“Return to Tomorrow” shipping this week


Just in time for the film’s 35th Anniversary, the long-awaited oral history of Star Trek: The Motion Picture will be released this week from author Preston Neal Jones and Creature Features Publishing.  More info after the jump.


The Human Adventure begins again in 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.

“Return to Tomorrow” is a 672-page book that 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.

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.

The book is now available for shipping.  Order details can be found here.

TrekMovie will have a full review in the weeks ahead.

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Awesome! Can’t wait to get my copy in the mail.

It’s beginning to look a LOT like Xmas … (finally some outstandingly good news!)

Will believe it when my copy arrives 3 months later than promised.

I was thinking about TMP when I saw this article come up and I quite suddenly realized there’s a massive plot hole that comes up at the climax of the movie.

When Decker merged with V’Ger/Ilia, wouldn’t it realize that Decker essentially lied to it? Even though Decker allowed V’Ger to complete its programming, wouldn’t it discover that Decker wasn’t actually the one who made it? Since Decker was human and presumably understood the concepts of truth and dishonesty, and presumably imbued the new entitt with those qualities, wouldn’t it realize that it had been lied to, and perhaps even come to resent that notion?

Anyway, I’m swinging wide of the main subject of this article, and what I bought up may not be a plot hole so much as an unanswered question about the entity’s fate.

Too bad that pederass Stephen Collins can’t be digitally removed and replaced in this film.

…you are correct, but she loved him, and in so doing, forgave him… =)

that is a HUGE paperback! …wish i could afford one… =(

Great cover!

Man, I remember seeing the ad for this piece (accompanied by pretty much the same illustration of the Enterprise bursting from the TV) in the pages of late, great CINEFANTASTIQUE magazine, not all that long after TMP’s release. I doubt I ever would have believed how many more hours of Trek the fans would eventually be treated to (for better or worse), let alone how interest in this remarkable franchise would be sustained well into the 21st century.

As for the movie itself, what else can be said at this point? Its clunky re-introduction of the TOS cast and at least superficially derivative plot are major drawbacks, but it has moments of wonder aplenty admidst the cheese, embracing a vision of human potential in a vast universe sorely missing from the film franchise after TWOK’s revenge-driven theatrics proved more satisfying to general audiences. Call me an olde farte–I am getting there–but I really miss that sense of wonder and possibility, myself.

3) they never PROMISED it earlier than October. I got my assignment to do a review of the book based on the mid-to-late Oct date, and am just hoping the mag will agree to slip back and still agree to publish it in a later issue, since the December issue is already out.

5) I’d’ve been so much happier if one of the other guys who auditioned got the Decker role, especially Andy Robinson and most especially Frederick Forest, who would have given some toughness to the Kirk/Decker moments. Even Tim Thomerson would have brought something more …

I think the only time Collins ever brought ANYthing tough was to the 70s miniseries THE RHEINEMAN EXCHANGE, and he couldn’t even sustain over the length of the miniseries. (Oh I take that back, he was good in THE HENDERSON MONSTER, though he was playing a wimp most of the time.)

10) due to the ever increasing 2001/TMP connection ive been thinking lately that Keir Dullea would’ve been cool casting as Decker (Frank Poole was in the 1st ep, Dave Bowman could’ve been in the first movie!)

SCollins kind of looked abit like a blonde Bowman anyway so why not have got the real deal

I know this won’t be answered in the book…but after “Star Trek” the classic TV series just dominated TV ratings throughout the 70’s..who’s bright idea was it to make the movie about Decker and Illia and featuring the cast of “Star Trek” ???
That’s how I feel about the movie. There are moments of magic but after seeing how good “Star Trek” could be on the silver screen with Trek II-IV…The first movie was like one huge wasted opportunity.

Well, supposedly in one version it was Spock who had the affair with Ilia and they united at the end, which also would give Nimoy a fast out … ideally if you were really going for drama, it should have been Kirk Spock & McCoy who merged with it, since together they represent an idealized human, and there’s dialog in GR’s novelization where Kirk does ask ‘will it accept us?’ No sequels if you go that route though.

Even though there was nothing particularly TREKlike about it, I think the aborted PLANET OF THE TITANS would have made a very serviceable first movie, especially post STAR WARS. You had Bond people doing production design and miniatures and the brilliant visual artist Jordan Belson for doing black hole effects and Phil Kaufmann directing, so it could have been a very interesting effort, especially with Toshiro Mifune as a Klingon captain (and Kirk being missing for most of the movie would have made some folks happy too.)

It’d be nice if this book goes into that a little, because there’s precious little info on TITANS available even now.

TMP is a bit like “Where No Man Has Gone Before” – Decker and Ilia are like Gary Mitchell and Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. Two crew members who get transformed into god-like creatures.

The Stephen Collins situation had me thinking about who else might have played Decker on Phase II. David Gautreaux and Persis Khambatta were cast for Phase II and carried over to the movie but the role of Decker was upcast until Robert Wise was doing the movie. Stephen Collins didn’t audition till Wise was doing the movie, so I wonder who was in contention before Wise took over. If they’d cast Ilia one would think she had read with various would-be Deckers.

@13 POTT would’ve made for a great 1st Trek movie. abit like Prometheus but Trek

I remember going to see ST:TMP on opening night in December 1979. I was 24.

After watching endless reruns of TOS throughout the 1970’s, it was thrilling to see the Enterprise and crew back up on the big screen. The storyline and pace of the movie was a CRUSHING disappointment.

My friends and I staggered out of the theatre, numb from what we had seen.

It took watching it 30 more times over the years (including the director’s cut) to come to have a grudging acceptance of it.

Would like this, but paperback? Come on!

I watched TMP many tomesover the yaers. Just to see the Big E in her Glory. The Pace weas a bit slow. When Robert Wise did his remaster it was awesome. I wish he could have done that back in 79.

Looking forward to this book. I was 15 when I saw TMP in theaters. I loved it. I guess being nine years younger than Harry Baliz (see post 17) had its advantages.

I can’t even remember when I ordered this book or how I knew about it. I guess I ordered it about six months ago.

Daniel, I’m glad to hear you could enjoy it. I was gobsmacked that first night.

If you read the Ed Gross book THE LOST YEARS and/or the authorized Phase 2 book, you’ll find that nobody was impressed with Decker’s development or presence as a character in P2 and there was serious thought that he be eliminated, which is probably why depending on which draft of IN THY IMAGE you read, he doesn’t always make it through, and that pretty much became a given when it went to feature status. There has been plenty about the casting of Ilia and Xon, but I’ve never seen anything about Decker casting till it went to feature status, which reflects the notion that it wasn’t a signficant issue (perhaps because TPTB knew P2 wasn’t going forward.)

Then again, since most of the auditions for TMP Decker were TV actors from QUARK, maybe they were all carried over from TV (Robinson, Thomerson and Richard Kelton from QUARK were I think all on the audition list, along with Forest. Anybody got a copy of MAKING OF ST-TMP? That’s got a list of the audition folk in it for Decker.

I sympathize. TMP opening day was the biggest disappointment of my moviegoing life opening day. I remember not leaving right away, because there were TV reporters outside and I didn’t want to go into a rant over what a PoS this dull CHANGELING retread was and hurt the box office.

I also was in agony because I had needed to pee since the travel pod to the Enterprise scene, and we couldn’t go back into the theater to use the bathroom because the next crowd was already filling the middle of Century 22 in San Jose. So there were other factors impacting my enjoyment (including knowing I”d already bought tickets for four showings that first week and now I was going to have to come back and suffer somemore), but essentially I didn’t start appreciating the movie (outside of the Trumbull VFX and the Goldsmith score) till the widescreen laserdisc turned up over a decade later.

I’m no fan of the so-called director’s cut, though including the tear scene from the extended TV version IS important. The only version I have now is the BR of the theatrical, as the sound mix on the DE is criminally lame and I find most of the CG leaves MUCH to be desired.

“Unvarnished, uncensored truth” from what are probably largely publicity interviews? An “oral history” as opposed to actual research and double-checking?

This is the guy who spent years tracking down everybody still alive from NIGHT OF THE HUNTER to tell a definitive accounting of the making of that film. He’s a real journalist.

If you examine the various double issues of CFQ from that era they involved one writer — Paul Mandell, Don Shay (founder of Cinefex) and Paul Sammon among them — spending a huge amount of time interviewing dozens of key figures both behind the scenes and above the line is what drives these things, and those issues have become historical documents in evaluating pics like CONAN, STAR WARS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, WAR OF THE WORLDS and THE BLACK HOLE (in the case of the latter, you really get a clue about where things went wrong and how often they went wrong, which makes it even more compelling reading than the ‘success stories.’)

From my own experience with doing heavy interview coverage on a particular show (which includes a mind-numbing 43 interviews in 3 days on the VFX end of THE PHANTOM MENACE, several of those with R&D guys who spoke techtech with enormously thick French accents), I can tell you that while you have to sift through the Dale Carnegie ‘everybody was so great’ stuff, that you get a lot of gold and platinum material too. And by talking to many folks, you can get a ‘consensus’ view on things rather than have to go on one person’s potentially spin-loaded view (not a guarantee of truth, but a better approach anyway.)

This writer had what I’ve heard described more than once as a 1600 page transcript of interviews, so I would be very surprised if you get much PR puffery at all in the 670 published pages …. he almost certainly culled the crap, and by virtue of it not being authorized (read:sanitized) by Paramount, it promises to get closer to the truth than we’ve seen previously. For example, the TMP DVD was delayed quite awhile when Paramount insisted the ‘making of’ doc be re-edited to make remarks less candid, which is probably why it came out months later than January 7 2001 (1-7-01), an oft-promised date.

This book is quite likely to be the only piece of Trek history that doesn’t have to be annotated up one side and down the other over tons of factual errors. Even really good writers like the Reeves-Stevens screwed up all over the place on THE ART OF STAR TREK and in many places on PHASE 2 (either that or the books were horrendously edited) — I’ll be very surprised if that is the case with this one, given his previous book and what I know of this one.

@12 TMP was the multiply-morphed result of the Phase Two original story “In Thy Image” that was originally being prepped for TV production. When Paramount got twitchy over the success of Star Wars and scrapped their 4th network, for which Trek P2 was to be the anchor, the TV rebirth became a big-screen movie, and that put all kinds of rewrites and changes into the mix. Enter Roddenberry and Livingston’s well-documented feuds over the story and the endless stream of rewrites, and you have TMP.

Given all the problems the TMP production had along the way, and all the egos that clashed, I’m amazed someone with the directing chops and “name” like Robert Wise didn’t just say “to heck with this” and just bail from the project. To be fair, however, much of TMP’s fairly lethargic and Kubirikesque pacing can be attributed to Wise, to say nothing of the fact Roddenberry wanted his own 2001-style imprimatur on the screen with Trek as well. The result was, shall we say, a mixed bag.

Will say this, though – the Enterprise *never* looked better. Certainly superior to the Rebootiverse’s Enterprise, IMHO..

14. Jeff

Nice observation.

One thing we can all agree on about TMP. The Enterprise looked Beautiful.

2. Kevin Martin

Outstanding – another book for you to nitpick over every tiny detail. : D Hopefully, the author of this one doesn’t have any nefarious motives or bad business practices. heehee.

Emporer Mike. It really did. Just seeing a picture of that ship still nudges my heart a little.

I remember reading George’s book (about the filming of tmp) back in elementary school (early 80s). The librarian must have been a Trekkie, because they also had all the pocket novelizations and novels, all those Alan Dean Foster books and Franz Joseph’s 1975 book (in hardcover — which I was amazed to find by accident just digging through the shelves one day),

it was a good call for JJ to take elements from both designs for the movie Enterprise. But I still don’t think it fully works (although the nacelles have grown on me). maybe I’m just too damned old. But I find most CGI ships just look like CGI ships to me, and i can’t really picture folks actually in them.

All the problems with Decker carried into Riker. Jonathan Frakes ultimately pulled it off with sheer likeability, arguably — but I always found the character unpleasant and unnecessary.

And Troi was Ilia with hair and, as it was the 80s instead of the 70s, the sex was replaced by feelings.

A first officer who doesn’t have some other role (ie Spock as Science Officer) just ends up being a character with nothing to do, even if you give him his own chair.

About this book: I’m very much looking forward to receiving it but I wonder if many folks realize that there are NO photos or illustrations. 675 pages of pure text. That might get old in a hurry. And it is really inexcusable considering that there is plenty of public domain material available. My other reservation about the book is that it is based entirely on interviews conducted during the making of it. No followup interviews to reflect changing atitudes / opinions. That’s a handicap. But I’d rather have the book than not have it. It’s sure to have a lot of insights into the film’s making that we’ve never had access to before.

BTW, a good insight into how the script developed can be had by obtaining a copy of the ‘In Thy Image’ script for Phase 2 from Roddenberry.com. It’s essentially TMP without the Spock character being shoehorned in as he had to be for the film.

I remember the first time I saw TMP, I was too young to drive and my dad took me. I didn’t care much about the actual storyline at the time, but was blown away by all the updates and changes. I think the one, most important thing that TMP did for the whole franchise was to introduce the idea that things will change. Not only do things change in real life, but change needed to be incorporated into the Trek universe as well, if it was going to survive.

I really loved the old flip-type communicator and the original Star Trek phasers as well as the Velcro attachment belt where they just stuck everything to their sides, no holsters. But without changes being made, time would stand still and life gets boring, even in Star Trek. Just because I didn’t like some of the changes at times is unimportant because what is important is that life moves forward. For instance, I love to see that people get older, they become more mature and have to deal with different problems at different ages.

The Motion Picture was the greatest because it did one thing really well – it got the franchise “ball” rolling in the right direction and allowed the Trek universe to expand.

No Kindle version and only a $30 paperback? Kind of a bummer.

I know. I really wish there was a cheaper digital copy of this book.

“I think the one, most important thing that TMP did for the whole franchise was to introduce the idea that things will change.”

We seem to have forgotten that.

I don’t have $30, but I do have my neighbour’s stolen wifi signal — so…


I for one, am among the minority that considers STTMP to be the best of all the Trek films. When it first premiered I wasn’t sure, and most of the other films that followed were more fun. But watching them now, I experience an almost comic book, popcorn sort of formula. Fun viewing for sure, don’t get me wrong, but as far as true science fiction ideas I feel STTMP is a quantum leap above the others. And as time has gone by, STTMP has held up much better then the others. It seems almost timeless, while the other films seem locked in there respective decades. The Robert Wise Directors Edition was major improvement as well. And I still hold on, hope against hope , that one day they will re-release it on Blu-ray.

I like the film and give it a lot of credit for starting the new franchise. The directors cut DVD is the best.

Back in 2010 at the Las Vegas CON at the Hilton, I got to speak with Jon Povil who was assoc producer (I seem to recall) whom I asked a lot of questios on when I saw him in the odl SpaceQuest casino area while I was playing the Star Trek slot machine. John was very kind to take the time to speak to me and answer my questions about the film.

Will this be on Amazon?

@ 22 kmart —

” The only version I have now is the BR of the theatrical, as the sound mix on the DE is criminally lame and I find most of the CG leaves MUCH to be desired.”

Care to say why you think so? I found each and every change to be an improvement over the theatrical cut–sound, the replacement mattes, and Daren Dochterman’s CGI work in particular.

It’s a good movie. They probably could have upped the character interaction a little and fixed the pacing, but it was good. I haven’t seen the director’s edition in years — did he actually trim anything? I do remember, I think, that they put in various scenes from the broadcast cut and changed (unnecessarily, I still think) the fx in 2 or 3 spots.

Directors Edition a major improvement as a couple major plot points were left out of the original theatrical release (Spock weaping for Vger & the Enterprise in self destruct mode).
Robert Wise’s comments are pretty interesting and he defended the long Enterprise and Vger flyovers.
My only beef with TMP was the close storyline with The Changeling, but I still loved and continue to love TMP.

Xmas 79 fans/audiences went in expecting ‘Star Trek’ : The Motion Picture. but what Roddenberry actually gave them was ‘Star Trek Phase 2’ : The Motion Picture.

its like Roddenberry saw 2001 in 1968 or 1969 when his TV series was constantly under threat and thought to himself ‘thats what star trek should be like..if i ever get the budget to do a star trek movie i will make it more like that’

Its funny when you think Star Wars was out just 2 years earlier and the success of that prompted Paramount to switch from doing the Phase 2 series or low budget tv movie to the big movie. one of the inspirations for Star Wars was obviously star trek with its action packed romp style…so fans will have been expecting and wanting the Trek movie to jump straight back into that feel…..yet Star Trek TMP shunned that in favour of a lofty 2001 vibe (which to be fair most other SF movies of the 70s were doing so if anything SW was the anomaly and STTMP turned up too late to the party)…with time its interesting to see it as a more realistic 2001 version of Trek (i.e. that’s what ‘Star Trek’ it really would be like) as theres the action films Wrath of Khan etc to enjoy but its easy to imagine the disappointment fans mustve had in 79 when theyd been waiting for the movie for the best part of a decade.

The anticipation of a huge budget Star Trek movie (with all the original cast) directed by a big name director (essentially like a Spielberg of the day) mustve been off. the. scale. (esp with Star Wars just out near enough the previous year whetting everyones appetite for colourful space action) …they mustve been expecting epic space battles, hand phaser fights, Kirk Fu, nasty creepy aliens, Klingons kicking ass, Kirk Spock Bones jokes/banter, that eerie uncanny Twilight Zone vibe alot of the season 1 eps had, light comedic moments, red/gold/blue uniforms similar to the tv show, colourful Ent interiors, alien space babes for Kirk, beaming down to exotic alien planets (all done on a bigger scale/more realistic) ….and instead they got ‘Star Trek A Space Odyssey’

I wonder what the reaction would’ve been had it been the movie version of the TV Star Trek?

maybe itd have made Star Wars box office

41 – kmart will do another long cleanup in aisle 3 (spam posting here) trying to impress with vast well documented knowledge if you troll feed. The director’s cut is the best version and DD’s contributions are a major part of it. kmart’s brain and bladder are about the same size (see 22)

I already saw “The Changeling” and didn’t think they needed to use the first Star Trek movie for remaking it.

And I’ve never believed that Spock went to Gol to try to purge his emotions; the Spock I saw at the end of the TV series would not have done that. I read that Roddenberry hated Nimoy and wanted him out of the picture, so he gave him something out-of-character to do, to try to get him to go away, as he’d intentionally ousted him from the Phase II project. (They say that Roddenberry’s original idea was to make Spock HAVE A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, but even Paramount knew THAT was a mistake.)

Gene Roddenberry didn’t make Star Trek by himself; he made it with Bob Justman and Dorothy Fontana and Gene Coon and a bunch of other folks. Without those collaborators, Star Trek didn’t feel like itself.

If anyone receives their copy, please post that notice here. Just want to keep up with when the book starts arriving.

In terms of SF and Vulcan, they basically exchanged bad theatrical version shots for different kinds of bad shots, with the DE stuff just looking very vidgame to me, and definitely not of the film’s era in style. Plus San Fran is not in keeping with the idea that GR’s SF is mostly greenery, either.

What kills me is that the original unused Vulcan matte shot by Yuricich was probably complete; nobody seems to know why Paramount junked it in favor of that THIRD ROCK mess in the theatrical version with so many moons bouncing around you’d think you were in the worst tidal wave ever.

The E exteriors look okay but don’t stand up next to the theatrical’s hero shots. Given that there is almost no motion in the new CG shots (very little perspective change anyway), it has always been my contention that you could have done the shots with photo cutouts on an animation stand and gotten higher quality results. There were immensely huge E stills taken during TMP (I used to have one, a 16×20 that had no grain at all) so all you’d’ve needed to do is plink in the lights on a second pass.

As for the sound mix … the wormhole is just a snoozefest now (and seeing a FIREBALL in space when the ‘roid blows is very SW/oldBSG) with the new sound loop. In fact, the sound just lays there most of the time. Replacing the computer voice doesn’t really do anything for the show either. It took me a long while to get used to the guy’s voice doing ‘negative control at helm’ and so for the last 30 years or so I like it.

Mainly though the DE pisses me off for what it doesn’t fix. They needed to cut that last little bit of the astronaut fleeing Epsilon 9, which for my money is the worst couple of seconds in the whole picture, even worse than the most godawful of the matte paintings (I’m looking at you, side view of E dish during the wingwalk at the end.) That, and the officer’s lounge, which is even worse than in the theater now that we have that nacelle stuck in (which apparently by the angle shown indicates the lounge they’re in isn’t just behind/below the bridge, but instead hovers in space ABOVE the dish, right over the rec deck.)

The VFX folks made some crazy claims, like doing their animation on 2s because very few folks did them on 1s back then. Well, TMP was Bob Swarthe and some other genius types and the animation sure doesn’t look like ANY of it was done on two … except the DE stuff, which just seems Saturday morning-like when the ‘bridge’ forms around the E.

There are a lot of claims that the new cuts reflect old unfilmed storyboards, and while there is truth in that, there are a ton of boards that also reflect very different versions, versions much closer to the original theatrical. So the re-makers were pretty selective in offering a defense for many of their calls … but the major one is that they shouldn’t have tried to do it for the half-mil Par offered. This film needed a REAL restoration, not a quarter-assed job, and Par could have milked it over & over, with a theatrical reissued and with high-end vfx that would withstand higher-than-dvd res for later homevid incarnations.

The fact I didn’t even hang onto it after I got the BR is a pretty good indicator of how little I think of it. I regret not having the tear scene in the house, but that’s about it in terms of improvements.

45. Corylea

People tend to forget that TOS is a vision of Star Trek that both had many hands shepherding it, and is itself a semi-compromised version of the original premise, I.e. “The Cage”. Roddenberry had to add more action and make changes to convince NBC to greenlight it, NBC seeing enough in the premise to try a second pilot notwithstanding.

That’s why I never quite buy the notion of “Roddenberry’s vision”. It’s not like he invented every part of it out of whole cloth. Roddenberry had the idea, but it took many people to make it what it became.