This week we’re continuing our voyage through the various incarnations of Star Trek. For my Pick, I want to focus on the movies starring the cast of The Original Star Trek television series (Henceforth to be referred to as TOS.).
After the end of the animated series, which was the subject of last week’s Pick, in 1974, Star Trek continued to grow in popularity thanks to syndication. In 1977, Paramount, which now owned Star Trek after acquiring Desilu Studios, was planning to start its own television network with a new Star Trek series, to be called Star Trek: Phase II, as the new network’s flagship show. While the network did not happen, the work on Phase II, including sets, the pilot script, and the cast, were instead promoted to a full-fledged movie, 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
After that, 5 more movies followed with the TOS crew, ending with 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The movies were officially handed off to the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the 1994 film, Star Trek: Generations.
If you were to watch only one of the six movies focused solely on the TOS crew, most fans would probably direct you to 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Honestly, I find that selection hard to argue with. It consistently wins fan polls as the best of the movies, it’s got a great story, effects that hold up even today, and, despite its origins in a TOS episode, it’s perfectly understandable to someone who has never seen Star Trek before. In fact, The Wrath of Khan (TWOK in fandom) was the very first Star Trek I ever saw, several years before I would become a die-hard fan myself.
Instead, though, I’m going to recommend 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (From here on out to be called TVH). While TVH is really the third and final part of a storyline that starts back in TWOK, the film can be enjoyed by newcomers and long-time fans alike. Anything new viewers need to know about the crew’s situation at the beginning of the film (which isn’t much) is quickly summarized and we get to the actual story of the movie.
And the story is really what makes TVH stand out from the other Star Trek films. First off, it’s really the only one of the series that could be described as comedic. The plot, which has the crew traveling to 20th Century Earth in order to find something necessary to save their own time, puts the characters into many fun “fish out of water” situations as they try to find their way through a world that is very different from what they are used to. Additionally, the movie uses the entire cast well, which cannot be said of many of the films.
TVH was the most profitable of the TOS movies and was very popular with audiences outside of Star Trek fandom. If you don’t have a lot of familiarity with the series, it’s still a fun way to spend a couple of hours.
As a fun aside, in an alternate universe somewhere, there’s a version of TVH co-starring Eddie Murphy. He was originally interested in a role, and a story was developed with him in mind. It didn’t end up happening, and instead he went off to make The Golden Child.
- Alan Decker
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