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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Star Trek Movies and TV Shows: Ranked by Me

On August 11th, Badass Digest released a Trekkie-voted ranked list of all the Star Trek movies to date (plus Galaxy Quest, for some reason).  It's a strange list, to say the least.  Why is Galaxy Quest on there?  Other than the fact that it's a mostly-direct parody of Star Trek, it isn't actually a Star Trek movie.  And why did they stick Star Trek Into Darkness at the end, when it's obviously not the worst film on the list?

OK, so I have a good answer for that last question.  We talked about this a little in a recent Shoot the WISB episode.  Basically, the reversal of the Khan narrative probably came off as a slap in the face to Trekkies.  I even think it smelled disgusting, even though I kind of like the idea of switching things around.  After all, Spock isn't supposed to be an emotional man, so the idea that he'd break down after the supposed death of Kirk adds some weight to the moment. wasn't handled well.  There wasn't enough character development; the death of Kirk was handled in the way you'd expect a comic book to handle it:  he's dead...wait, no, not really, here's some magic *poof.*  At least in Wrath of Khan, Spock died.  He was dead dead dead.  The film never says "hey, we'll magic him into existence...right at the end."  If you've never seen Search for Spock, you really do think the guy has friggin died.  And that's a big deal.  The audience sometimes needs that slap in the face.

But I digress.  Prepare to be pissed off.  The following is my ranked list of Star Trek movies, minus Galaxy Quest:

12.  Star Trek (you can see why I still hate the film here and here)
11.  Star Trek:  Insurrection (the villains just didn't do it for me; it felt too much like an unnecessarily extended episode of the regular show, and the absurdity of the plot never seemed to gel or follow through for me, despite some nifty action sequences in the end)
10.  Star Trek V:  The Final Frontier (I want to like this film, but too much of this film's central elements are ridiculously underdeveloped; for example, both Sybok and the "god" thing at the end are given almost the same amount of characterization, despite the fact that the latter is only in the film for maybe seven minutes -- we never really know who Sybok is, except that he's kinda nuts)
9.  Star Trek:  Nemesis (there are certainly a lot of problems with this film, most notably in the convoluted plot; however, Tom Hardy does a fantastic job as Shinzon, and Captain Kirk really does almost get sucked dry like a character in a vampire movie, which seemed pretty cool to me)
8.  Star Trek Into Darkness (though I quite enjoy this sequel to Abrams' first ST film, it certainly suffers from reboot-idis; case in point, the fact that the writers could not include Khan in this version of the universe without making annoying and poorly conceived references to the original Wrath of Khan.  More on my thoughts, along with some others, here)
7.  Star Trek:  Generations (I think if I watched this movie again, I'd like it a lot less than I do in my memory; that said, I love the continued development of Data as a character, let alone the fact that this film really does give a lot of closure to the original TNG series -- plus, saucer separation = awesome)
6.  Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock (the one thing the original ST movies did well was comedic development between the principle cast; having Spock's katra, or soul, trapped in McCoy's body pretty much makes for comedic gold.  Add in Christopher Lloyd as the villain and you've got a pretty decent ST film)
5.  Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country (while the villain doesn't have quite the prowess of Khan, his obsession with Shakespeare adds a certain creep factor to this otherwise straightforward political assassination thriller -- overall, I thought it did pretty damn well for itself, particularly considering the political implications of an alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire)
4.  Star Trek:  First Contact (the Borg are probably my favorite villain species in the entire ST franchise; the best part of this film, however, involves seeing humanity make that first stretch to the stars and all that comes with it)
3.  Star Trek:  The Motion Picture (I know a lot of people hate this movie, but I've always found it infinitely fascinating; it kept with the original narrative of exploration at the heart of the show, and the discovery itself was so cool)
2.  Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (you all know why this is in the top two slots; everyone loves this movie)
1.  Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home (my grandma loved this movie, and so she made me watch it...a lot.  Obviously, it still has a special place in my heart, and it played a crucial role in my childhood love of whales and the ocean.  Also:  the movie still makes me laugh)

And here's my ranked list of Star Trek TV shows:
6.  Star Trek:  the Animated Series (it exists, and that's good enough for me)
5.  Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine (there are aspects of this show I really like, but the fact that it takes until season two for anything interesting to happen and that some of the actors are just horrible makes me unable to move this higher on the list)
4.  Star Trek:  the Original Series (it's classic, I know, but I didn't grow up on the original series, so I can only put it in the #4 slot because of its classic nature -- don't kill me)
3.  Star Trek:  Enterprise (everyone hates this one for some reason; I liked the attempt to have a single narrative riding through everything and the focus on humanity as the new kid on the proverbial block.  I'm also in agreement with one of my professors, who suggested that what makes this series so interest is the fact that humanity basically gets its ass handed to it...a lot.  That makes for a lot of interesting narratives)
2.  Star Trek:  Voyager (Captain Janeway is my favorite starship captain in the entire ST franchise; I also love the use of the Borg later in the series...and Neelix makes me happy.  There are certainly some plot issues here or there, but there are some fascinating explorations of the consequences of war and other social issues in this series.  I loved it when it was on the air in my younger years)
1.  Star Trek:  the Next Generation (the series introduced us to the Borg, who may be the greatest ST villain ever, and it was a damn good anthology-style series, with some cool stories and characters; it was also the first ST series to give us a genuinely non-humanoid character who had to grow piece by piece from start to finish -- oh, and there's a great episode where Geordi basically falls in love with a computer simulation...without brain manipulation)

And that's my list.  You're free to threaten death in the comments.

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  1. Anonymous7:45 PM

    Shaun, I've been watching Voyager this summer. Janeway is awesome, huh! I think that series had some strong female characters who weren't sexualized (well, except for Seven of Nine...) And the Voyager series developed the Borg storyline really nicely.

    1. The first season of Voyager is actually quite good. It certainly gets into some dangerous territory with Seven of Nine, but I think the series maintained the utopian idea of multiculturalism quite well. Granted, almost all of the ST series do a pretty decent job mixing up race and gender (at least, by comparison with most SF).