Star Trek Movie Curse

"Sure as day follows night, sure as eggs is eggs, sure as every odd-numbered Star Trek movie is shit."

As a series or franchise goes on and the number of sequels and side works/Spinoffs/etc. increases, it's all but certain that the audience will not find them to all be of uniform quality. However, there are a number of works that show this in one particular way: audiences will generally find that the quality bounces back and forth in a numerically ordered fashion. Typically, this will show up as either the even- or odd-numbered sequels being better than the opposite, although other variants exist.

The Trope Codifier is the Star Trek movies, which have had a long-standing reputation of "the even-numbered movies are a lot better than the odd-numbered ones".

See also: Sophomore Slump, for when the first in a series is good, the second is trash, but the third is good again.

Not to be confused with The Production Curse, where the problems go much, much, deeper.


Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

     Film  

  • Star Trek is the Trope Namer, although ironically it's more Common Knowledge than an actual example:
    • Of the original cast films, pretty much everybody agrees that the even-numbered films (The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home, The Undiscovered Country) are excellent as both science fiction films and Star Trek films. However, the odd-numbered ones are a mixed bag: the first one (The Motion Picture) is generally considered leadenly paced and excessively padded with special effects but not outright bad (a much shorter director's cut from 2001 was very warmly received), while the third film (The Search for Spock) is a cheap-looking, continuity-dense affair that is at worst So Okay, It's Average and at best an underrated gem. Only the fifth film (The Final Frontier) is universally derided as awful on almost every conceivable level. Some say the "Star Trek curse" only started when Siskel & Ebert listed Final Frontier among the ten worst movies of 1989, as The Motion Picture and The Search For Spock obviously made enough money to keep the franchise going.
    • By the 1990s, the curse had taken root in the public's mind, and the three Next Generation films released in that decade certainly didn't shake the perception. The seventh (Generations) and ninth (Insurrection—which the crew dubbed "Nine of Ten" in a futile effort to shake off the curse) films are both considered forgettable and lackluster, and Generations has a fairly sizeable hatedom for killing off iconic franchise lead James T. Kirk in a manner so unfitting they named a trope, Dropped a Bridge on Him, after it. Only the eighth (First Contact) is well-loved by fans, since it's an Actionized Sequel that pits Captain Picard against an established enemy he has a personal grudge with.
    • In the 21st century, however, the curse was completely inverted. The tenth film overall and last Next Generation film, Nemesis, flopped so hard that Star Trek as a feature film franchise was effectively dead after twenty-three years. With the quiet death of TV series Enterprise shortly afterwards, the Star Trek franchise began to fade into obscurity.... And then, enter J. J. Abrams. Probably accompanied by a lot of lens flare. Contrary to its position in the franchise, his eleventh film (simply called Star Trek) was a Younger and Hipper and Hotter and Sexier blockbuster that caused Star Trek to become a household name again, and a box office juggernaut to boot. Aside from the obvious reason for its success—it's a slick, fun film from an expert filmmaker—many tongue-in-cheek theories have been put forth as to how it's "broken the curse":
      • Using the sum of the film's digits as an indicator (10; 1+0=1, an odd number and 11; 1+1=2, an even number).
      • Including the Affectionate Parody Galaxy Quest as a "Star Trek movie", inserting it between 9 (Insurrection) and 10 (Nemesis) as put by Sam Hughes, thus shifting the J. J. Abrams film into the twelfth slot.
      • Referring the reboot film as "Star Trek 0," thus placing it in an even spot.
    • The following two films continue the curse's inversion, with the twelfth (Into Darkness) having a sizeable Broken Base over its plot and copious rehashing of Wrath of Khan, while the thirteeth (Beyond) is largely loved for being a lighthearted, spirited adventure in the vein of the original series written by loveable geek Simon Pegg (who, for context, also wrote the page quote decrying every odd-numbered Star Trek film as "shit").
    • Some other tongue-in-cheek attempts to harmonize "the curse" include:
    • References to the Star Trek curse in other works include:
      • Referenced in El Goonish Shive, where Susan has shelved the odd and even numbered films separately in the rental store she works in.
  • The Indiana Jones franchise seems to be the opposite; odd-numbered movies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) do well, while even-numbered movies (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) are nowhere near as good.
  • Many fans consider the A Nightmare on Elm Street series to follow the reverse of this, with the even number movies being inferior to the odds. Hilariously, it is still inverted to Star Trek with regard to reboot status, as the Nightmare reboot is considered poor by most fans, unlike the mostly acclaimed Star Trek 2009 reboot.
  • The Mad Max series, despite being one of the more consistent film franchises, has this kind of pattern: While The Road Warrior and Fury Road are widely considered to be classics and essential viewing for action movie fans, the odd-numbered entries tend to be more divisive, for different reasons: Mad Max because it is an entirely different genre altogether, and Beyond Thunderdome for its Lighter and Softer tone and its relative lack of car chases.
  • This has wound up being the case for the Daniel Craig-era James Bond films. The odd-numbered films have wound up receiving critical praise, while the even-numbered films have received mixed reception.
  • Among the three Rugrats movies, The Rugrats Movie is considered unremarkable while Rugrats in Paris is seen as a modest improvement and Rugrats Go Wild! is on par with the original.

     Literature  

  • While fans of the Temeraire series of books don't necessarily find the even-numbered books to be bad, there is definitely a pattern of odd being "war and lots of cool dragon battles" and even being "travel and lots of talking". However, both the sixth and seventh books are travel and diplomacy, and the eighth is Napoleon's Russian campaign.

     Live Action TV  

  • So far this seems to be the case with American Horror Story. Asylum and Freak Show (even-numbered) have been better-received than Murder House and Coven (odd-numbered). Something to note is that Asylum and Freak Show take place in the past (1964 and 1952 respectively, although Asylum did flash to the present occasionally), while the others are set in the present-day. Hotel, before it even premiered, became "the season without Jessica Lange." Notably it was the first season with lower premiere ratings than its predecessor.
  • Although Supernatural has had its bases regularly broken as early as the third season, the even-numbered seasons tend to fare better than the odd ones. Season 1 is regarded as a good start but suffers from a large amount of Monster of the Week episodes as the show was still finding its footing, while Season 2 is noted as the show's real moment of Growing the Beard. Season 3 wound up being hit by production troubles thanks to the '07 Writers Strike and also introduced two new characters that took time away from Sam and Dean and were Base Breakers at best. Season 4 wound up introducing fan favorite Castiel, and heavily increasing the mythology marked a notable increase in the show's ratings. Averted by Season 5, which further develops the story arc from S4 and is also well-liked. Also averted by Season 6; although it introduces some fresh new ideas and has several fan-favorite episodes, it's also seen to suffer from the main story having already been wrapped up at that point, with the show spinning its wheels in some places trying to find a new direction. The trope comes back into play with Season 7, which only accentuated the problems of S6 rather than fix them, and abruptly dropped the exciting storyline teased by the S6 finale. Season 8 attempted to undo the damage, and after a rough start managed to introduce a well-received plotline of the brothers trying to close the gates of Hell. But then Season 9 came and fell back into the same issues as before of the show struggling to find a cohesive tale to tell, which wound up turning as many people back off, with Sam and Dean's constant fighting doing little to help as it began to come off more as Wangst to many longtime viewers. Although 10 at least cut down on their bickering and let them get along again, it's also an aversion as it still suffers from the aimlessness that plagued 9. Time will tell how Season 11 fares.
  • Fans of 24 have noted that odd-numbered seasons are generally the show's better ones, featuring a variety of different terrorist scenarios, while the even-numbered ones always revolve around nuclear Islamic terrorism and are generally greatly inferior (except for possibly season 2, which is considered to have a solid core storyline, but let down by the subplot involving Kim constantly being taken prisoner).
  • Power Rangers fans have an unique version with anniversary seasons Turbo (Season 5), Wild Force (Season 10), Operation Overdrive (Season 15) and Super Megaforce (the 20th anniversary celebration but don't ask the exact season number) considered among the worst or most divisive.
  • Justified, while still being a very well received show, suffers this to some extent: Seasons 2, 4 and 6 are considered all time great seasons of television. Season 1 has all the signs of a series in the process of finding its voice, season 3, although widely beloved, was seen as a step down from the superlative second, and season 5 is almost universally considered the worst the show ever had.
  • With Kamen Rider, the "curse" seems to be attached to shows with a mystic/supernatural theme. Kamen Rider Amazon, whose hero got his powers from a Mayincatec armband rather than Applied Phlebotinum, was so gory (albeit by 1970s standards) that the backlash from angry parents almost killed the franchise. Decades later, Kamen Rider Hibiki was popular with fans, but suffered a Retool that messed it up so badly that it's become one of Tokusatsu's most infamous cases of Executive Meddling. The next three supernatural shows, Kamen Rider Kiva, Kamen Rider Wizard, and Kamen Rider Ghost are generally held in low regard by the fandom, with Ghost in particular being viewed as one of the weakest seasons ever made and Wizard not too far behindnote .
  • Fargo is a weird example, given how all three of its seasons were well-acclaimed. However, the odd-numbered seasons had significant criticisms: Season 1 sometimes had too many Call Backs to the original movie, and even felt like a retread to some viewers. Season 3 had a Slow-Paced Beginning that made the season drag, and an Ambiguous Ending that upset some for a lack of closure. Both are in contrast to Season 2, which had near universal acclaim for its more original plot and complex character arcs.

     Music  

  • Though not applicable to his entire output, the operas of Gioachino Rossini between L'italiana in Algeri (his eleventh) and Otello (nineteenth) fall into this territory, with the odd numbered operas (L'italiana, Il turco in Italia [13], Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra [15], The Barber of Seville [17] and Otello) being better respected than the evens (Aureliano in Palmira [12], Sigismondo [14], Torvaldo e Dorliska [16] and La gazzetta [18]).

     Professional Wrestling  

  • The best remembered seasons of the original version of WWE NXT are the odd-numbered seasons. The first was universally considered the best, back when the NXT concept was being taken seriously. It directly led to The Nexus, one of the most iconic angles in WWE history, and also launched the short-lived but hugely memorable WWE career of Daniel Bryan. The third season is remembered for being the only all-female season and for its So Bad, It's Good nature, to the point that the season got a TV Tropes page all to itself. The fifth was the year-long season with a noticeable retool that, for better or worse, gave the product a different image. The second and fourth seasons, however? They were forgotten almost instantly.

     Video Games  

  • Most Spider-Man games have the distinction where direct sequels to a game are thought of as weaker than their predecessors. This includes Enter Electro to the first Playstation title, Separation Anxiety to Maximum Carnage, Edge of Time to Shattered Dimensions, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to the first. The games based off the Sam Raimi trilogy zig-zag this: Spider-Man 2 is considered an Even Better Sequel to the first due to its Genre Shift, but Spider-Man 3 more directly follows up on the second by also adopting the Sandbox gameplay style, and is similarly thought of as a disappointment.
  • Early Final Fantasy titles followed a pattern where odd numbered games were more gameplay focused than the even ones, which were more story driven. Final Fantasy VII broke this pattern, and all games afterwards tended to be very story heavy.
  • Assassin's Creed has seemingly fallen into this with the even numbered games being better received than the odd numbered ones. Even after they Stopped Numbering Sequels with Unity and Syndicate it's held the pattern.
  • In the Devil May Cry series, the odd numbered games are better received than the even numbered ones. The original is a well liked Hack and slash. The second game is widely seen as the worst to the point that even Capcom rarely acknowledges the existence of the game. The third game is a Surprisingly Improved Sequel and possibly the best in the series. The fourth game is good but it's considered as a step down from the predecessor because of Nero replacing Dante and its annoying backtracking. The reboot broke the trend being by far the most contentious installment.
  • The canonical Street Fighter games: The second and fourth games in the series are remembered as the games that respectively launched and reinvigorated the fighting game genres. The first game, which played very differently, has been largely forgotten in the shadow of its successors, the third is seen as great but not quite on the level of the second, and the fifth is highly divisive due to the limited features and it being seen as too unfriendly for casual gamers.
  • Super Smash Bros.: The even ones win out here: the first installment was seen as an upstart fighting game that had yet to find its voice. Melee is considered a substantial improvement and widely considered to be the best four-player party fighter of all time. Brawl was still tons of fun for most gamers, but many people thought the gameplay wasn't nearly as competitive-friendly as Melee was. The fourth game was widely seen as a return to Melees form, keeping some of Brawl's more liked changes while reverting the less popular ones back to how they were in Melee.
  • Tekken: Also seems to have this curse with (Not counting the spin-offs or upgrades) 1, 3 and 5 being considered great while 2, 4 and 6 was decent at best. 7 seems to be getting very favorable reviews so far. For the Tag Tournament games, the first was seen as great and the second was OK.
  • Uncharted: While downplayed as all of the games in the series are considered good, the even-numbered games have gotten much more praise than the odd-numbered ones. The first game, Drake's Fortune, is seen as a good start but did still have some shaky moments. The second, Among Thieves, is considered where the series really came into its own. The third game Drake's Deception received much praise, but did have some problems with being a little too similar to the second. The fourth game, A Thief's End once again received near universal acclaim for featuring more open areas, new gameplay elements, and a much more emotional story to serve as the series' big sendoff.
  • The mainline Metroid games (not the Prime subseries) has the curse with the even installments. While considered to be good both Metroid II: Return of Samus and Metroid: Fusion are generally seen as step down from their respective predecessors (Metroid 1 and Super Metroid) mainly because of the linear progression. Fusion's follow up was Metroid: Zero Mission a remake of the first game that significanly improves its predecessor. Unfortunately the next game Metroid: Other M is by far the most malignated installment because of -once again- the linear progression (taken to the next level) and the controversial story. Metroid: Samus Returns remake of the second game restored faith in the franchise.

     Visual Novels  

  • The Ace Attorney series has two different variants of this trope:
    • Firstly, the odd-numbered entries (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Trials & Tribulations and Dual Destinies) are generally considered to be the stronger ones, while the even-numbered ones (Justice for All and Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney) are considered to be weaker. The curse was "broken" with Spirit of Justice, which most fans agree is better than Dual Destinies. The two Ace Attorney Investigations games generally aren't counted towards this, as the second one has yet to be released outside Japan (and, in all likelihood, never will be). Though for those who do the first is usually considered to be on the "weaker" side and the second on the "stronger" side, which makes the order problematic.
    • Secondly, fans have noted that the third case in any given game usually tends to be the worst, mostly due to the overwhelmingly hated third case in (ironically enough) the second game. Dual Destinies is the major exception, as most seem to regard the second case as the weakest; some fans also feel that the first game's first case is weaker than the third, for essentially being a glorified tutorial which doesn't even fully explain the game mechanics.

     Webcomics  

  • Survivor: Fan Characters, especially later on, follows a trend opposite that of Star Trek: The odd-numbered seasons are quite popular while the even-numbered seasons get lukewarm receptions at best. The author himself has noticed, and hopes season 14 will break the pattern.

     Western Animation  

  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is an interesting case. While season 1 is by no means considered bad, it suffered from Early Installment Weirdness and a much more restrictive Aesop format. Season 2 is generally considered to be where the show grew the beard (although it had far more controversial episodes than season 1 did), but was followed by season 3, which is the most controversial and poorly received so far (especially the finale). Then season 4 was mostly well-received (especially the finale). Season 5 (seemingly) broke this trend by being generally well-received. However, Season 6 led to a bit of a Broken Base, meaning it could be that the curse has either been fully lifted, or that it simply operates on multiples of three, depending on who you ask.
    • The spinoff Equestria Girls also follows this, with the second movie being much better received than the first or third.

     Real Life  

  • Microsoft Windows has had the curse since Windows 3.1, at least when it comes to their major public releases. Windows 98, Windows XP, and Windows 7 were all popular and well-received, while Windows 95, Windows ME, Windows Vista, and Windows 8 made rather controversial changes, were unstable, or had other problems which made it difficult to recommend upgrading. (Even The Unfavourite releases have their fans, of course.) Windows releases tend to follow a pattern of "revolutionary" - in which many changes are made at once - followed by "evolutionary", or mostly polishing what was in the last one. Thus, every other version has a lot of new bugs and new features, and takes some getting used to; by the time the next version comes out, these issues have mostly been resolved (by patches and service packs for the software, and by users getting used to how it looks and works). Another way of looking at it is that Microsoft puts out a "public beta", followed a couple of years later by the final, mostly-working-as-advertised version, charging their customers for both (and for the privilege of testing their software for them). Microsoft followed Windows 8 with Windows 10 (skipping Windows 9), which was better received than its predecessor by major reviewers and generally continuing the pattern, though with concerns over privacy with the new telemetry system, Microsoft's rather pushy efforts to get Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade, and the even pushier automatic update systems within Windows 10 itself (basically barring hacking, you can't set Windows 10 updates to manual control).
    • It's not unheard of to hear people joke that Microsoft skipped "Windows 9" because that one would have been a good OS.
  • The San Francisco Giants and "Even Year Magic" (or "Even Year Bullshit" to the rest of the league). They won a World Series in 2010, finished 4 games back of a playoff spot in 2011, won a World Series in 2012, finished fourth in their division in 2013, and won a World Series in 2014. After a 3-1 loss to the Cubs in the 2016 National League Division Series, the Giants no longer benefit from this effect.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StarTrekMovieCurse