“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Star Trek is one of the most beloved sci-fi series in television history. It had all the classic elements of fantasy, with strong heroes and despised villains. It dared to bring about a future with a real Utopian society that valued knowledge and understanding above wealth and greed. And at the heart of this hopeful future stood Captain James Tiberius Kirk and his crew, and the rest is nerd history.
The series and subsequent Next Gen sequels are nostalgic treasures to millions of fans worldwide who still don the yellow uniforms and pack phasers on stun. Anyone doubting the devotion of this franchise need look no further than the much anticipated prequel coming out this May. Here’s a trailer. I can’t wait.
“Enlist in Star Fleet.” That’s gotta be a t-shirt somewhere.
This will actually be the 11th Star trek film released. Paramount has been big screening Star Trek for 30 years. Let’s look back at the films that helped define a generation of nerds, myself included.
It’s my own little TREKtrospective.
This first part of the Trektrospective will cover the first three films in the canon.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)/aka “Look at the pretty colors!”
This is the first film in the series. Some have called this franchise the most successful film series in history. Well it wasn’t really an overnight success. This intro was given mixed reviews, but ultimately paved the way for the next films in the series, none of which would be anything like this one.
The film is slowly plotted and slowly executed. There is a threat to Earth called VGER, Kirk and crew seek out and face this threat, world is saved. But it is in the delivery that this film exists.
Captain James T. Kirk is now Admiral. He helms the Enterprise to investigate this threatening menace alien cloud. This angers the actual Captain of the ship, Decker. But who cares?
William Shatner is James Kirk. I don’t mean he plays him, motherfucker is Kirk. It’s that simple. At some point the actor Shatner left and was replaced by Kirk. He truly embodies everything about that character.
(If anything this is the new film’s greatest challenge. How do we like a Kirk that isn’t Shatner? )
The other original cast members are here too, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, the half Vulcan half Human hybrid (if this was X-Files), DeForest Kelley as cranky old Dr. Bonsey “Dammit Jim” Bones, James Doohan, George Takei, and the rest.
By this time, the characters had been part of a popular TV series – and Animated Series that everyone apparently never heard of or wiped clean from memory. But it’s real. Don’t try to deny it.
These characters were already pretty well known, so they got a limited introduction before the film blasted off! Boldly going where no film has gone before, a two hour sci-fi philosophy art house head scratcher with a few mild surprises and more than a few long pauses. Long. Really long pauses. Long.
So it turns out this menace known as VGER is actually our own Satellite, Voyager. It’s back! After all these years out “collecting information and bringing it back to the creator” story. I thought you didn’t care. You look so different Voyager. What happened? Aliens? What did they do to you? What did they do? Ohh! He’s a monster! A monster!
The film asks us, the audience, really depressing questions like, what happens when we die? Is this all there is to life? What’s the deal with the bald chick who might be a robot?
To make up for this, the movie throws a bunch of pretty colors at us, as the Enterprise takes about twenty minutes to approach VGER and the thing just gets bigger and bigger and, um, well bigger. It is pretty, but the special effects look tame today so it doesn’t hold up as well. Overall, kinda dull, kind of good. Not bad, not great. Don’t worry, it gets better.
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)/aka “He who acts last, acts best”
I think the trailer perfectly sums up the important parts of this film’s plot.
Now Khan is pissed and takes out his revenge on an unsuspecting Enterprise. Khan is also trying to attain the Genesis device, which can create life from lifeless planets, but would render a life filled planet lifeless. Whoa.
Ricardo Montalban is the villainous Khan, Hell bent on revenge against Kirk, the man who exiled him to a barren planet which killed his wife. It’s Shakespeare if you think about it. And this movie comes down to a three way act-off. It’s actually quite brilliant and this movie is one of the most fun to watch in the whole series. Montalban really spars with Shatner throughout the film with his sly hiss and over the top deliveries. It’s line for line right to the end. Here’s some of the best.
“He tasks me and I shall have him! I’ll chase him ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round Perdition’s flames before I give him up!”-Khan
“Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human.”- Kirk
“Romulan Ale. Why, Bones, you know this is illegal.”-Kirk
“I only use it for medicinal purposes.”-Bonesy.
I like Bonesy. He’s a good time.
Shatner is most remembered with his “Khan!” heard around the galaxy. And then out of nowhere Nimoy steals the show with perhaps the saddest death in modern movie history! Seriously, Bambi’s mom has nothing on Spock.
And then there’s Khan’s immortal “From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee!” line and Kirk’s eulogy to his fallen friend. Oh it’s just so sad! So many great lines and moments. Action! Intrigue! Melville references! This one has it all. This is the film that truly launched the Star Trek series. I won’t go on too long with praise. Just see it.
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)/aka “Leonard Nimoy directs himself back to life”
So the last movie ended on a real “Empire Strikes Back” style downer, Spock dies, his casket gets blasted to the planet that was created by the Genesis project, Kirk is sad, the crew is ragged, the ship is damaged, and now Bonesy is acting all crazy. Back on Earth, Spock’s father gets angry about Spock’s body being abandoned and he and Kirk discover that Bones is possessing Spock’s soul, his Katra.
They go back to the Genesis planet where Spock’s body has been reborn! But he has no soul, so he is Spock in body only. Think about that. He meets up with David Marcus the creator of the Genesis planet and Kirk’s kid no less, and Lt. Saavik, a vulcan from the planet Cheers. Spock was reborn as a part of Genesis’ power and he’s growing at a conveniently fast rate, just in time to get it in under two hours. So the crew gets together and basically steals the starship to search for Spock as it says, and (spoiler alert) they find him.
Unfortunately so does a Klingon, played by . . .Christopher Lloyd? Whaaa? I can’t figure out if that’s cool or not. Look for yourself.
Great Scot, he’s horrid. I mean, he has looked bad before, but. . .
GAAA!!! What an ugly man. The makeup wizards in these must have had a field day with him.
So this Klingon Kruge, as he goes by, is a real bad dude. He’s no Khan(who wasn’t a Klingon btw), but he does the job real well. Kruge possess all the warrior bloodlust and honor of the Klingon race, a great character. He kills off crew members as punishment, he goes in for hand to hand combat, he’ll die before he surrenders.
The real shock of this one is not in Spock, since we could probably figure that out in the title, but in Kirk Jr’s (David’s) fate. David was introduced only last movie, we hardly got to know him, and then-tragedy. Kruuuuge!
This movie has some great scenes, the Enterprise’s self destructive farewell, Kirk and Kruge’s final battle, and the final ritual at the end to join Spock’s katra to his body. And Bonesy’s alright. Yay! I like Bonesy. He’s fun.
The series almost wrote itself into a wall in this one. It looked like, with the Enterprise gone, the crew’s advancing age, and Kirks’ shattering loss, there might not be anywhere left to go. But then the series took one of it’s most beloved turns yet, time travel. Next time on the Trektrospective, The Voyage Home.
For now, Animated Series!!