I spent a rainy day watching one of my favorite trilogies.No, not Back to the Future, Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings. I watched the StarTrek trilogy that was Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home. Itgot me thinking, most consider Star Trek II the best Star Trek film. However,my heart has always been with Star Trek IV.

Maybe my opinion of these films is colored by my experienceseeing them. When I saw Star Trek II not only was I a bit young, but I had anannoying kid behind me who wouldn’t shut the heck up! To this day when theRelaint explodes I still remember this brat asking his father what happened toKhan.  I l also remember the ear slugscene…gross! When I saw Star Trek IV, it was a theatre packed with Trek fans thatlaughed at everything and enjoyed the heck out of the movie. It was one of thebest experiences I have ever had at a movie. I didn’t even get all thereferences and gags but I didn’t care it, I loved watching that movie and haveseen it dozens of times including on an airplane.

So, which one was actually better?

Star Trek II is a very good film, let me make that clear.Even watching it again for the umpteenth time I was drawn into the film. Amongother themes the films is about life and death, and has the unquestionable bestvillain in any Trek film. The space battles are excellent. In a lot of way thisfilm gets the closest to those classic episodes where the ship is fighting someenemy. It manages to do what the first movie could not, mix the action with thecharacters. The problem with the first movie was that they went special effectshappy, here we get a good story told very well and it feels like a Star Trekmovie this time.

Star Trek IV is an environmental movie, and one which keepsthe preaching to a minimum. Thankfully. It is a much lighter tone but it doesn’tdegrade into camp. The jokes feel natural and the story is effective. This filmfeels like the lighter Trek episodes, most notably Trouble with Tribbles. Evernotice there really isn’t a villain in this film? Yet somehow the movie works.The humor is great and we get less action and more character moments, and Ithink therein lies the big difference.

If you watch Star Trek II you see a very solid movie, butthe other characters don’t have much to do. Chekov disappears once he is nolonger useful to Khan (I never understood why they all go into the cavern andleave him lying there with a bloody ear), Sulu hardly does anything, Uhura sitsbehind that console the entire movie, and Scotty has some great scenes regardinghis nephew but that’s all. And to be honest, I hated having Scotty emotional likethat. It just never felt right to me. Before I continue let me say the argumentthat Khan couldn’t have recognized Chekov because Chekov wasn’t in the episodeis dumb. Why couldn’t he have been on the ship somewhere?

In Star Trek IV everyone has something to do. Okay some geta little less than others, especially Sulu who has his big scene cut becausethe child actor didn’t cooperate, but this is definitely a strong charactermovie. We have Spock go through a whole story arc and not only does it get agreat resolution but it also ties up loose ends from the series regarding hisfather, Kirk finally gets his command back and even gets to flirt with a girllike in the series, Uhura gets a little stiffed but Chekov gets that greatscene on the ship, Scotty gets the scene in the plastic factory and of courseMcCoy gets to play doctor in the 20th century.  I think that is what makes this movie sowatchable, that and the fact the humor is just right. Unlike the next movie, itdoesn’t cross the line into campy or lame.

What The Voyage Home is missing is good action and a strongvillain. That is where Khan comes in. The space battle between the Enterpriseand Reliant is probably the best space battle of any movie. It’s a fact thatKhan and Kirk never have an actual scene together, but somehow we don’t care.The drama and tension is perfect, and of course we have the heart breakingmoment when Kirk finally has to face death when his best friend sacrificeshimself for the ship. This scene is one of the most moving in Trek history,  though the ending of IV still brings a smileto my face when we see the new Enterprise-A. I love that moment.

IV is like a breath of fresh air after all the death in the previoustwo. However as much as I loved Star Trek IV, I was kind of looking forward tothe next film being a more typical space adventure. Of course who knew how muchI would hate Star Trek V, but that is getting way off topic. My favorite scenein that film is when the Klingon vessel decloaks in front of the whaling ship.I loved that freaking moment! Star Trek Ii really has no one scene that standsout, for me the movie is just one strong film start to finish. There is nomoment that I love to see more than another and it took many viewings toappreciate the subtleties in the story. I missed it when I was young.

So I guess it comes down to what you want in a Star Trekfilm. Star Trek II is a very well done movie, hitting almost every mark justperfectly. It tells a good story very well with a darker tone. Star Trek IV is more of a character piece and is just more fun to watch; you always end up smiling by the end of thefilm no matter how many times you have seen it. This is why the movie reachedthe largest audience; it just had a larger appeal. Do you want to see the character grow and interact or an epic space battle? Star Trek II may be astronger film, but Star Trek IV is just a more enjoyable ride.  I don’t think either is better, they are twovery different films which achieve very different things very well.

By the way, I loved Star Trek III also even though it is notthe on the level of either the second of fourth.  I still enjoy watching it.

By richb

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