Reporting Luke McKinney
Hardcore fans have been complaining about changes in the rebooted Star Trek, which is like a plague victim complaining about antibiotic syringes lacking the personal touch of leeches. The old things sucked, hung around far longer than they should have, and really didn’t understand what they were meant to be doing.
Trek movies delayed the entirety of science fiction for decades by proving that fans will put up with anything, and nobody else will bother. The new movies might have flaws, but they’re flaws like “The Enterprise blew the $#!+ out of bad guys and exploded a volcano for poorly explained reasons” as opposed to flaws like “This movie about the murderous Federation-Klingon war starts with a business meting and moves on to a dinner party.”
And that isn’t even the worst moment in Star Trek movie history.
Star Trek: The Barely-in-Motion Picture
This was Some Other Guys: The Motion Picture, a movie hacked together from ideas for Star Trek: Phase II, an entirely new series which then never happened. New ideas not happening was a big part of this production. The tragedy was that this bold chance to tell a new story instead spent half its script apologizing for how old the actors were, while later movies would star sixty-year-old action heroes without an ounce of shame.
The result was more a simulation of the actor’s arthritis than a science-fiction adventure. It moved with all the speed of a broken Borg, and established the appalling movie tradition of watching the Enterprise slowly slide out of spacedock instead of actually doing anything.
The plot lumbered to a climax like a Sumo wrestler climbing the stairs to a bordello: achingly slow, and the result was nothing we wanted to see. The dramatic conclusion was the sacrifice of characters we’d never met before, and couldn’t care less about. Their death, and Kirk taking command of the Enterprise, meant that after 145 minutes the movie finally ended where any sensible Star Trek would have started.
Star Trek III: The Apology for Spock
Star Trek II kicked all the ass with a fast-paced plot, kickass space combat, and dramatic changes they couldn’t make in the series. Star Trek III undid every single one of those. The Search for Spock was where the franchise officially surrendered to fanboys, dedicating an entire movie to apologizing for daring to do something new in the previous one.
The plot was specifically designed to prevent any awesome space combat: the Excelsior was sabotaged and the Enterprise crippled, just in case one accidentally triggered a cinematic action scene. But this time we got to see TWO starships safely parked in spacedock! Twice the non-excitement! For two thirds of the movie the closest thing they have to an action scene is a fifty-two year old Uhura bullying an intern.
The only good part was blowing up the entire Enterprise to kill a handful of Klingons, which was something Kirk would absolutely do.
Star Trek V: The Far Too Late Frontier
Oh dear God, and that’s both the entire plot and everyone’s reaction to it. This is where the movies announced that the final frontier they wanted to explore was their own rectal cavities. William Shatner declared that what we truly wanted twenty years after the series ended was heart-felt analysis of the characters’ secret pain. Ninety minutes of discussing their underwear size would have been a better movie, because at least that would help cosplayers be more accurate. And, in Kirk and Scotty’s case, be useful in calculating their gravitational effect on the warp engines. Star Trek IV was the one about time-travel, but this was the movie that thought it was stuck in a far distant past when we’d want to see Nichelle Nichols fan-dancing.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Finally, we bring a big budget to bear on the murderous enmity between Kirk and the Klingons. With a board meeting, a dinner party, a courtroom scene, bunk beds, a ship-wide laundry day, extended trudging over ice wastes, then dramatically glaring at nothing!
Star Trek VII: The End of the Generation’s Ship
The Enterprise-D was a schizophrenically padded space hotel, a beige Apple store equipped with a fearsome array of phasers and photon torpedoes, and an even more awful array of innocent children, psychiatrists and bartenders to talk about how horrific ever actually using them would be. But it was still the star of some of the greatest Trek episodes ever filmed and deserved a better end than this.
The Federation flagship was blown to pieces by a rattletrap enemy scout because they left their Secret Weakness Code on the computer equivalent of a Post-It note. It didn’t even die in the fight: it defeated the enemy, and then exploded because the warp core sprung a leak, and the crew simply forgot it was possible to eject those. It would have been a more dignified end for the ship if the crew beamed down to a planet and then forgot where they parked it.
It was the most tragically missed opportunity in Star Trek history, and they lived in a world where people have holodecks but never told the computer about Marilyn Monroe/Marlon Brando/both/whichever you’re into. An interview with one of the writers once stated “We wanted the poster image of the two Enterprises fighting, but couldn’t think of a reasonable way to make it happen.” So they went with the story about a magic energy beam that transports you to time-traveling heaven instead.
Star Trek X: Not The Nemesis
Star Trek IX was so bad they could have simply skipped a number and it would have been less embarrassing for the sequels, but X topped that with the most pointlessly off-pissing bait and switch in history. The trailers showed a dangerous copy of Data who would have to be destroyed, deliberately playing it up to look like Lore, the charismatic evil android…but instead starred B4, a robot more annoying than Billy the Singing Sea Bass.
They knew Lore would be a great idea so they pretended to have had it. Star Trek scriptwriting had reached the depths of having good ideas specifically to avoid them. Some would say that Lore had already been dismantled: no problem. Just have Commander Maddox, the guy who wanted to dismantle Data for science back in the series, put Lore back together for research. Boom: evil scientist, rogue robot experiment, and it ties back into multiple episodes of the series. Instead, the coolest character in the show dies because Picard had a panic attack, and we’re left with the character equivalent of a photocopy that ran out of ink.
The result? A series of movies so bad that when the reboot crashed a spaceship into the ocean to hide it from a race which couldn’t see space, we didn’t even blink.
Luke McKinney writes about games, drink, science, and everything else that makes life amazing. He’s a columnist on Cracked and writes for several beer magazines. He’s also available for hire. Follow him on Tumblr and Twitter @lukemckinney.
For more movie madness, check out The Truth Behind Pacific Rim and The Most Impossibly Awesome Action Movie Ever Made.