Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Worst Star Trek Ever

For a while now there has been some discussion round t'Intertubes about the relative merits of the various Star Trek films. There is little question that Wrath of Khan and First Contact end up at the top of most people's list, but the bottom is often a hotly contentious subject. Well pull up some shuttlecraft wreckage and gather round as uncle Marius will tell you exactly why I think Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is the all time worst Trek film.

Let's start at the beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Now the reasons why this film wasn't very good are legion, and I shall not go into them in much depth (this time), but its two greatest sins were 1. it was boring, and 2. the character interactions were missing. When I saw TMP for the first time I left the cinema with my head full of the new Enterprise, and it took me four more viewings, again at the cinema as this was long before VCRs, before I began to realize that the movie was all about the hardware. I still love the long, to some overly long, fly-by of the Enterprise, but the rest of the movie is, indeed, dull. That being said there wasn't anything in TMP that violated the precepts of behavior or character that had been established in the previous fifteen years of television. Granted there was a lot missing, but nobody behaved grossly out of character. Thus the film was not very good as a movie, but as Star Trek it was merely lacking.

The next three films gave us all that we missed back in regard to character interaction and fun plot lines. The Kirk/Spock/McCoy dynamic was back, and the filmmakers made obvious efforts to redress the sins of the past by giving the rest of the crew significant parts to play. Of course there were missteps and plot holes, but that has always been part of the charm of Star Trek, and while they were careful to not take themselves too seriously, there was plenty of comic relief that was sadly lacking in TMP. Then along came The Final Frontier.

First of all let me say that I have read William Shatner's books about his experiences making Star Trek, and I don't buy his explanation that ST:V was ruined by studio meddling and budget cuts. ST:V was ruined by a ham handed director who tried to turn Star Trek into a comic parody of itself. The Saturday Night Live sketch where the Enterprise is turned into a restaurant was truer to the characters than ST:V. Kirk climbing a mountain was fine, but the rocket boots that Spock used were just ridiculous. The whole scene around the camp fire when Kirk and McCoy were trying to get Spock to sing was painful. Spock may be unemotional, but he's not stupid. He knows more about Earth history and behaviors than most humans on the show, but the concept of singing a round needs to be explained like he's a three year old? I could see where they were trying to go with the scene, but it just didn't work.

Then there were the three ambassadors. The human ambassador was fine, but the Klingon and Romulan ambassadors were almost Saturday morning cartoon caricatures. And then there was Captain Klaa (possibly the stupidest Klingon name ever), and a performance that would have made your average Power Rangers villain seem like Laurence fucking Olivier! Actually, now that I think about it, the only performance in the movie that was watchable was Laurence Luckinbill as Sybok. I won't debate the existence of Sybok as Spock's half-brother as that is one of the few plot points that didn't bother me, but Luckinbill brought subtlety and charm to this otherwise cardboard cutout of a movie.

And then there is Shatner's handling of the rest of the crew. Chekhov and Sulu were pretty much ignored, but Scotty's portrayal as a clueless, bumbling martinet who only thinks he knows his way around the ship was not only annoying, it was infuriating. And all I can say about Uhura's desert fan dance is WTF? I think Nichelle Nichols is a lovely person, and was still quite handsome in 1989, but the best diversion they could think of was to have a 57 year old woman do a fan dance? Not only was it incredibly stupid, it was insulting to all of the women who grew up respecting Uhura for not resorting to using sex as a means of forwarding her career. Compare her work in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock with Mr. Adventure in the Star Fleet transporter room to this farce of a diversion.

Yes, there were a few good moments in this crapfest of a film, but "Please sir, not in front of the Klingons", and "Excuse me, why does God need a starship?" are not enough to save this sinking turd. Taken just as a movie I rank it right up there with Mansquito or Jaws 3 in its amateurish lack of quality and substance, but as Star Trek this film was an insult to the fans, an embarrassment to the actors, and a festering blemish on the greatest Science Fiction series to date.

In my opinion, of course.


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