50 Star Trek Moments That Still Make Us Raise An Eyebrow

At this point, we’ve all been lured at one or another by the clickbait headline that says something like: “10 things you never knew about Star Trek!” If you’re a Star Trek fan or have just spent any time on the Internet, you’ve pretty much heard every story there is to hear and seen every meme.

But with almost 1,000 hours of canonical material, there is probably something about the phenomenon’s storied history you haven’t heard, or at least haven’t realized. Here are 50 of them, one for each year of the franchise, to help celebrate its birthday today.

1. First thing Picard does … is surrender

When “Encounter at Farpoint” hit the airwaves in 1987, it was a bold decision to replace the iconic American hero James T. Kirk with a British actor playing a French captain. And proving that the accusation of “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” will last well into the 24th Century, the first order our French captain gives … is to surrender.

Sacrebleu!

2. Jonathan Frakes became a good director because he was a bad actor

As a young actor on the early days on TNG, Jonathan Frakes is extremely good at being tall, handsome, and charming. Apparently that’s about the extent of his range though as he confessed to Whoopi Goldberg a few years ago that the reason he moved behind the camera is because “I wasn’t that good an actor.”

frakes

And honestly, his contributions behind the camera may be more valuable than anything he did in front of it.

3. William Shatner was not the 1st choice to play Kirk

Although both he and his bombastic performance style are now synonymous with Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, William Shatner was not the first choice to play him. Jack Lord was first approached and turned the role down. Lloyd Bridges was almost cast as the first Enterprise captain, Chris Pike. Bad for them, but good decision for fans (both men died in 1998).

Shatner and Bridges would later have the chance to team up to save the day on Airplane 2.

4. Kirk appeared in all but one episode

After his appearance in the second pilot, Shatner’s Kirk appeared in every episode and movie until his death in Generations, except one: The Animated Series episode “The Slaver Weapon”, written by sci-fi great Larry Niven. Spock makes up for his captain’s absence with some ludicrous space-karate against pink alien cat-people.

Spock the animated series

5. Eddie Murphy was almost in the whale one

So remember that one with the whales? The one everybody liked, with the kind-hearted whale scientist who was on 7th Heaven and Child’s Play? Yeah, her role was originally supposed to be played by Eddie Murphy.

Eddie Murphie gives OK symbol

Legend has it that when Paramount executives first approached Murphy to sign him up with the studio, he made them wait until he’d finished watching an episode of The Original Series. The actor was one of Paramount’s most valuable properties in the 80’s, thanks to 48 Hours and Beverly Hills Cop, so his presence in a Star Trek movie would have been great synergy.

It probably would have been ridiculous, but admit it: you would have loved to seen that Star Trek movie.

6. The intro to Enterprise is a perfect match

Star Trek: Enterprise deviated from its predecessors with an introductory pop song (Rod Stewart and Diane Warren’s Faith of the Heart) rather than an orchestral piece. Someone realized that it lines up perfectly with the intro to Perfect Strangers.

The reverse is true too!

7. One redshirt survived – more episodes than Sulu or Chekov

While the redshirt death is the Star Trek cliché of all Star Trek clichés, one redshirt managed to avoid an untimely demise every time he appeared: Eddie Paskey’s Lt. Leslie. He appeared in 57 episodes – which is more episodes than George Takei and Walter Koenig did.

OK technically he did die in one episode, but it apparently didn’t slow him down.

Paskey’s character had no official name until Shatner one day decided to give him one – after his own daughter, Leslie.

8. Dax played the Cat for the American Red Dwarf

With The Next Generation reinvigorating audience interest in science fiction, it inspired copy-cats. One of those was the British comedy classic Red Dwarf, which is set 3 million years in the future. In an utterly failed effort to translate the show for American audiences, Star Trek’s Terry Farrell (Dax) plays a hyper-evolved cat creature.

It doesn’t remotely work, but good for her for trying.

9. IDIC symbol was created to spread diversity … and make money

More popular nowadays than it was when first invented, the Vulcan symbol of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) symbolizes the perfect Vulcans’ celebration of life in all its forms.

Spock's IDIC pendant close up

But Leonard Nimoy insisted that Gene Roddenberry created the IDIC symbol as a cheap ploy to sell replica merchandise to fans. Nimoy was perhaps particularly annoyed by this because his likeness was being used to promote the tchotchke, but he was receiving exactly zero of the money for it. Live long and prosper… by using your co-workers to sell stuff.

10. Roddenberry also exploited the show’s song for profit

This would not be the only time Roddenberry would try to take advantage of the franchise for profit (exemplifying the Ferengi Rule of Acquisition that “exploitation begins at home”). After commissioning Alexander Courage to write the classic intro theme song, Roddenberry wrote lyrics to it so he could get 50% of the song’s royalties – without Courage’s consent or even knowledge.

Courage called it unethical (which it was), but in Gene’s defense he made enormous sacrifices for the show and wouldn’t really start making money from it until much later with the show’s success in syndication, movies, and (of course) merchandising.

11. Chakotay isn’t really an Indian

As part of the post-Dances With Wolves craze over the American Indian in the 1990s, Star Trek Voyager broke ground with the character of Chakotay, played by Robert Beltran. His Indian-ness is a constant plot point, although the character’s specific tribe is never mentioned – which may be a good thing because Beltran isn’t actually American-Indian. He’s Mexican.

Robert Beltran as Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager

12. But why aren’t there any actual Indian people?

So eagle-eyed fans may notice that despite consisting of around 2 billion members of the human race, there aren’t a lot of South Asians featured on the show. People may just chock that up to Hollywood casting biases, but clever Star Trek fans have another theory: super-villain Khan Noonien Singh and his ilk had rampaged across Asia during the Eugenics Wars in the distant future of the 1990’s, killing millions.

13. Wrath of Khan isn’t actually about A Tale of Two Cities

So if you’re like me, everything you know about the Charles Dickens classic “A Tale of Two Cities” comes from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. (Spock gives Kirk a copy of the book for his birthday.) But a story about the French Revolution informs the story quite a bit less than another classic: the biblically inspired Paradise Lost. The Marcuses are Adam and Eve (having “created life” with “Genesis”). Spock is the Christ-figure who sacrifices himself so others may live while Khan is Lucifer, having been cast down to hell by Kirk, who then would be…

God himself.

Kirk walks onto the bridge in Star Trek II

14. Star Trek V really, really is about Shatner’s ego

Speaking of God-Shatner: at this point everyone knows that Star Trek V is a huge ego trip for Shatner, wonderfully typified in this video of him climbing the mountain.

But it’s on a scale of ego that even people who know it don’t realize. In contrast to the usually perfect society the franchise had shown us thus far, we see one where: 1) the Federation’s diplomatic mission has completely failed, 2) its ambassador there is a worthless drunk, 3) the flagship of the fleet barely works, 4) capable bridge officers are cartoonishly incompetent, 5) a brilliant doctor is incapable of curing, and therefore euthanizes, his own father, 6) NASA’s seminal Pioneer 10 is just target practice for Klingons, 7) and so on.

In essence, everything fails in the world Star Trek V… except Kirk. Who not only finds God but beats him in a fight.

This could all be why…

15. Gene wanted to sue Shatner over it

Roddenberry didn’t have as much of an impact on the movies as many fans may think, but that didn’t keep him from letting his voice be heard. He decried Star Trek V as “apocryphal” to his franchise’s canon and even went “as far as having his attorney Leonard Maizlish prepare legal procedures against Shatner.”

Alas things didn’t turn out as well for Shatner as they did for Nimoy because …

16. Leonard Nimoy was actually kind of a huge deal in the 80’s

Of course Mr. Spock is the beloved icon of Star Trek fans everywhere, but when he beamed into the director’s chair he was kind of a big deal for everyone. His opus Star Trek – “The One With the Whales” was the highest-grossing Star Trek film ever and, adjusted for inflation, second-highest grossing until 2009. It was also the 5th most successful film of 1986 (behind Top Gun, Crocodile Dundee, Platoon, and Karate Kid 2). In 1987, he directed the year’s best-performing film period in Three Men and a Baby.

Leonard Nimoy Three Men and a Baby
Too bad he’s not wearing an IDIC pin in this shot.

Leonard was kind of a big deal in the 60’s too because…

17. Leonard Nimoy was nominated for an Emmy every year

Reflections about TOS are usually either “it was the greatest thing ever!” or “it was constantly under threat of cancellation!” Reality was probably somewhere in between. What was also real was Leonard Nimoy stealing the spotlight from the show’s lead. Leonard’s performance as Spock was nominated for an Emmy every year the show was on.

Star Trek Emmy nominations

He never won, alas, but that’s still an impressive sweep.

18. But Cartoon Kirk brought home Emmy gold

While TOS never won an Emmy, The Animated Series did. It won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Entertainment Children’s Series in 1975. That’s the only “major” (that is to say non-technical) Emmy that Star Trek ever won, although TOS and TNG did get nominations for outstanding series. I guess no one at the Emmy’s realized that Patrick Stewart was on TV?

19. Star Trek producer fired one of his Emmy winners

Of course Star Trek dominates the technical Emmys (make-up, special effects, etc.) but composer Ron Jones snagged a sound mixing award for TNG one year. He later went on to score the seminal Borg episode “The Best of Both Worlds”, which won both sound editing and sound mixing Emmys.

Jones released his score for the two-part episode as an album, which won the American Association of Independent Music’s Best Soundtrack Album of the Year award.

Regardless of his contributions, controversial Trek kingpin Rick Berman went on to fire Jones because his music was “too noticeable.”

Yeah. Noticed by people who were giving him awards and buying his album.

20. Yet it took 30 years to snag an Oscar

As primarily a television series, it’s not surprising that Star Trek hasn’t done too well with the Academy. (Some of that has been bad timing: The Undiscovered Country got crushed by Terminator 2.) It took until the 2009 reboot for Star Trek to finally win an Oscar for make-up.

JJ Abrams Wins the Oscar for Best Makeup for Star Trek 2009

Fans still complained relentlessly that the make-up failed to capture the spirit of make-up in The Original Series.

21. And Star Trek also won a Peabody once (randomly)

The Peabody Award, which is more commonly associated with journalism, was awarded to The Next Generation episode “The Big Goodbye” for raising the bar on syndicated TV. (That’s the episode with the gangsters. OK not that episode, but a different one.) According to the Peabody Board, the episode “set a new standard of quality for first-run syndication” in “all facets of the production.”

It’s the only episode of the franchise to be so honored. Keep that in mind next time someone knocks the first season of TNG.

22. But it hasn’t won a Hugo Award in over 20 years

The Oscars for science fiction, the Hugo Award is pure nerd gold. With TOS sweeping the nominations in 1968 and nine of the films earning nominations, Star Trek has a history of dominating them.

However, it’s just that: history. None of those films have won a Hugo and the franchise has not won an award since “All Good Things…”, the 1994 series closer for TNG.

Q from TNG All Good Things
Apparently he did put an end to their little trek through the stars.

Star Trek may be a victim of its own success. In popularizing sci-fi in the 1990’s, it created more competition for itself. Or it could be that the franchise ran out of dilithium a long time ago. Either way, I really want to see Star Trek: Discovery win a Hugo next year.

23. That time Shooter McGavin was a big damn hero

Actor Christopher McDonald is better known to audiences as the Happy Gilmore antagonist Shooter McGavin, but to Star Trek fans he’s the hero of one of the best episodes ever, “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, where he takes command of the Enterprise C to save the universe in a hopeless battle against Romulans.

Christopher McDonald in the TNG episode "Yesterday's Enterprise"

He also wins the heart of Tasha Yar. Which reminds me…

24. Tasha Yar was originally a rip-off of that Aliens space marine

You know that scene in Aliens where Bill Paxton says to the tough lady space marine Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein), “Have you ever been mistaken for a man?” and she says, “No. Have you?”

So that character was initially supposed to be on TNG. Roddenberry initially envisioned a Latina security chief named Macha Hernandez, and they even considered just hiring Goldstein to basically reprise her role from Aliens. They didn’t go through with that idea, though, as DC Fontana pointed out that Goldstein “is not Latina. She is petite, blue-eyed, freckle-faced.” So they did the logical thing. They hired a Latin actress.

No, I’m joking obviously. But what happened was…

25. Tasha and Deanna were cast in the wrong roles

Originally Marina Sirtis (who is Greek, not Latin) was cast as the security chief while Denise Crosby was to play the ship’s counselor. But Roddenberry intervened and swapped the two because he felt Sirtis’s appearance was better for the “exotic” Troi.
This wasn’t the weirdest example of an actor swap though as…

26. DeForest Kelley was the first choice for Spock

Back when Roddenberry was still developing the show, he initially approached DeForest Kelley to play “an alien who’s going to have pointed ears and a green color.” Kelley blew him off and told him he’d rather do a Western.

Luckily, Roddenberry found the right role for him later.

27. “He’s dead, Jim” – DeForest Kelley’s last performance

Kelley’s popular Dr. McCoy character appeared in almost every episode of The Original Series and all of the movies – but the actor died in 1999, long before any of his co-stars. If you want to catch his final performance as the Old Country doctor, it was in the 1993 video game Star Trek: Judgement Rites.

28. Sulu starred in the most controversial Twilight Zone episode ever

There are a lot of connections between Star Trek and the old Twilight Zone – both sci-fi shows from the 1960s – but perhaps the coolest is “The Encounter“, a 1964 episode where George Takei as a young Japanese-American squares off against a veteran of the WW2 Pacific Theater. It maturely and frankly deals with the issue of race following the conflict.

So naturally it was only ever shown once then pulled from the airwaves for 52 years.

29. And Enterprise did a clever Twilight Zone promo once

The two franchises remained intertwined – to the point of John Lithgow and William Shatner both joking about “There’s something on the wing of the plane!” on 3rd Rock from the Sun – to the point that when UPN premiered a new version of Twilight Zone in 2002 they had Commander Tucker explicitly reference the show in the preceding episode of Enterprise that night.

Star Trek: Enterprise references The Twilight Zone

30. Star Trek invented the term “Bottle Episode”

The TV show Community popularized the use of the term “Bottle Episode” in the vernacular of TV viewers: an episode which only uses existing sets, costumes, props, and so forth to minimize cost and save money for more expensive episodes.

Now (because you’re reading this list) it shouldn’t surprise you that the term comes from Star Trek, which constantly had budget-stretching episodes to explore strange new worlds. It comes from the phrase “ship in a bottle.”

31. Kirk steals a time machine from Doc Brown

While we’re getting meta, did you ever notice that in Star Trek IV Kirk and Spock make a time machine out of the Klingon ship they stole from Christopher Lloyd in Star Trek III? You know – the guy who’d played Doc Brown the year earlier in Back to the Future?

Doc Brown from Back to the Future
They should have gone with the train.

32. That time Data almost made a fart joke

There’s this pretty decent first season episode called “We’ll Always Have Paris”, where an experiment gone awry is spewing extra time into the universe. The crew calls it a hiccup. (Yes, of course there is a Memory Alpha entry for hiccup.)

Data almost makes a fart joke

Data pedantically points out that analogy is wrong and almost says a better comparison would be a fart, but Picard cuts him off.

33. The book about Insurrection is better than the film

A frequent cliché is the phrase “the book is better than the movie.” When it comes to Star Trek: Insurrection, easily the most forgettable film in the franchise’s history, the book about how it was written is better than the movie.

Michael Piller’s unimaginatively titled Fade In details how “sausage is made” in Hollywood. He goes through the development process of his script, how his initial ideas needed to be changed to meet the demands of producers, the director, and actors (notably Patrick Stewart) then changed again and again to juggle budget restrictions and Hollywood egos.

His early concept for the film was to do a Heart of Darkness-style story, where Data goes native and becomes the villain that Picard needs to defeat. Alas that wasn’t the movie we got to see.

Michael Piller

Piller, maybe the most important contributor to modern Trek, succumbed to cancer in 2005.

Fade In was never published, but copies have been floating around the Internet for years.

34. Seven of Nine kind of gave us President Obama

This is a weird one. Back in the day actress Jeri Ryan (Seven) was married to Illinois politician Jack Ryan, who was favored to win an open state Senate seat in 2004… until word came out during their divorce proceedings about some of the creepy sex stuff he demanded from her. A humiliated Jack was forced to drop out and the election went to a then-unknown Barack Obama, who leveraged the race to a plumb speaking spot at the DNC that year, then a US Senate seat, then the presidency.

Obama should have appointed Jeri administrator of NASA to say thanks.

35. Red Letter Media got its start with Star Trek reviews (and they’re brilliant)

OK so you’ve all probably seen the hour-long reviews of the Star Wars prequels by the YouTube channel Red Letter Media – honestly the reviews are better than the movies themselves. But the channel actually got its start doing reviews of the TNG movies.

They’re not quite as polished as the prequel reviews, but they’re absolutely worth a watch (and they’re much lighter on his running “gag” of killing prostitutes).

36. Ron Moore started Battlestar because of Voyager’s shortcomings

There are those in the Trek community who feel that Voyager never lived up to its potential of showing the crew really dealing with tough situations, isolation, and limited resources. Preeminent among those is Ronald D. Moore, a TNG/DS9 writer who left Voyager because of the bad taste it left in his mouth. Luckily Moore would wash that taste out with the minty freshness of Battlestar Galactica, wherein his crew really dealt with tough situations, isolation, and limited resources.

And saying “frak.” A lot.

37. Leonard did the best Q and A for fans

So you don’t have to go to a lot of Star Trek conventions to realize one can only plumb the depths of untold stories for so long before they’ve all been told. Recognizing this, Leonard Nimoy and John de Lancie developed a stage routine where their two characters, Spock and Q, had a lively debate about life, the universe, and everything (which at the time included the impending Y2K).

It was a great gift to fans… and a lot more interesting than watching that video where the door doesn’t open (yet again).

38. Roddenberry considered Wil Wheaton the son he never had

Rod Roddenberry, son of Gene and heir to the Star Trek empire, did a wonderful documentary a few years ago called Trek Nation, which is really more about his coming to terms with his long-lost father than it is about Star Trek. Rod, who was born when Gene was 52, had barely any relationship with the man.

There’s a painful sequence where he’s talking to Wil Wheaton and realizes the actor got to be more of a son to Gene than he ever did. Ouch.

39. A secular devil teaches Kirk about sacrifice and forgiveness

There’s this remarkably unusual episode of The Animated Series called “The Magicks of Megas-Tu” where the Enterprise meets an extra-dimensional creature named Lucien, whose people put the crew on trial as revenge for the Salem Witch Trials and Kirk volunteers to sacrifice his life for Lucien to save him from condemnation in limbo for eternity. And Lucien turns out to be the actual Lucifer that the Judeo-Christian devil is based on.

All this in 25 minutes on a Saturday morning children’s television show.

Lucien from Star Trek The Animated Series
No metaphor here

40. Idea of a prequel has been around since 1968

Prequels, reboots, and re-imaginings are commonplace nowadays, but would you believe that the idea of a prequel with young Kirk, Spock, and McCoy has been around since before The Original Series went off the air? Roddenberry first introduced the idea at the 1968 World Science Fiction Convention.

The idea came up again in 1991. Alas we had to wait until 2009, when this kind of thing happens all the time.

JJ Abrams Kirk and Spock
That’s how good they were at predicting the future back then.

41. Guinan was Picard’s great-great-great-great… grandmother

This year Whoopi Goldberg attended her first ever Star Trek convention. To the crowd in Las Vegas, she shared that – in her actor’s mind – she had always envisioned that her long-lived Guinan character had been an ancestor to Patrick Stewart’s Picard (however many greats it took), which is why the characters were so close and she took such care to mentor him.

Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan) on stage at STLV2016

42. Ron Howard’s weird brother was an alien bartender

This one a lot of you may know already, but legendary actor-turned-director Ron Howard has a kind of weird brother named Clint, who shows up from time to time in Ron’s movies and elsewhere in front of the camera. His first big break was as an innocuous alien named Balok who gives the crew an adult beverage called tranya.

Balok loves tranya

As a grown man, Clint would reprise the role at the Shatner roast.

It’s… it’s an unusual watch.

43. The Borg were supposed to be insects

The Borg as a villain are now pretty ubiquitous, with any imposing square building compared nowadays to a Borg Cube. The threat of assimilation has become more and more real, with technology permeating our lives in ways that could not have been conceived in 1988.

A borg drone assimilates a crewman

But they were originally supposed to be bugs.

The reasons they went the cyborg route is chocked up to budgetary constraints and a Writer’s Guild strike, but I think we can all agree this is was a better alternative. Bugs are certainly alien, which can be scary (like the Alien-franchise xenomorphs) but the Borg are humans who abandoned their humanity for technology, which is scarier. Now excuse me while I open six more browser windows and IM with my roommate instead of talking to him IRL.

44. Memory Alpha is basically the greatest wiki ever

There’s a saying that the three things that created the Internet were porn, the military, and Star Trek (so sex, violence, and nerdery). The online Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha is not just one of the greatest fan wikis but one of the best wikis period. It’s been around since 2003, contains more than 40,000 articles, and has been translated into Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Esperanto, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, and Swedish.

Meanwhile, most articles over on Wookiepedia have flags like this:

Wookiepedia screenshot: "Sorry about the mess"

45. Star Trek actually wasn’t the first interracial kiss

This one surprised me when CNN reported on it last year, and it’s a bit disappointing. The first interracial kiss on TV was not, in fact, Capt. Kirk and Lt. Uhura, but rather six years earlier when a black man and a white woman kissed in a televised play of “You in Your Small Corner” in 1962. This was on British TV so, technically, Star Trek was still the first interracial kiss on American TV.

The actual first interracial kiss on television, from a televised play of "You in Your Small Corner"

Also this kiss appears to be an entirely consensual expression of love and affection rather than an act of telekinetic humiliation by alien super beings. But that sounds less charming than “first interracial kiss!”

46. The modern convention was created by two 14-year-olds

So at this point over-the-top entertainment conventions with hordes of cosplayers and celebrity zoos are commonplace. On one level I think everyone who goes to a con these days realizes that Star Trek created the modern convention system, but I don’t think they realize that the Star Trek fans who created this system did so when they were 14.

Queens schoolboys Adam Malin and Gary Berman started Creation Entertainment way back in 1971, mainly for comic book creators, but quickly started doing Star Trek cons as well. They weren’t the only ones doing conventions, but they’ve certainly become one of the biggest names on the convention circuit since then. Did I mention they were 14?

Star Trek Las Vegas Creation Convention Logo

(TrekMovie interviewed Gary a couple months ago on our podcast, the Shuttlepod.)

47. Pretty sure JJ was riffing on Seinfeld, not Trek

So JJ Abrams admitted that he was never really a Star Trek fan and didn’t have much knowledge of the series. That came through pretty clearly in Star Trek Into Darkness when Spock delivers the famous KHAAN! yell. Because when Zachary Quinto does it, I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be him channeling the Shatnerian rage of the initial yell…

I think he’s making a Seinfeld joke.

48. Spock loses his mind a lot

The episode “Spock’s Brain” is a pretty famous one. It’s the one where Spock’s (wait for it) brain is removed and the adventure is trying to get it back inside his skull. It’s one of those “so bad it’s good” episodes best enjoyed with a nice glass of tranya.

The same idea would be revisited in Star Trek III when his mind (or soul, I guess) needs to be re-fused with his resurrected body.

But the best example of where Spock’s marbles get lost and then found has got to be from The Animated Series episode “The Infinite Vulcan” where a mindless Spock receives a mindmeld from, of course, a giant cloned version of Spock. (Written by Walter Koenig, incidentally.)

Spock mind melds with a giant Spock clone in TAS's "The Infinite Vulcan"

49. Patrick Stewart compares a fictional character to Hitler – and it works

At this point, comparing Hitler to people in the Internet is such a cliché that it’s become the Hitler of the 21st Century. In the 24th Century though, Patrick Stewart’s Jean-luc Picard discusses philosophy and pre-determination with a time-traveler, wherein he asks what if a baby who is going to die becomes “the next Adolf Hitler or Khan Singh.”

I didn’t even blink the first several times I saw this, because one is history’s greatest monster and the other guy sold Rich Corinthian Leather, but Stewart sells it so amazingly well that you don’t notice the difference because to Picard they’re both monsters.
And remember, in seven years, this guy got exactly zero Emmy Nominations. #EmmysSoStupid

50. The Motion Picture is actually better than most people realize

This one was as much a surprise to me as anyone else. TMP is regularly panned and is seen as contributing nothing to the series except setting up Wrath of Khan. There’s the old joke that it’s so slow they should call it “Star Trek: The Motion-less Picture.”
But it’s actually beautifully directed, wonderfully scored, and possesses both a campiness and a grandiosity that fits the tone of the original TV show better than any of the other movies. Seriously, give it a second try (on as a large of a screen as you can find, it was made to be seen and heard as a grand cinema experience). I decided I needed to revisit it after losing an argument about it on our podcast, The Shuttlepod. Even after 50 years, this old franchise can still surprise you. The human adventure is just beginning.

The Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Great article! You managed to inform even this old trekkie!

you are right about TMP.
it could have come out a ‘star wars’ clone, joining the many released in the 70s.
shame paramount did not recut the movie after its premiere as mr wise wanted.

it would changed people’s opinions of the film over the years.

I think, TMP is the best movie of all when you watch it on bluray with a beamer on a big cinema screen. It’s so beautiful and it is really Star Trek.

We all became acquainted with TMP on the small 4:3 TV sets in VHS-quality. Even the DVD isn’t better. It looked dark, it was boring. This is the Star Trek movie that only works on the big screen in HD. That’s what cinema is made for. The bluray was an eye-opener, although the film could use a full restauration, a better master and a transfer to 4K.

I watched it recently in blu ray on my 65″ Panasonic plasma after probably two decades that I hadn’t watched it. Sorry, but it’s very slow and drawn out.

Plasma TVs are prehistoric and the worst TVs to watch films on

Star Trek the Motion Picture is the only one I watch regularly. I remember how awe-inspiring it was to see the Enterprise on the big screen for the first time, and Mr. Goldsmith’s music really added to that. While I have enjoyed aspects of all the other movies with the original series cast, I think they lacked that epic quality of the first one.
As for it being slow, I will take that any day over the thoughtless quick-cut shaky cam stuff they serve up now.

Two things the article got wrong. It was Bill Paxton in Aliens not Bill Pullman and Back to the Future came after Star Trek III. And yes TMP is better than people say. It’s how I got into star trek at the age of six. And when people talk about the long quiet sequences in the movie I say that’s how it would happen. If scientist, astronomers or explorers were on a ship flying through the never before see wonder of v’ger they would be siting back watching, observing in awe.

Fixed Pullman/Paxton thing for Jared, so many people make that mistake.

Technically what Jared said is not wrong (it might be a bit awkwardly phrased). In TVH (1986), they use the Bird of Prey as a time machine, which they stole from the actor who played Doc Brown in BTTF (1985). Yes they stole the BoP in TSFS (1984), but… they only used it as a time machine the year after BTTF came out.

Your right. I didn’t think about WHEN it was used as a time machine.

So much of this list is very common knowledge. A shame.

Incidentally, it’s been well-documented over the years that Star Trek did not feature the first interracial kiss on TV. There were other examples, and it’s not hard to find them online. The “first kiss” thing was just a myth perpetrated by Roddenberry.

Not even American TV–there were others.

D. C. Fontana disputes #26. In her most recent interview, she says that Leonard Nimoy was the ONLY actor ever considered for Spock.

Corylea, Fontana might have said it but STAR TREK FACT CHECK refuted this back in September of 2013 http://startrekfactcheck.blogspot.com/2013/09/casting-ideas-for-star-treks-first-pilot.html Martin Landau disputes Fontana in this too: http://catacombs.space1999.net/press/wrefplandau.html ””Star Trek was ahead of its time, so much so the world has finally caught up with it,” Landau comments. “… … Although Haunted didn’t sell, Landau was soon offered Star Trek. He has “absolutely never” regretted turning down Spock, a character he saw as “the antithesis of why I do what I do” while Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible was “the antithesis of Spock, a character who was everybody, all emotional levels, all colors, shapes, sizes. “I would make the same decision today,” he announces. “But I knew if the show hit, Spock would be very effective. You have to think of the turmoil of the ’60s. A superintelligent creature with pointy ears who thought logically was exactly right-except I didn’t want to act it. I did not want to be saddled with the role of a character without feeling. I would have become a newscaster. Actually, newscasters are more emotional than Spock.” … Then, Desilu sold out to Paramount and the gradual decline in [MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE] quality became a sudden plunge. “Paramount wanted to make it better, cut down the shooting schedule, pay less for scripts, less for actors, less for directors and they took the show away from Bruce Geller, ” explains Landau, who balked at returning for a fourth season. “They spread lies that I wanted ridiculous amounts of… Read more »

Thanks for passing that along, Disinvited. I hadn’t heard that about Landau before.

Corylea,

You are welcome.

Private Hudson was played by Bill Paxton… not Bill Pullman.

We get it TrekMovie… The JJ-movies are where your heart is, 3 movies… 3 action, nonsensical movies. “Red Letter Media reviews are better than the movies”. Well done, not even trying to hide your politics. Whatever deal you have with Bad Robot, congrats, for continuing to undermine and undervalue REAL prime universe Trek.

Congrats. You have posted the most rambling, pointless comment on this site today. Grow up, kid.

You are such a remarkably negative person, it astounds me that Star Trek would even appeal to you.

I have no idea where you get the notion that we favor the JJ movies. That quote is in reference to the Star Wars prequels.

Yeah Ralph it’s clearly in reference to the SW reviews, which totally are better — I think I’ve watched all of them over a dozen times each, in comparison to the one and done with the movies themselves. Hell, even the ST reviews are leagues more entertaining than the TNG films!

Maybe the moderators could explore the virtues of a competent marketing strategy (in contrast to Paramounts “effort”) which has contributed to the strong success of STB in China.

Star Trek The Motion Picture is the BEST Trek film of all time!

I like it a lot, but it had “issues”, a result of not enough time to tighten up the second half before the Dec 1979 release date (and pushing to Summer 1980 was out of the question due to going up against The Empire Strikes Back). The Director’s Edition helps, but the second half still slows to a crawl. And the main cast is very stilted (except Kelley) in the first half. And then there are those horrible costumes…

No, it isn’t the best Trek film.

Thorny,

Re:pushing to Summer 1980 was out of the question due to going up against The Empire Strikes Back

No, pushing to summer of 1980 was out of the question because Paramount would have had to return around $40 million dollars they earned in the theater exhibitors blind bind auction where they quaranteed the December 1979 release.

It certainly is for me. And unquestionably the best score of Jerry Goldsmith’s career.

I really hope to be able to see this one on the big screen at least once during my lifetime, someday. (Though a proper blu-ray remake of the Director’s Edition would be the next best thing!)

The first interracial kiss on US television was actually a peck on the cheek Sammy Davis Jr. gave Nancy Sinatra on her TV special in Dec 1967, nearly a year before Plato’s Stepchildren.

Thorny,

Hmmmm…. given that race is not a scientific classification when it comes to humans, and more often than not merely denotes ethnicity, I think it was in 1954 when a very American James Bond kissed the luscious lips of the Mexican Valerie Mathis in the CLIMAX! Live performance of CASINO ROYALE?

Don’t forget American Lucy and Cuban Ricky.

Yup Re:Don’t forget American Lucy and Cuban Ricky. I haven’t as you can see here: http://trekmovie.com/2015/09/04/larry-nemeceks-on-speaker-series-celebrates-voyagers-20th-anniversary-with-a-new-release/#comment-5282792 But excuses have been made in the past that it didn’t directly confront The Southern affiliates inspired black/white Network STANDARDS AND PRACTICES taboos in living color with a scripted unmarried couple. That’s why I cited CLIMAX!’s James Bond which was rewritten as a very AMERICAN single white male secret agent. When it came time to air PLATO’S STEPCHILDREN stations in the South that were owned by members of the KKK definitely had “technical difficulties”. You can see S&P’s concern in this memo: “Further, it must be clear there are no racial over-tones to Kirk’s and Uhura’s dilemma.” — JEAN MESSERSCHMIDT, NBC STANDARDS & PRACTICES As you can see here on page 49: http://americanradiohistory.com/Archive-BC/BC-1969/1969-01-13-BC.pdf In the first month of the third season, 210 stations were NBC affiliates contractually obligated to carry NBC’s prime time line-up and yet only 181 of them were airing STAR TREK. The article makes economic hay about the majority of those 21 stations motivation in doing so, but the fact remains they only came to the realization they could get away with the tactic because of stations like WLBT pulling NBC programming for non-economic reasons earlier and not suffering legal consequences for it. Eventually WLBT Lamar’s chickens came home to roost in 1969 when the FCC pulled their license because their long documented racist programming tactics were clearly not serving the entire community. They staved it off for a few more… Read more »

I like that for once there is a bit of biting edge to this article.

Christopher Lloyd played Commander Kruge a year before he played Doc Brown.

Technically what Jared said is not wrong (it might be a bit awkwardly phrased). In TVH (1986), they use the Bird of Prey as a time machine, which they stole from the actor who played Doc Brown in BTTF (1985). Yes they stole the BoP in TSFS (1984), but… they only used it as a time machine the year after BTTF came out.

25th anniversary and Judgement Rites are still my favorite Star Trek games. Always nice to see them get a mention. A remastered game including all episodes from both titles would be a real treat.

I loved those games too. Trek meets point-and-click adventure. Yes, re-masted would be awesome.

I also loved TNG: A Final Unity and DS9: Harbinger.

#1: “And proving that the accusation of “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” will last well into the 24th Century, the first order our French captain gives … is to surrender.” Tired conservative cliches on a Star Trek site, nice… (but kind of disheartening)

Geez. It’s a Simpsons reference, not a political point.

In its origin, yes. Though in its use, it became the go-to bashing phrase for anti-french pundits

At any rate, I believe it was intended as humor and not an indictment of the French.

Much better than the constant flow of bleeding heart liberal moonbat comments.

Great article! Thanks!

Nice article! Another little known fact I haven’t seen in the hundreds of articles leading up to today is that Ben Stiller’s production company, Red Hour Productions, is named after the scheduled riots in “The Return of the Archons”. That company produced Zoolander, DodgeBall, Blades of Glory, and Tropic Thunder.

I tried to take a different path to celebrate today — my top 50 Trek memories. Not memorable shows or episodes, but 50 moments where Star Trek molded and shaped my life.
http://www.chicaneryproductions.com/johns-blog/2016/9/8/star-trek-at-50
It’s a long piece, but hey, 50 years is a long time.

Great 50 moments John. LLAP

There’s an Indian captain in Star Trek IV.

Seven to these are priceless and should be memorized and repeated to all fans everywhere: 7, 9, 10, 31, 45, 47, 50. 7: This one, like Kirk’s libido, is one of the constant myths around our beloved TV show. But, it has extra poignance when viewed in the light of other day players on the show. When was the last time you heard Eddie Paskey run down any member of the cast, George? 9: Nimoy, Shatner, Justman and Solow told corroborate the origin of that product. 10: One of our “Great Bird’s” more disgraceful acts. Like most of us, Gene was just trying to make a living and was not particularly careful about who he stuck it to. After 50 years, I’m tired of not looking at the guy for the womanizing, paranoid huckster that we was. 31: This one is just fun. THAT had never occurred to me. Mind-blowing. 45: Please can to realize that we love Star Trek (faults and all) and we don’t have to force socially relevant First. No one has ever produced a single bit of evidence that this moment (or crew diversity) shocked anyone or cause any affiliate to blackout the show. I watched it originally and my Southern mother’s only comment was saying the the WHOLE episode was “silly.” 47: We all knew it, but its hard to hear. I wanted JJ to work and once Simon Pegg got ahold of the scripting, it has markedly improved. I loved Beyond. 50. ST:TMP was… Read more »
GaiusSulla, Re:Seven to [ sic ] these are priceless 7. One possible reason for the longevity of the character is that Shatner named him after his daughter and would be loathe to see her die, even metaphorically. But please note that both Mr. Leslie and Mr. Scott are redshirts that died. The fact that they were resurrected doesn’t actually destroy the myth anymore than Spock’s resurrection destroys the meaning of his self-sacrifice 9. Takei was on Colbert’s CBS show last night and said he’ll never forget the first day Rodenberry took them all into a conference room for a run through the script and told them all to keep in mind that the basis for the strength of the ship was its diversity in infinite combinations. Also, I never quite understood why Gene creating that tchotchke was somehow worse than Paramount licensing toy disc shooter guns and many many other STAR TREK objects that NEVER appeared in any episode or movie with Nimoy’s uncompensated likeness to the point Nimoy eventually brought a lawsuit against Paramount? 10. Gene might have those characteristics but it hardly justifies claiming that’s all that he was as what he was was hardly an unusual type for the entertainment industry of the era. And I’ve never heard of a tale were he pulled a casting couch maneuver like Whitney claims a Paramount executive did to her. Also, the young Courage himself says he wasn’t that miffed about it – he did continue composing for the series.… Read more »

GaiusSulla,

Re:Seven to [ sic ] these are priceless

10. I’m curious as to what judgement you make of Nimoy’s writing the song “Maiden Wine”. Singinig it in PLATO’S STEPCHILDREN and cutting record with it?

I thought that “Maiden Wine” was an old traditional folk song. Never heard that Nimoy wrote it.

Marja,

Re:“Maiden Wine” was an old traditional folk song

Because that’s the way Leonard wrote it to seem. Just check “The Touch Of Leonard Nimoy” album’s side 1 song credits:

http://www.maidenwine.com/lps_04.html

Just one of the many incongruities of the episode as supposedly the Platonians were forcing such performances from the Platonian’s own memories but how would visitors to an Earth of the Greek Civilization era come away with knowledge of old traditional English folk songs, “Alice in Wonderland”, or Shakespeare?

OK, somehow they hailed the Enterprise but if they’ve been listening to the Federation’s Intergalactic Subspace Radio Network and learned of such things, how is it they know absolutely nothing about basic antiseptics and antibiotics? For that matter, how was the result of their eugenics program less robust than Khan’s recuperative powers?

“Apparently he did put an end to their little trek through the stars.”
Hahahahaha! That was brilliant. Great article, too. Now I’ve finally heard those TOS lyrics put to music! A lot of great nods on here, and I appreciate your closing by giving my favorite Trek film the nod.

I’m curious, though- was Judgement Rights Deforest Kelley’s last performance as McCoy- or would that be the unreleased Secret of Vulcan Fury from circa 1996? I don’t know how far production got, but it sounded as if the voice cast had already recorded it… (of course, judgement Rights is certainly the last one you can HEAR, at present).

Great stuff TrekMovie!!

As for the Red Dwarf bit, NO WAY can you change the original for anyone. Sir Patrick is a well known fan of the Dwarfers, so I urge you all to check it out!

Additionally, on number 50, if you can find it, make sure you give The Motion Picture a second look with the Director’s Edition. Sadly, it isn’t on Blu-ray yet (ahem…YET….Paramount…are you listening?), but it is a huge improvement being that the film is actually finally FINISHED (it wasn’t when originally released). Give it a shot. The Director’s Edition made TMP my favorite Trek film.

Ditto.

Regarding number 5, no….no I absolutely would NOT want to see that. I do, in fact, loathe the concept.

Re 12: Other than Bashir and his parents, there was Assistant Chief Engineer Of The Week Lt. Singh, in an S1 episode of TNG: http://memory-beta.wikia.com/wiki/Singh_(engineer)

I think when Frakes said that ‘he wasn’t that good of an actor’ he might have been joking a little

Well, there’s some crossover between Mexican and Native American lineage. Beltran isn’t THAT far off. Not as far off as a Mexican playing a Sikh!

Great article, Jared.

Some comments…

Rod Stewart is actually not a co-author of “Faith of the Heart” — he just sang the original, which is a Diane Warren composition. The ENT remake, with some lyrical changes, was performed by Stewart sound-alike, English tenor Russell Watson.

Regarding the inspiration for the Borg, I’ve long assumed it was the Cybermen from Dr. Who. The two characterizations are extremely similar, far too similar to be accidental.

Regardless of his contributions, controversial Trek kingpin Rick Berman went on to fire Jones because his music was “too noticeable.” Yeah. Noticed by people who were giving him awards and buying his album.

Oh! Rick Berman, you jus’ got tried!

I’ve always thought those GR lyrics to the TOS theme seemed ridiculous on paper, but hearing them with the song really cements that impression. There’s not even a pretense that the lyrics are supposed to match up rhythmically with the melody. Even Mr. Washee Washee’s lyrics in Family Guy are more convincing: Su-luuuu, he star of the show… Other guyyyyys just along for the ride…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oe0yWRPaQs

Great piece!
I have been meaning to give Trek V a second chance recently but after reading this I might opt for TMP instead and crank it!

Beltran was “accused” of not being an American Indian back when the show was on the air. He simply told people to look at his face.

The vast majority of Mexicans are either partly or wholly Native American. Beltran is clearly one of them.

Fun list. For once, a list of 50 facts that isn’t riddled with myths and half-truths…

I agree about TMP, particularly the Director’s Edition. When the Director’s Edition first popped up, I picked up the DVD in a slightly ‘what the heck?’ way, thinking I might as well add it to my collection. I watched it on my 14″ mono CRT in my little bedroom in my shared flat and was blown away by it. If only that was the version originally released. I can’t believe we’re still waiting for a cleaned up, restored HD/UHD version of it. It’s a shame Star Trek’s handcuffed by a duff studio.

Dom,

Re:For once, a list of 50 facts that isn’t riddled with myths and half-truths

Really? Compare and contrast:

“After commissioning Alexander Courage to write the classic intro theme song, Roddenberry wrote lyrics to it so he could get 50% of the song’s royalties – without Courage’s consent or even knowledge.” — Jared Whitley

with:

http://startrekfactcheck.blogspot.com/2013/06/alexander-courages-marvelous-malarkey.html

” There wasn’t any rift, really, with Gene. What happened with Gene was a I got a phone call once…it was Gene’s lawyer, [Leonard] Maizlish. He said, ‘I’m calling you to tell you that since you signed a piece of paper back there saying that if Gene ever wrote a lyric to your theme that he would split your royalties on the theme.’

Gene and I weren’t enemies in any sort of way. It was just one of those things…I think it was Maizlish, probably, who put him up to doing it that way, and it’s a shame, because actually if he’d written a decent lyric we could have both made more money.” — Alexander Courage, Archive of American Television Interview (February 8, 2000)

That sounds like Mr Courage being diplomatic decades after the incident. Actually, there needs to be a film made about Leonard Maizlish; he sounds absolutely fascinating!

The article states: ‘In contrast to the usually perfect society the franchise had shown us thus far…’ Doctor Adams? Kodos? The TOS universe was far from perfect, even though it had good intentions. That’s why people embraced it. ‘the Federation’s diplomatic mission has completely failed’ ‘its ambassador there is a worthless drunk’ And Tasha Yar’s home colony was such a glowing success! There were clearly many diplomatic missions and attempts at founding colonies in TOS in particular, but it was clearly like throwing mud at a wall: some would stick, some would fall off. I actually rather liked some of the less conventional aspects of STV, seeing trashy bars running futuristic versions of The Price is Right on monitors. It’s a rare brush with planet bound civilian life that we rarely see in most Star Trek. ‘the flagship of the fleet barely works’ ‘capable bridge officers are cartoonishly incompetent’ That was disappointing and at the behest of Paramount who wanted more comedy. The Enterprise was hardly the flagship of the fleet anymore. It’s an old-fashioned Constitution-class ship, clearly superseded by the Excelsior class and probably others. ‘a brilliant doctor is incapable of curing, and therefore euthanizes, his own father’ There’s nothing wrong with that bit. It’s a devastating moment in McCoy’s tragic past. ‘NASA’s seminal Pioneer 10 is just target practice for Klingons’ Well, they were particularly yobbish Klingons. STV wasn’t necessarily so much about Shatner’s ego, but was a botched attempt at an epic that seemed to run out… Read more »

Dom – you’re right about “a good 45 minute episode buried away” in STV. The Jack Marshall edit that was floating around for a while is proof of that, IMO. He took out the whole half-brother story, a good amount of the forced comedy, tightened other scenes and even used some TOS soundtrack music. It played out as a decent Star Trek episode. With some remastered FX it would have been better, but viewed as a tv episode, rather than a feature film, it fares much better. Unfortunately, I don’t know if this edit can be found anymore.

Two major “did that really happen” TOS scenes: #1) McCoy slapping a pregnant woman back in “Friday’s Child” to care for the baby. Yes, he was acting as a Doctor. Yes the scene was apparently funny for my pregnant wife. Yes, it did stress equality of the sexes (slapping a man back wouldn’t be questioned). But man, does that just look wrong today! #2) Uhura in Bread in Circuses talking the “son of God”. Takes a couple seconds to realize that yes, it really did happen.

Incredible write-up – and you’re right about STTMP – not the best but far better than most say it is…ESPECIALLY Persis Khambatta (RIP) as Vyger (sorry but it had to be said)…

and TMP gifted the movie saga kirk’s midlife crisis and spock finally reconciling his human/vulcan nature.

i watched TMP on blu and the commentary kept mentioning how good the work done on the directer’s edition was!

I always thought Star Trek’s connection to the Twilight Zone was Shatner on a plane. (or in a restaurant) I was not aware of ‘The Encounter’ nor George’s part in it. Thank you. Quite powerful in it’s entirety I’m sure.

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