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Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek: TMP Left Franchise As ‘Beached Whale’ + He Is ‘Played Out’ As Spock

A couple of weeks ago we posted the first part of an LA Times video interview with Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy. The second part has just been posted online and you watch it below, where Nimoy talks about the link between Star Wars and Star Trek and even does does his impersonation of William Shatner! Most interesting, Nimoy critiques Star Trek: The Motion Picture, saying he doesn’t think of it as a Star Trek movie. He also says that he is "played out" with Spock.

 

Nimoy: Star Trek: The Motion Picture is not a Star Trek movie + Shatner impersonation

In part 2 of Leonard Nimoy’s interview with the Hero Complex show on the Nerdist Channel (www.youtube.com/nerdist), Nimoy talks Star Wars/Star Trek, typecasting, and even does an impersonation of his Star Trek co-star William Shatner.

One of the interesting bits, Nimoy gives his view of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, noting that producer Harve Bennett had to come in for Star Trek II after TMP left the the franchise as a "beached whale." He went on to talk about why he felt things didn’t work out for the first Trek film.

I think [Robert Wise] and Gene Roddenberry were looking for a [2001: A] Space Odyssey kind of thing, like [Stanley] Kubrick had done. A cold, cool “we’re out here in space and it’s kind of quiet and things move very slowly.” [laughs] There was a lot of that and a lot of cerebral stuff. There wasn’t enough drama. It just wasn’t a Star Trek movie. We had the Star Trek people, but it didn’t use us as Star Trek characters very well.

Leonard also said he is happy to be done with Spock and to hand off the role to Zachary Quinto, noting in part:

I am very pleased as to where the character is and I had a good time on the last film – dropping in there – particularly playing a scene with him, which was really interesting. I feel good about the character. I feel the character is still very, very useful and interesting but still somewhat enigmatic. I feel I had pretty much played out any enigma about the character. People pretty much new who I was and what was going on with me. But Zachary has the opportunity to explore new territory.

Watch the video below

CLICK HERE to see Part 1.

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May 23, 2012 6:33 pm

I’m glad someone on the inside, especially on the frontlines, spoke up about TMP. Out of the entire movie series, I just can’t get myself to want to watch it. I can from TOS to TNG, TWOK to NEM, but TMP is something that never felt part of the franchise.

I'm Dead Jim!
May 23, 2012 6:33 pm

ONE…MORE… TIME!!!!!!!!

I'm Dead Jim!
May 23, 2012 6:35 pm

Yes, but TMP gave birth to a wonderful E!

ice sypher
May 23, 2012 6:35 pm

well well well !!!!

Amish Electrician
May 23, 2012 6:36 pm

it was at least a start of a good run

Landru's cousin, Dandru
May 23, 2012 6:39 pm

I know I’m in the minority, but I consider it one of the best films in the series.

New Horizon
May 23, 2012 6:48 pm

6. Landru’s cousin, Dandru – May 23, 2012

As do I, especially the directors edition.

BrF
May 23, 2012 6:49 pm

TMP is deeply flawed, but I’m surprised to read parts of Nimoy’s take on it here. Spock has an big honest-to-God character arc in the movie. It’s an important movie for the character and every movie that follows depends on it.

MJ
May 23, 2012 6:52 pm

“I think [Robert Wise] and Gene Roddenberry were looking for a [2001: A] Space Odyssey kind of thing, like [Stanley] Kubrick had done. A cold, cool “we’re out here in space and it’s kind of quiet and things move very slowly.” [laughs] There was a lot of that and a lot of cerebral stuff. There wasn’t enough drama. It just wasn’t a Star Trek movie. We had the Star Trek people, but it didn’t use us as Star Trek characters very well.”

Well said, Mr. Nimoy. I agree 100%

BrF
May 23, 2012 6:55 pm

I would submit that the great flaw of TMP is that in the end none of our best known, best loved characters — Kirk, Spock, McCoy — get to resolve the threat in the movie. It’s Decker who is the self-sacrificing hero in the end. And Decker’s not a bad character, but who really cares about Decker? If Kirk had been the true agent of the resolution of the V’Ger threat, his decision to wrest back control of the Enterprise would have been felt satisfyingly justified, and the movie would have had a satisfying resolution instead of just kind of, I don’t know, feeling like it fades out. And, yes, I think Nimoy is certainly right that they were going for a Kubrick kind of thing with the movie. If the editing had been tightened up, if Kirk (or Spock, or Kirk, Spock, and McCoy together) had been give the chance to be the hero, I think it could have been a pretty strong film. There’s a nice sense of humanity to all the characters in the film; there are some great moments between them. Bones coming off the transporter and confronting Kirk comes to mind. And the sequence of Enterprise leaving dry dock will never be beat. You believe you’re watching something gigantic.

Agrippa
May 23, 2012 6:55 pm

Collector’s edition filled in a lot of the gaps. It could have been a great movie, actually. Like he said, just needed a little more drama.

TonyD
May 23, 2012 7:00 pm

#6 – Same here; for my money TMP is one of the better Trek movies and with all due respect to Nimoy, his character takes a huge leap forward during the film and you can point to his experiences in TMP as the point where he really reconciled his human and Vulcan halves – something that was very evident in his later performances as Spock.

TMP is also probably comes the closest of any Trek movie to espousing Roddenberry’s vision of an optimistic future where problems are not always solved by violence.

And lastly, TMP has easily the best production design of any Trek film, easily trouncing every film that followed it. And the TMP engine room leaves the brewery in the dust! :)

May 23, 2012 7:01 pm

No offense BrF, but I would submit that the great flaw of TMP is that in the end it was as boring as watching paint dry on growing grass.

Whalealein
May 23, 2012 7:07 pm

TMP is a masterpiece. Maybe Mr. Nimoy didn’t agree with the direction it took, but it’s great film in it’s own right. The film had epic scope and was visually stylish and grand. I love all the Trek films…in one way or another! Only Insurrection and Nemesis were not worth seeing in my opinion…

NCC-73515
May 23, 2012 7:09 pm

TMP made Spock realize that he needs emotions and cannot find answers seeking logic alone. Big change, big revelation.

6. Landru’s cousin, Dandru, 8. BrF and others-

I agree. I really like TMP. I have to disagree with Nimoy, and that is rare. There are actually a lot of great character moments in this film, and a lot of heart. Nimoy, especially, gets a great character growth moment, and Kirk’s role foreshadows his role in TWOK – older, out of practice, and making mistakes, but still able to beat the no-win scenario.

None of the Trek films is perfect. Another thing TMP does well, actually better than any of the other films, is showcase the Enterprise. Wise understood that the ship was an important character in Star Trek, and gave it huge respect. God bless him for that.

TMP is one of my favorite Trek films. Sorry. That’s just my opinion.

Ben
May 23, 2012 7:17 pm

I agree with everything he says . . . except the not liking it part. He’s right — it’s slow, cerebral (tried to be, anyway), and more like 2001 than Star Wars.

But I enjoy it for those reasons. And agree with all the people above who say Spock actually has an arc in that movie.

It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t what people wanted. It wasn’t exciting. And I like it when Trek is all those things, but I also do enjoy watching TMP.

Vultan
May 23, 2012 7:18 pm

Yeah, funny he says that, because I think TMP has the best character arc Spock ever had.

The flick’s in my top 5 (somewhere).

jas_montreal
May 23, 2012 7:20 pm

TMP might not have been what we deserved, but it was what we needed.

Allen
May 23, 2012 7:21 pm

The biggest problem with TMP is the fact that they didn’t have the whole script before they started filming. It was rushed and the 2nd half suffers terribly as a result. I love the first half it is star trek and not even Leonerd Nemoy can take that away from me.

May 23, 2012 7:23 pm

To each their own, I tried to watch the director’s cut & couldn’t get through it. It’s still the Motionless Picture. This is coming from a guy who likes Menagerie. Hell, for a long time SFS was my favorite. 1, 5, & 10 were awful.

Chain of Command
May 23, 2012 7:25 pm

I never had a problem with TMP at all. I saw TWOK first (Love it, of course) when I was 8 years old. Rented TMP a few months later on VHS and loved it just as much. It was a different movie from its’ successor, but I still thought it was really cool.

Just my two cents…But I really like the film and always will. I enjoy it more than ANYTHING the TNG producers “puked” up, that’s for sure.

Chain of Command
May 23, 2012 7:28 pm

Well said, Number 12.

Ivory
May 23, 2012 7:36 pm

I actually think that TMP is one of the better films in the series. With the exception of ST09 it is the only film that feels like a film rather than a big tv episode.

TMP was really brave in one big sense – it wasn’t afraid to portray Kirk as imperfect. In fact, he was downright devious and ambitious. Having regretted ever giving up command, he weasels it away from the rightful captain of the Enterprise. If you think about it, that’s not a very flattering portrayal of Kirk. It makes him very human, and very flawed.

It also takes Spock from being a cold, disillusioned Vulcan to a person who finally learns he MUST embrace his human side to survive.

Both great story arcs. I wish we could have learned more of Bones and Scotty and the rest, but as I said, it wasn’t a perfect movie. But it brought Star Trek back, and quite beautifully if you ask me.

RobertZ
May 23, 2012 7:45 pm

I love TMP! and the GROWTH in the Spock character in that movie.

SoonerDave
May 23, 2012 7:46 pm

The Directors Cut of TMP was a substantial improvement, but it still didn’t overcome the movie’s fatal flaw-poor writing. That the ship interiors were a monument to mausoleum shades of blue and gray didn’t help matters, ..nor did Wise’s staid direction.

As successful as TWOK was, I cant help but wonder how the future of the would have differed had it been the first “reunion” movie. We’ll obviously never know.

All that said, I still enjoy the nostalgia of popping in my TMP DVD
and remembering the spectacle of seeing the grand, new.Enterprise flying on a new adventure when I was only 15.

BrF
May 23, 2012 7:46 pm

I tip my hat at “motionless picture,” JGLJR89. The movie, for me, is a frustrating mixture of great treatment of the characters and, yes, some painfully slow stuff.

Another good or at least ambitious/interesting thing to call out: the idea of making Kirk a fish out of water on his own (former) ship is an interesting and bold one, and the movie gets some great use out of it.

If nothing else the movie was an honest effort to treat the material and characters and world of Star Trek seriously and with a first-class production, and given the pedigree, that seriousness of purpose (and budget) surely wasn’t an automatic. A lot of good has followed from at least those pieces of the movie.

Vultan
May 23, 2012 7:52 pm

#25

Well put.

Also brave in the sense it didn’t go the obvious route of trying to mimic the then recent mega-hit Star Wars but a film from 11 years before, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

And ironic Trek would take another 30 years before going full “hyperspace” on us, for better or worse.

24. Ivory – I mostly agree with you. TMP DID seem like a motion (not motionless, sorry) picture, in spite of its imperfections. But I also think TWOK had the same feeling. The battle in the nebula at the end harkened back to Trek’s source material, the Horatio Hornblower novels. It was like Master and Commander in space, a great naval battle between two bitter enemies. It took the movie off the small screen and made me feel the largeness of the movie screen. None of the other movies did that for me. Aside from TMP, TWOK and First Contact, the rest of the Trek films seemed like glorified TV episodes. Some of them were good episodes, but they didn’t feel like motion pictures.

dave
May 23, 2012 7:54 pm
I disagree with LN somewhat about STTMP. What he attributes to admiration of Kubrick is really Wise’s almost invisible signature. I refer him to ‘Run Silent, Run Deep’ and ‘The Sand Pebbles;’ particularly for the Kirk-Dekker subplot in the case of the former; in the latter for some Kirk-Dekker as well as the ‘epic’ wide-shots of the San-Pablo/Enterprise. Robert Wise was a very ‘stoical’ filmmaker, and that stoicism was part of his reaction-formation to GR’s intimacy with Star-Trek. Nimoy is correct about the under-utilization of the Trek cast; as Wise was an outsider vis-a-vis the family-intimacy of the cast. Of course the problems of STTMP are not limited to only these factors; given the studio-crisis of scraping the various forms of ramp-up before inking Wise (who BTW first met GR at Desertcon/Tucson, AZ in 1977 and there agreed to screen episodes and ally together for the feature-film.) Politics of honoring GR’s vision and placating the studio put Wise into the only possible path that he instinctively knew, and in this Nimoy is correct: STTMP is incongruent because it is “technocratic”– something which in my opinion is far more satisfying than the slavish space-opera vision that kept the movie-franchise going; while ignoring the deeper ramifications of crossing the gap between where we as a culture are now and the ST-universe where we all want to be. Wise knew the military-culture. By the 1980s the military-elements in GR’s early scripts of STTNG are evident; looping-back to The Cage/Christopher Pike; while the JJ… Read more »

29. Vultan – Indeed.

31. dave – Magnificent analysis. I WILL play devil’s advocate on the Pike problem state in your last sentence. This isn’t the navy, and it is hundreds of years in the future. Perhaps Pike had such authority.

Either way, there are always these kinds of problems with films. I liked ST09 quite a bit, but it displayed some pretty serious flaws to me. Not enough to keep me from enjoying the new vision, but I’m hoping for better in their sophomore effort.

VZX
May 23, 2012 8:09 pm

While I agree with Mr. Nimoy about the lack of use of the characters in The Motionless Picture, I still liked the movie. But, yeah, it’s not a real Star Trek movie. The uniforms were particularly dated (soooo 70s) and boring. I liked the update of the uniforms from TWOK, but am not crazy with how military they look. IMHO: the best movie uniforms are from the 2009 Trek movie.

Anyway, it’s a great movie to fall asleep to.

MJ
May 23, 2012 8:11 pm

@27 “The Directors Cut of TMP was a substantial improvement, but it still didn’t overcome the movie’s fatal flaw-poor writing. That the ship interiors were a monument to mausoleum shades of blue and gray didn’t help matters, ..nor did Wise’s staid direction. As successful as TWOK was, I cant help but wonder how the future of the would have differed had it been the first “reunion” movie. We’ll obviously never know.”

Agreed. I like TMP as a good hard scifi film, but it was a poor Trek film. There is a good reason why a lot of Trek fans back in the early 80’s refered to it as “The Motion Sickness.”

Jet
May 23, 2012 8:11 pm

Meh, TMP was the best star Trek film ever made. Now all we get is space villians.

Lil' Shat
May 23, 2012 8:15 pm

Things… happening… slowly…!

I think Leonard Nimoy is starting to confuse good cinema with William Shatner’s trademark delivery.

There are things I don’t like about TMP (the startling change in uniforms really bugged me), but it is certainly one of the better Star Trek films.

I do agree that they were probably going for a Kubrick feel there, but that’s not a bad thing IMHO and I felt it suited Trek’s triumphant return to live action very well.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Abrams’ revisioning of Trek, but I do think it’s wrong to assert that anything slow and cerebral about the franchise equates to a “beached whale.” It seems to me that Nimoy may be getting a bit hung up on modern day action flicks–although you can’t blame him after working… with… someone….

…who…

deLIVERED…

…their lines… like… THIS…

…every DAY…!

Sebastian S.
May 23, 2012 8:15 pm

I like ST-TMP as a *science fiction* movie, but I also agree that it’s not necessarily a good Star Trek movie. ST is traditionally more space opera than cold science fiction. However, I like ST-TMP nevertheless. Then again, “2001: A Space Odyssey” is also my favorite sci fi movie, so there you go…
;-D

And yes, I agree with Nimoy again; the baton has been passed. The Spock character is now in the (very capable) hands of Zachary Quinto. Nimoy is very gracious to acknowledge that.

LLAP, Leonard Nimoy…. ;-)

Jet
May 23, 2012 8:17 pm

TMP was humans evolving beyond humanity and exploring the unknown, “Kahn” was about oiled pecs.

Jim Nightshade
May 23, 2012 8:19 pm

Geee Leonard is complaining that tmp tried to be like 2001—thats not a bad thing…hes complaining that its too smart—he may be right about that—i had no problem with that….how can benedict leonard say its not a star trek film….as others have mentioned his character went thru the MOST important arc of his entire lifetime of trek—affecting the rest of his characters life….yah it was mostly more sterile on purpose—it was intelligent even cosmic–and the best looking big e ever–efx better than any up to 2009 trek—-music soundtrack better than most—yup—tmp is one of my favorite treks—sorry mr nimoy i disagree—-i do agree with one observation—that 2001 n TMP are both in a class by themselves—no mistake that trumball did efx in both movies…

BrF
May 23, 2012 8:20 pm

@35: Good point about villains. We’ve been looking for the next Khan since 1982. (Maybe now more than ever.)

Grand Lunar
May 23, 2012 8:21 pm

“I think [Robert Wise] and Gene Roddenberry were looking for a [2001: A] Space Odyssey kind of thing…”

That’s the impression I get when I watch TMP.
That is was an attempt at a sort of ‘2001’ like take on ‘Star Trek’.

I think Nimoy has done enough for the role of Spock.
Time for him to rest, and enjoy life.

Grand Lunar
May 23, 2012 8:21 pm

“I think [Robert Wise] and Gene Roddenberry were looking for a [2001: A] Space Odyssey kind of thing…”

That’s the impression I get when I watch TMP.
That is was an attempt at a sort of ‘2001’ like take on ‘Star Trek’.

I think Nimoy has done enough for the role of Spock.
Time for him to rest, and enjoy life.

Beer Guy
May 23, 2012 8:24 pm

I don’t think TMP would have been better if one of the three main characters had been the hero at the end. Some very good TOS episodes were resolved by people or powers outside of Kirk, Spock and McCoy – not the least of which was the “Doomsday Machine” and it’s death at the hands of Matt Decker, father of Will Decker.

Personally, the strength of story and confidence of character required to relinquish the hero role to a guest cast member or to a higher power always seemed to me to be a hallmark of Star Trek.

I think TMP and FF are the most polarizing films of the TOS movies. You can always expect a lot of passion and nastiness when both are discussed.

Beer Guy
May 23, 2012 8:27 pm

I suppose I should have said that the “Doomsday Machine’s” death was inspired by Matt Decker, but I think that situation just elevates the role of Will Decker who sort of redeems his father in TMP.

Red Dead Ryan
May 23, 2012 8:27 pm

“The Motion Picture” was a great idea. But the execution of it could have been better. It takes too long to get to the heart of the matter, and I couldn’t care less about Decker and Ilia. Robert Wise might have been a good director, but he wasn’t the right guy for TMP.

And the rec deck was ridiculously too big. There was no way it would fit behind the bridge. The uniforms, apart from Kirk’s admiral variant, were pretty cheesy.

47. Red Dead Ryan – as a teenager when TMP came out, I found myself caring a lot about Ilia ;-) Some of science fiction’s best legs, if you ask me.

Jet
May 23, 2012 8:33 pm

Nah, TMP was epic. And the costumes were a lot better than those ugly red jackets. Every Star Trek after the first, save for the “reboot”, feels half assed- the stories not quite fleshed out or interesting.

Vultan
May 23, 2012 8:35 pm

Hair or no hair, Persis Khambatta was a beautiful woman.
Sad she’s no longer with us.

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