Star Trek: The Motion Picture – 1979
Director – Robert Wise
Screenplay – Harold Livingston based on the story by Alan Dean Foster
Starring – William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Stephen Collins, Persis Khambatta, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan
Okuda Timeline – 2271
Synopsis – The Enterprise is drafted back into action mid-upgrade to intercept a strange life form that is headed towards earth. Admiral Kirk volunteers to take the Captain’s chair from Captain Decker (Collins) as Spock and Bones find themselves drawn back as well.
Review – It’s fun to have them back, but really the film is boring as hell. Taking elements from the stillborn Phase II television project, we see many experimental effects that work on certain levels, but really just drag for the most part. It’s a lot of stuff that was handled better in the original series but now is done just for the sake of doing it (Spock’s arrival to Enterprise comes to mind). The look of the film takes a new life in digital form, however. The Kirk / Decker interplay still works, even if their motives seem to change a bit, no doubt due to the merging of the TV show pilot with the movie script. The balance between Spock, Kirk and McCoy are off, though, as the character of Spock is unnecessarily compromised, as if they really had not understood who the character is, even after a 3 year series. Some believe that his integration with V’Ger helps to resolve his own inner conflicts and pushes them towards what eventually would be The Borg. It would have been more entertaining if it weren’t so subtle. The degree of discomfort is just plain strange. The rest of the crew is there just be patronized, it seems. Khambatta’s acting actually makes sense when viewed as a robotic monitor. Still, the ending of the film intrigues when we find out what, exactly, V’ger is. Plus, it opens the door to greater things. For this, we give the film as pass.
(*** out of *****)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – 1982
Director – Nicholas Meyer
Screenplay – Jack B. Sowards and Meyer
Starring – William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Ricardo Montalbán, Kirstie Alley, Paul Winfield, Merritt Butrick, Bibi Besch
Okuda Timeline – 2285
Synopsis – Space Seed Khan has blossomed in the desert of an uninhabitable planet. He and the descendants of that episode capture a Federation ship, setting up one of the great confrontations in Trek history. In the midst of all the chaos, Kirk meets a former flame, Carol Marcus, and her son…his son, David as scientists responsible for a magnificent project, Genesis.
Review – A tremendous script with virtuoso performances of the 3 leads, as well the perfect nemesis for Kirk. The acting in this film is exquisite, especially when one considers that Meyer never had the antagonist and protagonist on the same screen. According to Meyer, this allowed for Shatner to do his best work after many takes whereas Montalbán could nail his scenes in one take. It’s a lean film that gets the most out of almost every situation dramatically and comedically. If you need proof, keep an eye on Spock, especially when he is not speaking. The rest of the crew is geared up for action and they give a real impression that they know what a ship’s crew should do. Even if it’s a little corny, what happens to Chekov is still ghastly.
Kirstie Alley gets the most out of the two-dimensions that she is allowed. Kirk’s son and his former flame add a necessary dimension to his character, fitting nicely with the metaphor for aging that the script employs. For the first time, the fearless leader faces mortality and even if he does not flinch, he still suffers.
The filmmakers approach the story fearlessly, heading where Star Trek had never gone before, and out of this new territory, we see much more than we ever could have expected.
(***** out of *****)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – 1984
Director – Leonard Nimoy
Screenplay – Harve Bennett
Starring – William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Christopher Lloyd, Merritt Butrick, Robin Curtis, Mark Lenard, Judith Anderson
Okuda Timeline – 2285
Synopsis – Kirk is struggling, but not as much as McCoy. Spock’s Dad shows up and tells them that they messed things up during his son’s wake. Meanwhile, Savik and David find that Spock is reborn as a rapidly growing child on the Genesis planet. Klingons, lead by Lloyd, intercept transmissions regarding Genesis and decide that it must be some sort of weapon. Havoc ensues.
Review – Although it’s a decent film, The Search for Spock ends up feeling like a movie in search of a lead character. The absence of Spock allows for an expansion of the roles of others, but they prove not quite ready for the task. They each have their moments, especially Bones, but even though the movie bears his name, Spock’s presence is definitely lacking. The Klingons seem obligatorily gross and Lloyd just lacks menace to carry as an antagonist. Lenard has a good presence, though, and the rest of the gang seem to be having fun. It’s just lacking Spock.
(*** of *****)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – 1986
Director – Leonard Nimoy
Screenplay – Steve Meerson, Harve Bennett, Peter Krikes and Nicholas Meyer
Starring – William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Catherine Hicks, Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt
Okuda Timeline – 2286, 1986
Synopsis – Kirk and crew, still in exile after the events of The Search for Spock, find that the earth is in peril once more from a probe heading towards earth. Turns out it’s a ship of whales who are searching for their relatives left on the planet. Sadly, all whales had been extinct for some time. The crew then takes the Klingon cruiser that they hijacked and travels back in time to kidnap two to get an answer to the probe. While there, they meet a marine biologist (Hicks) who they take along for the ride.
Review – Even if the bones of this film are straight out of the first film, the rest of the script is pure fish out of water gold. The entire cast is superb and are given many relevant things to do. There are literally no wasted roles in the film. Catherine Hicks defines the sexless leading lady of the ’80’s, and she provides many moments of awe. The interplay between Spock, Bones and Kirk has rarely been this good, with so many wonderful moments and lines. That there is no definable enemy is a pleasant success and it shows how the magnetism of the crew was enough to sustain interest for an entire film. This is not only one of the best Trek’s, it one of the most well-rounded films of the decade. As an added bonus, the film contains what is the most quoted line by me and my friends:
“San Francisco. I was born there.” God love Sulu.
(***** out of *****)
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – 1989
Director – William Shatner
Screenplay – David Loughery
Starring – William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, David Warner, Laurence Luckenbill
Okuda Timeline – 2287
Synopsis – Spock’s religious zealot of a brother, Sybok, takes over the Enterprise on a search for God. They find something, but only after finding out other stuff, you know, about each other’s secret pain. Kirk and Spock are impervious to the sham, of course, but no one else is. Oh, and there’s a bored Klingon who is in the vicinity, just looking to cause trouble and, you know, destroy the fabled Enterprise.
Review – It’s a silly film that does not get any better with age. The circumstances of this, like most Star Trek films after the first, is to give each minor character their own special comic moment. That said, Uhura’s belly dance is downright odd. Scotty, well, he hits his head. Kirk climbs El Capitan (with his bare hands, and that big gut) and then, when he gets back to the ship, he’s wearing a shirt that says “Go climb a rock.” It’s that kind of humor, folks. Shat humor.
This is often called the film Shatner got to direct because Nimoy got to direct a couple of films. There is nothing on-screen that tells us that there was anything close to inspiration or artistic merit driving the effort. Okay, well, there are two things…towards the end, when they are facing the supreme being and Kirk gives himself the great line: “What does God need with a starship?” Then after that, the core of the group, Bones, Spock, Kirk, all singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” by the campfire. Cheesy, but it feels good.
(**1/2 out of *****)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – 1991
Director – Nicholas Meyer
Screenplay – Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn
Starring – William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Kim Katrall, David Warner, Christopher Plummer, Rosanna DeSoto
Okuda Timeline – 2293
Synopsis – When the Klingon moon Praxis explodes The Enterprise is volunteered by Spock to pick up their Chancellor, Gorkon (Warner) and bring him back to Earth to pursue peace with the Federation of Planets. Along the way, the Chancellor is murdered with Kirk and McCoy absorbing the blame for it. They are given a life sentence to the Klingon prison asteroid Rura Penthe. As Spock works on the mystery of the murder on the ship, Kirk and McCoy work on surviving and escaping.
Review – The most eloquent Star Trek of them all finds everyone at their wisest. We get to see Kirk grow from agony to acceptance. We see Spock at his most moving, in a performance that sets the tone for all of his subsequent television and movie appearances as the wise older Vulcan. We get to see Sulu as a Captain of his own ship, The Excelsior. And Bones is funnier than hell.
It’s a remarkably graceful exit for the old cast and crew, even if the ending stretches believability. Who can believe that those geezers could give the saboteurs a run for their money, physically? Katrall does a good job creating a new Vulcan protoge, although it would have been better if the character would have been Saavik. The best of all is Plummer as Chang, quoting Shakespeare as he attacks from a cloaked ship.
There are several great lines, many nuanced moments and the film is full of all the grace that the earlier effort lacked.
(****1/2 out of *****)
Star Trek: Generations – 1994
Director – David Carson
Screenplay – Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga
Starring – William Shatner, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Malcom McDowell, Whoopi Goldberg
Okuda Timeline – 2293 and 2371
Synopsis – Kirk is seemingly killed while saving the Enterprise B at the beginning of the film. Flash forward 3/4 of a century and we have TNG crew on Enterprise D. The bonds between the two eras, Guinan (Goldberg) and Dr. Soran (McDowell). One is a friend of the crew, who tends bar and listens. The Dr. is crazy to get back to the ribbon, which he believes will connect him to his long dead wife.
Picard and his crew are thrust into a mystery of an attack at a space station involving Soran and the two ostracised Klingon Duras sisters. Picard, dealing with the loss of his brother and the brother’s family and Data, dealing with a revisit of his emotion chip, lead the crew’s efforts to solve the mystery before something bad happens. Picard finds Kirk under circumstances too convoluted to explain and then together they work together to save the day.
Review – The gift of seeing TNG crew on the big screen has lessened over the years. What we are left with is good, but not great. What is the Nexus? Really, I w0uld like to know. After all this time, and the many viewings, it’s still unclear it is anything more than a plot contrivance.
The good news is that we get plenty of Guinan, who offers wisdom, honesty and star power. The stellar cartography room is fantastic. The crew shos the levity that they possessed in the latter part of the series was a natural progression. Particularly effective are Riker and Worf.
Data, usually a staple in the series, is compromised by the distraction of the emotion chip. If it was intriguing, it lacks the value of being entertainment. We get it. Brent Spiner sings and dances off set, we don’t need to see it on film. Picard is an oozing puddle of emotion himself, giving Troi a scene to seem valuable. McDowell’s motives are clear enough, but seeing him push around Klingon’s makes the whole race seem less.
The Nexus allows us to see the fantasy of Picard and Kirk. Picard’s, as expected, is a bit prissy. Kirk’s is filled with macho manliness. Of course none of this is real. Kirk chopping wood or jumping with a horse requires a willing suspension of disbelief.
The crash onto the Veridian planet is curious and silly, given the amount of money spent on it makes the final action scenes between Picard, Soran and Kirk look like something that the Super 8 kids could have achieved. Not that the crash is all that better anyway. No matter how many times we see it, it still looks like a play set with dirt painted green. We can’t forget the re-use of the Warbird explosion scene from VI, either. Cheap-O’s. The ensuing conclusion to Kirk’s character is a waste; one that Shatner himself would spend years trying to compensate for.
(*** out of *****)
Star Trek – First Contact – 1996
Director – Jonathan Frakes
Screenplay – Brannon Braga, Ronald D. Moore
Starring – Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Alice Krige
Okuda Timeline – 2063 and 2373
Synopsis – The Borg are back, and they have individuals now. Well, a few of them. There’s this Locutus guy (Picard) and then there is a Borg Queen (sublimely creepy Krige). Going against his command’s orders, Picard takes the Enterprise E to face the threat, ans seemingly end it. We then discover that The Borg has travelled back in time to assimilate Earth. Of course the TNG crew has to go back and undo the Borg’s plans. Along the way, they meet Cochrane (Cromwell) and his assistant, Lily (Woodard), the two that orchestrated the first light speed flight, which predicated “First Contact,” or the day that humans meet the Vulcan race for the first time.
Review – The most deftly handled of all of TNG films. Finally using a fair about of digital effects, interesting puzzles and just plain brute force, we get a chance to see more of the ship do more than just fall back and forth while the ship is fired upon. Picard is in action hero mode, something he dabbled with in Generations and will do with more frequency as the series goes on. This ignores the strength of the character, especially when you see him barking at Worf about being a coward. He’s a different sort of man than this.
As for action with The Borg attacking the ship, at least it makes sense. Worf, in particular gets a few wonderful moments in zero G combat with a youngish Neal McDonough. Troi actually gains some appeal while working with Riker on the landing party. LaForge has new eyes and they are cool.Data is put to better use this time, as his Pinocchio journey finds a natural fit with The Queen. Cromwell and Woodard are two of the best TNG costars ever. Woodard, in particular, gives Stewart an unflinching mirror for Stewart when he gets unhinged. It’s a wonderful, odd moment seeing Picard say “the line must be drawn here!” In the next scene, he is apologizing to Worf.
The negatives on TNG’s movie life is in their inherent lack of distinct personality. Here we get to see Riker continue the subtle asshole manoeuvres that he started with Generations, mostly on Worf. Still, it’s nice to see him say “we don’t have time for this” and then zap a fleeing Cochrane with a phaser set to stun. Every time we see Crusher, though, we are reminded that there is no one with the caliber of Bones to throw real insults out. These complaints are small, though, compared to how entertaining this film is.
(****1/2 out of *****)
Star Trek – Insurrection – 1998
Director – Jonathan Frakes
Screenplay – Michael Piller
Starring – Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, F. Murray Abraham, Anthony Zerbe, Donna Murphy, Daniel Hugh Kelly
Okuda Timeline – 2375
Synopsis – So there is a study going on of a planet where the people do not seem to age. In the midst of the study, for some reason, Data goes berserk. We find out that there are some sneaky things going on behind the scenes, where some folks have decided that they need to suck the life force out of the planet that gives these guys their longevity and “spread it around,” you know, for the good of the many. Picard and the Enterprise decide to stick their beaks in the midst of the process and keep these folks from being subjected to communist group think.
Review – Oh Lord, but this movie is bad. While I do love the irony of a Federation based in San Francisco might agree with a thought process that is so clearly socialist, the execution of this film is tremendously bad. The special effects, being the first movie to be entirely digital, look a tad below what we have come to expect on the TV shows. The acting is loopy at best. The lead native chick (Murphy) looks very sleepy at most times and the overall effect rendered is that of a coffee commercial. Abraham is a prototypical bad guy, but the greater sin is that this movie did not seriously look at the options they were presented with: a break from the Federation. The effect takes the oomph from any of the decisions made in the film, taking away the drama and making the thing look as muted as it seems.
(** out of *****)
Star Trek: Nemesis – 2002
Director – Stuart Baird
Screenplay – John Logan
Starring – Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Tom Hardy
Okuda Timeline – 2379
Synopsis – Finally, we see Romulans, but as subjugated by a former slave (Hardy) who is actually a clone of Picard. He’s got evil plans, but the crew of the Enterprise, brought into the area by a clone of Data called B-4, immerses themselves into the situation. The former slave, Shinzon, is hell-bent on doing bad stuff: even going so far as to mentally rape Troi while she does the deed with her new husband, Riker. In the end, 2 versions of Data prove too much for Shinzon, as one of them saves the day by sacrificing himself. B-4 is left with every bit of programming the first one had, thus giving us the same result that we had with Spock’s death, without the need for resurrection.
Review – Whoa, this film is even worse than Insurrection. Every move is telegraphed, desperate, and, frankly, wrong. So little do we respect the character of Troi that she is limited to the role of wife and victim. On the other hand, I would have thought she would have been ready for anything after being with Worf. The move completely obliterates the monumental decision of her marriage to Riker.
Similarly, what better way to drum up sales in a floundering franchise but to promise the death of a major character? Not one person believed that Star Trek would dare remove Data from the equations in any real way…even if we know what is coming from the moment we see yet another version of the droid.
Picard seemingly exists only for physical peril these days. Setting the scene for moving in different directions (especially for Riker), we instead get a bunch of predictable stuff that just happens. Thanks for breaking the curse, though.
If you notice that none of the other staff are mentioned…take a hint. There is a reason for that.
(*1/2 out of *****)
Star Trek – 2009
Director – J.J. Abrahms
Screenplay – Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Starring – Leonard Nimoy, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Bruce Greenwood, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana
Okuda Timeline – 2387, 2233 and 2258
Synopsis – Nero is pissed, and he’s taking his anger into the past, chasing the man who caused his anger. Starting out with an attack on the USS Kelvin, we see Kirk’s father, George, and his mother, Winona, who is about to give birth to James T. Kirk. Dad does not make it, but nearly 800 of his crew mates(including his family) do survive. Nero, who is on a quest for Spock, decides to lay low for a few years and catch up with him later, when he gets out of his own wormhole.
Meanwhile, on Vulcan, we see young Spock, going through the trials. His burden as a half-breed is great, and he has a little harder time holding his emotions. Years later, he has mastered them somewhat, as he answers the call to join the Federation. This leads to his eventual meeting with an upstart Kirk, and through a series of misadventures, they both end up on the same vessel, The Enterprise, as commanded by Pike (Greenwood).
After old Spock arrives, Nero and his Romulan horde captures him and begin his quest to exact revenge on Spock and his planet. From here, it’s a certainty that he would head to Earth to complete the annihilation of the half-breed’s people.
Will Kirk, Spock, Bones and company prevent all of this? No. But they do save the Earth, and continue the original Spock’s timeline, all while changing their own futures.
Review – click here
(***** out of *****)