Ahh, the lengthy post that WordPress cheated me out of twice -___- When I got the idea for this post I had decided to rewatch Star Trek Into Darkness after I’d picked it up on Blu Ray 3D. I figured I could do a quick, fun post where I list out the order I like the Star Trek movies in and talk about each one briefly. Then I started writing it and found myself at over 2000 words and only covering six of the twelve movies so far. I figured that’d be a nice breaking point but WordPress and a thrown breaker conspired against me and just like that, a thousand words and a couple of hours of work were like they never existed. Thank you wordpress for your amazing autosave feature -___-
Anyways what you have here are the first six Star Trek films ranked as I see it with a few words on each movie and some of the memorable moments from that film. I’m not sure if the second half of this article is as good as when I wrote it the first time around. To be honest I was kind of over it the moment I lost that mass of work so what you’re reading here is me taking another shot at it, kinda remembering what I’d already written but maybe not quite as passionately as when I wrote it the first time.
As I got more comfortable I get a bit more verbose so some of the movies lower on this list get a lot more words dedicated to them than some of the higher ranked movies. Maybe a little counter intuitive but really enough has been said about each of these movies, both good and bad, so I’m not sure how much is really lost by not going deeper into some of these. Oh well.
No surprise here! Wrath of Khan is a brilliant movie that brings back the Enterprise’ greatest adversary with the desire and the means to exact his vengeance on the crew. Khan puts the crew to the ultimate test and it is only through great sacrifice that he is finally defeated. There isn’t much to say about Wrath of Khan that hasn’t already been said. Wrath of Khan is home of many a great Star Trek moment. tWoK also introduced the iconic Starfleet uniform that would remain in place for the rest of the Original crew’s movies and gave us Kristie Alley as a young Vulcan starfleet officer.
Memorable Moments– KHAAAAN! – What more needs to be said?
The Needs of the Many…- Spock’s sacrifice at the end of this film is one of the pivotal moments in all of Star Trek. The fact that Spock was left dead at the end of the film at a time when sequels weren’t as the sure thing they are today surely left legions of fans biting their nails waiting for the next movie.
From Hell’s Heart, I stab at thee…-The pervasive metaphor of Mellvile’s Moby Dick becomes even more awesome whenever the lines are recited by Montalban’s amazingly charismatic Khan. This elevates Khan’s anger beyond the level at which every day language can well articulate. When Khan would give his own life to fulfill his vengeance, there is no more fitting words than Ahab’s, “…For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!”
The Undiscovered Country sends the crew of the Enterprise off as they should be; into an unknown, but optimistic future. Star Trek VI sees the crew fighting for peace with the Klingons but peace requires change and many people on both sides of the line can’t let go of past hatreds. Dealing with those same issues himself is our hero, Captain James T. Kirk.
Memorable Moments– “Oh, now be honest, Captain, warrior to warrior. You do prefer it this way, don’t you, as it was meant to be? No peace in our time.” – This line basically epitomizes the conflict of the movie; Fight the same fight long enough and soon enough that fight is all you know. This is where the question is put most directly to Kirk. Does he choose to keep fighting the old fight or does he choose the more difficult road and choose peace?
Valeris’ Interrogation: When the stakes are as high as galactic peace, how far would you go to ensure it? How far should you go? When Valeris, Spock’s latest protege, is discovered as the mole on the Enterprise that is sabotaging the Federation’s attempt to make peace with the Klingons it is almost too late to stop the wheels she helped set in motion. Spock sees no other choice than to force the information out of her through a forced mind meld. Most often presented as a very intimate act, Spock’s forced connection pushes Valeris to tears but ultimately provides Spock the information he needs to help stop the assassination that would end all hope of peace.
Tied for second place is the Borg’s big screen debut. Before Star Trek Voyager completely neutered them, the Borg were a force of nature. If you encountered them your best chance was to run because, as the Borg are fond of reminding us, “Resistance is futile.” First Contact almost plays out like Wrath of Khan in reverse. While Khan was wounded by Kirk and sought his revenge, Picard was famously wounded by the Borg in TNG’s Best of Both Worlds. Still haunted by those events, when Picard’s ship is taken by the Borg, Picard is willing to risk the vary thing he should be fighting to protect in order to ensure his wound does not go unavenged. While Picard battles his demons, those same demons, reflected upon humanity are played out in the accompanying story of humanity’s first warp flight and their first contact with an extra terrestrial race. After nearly destroying itself, it takes new perspective, that only possible by realizing that humanity is part of something greater.
Memorable Moments– “They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! And *I* will make them pay for what they’ve done!” – Picard is as intellectual as Starfleet Captains come; he is fond of Shakespeare and archaeology and puts the best interests of peace and diplomacy ahead of everything. That is why it was all the more frightening when Picard made it clear that he was not interested in peace or justice. He wanted revenge even if against an emotionless force of nature. Unlike Ahab however, Picard was made to realize what he was becoming before it was too late…”And he piled upon the whale’s white hump, the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.”
Battle of Sector 001: Star Trek rarely ventures into full space battle mode but when a Borg Cube is close in on Earth, there is little choice. This scene highlights exactly how dangerous the Borg truly are. They made it to our front door, we’re throwing everything we have at a single cube and they’re not even slowing down. Only Picard’s intimate knowledge of the vessel allowed the Federation to eke out a victory, though one wonders if it had been the Borg’s plan to abandon the cube all along, given the fact that they launched a sphere equipped for time travel before the cube’s destruction.
Flight of the Phoenix/First Contact: The movie can be a bit pessimistic as Picard borders on succumbing to anger and vengeance. Star Trek however, wants to be optimistic and hopeful that an enlightened, peaceful future is within our grasp. In this film, that idea is embodied by Cochrane’s first warp flight and the first contact that followed; the moment in Star Trek’s internal history where humanity emerged from the darkness and began to rebuild itself into the future Rodenberry believes we are capable of.
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
While the movie may start off with a massive, mysterious probe threatening all life on Earth, Star Trek IV is probably the most lighthearted of all Star Trek films. While there is the world-ending threat in the back of your mind, it is really just an excuse to send our crew back to 1986 San Francisco and enjoy as our heroes try to make sense of this world two-hundred years in their past. This isn’t the most intense Star Trek out there but it is fun and easily enjoyable and it closes up the trilogy started by Wrath of Khan.
Memorable Moments– “Nuclear Wessels” – I’m not entirely sure if the movie is purposely poking fun at Chekov’s accent but it certainly makes for a few memorable lines.
“One damn minute, Admiral.”- One line representative of a larger element of the film and that is the joy that is Spock. Still not entirely there after his resurrection, Spock must also cope with being an alien on a world that hasn’t yet made first contact. Disguising himself as some sort of monk, Kirk explains his odd behavior as a result of his once being active in the free speech movement and doing a little too much “LDS.” It ends up creating a wealth of great moments, especially those when Spock attempts to employ “colorful metaphors” to blend in.
5. Star Trek: Generations
The first Next Generation film isn’t a particularly great film but it is certainly monumental in some ways and is not without its great moments. Malcolm McDowell can certainly play a great villain for Picard to battle against. Unfortunately this isn’t the movie he does it in. Dr. Soran is no Khan or even a General Chang. His motivation, finding a way to return to the Nexus, an energy ribbon that’s a gateway to a dimension where you can want and be whatever you want. It seems kind of shallow in comparison to Khan’s deep-seeded anger or Chang’s militarism. On the awesome side, Generations features the meeting Star Trek fans had been waiting for; Kirk and Picard finally face to face. Its unfortunately not the epic meeting we had in mind but it was still awesome seeing these two monumental personalities sharing the screen.
Memorable Moments– USS Enterprise NCC 1701 B – The original Star Trek series and movies introduced us to the USS Enterprise and the Enterprise A. The Enterprise D was the star of Next Generation and shared the screen with the Enterprise C in an episode. Missing in this alphabet is the Enterprise B, which Star Trek Generations finally introduces. Based on the popular Excelsior from Star Trek III, the Enterprise B is a beautiful ship and its great to see a new Enterprise with an entirely different crew and imagine what kind of adventures they could have (some of which are chronicled in the novel Serpents Among the Ruins)
Kirk’s Demise – Kirk actually dies twice in this film. The first time occurs on the Enterprise B when it encounters the Nexus. Deferring command of the ship to her captain, Kirk descends into the ship to help until the ship is struck by an energy flare from the Nexus and just like that, history records Kirk’s death. It is a heroic and good death. Then comes his second death. This one is actually memorable because of how UNmemorable it is. After Picard brings Kirk back from the Nexus to help him face Soran, Kirk is caught on a bridge attempting to grab a remote necessary for stopping Soran’s device. The bridge collapses, sending Kirk plummeting to his death. Its not a bad death but you do feel that a figure as larger-than-life as Captain Kirk deserved a death to match. One thing that Generations does get right concerning Kirk’s death is the fact that he died alone, as he predicted in Star Trek V. Kirk felt he wouldn’t die as long as his friends Kirk and Spock were with him and so, he would die alone and the good captain did.
The Enterprise D’s Final Flight – The destruction of a starship is always a monumental moment but when that starship is the Enterprise, she’s gotta go down in style. After taking a direct photon torpedo hit through its shields, the Enterprise is going critical. Not content to just explode in space like a chump, the Enterprise initiates a saucer separation only to plummet through the atmosphere to the planet below in a spectacular crash.
6. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The first Star Trek film is an interesting beast. Unlike Star Wars, which was released two years earlier, which is more of a Western Star Trek: TMP is more of a classic science fiction story in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey. When an enormous vessel of unknown origin approaches the newly refit USS Enterprise is sent in to investigate. What follows is an exploration of a part of a crucial part of the human experience; the search for our creator. The movie can be criticized for being a bit abstract or a bit overlong and those are valid criticisms but it is still a unique and memorable journey.
Memorable Moments– USS Enterprise – By the time this film was released, Star Trek had been cancelled for 10 years. This film would be the first new appearance of the Enterprise in a good long while. Her reveal must be memorable. And yes it was. Alongside Jerry Goldsmith’s brilliant new Enterprise theme, which would go on to become the theme for The Next Generation, the reveal of the Enterprise is a beautiful sight. Newly refit, the Enterprise, once a low budget model, is now a brilliant, white and sleek. Many people consider this Enterprise as the most beautiful ship Star Trek has produced and sometimes it is hard to argue.
Approaching V’Ger – When entering the cloud formation around V’Ger it becomes immediately and unquestionably clear that we, along with the Enterprise, are entering completely new and unexplored territory. What follows is an abstract journey in the vein of the monolith scene from 2001. Abstract and perhaps a little overlong but it is nevertheless a memorable scene that transports us from a more familiar setting and bringing us face to face with V’Ger.
The Heart of V’Ger – V’Ger is a fascinating entity. Immeasurably large and powerful, V’Ger is also beyond our understanding in many ways. It has journeyed across the galaxy in search of its creator; to find new understanding about itself. How do we know who created this behemoth if we do not know what this is to begin with? Well, we know exactly who created V’Ger once we reach its heart. What is found is Voyager 6, a human-made satellite hundreds of years old. We created V’Ger but it is not as we remember it. V’Ger has grown far beyond our imagination. Its very human desire to find its creator leads us to what could be a very real human ignorance. V’Ger does not recognize humanity as its creator. In fact, V’Ger refuses to accept humanity as its creator. How could these imperfect organic organisms have created this clearly superior technological being? Could we, as V’Ger, have grown and changed so much that we cannot recognize our creator should we see it? Or worse still, would we reject our creator if it does not meet our expectations?
Well here we are, halfway through the 12 Star Trek movies. I guess you can already tell which movies will be on the next list so all that’s left to see is in what order. I’m going to try to get the second half of the list up before the end of the month. I’ll try to get back to games soon enough; I do have some ideas for that already.