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Brent Holmes
Sat, May 16, 2015, 10:15am (UTC -6)
Re: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Ian, I must disagree with one point in your cohesive, factual and revealing analysis of ST:TMP.

I would argue it’s a great movie. I think all the points you make in its defense elevate the film over much contemporary product. (The Thing and Blade Runner, released on the same day! in 1982 while competing against Khan and E.T. are the only other big budget ‘hard’ sci-fi films I recall experiencing from the late 70′s/early 80′s; except maybe for the first, Hoth third of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back).

Aside from Decker, Ilea and ‘The Big Three’ the crew exist to advance the plot and reflect the broad, high level competence and indeed great advancement of humanity Rodenberry used as a guidepost for what we the human race might achieve by the time this film is set in. The main 5 characters reflected Rodenberry’s hopes for humanity on the emotional, creative and human rights spectrums. Examples include Spock’s tears and Kirk’s suprised, grateful acknowledgement of them in a story where Spock’s rigid adherence to the cold logic of Vulcan was very much in contrast to the rest of crew’s feelings; particularily wonder at what they were encountering. Rodenberry always wanted to explore humanity and their reaction to the unknown and fantastic, as opposed to merely showcasing those elements for a thrill ride. (I’m looking at you; Star Trek: Into Darkness)

Your point about Rodenberry being shunted aside multiple times in the history of the Trek franchise for more conventional producers NBC and Paramount hoped would generate greater commercial success is well made. I recently rewatched Season One of TNG and the clumsiness and growing pains trump most messages the show may have been trying to send. (Tasha Yar’s death was a notable exception; even as this came from Denise Crosby’s desire to leave the show rather than an organic production idea).
The pacing in ST:TMP is slow; requiring more commitment from the viewer.

But the Great Bird achieved much with this film. His novelization of it is a particularly insightful blueprint of his goals. The opening pages reveal a cybernetic implant in Kirk (for rapid, long-distance alerts) and subsequent discussion of cybernetics and defining human. They also posit a theory that Starfleet has rejected always selecting the best candidates on paper to crew starships because people who perceive themselves as perfect fall into stasis when confronted with situations suggesting they are not. I also recall Kirk addressing rumours he and Spock were lovers; clearly Rodenberry’s desire to at least discuss the notion that people of different sexual orientation are equal. Kirk’s reply was classic: he had no problem being seen as or perhaps being bisexual; but wished people would credit him with the good sense to choose a lover who became aroused sexually more than once every 7 years!) Film novelizations today are much more about brand awareness and perhaps a ‘special bonus chapter’ or two.

To sum up; I think Rodenberry’s significant involvement with ST:TMP made it a better film and continues to enrich the Star Trek experience. Thank you for your post.
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