Boldly Going Pt 7 (Star Trek: Generations, 1994)

ST_Generations_PosterComing only a few months after the Next Generation series came to a close, Generations was to be the film to bridge the original series and the Next Generation.

And there was a hope that it might bring together both crews in an exciting meeting of titans so to speak.

Opening in 2093, the new ship the Excelsior is making it’s maiden flight.  Kirk, Scotty and Chekov are part of the celebration when the ship encounters a distress signal. They beam the inhabitants to their ship, but in an accident, it appears Kirk was killed.

The film jumps to the present (I mean, for the Next Generation Crew) where they are having a celebration. They answer a distress call from a science vessel. There they discover a scientist who claims they were attacked by Romulans.

The scientist wants to get back to his experiment, to the point of attacking the crew.  Picard learns that he is part of the same long lived race as Guinan and he is trying to get to another dimension known as the Nexus. But doing so could be highly destructive. Add to the mix Klingon mercenary sisters who are working with the scientist and things look bad for the Enterprise Crew.

Picard ultimately finds himself alone with the mad scientist on a planet where he must try and stop him…but he finds an ally in a man thought long dead.

To be honest, for a long time I just did not like this film.  I came to realize that this was mainly due to the fact that it was not what I wanted it to be.  Only Picard and Kirk meet. And upon revisiting the film recently, I think I hold this one up a bit higher than in the past.  There are some things I really enjoy.

Everyone is great, but I confess I find Stewart and Spiner to be the MVPs here. Stewart gives real heart to Picard who is suddenly facing a sense that maybe he made the wrong choice in never having a family.

Meanwhile, Data opts to install and activate his emotion chip.  At first, this is mined for humor, with Data recalling jokes from early in the television series and discovering-with joy- that he hates a particular drink. However, he starts to become overwhelmed by his emotions, ultimately becoming paralyzed with fear, leaving Geordi to be taken captive.

They try and up the stakes with the destruction of the Enterprise, which is a pretty exciting crash sequence.

Is Generations the movie a younger me wanted?  No. Is it a better film for not being what the younger me wanted?  Yes.

Boldly Going Pt 6 (Star Trek VI: the Undiscovered Country, 1991)

ST_The_Undiscovered_Country_PosterStar Trek: the Next Generation was a good half way through its run when the work began on the final voyage of the original crew. Plans were already underway to transition the theatrical films to bring on the Next Generation crew. To try and set up a solid sendoff for Kirk and his crew, they brought back the director of the Wrath of Khan, Nicholas Meyer. The film revolves around plans for the Federation and the Klingon Empire to make peace and join together.

Kirk is not thrilled to be assigned to this, and aside from Spock, the crew begrudgingly following their orders. After a tense dinner with the Klingon Chancellor and his team the Chancellor is murdered and Kirk and McCoy framed and sent to a Klingon Prison Moon.

This forces the rest of the crew to solve the conspiracy and save Kirk and McCoy.

Does the Undiscovered Country work and achieve its goals? I would say that it does succeed. The Conspiracy is not overly complicated and the goals make sense. This allows the tight time frame the characters are working in to not work things out blindly.

It also closes things out feeling like while the crew’s futures are open, we the audience have a real sense of closure. There are some nice little touches like Michael Dorn appearing as Worf’s Grandfather as the Defense for Kirk and McCoy in their trial.

It also has some really good performances (Plummer really chews the scenery with grand pomposity) and great action sequences. It is interesting to see the role “government politics” tend to play in this film, as it often is not something the films really have had a lot of interest in. It was more of an aspect that grew within the later television shows.

While no Wrath of Khan or First Contact, this is a really enjoyable entry within the Star Trek Canon.

Boldly Going Pt 5 (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, 1989)

ST_the_Final_Frontier_PosterAfter the success Leonard Nimoy had with the Voyage Home, William Shatner had the desire to try his hand at directing a feature film (he had directed some episodes of the show T.J. Hooker a few years prior).

Opening with a stranger approaching a drifter on the plains of a remote planet Nimbus III, the stranger talks to the drifter of pain and releasing the pain. We then visit Kirk, Spock and McCoy on a camping trip where they enjoy roasting marshmallows and trying to get Spock to enjoy singing “Row Your Boat”.

The three are called to a newly built (and glitchy Enterprise) to face a new crisis occurring at Nimbus III. There they  run into the mysterious Stranger, revealed to be the Vulcan Sybock. Sybock has cast away the Vulcan adherence to logic and embraced his emotions. He also seems to be able to convert people to his message quickly. They arrest Sybok, not realizing that this is what he wants. Once on board, he manages a mutiny by converting the crew, leaving Kirk, Spock and Bones on the run within the enterprise.

The Final Frontier is often ridiculed as terrible.  Instead of a threat like a mysterious probe or a revenge seeker from the past, the movie pontificates on the nature of pain and whether God needs a starship.

But you know…this time around? I had some fun.  This is a flawed film, but honestly, Sybok is an interesting character. And there is some fun moments throughout.  There is a solid moment where Sybok is facing “God”…and he realizes the being simply took advantage of Sybok’s ego to find importance that is a real terrific performance moment by Laurence Luckenbill.

The film makes it it pretty clear that this is a trapped alien intelligence, not “God” and the resolution feels pretty uninspired. Really, this plot almost feels like it would have been more at home as an episode of the Original Series. And considering that by this time, the Q Continuum had been introduced, the idea almost feels repetitive.  And since the Next Generation explored Q better, there is nothing that feels…meaty here.  But I have to say, I don’t think the Final Frontier is so much outright bad as it just lacks any real impact for the characters, the franchise or the audience.

Boldly Going Pt 4 (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986)

ST_the_Voyage_Home_PosterPicking up right after the Search for Spock,, the Voyage Home has the crew preparing to return home and face their punishment for  the actions they took to save Spock. But  as they near Earth, they find a strange ship has arrived at the the planet. Causing devastation across the planet from the attempts to communicate, the Enterprise Crew discovers the only way to solve the problem is to locate hump backed whales.  However, the whales went extinct.  This forces the crew to attempt to go back to the 1980’s.

They discover that there is a pair of whales in captivity.  Kirk sets about having the group split up to prepare the spaceship to transport whales back to the future.

Star Trek the Voyage Home is interesting.  On the one hand, it ties back to a popular trope of the series, with time travel. It also returns to the idea of a mysterious and destructive probe threatening the earth. But it has a rather large tonal shift. There are no space battles and the film largely plays out as a fish out of water comedy.

This causes the film to rely heavily on character moments.  We see this mainly in Kirk’s attempts to convince a young scientist to help him with the whales. The Voyage Home really mines a lot of humor from the whole “out of their time” bit. Really, this is such a warm hearted romp, and is sort of outside of any of the other Trek films.  I love how the film never really explains the mysterious probe. It fits in with a point that Spock makes early in the film. It is arrogance to assume that an alien presence seeking to communicate with intelligent life would automatically be trying to communicate with humans. Keeping that a mystery for the audience just as much as the characters in the movie is a stroke of perfection.

As I noted, this is a really unique film in the Star Trek film franchise.  It is a lot of fun, and is a well loved entry in the franchise for good reason.

Boldly Going Pt 2 (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982)

ST_the_Wrath_Of_Khan_PosterAfter the slower first film, the creators sought to look back to the original series for inspiration. The came back to the first season episode Space Seed. In that episode, the Enterprise comes across a 20th Century ship adrift in space, the SS Botany Bay. The crew of the ship are revived and it is discovered they were genetically engineered super people led by Khan. Khan attempts mutiny, but after failing is left on a remote habitable planet with his followers.

Picking up just about fifteen years later, Chekov (now a Commander) is part of a team searching for a lifeless planet to be a part of an experiment known as the Genesis Project.  The goal being instant terraforming that takes a lifeless planet or moon and makes it a living planet teeming with plant life.  When Chekov and the Captain of the USS Reliant beam down to Ceti Alpha VI to verify if the life readings are correct. They find a lifeless planet of sand storms and…housing.

As they investigate, Chekov discovers that this is the remnants of the crew of the Botany Bay.  But before they can get out and back to the ship, they discover that Khan is alive and well…and fueled by rage against James T. Kirk.

And so Khan sets in motion plans to use Chekov, Captain Terrell and the scientists they are working with to set a trap too torment and destroy Kirk.

The Wrath of Khan focuses on the aging cast dealing with personal fears of obsolescence and weaves it together with a revenge action story. Montalban returns to the role of Khan Noonien Singh and he seems to relish the opportunity to approach the character from a new perspective. No longer simply an arrogant leader impressed with his own “perfection”, he is now engulfed in the flames of anger and hatred singularly directed at the man who insulted his ego the most. This is a terrific performance.

The reveal that Kirk has a son, a son who hate the militaristic Federation and has no trust for them (believing they will take the Genesis Project and make it into a weapon) no less, forces a new look at Kirk.  This seems like a big ret-con, but at the same time it works well here, as Kirk reveals he promised Carol, the mother of his son, to stay away. So David knows who Kirk is, and hates him.  But he has no idea that Kirk is also his father.

The film also takes a heavy focus on the trio of Kirk, Spock and Bones.  This really pays off in the end with a powerful sacrifice that carries the weight of over a dozen years. And while the film clearly hints the story is not over for these friends, it still hits with a heavy heart.

Nicholas Meyer manages to weave the personal stories in with the action with great skill.  This film manages to tie with the TV series and have a sense of being an epic, yet keep it on a very personal level.  The Wrath of Khan is the high water mark for Star Trek.

 

Boldly Going Pt 1 (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979)

ST_the_Motion_Picture_PosterAfter the third season cancellation of the original Star Trek, Roddenberry tried to get various ideas off the ground, including a new Star Trek series. That idea morphed into the first Star Trek film.

Ten years later (give or take),  the five year mission is over, Kirk was promoted, Spock went off to find himself and Bones walked away from Star Fleet. Uhura, Sulu and Chekov are still serving on the Enterprise.

When a mysterious cloud starts attacking everything that it comes in contact with, Admiral Kirk takes command of the Enterprise once more with his crew and some new faces as they go to try and make contact with the mysterious entity known as V’Ger.

The first outing starts a long running love affair within Trek to explore the future of AI and the ethics that surround it. V’Ger is revealed to be in search of its creator to commune and learn.  The entity’s hostile acts are, in fact its attempts to communicate.

There are pretty much two big negatives for the film.  One?  The costume design is…terrible.  Going from vibrant colored shirts to lifeless white and gray aesthetics, this is not an improvement. The film also tends to move at a glacial pace. When faced with a bigger budget and the competition of Star Wars, the film makers focus on long lingering space exterior shots.

On the other hand, the film is remarkable in its beauty. Those exteriors are a wonder, especially later in the film when they are interacting with V’Ger’s environment. It is nice to see the crew together again, and while I think they have done this story better since, there is still a sense of wonder in the first Star Trek theatrical outing.

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