Why Every Star Trek Film is the Best…and the Worst

A couple of years ago, I was inspired to write a fun piece on my other blog about how you could argue that every Final Fantasy game is the best in the franchise – or perhaps the worst. Now it’s time to take the same logic and apply it to the Star Trek films.

Remember: the following post is for fun only. Obviously First Contact is undisputedly the best Star Trek film, and Star Trek V is terrible.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Why it’s the best: The Motion Picture is the one that kicked off the whole Star Trek movie franchise, and that can’t be forgotten. Intellectual and clearly inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Motion Picture marked an important transition for the Enterprise and her crew. And it also introduced us not only to “bumpy-head” Klingons, but to Ilia, a member of a race so oversexed that they have to take an oath of celibacy just to serve in Starfleet.

Why it’s the worst: Known in some quarters as “The Motionless Picture”, it can’t be denied that The Motion Picture feels very far from the swashbuckling space fun that characterised the original series. The colours are subdued, the pace is slow, and far too much time is spent admiring exterior shots of the Enterprise. If you like wanking over starships, that might be your thing, but for everyone else, it’s probably a bit much.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Why it’s the best: The Wrath of Khan proved what The Motion Picture could not – that Star Trek’s brand of sci-fi adventure could indeed translate to the big screen. With a mix of story elements, characters old and new, a tense game of cat-and-mouse and the ultimate sacrifice, there’s plenty here to like. You want action? Dialogue? Poignant farewell scenes? All of those can be supplied- you’ll certainly never be bored. KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

Why it’s the worst: Isn’t it about time we stopped going on about how great this film is? Has it really stood the test of time? If anything, all it can do these days is remind us of how terrible Star Trek Into Darkness was. Best to forget Khan ever existed.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Why it’s the best: Any movie which resurrects one of the best characters in Star Trek has got to be good – how could we live in a world where Spock had died forever? Here we see the Enterprise regulars at their best as they hijack their own ship and take on both Klingons and the awesome power of the Genesis device, with only their wits to help them. Not to mention those fiery exchanges between David and Saavik, a dramatic stand-off on a crumbling planet, the destruction of the Enterprise herself, and that “did they really go all the way?” during Spock’s pon farr.

Why it’s the worst: Protomatter? Resurrected Spock? Spock’s consciousness stored in McCoy’s brain? Am I really supposed to be able to swallow all this without feeling a little uneasy? And if Scotty can rig the Enterprise so that six people can operate her, why do we even need crews? No wonder there are always people standing around waiting to relieve the named characters whenever they leave their stations.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Why it’s the best: Star Trek proves that it can do comedy in this light-hearted romp in 1980s downtown San Francisco. Saving the Earth in the twenty-third century is serious business, but as fishes out of water, Admiral Kirk and crew never fail to entertain as they make a hash of blending in with their surroundings. Filled with great one-liners and an ambitious plan to transport humpback whales through time, The Voyage Home is pure entertainment.

Why it’s the worst: Time travel is always going to be a bit ridiculous, and this film is no exception – for starters, what’s with the whole “giant white heads” sequence during the gravitational slingshot? Does any of it really make sense? In every other time travel situation, the crew has to be extra careful not to change anything, but here they’re happy to play havoc with the timeline just to get those whales and save Earth from a ridiculous looking probe. It’s lucky they even managed to get back to the same Earth they came from. Also, why is everything on Vulcan so primitive anyway? They have technology at least as advanced as that of Earth.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Why it’s the best: We get a brand new Enterprise, and go on the ultimate mission of all – to find God. Captain Kirk delivers an excellent speech on why he needs his inner pain in order to be a complete person, Spock gets to be gunner on a Klingon bird of prey and kill ‘God’, and Scotty utters “I know this ship like the back of my hand” before walking straight into a bulkhead. Oh, and there’s an owl at the start that has been trained to look right when instructed (look out for it and listen to the DVD commentary).

Why it’s the worst: From start to finish, the story is utterly stupid. Even Gene Roddenberry said that he didn’t really consider Spock’s previously unmentioned half-brother to be canon, and we should probably all ignore Sybok too. His weird brainwashing technique doesn’t make much sense, whilst constant budget cutting meant that a finale that was supposed to involve stone angels and such became a boring trip down to a barren planet. If this is supposed to be Eden, Paradise, or whatever, then it sure needs a makeover. Oh, and then there’s Uhura’s fan dance – a moment that must be bleached from our minds forever.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Why it’s the best: This film is the end of an era for the original series, and what a send-off. The Klingons are the crumbling Soviet Empire, doomed after their homeworld’s moon explodes – but what should the Federation do? Is it time to make peace with an old enemy, or destroy them whilst they’re at their weakest? With tensions high, Kirk and McCoy framed for a murder they didn’t commit, and a traitor at the heart of the Enterprise, can the old crew pull together for one last mission that could determine the course of two major galactic powers?

Why it’s the worst: It’s arguable that there’s a lot of untrimmed fat in this plot. What’s the point of the shapeshifter on Rura Penthe? Why is any of this even happening? When will they all stop talking? And even if you are here for dialogue and character development, it turns out the DVD release lacks some of the extra lines that were cut and then re-added for some TV screenings. I always considered these lines integral to the film, and it feels bare without them.

Star Trek: Generations

Why it’s the best: The ultimate passing of the torch from Kirk to Picard, as two generations of Enterprise captains must join together to defeat an enemy who doesn’t care how many people he kills, as long as he can get back to the joy of ‘The Nexus’. Featuring Klingons, the launch of the Enterprise-B, the loss of the Enterprise-D, Data discovering emotions, and the ‘specially rewritten to be more heroic’ death of Kirk, there’s rarely a dull moment. Oh, and Beverley Crusher also gets pushed into the sea on the holodeck, which, despite what Geordi says, definitely is funny.

Why it’s the worst: The Nexus, an alternate reality of pure joy, makes so little sense that even starting to think about it is an exercise in frustration. Picard’s dream is to be in an advert for Earl Grey tea? With time meaningless, why not return to a point before Soran even got to to the Nexus in the first place and stop all this before it…oh, why do I even bother? Not to mention how useless the Enterprise-B and John Harriman are – and why is the Enterprise the only ship in the sector again? Does the fleet even have any other starships? Also, Troi crashed the Enterprise-D saucer section, leading to many jokes about ‘women drivers’. Hey, at least everyone survived. It’s not like flying the ship is even her job.

Star Trek: First Contact

Why it’s the best: The best ever film from the best Star Trek series brings us a mix of themes, and packs a punch on every front. Up on the new, sleek Enteprise-E, a troubled Picard must fight his old nemesis, the Borg, who are taking over his ship with creepy, relentless efficiency. Meanwhile, down on the surface, Riker’s away team is delighted to be helping Zephram Cochrane with his historic warp flight – but the man idolised in the history books turns out to be a drunk who only wants to make money from his invention and retire to a tropical island full of naked women. Full of memorable lines, tense action, and a chance to see what happened when humanity first met the Vulcans, First Contact is a treat from start to finish.

Why it’s the worst: Time travel again – seriously? Now I have to live with a whole new set of headaches.

Star Trek: Insurrection

Why it’s the best: For once, Earth isn’t the planet in danger, as Picard and crew head to the ‘Fountain of Youth’ to expose a forced relocation masterminded by a corrupt admiral and his dodgy allies. Picard finally manages to get some, everyone gets to enjoy relaxing on a luscious planet, and a new, compelling enemy steps forward. There’s plenty of humour, but a serious message too.

Why it’s the worst: The Fountain of Youth – seriously? Special regenerating radiation? How many special types of radiation am I supposed to accept? The Ba’ku are irritating and self-righteous, the final confrontation is tired and unoriginal, and Data becomes completely lackwitted and starts hanging out with kids. He’s served with humans for years now and mastered his emotion chip – has the radiation fritzed his subroutines?

Star Trek: Nemesis

Why it’s the best: At long last, the Romulans get to step forward and have some time on the big screen, and we finally get some more insights into their home worlds and government. Picard gets to go dune buggying for a bit of light relief, before having to face up to his greatest enemy – a man with all the intellect but none of the morality of Picard himself.

Why it’s the worst: Picard’s clone? Seriously? How did the Romulans think that was going to solve anything? Can he really fix himself by ‘harvesting Picard’? What the hell is ‘Thaleron radiation’? Spock went undercover on the Romulan homeworld and never once found out about the Remans? And what’s worst of all, Data dies! Oh yes, he may live on as a memory dump in B4, but it’s not the same.

Star Trek (2009)

Why it’s the best: This reboot of the series breathes fresh energy into the franchise, with lively performances from the new Kirk and crew, plus a suitably over-the-top new enemy to pit the Enterprise against. There’s plenty of Star Trek-style humour and one-liners to break up the pace, plus fresh takes on some familiar personalities. Spock and Uhura – who’d have thought it?

Why it’s the worst: How can you just erase an entire beloved timeline like that, leaving us with an implausible new world? Kirk and crew are just cadets, but somehow they save the world and get their own ship, because they’re all geniuses? Large tracts of the film make no sense whatsoever, which could be ignored if not for things like the giant Cloverfield monsters on the random ice planet that Kirk gets exiled to, red matter, and the destruction of Vulcan. You can’t just destroy Vulcan! It’s not like the destruction of Romulus was even Spock’s fault – he was trying to save it, for heaven’s sake!

Star Trek Into Darkness

Why it’s the best: Remakes the classic Khan story with the aid of the eloquent Benedict Cumberbatch. Looks sumptuous on the big screen. Probably enjoyable if you switch your brain off entirely or drink a shot every time there’s a lens flare*.

Why it’s the worst: This lens-flare filled monstrosity is filled with horrors. The science makes no sense (even by Star Trek standards), Kirk is an annoying prick, Uhura and Spock are constantly having whiny relationship arguments on the clock, and everything about the story is just stupid. Kirk doesn’t even stay dead long enough for Star Trek 13: The Kwest for Kirk, thanks of Khan’s “magic blood”.

*Azure Flame takes no responsibility for any illness or death resulting from this drinking game.

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