Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ranking the best of Star Trek

I read a blog post written by one of my relatives, Nels Lindahl, in which he rated his favorite Star Trek iterations, including both television and movies.

As a Trekkie myself, I was surprised by his rankings of the various Star Trek endeavors, specifically how low DS9 and First Contact rated on his list and how high he placed Generations. Perhaps the readers can weigh in on their opinions and settle this debate.Star Trek

Here are my rankings:

1. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993 – 1999)

Although the first seasons are pretty good, watch the latter seasons after Worf arrives with the Dominion War and the Defiant. This is one of the few times Star Trek attempts a serial drama where plot lines run over multiple episodes and seasons. I also love the depth of the main characters, the complicated ethics they encounter (Sisko even conspires on a secret assassination, but knows it was right because it will ultimately save billions of lives). The show also boasts a plethora of recurring side characters and excellent villains. I’m not sure why, but this show never gets the credit it deserves.

2. Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 – 1994)

This is the show that got me hooked on Star Trek originally when I was a kid. It was just winding down as I started watching. It definitely features some excellent episodes, from the action of the Borg to moral choices involving life and death. The first couple seasons, though, quite frankly blow for the most part and this takes it down a notch, compared to DS9 which shined throughout its run. Still, overall this is a great series, although I wish they would have taken a more serial format instead of essentially hitting the reset button each time.

3. Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn (2nd Film, 1982)

This film is absolutely classic and still tops all other Star Trek films. Ricardo Montalban stands supreme as the ultimate villain and Spock’s sacrifice and Kirk’s eulogy are touching.

4. Star Trek: First Contact (8th Film, 1994)

This is the only Next Gen film really worth its weight. The Borg rank a close second to Khan on the Trek villain scale. While the action was great, I also enjoyed the crew’s interaction with Zephram Cochrane (inventor of warp drive). We do tend to create these false impressions of famous historical figures and create saints out of them. Picard’s vendetta against the Borg for hurting him also provided a great moral dilemma.

5. Star Trek: The Original Series (1966 – 1969)

This is what started it all. The triumvirate of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy provided a moral compass for a western set in space. Some of the episodes are pretty corny by today’s standards and the effects are absolutely horrid; however, plenty of classics still stand out. If you compare this to other space shows of the time period (like Lost in Space), there is no comparison. There is a better tomorrow.

6. Star Trek: The Voyage Home (4th Film, 1986)

The one with the whales is just plain fun. The lighter tone provided a much-needed change of pace from the issues of death and resurrection in 2 and 3. I understand how this fish out of water story entertained mainstream as well as Trek-nerd audiences.

7. Star Trek: XI (11th Film, 2009)

This latest re-envisioning of Star Trek had blockbuster success appealing to main-stream audiences in a way not seen since The Voyage Home. Action packed and with probably the best effects the series has ever seen, it packed a punch on the screen. That said, the plot was fairly thin, the villain not particularly great, and moral dilemmas practically absent. Finally, though, after all Trek’s travels through time, history was actually changed for once. This film resurrected a franchise thought killed by the last TNG flick.

8. Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country (6th Film, 1991)

The final film featuring the original crew (and original actors) explored Kirk’s hatred of the Klingons. With a plot mirroring (the then recent) fall of the Soviet Union, it touched on many topical issues of the day. We get to see the classic crew in action saving the universe one last time. Heck, they even get to “ride off into the sunset.”

9. Star Trek: Voyager (1995 – 2001)

This show was a mixed bag for me. Some episodes I really enjoyed, while others fell flat. After the interesting moral dilemmas and serial story lines of DS9, I felt going back to the format of TNG was a step backward. The setup for the show was perfect for the serial type of approach, as they were lost light years from home, trying to get back in one piece among alien species. However, they sadly never delved into many strong moral dilemmas, nor ever really had their ship even get banged up (except in episodes where things would reset back to perfect for the next show), and kind of just went along in a “business as normal” exploring the galaxy type of show.

10. Star Trek: The Search for Spock (3rd Film, 1984)

They planted the seed in Star Trek 2, so you knew if commercial success came, they would be going back for Spock in 3. I really enjoy the first half of the film, as they bring home the damaged Enterprise hoping to send her back to Genesis, only to learn their ship is to be scrapped and they are forbidden to save their friend. The plot to steal the Enterprise is a lot of fun, and each crew member gets a moment to shine. Self-destructing the Enterprise to take out the Klingons was a shocking development, although the rest of the movie was a disappointment. Christopher Lloyd just was not a great villain (especially compared to Khan in the preceding film). I really thought the death of Kirk’s son was done almost extraneously. The big fight on the surface of the Genesis planet between the captains was so fake, it was laughable. Still, the film fulfilled it’s purpose of bring Spock back to life.

11. Star Trek: Generations (7th Film, 1991)

I remember taking a bunch of friends to see this film for my birthday as a kid. Sadly, it didn’t live up to it’s lofty expectations. As the bridge film between the original crew and the Next Generation, it’s promise to bring Picard and Kirk together onscreen raised many possibilities. Instead of a confrontation between them in space (or maybe a team-up), we instead get them horseback riding together. Somehow, I doubt this is how most people hoped the legendary captains would meet up. It was cool to see the Next Gen ship and crew on the big screen, but the weak plot and the less-than-fulfilling death of Kirk put this film firmly in mediocrity. I really wish they would have made the finale of Next Generation into a movie instead of this, as that final episode was far superior.

12. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1st Film, 1979)

Star Trek returned after a dormant decade and upped itself to the big screen. While this was before my time, I can imagine the excitement Trekkie’s felt over this film. The heavy sci-fi plot really took a grand view of the universe and the staging of this plot also had a grandiose feel. I wouldn’t say this movie was bad as much as it was just kind of boring. I actually like the idea behind the plot of this movie. It just really drags in spots. Beyond that, the characters seem to lack much of the life and fun that popularized the original series. Still, even today the special effects (mainly shots of the Enterprise itself) are elegant. The model work done for this film was outstanding.

13. Star Trek: Nemesis (10th Film, 2002)

In what turned out to be the final voyage of the Next Generation crew, we get what feels like a crappy rip off of The Wrath of Khan. While not horrible, it was obvious from this film that the franchise needed retooling.

14. Star Trek: Insurrection (9th Film, 1998)

This film gets a bad rap, although I don’t know if it deserves it that much. The problem with this film is that it feels just like a regular episode of the series. The plot dealt with some difficult moral dilemmas involving relocating the colonists for the greater good, although the scale needed for a motion picture was just not there. I would say the title also is a bit overstated, as when they do decide to commit insurrection against the admiral, it is quite obvious they are in the right and they would not be court martialed back home for what they did.

15. Star Trek: The Final Frontier (5th Film, 1989)

William Shatner directed this disaster, originally intended as the final entry in the series. The plot is awful, and the effects are worse. Trying to duplicate the levity in the previous Leonard Nimoy directed film, the jokes are ham-handed and just plain dumb.

16. Star Trek: Enterprise (2001 – 2005)

I honestly did not watch a lot of this show. The episodes I did watch failed to impress me. At this point in the franchise, it seemed they had run out of new ideas. Mercifully, they canceled it after only 4 seasons. Strangely, they set the finale of the show as a subplot to a mediocre episode of Next Generation, bringing back Counselor Troi and Commander Riker to star in this episode. An odd end to a ill-conceived prequel series (shouldn’t they have known better after seeing the lackluster Star Wars prequels).