The passing of Leonard Nimoy at the age of 83 recalls, for us and so many others, fond memories of watching “Star Trek” and Nimoy’s Spock character on both screens large and small.
Of course, not all “Star Trek” episodes or films are created equal. So we decided to get in touch with our inner logician and come up with a list. Which films are the best and which make as much sense as a drunk Romulan? Here’s the (totally objective and ironclad) list of rankings of the eight films Nimoy starred in — the six original movies between 1979 and 1991, and the two J.J. Abrams reboots of recent years.
Make your opinions known in the comments section, or via Vulcan mind-meld.
“Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”
The worst of the lot. William Shatner directed, but you couldn’t name the price it would take to get us to watch it again. Summarizing the plot is pointless and will only make us mad, so we’ll just say it's technically about a renegade Vulcan and stop there. The best that can be said is that it made the next one look a lot better.
“Star Trek: The Motion Picture”
Yes, there are always going to be revisionists who say this film is an underappreciated gem. We’re not among them. Bloated and inert, filled with jargon-heavy dialogue even the Enterprise crew members didn’t seem to understand, this one is a dud, the kind of empty spectacle that makes people just go back and watch a good TV episode instead. The most generic, danger-hurtling-toward-Earth premise. OK, so it got one of the great movie franchises of all time going. But it also helped kick-start the run of TV shows to the movie theater, not exactly a welcome development. One wished the massive energy cloud from the film would just hit our planet and be done with it, preferably while we were watching the movie.
A disappointment. J.J. Abrams' sequel film nobly tried to go where it had gone before but failed in its quest. Some U.S. cities looked cool (and events there connected nicely to what was happening in space), but the effects were loud and uninspired and the plot a mess. The whole movie felt like a deflation after the charge of the first reboot. Fortunately for Nimoy, he wasn’t in it very much.
“Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”
The schmaltzy emotions freight it down, and there is some serious New Age-y stuff: what’s this about Bones carrying the Katra of a deceased Spock? But the space-opera thing was a nice idea, and the early image of a dying Spock behind glass, his hand reaching out for what he can’t have, haunts us still.
"Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”
There’s a thunderingly obvious end-of-the-Cold War allegory (Gorkon?) that was devised by Nimoy himself, and the possibility of a youth-themed prequel hovering over it (it was the initial idea for the film, then scotched, to be reborn nearly two decades later by Abrams). And the fights between Gene Roddenberry and writer Nicholas Meyer could almost be felt in the final product. But the film does partly redeem itself with some strong dialogue, an eclectic cast that includes Kim Cattrall and Christopher Plummer and the fact that, well, it wasn’t “The Final Frontier” of a couple years before.
“Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”
This ranking may be controversial to some, but the film deserves high marks. Sure, it had that save-the-whales preachiness, and it took things out of the Enterprise and down to earth. But it picks up nicely on the elements of the previous two films, and the fish-out-of-water comedy, as it were, as the crew makes its way in downtown San Francisco is sharp and funny (give or take a couple cringey dated moments). In an era when a strong villain was essential, “Voyage Home” flouted all that and got away with it. Also, one of two "Star Trek" movies directed by Nimoy, which makes it resonate a little more on this day.
The reboot that did the term proud. J.J. Abrams created a complex but clear narrative, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto feel like Kirk and Spock of younger years, and indeed much of the cast is stellar -- Zoe Saldana as Uhura and Anton Yelchin as Chekov, to name two. And then of course there was the addition of Nimoy as Spock Prime, ingeniously inserted into the story via a clever device, offering us the chance to watch Nimoy do his thing even long before Spock started to look like him.
“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”
The Nicholas Meyer script, the James Horner score, the creation of a truly great villain in Ricardo Montalban’s Khan. And of course the poignancy of Spock’s death at the end. There’s a reason it endures in pop culture in so many ways. Ditto for one of its stars.