As you would imagine for a franchise as old as Star Trek,there have been many TV specials over the years. Today I wanted to take a look at some of them, the good and the not so good. Now since these specials are all basically clip shows, going into great detail on any one would be a waste. So instead I want to run down a ten of the more notable specials, some of which I still own on VHS, and just give my thoughts on them.
I am only talking about specials which aired on American TV.There are plenty of other direct to video releases but I would be here all day if I included them. Also only standalone specials, no tributes that were part of a talk show or some other series like Entertainment Tonight, Pioneers ofTelevision, or America Lovesâ€¦. Because, well, there are a ton of them too!
1.Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek Memories
Fond memories of this one! Leonard Nimoy and a green screen,what more could you ask for? All kidding aside, this is a fun watch. This was when Star Trek III was being made so all the focus is on the original series.And I like that, since at this point the classic era gets pushed aside by the more new stuff. I think this was syndicated but did air on TV and from what I read was filmed right here in my home town of Boston. Yeah some of the stories Nimoy tells in this have been told to death by now, but at the time this one of the first times these stories were ever told and that made this special awesome. It is on YouTube and is definitely worth a watch.
2. The Star Trek Saga-From One Generation to the Next
When TNG was in hiatus in 1988 due to the writersâ€™ strike,this little gem came along to fill the void. Hosted by Patrick Stewart, this special is truly worth a watch. It has one of the best interviews with Gene Roddenberry not to mention the other cast members. TNG was still new so that get a special preview. The best part is William Shatner plugging how great Star Trek V wouldbeâ€¦ah, who could have known? But this is a great look at Star Trek before it became the money making machine it later would.
3.Star Trek 25th Anniversary Special
I wish I could convey how much I loved this. In 1991 I was finally and officially a Star Trek fan, and this special came along at the perfect time for me. Hosted by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, this special does a fantastic job analyzing the different aspects of Trek that made it endure 25 years. The history of the show, how it inspired scientists, behind the scenes and so on. Of course it also contained a preview of Star Trek VI along with special segments on the making of an episode of TNG. The one segment I never cared for was the focus on real life space travel and Levar Burton training at Space camp. Um, just because I love Star Trek doesnâ€™t mean I care at all about being an astronaut. I know some do but for me that stuff is boring.However that segment aside this is a fantastic special and I have watched it a million times. It actually recycles a lot of the interviews, but I didnâ€™t know that at the time and I canâ€™t bring myself to hate the show for that now.If you can find it, watch it!!!
5. Journeyâ€™s End: The Saga of Star Trek TNG
This was awesome and really got me pumped for the final episode of TNG. Hosted by Jonathan Frakes, the special take a look back at the series while also doing a great job of previewing the series finale as well as Star Trek-Generations (well who knew it would suck then?). Â There really isnâ€™t much to say, the special had everything you would expect including a look at a convention (Iâ€™ve been to two) and a nice look at the making of an episode.This was before the explosion of Trek that would begin in 1994 and is a very nice homage to TNG.
6. Star Trek: A Captain’s Log (aka William Shatner’s StarTrek Memories)
This was really well done. Hosted by William Shatner, itâ€™s basically a plug for his Star Trek:Memories book (which I read and still own). It works because all the cast members from TOS are here. This aired on CBS (for some reason) and is a lot of fun. Yeah, the stories are stories we have heard a million times. Iâ€™m not going to lie. The special still makes for a nice love letter to the fans. The TV special was reedited from a VHS release which I still own and contained a segment on the movies when it aired on CBS.
7.Star Trek-30 Years and Beyond
Wow, how times changed from that first special. This was an example of trying real hard to do something great, and it just feels kind of flat. This was a red carpet, live (yes, LIVE!) tribute with speeches, performances, and a studio audience with nearly every cast member from all four series at the time. Quite an impressive achievement, so what was the problem? It felt like they just couldnâ€™t live up to the buildup. I mean, Kenny G? Ben Stiller? What do they have to do with Star Trek? John Larroquette talking about how he was a Klingon in TWOK,yay. Ted Danson as host whose connection to Star Trek is nonexistent (and who vanishes halfway through the show)? Then we get an opera singer who is nice but, why? I did like some of the speeches, even if I have heard these stories more than a few times. If I have to hear how Nichelle Nichols met Martin Luther King one more time I may scream. But there is good stuff here. Kate Mulgrew does a great sketch with the cast of Frasier, Patrick Stewart and Leonard Nimoy were the only cast members not there but they left video messageâ€™s (Oh, wouldsomeone tell Patrick Stewart he IS NOT funny!), John DeLancie who at least makes sense!, Joan Collins talking about her role as Edith Keeler, more speeches by LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, and Avery Brooks.Â Â And of course the clips as always were very well done BUT very little of the original series, maybe because they seem sodated next to the new shows. Now you see why I liked those earlier specials.
But the best part was the end when all the cast members appeared on stage, and William Shatner naturally had the last words saying how great NASA was. Um, wait. NASA? When did this becomes a tribute to NASA? William Shatner barely mentions Star Trek and seems to clearly be reading a speech someone wrote for him. WTF? A tribute for Star Trek ends with a speech about NASA?Â And no mention of Gene Roddenberry at all? I almost miss the clip shows.
This special really showed how big Star Trek had becomeâ€¦.and I thinkI liked it better when it was smaller. But in fairness this show had its moments and wasnâ€™tall bad. Could it get worst? Oh hell yeahâ€¦â€¦.
8. Ultimate Trek-Star Trekâ€™s Greatest Moments
Sigh. Well, I guess they can’t all be gems. Man was this painful! Ok, let me try to explain this. UPN presented this as a tribute but it turned more into a parody. It gave a story around the clips and normally I would applaud that. But thisâ€¦.WTF?? Jason Alexander and two comedians play faux Kirk, Spock, and McCoy who have arrived in 20th century Earth to determine why the broadcast signal of Star Trek was interrupted. If the continuous broadcast is not restored their world will cease to exist. Still with me? Â They track the signal down to the Paramount studio after searching LA (and a forced Borg gag where they confuse the fashion designer with the alien race, and how would Kirk know who the Borg were anyway??). They restore the signal and return to their ship, on the set of Voyager which makes no sense. This really has to be seen to be believed.This was just awful. An SNL sketch would have had more class. The clip packages were really cool as we got the â€œgreatest momentsâ€ in a variety of categories.And there was a lovely tribute to DeForest Kelley who had recently passed away.But the narrative around the clips wasâ€¦â€¦terrible. What was Jason Alexander thinking? Will he do anything?? He was actually a producer on this. He always seem to suck when he is behind he camera. This was so bad it made the episode of Star Trek Voyager that followed seem reallygreat in comparison.
But wait! Want something worst?
8.Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier
Sweet mother of mercy was this boring! This was a celebration of the 40th anniversary, hosted by Leonard Nimoy. What’s so bad with that? The focus is not on the shows or the movies, but on the Christie’s auction of props and wardrobe. And it is veerryy draggy. But there is some decent stuff in here actually and I was kidding before, Ultimate Trek was far worse than this. At least this felt like an honest look at the series legacy rather than a slap in the face.Â And it is nice to get the fans perspective rather than hear stories we have already heard a million times. This aired on the History Channel and not the worst but itâ€™s not the best either.
The History Channel isn’t all bad. They also made â€œHow William Shatner Changed the Worldâ€ which discussed how the technology on StarTrek inspired our modern day tech. And it was pretty interesting.
9.The Captainâ€™s of the Final Frontier
This was presented by A&Eâ€¦and really feels like it. This is like one of those â€œWhat we Loved in the 80â€™sâ€ shows with quick cutaways between clips and interviews and facts popping up all over the place. It sucked. Ok one good thing is that by the time this came out all the shows were done, and the new movie had come out, so this special represents every series and movie including the reboot film. However the stars are fleeting in this with only four cast members from all the series appearing. If the focus is the captainâ€™s shouldnâ€™t all the actors be featured in it? Thankfully William Shatner would rectify this in a DVD documentary (which is ok if a bit long). As for this show, it just flies through the series history and talks about the captains without really getting into them. It doesnâ€™t bring anything new to the table. There really isnâ€™t much special here, and this special is a great example of how Star Trek has gone off the rails the last few years.
This may be a cheat since it barely aired on TV but I had to end with this one. This was created by Gene Roddenberryâ€™s son Rod as he takes a look at the effect Star Trek has on peopleâ€™s lives, and his own. It premiered in 2011 and was something special. Why? BECAUSE IT TALKED ABOUT GENE RODDENBERRY!! You know, the guy who created the show in 1966? It seems over the years his name gets less and less mention so it is nice to see a show all about him and his impact.The documentary goes more into the classic and Next Generation series than it does the others and kind of ignores the movies entriely which is a shame but considering Roddenberryâ€™s involvement with the new series and movies I guess that makes sense. There are several interviews including a rare Majel Barrett one,D.C.Fontana, and some interviews you may not expect like Stan Lee, Seth MacFarlane, JJ Abrams, and George Lucas which is cool. This is just a beautiful film. It also includes home movies and you get a real sense of who these people were in real life. You never think of Gene Roddenberry as a father, and that is what this is all about. And he wasnâ€™t perfect which is also touched on here.
The end of the special talks about how Star Trek has changed since Roddenberryâ€™s death. And it has. The last few years, as we saw in the last few specials, Star Trek has become more commercialized. We hear more about the action and romances than the philosophy. This special takes Star Trek out of the clouds that it had been in and brings it back to Earth, so to speak, by discussing the philosophy behind the creation of the show, the man whoenvisioned it, and why the fans adore it so. I get so sick of the joke that all Star Trek fans are just losers who live with their parents. You can be a successful adult who loves Star Trek. Why else would it still be around after over 45 years?