First Look: ‘Return to Tomorrow’ Book On Making Of Star Trek: TMP Coming This Fall


Just in time for the film’s 35th Anniversary, a new book detailing the production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is coming this fall, and TrekMovie has a first look at the details. Find out more and how you can pre-order below.

The Human Adventure begins again in upcoming TMP ‘Oral History’ Book

There was an enormous amount of anticipation leading up to the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in December 1979.  Fans had been clamoring for a new movie or show since The Original Series went off the air ten years earlier.  The film was a big-budget “event” picture that promised to take Star Trek to places that wouldn’t be possible on television.

What many moviegoers didn’t know at the time was that the production of the film was a troubled one.  Filming began before the script was finished, there were internal battles between Gene Roddenberry and writer Harold Livingston that saw multiple rewrites arrive on the set daily, and the company that was hired to do the visual effects had to be replaced late in production, causing a frantic rush to have the film ready for its release date.  All of those factors, as well as several others, resulted in a film that went wildly over budget and was viewed by some as being dull and boring.

And today TrekMovie has the first look at a newly announced book "Return to Tomorrow: The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture," from author Preston Neal Jones and publisher Creature Features. This "long-lost" 672-page book will provide an oral history of the film compiled from interviews with 60 of the film’s cast and creators, conducted as The Motion Picture was being prepared for release.

Cover for new book – based on original painting by Roger Stine intended for
Cinefantastique (courtesy the Daren R. Dochterman Collection)

The interviews include William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and the entire cast, along with director Robert Wise and writer/producer (and creator of Star Trek) Gene Roddenberry. In addition there are dozens of additional interviews with visual effect artists, illustrators, model builders and technicians. According to a press release for the book "no aspect of the film’s creation is overlooked" and it also promises the "unvarnished, uncensored truth" of how the first Star Trek feature was created.

The source material for "Return to Tomorrow" was originally intended for publication by Cinefantastique magazine in 1979, and author Preston Neal Jones was given unparalleled access to the cast and crew of the film. However owing to the late completion of the film and ambitious scope of the manuscript, it was never published—until now. According to the publisher, the entire manuscript has been "laboriously fact-checked" for release in book form.

Strictly limited to 1,000 copies, the mammoth trade paperback is  priced at $29.95 and available for pre-order now at "Return to Tomorrow" will ship in October. The first 100 copies will come hand-signed by the author

Back cover

About the Author (via Publisher press release):

Preston Neal Jones’ first excursion into cinematic oral history, “James Whale Remem- bered,” appeared in Forrest J Ackerman’s original Famous Monsters of Filmland. His first book, Heaven and Hell to Play With: The Filming of The Night of the Hunter, was hailed as one of the finest works of its kind and earned the Rondo Award for Book of the Year from the Classic Horror Film Board. Jones’ other writings have appeared in periodicals as disparate as Cinefantastique and American Art Review. Active in the film/TV industry, he has served variously as creative advertising executive, script analyst and production assistant; introduced film screenings at American Cinematheque and the Los Angeles Film School; and contributed entries to Groves’ New Dictionary of Music and Musicians and The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Jones’ liner notes

TrekMovie will have a full review of this intriguing release when it gets published.


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I love this! Adds more to the lore of Star Trek. I always find it so interesting that every movie has some sort of troubled backstory…and I love reading about it!

Paperback only? Pass. Word to the wise: in an age of digital publishing, I’m not going to shell out money for softcover books anymore. If it’s worth owning as a book, it’s worth owning as a hardcover.

Why “strictly limited” to 1,000 copies? What sort of business venture would turn down a chance to sell, oh, maybe 2,500 copies?

Artificial scarcity designed to justify the price tag?

Interested, but lame distribution model. I remember very fondly reading Walter Koenig’s book (Chekov’s Enterprise) and Susan Sackett’s “The Making Of…” book. This would be a neat companion.

Kind of scratching my head over the ‘strictly limited’ thing, too. But I pounced on LaLa Land Records’ release of the remastered original movie soundtrack and extras. That was an excellent decision. The whole run sold out within weeks.

I went ahead and pre-ordered a copy, because that movie was a huge thing for me back then. I was still in high school when they started talking about it, and I remember poring over newspaper microfiches in the library (this was before the Internet, y’all) to find articles about it. Then, I was in USAF basic training when it came out.

If you haven’t yet done so, get hold of the DIrectors Cut of ST:TMP. It was the movie that Wise wanted to deliver, had Paramount given him a chance and two more weeks. The story arcs are more refined, the editing tighter, the SFX finished, and it makes a lot more sense.

Back in the day, Cinefantastique strung their loyal subscribers and readers out for at least two or three years promising this story and showing a blurry photo of the Big E model on subscription renewal forms.

I’ll buy this to finally read it and see if any decent model photos turn up in it. And for closure. I was 24 when the film hit theaters.

I agree with Sunfell’s post above: Watch the ST: TMP Director’s Cut DVD. The added (and completed to the original concept) digital FX by Darren Dochterman match the film’s color and grain. They blend in seamlessly. The full view scene of V’ger the spaceship moving in a nice perspective shot is a great addition also.

Robert Wise deserved this chance to complete his ST film.

I have all the Trek movie Cinefantastiques – Star Trek II/Blade Runner issue, II/III/IV trilogy issue, VI issue, (there wasnt one for V), also Generations, FC, Insurrection but then CFQ ended before Nemesis? Anyway this book sounds like it will be similar to ‘Charting the Undiscovered Country: The Making of Trek VI’ by Ed Gross/Mark Altman which was based on the superb Trek VI Cinefantastique issue and is one of the best Trek books IMO (along with The Making of the Trek Films book..but which was obviously lacking in TMP section)

I’d really rather it as an eBook, but I’ll go for it.

FWIW, the Director’s Cut of TMP is available at iTunes now.

i thought this book sounded familiar and was sure id read about it somewhere before. heres an extract from the intro for The Making of the Trek Films (1992 edition):

“One point should be made regarding coverage of Star Trek TMP. That $44m effort was so complicated, its tumultuous history so multi layered that it required three volumes to tell the entire story. For that reason its coverage in these pages is minimal. Rather than a narrative history, it is presented in the form of individual interviews, including a ever before published conversation with Gene Roddeneberry.Those interested in knowing the complete saga of the first Trek movie should look for Preston Neal Jones’ three volume set RETURN TO TOMMOROW: THE FILMING OF STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE. It is the absolute final word on the subject proving that fact is indeed more startling than fiction.”

what is all this business of wishing it was an ebook? whats wrong with reading a proper book?

A must-have for me!! :-) I like real books — something I can hold in my hands with pages. E-books just don’t cut it with me.

I love ST:TMP and am always interested to find out more about the making of the film.

Unfortunately, the distribution model here gives me pause. I’ve never heard of this CreatureFeatures company and don’t like giving out credit card info to unknown companies. The “strictly limited” 1000 copies thing is also weird.

If this sees the light of day on then I’m in but as it is now it is, sadly, I must pass as well.

more on the lost TMP Cinefantastique and this book here:

$25 for shipping to Canada… no thanks… unfortunately :-(

Fastest 36 bucks I’ve ever spent. Have been waiting to read this since it was first announced as a CFQ double issue.

As a TMP fan, I just had to have this book. Like @kmart, fastest 36 bucks I’ve ever spent.

This is Lukas Kendall, some of you may remember me from the recent Star Trek CD soundtracks I produced or co-produced including the 15CD TOS box set. I helped Preston Neal Jones resurrect his ST:TMP manuscript and prepare it for publication. It’s an amazing read, like opening a time capsule from another era. I won’t comment on some of the questions about the price point or format here (because we honestly don’t know, at this time, the publication plans beyond this first edition) except to say that the specialty book business isn’t what it was and we had to go with what made fiscal sense. However, I do want to assure TonyD (#12) that Creature Features is a real business that’s been around for decades and I will personally vouch for the safety of everyone’s credit cards! I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone how they should or should not spend their money, but please—you don’t have to speculate about whether or not you’ll get your book! Thanks! Lukas

This this has a lot of interesting information on Star Trek TMP. Behind the scenes info like “Star Trek Planets of the Titans” for the first movie

Lukas, short of finding a copy of the unused instrumental theme to LICENCE TO KILL by Clapton and Kamen and featuring Vic Flick, THIS has been the gold standard in terms of my when-is-it-coming? and I thank you for your part in this in advance. I corresponded with the author about this more than 10 years ago (we traded some stories about interacting with PocketBooks), but I never really thought it was going to see the light of day. Danke schon!


Beautiful ship in the illustration, above. Always had a special appreciation for the TMP Enterprise. The old girl never looked so good.

I’d like to go for this, but when the cost is virtually doubled for international shipping I can’t justify it. An book option would have made a sale for that reason.

Sorry that should say “e-book option”

Also, looking at that cover, I’ve heard of big-screen TV’s, but I guess the 23d Century kind takes the cake.

@22 have to wait for amazon/ebay?

Great! Unfortunately, these people fail to realize that not every Trek fan has an extra $30 on hand to throw at a BOOK. And a PAPERBACK one at that. Ridiculously overpriced for a paperback.

How about a Kindle edition? I’d buy that in a heartbeat…for substantially LESS.

I don’t know the author so him signing it doesn’t matter diddly to me.

Lukas Kendall, off-topic a bit, but I was wondering whether the box set of TOS soundtracks would ever be available as separate CDs and/or digital downloads. I’d love to own them, but as a retiree it’s difficult for me to justify the $200+ cost all at once. I’d love to buy them over time.


I’d probably get this if it was cheaper and in kindle format. $30 for a paperback is a bit much.

Um, Hey Guyz, it’s $30 for a “trade” paperback, which means its going to be oversized and printed on a high quality paper. This is not a paperback novel paperback.

As far as shipping goes , I produce educational videos/DVDs here in the US and shipping prices have gone us dramatically in the last year. It can very easily cost me between $8-$10 to send a DVD to Canada. So the international shipping charge for a heavy, oversized paperback while steep is not too outrageous.

And yes, I bought one. I can still remember going to see it, I was 14 years old and while it was a slog in patches I loved it! Star Trek was on the big screen and I fell in love with the Enterprise all over again.

For me, a must read.

I really enjoyed the Susan Sackett “Making of TMP” book, from around the time of its release. That book, and Stephen Whitfield’s “Making of Star Trek,” made me want to be a TV producer.

How a mere book can offer more insight

then the film itself is anyone’s guess. If

it’s that good then why put it on pages?

Update it – cut off the bs (fat) and transfer

it (the story) to film. It won’t happen because

like the film…my guess is that the book is all BS.

#32. South Shore Of Lake Superior – July 20, 2014

It’s rare that any filmed entertainment tears down the fourth wall and shows what’s going on behind the sets; let alone behind the camera itself, and TMP most definitely is NOT one of those films.

Not sure how your observation about filmed fiction being BS is supposed support your non sequitur that the book is all same because you prejudicially believe it will never be filmed as a documentary?

For me, FINAL CUT is great as a book about the making of HEAVEN’S GATE … I don’t need to SEE that Cimino was such an asshole that he actually blew up a horse with dynamite on camera, I just wish he’d gone to prison for it.

Few know this, but the book on the making of exorcist 2 is a phenonmenally good read that shows just how and why things go so wrong (the best ‘making of’ books are usually about troubled projects.)

Would love to read the discarded original version of ‘capt’s log/making of tff’ which was done by an outside writer but was too ‘warts&all’ and hastily replaced with the published version by Shat & kid. Then again, I do like to maintain some illusions about Shatner …

@17: Utterly Fantastic Job on the 15CD TOS box set Lukas.

Grabbed one….Been wanting to read this for years….1000 copies, huh? They can always print more if demand is high.

This will be a great companion to the exhaustively researched Cushman books on the three TOS seasons. In fact, I suspect the success of those books is what made the publication of this one possible.

@37 I suspect this will be better than the Cushman books. The Creature Feature’s site says, “The entire manuscript has been laboriously fact-checked…” something the Cushman books can’t claim.

I want this book as well; $30 for it seems a bargain. I subscribed to Cinefantastique in the early 80’s, assuming the “TMP” issue would be published within the timeframe of my subscription. I went so far as to call the Cinefantastique offices to find out when the “TMP” issue would be published. The man on the other end of the phone (I can’t remember whether or not it was publisher Frederick Clarke) told me that they received the manuscript from Preston Neal Jones, with a note attached saying that not a word was to be edited. He implied that it was impossible to honor that request. I’m glad it’s finally going to be published, especially since people involved with “TMP”, such as Robert Wise, Jerry Goldsmith, DeForest Kelley and James Doohan, have passed on.

39. Adam Bomb 1701

Oh, and someone by the name of ‘Roddenberry’ has also passed on. I believe that he had some affiliation with Star Trek and the movie. ; )

38. John Carter

Have YOU seen the manuscript??? Can you personally vouch for it’s accuracy?

41 – I haven’t, but I imagine that “fact-checked” line was included to differentiate this from Cushman’s works.

41, Thompson,

You’re digging yourself an increasingly disreputable position, given the number of obvious errors in the Cushman chronicles and your unceasing support for him. Now I’m kinda wondering if you’re the poster who kept turning up in those trekbbs threads, too.

And it is not on Carter or anyone else to vouch for anything in advance, but … given that the TMP author is a writer of no small repute who has also produced a definitive tome on one of the great unsung films of mid20thcentury with his NIGHT OF THE HUNTER volume, the burden of proof on judging his journalistic accuracy isn’t something you can tar with any number of speculative feathers pre-release.

I just looked you up, and found you have dismissed the Engel book on GR on grounds of bias. THAT tells me you’re something of a Roddenberry apologist. For me, somebody who thinks Gene Coon, more than ANYbody else, is most responsible for TREK lasting long enough to become a phenomena, that speaks volumes about your fannishness (and I mean that in the cruelest way possible.) It’s like film fans who buy into the auteur theory, that if you like somebody’s work a lot, then you have to support ALL of it as genius, even the crap, which means you have suspended critical faculties to avoid actually considering each case on its own merits.

Ordered!! Can’t wait to read it!!!

How about a wrath of khan book???


Talk to Allan Asheman, maybe he has leftover stuff from his MOST2?

Question: Does this book contain any photos? I see that the cover gets a special mention, but I do not read anything about interior images?

I just ordered the season one Cushman book. Did I make a mistake?

Helo, everybody.

I wasn’t planning to kibitz on your fascinating conversation, but at this point there are a couple of questions on which perhaps I can shed some light. After Fred Clarke promoted the special ST-TMP Double Issue so heavily, including once as an enticement to potential subscribers, I was as surprised as anybody else when he never published it. Over the years, I would ask him about it, and occasionally he’d make noises about finally printing it in some form or other on this or that anniversary, but of course be never did, for reasons then as now known but to him and God.

I don’t know who picked up the phone in Oak Park that day you called to inquire about the matter, nor whether or not he was trying to imply a rationale for never publishing the issue, but FWIW I can assure you that no one at CFQ ever told me they wouldn’t publish it, let alone gave me an explanation why they wouldn’t.. It’s impossible to know whether that gentleman was misleading you or whether after all these years you’re slightly misremembering his exact words, which would certainly be understandable, but I never took the position that the ms. was not to be edited in any way. What I did do was submit my work with the proviso that any CHANGES could only be made WITH MY PERMISSION. This precaution was made necessary by Fred’s penchant for making changes without consulting the author. I had attached the same note to the text of my CFQ cover story on composer Hans J. Salter, and Fred was happy to abide by it, and published the piece intact.

In answer to another question posed above, our book, being an un-official Trek volume, will not be able to carry any photos. It is because of its un-official status, however, that we are free to present an unexpurgated history of ST-TMP’s creation, one which we hope will stimulate and inspire many memorable images in the reader’s mind’s eye.

Establishing that whatever problems TMP had, it didn’t all stem from Roddenberry, as noted in Stephen King’s DANSE MACABRE, page 396, footnote:

quote OCR rendered as:

“Paramount had been trying to get a ‘Star Trek’ film in work for some time. Roddenberry was determined that his name would be on the writing credits somehow…the trouble is, he can’t write for sour owl poop. His one idea, done six or seven times in the series and again in the feature film, is that the crew of the ‘Enterprise’ goes into deepest space, finds God, and God turns out to be insane, or a child, or both. I’d been called in twice, prior to 1975, to discuss the story. Other writers had also been milked. Paramount couldn’t make up their minds and had even kicked Gene off the project a few times, until he brought in lawyers. Then the palace guard changed at Paramount and Diller and Eisner came over from ABC and brought a cadre of their…buddies. One of them was an ex-set designer…named Mark Trabulus.

“Roddenberry suggested me as the scenarist for the film with this Trabulus, the latest…of the know-nothing duds Paramount had assigned to the troublesome project. I had a talk with Gene…about a storyline. He told me they kept wanting bigger and bigger storylines and no matter what was suggested, it wasn’t big enough. I devised a storyline and Gene liked it, and set up a meeting with Trabulus for 11 December (1975). That meeting was cancelled…but we finally got together on 15 December. It was just Gene and Trabulus and me in Gene’s office on the Paramount lot.

“I told them the story. It involved going to the end of the known universe to slip back through time to the Pleistocene period when Man first emerged. I postulated a parallel development of reptile life that might have developed into the dominant species on Earth had not mammals prevailed. I postulated an alien intelligence from a far galaxy where the snakes had become the dominant life form, and a snake-creature who had come to Earth in the Star Trek future, had seen its ancestors wiped out, and who had gone back into the far past of Earth to set up distortions in the time-flow so that the reptiles could beat the humans. The Enterprise goes back to set time right, finds the snake-alien, and the human crew is conftonted with the moral dilemma of whether it had the right to wipe out an entire life form just to ensure its own territorial imperative in our present and future. The story, in short, spanned all of time and all of space, with a moral and ethical problem.

“Trabulus listened to all this and sat silently for a few minutes. Then he said, ‘You know, I was reading this book by a guy named Von Daniken and he proved that the Maya calendar was exactly like ours, so it must have come from aliens. Could you put in some Mayans?’

“I looked at Gene; Gene looked at me; he said nothing. I looked at Trabulus and said, ‘There weren’t any Mayans at the dawn of time.’ And he said, ‘Well, who’s to know the difference?’ And I said, ‘I’m to know the difference. It’s a dumb suggestion.’ So Trabulus got very uptight and said he liked Mayans a lot and why didn’t I do it if I wanted to write this picture. So I said, ‘I’m a writer. I don’t know what the f–k you are!’ And I got up and walked out. And that was the end of my association with the Star Trek movie.” — Harlan Ellison

Kirk v alien snakes v Mayans would’ve been all kinds of awesome!