STAR TREK Original Cast Movies: A Look Back

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Star Trek: Original Cast Movies – Film Reviews

The internet ink was barely dry on my “30 Days Of Spielberg” retrospective when I dove into this marathon. It was, thankfully, a far less ambitious one, covering a mere 6 films instead of 30-plus.

For the month of July 2016, I wrote about the Original Cast editions of the Star Trek movies. It’s a series that doesn’t actually follow the over-simplified yet common axiom of “Odd-numbered movies bad, Even-numbered movies good.”

I’ve long held an affection for these films, and July 2016 really seemed like the perfect time to look back. Not only did it see the release of the upcoming third film in the cinematic reboot, Star Trek Beyond, but more importantly it was right smack dab in the middle of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary year.

I’ve never been a Trekkie. Or Trekker. Or whatever it is they want to call themselves. I watched the reruns as a child, enjoyed them, but was not a diehard that felt compelled to go to conventions or learn to speak Klingon (let alone go all Star Trek Cosplay before cosplay was officially a thing).

Then the Star Trek movies came along and it was a whole other thing entirely.

The television episodes were fun, yet the movies captured everything the TV show did so well but in a grander, deeper way. The fact that the movies only made winking references to Kirk’s womanizing (rather than playing it up to the level of the series) was one clear indication that their aspirations were much more lofty, and sincere.

There was something unique and singular to Star Trek, not just in sci-fi (or just in contrast to Star Wars) but really in all of pop culture. Its spirit of exploration is very American, yet its vision of how that looks is universal.

Set hundreds of years in the future, Star Trek was more than just Cowboys and Indians in space. It was about journeying into the unknown, driven by the innate human drive to see what lies just beyond. It was about science, too, aspiring to knowledge and discovery, and not just cool futuristic toys. It was a self-reflection and examination on humanity itself – all of humanity – and its highest ideals that emerge even despite (or as a direct result of) our shortcomings. And yes, there was adventure too.

But at the heart of it all was this tight knit, diverse crew, at the core of which was a bond of friendship between three unlikely people – Kirk, Spock, and McCoy – that gave the series its heart, its humor, and its soul.

As good as the television series was on each of these counts, the movies elevated them all.

Most importantly, these six Original Cast films captured my imagination not simply for nostalgia’s sake (as I had none). They did so because, at their best, they were great movies.

Looking back, we also see what the recent J.J. Abrams reboot lacks (three films and counting that, to be clear, the first two I was a big fan of – yes, even the oft derided Into Darkness). In remaking the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise for a 21st Century sensibility, Abrams focused squarely on two of the series traits: action-adventure, and the Kirk/Spock/McCoy bond. He also added another, a previously non-existent inter-crew romance. But even as a fan of these recent movies, one has to acknowledge that the spirit of exploration, the fascination with science, and the philosophical introspection about humankind’s place in the universe has been lost.

The Original Cast films are richer, smarter, nobler, and better. Even if not always successful, their ambitions were always higher. And they even proved just how good of an actor William Shatner can be. (Yes, I’m dead serious.)

So in this 50th Anniversary year, it’s the perfect time to look back, re-evaluate, and give the Original Cast Star Trek movies their due.

Set your expectations on stunned and prepare to beam up to the “I Can’t Unsee That” movie blog as it boldly goes where it’s never gone before.

Star Trek: Original Cast Movies – Film Reviews

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4 thoughts on “STAR TREK Original Cast Movies: A Look Back

  1. Awesome! Can’t wait to see this. Great segue into the new Star Trek series coming in early 2017 which is rumored to be set in the years after ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’ and before the Star Trek TNG series.

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    1. Thank you, Stan! Although a bit worn out after the Spielberg gauntlet, this really seemed like the perfect time to talk about these movies that I’ve loved and revisited for over 30 years. (And as you say, they’ll be nice to have archived and re-post when the new series rolls around next year.)

      I had not heard that rumor about the new series. I think that’d be a great place to start! So glad that Bryan Fuller is in charge of that series and that they’ve also brought Nicholas Meyer on board.

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      1. For what it’s worth, Fuller shot down the between-ST6:TUC-and-ST:TNG rumour recently, in an interview posted at Moviefone on June 23.

        I would also question whether Abrams really focused on the Kirk/Spock/McCoy trio. It seems to me that he essentially displaced McCoy with Uhura (and this was evident in the marketing, too, as much as it was in the film itself). Karina Longworth wrote back in 2009 that Abrams had basically turned Star Trek into a big-screen version of his TV series Felicity: it was about a girl caught between a brainy guy and a hunk. And, as I put it in a blog post in 2013 (borrowing terminology I picked up from John Granger’s books on the Harry Potter phenomenon), the first Abrams movie replaced the Kirk=heart, Spock=head and McCoy=gut trio of the original series with a new trio in which Spock was still the head but now Kirk was the gut and Uhura was the heart.

        One of the rumours about Star Trek Beyond, in fact, is that it might finally be focusing more on the Kirk-Spock-McCoy trio in a way that the Abrams-directed films did not.

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  2. Good to know about the new series rumor being confirmed as a rumor only, thanks for that.

    As far as how the reboot has treated the trio, I actually agree with your breakdown, and really like the heart/head/gut definitions. That said, this being a preview, I really didn’t want to get into the weeds of that here (and will likely address it during my Star Trek V write-up, which actually has a different Uhura love interest). I was simply focusing on the base point that of all the different dynamics the original Trek explored, Abrams essentially only employed two of them (but to get more specific, yes, he bastardized one of the two). McCoy is definitely a caricature of his former self two films into this reboot. Fingers crossed (or Vulcan-split) for the third.

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