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Star Trek Movie Curse

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"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.


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    Trope Namer 
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 to not be too bad, with its worst offenses being its leaden pace (a much shorter Director's Cut from 2001 was very warmly received) and excessive padding with special effects, 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 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. This shifts Star Trek (2009) to become the 12th film (well-received), Star Trek Into Darkness as the 13th (having a sizeable Broken Base over its plot and copious rehashing of Wrath of Khan), and Star Trek Beyond as the 14th, which was 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").
    • Referring to the reboot film as "Star Trek 0," thus placing it in an even spot.
  • Some other tongue-in-cheek attempts to harmonize "the curse" include:
    • Nemesis wasn't good because it was a multiple of five, and thus, like Star Trek V, was bad; in other words, the curse has a previously-undiscovered FizzBuzz property. This is followed by the explanation that Star Trek (2009) doesn't follow the pattern because of the interference of time-traveling Romulans — besides, it wasn't made by the same crew as the rest.
    • Michael Demtschyna, along with Chuck Sonnenburg of SF Debris, have suggested the alternate theory that the movie is bad when any of the main characters sing. These are The Final Frontier, Generations, Insurrection, and Nemesis (with Chuck snarking that Star Trek: The Motion Picture doesn't contain singing only because it would distract from the boredom).
  • In a sub-example that's also a positive case for the franchise, and an inversion of the Power Rangers example below, the films released during anniversaries have ended up getting good reception. These have included Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (20th), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (25th), Star Trek: First Contact (30th), and now Star Trek Beyond (50th).
  • Referenced in El Goonish Shive, where Susan has shelved the odd and even numbered films separately in the rental store she works in.
  • When Paramount promoted the 2009 reboot with Blu-ray box sets of older Star Trek movies, they also provided the option to buy each even-numbered Blu-ray (save Nemesis) by itself, but kept the odd-numbered BDs and Nemesis exclusive to the sets. The promotional campaign for Star Trek Into Darkness brought forth individual releases for the odd-numbered discs and Nemesis, but their front covers don't boast any blurbs of critical praise.

    Anime and Manga 


  • 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, is also well-liked, and introduced Crowley. 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. General consensus on Seasons 11, 12, and 13 seems to be that they're an improvement from Seasons 6 through 10, though not as good as the first five seasons.
  • 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), Super Megaforce (the 20th anniversary celebration but don't ask the exact season number) Super Ninja Steel (Season 25) 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, the Oni-themed 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 . The second Reiwa-era series, Kamen Rider Saber, has the double whammy of being magic-themed and having the same head writer as Ghost, but time will tell if it manages to break the curse.
  • 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.
  • Season 2 of RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars is generally considered to be one of the best seasons the show ever produced, All Stars or otherwise, following the universally reviled Season 1. Season 3 was then widely hated for its lackluster challenges and infamous final episode, with Season 4 being seen by many as a return to form. Like clockwork, Season 5 was again a disappointment for many.

  • 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 fifth game in the main series both plays this straight and inverts it, straight as in as far as main series goes, it has received universal praise while inverted in the fact that it is technically the sixth game in the series if you count the reboot.
  • 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 (except in competitive circles, where it's seen as even better), and the fifth is highly divisive due to the limited features and it being seen as too unfriendly for casual gamers.
  • Super Smash Bros. while mostly well-loved by gamers, isn't without a rocky history. The first installment was seen as an upstart fighting game that had yet to find its voice. Melee is considered a substantial improvement and one of the best four-player party fighters of all time. Brawl was still tons of fun for most gamers, especially with the fan-favorite story mode Subspace Emissary and the arrival of plenty of beloved characters, but many people agreed the gameplay wasn't nearly as competitive-friendly as Melee was. Both halves of the fourth game were widely seen as a return to form, keeping some of Brawl's more liked changes while reverting the less popular ones back to how they were in Melee. Ultimate seems to have broken the curse, seen as a substantial improvement over the rest of the franchise, taking the elements that the base has come to love (the original's character crossover excitement, Melee's competitive-friendly gameplay, Brawl's story campaign, and Wii U/3DS's clean look) and combining them into one; it does have some shortcomings, such as a flawed online service, but the reception has definitely been highly positive overall.
  • 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, which is pretty widely well-received) 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 and Super Metroid) mainly because of the linear progression. Fusion's follow up was Metroid: Zero Mission a remake of the first game that significantly improves its predecessor. Unfortunately, the next game, Metroid: Other M, is by far the most maligned installment because of -once again- the linear progression (taken to the next level) and the controversial story. Metroid: Samus Returns, which is a remake of the second game, restored faith in the franchise.
  • Though all of World of Warcraft's expansions tend to be divisive, the odd-numbered expansions barring The Burning Crusade are generally not remembered as fondly as the even-numbered ones (and even The Burning Crusade gets bad flak for its lore developments, particularly cases of Character Derailment). Cataclysm originally held the title of the weakest expansion after Wrath of the Lich King proved to be a Tough Act to Follow, Warlords of Draenor dethroned it for having too much gameplay tied into garrisons and its overall short length despite having a slightly higher price tag than previous expansions, and Battle for Azeroth is loathed by much of the player base for various reasons, primarily having unsatisfying gameplay and a plot that feels like a repeat of Mists. Meanwhile, Wrath of the Lich King is considered by many to be the game's peak, Mists of Pandaria was eventually Vindicated by History, and Legion is seen as a genuinely good expansion that fixed most of the problems that players had with Warlords on top of adding a popular new class and the widely-acclaimed class halls and campaigns.
  • The Fallout series has one, in which the fourth game by the current owner will be considered the worst from that company. Interplay's fourth game, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, flopped so badly that it led to Interplay going bankrupt and being forced to sell the rights. If you ignore third-party developer Obsidian Entertainment's Fallout: New Vegas, then the fourth Fallout game under Bethesda's banner (after Fallout 3, Fallout Shelter, and Fallout 4) was Fallout 76, which became the worst-reviewed game of the entire series. Even the series as a whole has this problem with the numbered installments; Fallout 4, while not as hated as Brotherhood of Steel nor as poorly made as 76, still isn't as adored by the community as Fallout, Fallout 2, or even Fallout 3.
  • Deus Ex has this issue with odd-numbered games being considered amazing and even-numbered games being Contested Sequels. The original Deus Ex is considered one of the greatest video games of all time, the direct sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War is significantly less popular due to the oversimplification of game mechanics, the prequel Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a return to form for the series, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided received flak for It's Short, So It Sucks!.
  • Valve Software has the Threes Curse, that being their inability to produce a game with a three in the title. Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress, Defense of the Ancients, and Portal have all had their most recent entries at 2, with no news of anything further, but Half-Life is the most infamous: Half-Life 2 had two "Episode" installments to act as continuations rather than a third game, and the third Episode fell into Development Hell and has yet to be released for fourteen years and counting.

    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 (though definitely not without their moments- the final case in Justice for All is widely considered as one of the best cases, if not the best in the entire series). 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. Usually, it goes like this: the first case is a short and simple tutorial to get you into the mechanics, the second case introduces the actual plot and the major players, such as the prosecutor, and the fourth case serves as the climax and conclusionnote . Meanwhile, the third case is there simply to establish a routine and escalate the complexity a little before the game hits you with the climax, and as such is typically unconnected to the wider narrative and more lighthearted and comedic, while also being longer than the second case. This leads to these cases often being fluffy but forgettable at best, and unfunny overlong fiascos at worst. The second, third, and fourth games are the most infamous for having weak third cases, with all three also suffering from gaping plotholes or annoying gameplay. Dual Destinies is the major exception, as most seem to regard the second case as the weakest, while the third case in the first game generally isn't seen as especially bad (with some even preferring it).
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has this formula with its cases. The first class trial is fairly well liked, although killing off Kaede is highly controversial. The next two cases are generally considered relatively weak, possibly in part due to the first being a Tough Act to Follow. The fourth case and the fifth case are generally seen as the high points of the game. The sixth case, however, is often regarded as one of the worst, without even going into the very controversial ending.

  • 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.

    Web Video 
  • The Nostalgia Critic summarizes the Trope Namer throughout a series of reviews on the odd-numbered installments with a recap saying "Last time, in the good Star Trek movie..."

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The show's seasons tend to alternate between base-breaking and generally well-received by the fandom:
      • While season 1 is by no means considered bad, it suffered from Early Installment Weirdness and a much more restrictive Aesop format due to having to adhere to E/I guidelines.
      • Season 2 is generally considered to be where the show grew the beard (although it had far more controversial episodes than season 1 did).
      • Season 3 suffered from being half the length of the previous two and having an extremely controversial finale where Twilight Sparkle becomes Princess of Friendship, seen by many at the time as Jumping the Shark (although it has since been the consensus that it did not actually signify a long-term decline in quality).
      • Then season 4 was mostly well-received (especially the finale).
      • Season 5 (seemingly) broke this trend by being generally well-received, although its finale was controversial for featuring Starlight Glimmer's Heel–Face Turn, which some saw as undeserved (or, at least, rushed and anticlimactic)
      • Season 6 promoted Starlight Glimmer into one of the main characters, which furthered the Broken Base of the Season 5 finale.
      • Season 7 was much more well-received than its predecessor.
      • Season 8 created another Broken Base due to its premise of making the main characters teachers at a new "School of Friendship", which is either a blatant gimmick or an interesting source for new episode plots and characters.
      • Season 9, the show's Grand Finale, was generally seen as a fitting send-off for the show, meaning the curse was inverted starting with the 5th season.
    • The spinoff Equestria Girls follows the standard evens-over-odds curse with its movies/longer specials. The second, fourth, and sixth are much better-received than the first, third, and fifth.

    Real Life 
  • Microsoft Windows has had the curse since Windows 3.1, at least when it comes to their major public releases. Windows 95, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows XP, and Windows 7 were all popular and well-received, while Windows 98, 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 Un-Favourite 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.
  • In Australian Rules Football, the Essendon Bombers seem to have a Dork Age roughly every four decades: The decades in which they failed to win a premiership are the 1930s, 1970s and 2010s. The 1890s are an interesting case - while they did win the premiership in 1897, they did NOT win the Grand Final, as the finals that year were in a Round Robin format.


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