Pre-Boot Star Trek: The Original Films Ranked

Before Kid Kirk stole the 'vette, there was an entire Star Trek film series.  Here they are, pre-reboot and ranked in the appropriate Tribble scale...

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

The 1960’s sci-fi show was brought to the big screen in the post-Star Wars ‘70’s to the delight of fans of the original series.  Unfortunately, despite a massive budget and some very good special effects, it left only the most die-hard Trekkers satisfied.  After the rush of seeing the old crew vanishes, you are left with wooden performances, no witty interplay, uniforms that make the Enterprise seem like a huge dentist’s office, and a bald female…cyborg?  There are some memorable aspects like the aforementioned effects, and Dr. McCoy’s return to the Enterprise is memorable.  It could have been worse, but Kirk and crew’s foray on the big screen is too sterile and lacklustre.

2 Tribbles out of 4

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Not only is Khan the best of the entire Star Trek bunch, it stands as one of the best science fiction movies of all time.  The filmmakers reached back to the original series for material and the result was an epic masterpiece.  Ricardo Montalban is absolutely chilling as Khan, a genetic super-human obsessed with avenging the death of his wife (not to mentioned being abandoned on a barren planet), which means he’s obsessed with revenge against Capt. Kirk.  Speaking of James T., the swaggering Captain has to deal the crazy-genius Khan, an old flame, Father/Son issues, and the death of his best friend all in one story.  The ‘submarine battle’ dénouement is a classic scene in a classic film.  The first of a three-film storyline arch.

4 Tribbles out of 4

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

In fairness, any follow-up to Khan was bound to feel like a slight let down.  It was inevitable.  But this film gets better the more you watch it.  In fact, there are some downright brilliant bits to this offering.  The crew goes from grieving Mr. Spock to dealing with perhaps the most vicious Klingon in Star Trek history (Christopher Lloyd) and a rapidly deteriorating Genesis planet.  Once again Kirk faces emotional turmoil over the death of his son, while dealing with a bizarre-acting Dr. McCoy (who carries Spock’s ‘marbles’ in his head).  The Spock fal-tor-pan was truly Vulcan, yet didn’t stretch over the top.  A more than worthy sidekick to Khan.

3 Tribbles out of 4

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

The 3 film storyline arch comes to a close in this wonderful installment of the series.  Offering a much-needed break from the intensity of the previous two films, this one has the crew – still flying the beat-up Klingon ship – going back in time to the mid-1980’s in an attempt to bring two humpback whales ahead in time to save the Earth from an alien probe throwing a tantrum. There really is everything you want in a Star Trek film. It is pure magic watching the crew of the Enterprise mingle with the locals in 1986 San Francisco trying to get what they need for their mission.  With an excellent pace, some good action, and humour not seen in previous efforts, The Voyage Home was the film that established the ‘even number/ odd number’ legend. 

3 ½ Tribbles out of 4

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

I guess it was bound to happen. After 3 (arguably 4) good films, the series was due for a stinker.  Here’s the story: The film begins with Spock’s long-lost and happy-go-lucky brother (?) on Tatooine – wait, that a different sci-fi story. Sorry.  So he gets a Starfleet rep, a Klingon, a Romulan, and other assorted weirdos together and decides to hijack a starship so he can go meet God.  Or something.  A few scenes are okay.  Watching the crew having to experience traumatic experiences from the past is effective. But the banter is forced, the storyline absurd, and the special effects substandard.  Don’t even ask about the moonlight-dancing Uhura. In the end, Kirk questions the validity of ‘God’ as viewers question the validity of this film.  Thank the real God the original crew didn’t end it here.

1 Tribble out of 4

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

Again, the storyline mirrors current (1991) events with Klingons playing the role of Russians at the end of the Cold War.  Kirk must face his long-standing (and arguably justified) bias against the Klingon race as Spock plays peacemaker.  And it is brilliant.  Add in a wonderfully unique Klingon (Christopher Plummer), Michael Dorn (Next Generation) playing his own character’s grandfather, Iman as a super-cool (and dubious) alien, a young Kim Cattrall as a Vulcan, Sulu as the captain of his own starship, Kirk kicking his own ass, and a cameo by Christian Slater, and you have an excellent final hoorah for the original crew.  “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”

3 ½ Tribbles out of 4

The Next Generation

Star Trek Generations (1994)

Captain Kirk dies, but not really, then really dies in this link between the original cast and the Next Generation crew.  An extra dimensional ribbon is traveling the galaxy and causing havoc by destroying everything it touches.  And you can’t touch it or you die. But if it touches you, you enter the multi-D world.  Got that? Fortunately, there are a few elements which save this film.  Malcolm McDowell, although typecast, plays a worthy adversary intent on re-entering the realm and Guinan is a logical and effective advisor to Picard in both dimensions.  And the scenes inside the ribbon are rather spectacular.  But the anticipated Kirk/Picard meeting was a bit of a letdown. All things considered, this is an alright film, bland moments and all.

2 ½ Tribbles out of 4

Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

The best of the NG films is quite honestly good enough to stand alongside some of the better efforts from the first crew.  Reaching back to the TV series, NG features the Borg’s inevitable arrival to Earth.  In pursuit of a Borg craft intent on altering history by preventing the first contact between humans and extraterrestrials, Picard and his crew time-slip back to post-World War III Earth in order to help Zefram Cochrane make history.  While the ‘away team’ scenes are excellent (James Cromwell’s Cochrane is a dufus), including Deanna Troi’s memorable introduction to tequila (Troi: I’m just trying to blend in.  Riker: You’re blended all right.), it’s back on the Borg-infested Enterprise where this film hits warp 8.  Picard, a former captive of the Borg (the underlying theme of the film) sets off to save the already-captured Data, and to face his White Whale or, in this case, the Borg Queen.  Intense, true to Star Trek history, and just damn entertaining.  If only all Next Gen films were this good.

3 ½ Tribbles out of 4

Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

A huge drop from the previous effort, Insurrection feels more like a mediocre double episode of the TV series than a movie.  In a nutshell, you’ve got questionable Starfleet orders, an ethical dilemma for Picard, Data learning to play like a child, some weird aliens, and an endless fan debate over which side broke the Prime Directive (arguably, they both did).  There are a few cute quips and some good action sequences, but overall this just feels slow and, dare I say, boring.

1 ½ Tribbles out of 4

Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

The Next Generation era comes to an end on a film better than its predecessor – slightly better, that is.  For one thing, it feels like an actual movie.  This chapter involves a Romulan-created doppelganger of Captain Picard who, after wiping out the Romulan senate, sets his sights on the Enterprise captain.  A darker tone sets the foundation, which is a positive.  The epic collision scene is truly awesome, even though it means paying a heavy price.  It’s sci-fi good, but not Star Trek good.  But it isn’t really bad, either.

2 Tribbles out of 4

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