Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Does Every Odd Numbered Star Trek Movie Really Suck?

Popularised, but not actually created, by Simon Pegg in his sit-com Spaced, is the notion that “every odd-numbered Star Trek movie is shit”. This supposed joke has been passed around by so many sufferers of Asperger’s Syndrome that no-one’s even sure that it was ever supposed to have been a joke anymore. E14 decided to investigate as only E14 can...by getting a grumpy twenty-something Star Wars fan to watch all of the movies again.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Plot: Starfleet detects an alien cloud of energy heading towards Earth. Starfleet dispatches the Enterprise to investigate the cloud entity. Kirk takes command of the ship citing his Dickslapping Kirk Power as a Good Enough Reason. Spock also rocks up as a replacement science officer, so it’s good to see all the old guard preventing any new talent shining. A bit like TNA.

Good, Bad or Middling?: It depends on what your opinions of stupid plot ideas and unnecessarily long shots of the Enterprise flying through space are. Everyone’s new uniforms look ridiculous. The story is boring as hell.

Budget: $46m
US Gross: $82m

Myth Status: Confirmed. Odd numbered movie = Bad.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Plot: Awesome happens. Then some more awesome. Ricardo Montalban is so awesome some nearby scenery actually crumples when he passes too near to it. It ends with a dollop of awesome.

Good, Bad or Middling?: The Wrath of Khan passes beyond being a good Star Trek movie, and is just a good sci-fi movie. It has an epic Shakespearean feel, and the ending is genuinely moving. It’s got that “Khaaan!” bit in it, as well. No wonder this is still the joint-first best Star Trek movie ever.

Budget: $11m
US Gross: $79m

Myth Status: Confirmed. Even Numbered Movie = Good

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Plot: Concerned about Bones’ unstable condition since Spock's death, Kirk learns that in his final moments, Spock transferred his katra, or spirit, to the doctor. To reunite Spock with his soul, Kirk must violate a quarantine law and steal the Enterprise to retrieve Spock's body from the rapidly dying Genesis planet. Hell, when has Kirk had a problem violating anything? In any sense of the word? Ever?

Good, Bad or Middling?: You know what? I actually quite like this one. It’s a pretty good Star Trek movie. It’s not on a par with the truly great ones, but it’s far from terrible either. Its main problems lie in its budgetary constraints, which make some of the sets and effects look on a par with the original TV series, which is a shame. The only thing that really bugs me is that after Spock is brought back to life and David Kirk killed, it does almost completely invalidate everything that happened in The Wrath of Khan.

Budget: $17m
US Gross: $76m

Myth Status: Plausible. Odd-Numbered Movie = Not great, not truly bad.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Plot: Kirk and his crew head for Earth to stand at their court martial for the theft of the Enterprise, and its subsequent destruction, when they find Earth under siege by a giant probe transmitting a destructive signal—intended for the extinct humpback whales. Kirk takes his crew back to the late 20th century to retrieve some whales so they can respond. It makes sense whilst you’re watching it.

Good, Bad or Middling?: It’s a good one. Star Trek is rarely genuinely funny, but this one takes the comedy ball and runs with it, in a gamble that really pays off. And Chekov says “Nuclear Wessels” again and again and again. 'Trek can be great when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this is a fun ride.

Budget: $27m
US Gross: $110m

Myth Status: Confirmed. Even-Numbered Movie = Good.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Plot: Exiled from Vulcan, Spock's emotional half-brother Sybok believes he is called by God and hijacks the partially-retrofitted Enterprise-A to take it to the Great Barrier at the center of the Milky Way to meet his maker, while an ambitious young Klingon captain sets his sights on Kirk. As concepts go, Star Trek Vs God isn’t as good as Star Trek Vs Predator, or even half as entertaining as the thought of God Vs Predator.

Good, Bad or Middling: See, when I was a kid, this was my favourite Star Trek movie. Of course, this was only because a) it was the only Star Trek movie I had ever seen, and b) kids are stupid. It’s pretty damn awful. Possibly because it was directed by Shatner, possibly because Uhura tries to be erotic and fifty-six years old at the same time. Possibly because it tried to be Star Trek Vs God.

Budget: $27m
US Gross: $52m

Myth Status: Confirmed. Odd-Numbered Movie = Bad.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Plot: After their homeworld is wracked by an environmental disaster, the Klingons attempt to make peace with the Federation though many on both sides are opposed. Just before the summit conference, Kirk and McCoy are arrested for the murder of the Klingon chancellor.

Good, Bad or Middling: Good. Beyond good, actually. This is, for my money, the joint-best Star Trek movie, along with The Wrath of Khan. It takes the Shakespearean elements that made number two great, adds explosions, murder and great action sequences...it’s just a lesson in how to do Star Trek. It’s also a genuinely moving conclusion to the adventures of the original crew.

Budget: $17m
US Gross: $75m

Myth Status: Confirmed – Even-Numbered Movie = Good

Star Trek: Generations (VII)

Plot: The maiden voyage of the third Enterprise turns to disaster as the unprepared ship is forced to rescue two transport ships from a mysterious energy ribbon. The Enterprise manages to save a handful of the ships' passengers and barely makes it out intact...but at the cost of Captain Kirk's life. Seventy-eight years later, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D find themselves at odds with the renegade scientist Soren who is destroying entire star systems. Only one man can help Picard stop Soren's scheme and he's been dead for seventy-eight years...

Good, Bad or Middling: Bad. A terrible way to merge the two storylines, and Malcom McDowell is hardly a seal of quality is he? He’s one of the most underrated actors of the past few decades, but his choice in projects is terrible. And you know that when a sci-fi franchise feels a need to cross dimensions to make a story work, they’ve totally lost it. Except for the He-Man/She-Ra movie The Secret of the Sword. That was the bomb.

Budget: $35m
US Gross: $76m

Myth Status: Confirmed – Odd-Numbered Movie = Bad

Star Trek: First Contact (VIII)

Plot: The crew of the Enterprise-E pursues the Borg back in time as they threaten to prevent first contact between Humans and Vulcans, thus destroying the Federation before its founding.

Good, Bad or Middling: Good. In fact, this is probably my second favourite 'Trek movie. Not just because it has the Borg in it, but also because it features oodles and oodles of Picard kicking more arse than you would have believed a prematurely bald Shakespearean actor to be capable of.

Budget: $45m
US Gross: $92m

Myth Status: Confirmed. Even-Numbered Movie = Good.

Star Trek: Insurrection (IX)

Plot: The crew of the Enterprise aids a rebellion on the Baku homeworld against Picard’s superior officer, Admiral Dougherty, who wants to relocate the Baku to gain possession of the medicinal cosmic radiation that floods their planet.

Good, Bad or Middling: Middling. Whilst it’s far from bad, it does feel rather like a double length episode, rather than a full film. It doesn’t feel big enough to justify a cinema release – especially as Star Trek: The Next Generation had some excellent double-length episodes, anyway. Time’s Arrow is better than this.

Budget: $58m
US Gross: $70m

Myth Status: Plausible. Odd-Numbered Movie = Not good.

Star Trek: Nemesis (X)

Plot: Captain Picard confronts the villainous new Reman leader Shinzon, a younger genetic clone of himself who kidnaps Picard to replenish his own DNA and uses an earlier prototype of Data to spy on the Enterprise while plotting to destroy Earth.

Good, Bad or Middling: Bad. A really lame way to finish with the Next Generation crew. Brent Spiner writes himself into every conceivable scene. And is it just me, or are there fucking Yuuzhan Vong in this one? Oh, lordy, this be overlong, unwelcome wank.

Budget: $60m
US Gross: $43m

Myth Status: Busted. Even-Numbered Movie = Bad. Doesn’t feel like a victory in the conventional sense.

Star Trek (XI)

Plot: A bunch of suits in an office somewhere decide that if they cast an actor from the original, then chances are fans won’t realise it’s a ballsed up remake.

Good, Bad, or Middling: Middling. All things considered – if you were to line all the 'Trek movies up from good to bad, this would land pretty much in the middle – along with The Voyage Home and Insurrection. It’s passable, but doesn’t ever really feel like Star Trek.

Budget: $150m
US Gross: $258m

Myth Status: Plausible. Odd-Numbered Movie = Not bad.


Conclusion: So if we consider the original hypothesis (Odd Numbered = Bad, Even Numbered = Good), we can see that the stats look like this.

Support Hypothesis: 7 (63.6%)
Contradict Hypothesis: 1 (9.1%)
Neither Support nor Contractict Hypothesis: 3 (27.3%)

So, the general trend appears to be that a Star Trek movie has just under a two-in-three chance of obeying “Odd Numbered = Bad, Even Numbered = Good” rule.

Before we celebrate too much, let’s look at those statistics again, from a different perspective:

Of the six odd-numbered movies, only three of them were confirmed as “Bad”. Of the five even numbered movies, four of them were confirmed good. This means that an odd-numbered movie has a 50/50 chance of being bad; whereas an even numbered movie has an 80% chance of being awesome.

In summary, it appears that the “Odd Numbered = Bad, Even Numbered = Good” rule does actually work. We can all rejoice now, knowing that June 2012 will bring us a Star Trek movie that has an 80% change of not being shit.

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