Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Movies Overview

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All good things must come to an end……

Six years ago, Tor.com finished up their Star Trek Re-Watch. Originally by Eugene Myers & Torie Atkinson, they departed after finishing the second season, and my buddies Dayton Ward & David Mack did the third season. Tor wanted to move on to The Next Generation, but Dayton and Dave didn’t think covering the seven-year series would be possible with their schedules, and they recommended me instead.

And so on 9 May 2011, I wrote my rewatch entry for “Encounter at Farpoint,” and from that point on twice a week (more or less), I looked at each episode of TNG. After finishing off that series in April 2013, and after I and several others looked at the four TNG movies, I moved on to Deep Space Nine. That took me to February 2015, and I then asked if I could look back at the original series. The fine folks at Tor went for it, especially since I planned to not only look at the 80 episodes of the original series (counting the unaired pilot “The Cage“), but also the animated series and all ten movies.

Today on Tor.com, my last entry in that TOS Rewatch has gone up, with my overview of the ten Kirk-and-the-gang movies.

An excerpt:

It’s weird, the movies are both the best thing and the worst thing to happen to Star Trek.

The best part is obvious: after ten years where the only new screen Trek was a (sadly easily dismissed) Saturday-morning cartoon, the movies provided new Trek for an audience that was starved for it, as the franchise really found its audience belatedly in syndicated reruns throughout the 1970s. While the novels and comic books produced during the period between 1969 and 1979 were okay, the tie-in material didn’t really come into its own until after the movie series started. And it was the success of the first three movies that led to Paramount giving the go-ahead to The Next Generation, which got Trek back where it belonged: on television.

And don’t worry, I’ll still be writing stuff for Tor.com. Mostly I’ll be focusing on screen adaptations of comic books, with pieces on Marvel’s The Defenders when it hits later this month, as well as a new feature on Tuesdays: “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Superhero Movie Rewatch,” which will kick off next week with a look at the 1951 Superman and the Mole Men and the 1966 Batman.

 

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek Beyond

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Kirk is bored, Spock is conflicted, McCoy talks about horseshit, Sulu takes off in a gravity well, Uhura figures out who the bad guy is, Scotty meets a nifty new character, and Chekov doesn’t keep vodka in his quarters. The TOS Rewatch does the final movie in the series, Star Trek Beyond.

An excerpt:

However, the best parts of the entire film are the scenes with Spock and McCoy. Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban have both done a great job filling the shoes of Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, but Urban has been criminally underused to date. This film finally rectifies that, and gives us the Spock-McCoy banter that was one of the best parts of the original series and their followup movies. One of the things that gave me hope for this movie in the trailers was the scene where McCoy says, “At least I won’t die alone,” then Spock is beamed away, and McCoy grumbles, “Well, that’s just typical,” and I’m pleased to report that that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In particular, the horseshit conversation is the highlight of the entire film.

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek Into Darkness

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Mickey Smith blows up an archive on behalf of Sherlock Holmes in order to get revenge on RoboCop. It’s up to Steve Trevor, Sylar, Julius Caesar, Benji Dunn, Harold Lee, Neytiri, and Jacob Clarke to save the day! Or, uh, something. And the only reason Nicholas Meyer isn’t turning over in his grave is because he’s still alive. The TOS Rewatch takes a Star Trek Into Darkness.

An excerpt:

Khan has Vengeance crash into San Francisco, causing obscene destruction. Khan himself survives the crash and tries to lose himself in the San Francisco crowd. However, Spock beams down and goes after him, chasing him through the streets. (Why he doesn’t alert the planet-bound authorities or other Starfleet ships to assist him is left as an exercise for the viewer.)

In sickbay, McCoy discovers that the dead tribble that he injected Khan’s blood into to test it is now alive again. (By the way, the tribble hasn’t moved from the place on the table where we saw it the first time, even though in the interim the ship tumbled into Earth’s atmosphere with the gravity out. Did McCoy nail it to the table, or what?)

McCoy puts Kirk in a cryotube to preserve his brain function, then tries to call Spock to tell him that they need Khan’s blood. (Why he doesn’t see if any of the other 72 genetically enhanced folk he’s got lying in his sickbay also have magic blood is also left as an exercise for the viewer.)

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek (2009)

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The original crew gets rebooted as Pine, Urban, Pegg, Cho, Saldana, Yelchin, Cross, and Ryder replace Shatner, Kelley, Doohan, Takei, Nichols, Koenig, Lenard, and Wyatt, while both Quinto and Nimoy do Spock. Is it a reboot or a boot to the head? The TOS Rewatch does the 2009 Star Trek.

An excerpt:

Overall, the performances elevate the film considerably. Nobody ever went wrong casting John Cho or Anton Yelchin in anything, Simon Pegg is a delight as Scotty, Zoë Saldana is a fine Uhura, Bruce Greenwood brings gravitas to the role of Pike, and Faran Tahir, Chris Hemsworth, and Jennifer Morrison do excellent work on the tension-filled prologue (I wish I could say the same for Ben Cross and Winona Ryder, but they make almost no impression as Sarek and Amanda except to make us long for Mark Lenard and Jane Wyatt, the only re-cast roles where I felt that way). Plus, of course, you have Leonard Nimoy, who can not only put lipstick on a pig, but make the pig look good.

Unfortunately, this film needs all the elevating it can get, because while it succeeds in pacing and mostly in acting, everything else is a total mess. For starters, one person I didn’t list in the previous paragraph is Eric Bana. Nobody went right casting Bana in anything, and I have yet to see him give a performance where I actually gave a rat’s ass about the person he was playing. That streak remains intact with his lifeless performance as Nero, which does a great deal to suck the life out of the plot.

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek Generations

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Kirk and Picard together again for the first time! Victorian children! A cabin in the mountains with a dog! Guinan surrounded by candles! The Enterprise-B with a doofy captain! Worf walks the plank! Data’s emotion chip installed! And lots of other stuff that don’t actually add up to a good movie as the TOS Rewatch does Generations.

An excerpt:

When I first saw this movie in 1994, my first thought was that it was a promising first draft that was rushed into production. This is mostly because it was a promising first draft that was rushed into production. Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga wrote this in about seven-and-a-half minutes, at the same time that they were writing the (much much better) “All Good Things…” and then the movie was slammed into production right after TNG wrapped production as a TV show.

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

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Shakespeare-quoting Klingons! Another young female Vulcan protégé for Spock! Sulu commanding the Excelsior! The entire crew turned into racist assholes! Assassinations! Prisons! Shapechangers played by supermodels! The TOS Rewatch rips into Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

An excerpt:

Let’s get this out of the way: Kirk orders Spock to rape Valeris. Yes, that’s a charged comment; yes, that’s a serious allegation; yes, that’s utterly revolting. But it’s completely true. And just in case we’re not sure, Meyer films it that way, with Spock looming over Valeris, grabbing her arm, yanking her toward him when she tries to back off, and maintaining a firm grip on her hair while performing the meld. It’s a horrid act, a despicable violation of a person, and one that should never have been committed by people we have two-and-a-half decades of seeing as heroes up to this point.

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

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Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain, why is he climbing a mountain? Pack up your marsh melons, have a good time, hold your horse, and let go of your pain, as the TOS Rewatch asks what God needs with a starship, and what we need with this bloody awful film, as we cover Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

An excerpt:

I still recall seeing The Final Frontier in the theatre at age twenty. With each scene, my jaw is dropping further, aghast at just how awful it all is, and then we get to the motherfucking fan dance, and I just closed my eyes and muttered profanity to myself. (I wanted to scream, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, noooooo!” but I was in a crowded Manhattan theatre and was mindful of the rest of the audience.) Star Trek has always had a major dollop of sexism leavening its enlightened attitudes, but there’s no excuse, none, for that appalling, disgusting, ridiculous scene of Uhura distracting the lookouts by dancing naked for them, getting them to all abandon their posts as one. (Funny how Sybok’s brainwashing is enough to make Starfleet officers violate their oaths but not enough to keep his lookouts from acting like a wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon.) Good thing for Kirk’s despicable plan that they were all heterosexual males in the lookout party…

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

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It’s the one where they save the whales! Time travel, McCoy snarking 20th-century medicine, Sarek and a Klingon ambassador arguing, Spock failing his saving throw versus foul language, the USS Enterprise (but not the one we usually see on screen), George and Gracie, “Everybody remember where we parked,” and so much more. The TOS Rewatch does the time warp again and parties like it’s 1986 with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

An excerpt:

It’s best remembered as the “save the whales” movie, and the overriding message is a very important one, as sledgehammery as the script has it be. Luckily, things are better now than they were thirty years ago, as humpback whales went from being classified as endangered in 1986 to being upgraded to vulnerable in 1996 and least concern in 2008. The movie’s prediction of a 21st-century extinction for the species is looking less likely. I, for one, am grateful to see that Trek‘s track record for predicting the immediate future remains dreadful (viz. the lack of any Eugenics Wars in the 1990s), as I really don’t want to live to see World War III and the post-atomic horror, thank you very much.

I never could get the hang of Thursdays

Sorry I haven’t been blogging much lately — I blame too many deadlines and too little time. I’m trying to write a short story, finish a reference book, edit a novel, rewrite a novel, and keep doing the weekly TOS Rewatch, while also teaching a great many karate classes while Shihan is away for a bit. Those of you who follow me on Facebook may have seen my plaintive cry for a 36-hour day and a nine-day week. That’s why…

To make up for it, here’s a nice Trek related earworm for you. Created using an interview with William Shatner on the Star Trek V: The Final Frontier DVD, it’s hysterical.

You will now all have “Captain Kirk is climbing the mountain, why is he climbing the mountain?” running through your heads all day. You’re welcome.

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

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Re-cast Saavik! Reverend Jim as a Klingon! “You Klingon bastard, you killed my son!” “It’s his revenge for all the arguments he lost!” Howard Hunter as a starship captain! “Don’t call me ‘Tiny'”! “Mr. Adventure”! “Up your shaft!” Scotty as a miracle worker! The auto-destruct sequence from “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”! The Enterprise is destroyed! Spock only being mostly dead, but David being all dead! The TOS Rewatch does Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

An excerpt:

On the one hand, we see the loyalty this group of people have for each other. They’re willing to risk their careers to save Spock. Which is awesome, and also has the unintended side effect of at least saving one member of the Grissom crew as well. On the other hand, you gotta wonder why this was necessary. Sarek is a high-ranking Vulcan ambassador, with enough juice that he can get to look at the now-very-classified Genesis presentation. So why can’t he make a demand of the Federation Council that they allow Kirk to retrieve his son’s body? Instead, we just get Kirk asking Morrow and the latter making a dismissive, and borderline racist comment about how he never understood “Vulcan mysticism,” never mind that it all involves telepathy which is a well established part of Vulcan physiognomy and culture. Yes, Genesis is a hot potato politically, but Sarek should have more political clout than Kirk, so he should be the one to be making this happen. And Morrow needs to have a better reason than “Vulcans are weird.”