Star Trek Movies Ranked Pt. 3

Finally wrapping up this three-part feature.  Odds are you know what movies will be on this last part of the list so all the mystery is really just the order they’re placed in.   To be honest, just because they’re on the bottom of the list doesn’t necessarily mean that these are all bad movies.  Usually these films have a pretty good premise but stumble around in some key areas.

Star Trek: Nemesis9. Star Trek: Nemesis

The final Next Generation film is an interesting film and one that does a lot of things right but also stumbles in a few.  Nemesis is the first movie to really feature the Romulans in a significant role.  The movie highlights some of the Romulan culture and politics, of which we’d only seen a little of in previous shows.  This is definitely one of the best aspects of Nemesis.  The story had a major burden in that it had to end The Next Generation in a satisfactory matter, a task that was handled beautifully by the Series finale, All Good Things but now had to do end the series on a much larger scale on the silver screen.  I think one of the film’s big stumblings was that it doesn’t provide the best of antagonists.  Shinzon is meant to be an equal to Picard on every level.  He’s played by a young Tom Hardy and I kind of feel that his youth works against the film in many ways.  Picard’s age reflects experience and wisdom.  With Shinzon being so young we don’t attribute those characteristics to him so he doesn’t feel an even match for Picard.  Because of this, defeating him feels like slapping down a well equipped but impudent upstart so much as it was defeating one’s own shadow.  I sometimes wish Malcom McDowell, Dr Sorin from Generations, would’ve played Shinzon as he would definitely have felt like an even match for Picard. Data’s sacrifice at the end of the film, while not entirely ineffective, is somewhat undermined by the film’s preoccupation with setting up a way for him to return in the future.  In a way, it seems to recall Spock’s sacrifice at the end of Wrath of Khan.  However, Spock’s possible return was only vaguely hinted at in that film, Nemesis pretty much ends with a duplicate that already contains all of Data’s memory.

Memorable Moments The Wedding – Nemesis is, in a lot of ways, about how the Next Generation family is breaking up.  One of the more positive outcomes is Riker and Troi’s marriage.  What we see of it in Nemesis brings back all the main characters for one last warm good bye as they prepare for their future away from the Enterprise.

Romulans to the Rescue- At one point in the movie two Romulan ships arrive to aid the Enterprise.  It is a very simple and fairly short scene but I love scenes like this where we are able to see that an “enemy race” is not a single homogeneous villain but instead a collection of individuals, some of which may be villainous and others helpful.  At the same time, this creates characters you want to know more about as you become curious as to why they have acted against the general mold we have been shown for their race.

Enterprise vs Scimitar- The space battles are always a highlight of their respective movies and it is really no different here.  The Enterprise is faced with a much larger, more heavily armed vessel and things get tough for our brave crew.  In an act of desperation, Picard rams the Enterprise into the Scimitar to buy time in a fantastic scene.

Goodbye…: Whatever its shortcomings, Data dies the only way he could; doing his duty for his Ship, his captain, his friends.  The scene is incredibly simple and is all the more beautiful for it.  No words are exchanged between Data and Picard.  Data arrives and does what he need to do and only after his Captain’s safe does he spare a moment to say “Goodbye.”  Not just to Picard, not just to his friends, but to the fans as well.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock10. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Search for Spock is the middle film in the trilogy started in Khan and ending in The Voyage Home.  Its main purpose is right there in the title, to bring Spock back from the dead.  The film accomplishes this of course but doesn’t make much of an impact beyond that.  We see a young Spock, brought back to life via the energy from the Genesis planet and then we see him growing up awkwardly over the course of the film.  Probably not the most dignified way to see our favorite Vulcan.  By the end of the film we have the Spock we know and love, or at least he’s well on his way back to becoming him.

Memorable Moments The Great Experiment – Star Trek III gives us the first look at the Excelsior-class.  This ship is introduced as the next great breakthrough in Starfleet ship design.  We don’t really get to see the ship stretch its legs just yet but the ship is nevertheless a beautiful sight and as impressive as the Enterprise was when she was revealed in the first movie.

David Dies: Not a particularly memory scene in itself but this act cements Kirk’s hatred of the Klingons which has great impact on the events of The Undiscovered Country.

Your name…is Jim: After all the struggle, all the broken Starfleet regulations, and all the sacrifices, Spock is recovered and brought to Vulcan.  He is only a shell of his former self.  A Vulcan ritual is used to transfer Spock’s Katra from McCoy into Spock’s new body.  Did it take?  Is this the Spock we remember?  All this seems uncertain, at least until Spock show’s a glimmer of his former self by recognizing his friend.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier11. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The Final Frontier is a film that works so well on paper.  Instead of focusing on large space battles and intergalactic conflict, this film sought to use science fiction to explore the metaphysical.  If God exists, then surely he could be found.  Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t make much of its premise.  While it has its moments it doesn’t live up to its potential.

Memorable Moments Sybok – The film opens by introducing Sybok.  A Vulcan.  Laughing.  This was a big thing at the time since our experience with Vulcans had been rather limited and this was really contrary to how we knew the Vulcans up to that point.

What does God need with a starship? – The Enterprise has crossed the galaxy and the time came to see whether Sybok’s quest would bear fruit.  At first it appears that it does.  They find an entity that everyone recognizes as their own god.  Then things take a dark turn.  This “god” is angry.  He’s demanding.  And he needs a starship to leave the planet.  The movie never answers what the entity actually is and I think that is for the best because that question pairs well with “What is God?” and what, if anything, we should do for a god that is secretive and hides things from us.

Share it with me – Sybok is one of the best, if not the best, part of the film, particularly because he’s a kind of antagonist that is not evil.  He’s really an antagonist doing what he believes is not only right, but good and he pursues his goals almost like a hero would, trying to avoid death and ultimately striving for greater truth.  When Sybok discovers that his quest has been for naught and that he has endangered so many people and possibly aiding a malicious entity, Sybok sacrifices himself to buy the others time.  So it really becomes difficult to call him a villain.

I wonder if this is one reason why the filmmakers felt compelled to add a Klingon villain that’s really just there to be bad.  This Klingon villain is easily one of the worst parts of the film because unlike Khan in Star Trek II or Kang in VI, this villain really has very flimsy motivation.  While I don’t doubt that it would be enough to drive a Klingon to do what he did in the film, it really doesn’t add anything to the story the movie sought to tell.

Star Trek: Insurrection12. Star Trek: Insurrection

It seems the worst criticism one can level at a Star Trek film is calling it a two-hour episode.  That description seems very apt for this movie.  The plot of this movie just isn’t big enough to necessitate its telling on the big screen.  Starfleet doing unjust things has been a major theme of Deep Space Nine as the Federation struggles against the Dominion and to maintain its own identity during the conflict. In the context of the Dominion War it might be easier to explain why Starfleet would succumb to such measures (Sisko was involved with several crimes in favor of Starfleet’s war efforts) but the movie really does nothing to convey the pressures of the war aside from a brief mention. It just feels that the stakes weren’t high enough for Starfleet to sink so low and the people the Enterprise disobey orders to protect are bland and uninteresting.  It really does feel like a weak episode script stretched to fill a feature-length film.

Memorable Moments Killing the Admiral – Insurrection is a remarkably unremarkable film.  One of the film’s more memorable scenes involves the main villain killing the Starfleet Admiral in charge of the project.  The Son’a use various methods to maintain their appearance, including stretching the skin on their faces.  When Admiral Dougherty begins to show signs of falling back on his previous position he finds out how it is an incredibly personal vendetta for the Son’a.  Unwilling to give up, Ru’afo forces the admiral into one of the devices used for face-stretching and he succumbs to those wounds.

The Briar Patch: As mentioned earlier, the space battles are often some of the stand-out moments in Star Trek films.  In Insurrection we get to see the Enterprise E once again doing battle against enemy ships.  With Riker in the captain’s chair, the Enterprise flies into a nebulous area of space.  Using the volatile gasses in the cloud, the Enterprises tricks the enemy ships into igniting the gases, destroying one and disabling the other.

And there we go!  12 Star Trek movies!  Of course, everyone’s list will be different.  Many fans have a far greater dislike of the Abrams movies than I do.  The films all try to convey some kind of higher theme.  My favorite of these tend to involve combating one’s inner demons and their implications and effects on the world (galaxy?) around them.

The Wrath of Khan and First Contact are visceral stories of vengeance pushing their perpetrators to risking everything just to injure those that have wronged them.  The Undiscovered Country  reminded us that peace is as much a challenge as war.  The Voyage Home taught us to be aware of our present and to consider how our actions can affect the future.  Generations reminded us to live our lives while we have the time and not waste our lives searching for a mythical “nexus” that will magically give us everything our hearts desire.  The Motion Picture held up a mirror for search for our identity through our origins.

Star Trek showed us that neither logic nor instinct alone is enough to take us through life.  Into Darkness asked us not to give into fear and paranoia in response to an unknown, possibly hostile future.

Nemesis reminded us that all families move on and change for better or for worse.  Search for Spock taught us that sometimes it is worth risking everything for someone.  Final Frontier asked us to seek knowledge wherever it may take you but to also beware of following blindly.  Finally, Insurrection reminded us that service and duty have their limits and that we should stand up for what we believe to be right.