TO BOLDLY REVIEW #5 – STAR TREK – ‘ORIGINAL SERIES’ MOTION PICTURES
After watching and reviewing the first three original Star Trek series and the 1970s animated show on my blog, I moved straight onto the first season of Star Trek: Next Generation. I then realised I had forgotten the original series film franchise; six films which were released between 1979 and 1986.
Safe to say they were hugely popular among the army of Trek fans worldwide, especially for those desperate for the original show to return. The films were welcomed with a combination of critical acclaim and commercial success; plus a mixture of positive and some negative reviews. Anyway, here are my mini-reviews of each film with marks up to warp drive 11!
**THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS**
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) – Director: Robert Wise
Unfortunately, time has not been kind to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as it suffers when compared to other more successful sci-fi films of the era. While Robert Wise was an excellent film director he was arguably not quite right for the film and the script lacks warmth and humour also. Lastly, despite the story moving at a snail’s pace the film has some decent moments, with Jerry Goldsmith’s majestic score shining brightly too.
Mark: 6.5 out of 11
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) – Director: Nicholas Meyer
This is a direct sequel to the fantastic orginal series episode Space Seed. In it we find Ricardo Montalban’s uber-villain Khan Noonien Singh, relentlessly pursuing revenge against Kirk and the Enterprise crew. Meyer’s screenplay and direction capture the classic Trek approach to characterisation and sci-fi concepts, making this film great fun. Montalban and Meyer’s sharp script steal the show, with the allusions to sea-faring classics such as Moby Dick and Hornblower adding compelling thematic texture.
Mark: 8.5 out of 11
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) – Director: Leonard Nimoy
With Meyer having killed off Spock so heroically in the Wrath of Khan, this direct sequel spends most of its time trying to get out of that narrative black hole. With a terra-forming planet on the verge of destruction and those pesky Klingons wreaking havoc with their devious cloaking device, there’s a lot to keep the crew of the Enterprise busy. Chuck in Kirk’s secret son for emotional depth, plus seven ages of Spock (from baby to fully grown Vulcan), and overall you get a solid Trek yarn that has some memorable elements throughout.
Mark: 7 out of 11
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) – Director: Leonard Nimoy
This sci-fi romp is basically a Trek comedy which finds the Enterprise sling-shotting back in time to 1980s San Francisco, in order to rescue whales which can save Earth from destruction in the present/ future. How the Tribble they worked out whales were so vital is something only the screenwriters can explain, but clearly they are environmental symbols in the narrative. Indeed, Star Trek as allegory, has always been a major strength of the show. Overall, while the plotting is a little crazy, the film spins its time-travel-fish-out-of-water plots with enough energy, jokes and action to keep everyone entertained.
Mark: 7.5 out of 11
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) – Director: William Shatner
This film is often cited as the worst of the franchise due to a muddled story and tonal confusion throughout. Also, for all his star quality and iconic character work as Kirk, William Shatner probably took on too much to act and direct in the troubled production. Nonetheless, the themes of the film are very interesting. Kirk, McCoy and Spock et al are faced with the messianic plans of an evangelistic Vulcan called Sybok. His plan is to capture the Enterprise and take his followers on a mission to find God; as you do.
Lawrence Luckinbill stands out as Sybok, delivering a charismatic performance as the intergalactic cult leader. Moreover, much emotional power is derived from his scenes where he manipulates those to follow his will; McCoy’s scenes are particulartly memorable. If only they’d stuck to the seriousness of such themes instead of veering into patchy comedy throughout, then the film may have been, while incredibly dark, way more satisfying.
Mark: 6.5 out of 11
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) – Director: Nicholas Meyer
Meyer returned to write and direct the final film in the franchise and very good it is too. Arguably it is the most satisfying of the series in term of complexity of plot, characters and action. With the Klingon Empire under threat an uneasy truce is declared between them and the Federation. Unsurprisingly there are those on both sides, including Kirk, who do not feel peace can ever be achieved. Thus, murder, intrigue, sabotage and treachery follow in a compelling narrative.
With the Shakespeare-favoured dialogue and ‘Cold War’ subtext there is a real political depth to the film. Plus, Kirk is back to his heroic best. Indeed, the scenes where he must escape from a Klingon jail are very enjoyable from a genre perspective. Best of all though is a cast that includes brilliant actors such as: Christopher Plummer, David Warner and Kirstie Alley. Plummer, especially, exudes consummate class as Kirk’s Klingon adversary, stealing every scene he’s in.