The 25 Greatest Star Trek Movie Moments

The very best bits from the big-screen final frontier…

 

The new Star Trek film opens on Friday, promising a space-whirlwind of rebooted adventures for Kirk and co.

In honour of JJ Abrams' redux, we've taken a trip through time - and, umm, back to the future - to name the most memorable moments from the franchise's movie outings...

25. Stealing A Starship (Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, 1984)

One of the first purely wacky – yet still effective – sequences put forward by the Trek movies, this scene shows that a determined band of fogeys is easily a match for the cream of Starfleet security and the fleet’s flagship.

Laced with silly nods (Scotty telling the Excelsior’s breezily professional computer to go “up yer shaft” after sabotaging the swift ship’s shiny new warp drive), it’s a tribute to our heroes’ inventiveness and the dedication to their fallen (but now likely alive) comrade Spock.

Could’ve done without the comedy violin soundtrack that sounded like the musician was suffering a seizure, though.

Trek Trivia: Robocop’s Miguel Ferrer crops up in a tiny role as the Excelsior’s first officer, who smugly assures his captain that they’re ready to go capture the Enterprise… Shortly before everything breaks down. Ha ha!

 

24. Romulan Senate Dissolves (Star Trek: Nemesis, 2002)

Talking of dodgy security practices, the Romulan senate from the final Next Generation film clearly has less checks in place than your average airport.

Why? Well, villain Shinzon (Tom Hardy) has been able to sneak in a nasty technobabble bomb that reduces the senators to rubble and allows the sneaky clone of Captain Picard (long story) to take control.

The film is a distinctly dodgy, watered-down take on The Wrath Of Khan, but this is one of the few moments that really gets a post-9/11, terrorism-riffing moment of unique horror.

Trek Trivia: Gladiator’s John Logan penned the script for the movie, and given his Trek fan status, it really should have been a lot better.

23. Hello, Computer! (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986)

The warm, kooky-kerrazy family-comedy style of the fourth film isn’t for everyone.

But this moment works because of the consummate comedy skills of Deforest Kelly and James Doohan.

Faced with a monolithic Apple Mac (which was state of the art back in 1986), Scotty at first attempts to talk to the machine, then assumes the mouse is a microphone before being asked to just use the keyboard. (“The keyboard… How quaint!”)

Trek Trivia: The computer was supposed to be an Amiga, but the thrifty Commodore company insisted the production team bought the machine. Apple was more than happy to loan out a Mac for the free publicity.

 

Next: Data Dies, The No-Win Scenario

 

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22. Data Dies (Star Trek: Nemesis, 2002)

Continuing that proud tradition of Star Trek characters who die with a back-up plan (except Captain Kirk, of course), Data (Brent Spiner) sacrifices his life for his colleagues when he remains behind on an enemy vessel to shut down its weapons and make sure Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) gets off alive.

The droid is caught in the catastrophic explosion that destroys the ship, but – because this is sci-fi – he’s already downloaded his memories into clone droid B-4, a close predecessor to Data.

Cue his comrades toasting him and aiming to help B-4 become more like his “brother”.

Trek Trivia: Nerd alert! During the memorial wine-glug for Data, Jonathan Frakes’ Commander – now Captain - Riker admits he can’t remember the song the android was attempting to whistle when they met.

We think you'll find the song was ‘Pop Goes The Weasel', from The Next Generation’s pilot episode.

21. The No-Win Scenario (Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, 1982)

With word slowly leaking that Spock (Leonard Nimoy) would be popping his clogs during the second outing, the filmmakers decided to have a little fun with the fans by showing him “dying” early on during the Kobyashi Maru training simulation commanded by Kirstie Alley’s Saavik.

It’s a great opening to easily the best Trek film to date – tense, energetic and lodged firmly in the series’ mythology, with Kirk revealed as the only cadet to ever have defeated the training run “no-win scenario” - a dilemma involving a civilian ship under Klingon attack.

How did he beat it? He cheated, apparently – something that gets explored in the new film. Typical Kirk.

Trek Trivia: Kirstie Alley made her movie debut with the film, but she wasn’t director Nicholas Meyers’ first choice. He wanted Kim Cattrall, and would get his way on the sixth film, where Cattrall plays a Saavik-alike Vulcan.

 

Next: Stretched To Death, Is There A Doctor In The House

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20. Stretched To Death (Star Trek: Insurrection, 1998)

Star Trek’s cinematic adventures really seemed to be scraping the barrel by the time this meditation on peace, harmony and plastic surgery limped in.

Still, it managed to contain one of the series’ more satisfyingly creepy deaths, with two acting powerhouses going up against each another (and then, presumably calling their agents to find out why they’d agreed to it in the first place.)

F Murray “I won an Oscar, me” Abraham is evil villain Adhar Ru'afo a surgery and youth-obsessed alien attempting to harvest the life-giving properties from the planet of the Ba’ku. He’s initially helped by misguided Admiral Dougherty (Antony Zerbe).

But when the Starfleet fool realises the true evil of Ru’afo’s plot, he tries to back out and is killed thanks to a little face-stretching tech from the alien’s favourite chair.

Michael Jackson be warned…

Trek Trivia: Zerbe was the producers choice for Dougherty, but star Patrick Stewart had lobbied for his old mucker Brian Blessed to get the role. It would have been a lot shoutier…

19. Is There A Doctor In The House? (Star Trek: First Contact, 1996)

First Contact is an almost unrelentingly grim and action-fuelled film (that's not a complaint), but it does allow for a few bursts of humour.

In one quick moment that gives a nod to the Trek TV series, Star Trek Voyager’s Holographic Doctor is activated as Dr Crusher (Gates McFadden) and her team attempt to flee the encroaching Borg drones.

Ordered to “do a dance! Tell a story! I don't care! Just give us a few seconds!” the Holo-doc proceeds to offer the invading Borg a cream for “skin irritation” caused by their electronic implants.

Trek Trivia: The Holographic Doctor gets to utter Dr McCoy’s immortal line of “I’m a doctor, not a…” (in this case, a “doorstop”).

It’s a tribute to the fact that he won the role on Voyager partly because he ad-libbed another (“I’m a doctor, not a light bulb”) during his audition.

 

Next: What does God need with a spaceship? Brand New Enterprise

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18. What Does God Need With A Spaceship? (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, 1989)

Easily the worst of the Trek movies. William Shatner’s ego-fest isn’t the worst film ever made (at least it's in focus), but it has few redeeming features.

One of them is the slightly cheeky tone it takes to the film’s true evil, a godlike alien seemingly made of pure energy that calls various characters (including Spock’s previously unknown half-brother Sybok) to a planet beyond  “the great barrier”, in a cordoned-off section of the galaxy.

Kirk doesn’t buy it for a minute and incurs the wrath of the powerful entity, leading to a chase scene and his rescue by Spock – at the controls of a Klingon Bird Of Prey. It's silly but oddly satisfying.

Trek Trivia: The cheap-looking finale isn’t all William Shatner’s fault. He couldn’t get top-notch effects as ILM were busy on Ghostbusters II and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. The FX ended up being so rubbish, the scenes were cut instead of bodged in.

Shatner asked for more money to restore them on the DVD release, but a bad review-stung Paramount said no.

17. Brand New Enterprise (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986)

Following the destruction of the original Enterprise, the team needed a new ship.

In keeping with the comedy nature of the film, the scene features the crew bantering about what they’ll end up on (“We’ll get a freighter,” snarks McCoy, before Sulu counters with his bet for Excelsior and Scotty admonishes, “Why in God's name would you want that bucket of bolts?”)

While it does seem odd that no one in a supposedly professional, galaxy-exploring fleet thinks to tell one of its most celebrated crews what ship they’ll be commanding ahead of time, there’s nothing quite like the geeky rush of joy in the view sweeping over Excelsior to find the newly minted Enterprise-A sitting in space dock.

Trek Trivia: This is the least amount of time a version of the Enterprise gets on film (in case you were keeping track). The old, destroyed ship appears in stock footage and the new one is glimpsed for all of 40 seconds.

 

Next: The Borg Queen's Entrance, Enterprise Launches

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16. The Borg Queen’s Entrance (Star Trek: First Contact, 1996)

The Borg are one of the greatest villains introduced into Star Trek lore, but they've been severely neutered (thanks to overexposure on the Voyager TV show) since the days they first menaced Picard and co.

While the first glimpse of the Borg Queen is seen as the beginning of the end (after all, why did the Borg need a central focus except for dramatic reasons?) there’s no denying the power of her entrance as she walks toward camera in one smooth shot – slick, grey skin, phallic tubes jutting from her body and the fact that her top half neatly slots into her lower body.

Actress Alice Kriege gives her a spooky, otherworldly, sexy power and she’s mostly a decent character – creepy, freakish, but with just enough female-ness to make geek-tummies go funny.

Trek Trivia: Keeping with the series’ love of in-jokes, the Borg drones have eyepieces with blinking lights that flash, in Morse code, names of production crew-members.

15. Enterprise Launches (Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, 1982)

Star Trek: The Motion Picture features one of the biggest examples of techno porn in the series, as we get not only a long, lascivious look at the curves of the newly film-worthy ship, but an extended sequence of it leaving space dock.

For The Wrath Of Khan, however, Nicholas Meyer – using some of that footage to keep costs down – chose to impishly have the crew make youngblood Saavik command the ship out of dock, with customary harrumphing from Spock and smarmy grinning from Kirk.

Trek Trivia: And if you think the two ships featured in the film – the Reliant and the Enterprise - look alike, it’s not just because they’re from “one big happy fleet.” They’re the same set redressed with different lighting and, er, new seat covers.

Next: Fight! Fight! Fight!, Assimilate this!

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14. Fight! Fight! Fight! (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991)

Trek VI’s scenes set within the Klingon prison planet of Rura Penthe are a Mos Eisley Cantina-level alien fest rarely seen in the original movies. The special effects teams go nuts with the various roaring/chittering/hissing beasties.

Plus the fight scene lets William Shatner – or at least his stunt double – go to town fighting a hulking alien brute paid to off him.

Sadly, the fight ends with a super-cheesy flourish as Kirk strikes his opponent in what he thinks is his knee, but ends up delivering a shot to the nuts. Ouch!

Trek Trivia: Director Nicholas Meyer and the other writers just can’t hold back on those literary allusions...

'Rura Penthe' is a reference to Jules Verne's 20000 Leagues Under the Sea - it's the name of the slave labour camp that inspired Captain Nemo's rage against society.

13. Assimilate This! (Star Trek: First Contact, 1996)

One for the fans who like a triumphant, fist-pumping moment of sheer payback.

After battling the Borg for what seems like ages in a cool sequence that sees our heroes magnetic-walking on the hull of the ship, Picard and crew are finally able to thwart the techno-villains’ plans to turn the ship’s deflector dish into a communications array.

With the dish floating serenely away into space, Worf (Michael Dorn) aims his phaser rifle at the structure and, in a display of less-than-Trek-usual glee, blasts it into fragments.

Trek Trivia: Space epic crossover ahoy! The deflector dish is labelled AE35, the name of a component of the satellite dish in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Next: Battle For Peace, David's Death

 

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12. Battle For Peace (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991)

Nicholas Meyer’s second directorial stab at Trek comes together magnificently in its big battle finale.

The Enterprise is racing to stop a plot to derail the peace process between the Klingons and the Federation even as it comes under attack from General Chang's (Christopher Plummer) sneaky, can-fire-while-cloaked Bird Of Prey.

All the elements work – Cliff Eidelman’s militaristic, urgent score, some top notch model and CG work from ILM and the fantastic, scenery-chewing turn from Plummer as he quotes Shakespeare (“Let slip the dogs of war!”) while ordering his crew to batter poor Enterprise.

A last-minute arrival of the Excelsior just adds to the fun, and leads into the heroic wrap-up as the main cast save the day at the peace conference.

Trek Trivia: Eidelman got the composing job after James Horner turned it down as “beneath" him and Jerry Goldsmith refused after the disappointment that was Star Trek V. Worked out well for everyone, then…

11. David’s Death (Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, 1984)

Trek III gets serious as Kirk’s son, David Marcus (Merritt Butrick), Saavik (played here by Robin Curtis) and a young Spock are captured on the Genesis Planet by the Klingons.

A tense stand-off ensues, and Kirk is forced to hear over the communicator that his son has been stabbed and killed.

In one of the more effective and emotional acting turns by Shatner, Kirk collapses backwards on to his captain’s chair, devastated by the loss of his only child.

Trek Trivia: We might not often give much credit to The Shat, but the choice to collapse was his own, after being told by director Leonard Nimoy he could play it as he wanted.

 

Next: Crash Landing, Borg Body Horror

 

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10. Crash Landing (Star Trek: Generations, 1994)

The first big screen adventure featuring the Next Gen crew proved to be the last one for their dependable spaceship, the Enterprise-D.

Aiming to provide a little spectacle, writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D Moore (the man who brought us Battlestar Galactica) decided that the ship should be critically compromised and forced to separate.

The catastrophic explosion of the engineering section causes the front section to crash-land on the planet it’s been orbiting.

The sequence, which uses models instead of CG, is big and loud and affecting, even if the odd moment comes off looking more like Thunderbirds than Trek.

And it really wasn’t necessary to have Data exclaim, “Oh, shit!" as they veered towards the planet.

Trek Trivia: The other big reason the ship was destroyed was because the original had been designed for narrower TV screens and producers wanted a ship/bridge that could look cool in cinemas.

9. Borg Body Horror (Star Trek: First Contact, 1996)

A nifty, horror movie-worthy moment opens the first movie carried by the Next Gen crew.

Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) suffers nightmares that see him back under the control of the nefarious, mechani-nasties The Borg, with sweeping shots of the alien ship superbly directed by thesp Jonathan Frakes.

And then there's the wonderful moment where Picard thinks he’s woken up, only to have a spiky Borg unit burst from his cheek... It’s Ridley Scott meets Saw.

Trek Trivia: This is the first Trek film that earned itself anything stronger than a PG rating in the US. Probably for this scene alone.

 

Next: Punk On The Bus, A Meeting For The Ages

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8. Punk On The Bus (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986)

Back again with the comedy stylings of the fourth movie, which finds Kirk and Spock reduced to riding through 1980s San Francisco on a bus.

In one of the funnier moments, the pair are confronted by a boom box-touting punk who, when asked to turn down the loud, offensive music blaring from his device, proceeds to give ‘em the finger.

One quick Vulcan neck pinch from Spock and he’s unconscious, the music’s off and the rest of the passengers are offering heartfelt applause. Silly, but it's good fun to see the characters out of context.

Trek Trivia: The punk is played by associate producer Kirk Thatcher (who also wrote the song).

7. A Meeting For The Ages (Star Trek Generations, 1994)

It was straight out of fan fiction – the moment that Captains Kirk (William Shatner) and Picard (Patrick Stewart) meet for the first time.

In the middle of the plot-convenient Nexus (a parallel dimension where all your dreams can come true), Picard goes to ask Kirk – busy enjoying life riding horses in the mountains  – if he’ll leave the place and come to help save the universe one last time.

Kirk seems reticent, but then realises it’s his calling (“Sounds like fun...").

The Shat got to show off his riding skills and Patrick Stewart got to show that he’s clearly the better actor.

Trek Trivia: It won’t shock anyone to learn that the horse Kirk rides belongs to Shatner. As does the farm.

 

Next: This Far. No Further, Disorder In The Court

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6. “This Far. No Further!” (Star Trek: First Contact, 1994)

On the Next Generation TV series, Patrick Stewart sometimes got the chance to chew on a meaty speech.

But few can match up to the sheer desperate bile spewed in this confrontational moment between him and Alfred Woodard’s Lily Sloane.

Burning with rage at the Borg, who once captured him and turned him into one of them, Picard smashes up the Enterprise-E’s conference room in a mad burst of violence, before realising he’s become Ahab from Moby Dick...

Trek Trivia: After this Ahab-channelling rage-fest, Stewart popped up two years later in a Moby Dick TV movie playing… Captain Ahab.

5. Disorder In The Court (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991)

Court scenes don’t usually work that well in sci-fi movies, but director Nicholas Meyer stages one that’s full of snap and crackle and boasts at least one fan-pleasing cameo.

As Christopher Plummer’s Chang gets to strut and shout and harangue Kirk and McCoy about their alleged roles in Klingon Chancellor Gorkon’s death, we also get to enjoy Michael 'Next Generation' Worf playing Colonel Worf, grandfather of his usual character, in a nice nod to the new crew.

Trek Trivia: When Chang demands that Kirk answer a question without waiting for the translation, it's an allusion to the real-life exchange at the United Nations between American Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

 

Next: Transporter Accident, Boom Goes The Enterprise

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4. Transporter Accident (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979)

The 'Motionless' Picture doesn’t have an awful lot to recommend it – it’s glacially paced, obsessed with effects spectacle over action and limps to a dull finale that favours pretentiousness over thoughtfulness.

But it does feature one of the more squirm-worthy moments of any of the films, as a nasty transporter malfunction mixes up the data patterns of Starfleet officers Sonak and Ciani, leading to much David Cronenberg-flavoured, fly-style body-mashing.

“Enterprise… What we got back… Didn’t live long... Fortunately…” Clean up on deck six!

Trek Trivia: The transporter death wasn’t the only fatality planned originally. Walter Koenig’s Chekov was set to die from the guts of his console exploding, but the scene was downgraded to a non-mortal injury.

3. Boom Goes The Enterprise! (Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, 1984)

As with the death of Kirk’s son, not everything in Star Trek III is light-hearted comedy.

Like this scene, where a desperate Kirk and crew must evacuate their beloved ship and blow her to smithereens to avoid the Klingons – led by Christopher Lloyd’s Commander Kruge - from taking control.

It all works - from Kruge’s horrified reaction to the Enterprise computer calmly counting down to absolute destruction, to Kirk and co solemnly watching the ship’s debris break up in the atmosphere.

“My god, Bones,” sighs Kirk. “What have I done?”

“What you had to do. What you always do,” assures his best mate. “Turn death into a fighting chance to live.”

Trek Trivia: Nerd alert! Someone needs to tell Starfleet that destruct codes should be changed more often - they're the same as the ones in original series episode 'Let That Be Your Last Battlefield'.

 

Next: Spock's Death

 

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2. Spock’s Death (Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, 1982)

The moment that had fans weeping into their replica uniforms - Spock meets a heroic death to save his friends.

With the Enterprise limping away from the supernova-like Genesis Wave detonation, Spock takes it upon himself to get the ship’s warp systems working again - without the benefit of proper protective gear.

Kirk arrives just as his ruined, oatmeal-faced mate is collapsing before a glass door and the two share a final, touching exchange.

We’ll overlook the slightly over-egged funeral scene with Scotty on bagpipes and Kirk sniffling his way through a tribute...

 

 

Trek Trivia: The scene was originally planned to off Spock permanently, but after the studio heard the fan outcry, subsequent prints added his torpedo coffin soft-landing on the Genesis Planet and a chance for him to return...

But director Nicholas Meyer wasn’t best pleased, and refused to return to the franchise as director until Trek VI.

 

Next: The number one moment...

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1. "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!" (Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, 1982)

It’s been parodied so often and so mercilessly (Jon Stewart uses a version on The Daily Show occasionally) for anyone unfamiliar with the series, this is the one quote they might recognise.

Featuring a powerhouse performance from the late Ricardo Montalban, the scene sees Kirk’s nemesis, Khan, dumping him on the Regula One moon (or so he thinks).

We’ll leave the rest to the pulp-tastic, endlessly quotable dialogue...

Khan: “I’ve done far worse than kill you, Admiral. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, marooned for all eternity in the centre of a dead planet... buried alive! Buried alive!”

Kirk: “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!” (Echo several times).

 

 

Trek Trivia: Montalban’s chest? Real. He did push-ups to make it so hefty. A lot of push-ups.

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Comments

    • mattburgess

      May 4th 2009, 16:33

      Star Trek Generations, and the Enterprise-D is moments from being destroyed by a vastly inferior klingon warbird. But thanks to a nifty little trick by Data, they force the warbird to drop its own shields, and in one brilliant, heart stopping, breath taking moment, Commander Riker gives the order: "Fire!" A single, fateful photon torpedo later, and the warbird is a complete wreck. Brilliant! (Never mind the fact that Riker has previously asked for a spread of torpedos)

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    • jhr01

      May 5th 2009, 21:42

      6. “This Far. No Further!” (Star Trek Generations, 1994) The scene involving Patrick Steward and Alfie Woodward's Lily Sloane is from First Contact, not Star Trek's Generations! Shame on you Total Film!!!!

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    • jwhite

      May 7th 2009, 21:26

      Argh! My bad. I'm turning in my phaser and heading to the Agony Booth for a sesh. Error fixed!

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    • Juliette

      May 8th 2009, 19:53

      Brilliant article, thanks! Though I think Spock's death has to be No 1 for me, and I also have a soft spot for Chekov's 'Now would be a good time!' in Star Trek IV

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    • stewart

      May 10th 2009, 18:08

      A really good article, thanks! Personally I thought your number 3 was probably the number 1 - Kirk destroying that which he coveted above all else - and of course the exchange between Kirk & Bones that followed. I felt that Star Trek III was the best of the lot - despite the critics harangueing it no end, and largely because of the scenes from that filn that you included in this article!

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