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Star Trek Iii: The Search For Spock (#110 of 4)

Summer of ‘89: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

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Summer of ‘89: <em>Star Trek V: The Final Frontier</em>
Summer of ‘89: <em>Star Trek V: The Final Frontier</em>

A camera pans across a desert, its cracked ground rife with holes. A miner runs obsessively from one hole to the next. His reverie is broken by the distant sound of a horse galloping. Cut to a cloaked figure shimmering like some dark wraith as he rides toward the miner, slowly growing clearer and more substantial as he gets closer and closer.

This sequence, a visual quote of David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia, is the eerie opening to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the ambitious failure directed by the science-fiction franchise’s star, William Shatner. Though Shatner had already directed nearly a dozen episodes of his other notable TV series, T.J. Hooker, The Final Frontier was his feature directorial debut, a contractual obligation owed him because of a clause that gave him parity with co-star Leonard Nimoy, who had just directed a pair of Star Trek’s most successful films, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home.

Summer of ‘84—Odd Man Out: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

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Summer of ‘84—Odd Man Out: <em>Star Trek III: The Search for Spock</em>
Summer of ‘84—Odd Man Out: <em>Star Trek III: The Search for Spock</em>

It’s conventional wisdom in fan circles that of the six “original cast” Star Trek films the even numbered outings (2, 4, and 6) are the best. I can understand why Treks 1 and 5 are generally held in low esteem. But I am perhaps the ONLY person who actually found 1984’s Star Trek III: The Search for Spock to be the most faithful (and therefore the most enjoyable) of the first half dozen excursions.

I’ve never felt that the transition of Star Trek from television to film was particularly well handled. An excellent House piece by Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard, “The Conversations: Star Trek,” takes an in-depth look at all of the six OC movies. While I don’t necessarily subscribe to all the opinions expressed within, it’s a worthwhile read.

My take on the films is that they suffered from Paramount’s post-Star Wars desire to turn Star Trek into a big budget, pyrotechnics laden sci-fi property. While the Enterprise herself didn’t have a traditional galley (except for the one that mysteriously appears in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), the franchise possessed an overabundance of cooks. The result was something called “Star Trek” that had a lot more flash but, for me, lacked the essence of what made the more austerely produced television version work.

The Conversations: Star Trek

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The Conversations: Star Trek
The Conversations: Star Trek

JASON BELLAMY: America’s relationship with Star Trek began before man ever set foot on the moon. Gene Roddenberry’s creation was born in 1966 and lasted three seasons on TV before dying of low ratings in 1969. Forty years, endless reruns, four live-action TV series and 10 feature films later, Star Trek is alive and well in the pop culture. In just a few days, on May 8, the crew of the starship Enterprise—Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov—will hit the big screen yet again in an origin story directed by J.J. Abrams. Star Trek, as the film is simply called, is perhaps the most anticipated movie of the spring. And though its arrival is hardly a surprise in this era of remakes and retreads, the brand’s longevity is nonetheless impressive.

From 1987-2005, there was some form of modern Star Trek on TV. The Next Generation (1987-94) begat Deep Space Nine (1993-99), which begat Voyager (1995-2001), which begat Enterprise (2001-05). All of these series can be traced back to the 1966 pilot that started it all, but it’s safe to say that none of these series would have been possible without the varied yet undeniable success of Star Trek at the cinema. From 1979-91, six Star Trek films were released featuring the recognizable cast and characters of the original TV series. Almost two decades later, these films are cherished by some (“Trekkies” or “Trekkers”), mocked by others and seemingly ignored by everyone else.

5 for the Day: One and Done

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5 for the Day: One and Done
5 for the Day: One and Done

This one’s not just about cameos—brief walk-ons in movies—but more specifically, cameos that add an intangible but palpable something to the films they grace.

That’s why the following list includes Mickey Rourke in The Pledge—incarnating the grief and rage that power the movie’s plot—but not Barbara Billingsley in Airplane!, who was funny as hell, but definitely just one kernel in Zucker-Zucker-Abrams’ popcorn machine. Just so we’re clear, I’m giving myself and commenters some wiggle room as far as screen time. A couple of my own choices are not, strictly speaking, one-scene parts; the character is seen elsewhere, albeit briefly and in a capacity that’s not central to the scene or the movie. The important thing is that the cameo player occupies center stage in one vivid, sustained scene that’s integral to the film’s plot or themes. I’m looking for a cameo that is not mainly a sight gag (like legendary mime Marcel Marceau’s cameo in Silent Movie), but that strengthens a great film, improves a good one, or briefly makes a bad film bearable.