ByJames Thomas, writer at
Writer, Graphic Designer, Husband, Father, Geek and Aspiring Scripter of Moving Pictures
James Thomas

Back in 1966, when television writer and producer Gene Roddenberry aired his first episode of a science fiction series called Star Trek, he unknowingly launched a phenomena that would far surpass his original expectations. The series, about a starship and mostly human crew exploring the farthest reaches of their galaxy was an instant success among fans and critics alike for its positive message of peace and equality in the future.

However, when the series was cancelled after only three seasons in 1969, many didn't think they would ever see the day that it would return. Let alone, build upon itself in a manner that would create a legacy that endures to this very day.

Following the massive success of George Lucas' space fantasy classic – Star Wars – in 1977, Paramount Pictures began production on a motion picture experiment that would draw on science fiction's newfound fandom as well as the already present desire to be reunited with a crew that broke barriers in both pop culture as well as world culture itself. Join me as Fifty Years in the Final Frontier takes a look back at the film series that breathed new life into a fading mythology of exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new civilizations.


Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig
Co-Starring: Stephen Collins, Persis Khambatta, Majel Barrett, Grace Lee Whitney and Mark Lenard
Directed by: Robert Wise
Released: December 7, 1979

Picking up ten years after the end of the original television series, a refitted USS Enterprise embarks on it's maiden voyage to intercept a strange, cybernetic space being known as V-Ger, which has just destroyed two Klingon vessels and is on a destructive course for Earth.

While the film finally brought Star Trek (complete with it's original crew) back to the screen, it failed to have the same appeal, with many calling it "boring." And they're not wrong. Coming off the technological advances of Star Wars, this first installment to the Star Trek film series focused more on what they were able to do with special effects that they couldn't before on the show. There are lots of elaborate scenes of space effects, including a really disorienting scene where the Enterprise slips into a warp induced worm hole and the crew on the bridge appears to be moving in extreme slow motion. We're also treated to long – devastatingly long – scenes of shuttle pods docking with the Enterprise (from every possible angle). Unfortunately, the story was lacking, as well. The slow pacing and lack of action really caused the film to drag as if it were a long, and sub-par, episode of the show.

While I won't say that any of the Star Trek films are bad, The Motion Picture was definitely a rocky start that almost stalled the resurrected franchise in its tracks. However, three years later we were given one of the greatest science fiction spectacles to date.


Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig
Co-Starring: Ricardo Montalban, Bibi Besch, Merritt Butrick, Paul Winfield and (introducing) Kirstie Alley as Lt. Saavik
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Released: June 4, 1982

While on a survey mission of a supposedly dead planet, the crew of the USS Reliant, including first officer Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) are killed and/or taken hostage by none other than Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban). Khan then plots a revenge mission on James Kirk for stranding him on the planet decades earlier, by taking control of an experiment meant to create life on lifeless worlds and use to eradicate life for Kirk.

The Wrath of Kahn, like The Empire Strikes Back before it, is hailed as the sequel that brought grit and emotional drama to its parent series. It soared over its predecessor by leaps and bounds in the action department and built a really complex story around Kirk's refusal to believe in a No Win situation as well as Spock's loyalty to his friend and their shared responsibilities. Khan represents one of the greatest villains in all of sci-fi and reminds us that "revenge is a dish best served cold." The film will also cement the phrases "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" as well as "I have been and always shall be your friend" into our memories. Star Trek was finally back in the game, and it's all thanks to...

The Wrath of Khan would prove to be so popular that it's formula would be imitated thirty years later with J.J. Abrams' sequel reboot, Star Trek Into Darkness. It also kickstarted a story that would become its own little self contained trilogy, to be followed up by...


Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig
Co-Starring: Christopher Lloyd, Merritt Butrick, Robin Curtis and Mark Lenard
Directed by: Leonard Nimoy
Released: June 1, 1984

Following the events of The Wrath of Khan, the Enterprise crew return to space dock and learn that their ship is to be decommissioned and replaced with a new cutting edge starship, the USS Excelsior. However, when Spock's father, Sarek, comes to Kirk searching for his deceased son's body for burial rituals, Kirk must sabotage the Excelsior, steal the damaged Enterprise and return to the Genesis planet where he left Spock's body. However, the Klingons learn of the existence of the Genesis planet and begin a deadly confrontation with rebellious crew.

If there was ever an underrated and overlooked Star Trek film, it would have to be The Search for Spock. The first film gets attention for being the first and also the most boring. The second film is often considered the best in the franchise. The fourth is called the most fun. The fifth is widely considered the worst and the sixth brought the excitement of Wrath of Khan back to the series. Lost among all of that is the forgotten gem that is Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Not only did you get a compelling story about Kirk betraying the orders of the Federation, but you also got an epic fight scene that would result in the destruction of the original Enterprise and a dramatic turn of events with (SPOILER ALERT) the death of Kirk's son, which would play a major role later in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Leonard Nimoy, whom had grown a little weary of the Spock role by this point, was lured back with the offer of directing and, in so doing, seemed to have rejuvenated his love for the character. The Search for Spock is one of the best in the Trek series and doesn't get the attention it deserves.

So that's it for Part One of A Look Back at Star Trek in Film. Join us again very soon as Fifty Years in the Final Frotnier reexamines The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country. And don't forget to follow me on Twitter (@ThisIsJamesT) for all things rant and ravey.


Latest from our Creators