One of the most defining television series of all time, Star Trek revolutionized science fiction on the small screen. While the original series has spawned a number of follow-on series, very few of them have been able to capitalize on the popularity of the crew like the group that appeared in the late 1960’s. In fact, aside from a handful of films based on Star Trek: The Next Generation, practically all of Star Trek’s 13 films are based on the original crew. After a film reboot (and two sequels) that angered many “Trekkies” due to its blasé attitude toward the source material canon, time will tell if the newfound popularity of Star Trek amongst non-Trekkies will carry on through the new television series that began this year. Still, Star Trek’s presence on the big screen is notable. This week’s two films highlight some of the gems of the Star Trek films.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours
While today’s Hollywood will jump at an opportunity to adapt a television show into a major motion picture, this wasn’t always the case. One of the unique elements of the Star Trek films is the fact that the original cast from the television show reprised their roles on the big screen. This was despite the fact that the television show ended ten years prior to the first film in the series. Appearing three years after its original, The Wrath of Khan proves to be a much better film due to a much needed antagonist, which was missing from the first movie. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), most of the movie is spent watching the USS Enterprise panning across far-out space scenes and the reactions of the crew as they sit there and wait to find an abandoned satellite that was sending out menacing signals. A similar plot to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) was used for the reboot sequel, Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013).
What started as a T.V. episode entitled “Space Seed” fifteen years prior, The Wrath of Khan sees the exiled villain, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán), enacting his revenge on now-Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner). Khan infiltrates Starfleet via some mind-control creatures and is able to commandeer the USS Reliant, which he uses to attack the space station, Regula I. In doing so, he hopes to gain control of the “Genesis Device”, which he plans to use for his own, nefarious purposes. Receiving a distress signal from Regula I, the Enterprise comes to the rescue but falls into the Reliant’s ambush. While Kirk excels in space battles and is able to cripple the Reliant, the Enterprise has been seriously damaged and cannot escape. With Captain Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) sacrifice, the Enterprise is restored and able to get away.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Length: 119 minutes / 1.98 hours
It has been noted that, of the many Star Trek films, the “even” ones are the best. Perhaps the reason for this is because the second and fourth films are the bookends of the first “trilogy” in the Star Trek film franchise. After The Wrath of Khan, its direct sequel, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), carried on the storyline that reunited the crew after the tragic loss of one of its key members. What is also notable about the third and fourth films is that they were directed by none other than Leonard Nimoy (who portrays Spock in the television series and films). Perhaps it is this close tie to the source material that helped make Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) an entertaining film. In fact, of all the Star Trek films, The Voyage Home is perhaps the most comedic, as it shows the contrast between our world and the world of the future.
On their way back to Earth to face punishment for destroying the USS Enterprise, the crew of the former starship receive a distress signal from Starfleet warning them to not come to Earth because an unknown probe has been wreaking havoc nearby. The now-resurrected Spock (Leonard Nimoy) recognizes the sound of the probe as the call of the now-extinct humpback whale. Using their commandeered Klingon ship, the crew slingshots around the sun to travel back in time to 1984. Landing in San Francisco, the members of the crew break into smaller groups to repair the ship, obtain some humpback whales, and outfit the ship to carry them to the future. Eventually, each group succeeds but not without a few comedic, cultural shocks along the way. Repeating the slingshot around the sun, the crew returns to the future and saves the Earth from the probe, now that its call has been answered.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 travels through the stars