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The Human Adventure is Just Beginning. STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE

May 29, 2011 (Updated Jun 16, 2011)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great musical score, beautiful, and the crew together again.

Cons:Over long, dragged, and sadly, dated.

The Bottom Line: This was a learning experience; how do you turn a TV series into a movie.  They did get better at it.


Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) Directed by Robert Wise

'Bones' McCoy: Spock, you haven't changed a bit. You're just as warm and sociable as ever.
Commander Spock: Nor have you, doctor, as your continued predilection for irrelevancy demonstrates.

Why has one of the land mark achievements in Science Fiction film making received such a bad rap?  When Star Trek was summarily cancelled in 1969, everyone assumed, that was it.  Boy, they couldn't have been more wrong.  They cancelled the show in June of 1969, a month before the moon landing.  Maybe they thought America wasn't interested in space anymore?  Whatever the case, Star Trek found new life in syndication.    So, ten years after its cancellation, there was a glimmer of hope.  The path paved by Star Wars, Close Encounters, and Alien, Star Trek took on a new medium; the Silver Screen.

The story is very simple; an alien phenomena is headed on a bee-line for earth, and the Enterprise is the only ship available to stop it.  The size and power of the Cloud are mind boggling; how can one little star ship, not even ready for its shake down cruise hope to defeat it?

Kirk (William Shatner) learns lessons from the other people that the cloud eats; It doesn't like being fired upon.  It doesn't like being scanned.  And using those as his guidelines, he works to penetrate the veil of mystery that surrounds the cloud.

There are sub plots; first, Kirk was never supposed to be captain; that honor belongs to Willard Decker (Stephen Collins).  Kirk bumps him; is it experience, or envy to have his ship back?
Two: Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is no longer in Star Fleet, but undergoing the Kolinar, a ritual to purge the last vestiges of emotion from his personality.  But now, he is detecting thoughts from space, the incredibly perfect, logical thoughts behind the Cloud.  And he goes to investigate.

Three.  Willard Decker is delighted to discover that his navigator is to be Lt. Ilia (Persis Khambatta) a Deltan.  Delta IV has the race with the highest evolution along sexual lines.  They are irresistible to mere mortals like us; Decker and she were...close.

But when the entity within the cloud takes over Ilia to be its remote probe, it places Commander Decker in a unique position to probe the probe, and find out what it is that V'ger wants with earth.

So, what did they do wrong?  Well, first, this is "The Changeling" episode 3 of season two, just done with a bigger budget.  Fortunately, they learned their lesson, and Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan was a sequel to Space Seed.  Second, they redesigned everything.  Why the fans got so upset is curious: would they have accepted cardboard sets in a major motion picture?  No.  But while the old uniforms were often called pajama's these really do look like pajamas, and they are pastels.

But the biggest error they made was they substituted special effects for plot.  Like I said, this is just a retread of one of the better season 2 episodes.  They did not add enough material to warrant 132 minutes of runtime.  Instead, they featured the stunning visuals of V'ger.  And they were stunning.  This was 1979.  There was no such thing as a Personal Computer.  Star Wars had set the bar for special effects, and some of them were muppets.  The V'ger prop was so huge, parts of it were being filmed, while parts of it were being built.  And it was awesome.  Remember back then, when you saw this, it blew your mind.

And therein lies the next problem.  Babylon 5 did better special effects with outdated Commodore 64 computers.  The original is dated.  It no longer inspires awe.  It is quaint.  But here is the worst mistake they made; they wanted to make sure that you knew your mind was supposed to be blown, so there are a lot of slow pans of Uhura, Sulu, and Checkov, looking stunned.  I love Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig, but frankly, watching them watch V'ger is...boring.

Last thing; they were on new ground here;  Most Sci Fi shows wanted unknown actors to play their characters.  But we knew these guys.  Intimately.  Making a TV show into a movie requires more than a few nods to the show, and working the short hand of the series into the movie framework.  They did a little of this; no one more so than Deforrest Kelly as Dr. McCoy.  And they learned this is what the fans want, and did better at it with all subsequent movies.

So what did they do right?  Well, they put Star Trek back into play; Phase II had never materialized as a viable project.  Here it was at last on the screen.  And it was the start of a great franchise.  Further, later, it launched four series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.

The one thing that they did get absolutely right though is Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future; there will be problems out there, but we will meet them with curiosity, and not fear, and by doing so, understand them.  Thus, we will triumph.  It was a powerful message of hope, and this movie carried it forward, and made all that followed possible.

Boldly Go Where No One Had Gone Before!


Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek: The Search for Spock
Star Trek: The Voyage Home 
Star Trek: The Final Frontier
Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country  
Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: Insurrection
Star Trek: Nemesis
Star Trek

Star Trek Books

Rogue: Section 31 Star Trek The Next Generation


Recommend this product? Yes


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