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Star Trek: Season One Review


Extraordinary
Just like religion and the U.S. Constitution, science fiction has remained popular while losing much of its meaning. Sci fi has never been bigger than it is today, but unlike the fifties -- when even the lamest creature features carried "messages" about nuclear anxiety or the nobility of space exploration -- today's sci-fi movies and TV series don't have much to say. At best, they are action/drama series with intergalactic settings.

The hugely successful Star Trek franchise has been part of that transition. The franchise was last represented by a squadron of mediocre TV spinoffs (though a new Trek film is on the way) and has been eclipsed in popularity by Star Wars, so it's hard to remember that the original Star Trek TV series was a significant cultural force. At its best, it was also very good sci fi.

Continue reading: Star Trek: Season One Review

Star Trek: Season Three Review


Very Good
Everyone knows the sixties were a time of rapid social change, but just how rapid becomes obvious when re-watching the original Star Trek -- daring and original in some ways, retro in others. For better or worse, modern liberal idealism owes a lot to the naive, multi-ethnic utopian vision promulgated by Star Trek (and just like Starfleet's Prime Directive, liberal tolerance is honored mostly in the breach). And the first interracial kiss shown on TV was in season three. (Though it's not exactly an inspirational moment -- Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura are forced to kiss by evil aliens.)

But the original Trek also drew heavily on Cold War-era sci-fi series like The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone -- groundbreaking and experimental in their ideas, but with a traditional moral and dramatic approach. Their serious tone fit the fifties, that uneasy, schizoid time of cultural confidence, space exploration, and looming nuclear Armageddon. Star Trek's cautious presentation probably helped viewers to swallow its innovations, from flip-phone communicators and automatic doors to alien characters like Leonard Nimoy's Spock. The idea of a character motivated by "logic" instead of emotion is pretty silly (they're not opposites), but it was perfect for the liberationist sixties -- and it was a powerful gimmick that generated years' worth of story ideas. (In one of season three's last episodes, "All Our Yesterdays," Spock goes back in time, loses his civilized veneer, and develops a primordial passion for Mariette Hartley.)

Continue reading: Star Trek: Season Three Review

Star Trek: Season Three Review


Very Good
Everyone knows the sixties were a time of rapid social change, but just how rapid becomes obvious when re-watching the original Star Trek -- daring and original in some ways, retro in others. For better or worse, modern liberal idealism owes a lot to the naive, multi-ethnic utopian vision promulgated by Star Trek (and just like Starfleet's Prime Directive, liberal tolerance is honored mostly in the breach). And the first interracial kiss shown on TV was in season three. (Though it's not exactly an inspirational moment -- Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura are forced to kiss by evil aliens.)

But the original Trek also drew heavily on Cold War-era sci-fi series like The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone -- groundbreaking and experimental in their ideas, but with a traditional moral and dramatic approach. Their serious tone fit the fifties, that uneasy, schizoid time of cultural confidence, space exploration, and looming nuclear Armageddon. Star Trek's cautious presentation probably helped viewers to swallow its innovations, from flip-phone communicators and automatic doors to alien characters like Leonard Nimoy's Spock. The idea of a character motivated by "logic" instead of emotion is pretty silly (they're not opposites), but it was perfect for the liberationist sixties -- and it was a powerful gimmick that generated years' worth of story ideas. (In one of season three's last episodes, "All Our Yesterdays," Spock goes back in time, loses his civilized veneer, and develops a primordial passion for Mariette Hartley.)

Continue reading: Star Trek: Season Three Review

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Review


OK
The rule with Star Trek films is even-numbered films are good, odd-numbered are bad -- and the first film in the series is no exception. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released at a time when sci-fi movies were expected to be long, sluggish, arty epics like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Dune. To achieve the desired length and artiness, the producers of Star Trek: TMP hired director Robert Wise -- best known for overlong, dull classics like The Sound of Music -- and chose a script which was long on dialogue but short on action or character development. (Plot: Alien vessel is coming toward earth -- Kirk and co. must stop it. Zzzzzzz.)

Added to the mix is Persis Khambatta, a model-turned-actress who can't even act as well the veterans of the TV show, playing a bald female alien (a femalien). Finally, a third of the movie is wasted on special effects which do not compare favorably with other sci-fi movies (though see below for more on this). Draped over this mess is one of the best musical scores ever wasted on a movie, the work of Jerry Goldsmith (note that the main theme was salvaged and used for the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV show). All told, the movie is one of the few imitators of 2001: A Space Odyssey that achieves the same feeling of mystery and danger. Partly this is due to Goldsmith's excellent score; partly it is because the slow pacing and dark, gloomy sets succeed in conveying the slowness and suspense of space travel, as well as its emptiness.

Continue reading: Star Trek: The Motion Picture Review

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Review


Excellent
This is the one with the whales. That's right. The Romulans and Klingons are put aside for one episode in order to create an enemy from a faraway world, suggesting that humpback whales are not native to earth -- that they're an alien species that communicates with the whales of earth through some unknown method. When the space whales haven't heard from their earthbound pals (we're told they were driven to extinction centuries in the movie's past), they decide to pay a visit. The unintended consequence is the destruction of the power systems of everything in its path.

Solution: The Enterprise crew takes a trip back through time (in the stolen Klingon bird-of-prey from Star Trek III) to the 1980s (conveniently coinciding with the production time fram of the film) in order to snag a couple of whales and repopulate the future.

Continue reading: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Review

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock Review


Weak
In the name of the franchise, the U.S.S. Enterprise boldly goes in search of fallen comrade Spock, who may have been reborn and regenerated on the "Genesis Planet." Those who have seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan are familiar with the backstory. Brave Spock (Leonard Nimoy, who wanted to get out of the part) sacrificed himself to save his friends from radioactive destruction, with his sole justification being that "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one." As he died, his skin a mass of welts and burns, he gazed into Kirk's weeping face and gently confirmed that he was, and always shall be, his friend. The body was ceremoniously shot out into space and landed on the emerging planet. It was an operatic moment. Days later, the despondent Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) is still mourning the loss, and glumly presides over the ship as Starfleet performs their routine inspection.

Meanwhile... our favorite cranky doctor, "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley), is being driven mad by some force beyond his control -- somehow imagining that he is becoming Spock, or falling under the Vulcan influence.

Continue reading: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock Review

Star Trek: Generations Review


Good
The seventh Star Trek movie went where no man had gone before, at least not in Hollywood: Attempting to take an old and lethargic movie franchise and reinvigorate it with a new cast -- uniting both the original and new casts in one massive crossover movie.

Generations (having dispensed with the numbering of the sequels) is a fair enough film. It's massively contrived to be sure -- the Kirk-era cast and Picard-era cast were meant to be some 80 years apart -- but considering the difficulty of trying to combine two crews in one movie, Shatner & Stewart turned in a fair enough endeavor.

Continue reading: Star Trek: Generations Review

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Review


Terrible
Though Star Trek: Nemesis is close on its heels, you will not find a worse Trek experience than Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

What makes it so bad? Could it be a scene with Spock in jet boots (no, those aren't ski boots!), racing to save Captain Kirk as he plummets to his death from El Capitan. A now gray-haired Uhura, doing a dance in the sand with palm fronds against the moons of an alien planet (meant as a distraction, it certainly works). Or is it the atrocious effects, the product of a limited budget and too many miniatures?

Continue reading: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Review

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan Review


Extraordinary
It is nearly gospel now among Trekkies that the second Star Trek sequel, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, is the undisputed best of the series, and will likely never meet its equal.

Inspired by classic literature like Moby Dick, Paradise Lost, and King Lear -- along with classic navy films -- Nicholas Meyer's major directorial debut is indeed the best of the series and it's a classic sci-fi flick on its own, outside the Trek mythology altogether.

Continue reading: Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan Review

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Review


Very Good
The rule of thumb with Star Trek movies continues to be: even-numbered good, odd-numbered bad. The first Star Trek movie was a sub-Kubrickian snore. The third and fifth were marred by gratuitous action and sentimentality, respectively. On the other hand, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was an entertaining swashbuckler highlighted by good performances, Kirstie Alley's debut and James Horner's score. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was a cute riff on the 20th century environmental crisis.

Paramount eventually noticed the pattern. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the sixth mission of the starship Enterprise, was largely the work of director/screenwriter Nicholas Meyer, who wrote Khan, and executive producer Leonard Nimoy (who played Spock, of course), director of Star Trek IV. The sixth movie generally reflects Meyer's and Nimoy's concern for integrity.

Continue reading: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Review

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James Doohan Movies

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Movie Review

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Movie Review

The rule with Star Trek films is even-numbered films are good, odd-numbered are bad --...

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