Critical response to Star Trek

Critical response to Star Trek

The Star Trek franchise, originally created by Gene Roddenberry, has spawned five live-action television series, one animated series, and (as of 2011) eleven motion pictures. The critical reception of the franchise has varied with its many differing incarnations over more than forty years.


Television series

Star Trek: The Original Series

In 1968, Gene Roddenberry, as a result of differences with NBC, stepped down as showrunner for Star Trek, and Fred Freiberger was hired as producer. The season was derided by critics and fans, was plagued by reduced production budgets from NBC, and was scheduled in the so-called Friday night death slot which resulted in it failing to attain sufficient ratings numbers to continue; it was cancelled in the spring of 1969.

Freiberger has a somewhat dubious reputation in science fiction fandom, mostly due to his involvement in the final season of Star Trek, The Six Million Dollar Man and Space: 1999, all of which were cancelled under his watch. This led to Freiberger being given the nickname "The Series Killer" [1] although it should be noted that he was also involved in the establishment of several other series that lasted for several seasons, such as Wild Wild West and Superboy. Both Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner refused to assign any blame to Freiberger for the inferior third season of Star Trek in their published autobiographies.[2][3]

As Nichols observes, the result of NBC's severe budget cutbacks to the third season of Star Trek—in an environment of rising production costs and escalating actor's salaries—meant that

you saw fewer outdoor location shots, for example. Top writers, top guest stars, top anything you needed was harder to come by. Thus, Star Trek's demise became a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I can assure you, that is exactly as it was meant to be....In the third season [the] new producer Fred Freiberger did everything he could to shore up the show. I know that some fans hold him responsible for the show's decline, but that is not fair. Star Trek was in a disintegrating orbit before Fred came aboard. That we were able to do even what we did is a miracle and a credit to him. One day Fred and I had an exchange, and he snapped at me. Even then, though, I knew he wasn't angry with me but with his unenviable situation. He was a producer who had nothing to produce with.[4]

Star Trek: The Animated Series

Star Trek: The Animated Series was named the 96th best animated series by IGN. They declared that although the series suffered from technical limitations, its format allowed the writers far greater freedom and creativity than was possible in the original live-action series.[5]

Star Trek: The Next Generation

The first season was marked by a "revolving door" of writers, with Gerrold and Fontana quitting after disputes with Roddenberry.[6] Mark Bourne of The DVD Journal wrote of season one: "A typical episode relied on trite plot points, clumsy allegories, dry and stilted dialogue, or characterization that was taking too long to feel relaxed and natural."[7] Other targets of criticism include poor special effects and plots being resolved by the deus ex machina of Wesley Crusher saving the ship.[8][9] However, Patrick Stewart's acting skills won praise and critics have noted that characters were given greater potential for development than those of the original series.[7][8]

Season two as a whole was widely regarded as significantly better than season one. The plots became more sophisticated, and began to mix drama with comic relief. Its focus on character development received special praise.[10] Six third-season episodes were nominated for eight Emmys; "Yesterday's Enterprise" won for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series and "Sins of the Father" won for Best Art Direction for a Series.[11] After complaints of discomfort made by several cast members, new two-piece Starfleet uniforms were introduced in the third season to replace the jumpsuits worn in the first two seasons. Seven fourth-season episodes were nominated for eight Emmys; "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" won for both Outstanding Sound Editing in a Series and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Series.[11] Three sixth-season episodes were nominated for Emmys; "Time's Arrow, Part II" won for both Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costume Design for a Series and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series and "A Fistful of Datas" won for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Drama Series.[11] Five seventh-season episodes were nominated for nine Emmys, and the series as a whole was the first syndicated television series nomination for Outstanding Drama Series. To this day, The Next Generation is the only syndicated drama to be nominated in this category. "All Good Things..." won for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Special Visual Effects and "Genesis" won for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Drama Series. "All Good Things..." also won the second of the series' two Hugo Awards.[11]

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

DS9 was well received by critics with TV Guide describing it as "the best acted, written, produced and altogether finest" Star Trek series.[12] Despite debuting in the shadow of The Next Generation, DS9 achieved a considerable level of success in its own right. According to a press release through Newswire on April 7, 1999, it was the #1 syndicated show in the United States for adults 18-49 and 25-54. The characters of DS9 were featured on the cover of TV Guide ten times during its run, including several "special issue" editions in which a set of four different-covered versions were printed.

The series won a number of awards.[13] It was nominated for Emmy Awards every year of its run, including makeup, cinematography, art direction, special effects, hairstyling, music (direction and composition), and costumes. Of these, it won two for Makeup (for "Captive Pursuit" and "Distant Voices") and one for the Main Title Theme Music (Dennis McCarthy). It was also nominated for two Hugo Awards in Best Dramatic Presentation for "The Visitor" and "Trials and Tribble-ations", however the competing series Babylon 5 won the Hugo Award instead.

Deep Space Nine drew praise from African-American, Latino and other viewers from minority groups in the U.S. for its handling of the minority characters, particularly the Sisko family members.[14] In addition, Alexander Siddig (Dr Bashir) expressed his enthusiasm for the fact that he, with his English accent, unusual screen name at time of casting, and Arabic heritage, was a main character on a prominent TV show despite being not quite so easily racially identifiable as many other actor/characters on TV.[15] adds that casting Siddig as Bashir was "notable as the first time that a US TV show recognised that not all English people are white."[16]

Star Trek: Voyager

Star Trek Voyager is second only to TNG for the newer series in regards to the number of awards that have been won and its original ratings.

Star Trek: Enterprise

The series cancellation was announced prior to the writing of the final episode of the fourth season allowing the writers to craft a series finale. This final episode, titled "These Are the Voyages...", aired May 13, 2005 in the United States and was one of the most heavily criticized episodes of the Star Trek franchise. Much of the criticism focused on the premise which essentially reduced the finale to a holodeck adventure from the Star Trek: The Next Generation series. The episode featured guest appearances by Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis as their Star Trek: The Next Generation characters William Riker and Deanna Troi. The episode is based during the TNG episode "The Pegasus".[17] Brent Spiner lent his voice to the finale, and is briefly heard as Data.


The films were commonly considered to follow a "curse" that even-numbered films are better than the odd-numbered installments.[18][19][20] The tenth film, Nemesis, is considered the only even film to succumb to the curse.[19][21] The failure of Nemesis and subsequent success of the Star Trek reboot is considered to have broken the curse.[22][23]

Original cast

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The Motion Picture met with disappointing reviews from critics;[24] a 2001 retrospective for the BBC described the film as a critical failure.[25] Gary Arnold and Judith Martin of The Washington Post felt that the plot was too thin to support the length of the film, although Martin felt that compared to similar films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and Alien, The Motion Picture's pretense was "slightly cleverer".[26] Time's Harold Livingston wrote that the film consisted of spaceships that "take an unconscionable amount of time to get anywhere, and nothing of dramatic or human interest happens along the way". Livingston also lamented the lack of "boldly characterized" antagonists and battle scenes that made Star Wars fun; instead, viewers were presented with lots of talk, "much of it in impenetrable spaceflight jargon".[27] David Denby said that the slow movement of ships through space was "no longer surprising and elegant" after films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that much of the action consisted of the crew's reacting to things occurring on the viewscreen, which the New York Magazine critic considered to be "like watching someone else watch television".[28] Variety disagreed, calling the film "a search-and-destroy thriller that includes all of the ingredients the TV show's fans thrive on: the philosophical dilemma wrapped in a scenario of mind control, troubles with the space ship, the dependable and understanding Kirk, the ever-logical Spock, and suspenseful take with twist ending".[29]

The characters and acting received a mixed reception. Stephen Godfrey of The Globe and Mail rated their performances highly: "time has cemented Leonard Nimoy's look of inscrutability as Mr. Spock [...] DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy is as feisty as ever, and James Doohan as Scotty still splutters about his engineering woes. At a basic level, their exchanges are those of an odd assortment of grumpy, middle-aged men bickering about office politics. They are a relief from the stars, and a delight." Godfrey's only concern was that the reunion of the old cast threatened to make casual viewers who had never seen Star Trek feel like uninvited guests.[30] Martin considered the characters more likable than those in comparable science fiction films.[26] Conversely, Arnold felt that the acting of the main cast (Shatner in particular) was poor; "Shatner portrays Kirk as such a supercilious old twit that one rather wishes he'd been left behind that desk", he wrote. "Shatner has perhaps the least impressive movie physique since Rod Steiger, and his acting style has begun to recall the worst of Richard Burton."[31] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that the actors did not have much to do in the effects-driven film, and were "limited to the exchanging of meaningful glances or staring intently at television monitors, usually in disbelief".[32] Stephen Collins and Persis Khambatta were more favorably received. Gene Siskel felt the film "teeter[ed] towards being a crashing bore" whenever Khambatta was not on screen,[33] and Jack Kroll of Newsweek felt that she had the most memorable entrance in the film.[34] "[Khambatta] is sympathetic enough to make one hope she'll have a chance to show less skin and more hair in future films", Godfrey wrote.[30]

Many critics felt that the special effects overshadowed other elements of the film. Canby stated that the film "owes more to [Trumbull, Dykstra and Michelson] than it does to the director, the writers or even the producer".[32] Livingston felt that Trumbull and Dykstra's work on the film was not as impressive as on Star Wars and Close Encounters due to the limited amount of production time.[27] Godfrey called the effects "stunning", but conceded that they threatened to overpower the story two-thirds of the way into the film.[30] Kroll, Martin, and Arnold agreed that the effects were not able to carry the film or gloss over its other deficiencies; "I'm not sure that Trumbull & Co. have succeeded in pulling the philosophic chestnuts of Roddenberry and his co-writers out of the fire," Arnold wrote.[26][31][34]

Later assessments of the film have echoed these criticisms. Rotten Tomatoes reported 54% of 28 selected critics gave the film a positive rating.[35]James Berardinelli, reviewing the film in 1996, felt that the pace dragged and the plot bore too close a resemblance to the original series episode "The Changeling", but considered the start and end of the film to be strong.[36] Terry Lee Rioux, Kelley's biographer, noted that the film proved "that it was the character-driven play that made all the difference in Star Trek".[37] The slow pacing, extended reaction shots, and the film's lack of action scenes led fans and critics to give the film a variety of nicknames, including The Slow Motion Picture,[38] The Motion Sickness,[39] and Where Nomad [the probe in "The Changeling"] Has Gone Before.[36]

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Critical response to The Wrath of Khan was positive.[40] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 92% of selected critics have given the film a positive review based on a sample of 38.[41] After the lukewarm reaction to the first film, fan response to The Wrath of Khan was highly positive. The film's success was credited with renewing interest in the franchise.[42] Mark Bernardin of Entertainment Weekly went further, calling The Wrath of Khan "the film that, by most accounts, saved Star Trek as we know it";[43] it is now considered one of the best films in the series.[42][43][44][45]

The film's pacing was praised by reviewers in The New York Times and The Washington Post as being much swifter than its predecessor and closer to that of the television series.[32][46] Janet Maslin of The New York Times credited the film with a stronger story than The Motion Picture and stated the sequel was everything the first film should have been.[32] Variety agreed that The Wrath of Khan was closer to the original spirit of Star Trek than its predecessor.[47] Strong character interaction was cited as a strong feature of the film,[48] as was Montalbán's portrayal of Khan.[49]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and Derek Adams of Time Out complained about what were seen as tepid battle sequences,[49] and perceived melodrama.[46][50] While Ebert and TV Guide felt that Spock's death was dramatic and well-handled,[49][51] The Washington Post's Gary Arnold stated Spock's death "feels like an unnecessary twist, and the filmmakers are obviously well-prepared to fudge in case the public demands another sequel."[46] Negative reviews of the film also focused on the acting,[46][52] and Empire singled out the "dodgy coiffures" and "Santa Claus tunics" as elements of the film that had not aged well.[53]

The Wrath of Khan won two Saturn Awards in 1982, for best actor (Shatner) and best direction (Meyer).[54][55] The film was also nominated in the "best dramatic presentation" category for the 1983 Hugo Awards, but lost to Blade Runner.[56] The Wrath of Khan has had an impact on later movies: Meyer's rejected title for the film, The Undiscovered Country, was finally put to use when Meyer directed the sixth film, which retained the nautical influences.[57] Director Bryan Singer cited the film as an influence on X2 and his abandoned sequel to Superman Returns.[58] The film is also a favorite of director J. J. Abrams, producer Damon Lindelof and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the creative team behind the franchise relaunch film Star Trek.[59][60][61]

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

The Search for Spock received generally positive reviews from critics. Richard Schickel of Time praised the film as "perhaps the first space opera to deserve that term in its grandest sense".[62] Janet Maslin of The New York Times and Newsweek wrote that while the film felt weighed down by the increasingly aged actors and television tropes, it was leavened by its dedication.[34][63] Roger Ebert called the film "good, but not great" and a compromise between the special effects-dependent The Motion Picture and the character-driven The Wrath of Khan.[64] Conversely, USA Today praised the film as the best of the three and the closest to the original spirit of the television series.[65] An overwhelmingly negative view of the film was offered by The Globe and Mail's Susan Ferrier Mackay, who summed the film up as "ba-a-a-d".[66]

Critics praised Nimoy's direction, to which USA Today attributed the film's success in capturing the essence of the television show.[65] Newsweek wrote that due to Nimoy the film was the best-paced Trek film, and that his familiarity with these actors enabled him to bring out the best from them.[34] Newsweek, and David Sterritt of the Christian Science Monitor, appreciated how the film slowed the action down to allow moments of reflection, comparing this with the focus of most contemporary action films on effects rather than actors.[67] The Washington Post's Rita Kempley wrote that Nimoy's direction was competent, but his background in television showed—"the film feels made-for-TV", she summarized.[68] Fellow Post critic Gary Arnold concurred with Kempley's television movie assessment, but also wrote that Nimoy was smart to focus on the essentials of each scene; he "[concentrates] on the actors in ways that flatter and enhance their work."[69]

The Search for Spock's plot solicited comment; Schickel called the film "overplotted" and filled with "heavy expository burdens", comparing it to real opera.[62] Sterritt said that the script occasionally veered in "arbitrary" directions and contained missteps, such as how the Grissom and its crew are suddenly lost, but the plot disregards their fate.[67] Arnold wrote that Shatner missed an opportunity to act on par with The Wrath of Khan's revelation that Kirk was David's father. The critic considered David's death an attempt at a similar shock, but felt it was not a success.[69] Harry M. Geduld, writing for The Humanist, criticized the film for what he called "contradictions and implausibilities", such as Scott's sabotage of the Excelsior and Spock's regeneration.[70]

The film's sense of self-seriousness and the camaraderie amongst the characters were generally cited as positive aspects. Maslin wrote that certain tacky elements of the film's television roots were outweighed by the closeness of the Enterprise crew and "by their seriousness and avidity about what seem to be the silliest minutiae [...] That's what longtime Trekkies love about the series, and it's still here—a little the worse for wear, but mostly untarnished."[63] The Los Angeles Times wrote that despite its spectacle, the film's "humanity once again outweighs the hardware, and its innocence is downright endearing".[65] Mackay offered an alternate view, calling the characters' actions and dialogue "wooden" and saying that the film's monsters had more life than the acting.[66] Lloyd's portrayal of Kruge received praise from New York's David Denby and The Daily News's Hunter Reigler.[71][72]

The film's effects were conflictingly appraised. Schickel wrote that the effects were "technically adroit" and occasionally "witty",[62] and Ebert singled out the Bird of Prey as a "great-looking" ship.[64] Sterritt felt that the settings always felt like they were on soundstages rather than out in space,[67] and Denby wrote that more could have been done with Genesis, and that while it was an interesting concept its special effects execution lacked.[71] Kempley appreciated the sets' low values, writing that "the fakier the sets", the closer the film felt to its television origins.[68]

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

The Voyage Home was well-received by critics; Leonard Nimoy called it the most well-received of all the Star Trek films made to that point.[citation needed] Producer Ralph Winter also added that this film did very well as it was liked by both fans and non-fans of the Star Trek phenomenon.[citation needed] Due to the success of this film, Paramount greenlit a new Star Trek television series (after failing to get one off the ground in 1977). The series ultimately became Star Trek: The Next Generation, which premiered in major markets on September 28, 1987.

USA Today gave the film a positive review, declaring "Kirk and company turn into the most uproarious out-of-towners to hit the Bay area since the Democrats in 1984," and felt the lack of special effects allowed the actors to "prove themselves more capable actors than ever before." Janet Maslin of The New York Times noted The Voyage Home "has done a great deal to ensure the series' longevity."[73]

The Voyage Home garnered 11 nominations at the 14th annual Saturn Awards, tying Aliens for number of nominations. Nimoy and Shatner were nominated for best actor for their roles.[74] It was nominated in the "Best Cinematography" category at the Academy Awards.[75]

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The movie received a negative response from most critics and fans. Fans complained about the sub-standard special effects, and that too much of the humor was at the expense of the popular supporting characters, particularly Uhura and Scotty, who the film strongly hints are romantically involved. However, much of the humor was also directed at the main characters (including Kirk).

Among critics, Roger Ebert gave the film two stars noting; "There is no clear line from the beginning of the movie to the end, not much danger, no characters to really care about, little suspense, uninteresting or incomprehensible villains, and a great deal of small talk and pointless dead ends."[76] Peter Travers of The Rolling Stone similarly commented; "Star Trek V: Shatner's Folly (the subtitle is mine) handily takes the hollow crown as worst in the series. It's bloated, bombastic and maddeningly pretentious."[77] Rita Kempley of the Washington Post added to the negativity remarking, "Star Trek V is a shambles, a space plodessy, a snoozola of astronomic proportions." The special effects in the film were not spared criticism either as she illustrated how the Enterprise attempts; "To pass through an impenetrable (Ha!) swirl of what appears to be cosmic Windex, beyond which is the planet Shockara, home of God, or perhaps California shot through a purple filter."[78] James Berardinelli also concurred on the visuals in the film saying; "The special effects are at an all-time low for the movie series, with the passage through the "Great Barrier" looking especially cheesy."[79]

Positive reviews seemed to be few and far between. Among them, Chris Hicks of the Deseret News gave it three stars exclaiming, "There is a certain charm to Star Trek V in its ability to tackle one of life's "big questions" in a pompous, yet superficial manner, because that's exactly what the old TV series did all the time."[80] Accordingly, film critic Josh Larsen of Larsen On Film, rated it with three stars declaring, "I’m grading on a sliding scale here - Final Frontier is “good” only in relation to the previous Star Trek pictures." He went on to state, "Final Frontier would be another wash were it not for Laurence Luckinbill as the series’ first interesting villain (and yes, I’m counting the bewilderingly beloved Khan)."[81]

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry jokingly considered elements of this film to be "apocryphal at best", and particularly disliked the idea that Sarek had fathered a child (Sybok) with a Vulcan before Amanda. Roddenberry made similar statements about elements of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Nevertheless, both films are included in Trek canon.[82] Ralph Winter said they should have recognized the film's plot was too reminiscent of V'ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.[83] Shatner blamed himself for what he believed ended the franchise; only because the 25th anniversary of the series was approaching did Frank Mancuso, Jr. approve the development of the next film.[84]

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

The Undiscovered Country received a kinder reception from reviewers and audiences than The Final Frontier;[85] the Herald Sun reported that "those who found The Final Frontier weighed down by emotional gravity and over-the-top spiritualism [welcomed] the follow-up with its suspense, action and subtle good humor."[86] Critics approved of the blend of humor and adventure in the film.[87][88] The dialogue and banter was considered a positive and defining aspect of the film; Janet Maslin of The New York Times said that "Star Trek VI is definitely colorful, but even more of its color comes from conversation, which can take some amusingly florid turns."[88] Critic Hal Hinson commented that Meyer "[is] capable of sending up his material without cheapening it or disrupting our belief in the reality of his yarn," and called the one-liners an organic part of the film's "jocular, tongue-in-cheek spirit".[89] Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today said that with Meyer directing, "this last mission gets almost everything right—from the nod to late creator Gene Roddenberry to in-jokes about Kirk's rep as an alien babe magnet."[90]

The acting of the main cast was conflictingly received. Lloyd Miller of the St. Petersburg Times said the characters "return to their original roles with a vigor and wit unseen in earlier episodes of the film series".[91] Rob Salem of The Toronto Star quipped that though the actors looked silly on occasion, this was a benefit; "as their capacity for action has diminished, their comedic talents have blossomed [...] they have all become masters of self-deprecating self-parody."[92] The Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert called the actors' performances "photocopies" of previous movies: "Shatner and Nimoy are respectable, but lack energy. There's nowhere else to go with their roles, and they know it. DeForest Kelley is oddly out of it."[93] Plummer and Warner's portrayals of their Klingon characters were well-received; Maslin commented that "whenever a skilled actor [...] manages to emerge from behind all this [makeup] with his personality intact, it's a notable accomplishment." The other supporting characters received similar praise;[93][94] H.J. Kirchhoff, writing for The Globe and Mail, said that the guest stars joined the "family fun" of the film as "zesty, exotic and colorful good guys and bad guys".[95] A Cinefantastique retrospective review considered the film to have the finest guest stars ever assembled for a Star Trek movie.[96]

The Cold War allegory and the whodunit aspects of the film were less positively received. Mary Boson of the Sydney Morning Herald considered the comparisons to real-world situations timely, and praised the plot for exploring the reactions of those who have invested themselves in a life of belligerence.[97] David Sterritt of The Christian Science Monitor felt that the film veered away from the intriguing Cold War allegory premise to unsatisfying results.[98] Instead of maintaining suspense, The Washington Times's Gary Arnold noted the Rura Penthe sideplot offered "scenic distraction without contributing significantly to the whodunit crisis [...] The crime itself has a promising 'closed-room' aspect that never gets elaborated adequately [...] You look forward to a cleverly fabricated solution." Arnold felt that instead of developing this mystery, the filmmakers defused the potential for suspense by shifting away from the search of the Enterprise.[99] Brian Lowry of Variety felt Rura Penthe dragged down the film's pace, and that Meyer paid so much attention to one-liners that there was a lack of tension in the film,[29] a complaint echoed by John Harti of the Seattle Times.[100]

The special effects were alternately lauded and criticized; USA Today called them "just serviceable", though Wloszczyna's review for the paper said the Klingon assassination sequence was "dazzling", with "fuchsia blood spilling out in Dali-esque blobs".[90] Desson Howe, writing for The Washington Post's Weekend section, said that "the Klingons' spilled blood floats in the air in eerily beautiful purplish globules; it's space-age Sam Peckinpah."[94] Maslin considered some effects garish, but appreciated the filmmakers' tirelessness "in trying to make their otherworldly characters look strange".[88] Rotten Tomatoes reported that 83% of critics have given the film positive review, based upon a sample of 43, with an average score of 6.8/10.[101]

The Next Generation cast

Star Trek Generations

Critical reaction to Star Trek Generations was mixed. The film holds a rating of 45% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 42 reviews.[102]

James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave Generations two and a half stars out of four, saying: "Despite a reasonably original story line, familiar characters, first rate special effects, and the hallmark meeting between Captains Kirk and Picard, there's something fundamentally dissatisfying about [the movie]. The problem is that [...] too often it seems like little more than an overbudgeted, double-length episode of the Next Generation television series."[103]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times said: "Generations is predictably flabby and impenetrable in places, but it has enough pomp, spectacle and high-tech small talk to keep the franchise afloat."[104] Jeremy Conrad of IGN gave the film a score of 7 out of 10, saying that it "feels a little rushed and manufactured," but called it "one of the better of the odd-numbered Trek films,"[105] referencing a belief that even-numbered Star Trek films are traditionally of higher quality.

Star Trek: First Contact

First Contact garnered positive reviews on release.[106] Ryan Gilbey of The Independent considered the film wise to dispense of the old cast; "For the first time, a Star Trek movie actually looks like something more ambitious than an extended TV show," he wrote.[107] Conversely, critic Bob Thompson felt that First Contact was more in the spirit of the 1960s television series than any previous installment.[108] The Globe and Mail's Elizabeth Renzeti said that First Contact succeeded in improving on the "stilted" previous entry in the series, and that it featured a renewed interest in storytelling.[109] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "First Contact does everything you'd want a Star Trek film to do, and it does it with cheerfulness and style."[110] Adrian Martin of The Age noted that the film was geared towards pleasing fans; "Strangers to this fanciful world first delineated by Gene Roddenberry will just have to struggle to comprehend as best they can," he wrote, but "cult-followers will be in heaven".[111] The New York Times' Janet Maslin said that the "convoluted" plot would "boggle all but hard-core devotees" of the series,[63] while Variety's Joe Leydon wrote that the film did not require intimate knowledge of the series and that fans and non-fans alike would enjoy the film.[112] While Renzetti considered the lack of old characters from the previous seven movies a welcome change,[109] Maslin said that without the original stars, "The series now lacks [...] much of its earlier determination. It has morphed into something less innocent and more derivative than it used to be, something the noncultist is ever less likely to enjoy."[63] Conversely, Roger Ebert called First Contact one of the best Star Trek films,[64] and James Berardinelli found the film the most entertaining Star Trek feature in a decade; "It has single-handedly revived the Star Trek movie series, at least from a creative point-of-view," he wrote.[113]

The film's acting was conflictingly received. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly appreciated that guest stars Woodard and Cromwell were used in "inventive contrast" to their better known images, as a "serious dramatic actress" and "dancing farmer in Babe", respectively.[114] Lloyd Rose of The Washington Post felt that while Woodard and Cromwell managed to "take care of themselves", Frakes' direction of other actors was not inspired;[115] Steve Persall of the St. Petersburg Times opined that only Cromwell received a choice role in the film, "so he steals the show by default".[116] A couple of reviews noted that Data's interactions with the Borg Queen were among the most interesting parts of the film;[25][64] critic John Griffin credited Spiner's work as providing "ambivalent frisson" to the feature.[117] Empire magazine's Adam Scott wrote that some characters, particularly Troi and Crusher, were lost or ignored, and that the rapid pacing of the film left no time for those unfamiliar with the series to know or care about the characters.[118] Likewise, Emily Carlisle of the BBC praised Woodard's, Spiner's, and Stewart's performances, but felt the film focused more on action than characterization.[25] Stewart, who Thompson and Renzetti considered overshadowed by William Shatner in the previous film,[108][109] received praise from Richard Corliss of Time: "As Patrick Stewart delivers [a] line with a majestic ferocity worthy of a Royal Shakespeare Company alumnus, the audience gapes in awe at a special effect more imposing than any [special effect]. Here is real acting! In a Star Trek film!"[27]

The special effects were generally praised. Jay Carr of The Boston Globe said that First Contact successfully updated Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's concept with more elaborate effects and action.[119] Thompson's assessment mirrored Carr's; he agreed that the film managed to convey much of the original 1960s television show, and contained enough "special effects wonders and interstellar gunplay" to sate all types of viewers. Ebert wrote that while previous films had often looked "clunky" in the effects department, First Contact benefited from the latest in effects technology.[64] A dissenting opinion was offered by Scott, who wrote that aside from the key effects sequences, Frakes "aims to distract Trekkers from the distinctly cheap-looking remainder".[118]

Critics reacted favorably to the Borg, describing them as akin to creatures from Hellraiser.[119] Renzetti credited them with breathing "new life" into the crew of the Enterprise while simultaneously trying to kill them.[109] The Borg Queen received special attention for her combination of horror and seduction; Ebert wrote that while the Queen "looks like no notion of sexy I have ever heard of", he was inspired "to keep an open mind".[64] Carr said, "She proves that women with filmy blue skin, lots of external tubing and bad teeth can be sleekly seductive."[119]

Star Trek: Insurrection

The film received a mixed reception from critics, with a general consensus that it seemed to be little more than a "glorified episode of the television series".[120]

Reviewers Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were split in their response, one thumb down from Ebert, one thumb up from Siskel. Ebert wrote in his Chicago Sun Times review that he felt the movie's problem lay in its morality play, stating that he wasn't sure that 600 Ba'ku lives weren't worth sacrificing to help billions of Federation citizens. Siskel, however, felt differently, and though he died not long after screening the film, his wife later told Michael Piller that it was the only Star Trek movie Gene Siskel truly enjoyed.

Star Trek Nemesis

Out of 148 professional reviews compiled by the Rotten Tomatoes film review database, 53 (37%) are positive, giving the film a "rotten" rating.[121] The film has earned a Metacritic score of 50 out of 100 (mixed or average) from 29 reviews.[122]

Some reviewers felt the response to Nemesis indicated that the Star Trek franchise had become worn. Roger Ebert stated in his review, "I'm smiling like a good sport and trying to get with the dialogue … and gradually it occurs to me that "Star Trek" is over for me. I've been looking at these stories for half a lifetime, and, let's face it, they're out of gas."[123] Rotten Tomatoes ratings consensus as of 16 March 2009 indicates “Nemesis has an interesting premise and some good action scenes, but the whole affair feels a bit tired.”[124] Rick Berman (executive producer of the film) has suggested that Nemesis's performance may have been negatively affected by "the competition of other films".[125]

In promotional interviews for the film, Patrick Stewart stated that room for a sequel was left as B-4 begins singing, "Blue Skies."[126]


As of 14 December 2009 (2009 -12-14), the film holds a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 262 out of 278 critics giving it a positive review with an average rating of 8.1/10, surpassing all other feature films in the franchise. RT's consensus is that "Star Trek reignites a classic franchise with action, humor, a strong story, and brilliant visuals, and will please traditional Trekkies and new fans alike."[127] Among Rotten Tomatoes' "Top Critics", which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television and radio programs, the film holds an overall approval rating of 92% (7.8/10), based on a sample of 39 reviews. The film also holds a score of 83 based on 37 reviews as of 14 December 2009 (2009 -12-14) on the review aggregator website Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from film critics, tying for ninth of The Best-Reviewed Movies in 2009 to date.[128][129]

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe gave it 4/4 stars, describing it as "ridiculously satisfying", and the "best prequel ever".[130] Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A- commenting that: "But in Star Trek, the clever and infectious reboot of the amazingly enduring sci-fi classic, director J.J. Abrams crafts an origin story that avoids any hint of the origin doldrums." The film also received positive reviews from The New York Times, Slate Magazine and Rolling Stone.[131][132][133]

Although only two reviews were categorized by Metacritic as "yellow", or mixed, a recurring critical complaint held that the franchise's tradition of providing morally challenging stories had been neglected or even violated. The AV Club gave the film a "green" B+, but asserted that it was "a reconsideration of what constitutes Star Trek, one that deemphasizes heady concepts and plainly stated humanist virtues in favor of breathless action punctuated by bursts of emotion. It might not even be immediately recognizable to veteran fans."[134] Roger Ebert agreed, lamenting in his 2.5/4 star-review that "the Gene Roddenberry years, when stories might play with questions of science, ideals or philosophy, have been replaced by stories reduced to loud and colorful action."[135] Non-review articles also echoed this concern: Marc Bain asked in Newsweek if the franchise had "lost its moral relevance",[136] and Juliet Lapidos argued in Slate that the new film, with its "standard Hollywood torture scene," failed to live up to the intellectual standard set by the 1992 Next Generation episode "Chain of Command", whose treatment of the issue she found both more sophisticated and pertinent to the ongoing debate over the United States' use of enhanced interrogation techniques.[137]


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