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The Trouble with Tribbles: Star Trek in Retrospect

alexbwAfter a much-too-delayed outing to catch the new J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek in theaters, I think it’s safe to assume that everyone who is going to see this film has already seen it.

I was emotionally torn apart when I found that Star Trekwas no longer playing in Imax Theaters (at least in my area) and had been replaced on the bigger-than-big screen by Night at the Museum 2. I had to force myself to settle for the smaller-big-screen; which, while smaller in scale, still managed to blow my socks right through my shoes.

I caught a bunch of references to past Star Trek films, subtle (and not-so-subtle) tie-ins to the show, and LOL moments that only real Trekkies/Trekkers can fully appreciate.

Also, I am reminded why Star Trek fans are universally considered vastly more nerdy than our Star Wars fan counterparts in the unholy majority.

So, with that, I thought I would take a brief look back at the uncomfortable number of past Trek flicks, and why this most recent installment surpasses them in a way that would undoubtedly cause George Lucas to drop his tenth helping of Taco Bell and violently hurl himself into a Black Hole large enough to accommodate his gargantuan ass.

1. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

In the wake of the studio coming to the rational decision that the actors that viewers had come to know and love as “the crew of the Enterprise” had one foot on set and one foot in the grave, they scrapped a resurrection of the original Star Trek television show and opted for a film instead.

This was in 1979. Two years after Star Wars was released, Paramount, I can only assume, figured it was time to disappoint the shit out of sci-fi fans…just to keep them in check.

It’s not that Star Trek was a bad movie, but it was slow and interminably grandiose. There was no reason to spend 10 minutes showing the audience a Starship Enterprise that (if they were watching the movie in the first place) they had almost certainly seen billions of times before.

Star Warscould get away with long shots of starships because it was new, interesting, and epic.

2. The Wrath of Khan

It seems that every time Kirk is brought on as Captain in the movies, he’s never really supposed to be there…or is somehow thought incapable of ever taking control over a starship again. He’s Captain fucking James fucking Kirk for fuck’s sake…how much experience and knowhow does the man need?

At the same time, though, I probably wouldn’t want either of my grandfathers anywhere near the kinds of equipment they controlled in WWII.

If only they’d give Kirk a crossword puzzle book and some hard candy, he probably wouldn’t be so headstrong.

Kirk shines in this film, though…many classic scenes, prosthetic ears, and the laughably cliche: KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

3. The Search for Spock

Where did he go, anyway? I guess I shouldn’t have fallen asleep during the last 15 minutes of The Wrath of Khan

So it turns out Spock’s Christlike ultimate sacrifice wasn’t so ultimate or sacrificial at all. Like Christ himself, dying with the full knowledge that you’d become a super-human afterwards isn’t all that humbling.

Shame on you, Spock…scaring your friends like that. What a dick.

Spock had transfered his katra (which any Seinfeld fan should know means his “spirit”) into the body of “Bones” McCoy. The doctor gets all hot and bothered and the crew breaks some intergalactic space law to find Spock’s body and bring him back to life.

“I’ll sacrifice myself to save all of you, just so long as you all remember to rescue me from that giant Sunglasses case.”

4. The Voyage Home

Easily the most hands-down fucking ridiculous of the series. The crew of the Enterprise is in trouble again for…stealing the Enterprise…this time, they’re temporarily distracted by some Whales–or some shit.

They’re then forced to travel back in time to the year I was born to pal around with some environmentalists.

The only reason to see this movie is the same reason you’d see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace…to remind yourself that no matter how much you might love something in concept, sometimes it just flat out sucks ass.

5. The Final Frontier

Despite the rapidly aging crew, these original series Star Trek movies kept coming. I had to remind myself that I was watching a crew of geriatrics that I had grown attached to over time, and not just another thrilling sequel to Cocoon.

The movies did improve, though. The cranky and overweight crew of the Starship Enterprise returns in what the title would suggest is the final film. But the title was wrong.

I actually liked this movie…the whole search-for-a-god-who-isn’t-real-or-divine theme had a certain urgency to it that really made this film not just “watchable,” but also quite good.

Still, these guys are getting uncomfortably old.

6. The Undiscovered Country

This was the Klingons’ time to shine in a film whose title would suggest that they’re just going to keep making these movies until the whole cast is dead.

It’s amazing how the series went from being an action-packed low budget space adventure show for nerds to a relaxing 2 hours that middle aged stay-at-home moms could use to escape the prison that was their lives.

Not that The Undiscovered Country wasn’t an alright film, but it was a bright, flashing red flag for the series, being waved frantically by a meth addict, shouting, “Stop this madness, for the love of god!” at the top of his lungs.

…and then it was time to kill Kirk…

7. Generations

In a heartbreaking opening sequence, Kirk is “killed” (oh, sorry..umm…Spoiler Alert!). In a long overdue relay from old school Trek to not-so-old-school Trek, the Next Generation crew takes over as if to say: “Yeah, I know you were all waiting for this…we’re sorry it took so long.”

Not only did this film brilliantly and seamlessly unite the two series, but it reminded us why we fell in love with Star Trek in the first place while setting it free from the dismal entrapment of the elderly.

For once, and for the last time, we were all refreshed by Patrick Stewart’s boyish good looks. Then we went right back to missing Kirk.

Unfortunately, Spock couldn’t jump in at the last moment to rescue…he’s now preoccupied with naked fat chicks.

8. First Contact

I fucking love the Borg, and if you don’t, you’re a pussy. There. I said it.

This movie was so magical that after sitting through it for the third time, I found myself hovering ever-so-slightly off of my seat.

You want to know the best part of this movie? It’s not Insurrection. And it doesn’t involve an aging Captain Picard trying to have sex with someone half his age. The only reason people prefer Picard to Kirk was that he was polite, sophisticated, and there was never the threat of him beating you up and stealing your girlfriend.

First Contact featured a villain that was essentially pure evil and created a life or death sense of immediacy in the characters (at least, the survivors). The time-travel was imperative and didn’t seem forced at all (which is a difficult task). My phasers were set to FUN!

9. Insurrection

Fuck it. Seriously.

There’s no need to see this movie unless you’re using it as some kind of medieval hot seat. First, pretend Seven of Nine wasn’t hot, then purposely confuse Star Trek and Star Wars, then Waterboard, then make them watch Insurrection…perfect torture plan for a Trekkie.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on Insurrection (heh…hard on)…after all, it was a novel concept…the horrors of plastic surgery and making yourself look young. This is something that could have very well been addressed in the original series films.

But, in all fairness, there are worse things than watching Insurrection. Cancer…AIDS…watching Insurrection twice.

10. Nemesis

I’m not sure if this would qualify as a box office flop, but it didn’t do particularly well. After Insurrection, I don’t think fans had much forgiveness left in their cold, cold hearts.

It’s a shame, though, because Nemesis was actually very entertaining. It was a good story, and the villain was crazy and deep–a younger clone of Picard who had gone Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and wants to use Picard’s DNA to stay alive.

In the end, Data dies (fuck…sorry…Spoiler Alert! I’m so bad at that), which should have been a huge moment for fans of The Next Generation if there were any fans left who gave a shit.

11. Star Trek

And there you have it, a thorough look at the series of films leading up to this prequel that essentially makes them all look half-assed. Rumor has is that they are continuing this series (with the Abrams crew) much like the new Batman films.

I look forward to the future of the past of Star Trek with optimism. Who knows? Maybe they’re onto something with this whole “good Star Trek movie” thing. Take that, Paramount!

Alex G

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