Total Recall: Star Trek By Tomatometer
In anticipation of the new Trek film, we compare the scores of the old ones.
These days, cancellation isn't necessarily the end for a television series; between DVD sales, the Web, and the ever-expanding cable dial, if a show has a fervent enough fanbase, odds are someone is going to come along to take advantage of it. Such was not the case 40 years ago, however -- not that it mattered to diehard Star Trek fans, who so impressed Paramount with their passion for Gene Roddenberry's characters that the studio brought the property to theaters a full decade after the show was unceremoniously dumped by NBC. Three decades later, as we prepare to greet the eleventh Star Trek feature (which is on track to be the best-reviewed entry in the series, provided the 94 percent Tomatometer holds), your pals at Rotten Tomatoes thought now would be the perfect time to take a fond look back at all the Enterprise voyages that got us here -- from the beloved classics (The Wrath of Khan) to the ones that never should have made it off the holodeck (The Final Frontier). Where does your favorite rank? Read this week's Total Recall to find out!
After churning out three consecutive installments that pleased fans as well as critics, the Star Trek franchise was due for a fall -- and it got one in the form of 1989's The Final Frontier. William Shatner directed the fourth sequel, and helped come up with the storyline (which puts the crew of the Enterprise at odds with a God-like being who has nefarious plans for the galaxy), so he's taken much of the blame for what's regarded by many as the weakest film in the series -- blame that, to his credit, he's publicly accepted. But to be fair, Frontier had bigger problems than Shatner; for starters, the 1988 writers' strike left Paramount rushing to push out another Trek before the series lost its momentum -- and with a budget almost $20 million lower than that assigned to the first film 10 years earlier. Whatever the causes, Frontier was a failure; although it easily recouped its budget, its grosses didn't come anywhere near The Voyage Home's, and neither fans nor critics were charmed by the film's comedic elements (including the infamous Yosemite camping scenes) or its thinly veiled attacks on televangelists. "Of all the Star Trek movies, this is the worst," wrote Roger Ebert -- and for a time, it seemed likely that it would also be the last.
If 1998's Insurrection found the Star Trek franchise suffering from what seemed like audience fatigue, 2002's Nemesis -- the final picture to feature The Next Generation's crew -- represented the onset of a full-on malaise. After over a decade of films that performed solidly at the box office and ran the critical gamut from great to respectable, Nemesis came as a profound letdown -- not only with critics, who gave it the worst reviews the series had seen since The Final Frontier, but with the moviegoers who stayed away in droves; its $43 million domestic gross was almost as embarrassing as the fact that it made less than Maid in Manhattan its opening weekend. In the hands of new director Stuart Baird, Nemesis presented a more action-heavy Trek than audiences were accustomed to; unfortunately, this shift in direction alienated hardcore fans, and the script -- partially inspired by an idea from Brent "Data" Spiner -- failed to take advantage of its departing cast. In the words of USA Today's Mike Clark, "As spent screen series go, Star Trek: Nemesis is...suggestive of a 65th class reunion mixer where only eight surviving members show up -- and there's nothing to drink."