30 years ago today, on December 7th 1979 Star Trek leapt from the small to the big screen with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. All week long TrekMovie will be celebrating the anniversary, beginning today with a tribute by Free Enterprise producer Mark Altman, that looks at the film and its place in history.
TO HAVE BOLDLY GONE: AN APPRECIATION
The Beginning of 30 Years of Star Trek Movies
by Mark A. Altman
I come to praise Star Trek: The Motion Picture, not to bury it. Despite no less than Harlan Ellison decrying the film at the time as “The Motionless Picture,” Despite its reputation in some quarters as a lugubrious bore, it’s hard to imagine that Star Trek could have possibly lived long and prospered for another three decades had The Motion Picture not paved the way for what was to come (so, yes, you can blame it for Voyager and Enterprise too).
For those who’ve only seen the film on home video or were too young to experience the movie for the first time in theaters, it’s hard to appreciate the monumental important this film had on fans upon its release. Back in 1979, TV series simply didn’t make the jump to the big screen so for a series, once left for dead that was kept alive by likeminded individuals coming together in convention ballrooms and pouring over faded 16mm prints of the original episodes, hardly seemed like the architects of the greatest resurrection since Lazarus. But somehow Paramount got the message and after several false starts which included a low-budget film and subsequently a new TV series, the studio ended up bankrolling what would become at the time the second most expensive film of all-time next to Cleopatra, the epic film that nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox. Now admittedly, not all that money showed up on the screen. There was $10 million worth of effects from Robert Abel &
Company that were literally thrown away (and I could joke showed up in Star Trek V, but that’s not true, of course) as well as the development costs for the aborted series that was to spearhead the launch of a fourth TV network in the late 70s.
1978 newspaper report announcing TMP
That said, there was nothing about Star Trek: The Motion Picture that seemed small. A major feature film director at the helm, responsible for some of the most beloved films of all-time, Robert Wise, elaborate visual effects from the teams behind Star Wars, Close Encounters and 2001 and a stirring Jerry Goldsmith score, which to the best of my knowledge, may have been the last film to ever feature an Overture after the curtain opened, a staple of motion picture epics in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Beats the hell out of commercials for Fandango, that’s for sure.
But for me, it’s also about nostalgia. I had been counting the days, literally, till the films opening and rushed to the theater immediately after elementary school with a few of my best friends. In a true story that was literally immortalized in my film, Free Enterprise, I was not allowed to go into the theater, despite the fact that the film was rated G. Apparently the Georgetown Movie Theater in Brooklyn was having problems with noisy kids and wouldn’t let any children in under 17 after 4 PM. As if. I quickly recruited my mother, forcing her to take us to see the film, something she’s never forgiven me for to this day.
Now, in the cold light of day, it’s easy to see why people don’t love Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it’s a virtual remake of the episode “The Changeling” with the NOMAD probe that confuses Kirk as its creator, and has a glacial pace that today’s movie viewers are not accustomed to, especially watching it on television, and in the aftermath of The Wrath of Khan. But the fact is, in many ways, ST:TMP is a magnificent film. Spock faces his own humanity in a much more organic and real way than in a more recent Star Trek movie, Kirk has to come to terms with losing his ship and doing anything to reclaim his first best destiny and McCoy is just a hoot throughout. The redesign of all the ships, not just the Enterprise, have never been topped and the visual effects are quite simply awe-inspiring (take that, CGI). Although greenlit in the aftermath of Star Wars, ST: TMP owes far more of a thematic debt to 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sense of awe of the cosmos than Star Wars. And maybe that’s the key analogy. If you look at this year’s enjoyable re-invention and relaunch of the franchise, it’s a fast-paced, popcorn movie which bears the imprimatur of Star Wars far more than the Star Trek TV series, which makes sense, of course, if you’re trying to engage a new and younger audience for the franchise.
TMP, more 2001 than Star Wars
ST: TMP on the other hand, the last film in which Gene Roddenberry was allowed to be actively involved, has other things on its mind; combining its brand of pop humanism with the awe, majesty and danger of the unknown. But for the kid sitting in the theater in 1979, none of that mattered. Much like 1978s Superman, which is completely entrancing until after the helicopter rescue and then sort of falls off a cliff, ST: TMP is a rapturous tribute to Trekdom through Mr. Spock’s arrival…and then sort of falls of a cliff too. It’s easy to lose sight of what it was like the in the wake of the subsequent films and TV series, but seeing Starfleet Academy and Earth for the first time in the 23rd century was a giddy experience. The magnificent opening in which three Klingon ships are consumed by V’ger to the strains of Goldsmith’s brilliant Klingon Battle Theme stuck with you for weeks and, of course, the long, slow, lingering orgasmic glee on Kirk’s face as he, and the audience, admired the Enterprise in drydock for what seemed like forever. What seems interminable today on home video for was at the time the encapsulation of everything we felt about Star Trek and the amazement we had at seeing it back on the big screen and Andy Probert and Mike Minor’s redesign of the ship has never come close to being equaled. And in case of supreme irony, ST: TMP actually has the same ending as a James Bond movie. WTF? The same time, Moonraker, was released in which Roger Moore’s 007 goes into space and has destroy earth-imperiling globes that are going to annihilate all life on Earth, much like V’ger’s. Who woulda thunk it? (And if Trek was too heady for you at the time, you could ease on down the road to a nearby theater where The Black Hole was unspooling and watch Disney’s attempt to do Star Wars by sending Maximilian Schell to hell through a black hole. Or at least that’s what it appeared to be. I was too upset over the death of Slim
Pickens’ Old Bob to care at that point. And, yes, I’m kidding…sorta).
Robert Wise, Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley and Leonard Nimoy on the set
A few years back, a group of intrepid filmmakers worked with the late Robert Wise to try and salvage the film by doing a definitive director’s cut. It’s a wonderful curiosity and adeptly realized with some superb new visual effects. However, they weren’t able to physically go in and re-edit much of the film which is ultimately ST: TMP failing. Much like Godfather III, years later, Paramount had to make a release date, in this case, the ill-advised December 7th, 1979 opening. As a result, the film was literally edited with black slugs where the special effects would go, Jerry Goldsmith was literally sleeping on a cot on the music scoring stage and there was no time to test screen the film, let alone fine tune it. As a result, the pacing is completely off. Scenes which should have remained in the film were excised (some ham-handedly restored in the ABC TV airing a few years later) and, most notably, the endless flybys of V’ger remained in as the final visuals were dropped into the negative as the earlier reels were being printed for its massive, wide release. This is not the way to make a movie.
Now I wouldn’t go as far as saying Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a flawed masterpiece, it’s not, but it is the one film in the entire series, other than Star Trek (2009), that has a real cinematic scope to it and doesn’t feel like TV writ large. Even Khan, arguably the best of the series, was produced on a TV budget and, at times, looks that way through no fault of Nick Meyer. Fortunately, it’s crisp writing and clever plotting makes up for its deficiencies, of which there are many. And with its awesome cosmic vistas, cargo bays, massive engineering section (thankfully, not filmed at or near a brewery), galaxy spanning action, walking down the primary hull to the center of V’ger, the sumptuous Spock spacewalk, and expansive rec deck sequence, ST: TMP has an enormity of scale that befits its rather pretentious title, The Motion Picture. At the time, many of the film’s performances were savaged by critics, but Shatner, Nimoy and, particularly De Kelley all deliver nuanced versions of their familiar iconic TV characters. Shatner’s Kirk is pissed off and pissy over where his career has landed him, Nimoy’s Spock is seeking answers which he actually finds in the film and De Kelley’s McCoy provides the unbridled id that has made this character the ever-reliable glue of the entire series.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture may not be Star Trek’s crowning moment, but without it, and its indisputable financial, if not critical success, it’s hard to argue that the future of Trek would have played out very differently without it and for that, fans and detractors, of the film can all be grateful. It wasn’t until this year’s Star Trek relaunch that Paramount ever risked the kind of serious coin they did on Star Trek: The Motion Picture on the Trek franchise, but more importantly, it paved the way for the many TV to movie transitions that were to come. So for Charlie’s Angels, McHale’s Navy and The Flintstones among others, you can blame ST: TMP for that too.
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" began Trek’s human adventure on film
Mark A. Altman is a writer/producer in Hollywood whose films include the homage to Star Trek, Free Enterprise, as well as many other film and TV series including DOA: Dead Or Alive, Castle and the upcoming remake of My Tutor. His new comic book, The Unknowns, is on sale now at comic book stores everywhere. www.theunknowns.com.
Even though I wasn’t born at the time, I managed to see it on the big screen a couple of years ago. It might not be the best Star Trek picture, but it belongs on the silver screen more than any other ST movie, including ST’09. Up there, it feels like a totally different movie compared to the VHS/DVD/TV airing. I wonder what it must have been like seeing it for the first time on that big screen.
Couldn’t have put it better myself. What a great tribute to a film that for all its faults is at times brilliant, and usually underrated.
I remember seeing it on the day it was released here in the UK.
It was a huge rush to see the crew on the silver screen and the Enterprise.
Ok in hindsight it was to long and to dull – but I still loved it!
I saw it a the London Premier aged 17, went on my own…so memorable. The highest watermark ever for space VFX photography and model making without question. The E has never looked better and sadly looks like she never will. Also I think the most futuristic vision of Trek we are ever likely to see…it really did feel at the time as though it was truly a vision of our future, of mankind. Again that’s something we are not likely to ever experience again – I didn’t much care for the new film’s contemporary industrial feel. Yes, there are clearly film making errors in the pacing and edit, but as that vision of the future it remains at the top.
While not the best, it wasn’t the worst. How I remember going to see this opening weekend and falling in love with the refit Enterprise, the score, and the acting. Yeah, the story was long and very uneven ( due to that last minute rush work ), yet it really does feel like something massive and epic that has increasingly disappeared from films over the years since.
Still, I’ll take this one any day over much of the mindless fodder that has inundated us of late.
I did see it the first time at the theatres–very good article-if u were a tos trek fan it was a long delayed dream cum true–I also remember hearing Ilias theme overture for the first time-beautiful-Goldsmiths commanding soaring music as the movie started-Trumball,Dykstra et al generally awesome effex-trek finally was back it was awesome epic and grandly cosmic finally–I nearly cried seeing the new Enterprise for the 1st time-the reintroduction of our beloved characters was incredible-I remember expecting more from Robert Wises direction wishing it was Spielberg instead haha–but overall one of the few best movie openings of my life-i saw it at least 4-5 times in theatres–the ending especially cosmic–the human adventure was just beginning-salute to all involved-thanx for the rememberances–The black hole also had a great pre movie overture–i also admit to enjoying the black hole too–such wonderful spaceship designs-between the cygnus n enterprise the two most original space ship designs-yup except for jjs trek only tmp seemed epic in scope-flaws n all-2001 was a good comparison-both movies lose a lot by watching on the small screen–all those Pearl Harbor days ago-wow i feel old-except for sneakpreviews of et(a religous experience 6 months before it came out) and back to the future-(wow)-tmp is one of my fave movie going experiences-as was trek 2008 this year! Go Trek!
haha opps 2009 no i didnt see it a year earlier than everyone else really-just ask orci prime–damn typos
Ah, those were the days… long before DVD, VCR and whatever else is out there now. I saw that movie 17 times in the theater — once I even went to back-to-back showings. I still get chills listening to the music from the travel pod docking scene. I wish the franchise well in the future, but as far as I’m concerned it will never be the same again.
Also today dragged a Vizio 32 inch 1080 hi def tv home from walmart today to go with my playstation 3 n bluray star trek 2009 to watch it in hi def in me bedroom for the 1st time-wowsers! it was worth the wait-then i watched the closing of the experience in hi def from the trek evolutions disc in the blu ray tng collection-teared up watchin April receive the federation flag n watchin the last day interviews again-thst was beautifully shot n u can see how beautiful the whole design of the attraction was-pure genius-the hi def footage really has to be seen to be appreciated-
Hey Altman! Some of us LIKED Enterprise.
Still remember how excited I was… and how great it was to see the gang with a (relatively) big budget.
If nothing else, it had the best depictions of Klingons ever. Aggressive, dark and very thematic.
A toast to The Motion Picture. And a bow in hopes that Robert Wise’s Director’s Cut will soon see the light of High Definition.
10. Yup. Another pop at ENT. I love TMP but I’ll try not to hold Star Trek 2009 against it…
Ah, TMP. My favorite Trek movie. A timeless SF classic.
After watching it for the first time (and several times thereafter) on VHS tape in the 80s, it was a breathtaking experience when I first watched it in a movie theater in 1993.
I remember as a 15 year old kid seeing those three huge battlecruisers approach me for the first time with JG’s musical accompaniment. They just got larger and larger, and then we pass over them, see intense hull detail, and then watch them move away toward V’ger. That was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life.
I love TMP and hate the criticism it got over supposed lack of characterization.
BTW does anyone remember being suprised by the ending when they first saw it?
A nice tribute. But I’m in the category that just doesn’t like this movie. To me, it’s just unwatchable, save for a few scenes that actually show the characters as they were. I also disagree that all the other movies were TV episodes on the big screen. You can say that about the TNG films, but not Star Treks II-IV and Star Trek 6. Maybe if you take the three movies as one story, it might have that TV episode feel, but not individually. Star Trek II really touched on the fact that like the actors themselves, the characters have aged. Kirk’s glasses, Spock’s death–stuff you don’t see on an episode of TOS. And yes, Kirk’s glasses were a perfect symbol that the character is getting older. But despite that age, he’s still Kirk. Still a tactical genius. Still capable of pulling off that miracle.
Trek III was a great story of how these people will do anything, even sacrifice their careers and risk their lives, to help a friend.
And Trek IV saw just how valuable these people were to the Federation themselves, as only the greatest crew ever could save Earth.
I love TMP. And I’ve only seen a crappy old VHS of it.
I agree with just about everything you wrote. One big exception: I thought it was a massive mistake to show Earth and Starfleet Academy. TOS was always way out in deep space, and the fact that our crew was so far removed from the rest of humanity and had to rely on their own wits (and available technology) made TOS special for me.
Sadly (for me, anyway) Star Trek has lost that special essence. Still love it though : )
Nothing wrong with TV writ large in my view. Too many Star Trek films reach exceeded their grasp. Characterisation suffers when too many money-shots are thrown into the mix, for the sake of being epic.
Although I can’t deny had JJ Abrams brought to life, the origin story I thought he might when I first saw that 2006 teaser poster – “Star Trek Begins”, something epic and cinematic that fit into the Prime Universe continuity… ditching Nero, time travel & alternate realities… not rewriting Kirk’s backstory, that may well have disproved the rule.
I don’t care what anyone else say’s, I love this film.
My Dad took me to see it for my 8th Birthday, having loved the series in re-runs.
The whole atmosphere in the audience was electric – even for an 8 year old to feel.
In the days before internet spoilers I was truly unaware of what was before me.
I recall the absolute shock and delight (for an 8 yr old) at the fact the bridge now has 2 turbolifts, The other new sets and effects.
It was an experience i will always remember positively and probably cemented my love of Trek
ST:TMP was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater back in December of 1979. It is still one of my favorite Trek movies and other than the 2009 entry probably the only one that can be categorized as a “major motion picture.”
While the movie had its long stretches, it was a visual feast for the eyes with production design and art direction that have have never again been approached, let alone matched, in a Trek movie. It was also truer to Roddenberry’s vision of the future than most of the movies that came after it, adhering to his themes of optimism and trying to find non-violent solutions to the problem at hand.
Robert Wise’s director’s edition really smoothed out the rough edges and was clearly the definitive version of the film; now if only Paramount would see fit to have those special edition effect re-rendered at 1080p and release a proper BluRay version I think they’d make a lot of Trekkies very happy.
I was there on opening day, first in line for the first evening show. I was also buying tickets for a large group of people with me. It was fun to go up to the box office window (this is in the days prior to Fandango, etc.) and say “Thirty tickets, please.” As the machine spat out the tickets, I passed them on to another person in our group who distributed them to people in our party.
When the movie began, nothing could beat that fly-around of the Enterprise. And, when Kirk said “Take us out.” I felt as if it was the power of millions of Trek fans that moved NCC-1701 out of dry dock. Awesome!
Interesting how the color of the bridge in ST09 is identical to the TMP one. BTW the Kelvin bridge and design was much cooler looking than the white shiny one.
‘…[I]ts awesome cosmic vistas, cargo bays, massive engineering section (thankfully, not filmed at or near a brewery.’
Please take note, JJ and co. All the sets and ships in TMP were beautiful. And so too was the imagery: that shot of the Enterprise with the JJ esq flare, for example, is stunning. More such visuals in Star Trek 12, please, to capture the majesty and beauty of space. Space is important to humanity, whether for religious, scientific, or mystical reasons. To capture this importance, let’s see some jaw-dropping visuals, by which I don’t just mean lots of special effects. Let the audience appreciate the beauty, majesty, and mystery of space. Then they will value the adventure more. This can be done with a few images and some short beats of spine-tingling music; it doesn’t have to, and I think shouldn’t, be the foundation of the film a la 2001 etc.
More or less agree with everything ( btw , met you in Cannes the year you came with Free Enterprise , Mr Altman . Still have a signed pic…)
Except I’m still pissed with the atrociously looooooooong editing of the movie . Even the ‘ new enhanced version ‘ doesn’t hold a candle in front of the frenetic Khan or Undiscovered country .
This film is simply too long . A two-partners would have been great .
Anyway I guess my point of view will seem inocuous enough , coming from one of the very few country which always resisted Trek mania ( I discover myself ST TOS through Tele-Monte -Carlo viewings , then NOT a French channel ! )
Oh I remember those giddy teen-aged days when this came out, there was so many cool movies out at the time and the future was bright!
Happy Anniversary Star Trek TMP!
Also this movie was made by a 5 time Oscar winner, just for that alone you cannot you write this movie off, unlike say Star Trek V.
The pace is what killed this film for me. Very boring but not because of the story so much. Unlike Nemesis which was completely unbearable.
I think if they reduced the film length it could be re released as the 30th anniversary and make a few dollars now.
I saw this movie when I was 19 – waited in line in cold (for Texas) temperatures for almost two hours to get a ticket. I remember feeling … unfulfilled when the movie ended. Yeah, it was good, but was it great? The SFX were awesome (although I was not a fan of the Enterprise refit at the time), and the music was great (especially the little nod to Alexander Courage in some of the cues – but where was the [what I call] Enterprise fanfare? Da – da Da – – da da da da Da – – – – Da DAAAAAA). Story-wise: Yeah, it did feel a lot like a re-hash, but in retrospect, it may have been more of an expansion on the “Changeling” story, and for sure there are a number of similarities. But it did feel “off” somehow.
Now, having viewed the “Director’s Cut” numerous times, I can see little nuances I never saw before – like Kirk drumming his fingers on the arm of the center seat just before giving the order to “take her out.” You could tell he was nervous, and that’s not a quality one would expect in Kirk. But you had to look really hard to see it. Sometimes I think Shatner’s performances were a little too nuanced. But there were others, like Uhura’s voice cracking as the Enterprise was under attack by V’ger, that possibly were not noticed at the time. I think some of the performances were underrated by critics who saw it as just an escapist TV show brought to the big screen (and these are people who think “Hairspray” or “Mamma Mia” are works of art).
I’d love to see the Director’s Cut on the big screen at some point, but I’d be happy just seeing it on a 52″ HD plasma with an upconverting DVD player (‘cuz it’s probably a foregone conclusion you’ll never see this version of the movie on Blu-Ray, even though the original is out there).
I was twenty-two years old and had been a trekkie (yes, trekkie) since the original broadcasts. After years of rumors of a return of Star Trek to television, the announcement of TMP was like a nuclear explosion not only to trekkie/trekkers and sci-fi fans but in the wider world of entertainment as well. I’d always been outspoken about my love of the show but now closeted trekkies were coming out of the woodwork everywhere! I was gleeful and a little smug (having been of the vanguard, as it were).
Because of my work schedule I wasn’t able see it for two days after the premier and the reviews I’d heard and read were not favorable. But I held out hope that they just didn’t ‘get it’. After all 2001 was my favorite science fiction movie and most people could not appreciate that one – too abstruse, obtuse and slow-paced for the average film goer…too much thinking required.
Well for me TMP turned out to be a great and glorious disappointment that I still love to this day. “Do I contradict myself? Very well…”
As much as I love ST2009 I hope the next film will give us a little more thoughtfulness (in the pure sense of that word) and find a balance of the slam-bam and the intellectual.
“…I contain multitudes.”
Call me crazy.
I just love the Enterprise in this movie anytime I see Kirk’s inspection scene a tear nearly drops from my eye as I breath in the awesomeness of the ship. It’ll never look better, excellent work by the effects people.
Let us not forget, ST:TMP was also the subject of the first-ever McDonald’s Happy Meals! How I wish I’d saved those boxes…
Great movie, I’ve loved it since I saw it on release night in the theater as a 10-year old kid.
I first saw TMP when I was 6… and fell asleep about 40 mins in! I’ve come to love the movie and feel that for all its faults it captures something of the awe and wonder (and mystery) of space exploration. Trek is many things to many people… that it can be that is a wonderful thing and all its forms should be celebrated. An era ended when Roddenberry couldn’t directly influence the movies and I find it interesting that the franchise now has such a legacy that its possible to follow stylistic and narrative changes in attitude to the basic concept over 40 years! Great article and great website. thanks!
The shot where the enterprise is fully revealed for the first time still gives me chills. I’ve never seen it in theaters. I have seen it on blu-ray on my 24″ monitor. I would also totally buy it again if paramount re-releases the 2001 version (with truly 1080p sfx) on blu-ray. Heres hoping.
In my opinion its the 2nd half of the movie that doesn’t work for whatever reason. The first half is truely epic. I didn’t know the movie was never truely finished until i heard about the 2001 version. Then it all made since for the first time.
Excellent retro-review and really a very engrossing film to watch (and I hate to say this), as one gets older. When it came out I was 13 and found it good-looking, but boring as all hell honestly – now, at 43, I find it pretty damn impressive on all levels. The plot is a little thin, but watching it on HD, especially, is almost awe-inspiring.
One guy’s opinion.
I first saw CLOSE ENCOUNTERS at the Georgetown. (I saw TMP at the Oceana). Like most Brooklyn theaters, it no longer exists :(
So I’m an oddity, I’m a young Trekker who was born after TMP but who loves everything TOS. I’ve always wished Phase II was a reality just so there would be more episodes with the original crew. However, I’ve often heard Spock would of been replaced by Xon, who was killed in TMP and that Capt. Kirk would of left after the first season and been replaced by Decker.
Are any of those true and does anyone wish Phase II had happened?
The very best the Star Trek movies. It respects the ability of the audience to sit back, relax, and enjoy a good sci-fi yarn..
“The Human Adventure is Just Beginning” ranks up there with Bebop’s “Are You Living In The Real World?”
simple, moving, poignant
It’s an interesting film and, like Khan, a damn sinister one at times. When I watched the Director’s Edition, I finally appreciated it. The KSM relationship was warmer and better handled than in the earlier versions, the new sound mix more Trek-like and the new FX better suited to the film.
I absolutely LOVE TMP, so this is a really nice, touching, relevant review for me. Honestly, depending on which I have watched most recently, TMP and TWOK vie for the top spot on my favorite Trek movie list. I think this movie is epic, cerebral, and really explores the characters of Kirk and Spock in a way that none of the other films do.
It always makes me sad that Leonard Nimoy did not have a good experience making this film, because I think it was EXTREMELY important to the Spock character. Spock is not as we know him in this film. He is colder, more distant, employing more control than ever to keep himself from connecting with the emotional humans around him. After watching his disappointment in his failure to reach kohlinar, actually seeing the cogs spinning nearly out of control after finding Kirk on the bridge of the Enterprise, and his obvious discomfort at being confronted by all his old shipmates at once… for me, there is a very physical feeling of relief when Spock raises his eyebrow at McCoy’s sarcasm for the first time. It was the first inkling that maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay between these three, and especially between Spock and the disappointed and hurt Kirk.
There is so much going on in this film, that it always makes me sad when people say they don’t like the film. I can understand their objections, to be sure… but it still makes me sad.
This is one movie I would kill to see on the big screen, because it truly deserves to be seen that way. As a masterpiece, a piece of art on a galactic scale. And I love it.
#18—“I’m in the category that just doesn’t like this movie. To me, it’s just unwatchable, save for a few scenes that actually show the characters as they were.”
That’s one criticism of TMP that I have just never really understood. The characters were not supposed to be portrayed “as they were”. They were supposed to be portrayed as they are 2.5 years later, having been apart from one another in that time as they pursued rather unfulfilling paths of life in opposite directions. They are supposed to be stiff and uncomfortable—-that is, until they each, like V’Ger, find what it is they seek…I thought Wise’s direction and the performances of Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley brought to the story precisely what was called for.
For my money, TMP has always been grossly underrated, and it remains one of four Star Trek films which I consider great (each in different ways)—-TWOK, TVH, and ST09 being the other three.
Perhaps the most underappreciated aspect of TMP is its effect going forward upon the character of Spock, whom few would argue is one of the most iconic characters in American television/film history. It is, after all, Spock’s encounter with V’Ger and his subsequent moment of clarity which finally (save for a brief time following his rebirth) allows him to become comfortable in his own half-human skin—-once and for all embracing his individuality instead of pretending to be something he never was…The character is, following that turning point in his life, never the same again.
While, as a child (seeing TMP for the first time in the wake of the Star Wars phenomenon), I was disappointed and bored with its pace, I have found it to be one of the better Star Trek films ever produced.
What a shame 30 years has been replaced with the Star Warsian trite called star trek in 2009.
Some people will never get it….
A friend and I saw TMP on opening night. The theater was packed. The crowd applauded and laughed in all the right places. It was a fun experience.
When we had time to digest the film, we acknowledged there were problems with it, but none of that really mattered. It was Star Trek, and it was a great, big, gigantic movie, and we were happy that Trek was finally back.
Looking back, I have always had a soft spot for this film… especially since the Director’s Cut did make some improvements. It is still one of my favorite Trek films. I shudder to think what this film might have looked like had it been in the hands of someone less capable that Robert Wise, who, apparently, made the best of what he had to work with, and in the time he had to do it. But there is no doubt that it is Star Trek. And I, too, am hoping there will be a blu-ray release of the TMP Director’s Cut. Why Paramount didn’t just release one in the first place tells me they are either stupid (probably not), or just want to make another buck (probably).
My greater disappointment is that William Shatner was never allowed to do a Director’s Cut/upgrade of TFF, and I don’t think I’ll ever forgive Paramount for that one. I guess I’ll just have to make my own….
Some very good points made. However, I was not happy with the film. I have dubbed it the “bad vibes” film because no one seems to want to be there (or, if they do, for the wrong reasons). The fans were expecting a joyous reunion of the TOS characters and a great adventure. What they got was a plodding effects-driven story and an unhappy crew.
Some people? Are you referring to the many thousands of people who made Trek09 a box office/ dvd hit, and the many critics who liked it?
How can you simply dismiss the mass of Trekkies/moviegoers who liked this film simply on the basis of your disappointment? That seems rather egocentric, hmm?
Yup. I really want to see the Directors Edition on the big screen. It’s the closest thing we’ll get to what Robert Wise would have finished back in the 70’s. It’s a damn shame Paramount cheaped out and didn’t give it the wide release it deserved.
As I’ve said many times before…..I know I’m in the minority here but I strongly feel that STTMP is still the best of the lot. While the others films made for great entertainment, when viewed years later they don’t hold up as well as that initial film made 30 years ago. There are still many things that I marvel about in STTMP. All of which were greatly enhanced in Mr. Wise’s “Directors Edition”. Things like, an “adult” take on science fiction, the superior special effects (particularly in the Directors Edition), and the awesome musical score. I remember being quite flabbergasted to hear Nicholas Meyer’s running commentary on the “Wrath of Khan” DVD when he pretty much said, “I could do better then that” when referring to STTMP. I mean come on, he’s a good to average director, but he’s no Master! Just take a look how the late great Mr. Wise staged his actors on the bridge. Often using over the shoulder shots that required special lenses to keep his trio of foreground and background actors all in focus. A very stylish and sophisticated approach if you ask me. My only wish is that they will someday release STTMP- The Directors Edition on Blu-ray.
I remember seeing it on opening day. I “trekked” into Manhattan to see the film in 70 mm at Loew’s State in Times Square; they ran the film in screens one and two. I went back two days later to see it at the local theater, and made seven trips altogether. Including one on the last day of its second-run, in March, 1980. There should be a 30th anniversary DVD, but if there’s not one by now, there never will be.
And, “The Black Hole” also had an overture. At least the print that played at the National Theater in Times Square did.