Total Recall: Star Trek By Tomatometer
In anticipation of the new Trek film, we compare the scores of the old ones.
Sequels that expand upon their predecessors are exceedingly rare -- but then, 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is no ordinary sequel. After ponying up the then-princely sum of $46 million for the first Trek, Paramount was looking for two things: One, a scapegoat for the first film's $136 million global gross (which ended up being series creator Gene Roddenberry, who was exiled from the decision-making process for Khan), and two, someone who could head up a cheaper second installment. That someone was Harve Bennett, a Trek novice who quickly immersed himself in the original series in search of a compelling villain for the sequel -- and found him in Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), a superhuman with a thing for mind-controlling eels. Khan's thrifty aesthetic may have inspired Bennett and director Nicholas Meyer to cut corners wherever possible -- including reusing sets from The Motion Picture -- but the movie didn't skimp on storyline, much to the delight of fans and critics, both of whom rank the series' second chapter at or near the top of the franchise. "Here comes a sequel that's worth its salt," wrote Janet Maslin of the New York Times, concluding "It's everything the first one should have been and wasn't."
After three decades, seven films, and four television series, most franchises would have long since exhausted their options -- but as 1996's First Contact proved, the creative horizons of the Star Trek universe were capable of expanding longer and wider than perhaps even Gene Roddenberry could have suspected. Now firmly in control of the franchise, the Next Generation crew -- both onscreen and off -- was able to expand upon themes and characters touched on during its own series, specifically the nature of the endlessly assimilative cybernetic Borg collective. Having already proven a worthy adversary during TNG's run -- particularly during the classic episode in which they assimilated Picard himself -- the Borg now propelled Trek to the best reviews (and some of the highest grosses) in its history. A sequel that both paid tribute to longstanding Trek traditions (TNG vet Jonathan Frakes directed, proving Leonard Nimoy wasn't the only member of the Enterprise crew who could successfully pull double duty) and broke them (Paramount ended decades of parsimony by breaking out $47 million for the budget), First Contact earned the praise of critics like Time's Richard Corliss, who wrote that "it stands proud and apart, accessible even to the Trek-deficient" before decreeing that "this old Star, it seems, has a lot of life in it."
Finally, here's a special message to all you Trekkies from none other than Shatner himself: