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Bernd Schneider
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 5:27pm (UTC -6)
Re: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was shot in 1978 and released in late 1979, some ten years after the end of The Original Series. The success of "Star Wars" in 1977 was clearly the incentive for the studio bosses to make Star Trek into a movie, rather than the already planned new TV series. Yet, for all we can tell the production of ST:TMP was rather influenced by "2001: A Space Odyssey", especially as the slow pace of the story with its incredibly long visual effects sequences is concerned. Although ST:TMP turned out a commercial success, it has been criticized by both fans and professional reviewers as "The Slow-Motion Picture" or something along these lines. Well, I have to agree that the plot of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" is quite thin and could as well have been covered in a usual TV episode, especially considering the undeniable similarities to TOS: "The Changeling". Yet, I think that most reviewers were spoiled by the haste of the old TOS episodes as well as of the first Star Wars movie, so they focused on this lack of action as an alleged deficiency in the first Trek movie and failed to recognize its cineastic qualities.
I don't think that taking its time is a drawback because a movie should make use of all the advantages the cinema offers over the small TV screen, and ST:TMP definitely does. I'm still deeply impressed with the stunning realism, in particular of the scene with the Enterprise in the drydock. ST:TMP thrives on long VFX scenes and excellent pointed dialogues, although neither necessarily advances the plot. Most importantly it gives us a sense of the excitement to go out into space and encounter the unknown like perhaps no other science fiction film ever made. The alien cultures of the Klingons and the Vulcans are worked out quite well, and they don't just wind up as humans with make-up. Of course, this applies even more to V'ger, an entity that remains mysterious until the end and that does not know and does not even want to communicate with the primitive "carbon units". All this is supported by an almost ingenious score by Jerry Goldsmith, with memorable special themes for the Federation, the Klingons, Ilia and V'ger.
The actors are still "fresh", and they continue much in the same fashion as they did in TOS. This gives the ST:TMP a familiar and overall bright and optimistic atmosphere, unlike almost all Trek movies to follow. Unfortunately, Ilia and Decker, who had both a lot of potential (also for the possible second TV series), were sacrificed and never seen again.
I think it was a wise decision to conceive ST:TMP as a sequel to TOS with some visual updates, rather than a reboot or remake, because this resulted in a continuity that would remain uninterrupted for 40 years. Although still a bit more could have been done to preserve some TOS style elements exactly as they were, I like the set, prop and costume design of this movie very much. Only the uniforms would never again be as colorless as here. ST:TMP established a visual standard for what is known as the "second generation of Star Trek" today, a long run of movies and series that lasted until 2005.
Nitpicking: "Vulcan has no moon." This is what Spock told Uhura in TOS: "The Man Trap". Yet, in the movie's kolinahr scene two enormous celestial bodies are visible in Vulcan's sky. Obviously someone noticed this apparent error, and for the Director's Cut DVD a completely new Vulcan landscape with huge statues and without celestial bodies was created, one that is also closer to the original sketches for the movie. -- Why do the Klingons suddenly have ridges on their foreheads in TMP? This question troubled generations of fans. But it was never even supposed to be asked, for it was commonly retroactively explained as a make-up shortcoming of TOS. The real Klingons were said by Gene Roddenberry to have always looked as in TMP. -- Kirk tells Scott that the alien machine is three days away from Earth, and that "the only starship in interception range is the Enterprise". In other words, Starfleet has nothing within three days of Earth, the center of the Federation, or within three days of that machine if you will, than a barely operational ship that needs to be launched prematurely, with untested warp engines! -- The diameter of the cloud is stated to be as much as 82 AUs, and as such it would envelop the whole solar system and possibly push planets out of orbit (although the solid machine inside is still small enough to orbit Earth). The diameter was later revised to more realistic 2 AUs in the Director's Cut. -- Where does V'ger/Decker vanish in the end, without destroying Earth's surface? It must have been something like a parallel dimension. -- More inconsistencies on a separate page.
Remarkable dialogues: "Jim, V'ger expects an answer." - "An answer? I don't know the question." (Decker and Kirk), "V'ger is a child. I suggest you treat it as such." - "Spock! This child is about to wipe out every living thing on Earth! Now, what do you suggest we do? Spank it?" (Spock and McCoy), "Decker." - "Fascinating. Not 'Decker unit'." (Ilia probe and Spock)
Remarkable quotes: "Enterprise. What we got back didn't live long. Fortunately." (comm voice, after the fatal transporter failure), "And they probably redesigned the whole sickbay too. I know engineers. They love to change things!" (McCoy), "Jim, I want this. As much as you wanted the Enterprise, I want this." (Decker)
Remarkable lifeform: "carbon units"
Remarkable ship: the Enterprise, the best one they ever had, redesigned by Andrew Probert
Rating: 8 (of 10).
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