton always wanted La Forge to receive ocular implants. That way we can finally see his eyes. Even Dwight Schultz pops in as the nervous, but starstruck Lt. Reginald Barclay from the show. Most of what we see on Earth is more comical than what happens on the Enterprise. The Borg systematically invade the ship more like a horror movie. Their cinematic redesign is like Alien meets Hellraiser. A countless number of ‘Redshirts” are killed or assimilated in a disturbing manner.

Although he’s typically much more refined, Picard is given a much more physical role where he leads Worf & Lieutenant Commander Data against the Borg. Ordering any assimilated crew members to be killed. Dr. Beverly Crusher takes action when Cochrane’s assistant needs medical attention. Alfre Woodard gives an Oscar caliber dedication to Lily Sloane. Her 21st century cynicism perfectly clashes with Picard’s experience in the near-utopian 24th century. They team up to escape the Borg using the Holodeck in epic fashion. In The Next Generation, Picard often used the Holodeck to portray his favorite literary character Dixon Hill. First Contact gives the noir detective persona the cinematic treatment. Picard fires a tommy gun on the Borg after disabling the Holodeck’s safety protocols. Meanwhile, Data is captured by the Borg. As an android who strives to be human, Data is sought by the never before seen Borg Queen. Alice Krige plays the creepy, but seductive leader of the collective. She gives Data skin to finally experience touch and uses it to uncomfortably seduce him.

Picard converges with Worf and another “Redshirt” to perform an impressive spacewalk on the surface of the Enterprise. They engage a group of Borg trying to contact reinforcements. When the Borg become too much for the crew to handle, Worf & Picard come to blows when the former suggests destroying the ship. Picard’s obsession with revenge is the second comparison to Moby Dick in the franchise. Stewart’s brilliant master class acting is shown in a passionate speech about destroying the Borg once and for all. The 21st century Lily calls out the primitiveness of his quest and he realizes destroying the ship is the best action. But not before rescuing Data. SPOILER ALERT! When the rest of the crew escape, Picard finds Data swayed by the Borg Queen. Although Picard offers to become Locutus again, Data betrays the queen after deactivating the ship’s self destruct. Cochrane gets his act together and flies his ship without error. The Borg are defeated by Data striking a coolant tank that dissolves the threat and spares the Enterprise. The crew celebrate their victory by watching the historic moment between humans and Vulcans. Star Trek: First Contact is a thrilling struggle that proves the next generation has what it takes to deliver engaging movies. “Live long and prosper.” 🖖

12. Star Trek First Contact

Captain Picard and Data hunt the Borg

Preceded by: Star Trek Generations & Followed by: Star Trek: Insurrection

A Tale of Two Captains

Star Trek Generations finally made it so to have Captain James T. Kirk and Captain Jean-Luc Picard together on the big screen. If only the movie supported the historic moment. Although my parents stuck to the original series, I knew Star Trek: The Next Generation was just as popular. So my brother and I boldly went through all 7 seasons after finishing The Undiscovered Country. The Next Generation gave Trekkies a deeper look into the life of an Enterprise crew with multilayered characters, complex themes, and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s actually thanks to the movies that Gene Roddenberry agreed to make a new series. Although it wasn’t necessary to cancel the show just to make a seventh installment with the new cast. At least it was easy to seamlessly transition Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, and Marina Sirtis from the show to the movie. Despite exploring many strange new worlds and seeking out several new forms of life and civilizations, only a movie could properly pass the baton.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 99113.08: Generations appropriately begins with the retired crew of the USS Enterprise. William Shatner, James Doohan, and Walter Koenig were the only ones they could afford. The rest of the cast wanted to preserve the integrity of their final mission together. Making this the official final appearance of the original Captain Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov. They’re overseeing the first voyage of the USS Enterprise-B. Alan Ruck was surprisingly made captain and they even meet Sulu’s daughter taking over as helmsman. The Enterprise is once again the only starship in range when they receive a distress call. Kirk gladly takes over when they rescue El-Aurian refugees including Whoopi Goldberg as the ever mysterious Guinan. As well as a villain intended to be the next Khan. The always villainous Malcolm McDowell plays the equally mysterious Tolian Soran. Kirk is unceremoniously killed when he saves the crew from a ribbon of energy. Almost 100 years later, we rejoin the crew of the Enterprise-D in the cool, but impractical Holodeck.

Although the movie embraces opportunities like having an enormous sailing ship in the Holodeck, the biggest problem is Generations feeling like an overlong episode. Director David Carson actually directed many episodes of the show. Sets and uniforms are literally borrowed from either The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. The Enterprise has minor movie modifications, but the bridge, Engine room, and Ten Forward all have unusual lighting. All members of the crew have their moments, but only Picard has a serious arc. Worf is promoted to lieutenant commander on the Holodeck, Dr. Beverly Crusher is pushed into the water when Data misunderstands a humorous situation, and it leads to Geordi La Forge implanting his emotion chip. Data never used the chip since its last appearance in the episode “Descent, Part II.” A good portion of Generations is Data annoying everyone with his emotional outbursts and failed stand up routines. Although Picard’s life takes a sudden dark turn when Deanna Troi counsels her captain about the death of his brother and nephew. Which seems needlessly cruel for the sake of character development. Geordi is not so surprisingly kidnapped by Soran who transports them to a Klingon Bird of Prey helmed by the Duras sisters. One of the few remaining antagonistic Klingons from the show.

Picard learns from Guinan, Soran’s plan to enter the “Nexus.” A place of pure joy that can only be reached if Soran launches a probe from Veridian III that destroys the planet. Picard’s number one William Riker commands the Enterprise when the former beams down to Veridian III. Unfortunately, the Duras sisters gain an advantage after bugging Geordi’s visor. It leads to the second major destruction of the Enterprise that sends the saucer hurtling towards the planet. When Picard fails to stop Soran, he gets everything he’s ever wanted in the “Nexus.” Until Picard learns to accept the things he can’t change. His only request is to get help from a certain legend. SPOILER ALERT! Captain Kirk meeting Captain Picard is a Trekkie’s dream come true. Their interplay is fascinating, but I really expected it to be more epic than this. Shatner’s overacting and Stewart’s thespian training are very much on different levels. When Kirk accepts the challenges of life, he agrees to team up with Picard. It’s also a treat to see these two captain fight side by side, but Kirk is killed in the most unremarkable way possible. No doubt enraging fans of all ages. What should be an emotional moment, is simply Kirk dying under rumble after defeating Soran. The baton is passed when Picard returns to his crew with hopes of receiving a new starship. Star Trek Generations does have an engaging set up, but poor execution made it just another voyage. “Live long and prosper.” 🖖

10. Star Trek Generations

Captain Picard meets Captain Kirk

Preceded by: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country & Followed by: Star Trek: First Contact

The Klingon Empire

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is the send off the original crew of the USS Enterprise deserved. After the failure of The Final Frontier, Star Trek needed a sure-fire hit to honor the 25th anniversary of the series. Just about everyone pitched story ideas that were never made. Producer Harve Bennett left the franchise when his idea for a prequel centered around a younger Enterprise crew was turned down (little did he know). Walter Koenig wanted a story where most of the crew dies, but Leonard Nimoy had a better idea once again. Nicolas Meyer returns after successfully directing The Wrath of Khan. The Undiscovered Country uses the advancing age of the cast to deal with themes of growing old and accepting change. This was sadly the last time William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and George Takei would appear on screen together. Although he had his objections, this was the first film released after Gene Roddenberry’s death.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 99110.34: The Undiscovered Country explores how the Klingons established peace between the United Federation of Planets. Most Trekkies know that The Next Generation was set at a time when Klingons were allies to their sworn enemy. The destruction of the Klingon moon Praxis is symbolic of the Cold War between America and Russia. The parallels are clever, especially when Captain James T. Kirk and most of his crew are against peace with the Klingons. Captain Spock is the only one who sees the logic in having the Enterprise personally escort the Klingon chancellor. Everyone in the crew gets a chance to shine. Uhura shows every bit of her communication skills when speaking with the Klingons, but Nichols’ was apprehensive about the racial undertones. Chekov gets most of the humorous lines when they sit down for an awkward dinner. Most of Scotty’s time is spent keeping the Enterprise shipshape. Sulu has a major promotion where he’s finally the captain of his own ship. Though it does keep him away from the cast, it’s exactly what Takei always wanted.

Captain Hikaru Sulu initially discovers the destroyed moon and remains loyal to his friends when tragedy strikes. Star Trek has always done well with mystery episodes. The Undiscovered Country becomes a whodunit mystery when the welcoming chancellor Gorkon played by David Warner is assassinated. The Enterprise is framed when it appears they fired on the Klingon ship and personally shot Gorkon wearing antigravity suits. The Undiscovered Country has more distinctive Klingons than we’ve ever seen before. Along with a very respectable cast for the budget they had. Next Generation sets were actually reused to cut costs. Rosanna DeSoto plays Gorkon’s daughter who continues to strive for peace. In a clever bit of irony, Brock Peters plays a Starfleet admiral who very much opposes peace with the Klingons. Christopher Plummer brings much gravitas to the Shakespeare quoting Klingon General Chang. He tries Captain Kirk & Dr. McCoy for their preserved crimes when Bones fails to save the chancellor. Although I watched The Next Generation after the fact, it is neat to have Michael Dorn play an ancestor of Worf defending the two. When they’re sentenced to life in a frozen prison on Rura Penthe, Spock does everything in his power to clear their names.

Kelley is just as funny as ever in his final physical performance before retirement. Kirk gains an ally and a love interest in the shapeshifting form of supermodel Iman as Martia. Though she’s not what she seems. Leading to the second time Kirk has had to fight himself. Spock beams up Jim & McCoy in time to discover who the real sabator is. SPOILER ALERT! Kim Cattrall was meant to play Saavik, but she ended up playing Spock’s new Vulcan protege Valeris instead. It made her betrayal a lot less personal. Though Spock definitely shows anger when attempting a mind meld. They discover Chang to also be part of the sabotage. They engage in an epic space battle where a refitted photon torpedo saves the day. Kirk and the rest of his crew prevent a second assassination at the conference on Khitomer where they’re commended for their bravery. JIm grows from the death of his son to accept peace with the Klingons. The movie’s title ties into the brave new world they’ve managed to accomplish. Our time with the crew ends on a high note when Kirk takes the Enterprise for one last voyage before being decommissioned and replaced by the next generation. A final heartfelt Captain’s log and personal signatures from the original cast were a nice touch. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country gave Trekkies the closure they needed. “Live long and prosper.” 🖖

8. Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country

The Enterprise crew meet with the Klingons

Preceded by: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier & Followed by: Star Trek Generations

What Does God Need with a Starship?

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is perhaps the worst Star Trek movie of all time. Or at least the worst film with the original cast. This was actually the first movie made after The Next Generation aired. Further proof that the even numbered Star Trek movies are better than the odd. The Voyage Home was a breath of fresh air for the franchise thanks to Leonard Nimoy’s direction, but William Shatner has too much of an ego to let his friend have all the glory. So he only returned with the promise of more money and the director’s chair for The Final Frontier. Although naming it after a quote from the famous monologue makes it seem like the last movie, Star Trek V would’ve been a terrible note to end things on. The Final Frontier is so bad that it won the Razzie for Worst Picture. There are so many problems that even the most hardcore Trekkie can’t excuse. Series creator Gene Roddenberry was especially critical about Shatner’s story idea.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 99107.61: The Final Frontier begins with the strange sight of a laughing Vulcan. Sybok is the newest villain intended for Sean Connery, but given to Laurence Luckinbill instead. Despite his illogical use of emotion, Sybok is revealed to be Spock’s half-brother who was never mentioned before. He holds hostage a human, Klingon, and Romulan representative at the Paradise City on Nimbus III of the Neutral Zone. Of course the newly built USS Enterprise-A is the only starship that can answer the distress call. One of the biggest problems with The Final Frontier is the age of its long-running cast. Yet Shatner made this the most physically demanding film in the franchise. DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and George Takei all had no problem with his direction. Even Takei found him easy to work with (“Oh my”). The crew is currently on one of their many shore leaves seen in various episodes of the show.

Captain James T. Kirk is first seen rock climbing in Yosemite with Spock & Bones. Spock uses ridiculous rocket boots to save Kirk when he falls and it leads to a mostly genuine discussion about mortality. Immediately followed by an overlong rendition of “Row Row Row Your Boat” around the campfire. The rest of the crew isn’t treated much better. Sulu & Chekov are given some dignity with the former piloting a shuttle manually and the latter posing as ship captain. Scotty deals with a malfunctioning ship and bumps his head as an unfunny joke. Uhura has the most embarrassing moments with an out of nowhere attraction to Scotty and a half naked fan dance despite being over 50. The crew ride horses to capture Sybok, but the human, Romulan, and Klingon are all on his side. Speaking of Klingons, they’re also shoehorned into the movie with a Bird of Prey randomly deciding to hunt the Enterprise.

Sybok reveals his mission to be the most far fetched story in all of Star Trek. He’s literally trying to find God at the center of the universe on the planet Sha Ka Ree. I know Star Trek doesn’t stray away from religious allegory, but this is too far. Shatner was convinced this would be a great story after being inspired by televangelists. Sybok is like a spiritual leader who removes bad memories from his followers using a mind meld technique. Most of the crew is swayed including McCoy, but Kirk & Spock risist. Sybok allows Kirk to command the Enterprise so that they can boldly go where no man has gone before. SPOILER ALERT! They easily pass the Great barrier and come face to face with “God” represented by a floating head. Although it seems like an Eden, the entity asks for the Enterprise, and Kirk overacts the infamous line “What does God need with a starship?” The entity attacks, Sybok sacrifices himself, the Klingons destroy the false god, and everything ends back at the campfire. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is an embarrassment that would have ruined the franchise if they weren’t given a second chance. “Live long and prosper.” 🖖

7. Star Trek V The Final Frontier

Spock flies up to Captain Kirk

Preceded by: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home & Followed by: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Whale Song

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is easily the second best Star Trek movie with the original series cast. Yet it doesn’t have a villain, epic starship battles, phaser action, or even much space in it. In fact, The Voyage Home is easily the most lighthearted film in the franchise. It was actually the second Star Trek movie I watched on VHS at a young age. After proving himself with The Search for Spock, Leonard Nimoy was immediately asked to direct the fourth installment. The almost comedic tone and environmental message were all Nimoy’s idea. Producer Harve Bennett agreed with the unconventional story, but now William Shatner was on the fence about returning. Not until he got a substantial pay increase and the chance to direct his own Star Trek movie. Since The Voyage Home finally put an emphasis on the entire crew of the Enterprise, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and George Takei all have their own enjoyable subplots.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 99104.87: The Voyage Home completes the story arc that began with The Wrath of Khan and continued with The Search for Spock. We’ve seen Spock’s heroic sacrifice and resurrection, as well as the decommissioning and subsequent destruction of the USS Enterprise. Admiral James T. Kirk and his loyal crew remained on Vulcan after going against Starfleet orders, but it’s time for them to face punishment. Spock is a little out of sorts, but he learns to open up when Jim & Dr. McCoy attempt to elicit a less than logical response. Both of Spock’s parents are present to speak with their resurrected son, but neither share screen time. Jane Wyatt plays Amanda Grayson on Vulcan and Mark Lenard plays Ambassador Sarek back at Starfleet Command. The newly built location features Klingons and many other alien races that Trekkies will recognize. Saavik stays behind for reasons only disclosed in alternate scripts for the movie. Majel Barrett does return as Christine Chapel, but she’s strangely never seen reacting to Spock’s death. Which is odd considering their romantic history.

The Voyage Home has a plot so unique that it’s impossible not to love. Madge Sinclair plays the first female Starfleet captain who encounters a space probe that disrupts the Earth’s atmosphere with sound waves. Spock correctly determines the message to be a whale song. So the entire movie is about the Enterprise crew finding a pair of extinct humpback whales. It’s an environmental message, but a subtle one. The only way to find the whales is for the crew to send the Klingon Bird of Prey dubbed the Bounty backwards through time. All Trekkies know time travel was a common occurrence in the original series. Like the show, setting most of the The Voyage Home in 1986 San Francisco is a clever way to cut costs. They enter the past by using a slingshot maneuver around the sun. The humor of the crew parking their cloaked vessel, trying to blend in, and getting 20th century money is top notch. The crew split up into three teams. Sulu, McCoy, and Scotty find plexiglass to build a whale tank. Scotty is especially passionate about his work and Sulu prides himself on flying a helicopter in the city he grew up in.

Uhura & Chekov try to find a source of nuclear power, but Chekov has a habit of saying nuclear wessel. Uhura uses all of her communication skills to track the whales. Kirk & Spock have some of their best banter yet as they search for whales. They refer to primitive profanity as “colorful metaphors” and Spock even uses his Vulcan nerve pinch on a punk. Although Eddie Murphy originally wanted a role, Catherine Hicks ended up playing the woman responsible for the whales at the aquarium. She’s a good voice for the 20th century and a strong potential love interest for Jim. Kirk even reveals his birthplace of Riverside, Iowa. Dr. Gillian Taylor doesn’t believe their crazy story, but she soon gets roped into it. Another fun side adventure is Chekov being mistaken for a Russian spy and being sent to the hospital where Bones hilariously calls out their primitive medicine. SPOILER ALERT! Gillian tags along as the whales are brought to the future where their beautiful song saves the Earth. It’s such a joyful success that even Spock appears to be smiling. The best possible conclusion is the crew being freed of all charges and Kirk being demoted to captain of the newly built USS Enterprise. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home proves that flashy effects aren’t always needed to tell a fascinating adventure. “Live long and prosper.” 🖖

5. Star Trek IV The Voyage Home

Kirk and Spock in San Francisco

Preceded by: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock & Followed by: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

I Have Been, and Always Shall Be, Your Friend

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock may be an odd numbered Star Trek sequel, but it deserves more credit. The most interesting pattern in the franchise is every odd numbered movie being bad and every even numbered movie being good. The Motion Picture was slow and boring, but The Wrath of Khan was one of the finest sequels ever made. I didn’t know much about The Search for Spock, so I prepared for the worst. Not realizing its the only original odd numbered sequel with a fresh Rotten Tomatoes score. The Search for Spock made it clear that Trekkies need not worry about losing their favorite Vulcan. Leonard Nimoy went from actively avoiding Star Trek movies to directing one himself. The franchise was in good hands no matter how different the experience was for the returning cast. Harve Bennett and James Horner both return to write and score a direct continuation of The Wrath of Khan. The sequel’s success quickly ensured a 1984 third installment with a slightly increased budget, but an even shorter 1 hour & 45 minute runtime.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 99102.14: The Search for Spock continues to cut costs with a literal “Previously on” segment of Spock’s death. Followed by the exact same monologue and shot of the Genesis planet where Spock’s casket was last seen. The damaged USS Enterprise is decommissioned and Starfleet orders the crew not to speak about Genesis. Despite their advancing age, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and George Takei continue to hold their own. Shatner tried to lose weight, but he’s not the man he used to be. Admiral James T. Kirk is still mourning Spock until the opportunity to bring him back presents itself. I had no idea how it would be done, but the explanation is weird even for Star Trek. Turns out Spock transferred his katra (living spirit) into Dr. McCoy with the mind meld seen in The Wrath of Khan. Bones going crazy with Spock’s mind is a bit of cruel irony for their love-hate relationship.

Mark Lenard returns as Spock’s distant father Sarek after one physical appearance in the episode “Journey to Babel.” Sarek tells Kirk everything he needs to know about returning Spock to Vulcan and his crew risks court-martial by hijacking the Enterprise. Sulu, Scotty, Chekov, and Uhura are all given badass moments before leaving. Although Uhura is left behind while the guys do most of the work. At least Nichols’ got the skirt uniform she always wanted. Scotty disables the USS Excelsior as they set out to Genesis. Grissom crew members David Marcus & Lt. Saavik are already on the planet. Merritt Butrick gets a bit more screen time as Kirk’s son, but Kirstie Alley didn’t want to be typecast as a Vulcan. Saavik is instead played by the lesser known Robin Curtis. The most unusual step in Spock’s resurrection is his mindless body rapidly aging when on the unstable Genesis. Spock experiences the entire Vulcan lifecycle while Saavik helps in any way she can. Since nothing can top a villain like Khan, Christopher Lloyd as the Klingon warlord Kruge can’t help but fall short. Kruge is still an entertaining threat with an alien pet and similar goal to take Genesis for himself. Their green cloaked Bird of Prey warship is a challenging obstacle similar to the ones used by the Romulans.

SPOILER ALERT! David is killed out of nowhere when Kruge finds them on the planet. Kirk is devastated, but he figures out a way to take out most of the Klingon crew. The beloved starship Enterprise is destroyed when the captain finally uses the self-destruct code first seen in the episode “Let That Be Your Battlefield.” It’s a standout moment, but it won’t be the last. Kirk engages in a fight with Kruge, made better with Shatner and Lloyd’s brand of overacting. As Kruge falls to his death, Kirk is transported onto the Klingon vessel. Vulcan is given even more importance after its role in “Amok Time” and brief appearance in The Motion Picture. Bones agrees to save Spock with a bizarre Vulcan ritual known as fal-tor-pan. Spock is finally brought back while slowly remembering Jim is and always shall be his friend. Reinforcing the theme of friendship and ensuring far more voyages to come. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock may not compare to The Wrath of Khan, but it’s an enjoyable personal adventure nonetheless. “Live long and prosper.” 🖖

4. Star Trek III The Search for Spock

Spock reunites with the Enterprise crew

Preceded by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan & Followed by: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Live Long and Prosper 🖖

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the greatest Star Trek movie of all time. If not one of the best sequels of all time. Everything fascinating about the ongoing mission of the starship Enterprise can be found in Star Trek II. As a recent Trekkie, I knew I wanted to see The Wrath of Khan the most, but I actually watched the movie a long time ago. Since my parents are such big Trekkies, they owned two of the best even numbered Star Trek sequels on VHS. Although I remember seeing the movie, I didn’t know enough about the franchise to appreciate it. After the failure of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Paramount unfairly blamed its performance on creator Gene Roddenberry.

Turns out his limited influence was exactly what the movies needed. Ironically, the same tactic worked for George Lucas on The Empire Strikes Back. Similar to Star Wars, it was the second installment that gave Trekkies a mature, but fast paced adventure with a strong villain and an unexpected twist. Despite having a producer and director who never watched the original series until they were hired. Luckily writer Jack B. Sowards was an avid Trekkie. The producer Harve Bennett was smart to take inspiration from a fan favorite episode. While the director Nicholas Meyer was smart to push the sequel in a more exciting action-packed direction that challenged the crew of the Enterprise like we’ve never seen before…

2. Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan

Spock says goodbye to Admiral Kirk

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had a severely reduced budget and a 1 hour & 53 minute runtime, yet it still ended up better than The Motion Picture. Fans of the TV series don’t need a two and a half hour think piece. The Wrath of Khan returns to the root of the show by placing more emphasis on the crew. Seeing the USS Enterprise in action now has just as much weight as the returning cast. William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and Nichelle Nichols all agreed to return despite their advancing age in 1982. Though Doohan was the only one who put on a little weight. George Takei was likely on the fence due to his feud with Shatner (“Oh my”), but fortunately he was convinced to return. Nichols’ only complaint was similar to an issue she had with the first movie. Meyer’s biggest contribution was a more Naval feel to the Enterprise and their uniforms. The multi-colored uniforms of the show and the drab uniforms of The Motion Picture are replaced by matching red uniforms. The outfit change became iconic to the movies, but they do negate the use of a “Redshirt.” Leonard Nimoy was once again uncertain about returning. Until he was promised something that would change Star Trek forever.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 99099.4: The Wrath of Khan begins on the bridge of the Enterprise with Lt. Saavik commanding a crew consisting of first officer Spock, helmsman Hikaru Sulu, communications officer Uhura, and chief medical officer Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. Now every crew member gets a chance to shine no matter the size of their role. Majel Barrett is strangely the only crew member missing as Nurse Christine Chapel. New characters make just as much of an impression. The Wrath of Khan is all about death and growing old. So the next generation of cadets serve aboard the Enterprise. Kirstie Alley makes her unexpected film debut as young by-the-book Vulcan Lt. Saavik. Saavik gets her crew killed in a war with Klingons, but it was all just a simulation. The Kobayashi Maru is a test designed as a no-win scenario. Another major theme that Admiral James T. Kirk doesn’t believe in. Spock is currently captain of the Enterprise who makes Saavik his Vulcan protege. Shatner’s ego made him apprehensive about playing an aging Kirk, but it’s exactly the motivation he needs. Bones gives Jim reading glasses on his birthday and gives him friendly advise not to lose what he loves most.

Spock & Jim’s friendship is greatly explored when Spock logically hands over the reigns to his oldest friend. While saying the crucial line “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Ensign Pavel Chekov is nowhere on the bridge, because he was reassigned to the starship Reliant. Since Koenig was shortchanged in The Motion Picture, he’s given a very substantial role. I just wish it didn’t create a major plot hole. The Wrath of Khan refers to Khan Noonien Singh. After fighting a cloud in the first movie, Star Trek needed a real villain on par with the Klingons or Romulans. The season 1 episode “Space Seed” perfectly established an enemy from the past who would seek revenge on Captain Kirk. Khan was a superhuman from the 20th century unfrozen with his crew in the 23rd century. Influential Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbán was charismatic, yet ruthless as he seduced the ship’s historian Marla McGivers and attempted to seize control of the Enterprise. The episode ended with Khan, McGivers, and his crew exiled on Ceti Alpha V. First officer Chekov and his captain Terrell, played by Paul Winfield, unknowingly end up on the barren planet in search of a place to test the terraforming Genesis Device.

Khan kidnapping Chekov is a powerful moment, but they act like they met before despite Chekov not appearing until season 2. Montalbán is just as menacing as he was decades ago. Even with Khan’s long white hair and open chest. He wants revenge for the death of his wife and most of his people after the explosion of Ceti Alpha VI made his planet a wasteland. Khan takes cues from Moby Dick by hunting the Enterprise, seeking the Genesis Device, and using malicious tactics like controlling Chekov & Terrell with a disgusting eel larvae. The Enterprise is once again the only ship in range to receive a distress call from Regula I. The space station houses the Genesis Device, as well as its creators Dr. Carol Marcus and her son David. Marcus is of course a former lover of Kirk played by the lovely, but age appropriate Bibi Besch. Merritt Butrick plays her son who not so unexpectedly ends up being Kirk’s son as well. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy continue their trademark banter while learning the purpose of Genesis. The very first computer generated graphic in film history shows its ability to bring life to an entire planet.

Khan ambushes the Enterprise by dealing a fatal blow to his crew. Scotty gets his emotional moment by crying for a cadet meant to be his young nephew. Despite working with limited special effects, space battles are epic with phasers and photon torpedoes finally put to use. Despite only talking through a viewscreen or communicator, Khan’s hatred of Kirk is felt without them ever coming face-to-face. Especially with poetic lines like the Klingon proverb that says “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Kirk manages a counter attack, but ends up marooned with Bones, Saavik, Chekov, Marcus, and their son on Regula I. Khan refuses to hurt his enemy directly as Kirk lets out his famous “Khaaan!!!” A line made better by Shatner’s overacting. Khan obtains the Genesis Device, but Spock manages to pick up the stranded crew with the Transporter. Kirk tricks Khan once more by luring his ship into the shield disrupting Mutara Nebula.

Spock notes a flaw in Khan’s battle tactics that leaves his crew fatally wounded. Even on the verge of death, Khan makes one final blow that activates Genesis. SPOILER ALERT! With the warp drive inoperable, Spock makes the logical choice to sacrifice himself by entering the radioactive Engine room. McCoy refuses to let him pass, but Spock uses the Vulcan nerve pinch and performs a very important mind meld. Spock’s heroic sacrifice and heartfelt final words to his friend left a generation of Trekkies distraught and emotional. As much flak as Shatner receives, his eulogy at Spock’s funeral definitely made me tear up. Even the very Vulcan Saavik can’t help but cry. Though he lost his closest friend, Kirk now has a son that accepts him. As final as this frontier feels, there’s still hope for Spock in a brilliant reworking of the iconic monologue delivered by Nimoy himself. Revealing his casket deep in the new Genesis planet. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan saved the franchise with old enemies, new companions, a James Horner score, and an experienced crew at the heart of an exciting voyage. “Live long and prosper.” 🖖

3. Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan

Khan mounts an attack

Preceded by: Star Trek: The Motion Picture & Followed by: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

The Slow Motion Picture

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is not the feature film Trekkies deserved. Star Trek: The Original Series is a landmark of science fiction created by Gene Roddenberry. The 1966 series was all about exploration through space, the final frontier. It followed the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its 5 year mission was to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life, and new civilizations. “To boldly go where no man has gone before!” My parents have always been Trekkies who grew up watching the original series, but my brother and I always remained in the neutral zone. It wasn’t until last year that we finally decided to experience everything Star Trek at warp speed. I may be a casual fan turned instant Trekkie, but even I know they could’ve done better than The Motion Picture. When the original series was cancelled after only 3 seasons, The Animated Series was all that filled the void. Roddenberry felt the best way to revive the franchise was with a movie. Paramount disagreed and the continuation became a TV series titled Star Trek: Phase II.

Ironically, the success of Star Wars and the subsequent success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind ensured a movie would be made instead of a show. The problem with The Motion Picture is no one knowing the right direction to take. You can tell it’s trying to be as different from Star Wars as possible. Academy Award winning director Robert Wise is brilliant, but you can tell he has a very limited understanding of Star Trek. The script was often incomplete, production faced many problems, and one very important cast member almost didn’t return. William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Majel Barrett all agreed to return after a decade, but Leonard Nimoy was hesitant. I’m glad they worked something out, because Star Trek isn’t the same without the fan favorite Vulcan. The Motion Picture has an out of this world score by Jerry Goldsmith and impressive special effects for a 1979 film, but that’s one of its biggest problems. The runtime is an unbearably boring 2 hours & 25 minutes worth of slow moving shots of the USS Enterprise, wormholes, and a villain that’s literally a space cloud. There’s practically no phaser action, color, or sense of fun. The redesigned Enterprise has cinematic grandeur, but the new uniforms are incredibly drab.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 99096.66: The Motion Picture begins with a very important contribution to the warmongering Klingons. This is the first time they’re seen speaking Klingon and having ridged foreheads. The language was developed by Doohan himself. They’re attacked by the space cloud which is headed straight for Earth. Since the Enterprise is in range, Admiral James T. Kirk commandeers his ship long after the completion of their 5 year mission. Shatner is every bit the charming overactor he’s always been. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy is just as snarky when reluctantly energized through the Transporter. Apart from Scotty trying to fix the faulty Engine room, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and Nurse Chapel are basically glorified extras. I value what little screen time they receive, but even the return of Grace Lee Whitney as Janice Rand is barely given attention. More attention is given to characters who were indented to appear in the Phase II series. Stephen Collins plays Commander William Decker. The former captain whose job Kirk takes for himself. Bald model Persis Khambatta plays Deltan navigator Ilia. She shares a romantic history with Decker, but makes a point about her celibacy so that Kirk doesn’t get any ideas.

Kirk was supposed to get a new Vulcan science officer, but Spock returns when he dies in a Transporter accident. Spock is every bit the fascinating logical half-Vulcan he’s always been. Planet Vulcan makes its second live-action appearance along with a Vulcan language. Spock tries to purge his emotions, but his human half calls to the cloud. Turns out the cloud is really a sentient computer named V’Ger that is very slowly revealed when Spock mind melds with it during a trippy spacewalk. Ilia is turned into a living computer through V’Ger’s consciousness in an attempt to find its creator. SPOILER ALERT! The extremely philosophical ending culminates in V’Ger’s reveal as the Earth probe Voyager 6. The living machine must join with a human (that ends up being Decker) in order to fulfill its mission. The new lifeform seems important, but it’s never brought up again. Although the story isn’t too far off from the prime directive of Star Trek, the 2001: A Space Odyssey approach made Star Trek: The Motion Picture a snoozefest. “Live long and prosper.” 🖖

1. Star Trek The Motion Picture

The crew of the Enterprise

Followed by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Water & Power

Tank Girl just might be the weirdest movie adaptation of a comic I’ve never heard of. I’m pretty knowledgeable about comic book movies, but the 90’s really would adapt anything. Tank Girl was created in 1988 as an alternative anti-establishment British punk prone to sex & violence. Similar to Judge Dredd or Mad Max, Tank Girl is from a post-apocalyptic Australia where she drives around in a personalized tank. I understand the niche appeal, but her comic is a little too absurd and/or chaotic for my taste.

Although it understandably tanked hard at the box-office, Tank Girl earned a cult following for being a dumb fun, yet mostly faithful comic adaptation. Like Barb Wire with more grunge. Freddy’s Dead director Rachel Talalay worked closely with the creators, received creature effects from Stan Winston, and even got Courtney Love to do the soundtrack. Although she goes by Rebecca and isn’t British, Lori Petty is exactly who I’d imagine as Tank Girl. She’s annoyingly sarcastic, has most of her hair cut off, and wears almost every punk outfit she has in the comics.

Although it’s R rated, there’s not as much nudity as you’d expect. There’s a definite feminist slant to the comic and movie. Actual comic artwork and animation is used sporadically, but I think they just ran out of money. In the year 2033, water is controlled by the evil corporation Water & Power. Malcolm McDowell is the over-the-top villain Kesslee, actual Brit Naomi Watts plays her ally Jet Girl, and rapper Ice-T plays one of many bizzare humanoid kangaroo super-soldiers called Rippers. Including Tank Girl’s interspecies lover Booga. Tank Girl is as bad and/or ridiculous as it sounds, but I think that’s the point.

Tank Girl

Tank Girl with the Rippers

Savior of the Universe

Flash Gordon is another colorful cult classic 80’s adventure I didn’t get into as much as I hoped. Similar to Big Trouble in Little China, I guess I should’ve seen it when I was younger. Not that I didn’t appreciate its campy charm and intentionally silly performances. Flash Gordon is the original heroic space adventurer (save for Buck Rodgers). His 1934 comic strips sparked black & white film serials and several TV shows, but no movie until 1980. George Lucas failing to obtain the rights to Flash Gordon fortunately led to the creation of Star Wars. Both stories are epic space operas with vast galaxies full of advanced technology, large scale war, and aliens from a thousand worlds.

The same Italian producer behind the equally campy Barbarella also ended up making Flash Gordon. He gave it a comedic B movie feel with lesser known actors like Sam L. Jones as blonde football player Flash and Melody Anderson as his plucky true love Dale Arden. Like the comics or serials, they’re sent to the planet Mongo in Dr. Hans Zarkov’s rocket ship. Bigger names like Topol play the well-meaning scientist, along with Timothy Dalton as dashing enemy turned ally Prince Barin, Brian Blessed as literal Hawkman Prince Vultan, and Max von Sydow as the diabolical Fu Manchu-like villain Emperor Ming the Merciless.

The beautiful Ornella Muti plays Ming’s seductive daughter Princess Aura. When Ming threatens the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s up to Flash! Ah-ah! to become the savior of the universe. The aliens, technology, and civilizations are all delightfully cheesy. The best scenes are of Flash playing mock football against Ming’s henchmen and dueling Barin with only 14 hours to save the Earth. Made even better with a soundtrack by Queen. Although Ming’s defeat teases a sequel, there’s strangely never been a follow up or reboot. Flash Gordon doesn’t always make sense, but it’s meant to be dumb fun.

Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon saves the universe