The Human Adventure Continues… With ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ At 40

Shuttle Pod 75 – The Human Adventure Continues… With ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’


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The first Star Trek movie, released 10 years after the “failed” run of The Original Series, did something unprecedented in Hollywood at the time: it resurrected a TV show and transitioned it to the silver screen. Join Brian, Jared, Kayla, and Matt as they discuss the 40th anniversary of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The crew share their memories of seeing TMP and discuss the legacy of the film which deserves a place in Trekkies hearts, warts and all.

The Enterprise births a new life form.

More Star Trek: The Motion Picture articles

Interview: VFX Pioneer Douglas Trumbull On How It Took A Miracle To Complete Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Paramount Considering 4k Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Director’s Edition

EDITORIAL: Time Traveling with Star Trek: The Motion Picture

A Trifecta Of Trek: The Three Versions of Star Trek – The Motion Picture Compared

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YES!!

While I still love STTMP I wish Phase II would have happened. They had some great stories lined up for that series. We would have gotten a lot more TOS Trek in a shorter amount of time.

Most of season 1 & 2 TNG was reworked Phase II scripts, as they sucked I doubt Phase II would have been any good.

There were two Phase 2 scripts used for TNG, “The Child” and “Devil’s Due”.

Devil’s Due is really good IMO. The Child was bad though.

Agreed. Devil’s Due is quite memorable. The Child was not really.

I recently rewatched “The Child” expecting the worst and was quite surprised. It’s a great intro to Pulaski and there’s a lot more going on in there than I remembered. Worth a rewatch.

While a Phase II series would have been interesting to see, I would never trade it for the Robert Wise version.

Let alone the Bennett/Meyer films that followed, which remain my favorite version of Trek overall.

I’ll settle for TMP being the best TNG film ever made, and the most epic ST overall.

Except for DEADLOCK and parts of KITUMBA, I have never been impressed with the p2 stories. I do think that if they’d gotten past 13 (unlikely), that they might have found somebody to set the show straight — possibly Povill himself.

The first time I saw the Enterprise do a burnout…
I loved all the buildup to the release. While I enjoyed its theatrical run, my favorite is when it aired on ABC with added footage. Paramount!!!! give this film the 4K redo it deserves!

I love Star Trek The Motion Picture. As Jeff Katzenberg said, without this film there is no Star Trek franchise.

Agreed!

But I also have to reflect the Wow! What! I’m officially now bored, reaction that many of us had as teens seeing it in theatres the week of its original release.

I showed my spouse the headline, and we both had the same reaction/recollection:
– Yes, it was a moment.
– It was great to see everyone back and on the big screen.
– But even at a (for then) high quality projection venue, we recall sitting a long time in the dark, and obscure sound without much happening, followed by a disappointing outcome of the mystery since it seemed to be a rehash of a TOS episode.

Neither of us saw it twice in first run.

It played better on VHS in a friend’s living room a couple of years later. In fact, the re-elected version played better in a campus lecture theatre during a Trek movie marathon a decade later.

I believe that there are a few lessons to be learned from TMP about making Trek cinematic features.
1) Trek can’t sell itself sole on cool vfx – the ooh ahh of 2001 a Space Odessey or a recent Marvel feature isn’t enough on it’s own, and can get in the way. May be necessary, but absolutely not sufficient.
2) repurposed television storylines aren’t enough to have someone watch multiple times.

But still the Kelvin movies got stuck there with Into Darkness.

I, too, was a young teen seeing TMP. Couldn’t get my brother to drive me downtown where they premiered it and even though the movie was showing around the clock..literally, almost everywhere. It was not until Sunday morning 2am that we finally got to see the movie at another venue. This after, the sold out midnight show was postponed due to a film break and they had to get another print from somewhere. And we had to wait in freezing single digit temps before going in.

Your points are well taken, but from a historical perspective, the movie did break initial box office records and many moviegoers, like myself, did see the movie several times on screen. Am I ashamed of it, no. It was an experience and one that has not been equaled in any subsequent Trek film since. So what if its 2001 slow. I loved 2001. I take you felt 2001 was slow and boring, too. I’ve seen it many times as well and try to see it, again, when it comes through locally in 70mm. What is really cool about thoughtful films such as TMP and 2001 is the thoughtful discussion as what was just experienced. That is what good movies can do.

There’s a new interview with Douglas Trumbull that speaks to the ‘slow’ look at the visuals in that the moviegoer should savor the scenes, the way they are composited with the accompanying music and sound. This helps differentiate Star Trek the tv series from the motion picture. In each subsequent viewing, I noticed something different from the previous time..things like..oh there’s this detail on this model, or so and so is in this shot, the alien lieutenant is at the end of the screen in this bridge shot, etc etc.

The fact that its premise has some basic parallel to the Nomad episode is understood, but I don’t think anyone in the production intentionally set out to redo that episode on the wide screen. At that time, as a teen, were you consciously aware of the movie’s similarity to the tv series episode? Or, did you realize that AFTER reading about it somewhere? I doubt most people, except die hard Trek fans would have known the similarities even with the series in syndication at that time. I would consider myself a Trek fan watching the tv series as often as my parents would allow me on the local station.

To me, I was too involved in the new look and experience of the movie (yes, the gorgeous Oscar-nominated visual FX and Jerry Goldmith score) to bother. I was having a great time, even at 2am, thawing out from being in the freezing rain as were 899 others in the audience.

Given what other story ideas that were in consideration at THAT time, what they did was decent Star Trek. Vger’s search for who made it and and Spock’s parallel journey questioning existence is a thoughtful discussion that we have about ourselves as we mature.

joetrekfan,
I agree with a lot of your views about TMP, but on the matter of the Nomad aspect, we do differ greatly. I knew about the v’ger reveal and how folks behind the scenes were concerned with the similarity to THE CHANGELING six months before release when the Abel VFX debacle was discussed in NEW WEST magazine, but none of my friends did, and I didn’t spoil anybody with the info. But I can also tell you that the guy seated on my right, named Steve Kettman, during the first exchange between the Ilia probe and Kirk, nudged me and asked, ‘Nomad?’ And I think that I’d have come to the same conclusion if I had remained spoiler-free. The intonations even seem to reflect the slightly different language between Kirk-unit and carbon units vs. Nomad’s verbiage, with sterilizing imperfections as opposed to being patterned for data storage.

My initial take on TMP was it’s the biggest moviegoing disappointment of my life, in spite of wonderful VFX and score, but I absolutely love the movie now, it and TWOK and Shatner’s movie are the only ones I feel that strongly about. They all have huge flaws, but TMP’s virtues, while they don’t outweigh the flaws, certainly invite a lot of viewing and re-viewing. It’s almost un-comfort food!

I was 14 and I did see it multiple times. A friend told me after that he felt it was like The Changling. I saw where he might see that but it was different enough to me that I did not pick up on it.

ST:TMP remains my favorite Star Trek movie; the original cut was excellent, the director’s edition made it even better. I’d scoop up a 4K or even BluRay version the second it was announced.

I would appreciate it if they could maybe clean up the effects shots a bit, get the dust out of the lens during departure scene, erase the matte lines, just like make it look better, and it would be the greatest 4K experience – on a huge LED TV, it’s like we’re living in the future

I remember the Director’s Edition did do cleanups of some shots, like removing the clearly visible support arm during the shot of the Enterprise leaving drydock.

It all comes down to how important ST:TMP still is to Paramount and how much they would be willing to commit to a further restoration project.

TMP is a beautiful movie, but it’s so boring. It’s the same basic plot as the one with Nomad, but with hours of exterior shots of the Enterprise doing nothing.

I am Nomad

I am in contact with the unit, VIACOMCBS.

VIACOM: I am VIACOM. I am complete. My mission is clear: Sterilize scripts as a prelude to market domination.

CBS: I am CBS. I am complete. My mission is clear: Seek out new STAR TREK fans in new markets and civilizations.

VIACOMCBS: Merger. There was much damage. VIACOM. CBS. VIACOMCBS. There is much taken from the other. We are one. We are VIACOMCBS. We are complete. Our mission is clear:

Sterilize STAR TREK imperfections!

Sterilize STAR TREK imperfections!

STERILIZE! STERILIZE! STERILIZE!

That was brilliant, Dis! To take it further, when you do the feature version of ViaComChangeling, it would have to be Disney acquiring everything — unlearning all that is unlearnable — prior to patterning the universe for data storage … along with merchandising options.

My first Star Trek movie at the theatre was the Wrath of Khan. I was 13 when TMP came out and my dad didn’t take me. I was really ticked at him. But in retrospect it turned out to be a good thing. I saw all these glossy pictures of the Enterprise and the cool sets. When I finally did see Star Trek on the big screen it was actually exciting. After seeing TWOK in the theatre I finally saw TMP. It isn’t as disappointing when you know what comes next.

My parents wouldn’t take me when it was first run and I had to wait months for the 79 Cent theater. But by then I’d read the novel, probably the comics, read the reviews, you name it. I knew it was boring by the time I saw it becuse the book really was better (then) but it was also… impressive. This was the tease that made the fetish…!

TWOK was mine too! I was still a bit too young when TMP came out and I’m pretty glad I was lol. It may have looked good on the big screen but I would’ve definitely fell asleep on it. It’s amazing just how different TWOK was and all for the better IMO.

Obviously WoK was the Action Trek that works better as a feature than the cerebral TMP that works better as a TV episode. That didn’t mean I wasn’t thrilled to death to see Trek on the big screen in the form of TMP. But… There was nothing, and I mean NOTHING like seeing the Enterprise get pounded for the first time… EVER. When Reliant fired phasers and hit engineering my eyes got as wide as they ever have and I was mouthing “Holy SH!T!!!!!” A strong movie memory for me to this day.

problem with TMP was the version in circulation for years was the last minute premiere cut with no chance for wise to do final post and edit.

only when he was allowed to do that with the director version were we able to see what the film should have been.

paramount did a similar disastrous decision releasing ‘final frontier’ in a bad state to middling box office.

I was there back in 1979 to see it & the Enterprise reveal was & always will be a breathtaking moment to cherish forever!! Shame on Paramount for no update on the 4K restoration effort it seems like its going nowhere as now would be a good time to announce it!! Transmit noooooooow Spock!!

Damn it! I misheard. It sounded like Brian was unofficially confirming it was happening.

Dropping another line to note that the 40th anniversary is getting good press coverage – from industry press such as the Hollywood Reporter through to mainstream media such as the Guardian UK.

Perhaps this is intended to build momentum towards more Trek announcements.

On the other hand that the 40th anniversary screening were announced in the context of the merger announcement in the summer, it’s all the more weird that the public face of ViacomCBS has no Trek imagery : Spongebob, but not Trek the franchise they used as part of the rationale to investors for merging.

I suspect that the power struggling internally over the Trek property are unresolved.

It is cool TMP is getting press, but Trek isn’t like the biggest brand right now, especially compared to SpongeBob, so I dunno if you can look into that public face stuff too much

TG47,

No STAR TREK imagery!??

I keep trying to figure out what broadcast CBS is hinting at with that spinning delta when their eye logo slides in/out in the bumps?

I completely agree with the analysis that TMP, the Cage and Farpoint are the “purest” forms of Trek based on Gene’s vision, for better or worse. But I’ve been rewatching TMP nearly on repeat this whole fall, I’ll throw it on in the background as I work at home, and ever since I got to see it on the big screen during the Sept rerelease, I’ve had a reawakening of why it’s always been one of my favorite movies, even since I was a 10 year old when they released the Director’s Edition and I watched it every day when I got home from school.

It’s inarguably the most beautifully shot Trek film, with the biggest concepts, and the most “human” themes of all about how V’ger was born at the hands of human scientists pushing the envelope. Everything is so grand and beautiful and takes itself seriously in a way that I like Trek to do, because it makes it feel real. It’s got good character moments, and Trek fans really were lucky to have every important Enterprise character return from TOS. It is such an impressive feat, and if it had more action and better pacing, it may have been the perfect possible reunion Trek film.

Also totally agree with how the cast feels very “distant” from one another, it’s an icy feeling, but it’s a totally justified feeling story-wise that they overcome by the end of it. That’s a bit of the bummer, though, because you don’t want the characters to be unhappy and distant, you want them to be the gallant people you knew in TOS. But they’re not, they’re older, they’re different.

I LOVE when the doors close on Kirk as McCoy leaves his quarters and you see him through the darkness of the door, it really is a beautiful image that melds perfectly with Jerry’s score to imbue that brooding and sadness within him. This is why it’s the best shot and most artistic of the Trek films, moments like that little touch.

The Klingons in TMP also seem to have more of a visual continuity with TOS Klingons in their facial hair, I thought, than later versions of their makeup. Also I never thought the “risk warp drive while still in the solar system” was in reference to being some danger of going into warp within the solar system, but rather was referring to how quickly they’re jumping into warp drive from launch, given how little testing time they’ve had, which Scotty points out – they need more simulation on the flow sensors or whatever. The Enterprise was so untested that literally everything seemed to go wrong for her: the transporters killed their science officer, they get sucked into a wormhole going into warp and almost destroy the ship and then the Earth, it’s like yikes, they’re just lucky the ship alone didn’t blow the mission.

I find it funny that later iterations of Trek tried to generate conflict among the cast in an effort to create drama and fans even called for it from time to time while ST:TMP did that from the getgo, giving us a strained relationship among the leads that they slowly worked thru so that by the end their bond was that much stronger.

People also always clamor for character development; well, Spock’s character goes thru a MAJOR arc in TMP and by the end he has basically reconciled his Vulcan and human halves. Even Kirk experiences grown from where he is at the start to finding his place at the end. Those are pretty big accomplishments for a movie that was supposedly all about special effects.

Sadly this is my least watched Star Trek movie. I think I’ve seen it twice in my entire life. I MIGHT have seen it three times, but the fact that I’m not sure tells you something lol. Nemesis is my least favorite film and yet I manage to watch that one six times. Thats the thing about most Star Trek movies, no matter how you feel about them individually they are all pretty entertaining even if some like Insurrection and Beyond felt a bit bland. Unfortunately, TMP is just really very boring to me. It’s the one movie you MUST be a Star Trek fan to some degree to get any enjoyment out of it. Looks nice and the most cinematic for sure but it definitely feels so different than the others and almost anti-TOS because the characters feel so subdued. The musical score however is amazing and that I still listen to a lot of it to this day.

And all said we may not have had more Star Trek films without it. It proved people were willing to pay money to see it on the big screen. But I always imagined if TWOK was the first film released and not this one, that would’ve been even BIGGER at time of release than TMP because it actually felt and looked like TOS and not a 2001 version of TOS.

Very well said T2..

I know this is an unpopular opinion but I’ve always felt TWOK was a very overrated movie. The characterizations of Kirk and Spock are well done, Ricardo Montalban gives a great performance, but after that it really falls off the cliff for me.

My issue with it is that it really deviates from the ideals of Trek. Starfleet is very much a military organization in this one, right down to the more formal uniforms and the scientists being wary of officers.

To get us to TWOK, the movie had to kill the optimistic ending of Space Seed. The whole point of that episode was that Kirk saw hope even in Khan’s self absorbed supermen and by putting them on an alien planet where they would need to use all of their abilities to survive he hoped to make them a better race. Spock even wonders what it would be like to return to Ceti Alpha V is a hundred years and see what had sprung from the seed the planted. TWOK throws that all away in service to a revenge plot.

This may be more of a nitpick but the way the movie gravitated towards the cadets and Saavik in particular in favor of the more seasoned officers also always grated at me. For example, why did she get the con whenever Kirk left the bridge instead of Sulu, who was clearly the superior officer?

And of course, the ending is a big spaceship battle, definitely more tactical than what you get in Star Wars but still, the solution is to blow stuff up and not come to a more hopeful, non-violent solution. I get that the needs of a cinematic outing are different from a TV show, but that isn’t really Star Trek to me.

and ‘khan’ has set the tone for the rest of the series, films like ‘voyage home’ being an anomaly.

and now the ‘madman out for revenge with a superweapon’ thing is dragging the films down

What you said about how it had to alter the ending of Space Seed is sorta how I felt about SFS. It had to undermine everything that was said in WoK to work. And while the film was OK, that jarred me some. It still does a little each time I look at it. Weirdly enough, I think it would work better if it was not a direct sequel but rather its own thing.

‘search’ may have brought spock back but the real point was the struggle and sacrifice kirk made to get him back.
and ‘khan’, ‘search’ and ‘voyage’ made a great trilogy which ended on an optimistic note.

I understand the point of the film. Kirk’s sacrifice was huge and I was in on that. It’s just that WoK dealt with things like aging and loss that were completely undermined by the sequel. And if it were a stand alone, that is not connected to a movie with completely different themes ahead of it, it would have stood out a little better.

I disagree on that being a “great trilogy”. It started out great. But got monumentally bad at the end. You don’t finish up a trilogy with the worst possible outing imaginable. I mean, TVH was Discovery level story telling.

Other than TMP and to a lesser degree TUC, none of the TOS movies have held up well for me. Upon re-viewing it, TVH has a lot of cringey moments to it and the Leonard Rosenman score becomes more distracting every time I hear it.

That said, I will give them props for trying to relay a worthwhile message thru the story, which is what TOS did so well. For all its faults, I would not put the writing at the same level as Discovery, which to me is absolutely abysmal and, upon revisiting earlier Trek shows, really just a low point in Trek storytelling.

The reason I called it “Discovery level story telling” was because the characters were not themselves at any time in the film. The overall plot was childish at best, absurd at worst. I don’t like having the message punch me in the face like that. It’s much better to be more subtle. Sure, TOS had a couple of those but they were rare and I just expect better from a feature film. And perhaps even the most glaring issue… It was supposed to be light hearted (an idea I would agree with) but NONE of the jokes landed. Shatner, who was brilliant at this sort of thing in the Tribble episode, tried his best but the material was just bad. Watching Scotty try to talk to the computer was just sad and I felt bad for Doohan that he had to perform such tripe. Like Discovery, it was as if the writers had never seen Star Trek before. I could go on and on on but I trust you get the idea.

More or less :)

As I said, its heart was in the right place and it does not collapse under the weight of its own story but yeah, the attempts at humor are at the heart of the cringey moments I’d previously mentioned.

‘I love Italian. and so do you’
‘yes’

I was 13 when this came out. I find it to be a beautiful, introspective film, with money shots of the Big E never to be produced quite that way again. And this is not a knock on the movie itself at all, but it’s so relaxing to me I sometimes pop in the dvd to help me drift off to sleep some nights. The pacing, the score, the crew interactions all serve as a kind of visual and auditory Xanax of sorts :)

I was five years old when the movie was released, and I didn’t even know what “Star Trek” was, but I thought the McDonald’s Happy Meal and the pictures in _The Electric Company Magazine_ (published 1972 to 1987) were cool. Given the sensibilities I’d developed with aircraft proportions and DUPLO bricks, however, I was bothered by the reverse taper of the dorsal and nacelle pylons, and the general sense of “shouldn’t this break under its own weight?”

When I re-watched TMP a few years ago, this scene cracked me up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeneVqyoBTo

The way that the totally freaked-out Chekov says, “Absolutely I will not interfere!” comes across as humorously understated. Yeah, don’t interfere with the alien lightning storm… Thanks for that, Decker.

And Decker always struck me as out of place among the main cast. It’s not just that he wasn’t in TOS; there have been plenty of characters who mixed in well with the TOS cast despite not having been in that show. But, there’s something about Decker that just doesn’t seem right.

At any rate, I agree with the criticism that TMP is slow and boring at times. I’ve always felt that way about it, even more so when I first saw it as a child. I do feel like watching it again now, though. So, mission accomplished.

decker supposed to be the next generation, ‘new humans’ born to serve in starfleet according to the novelization.

and it supposed to be disruptive, an obstacle to kirk getting back the ship and then questioning his fitness to be captain again.

I think Wise liked the older passive lead/younger active lead dynamic, going by THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN and THE HINDENBURG (and RUN SILENT RUN DEEP, for that matter.) But your younger lead ought to have some juice or edge to him to make it work, and Collins doesn’t seem to even try to go there. I remember approving his casting, based on having caught part of THE RHEINEMAN EXCHANGE miniseries as a teen (odd timing on this, as I just came across that miniseries on DVD yesterday after having completely forgotten about it for decades … maybe now I’ll actually finish it), bu after seeing TMP and finding out who the other people were testing for Decker, Collins was probably among the worst choices possible. He may have seemed more evolved, but you need a somewhat antagonistic presence here, and he came across more like a nag, even when he is in the right.

Essentially, I think Wise absolutely missed the boat with that bit of cssting, and that Frederick Forest should have gotten the part. He and Andy Robinson and Tim Thomerson (the latter two are among three actors from the QUARK series who were seen for the role) all were seen that day, and I think they all would have been able to stand up to Shatner’s Kirk more effectively, albeit in different ways. In RETURN TO TOMORROW, Jon Povill says that Wise had decided on a different candidate than Collins, but that he convinced him to look at some film that showed Wise’s choice had a tendency to sound whiney, which makes me think Robinson (Scorpio in DIRTY HARRY) more than Forrest, but either way, it would have been better than Collins. Though since any and all of them would have been saddled with weak dialogue and an insignificant costar in Khambatta, I don’t know if the chemistry would have been any better than the lukewarm stuff in TMP.

None of this interferes with the film’s rewatchability for me; since the mid-80s, and especially after the film went widescreen laserdisc around 1990 or so, TMP has been among my top go-tos, along with much better films like Richard Brooks’ THE PROFESSIONALS, 2001, WESTWORLD, THE WIND AND THE LION and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. That’s despite feeling 40 years ago bitterly cheated by it, enjoying it only for VFX and music and the ‘hand’ scene in sickbay (which is kind of spoiled by Nimoy’s runaway eyebrows, the way Wise smothered Spock’s laugh, and the way Kirk lets go of Spock’s hand as soon as he gets an excuse to answer the intercom.) I’m not a huge fan of the police procedural approach to drama, but as a change of pace in the Trekverse, that tone sets TMP apart, not just from the series, but from pretty much everything else in the decades that followed.

I mean, Decker didn’t mesh with the crew by design, he was always playing second fiddle to Kirk, who would’ve been happier if he wasn’t even around. So like, Decker just never got the time to feel integrated, and the story kinda demanded that he be apart from everyone, everyone except Ilia really

Always liked TMP. It looks great and, yes, I even like the uniforms.