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A look back at the Star Trek film franchise

By Cody Carlson

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, May 15 2013 11:35 a.m. MDT

Alice Eve is Carol and Chris Pine is Kirk in "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Paramount Pictures

Promising a roller-coaster ride of action and adventure, “Star Trek Into Darkness," the latest offering in the Star Trek movie franchise, is the 12th film in the series.

With the release of the new film, it's a good time to take a look back at the ups and downs of this film series.

After the cancellation of the "Star Trek" TV series in 1969, creator Gene Roddenberry had hopes that one day Paramount would consider exploring the further adventures of the Starship Enterprise in a feature film. After several failed attempts, Paramount announced that it instead preferred a new series, tentatively titled “Star Trek: Phase II.” After the success of major science-fiction films like “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” however, Paramount ultimately decided to green light a feature film.

The result was 1979's “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” The film saw Captain Kirk, Spock, Leonard McCoy and the rest of the Enterprise crew on a mission to stop an energy field on a collision course with Earth.

Despite the best of intentions, an acceptable box office take and a thoughtful twist ending, this first film adventure of the Enterprise and its crew is a drab, meandering affair. The film lacks action, kinetic energy and the story just plods along. Missing also is any kind of major villain to root against. (In 2001 Paramount released Robert Wise's director's cut that tightens up the story and is on the whole much more watchable than the original theatrical cut.)

For the sequel, Paramount wisely brought on board producer Harve Bennett and writer/director Nicholas Meyer. The result was 1982's “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” This film had everything that “The Motion Picture” lacked: plenty of action and starship combat, as well as one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history: Khan Noonien Singh. Played with evil glee by Ricardo Montalban, Khan was a villain motivated by vengeance against his old nemesis, Captain Kirk. The film also addresses the realities of aging and the enduring power of friendship. I defy you to watch Spock's death scene and not shed a tear.

Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself, directed the third outing of the franchise, 1984's “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.” This film sees Captain Kirk and his crew going rogue, stealing the Enterprise and venturing to a forbidden planet in hopes of finding a resurrected Spock. While not the greatest film in the series, “The Search for Spock” is far from the worst. It offers some genuine comedic moments (such as when Mr. Sulu knocks out a security guard twice his size), and continues the story of the previous film beautifully. Also, Christopher Lloyd and John Larroquette as the Klingon antagonists are a lot of fun.

Nimoy again directed 1986's “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” Known to casual fans of the series as “the one with the whales,” “The Voyage Home” sees the crew of the Enterprise operating a hijacked Klingon vessel en route for Earth when it encounters a powerful, destructive alien probe. When it turns out that the probe's destructive signal is trying to contact humpback whales, Kirk and Co. go back in time to rescue the extinct species from 1980s San Francisco. Arguably the most comedic of the film series, “The Voyage Home” is a fun time-travel adventure that wonderfully concludes the story arc that began with “The Wrath of Khan.”

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