Star Trek: The Motion Picture

3 stars

Theatrical release: 12/7/1979
DVD special edition release: November 2001
PG; 2 hrs. 16 min.
Screenplay by Harold Livingston
Story by Alan Dean Foster
Produced by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Robert Wise

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

December 27, 2001

The recent DVD release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture — The Director's Edition represents a revisit to a piece of the Trek canon that these days seems known more for its place in Trek turning-point history than for its value as a feature film. Among fans and critics, ST:TMP is not often highly respected in the ranks of the Trek films. In terms of tone, it certainly stands out as the odd child of the film series. It can be argued that the film was remembered more for being a big event in the franchise's direction than for being a story that people remembered as part of the canon.

And for good reason. When Star Trek: The Motion Picture first came out in 1979, it landed amid years of anticipation for a project that went through a string of changing would-be destinations. First it was going to be Phase II, the new Trek TV series. (Even then, Paramount wanted to launch a TV network with Trek as its flagship, something that wouldn't happen until 1995.) At one point it was considered as a TV movie. Part of the decision for the destination was affected by the huge success of sci-fi classics Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If Star Trek was going back into production, it would be foolish not to aim for the big screen.

When it finally came out, some were disappointed, especially after the thunderous excitement of Star Wars two years earlier. ST:TMP was a slow-paced, cerebral, talky film with little in terms of action. For its creators, it was a miracle of effective coordination in the face of impossible, rapidly approaching deadlines. The product itself was barely finished — production and then post-production went to absolutely the last possible moments, with reels of the film being distributed to theaters practically within hours of their first show times. When the time came around for the sequel, The Wrath of Khan, it would be a return to sharper character interaction and faster-paced storytelling — what the audiences really wanted from Kirk and his crew.

Now, 22 years after the original theatrical release, we have the new ST:TMP Director's Edition DVD, a project that was given Paramount's blessing and which director Robert Wise finally felt comfortable in revisiting. I recently sat down to watch the film for the first time in several years. I honestly wasn't sure whether I'd notice the enhancements or not, since it had been some time since I'd seen the movie from beginning to end. But like all things that trap themselves in the corners of our memories and imagination, I remembered ST:TMP better than I had expected, even the specifics of certain shots.

ST:TMP is not a great film and never will be. It's flawed as science fiction and flawed as Trek. But it is a good film. It's particularly good in that it withstands the test of time. After 22 years and all sorts of progress in the arena of visual effects, the film has aged well. Both the production and the storyline bear scrutiny today.

Up front, the following should be noted:

1) The Director's Edition is a better film than either the original 1979 cut or the 1983 cut for TV that restored footage unused in 1979. (The 1983 cut is what landed on many previous video releases.)

2) The Director's Edition is not different from previous cuts of the film in ways that significantly impact the storyline (not like the director's cut of The Abyss, for example).

3) The film benefits from DVD quality, which is the best way to see the restored film today, with a superior audio mix and the excellent picture quality we've come to expect.

As a film, ST:TMP is not so much about its characters and personalities as the later films are. Most of the supporting characters like Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov are pushed to the sidelines as they have often been and are rarely seen as individuals. McCoy lends his personality to the proceedings but doesn't hugely figure into the plot. The primary character arcs are for Kirk (regaining command of the Enterprise, which he lost in being kicked upstairs), Spock (whose failed attempts to purge his emotions in the Vulcan ritual of the Kolinahr reveal both his need for and torment by human emotions), and Decker (who finds himself relieved of command because Kirk pulled some Starfleet strings in his goal to regain his captaincy, and also realizing his feelings for Lt. Ilia are resurfacing).

The story revolves around an approaching, all-powerful alien spacecraft that calls itself V'Ger, shrouded in a huge expanse of clouds, which is on a direct course for Earth. The Enterprise must intercept it and solve its mystery.

More than anything else, ST:TMP has some awesome sights to see. As Trek films go, the tone of ST:TMP is much more in the vein of epic science fiction. There's a grandness and a greatness to the scope of the film, something beyond anything probably any of the other Trek films have strived for or reached. Yes, the film is slow-moving at times and maybe too preoccupied with its reverence for the launch of the redesigned Enterprise, but those are important aspects that make the film memorable. I've always considered ST:TMP to be somewhat underrated by fans and critics who write it off as a bore, because there is a real sci-fi story at its center.

The launch of the Enterprise, even if depicted with a healthy dose of sentimentality, is one of the highlights of the film and one of the most memorable sequences in the Trek canon. Even by today's standards, the special-effects shots of the Enterprise in drydock have rarely been matched in their pure scale, simplicity, and beauty. These days the focus is so much on diving straight into the story that admiring something as truly awesome as a nearly 1,000-foot-long starship is no longer something that can be given any sort of consideration; we simply take it for granted.

Similarly, the venture into V'Ger's cloud — an extended series of sequences that take the better part of the film's second half and go for long stretches with minimal dialog — make for marvelous, great-looking eye candy. The scale is simply awesome, as the Enterprise ventures deeper and deeper into the cloud. The interiors of V'Ger have a truly alien look to them, though they serve no apparent function. What this elaborate environment is supposed to be used for is beyond me, but it certainly looks good on film.

For the Director's Edition, certain special-effects scenes have been enhanced. Most noteworthy include the destruction of the asteroid inside the wormhole, some digital-matte exterior shots on Vulcan, and exterior CG shots of V'Ger's vessel orbiting and firing on Earth. All are good examples of enhancements that go far enough to be considered improvements over the original but without becoming the least bit obtrusive or distracting. (The exterior shots of the V'Ger ship, in fact, make what's happening clearer — and it's said that all the changes are based on original storyboard concepts that were not produced because of time or money.) The old and new shots match well, and only those familiar with the original scenes will notice the changes. (New CG work was done by Foundation Imaging.) If there's one net-result difference between special effects in the late 1970s versus the effects of today, it's one of clarity and crispness. The effects themselves hold up well; where you notice the difference is the clarity of CG shots over some (but not all) of the fuzzier old shots.

On the soundtrack, the most notable change — other than general clean-up work for a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix — is the removal of the incredibly annoying red alert alarm and replacing it with something less grating.

From a story perspective, ST:TMP — in any cut — is certainly flawed. It takes a long time for the story to get under way, with the first hour of the film establishing setup material that would be established in half the time if done today (or even in 5-10 minutes in First Contact). That's not a criticism so much as an observation. What is a criticism is how several of the scenes don't really seem all that necessary, like the tragic accident with the transporter or the too-many iterations of Kirk stepping on Decker's toes and Kirk's perception of vice versa.

The storyline itself relies less on plot and more on a few grand gestures that arise from a few basic underlying elements of the story. There's not much in terms of plotting or character analysis; it's more like a big secret being held until the revelation at the end. The one truly interesting character analysis is of Spock, as his plight to find personal meaning mirrors that of V'Ger's; neither can find meaning in pure logic and knowledge without an underlying emotional satisfaction in their pursuit of discovery. V'Ger is a wealth of knowledge but seeks out its creator to answer the one question that it cannot answer through all the information logged in its journey — the ages-old question, "Why am I here?"

The film's closing revelations are in the true spirit of real ideas, with that emphasis on seeking out new life and discovering amazing new things. The ending aspires to be a true, cerebral science-fiction conclusion — something that supposed "sci-fi" films rarely seem to attempt anymore. (Clearly, this is a film that owes far more to 2001: A Space Odyssey than to Star Wars.) It's unfortunate that the closing reflection dialog can't manage to say more about what has just transpired. The dialog seems too interested instead in saying, in an almost flippant tone, "the adventures of the Enterprise will continue." It's frustrating to arrive at revelation and have the characters brush it off so trivially. Also somewhat underwritten is the impetus for Decker's choice to merge with V'Ger — something that's okay but might've worked better if it had been earlier telegraphed by the screenplay through a better understanding of Decker.

What's remarkable about ST:TMP is that it's ultimately more about the journey than the destination. It creates this journey with big, bold images that are beautiful and memorable, and with a legendary score by Jerry Goldsmith that cues our emotions in all the right places, from the bold grandness of the first sight of the Enterprise to the haunting mysteriousness of V'Ger that stands in front of us.

The film is not always fully engaging and is not intended to be exciting. It features some ho-hum plot elements and some crises that seem tacked on. But through its slowly building mystery, it's certainly a worthwhile Trek film on its merits, totally apart from the fact that its existence paved the way for the franchise as it has progressed for the 22 years since. Now on DVD, re-edited to play at a slightly better pace, removing scenes that were distracting or unnecessary in the 1983 version, this film deserves to live a new life as a vital piece of the Star Trek canon. For those who follow the Trek franchise, I recommend it.

DVD notes: Star Trek: The Motion Picture — The Director's Edition is a two-disc set that includes three brief documentaries about ST:TMP and the new Director's Edition; commentary track featuring director Robert Wise, composer Jerry Goldsmith, and others; original theatrical trailers and TV spots; deleted scenes from the 1979 and 1983 versions; and storyboards.

Next: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

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201 comments on this post

Wed, Nov 21, 2007, 5:59pm (UTC -6)
One word: BORING!
I usually agree with most of your reviews but i think you got it dead wrong with this one. TMP is 136 minutes of pretty special effects, that uncomfortable actors stare at and nothing much else happening in between. Its such a dull and lifeless film that it actually depresses me to watch it. I don't think there's anything bad or cheesy about it (apart those pyjama uniforms) nor is it the worst ST film but there is NOTHING of any interest in this film, NOTHING!
Sun, Jan 13, 2008, 8:16pm (UTC -6)
I've always loved this movie, but the DE is a vast improvement over the original cuts of the film. I genuinely don't understand how anyone could find this fascinating story "boring," unless they just don't possess the intellect to understand what is taking place on screen. I suppose some will always need big explosions and space battles to keep their little brains entertained. To me this movie has always been the most purely Trek film ever made.
Sat, Feb 16, 2008, 3:17pm (UTC -6)
I´ve always liked TMP thou it wasn't my favorite, until i became more wiser and mature you began to understand the beauty of this film. After i saw the DE it has become my favorite Trek film and in my opinion most accurate Trek film that depicts, Roddenberry vision of the future.
p.s. good review
Sun, Feb 17, 2008, 11:05am (UTC -6)
I, overall, preferred the DE to the original cut. I especially liked how the moment where Decker & Ilia exchange smiles on the bridge was moved to another part of the film. The only complaint I have was that they changed the emergency alert sirens. They just sounded more goosebump-inducing to me in their original track.
Sat, May 31, 2008, 9:54pm (UTC -6)
Better than Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and better than all TNG movies except First Contact. Not a particularly good movie, not a great representation of Star Trek as a whole. Lacks the feelings of camaraderie and humor that made the series so special, and that were recaptured in Star Treks II, III, and IV. Still, TMP is a beautiful film to watch on screen in many ways, and has a great soundtrack. The 1983 version with the 12 extra minutes of footage that premiered on television is my personal favorite version of this film.
Thu, Jun 5, 2008, 9:33am (UTC -6)
I used to rank this as the 2nd worst film, but having re-watched it and ST V back to back, I'm sorry to say it's the worst. It's just so damn boring, and what is with the verbatim recycling of the the Nomad story?! IT'S THE EXACT SAME STORY, right down to the carbon unit talk. Seriously, who greenlighted this? It's the nomad story stretched out for 2+ hours, with absolutely nothing interesting added. The opening scene is great, the next 20 minutes or so has points of interest, but once the enterprise launches it's a huge bore that adds nothing to the Star Trek canon. The chemistry and charm of TOS is completely absent here. If ever there was a sign that Rodenberry had become more of a detriment than an asset to Star Trek, this is it.
Thu, Jul 10, 2008, 8:47am (UTC -6)
Star trek is nothing but a politically correct series presenting a view of the future that people think may come true, but wont.
Star trek is 40 years old, this is the past and not the future,it is selling rece mixing to gullible people for special iinterests.
Sun, Aug 3, 2008, 6:13pm (UTC -6)
I have to agree this is some pretty boring stuff to watch. I like the ideas, I like the participants, but....
In addition to the stretched-out-to-ridiculous introduction of the new Enterprise, we have too many scenes of actors just staring 'awed' at the viewscreen and count how many times Dr. McCoy enters from a turbo lift, looks around (sometimes with dialog, sometimes not) and then leaves the bridge again... the point of that?
The movie is good, I guess, in its themes, but it could have used a bit of pruning along the way.
Finally, it seems far more interested in the mechanics of ST (worship of the Enterprise, long shots of V'ger's interiors) rather than giving the needed time to the characters to 'show' how this experience is impacting them. Perhaps of countless shots of the bridge crew looking silently, there could have been some quiet dialog scenes expressing the wonderment and puzzlement over what the probe's intent may be.
The only emotionally satisfying scenes in the movie are between Spock and Kirk, especially in sickbay... for the length of the movie, this just isn't enough character-drama.
Decker and Ilia never captured my emotional interest nor did Decker/Kirk's after Decker countermands Kirk's orders to fire phasers at the asteroid and the immediate fallout of that.
And, of course, there's the old TOS problem of short-shrifting Uhura, Sulu and Chekov but I think even Bones gets shorted this time out.
Magnum Serpentine
Sat, Mar 14, 2009, 12:53am (UTC -6)
First of all, the directors cut is the worse cut I have ever seen. It is a Cut all right. They cut out the scene where we hear the name of the Klingon Ship. (This effects the story in my opinion) they leave all the ABC version out which thus makes this the 1979 film that 100% of the Trek Fans back then hated. Quite a lot of the film is left out which surprised me. As for the Abyss, I thought that was a very very good film. When I purchased Star Trek The Motion Picture, Directors cut, I had thought that they had left the 1983 version alone except to improve the graphics. I was dead wrong, they abandoned the better version ( 1983 ABC Television special edition) and rehashed a film that fans hated (1979 hack job version).

Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Directors Cut rates a 1/2 star. The 1983 Star Trek ABC Television Version rates 5 stars out of 5. I hope that Paramount wakes up and decides to re-release the 1983 ABC Television version.
Tue, Mar 31, 2009, 2:18pm (UTC -6)
Hey man,
I know you posted these reviews a few years ago, but, as a lifelong Trekkie, I spent this past weekend watching some of these films again (I grew up on the TOS ones), in anticipation of the new film next month. I came across your site today and, I have to say, FINALLY someone gets these movies! I've been sitting here reading over all your reviews of the Trek films, and, damn, this is the exact stuff I've been saying for years! No, TMP, while ponderous and a bit self-important, was not bad at all! Finally, someone gives SFS the credit it deserves as the perfectly solid and respectable entry that it was, rather than writing it off as bad just because it's "one of the odd-numbered ones" or because it looks a little bland next to WOK! Finally, someone else asks why Picard, in Generations, didn't just go farther back in time after leaving that energy ribbon and nip McDowall in the bud-- while still accurately maintaining that, for all it's myriad faults and contrivances, Generations was still enjoyable in a lot of ways. Pointing out that Shatner, at the end of the day, is actually a pretty talented, charismatic actor who has a tendency to overshoot at times, rather than simply writing him off as hammy ego-on-legs; pointing out that the last two TNG films, while relatively uninspired, were far from the atrocities people made them out to be (your analysis of them was especially acute, and, again, it's stuff I remember thinking almost verbatim when I first saw them!). Anyway, I could go on and on, but keep up the great work and I hope you'll write something on Star Trek XI.
Tue, Mar 31, 2009, 3:52pm (UTC -6)
Dude, okay, you even manage to accurately single out the decent moments in Star Trek V! As dissappointed as I was in that film--I rented it on VHS after missing it in the theaters when I was 11 and was almost reduced to tears by how bad and just...weird it was; it didn't feel like Trek--there were, nevertheless, I've always been embarrassed to admit, a few decent moments and you nailed them! McCoy's euthansia scene, for example. Kelley actually got a Worst Supporting Actor Razzie Nomination for that performance. I always thought that was so unfair and mean-spirited, especially since that was the only watchable scene in the film! Just getting lumped in, I guess...
Jakob M. Mokoru
Wed, May 6, 2009, 12:47am (UTC -6)
I just rewatched this film (for the first time in the directors cut) and I was quite surprised, how beautiful it was. Until now, all that I had seen was the 1979 version on a bad videotape, so all the special effects were just endless series of blue stuff to me.

But now, in DVD quality, I really, really enjoyed the film. Those scenes where the Enterprise enters the Cloud: What a fantastic moment! The visuals, the grandious musical score!

It is true, that some of the later films were more directly thrilling and had more humour in them, but ST-TMP showed space as a really AWE-some place to be. And I found it quite good, seeing the Crew often just stare in wonder at the screen. One fault of the later films and series was that everything was commented and technobabbled on.

Great review!!!
Robert J. Sawyer
Fri, May 22, 2009, 9:38pm (UTC -6)
For those who remember that film as being simply bad and tedious — Star Trek: The Motionless Picture is what a lot of people called it at the time — I suggest you rent the new "Director's Edition" on DVD. ST:TMP is one of the most ambitious and interesting films about AI ever made, much more so than Steven Spielberg's more-recent film called AI, and it shines beautifully in this new cut.
Fri, May 22, 2009, 9:41pm (UTC -6)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the first film in the Star Trek series, the most successful series in movie history. After all, the fact that a movie series can hold the public's interest for 21 years (and nine films) and that the whole Star Trek concept is alive and well after over 30 years says something about the genius of Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek's creator.

People seem to cricitize this film heavily. Some of the criticisms of the film that I have heard in my discussions with people include phrases such as "frightfully boring," "way too long," and "chronically lacking in action." However, if that is all you saw in the film, then you clearly missed out on the film's beauty. This film is not about guns, explosions, blood, or machismo. It is about the philosophical relationship between logic and emotion.

The film is masterfully directed by Robert Wise, the academy award winning director of "The Sound of Music." The film reunites the original cast of the Star Trek series with a few new faces ... Stephen Collins as "Capt. Decker" and Persis Khambata as "Lt. Ilia". It also recaps the events that have transpired in each original series character since the television series in the late 60's with a sensitivity to newcomers to the Star Trek universe. It effectively introduces newcomers to Star Trek without insulting the intelligence of those of us who are thoroughly familiar with Star Trek.

The plot features an intelligent, logical entity that calls itself VGER. VGER is an innocent entity with one mission ... "learn all that is learnable... transmit that information to the creator." VGER in its incredible journey has in essence gained knowledge that spans the very essence of the universe. VGER now has set a course for Earth in an attempt to share its knowledge with its creator. VGER believes that its creator is on Earth.

VGER becomes a threat to life on Earth when its destroys three Klignon vessels and a Federation space station with incredible destructive power. To counter this threat, Admiral Kirk takes command of the Enterprise and leads the Enterprise in an intriguing battle with this alien entity.

While battling this alien entity, Admiral Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew learn about the relationship between human logic and emotion. They explore philosophical issues such as "Is this all that I am?" and "Is there nothing more?". I believe Spock summarizes the quest for answers to these questions by his statement about two-thirds of the way into the film that indicates that "logic alone is not enough". They eventually learn to appreciate the unique attributes that make us human ... "our weaknesses ... and the drive that compels us to overcome them."

In conclusion, this film has a great plot, great special effects, and excellent music and cinematography. Definitely see it if you are truly interested in taking a philosophical journey into the essence of what makes us human.
Scott Fraser "A Likely Lad"
Fri, May 22, 2009, 9:51pm (UTC -6)
Star Trek The Motion Picture (TMP)is my favourite film in the entire series. It is interesting that this is the only visualisation of a lost period in Star Trek's fictional timeline. Consider, we have the original 5 year mission which was followed by this movie (not counting the animated series)there is then a 14 year gap, fictionally as it were in time from the end of TMP and The Wrath of Khan (TWOK). All the remaining films are set after each other leading up to the final mission of the original crew and Kirk's death. The period of time from the end of the 5 year mission to the beginning of TWOK is an immense source of speculation and interest for fans and scores of unofficial books have been set in this period.
TMP is divorced from the rest of Kirk's time in Trek through being set in this gap and provides just a small peek at this unknown period. The script was the original pilot proposal for a new series on TV called Star Trek Phase 2 and it's interesting to speculate which way Trek would have gone had this been the start of a new series rather than the first film.

The script itself was titled "In Thy Image" for the TV pilot project but was dropped when it was decided to adapt it to movie form, I do think the title The Motion Picture is boring and I wish they had kept the original title, it gives a better indication of things than TMP which could mean anything.
The film has been remastered and looks brilliant, but it has also been re-edited to quicken the pace and make the film seem a bit busier and faster, the selling point however is that some scenes and effects have been completely replaced, one of them is a breathtaking shot of the planet Vulcan with giant statues and ancient temples and blood red skies and mountains, it is worth the purchase of this disc for this alone. Sensational.
The soundtrack of TMP is something that has always stuck in my head from the day that I first saw this in 1979, it is possibly the best music ever used on Trek, but then what do you expect being composed by the genius that gave us the Jaws theme, Jerry Goldsmith. I will never forget his Ilia's overture, the Klingon theme that became so famous and of course the Enterprise music score. World class.

TMP is more in line with the way Gene Roddenberry originally envisaged the series, by being more thoughtful, intellegent and character-led than the more grand shoot-em-ups and big battles going off in space. Stories like The City on the Edge of Forver and The Inner Light are of much more interest to me than stories like The Best of Both Worlds and Scorpion.

The special features are to die for including such gems as a documentary on the aborted Phase 2 series with some super rare test footage of various elements, documentaries are also used to cover the film itself and the reimagining of thing. Theatrical and teaser trailers are included as are 16 quite substantial deleted scenes, and storyboard archives. Great stuff.

This film is not only my favourite Trek movie but rates very highly in my all-time list of all films, but I do have one gripe however. as much as I love this version of the movie I would have like to have been given the choice to watch the original theatrical version if I so choose, and it should have been an option on this disc. You can see all the original material that was changed in one of the extras, but this is not the same as having it integrated into the movie itself.

So there we are, not only the best Trek film but for the sheer quality of the special features the best DVD release of a Trek Film. Unmissable.
M. Evans
Fri, May 22, 2009, 9:52pm (UTC -6)
The first big screen Trek film often gets unfairly slated for being'dull, slow and ponderous', but there is actually a great deal to recommend about this film. Unlike any of the other Trek movies, or indeed the vast majority of science fiction films, The Motion Picture really does capture that sense of epic grandeur that I've only seen done in 2001 A Space Odyssey and has the most thought-provoking storyline and a feeling of awe-inspiring 'alienness' that is sadly lacking in any of the other entries in the series. For a film that is 30 years old, the special effects have dated remarkably well and most still look very impressive today. The realisation of the V'Ger craft is still awesome, and the sheer size of it, especially when you see the pin-head sized Enterprise flying through it really creates a sense of spectacle. The eerie sound effects and sweepingly majestic music score also add greatly to the overall impact. Where the film falls down is in it's pacing, it seems to take forever for the Enterprise to leave space dock and reach the alien craft, and the scene where Kirk and Scotty inspect the Enterprise just seems interminable. Then there's the characters themselves - there's very little engaging characterisation here, there seems to be none of the old magic between the main characters that was a highlight of the old series, Kirk seems dour and grumpy, and Spock is unnaturally cold and aloof. There is almost no humour or light moments in the fim and the whole film does come across as rather grim. The costumes for the crew are also very unattractive, with everyone sporting hideous beige or grey jumpsuits, and Kirk in a too-tight white T-shirt that he looks like he's about to burst out of. And Uhura has a horrible 70's afro that thankfully was never seen again after this. The sets for the enterprise don't look too good either, with everything being a depressing shade of beige and grey and too darkly lit. I think the best way to approach The Motion Picture is as an epic, thought-provoking Science fiction film in the 2001 tradition, and in this regard it is certainly very good, but it just feels like it hasn't really captured the feel or style of 'Star Trek' - that would be achieved with the following film.
This DVD is the 'Director's Edition' which basically adds a few improved special effects which integrate seemlessly with the original film and tightens up the slow pacing a bit, making this the definitive version.
Ben Gourlay
Fri, May 22, 2009, 10:01pm (UTC -6)
Many fans deride the slow pace of the film (it has been harshly dubbed The Motionless Picture), but I appreciate the slightly slower pace and over time it has become appreciated as somewhat of a ‘thinking mans’ sci-fi film, in the ilk of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Mark Bourne
Fri, May 22, 2009, 10:07pm (UTC -6)
A Wise Trek.

To some it is the best cinematic Trek of the bunch if only because it sets out to be something more than noisy Space Opera.
John Kenneth Muir
Fri, May 22, 2009, 10:28pm (UTC -6)
It is likely you've heard all the derogatory titles for the film too, from The Motionless Picture, to Spockalypse Now, to Where Nomad Has Gone Before (a reference to the episode "The Changeling.")

Conventional wisdom, however, isn't always right. Among its many fine and enduring qualities, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is undeniably the most cinematic of the Trek movie series in scope and visualization.

And, on closer examination, the films features two very important elements that many critics insist it lacks: a deliberate, symbolic character arc (particularly in the case of Mr. Spock) and a valuable commentary on the co-existence/symbiosis of man with his technology.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture also re-invents the visual texture of the franchise, fully and authoritatively, transforming what Roddenberry himself once derided as "the Des Moines Holiday Inn" look of the sixties TV series for a post-Space:1999, post-Star Wars world.

The central narrative of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is clever and fascinating.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is often termed the film that saved Star Trek, and there may indeed be truth to that argument. Certainly, I love and admire that Nicholas Meyer film. However, consider just how much material present in later Star Trek originates directly from the re-invention of the franchise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
James Berardinelli
Sat, May 23, 2009, 7:28am (UTC -6)
The "idea" aspect of Star Trek - The Motion Picture is enhanced in Director's Edition. The film spends more time exploring those unique qualities that make human beings special, and the importance of tempering logic and knowledge with emotion. Spock's breakthrough comes when he embraces his human half instead of rejecting it. For V'ger to grow, it must find a way to move beyond the cold machine logic of its programming. To do that, V'ger wants to "join" with its creator, and, in this, the film illuminates our need to strive for new goals and seek to attain the previously unattainable. And, while Star Trek - The Motion Picture doesn't answer the questions of "Who am I? Why am I here?", it isn't afraid to ask them.
Gary Westfahl
Sat, May 23, 2009, 9:18am (UTC -6)
Wise creates one memorable sequence, a homage to David Bowman's journey through the Star Gate in 2001: A Space Odyssey, featuring Mr. Spock in a spacesuit venturing alone into the bowels of the enigmatic V'Ger and observing its bizarre phenomena. The scene briefly offers the disturbing message that Star Trek adventures otherwise labor to suppress: namely, that humans venturing into outer space are going to be lonely, vulnerable, and puzzled creatures. And these are all feelings that Robert Wise knows, and projects, extremely well.
Steve Crum
Sat, May 23, 2009, 9:36am (UTC -6)
Ponderously long, yes; but it was and still is a true movie event.
Luke Y. Thompson
Sat, May 23, 2009, 9:37am (UTC -6)
Often unfairly maligned because it's slow and contemplative, but has some real ideas behind it.
Sat, May 23, 2009, 9:49am (UTC -6)
Sorry about the possible confusion, but Robert Wise was the master and Nicholas Meyer the also-ran!
James O'Ehley
Sat, May 23, 2009, 10:11am (UTC -6)
It’s time to reclaim Star Trek - The Motion Picture as one of the best films in the series . . .

Here’s why:

The movie is good to simply look at. After all, the first special-effects team on Star Trek - The Motion Picture was fired, and the movie’s release was delayed a year while new effects were devised and photographed. The effects are brilliant. Eye-candy as critics pointed out, sure. However, in the process the Enterprise was updated to look like other spaceships we’ve already seen in 2001, Silent Running, Star Wars and Alien. Especially the alien spaceship which seems to stretch out into infinity is excellent.

The plot is only predictable in so far as it is prime Star Trek stuff: the crew of the starship Enterprise confronts some kind of alien entity. At the end basic human values are affirmed. But the basic idea behind the picture - of the alien entity asking very much the same questions we humans are - is actually interesting stuff. When I first saw the film, it reminded me of Arthur Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama novel.

There are enough in-jokes and references to keep any self-confessed trekkie happy.

I, for one, was just glad back in 1979 to see the faces of the familiar Enterprise crew again. Little did I know that the film’s commercial success would ensure nine big screen outings, several spin-off television shows, you name it. Enough to keep any Star Trek fan happy . . .

Star Trek - The Motion Picture turns 20 next year. So how about it, Paramount? Bring this unacknowledged sci-fi classic back to the big screen - where it belongs!
Dale J. Nauertz
Sat, May 23, 2009, 10:50am (UTC -6)
The plot behind “ST: TMP” is very solid. A threatening cloud of energy is approaching Earth, destroying virtually every ship in its path. Kirk and the others have to stop it. But, of course, it’s not quite that easy. There’s something at the center of this energy cloud, you see, and it’s coming to Earth to find its creator. The plot moves steadily forward, throwing just enough twists at the audience to keep things interesting without getting convoluted. The threat has an urgency that actually works with the film’s pace (even when things ARE going slow, Kirk is the first one to get frustrated with by it) and takes away the “who cares?” element that hindered more than a couple episodes of the original series (at least for me). Also, Spock has a nice emotional payoff or two in this film which adds some frosting to this particular cake.

It’s a damn fine sci-fi film, FAR better than its mediocre reputation would suggest.
Sat, May 23, 2009, 10:54am (UTC -6)
I do enjoy this film. I have to agree with hossrex on the conflict of the narrative, though; the film struggles between being deliberate and being plodding. That said, to me, “The Motion Picture” is everything that comprises the best of “Star Trek”. Perhaps it’s because my first major experience with “Star Trek” was “The Next Generation,” I feel that the true soul of Star Trek is in plots like these: labyrinthine ones that are comprised of futuristic dilemmas like sentient A. I., alien technologies and alien beings, and the resolution of conflict through the finding of peace (as opposed to Kahn’s “blow him up or be blown up”).
Sun, May 24, 2009, 6:10pm (UTC -6)
Simple (Box Office) Statistics:

• "Star Trek: First Contact"-- $146 million.
• "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"--$139 million.
• "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home"--$133 million.
• "Star Trek Generations"--$120 million.
• "Star Trek: Insurrection"--$118 million.
• "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"--$97 million.
• "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country"--$96.9 million.
• "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock"--$87 million.
• "Star Trek Nemesis"--$67 million.
• "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier"--$63 million.

After adjusting their takings for inflation, we have:

• "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"-- $398 million US dollars.
• "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home"-- $257 million.
• "Star Trek: First Contact"-- $244 million.
• "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"-- $237 million.
• "Star Trek: Generations"-- $206 million.
• "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock"-- $186 million.
• "Star Trek: Insurrection"-- $180 million.
• "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country"-- $165 million.
• "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier"-- $127 million.
• "Star Trek: Nemesis"--$83 million.

Numbers Don't Lie: ST: TMP is simply the best.
Wed, Jun 17, 2009, 8:36am (UTC -6)
John said (in the second comment down from the top):

"I genuinely don't understand how anyone could find this fascinating story 'boring,' unless they just don't possess the intellect to understand what is taking place on screen. I suppose some will always need big explosions and space battles to keep their little brains entertained."

John, you know what I genuinely don't understand? Why people writing reviews on the net often feel the need to insult people who disagree with them. It's quite childish. Just because Adam criticized the film as boring doesn't mean he's an idiot. It simply means his tates are different from yours.
Wed, Jun 17, 2009, 8:46am (UTC -6)
Jesus enough with the fake reviews. That one idiot posted like 15 positive reviews of this shitty movie in one day.

STMP sucks ass. It's slow, ponderous, and boring, and it's a 100% recycle of the Changeling, yet it manages to be about 5% as fun.

No amount of alternym reviews changes that. Read Nimoy's book - he agrees with me and 90% of the other people who wasted 2.5 hours on this turkey.
Jakob M. Mokoru
Wed, Jun 17, 2009, 10:34am (UTC -6)
Well, I mine was wether a fake nor an alternym review: I was REALLY quite thrilled by the Director's Cut! Yes, it's slow, yes, there are flaws, but it is a good movie!
Wed, Jul 1, 2009, 4:27am (UTC -6)
Jammer your review is the first that does justice to this film (also R.Ebert's review). As for the disagremments about this movie i have to say only this:
if you like "2001" (that means idea driven, thought provoking science fiction) then you will like this one also.
If you like "Star Wars" (that means a movie to raise your adrenaline levels) then you will not like it. Personally i loved 2001 and i loved this one also.
Wed, Jul 1, 2009, 8:52am (UTC -6)
Seriously, will you idiots STOP comparing St1 to 2001!?
You are insane. 2001 is a masterpiece and it's enthralling. ST1 is empty garbage that makes a nice sleep aid if you are out of ambien. You people are completely delusional on this one.
Tue, Jul 7, 2009, 6:19am (UTC -6)
To levi:
watch your tongue man. You have no right to call people idiots and insane becouse the like this movie. Noone said that it was as good as 2001 has been. We just said that it was good and real science fiction not the "star wars" kind of science fiction.If you want to tell us your arguments fine. Otherwise leave us alone.
Wed, Aug 19, 2009, 10:18am (UTC -6)
"if you like "2001" (that means idea driven, thought provoking science fiction) then you will like this one also.
If you like "Star Wars" (that means a movie to raise your adrenaline levels) then you will not like it."

There's a problem with this statement in that it implies that you can't be idea-driven and adrenaline-raising. Though TMP is a gorgeous movie, even 30 years later, it is not a very good one. The Wrath of Khan is far more exciting but still manages to raise excellent questions on life & death and deliver solid character insights.
Wed, Aug 19, 2009, 10:29am (UTC -6)
Exactly - comments like that imply that if you don't enjoy TMP, you are somehow not on the intellectual level of films like it and 2001. It's hogwash - the only thing TMP has in common with 2001 is that it's long.
Thu, Dec 3, 2009, 10:57am (UTC -6)
I have to agree with the masses on this one; TMP is boring, long, and poorly paced. On plot, it will never be a winner.

However, I have to agree with the majority of these comment reviews as well; the film is gorgeous. The model work offers a reality that CGI has yet to attain. The music is ethereal, majestic, triumphant; in a word, fantastic. And above all, this film instills the sense of awe that Star Trek rarely achieves; in this film, space feels like the Final Frontier and the business of exploring it feels like a great adventure; in other movies and series, space tends to be that incidental where the show happens to be set; there is no fanfare in the Enterprise gliding about it unless it has just bested an enemy. Here, everything is an event, a wonder- from the silent ballet of a Vulcan cruiser docking to the awesome, vast vistas of V'ger's interior. Things are not just encountered and swept aside to service the action- they are examined, explored- being in space, (the Enterprise's launch, a potent symbol of the Boldly going of which we often speak) encountering the very epitome of 'new life and new civilizations'- these thinks are treated as a big deal, and this movie gives the audience just a small sense of the wonder they might feel were they really there, in space, soaring through the stars- an experience they might well linger on, as well.

This film CELEBRATES the exploration of space, the Enterprise, the adventure- the long, lingering moments are a treasure, a rare sequence to stop and savor the majesty of what is happening, a pause to simply stop and wonder that you would never find in modern, fast-paced, impatient cinema. For me, at least, the long, lingering looks at the Enterprise in spacedock never bore because the music speaks of majesty and glory and, in concert with Kirk's expressions, a homecoming.

Star Trek: TMP is not a flawless picture. It is slow. But it is also a wonderful celebration of truly trekking across the stars that isn't afraid to stop and savor the moment, and for that, I love it.
Christopher Null and David Bezanson
Thu, Jan 28, 2010, 1:23am (UTC -6)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released at a time when sci-fi movies were expected to be long, sluggish, arty epics like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Dune. To achieve the desired length and artiness, the producers of Star Trek: TMP hired director Robert Wise -- best known for overlong, dull classics like The Sound of Music -- and chose a script which was long on dialogue but short on action or character development.

All told, the movie is one of the few imitators of 2001: A Space Odyssey that achieves the same feeling of mystery and danger. Partly this is due to Goldsmith's excellent score; partly it is because the slow pacing and dark, gloomy sets succeed in conveying the slowness and suspense of space travel, as well as its emptiness.

So is Star Trek: The Motion Picture worth renting? Yes.
Tue, Feb 23, 2010, 3:08pm (UTC -6)
Ugh. What an awful film. Seriously, I don't go in for sci-fi films with huge special effects and no plot easily, but this film was mind numbing. It was like staring at a rock for two hours. It was as bad as 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yes, that film is bad. Just because it's influential doesn't make it good. It can't make up for having no plot and no good characters and just being so boring and trite and ridiculous, it's a wonder it's taken seriously today. The Motion Picture isn't quite as bad, but still pretty bad. A very poor entry to the franchise.
Tue, Mar 9, 2010, 8:03am (UTC -6)
It was always been my opinion that what was wrong with ST: TMP were the characters of Decker and that bald woman -- I forget her name. They detracted from the original characters. No one cared about them. If this movie had been about only the original characters everything would have changed, even if the plot did not. In addition, the reunion on screen of the original characters was, to say the least, underwhelming. The audience was waiting for this wonderful reunion, and Spock didn't even want to be there, and Kirk was grim and all business. Poorly conceived.
Thu, Apr 8, 2010, 12:11pm (UTC -6)
I have to agree with John - this is the most 'Star Trek' of all the films, and also the "most ambitious of all the Trek films" (to quote Robert Wise). Perhaps my opinion was better simply because I had barely seen the original series at that time, but for many years this was my favorite film of the franchise. Recently, I have come to see that it does have a few flaws (mostly in terms of characterization) which has lowered its raking a little, but it has cerebral elements that no other Trek film ever dared use, which I think is very sad. Is it as great a masterpiece as 2001? No, but it is a great film.

However, in response to Q's post, I would disagree that box office success equals film quality. TMP grossed more than the other films, not because it was the best but because of the anticipation of it being the first film, and the first live-action Star Trek story in 10 years. Not to mention this was 2 years after Star Wars renewed fan interest in epic sci-fi. The new film has the highest gross, even after inflation adjustments, but I have not heard a single Star Trek fan say it is the best in the series, either.
Thu, Jun 3, 2010, 8:48pm (UTC -6)
I think that STTMP is easily the best of the Trek films from a sheer PLOT perspective. The magic of space exploration and the best elements of the future of humanity pictured for all to see. Plus, new bad-ass Klingons.

But the pacing just killed it.

If you cut out 45 minutes of exterior shots, you'd probably have a movie to rival TWOK.
Thu, Jun 3, 2010, 9:00pm (UTC -6)
A visionary Science Fiction spectacle. Flawed in parts, perhaps, but all in all, a stirring journey into outer and inner space. The art direction is excellent, the photography bright and hopeful (though the split diopter shots are jarring), the effects work magnificent (for the time) and the score is spell-binding (by far, the best and most operatic treatment Star Trek ever got). The scripting and acting, while relatively spare, fit the aesthetic and aims of the picture. Although a chief criticism of this film is that the characters get lost, I'd argue that the film is deliberately using them to expand and reflect its grand themes - and what interactions that do occur are intelligent and absorbing. You can sense Robert Wise, a true cinematic master, at work throughout this film. The sheer audacity of this project - the concept, the budget and Robert bloomin' Wise! - astounds me. It's particularly impressive considering the catalyst for it was Star Wars. Therefore, next time someone says that Star Wars is to blame for ushering in one mindless blockbuster after another, bring this film into the conversation and remind them that it wasn't always so. ST:TMP really is a superb and lovingly crafted picture with things to say and inspire.
Mark A. Altman
Thu, Jun 3, 2010, 9:22pm (UTC -6)
It’s easy to see why people don’t love Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it’s a virtual remake of the episode “The Changeling” with the NOMAD probe that confuses Kirk as its creator, and has a glacial pace that today’s movie viewers are not accustomed to, especially watching it on television, and in the aftermath of The Wrath of Khan. But the fact is, in many ways, ST:TMP is a magnificent film. Spock faces his own humanity in a much more organic and real way than in a more recent Star Trek movie, Kirk has to come to terms with losing his ship and doing anything to reclaim his first best destiny and McCoy is just a hoot throughout. The redesign of all the ships, not just the Enterprise, have never been topped and the visual effects are quite simply awe-inspiring (take that, CGI). Although greenlit in the aftermath of Star Wars, ST: TMP owes far more of a thematic debt to 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sense of awe of the cosmos than Star Wars. And maybe that’s the key analogy. If you look at this year’s enjoyable re-invention and relaunch of the franchise, it’s a fast-paced, popcorn movie which bears the imprimatur of Star Wars far more than the Star Trek TV series, which makes sense, of course, if you’re trying to engage a new and younger audience for the franchise.

ST: TMP on the other hand, the last film in which Gene Roddenberry was allowed to be actively involved, has other things on its mind; combining its brand of pop humanism with the awe, majesty and danger of the unknown. But for the kid sitting in the theater in 1979, none of that mattered. Much like 1978s Superman, which is completely entrancing until after the helicopter rescue and then sort of falls off a cliff, ST: TMP is a rapturous tribute to Trekdom through Mr. Spock’s arrival…and then sort of falls of a cliff too. It’s easy to lose sight of what it was like the in the wake of the subsequent films and TV series, but seeing Starfleet Academy and Earth for the first time in the 23rd century was a giddy experience. The magnificent opening in which three Klingon ships are consumed by V’ger to the strains of Goldsmith’s brilliant Klingon Battle Theme stuck with you for weeks and, of course, the long, slow, lingering orgasmic glee on Kirk’s face as he, and the audience, admired the Enterprise in drydock for what seemed like forever. What seems interminable today on home video for was at the time the encapsulation of everything we felt about Star Trek and the amazement we had at seeing it back on the big screen and Andy Probert and Mike Minor’s redesign of the ship has never come close to being equaled. And in case of supreme irony, ST: TMP actually has the same ending as a James Bond movie. WTF? The same time, Moonraker, was released in which Roger Moore’s 007 goes into space and has destroy earth-imperiling globes that are going to annihilate all life on Earth, much like V’ger’s. Who woulda thunk it? (And if Trek was too heady for you at the time, you could ease on down the road to a nearby theater where The Black Hole was unspooling and watch Disney’s attempt to do Star Wars by sending Maximilian Schell to hell through a black hole. Or at least that’s what it appeared to be. I was too upset over the death of Slim
Pickens’ Old Bob to care at that point. And, yes, I’m kidding…sorta).
Tue, Jun 8, 2010, 7:58pm (UTC -6)
This from the guy who thinks that the ONLY problem with Star Trek V is the SFX.
Mark A. Altman
Wed, Jun 9, 2010, 11:11am (UTC -6)
I just want to say that I've learned the error of my ways & am now a big Janeway fan. Kate Mulgrew is such a hottie; she sets my phaser to stun every time I see her.
Latex Zebra
Mon, Jun 21, 2010, 4:59am (UTC -6)
Watched this for the first time in years again last night. Must have been the Directors Cut as there where a few scenes I didn't remember.
In a line - Long film is long!
Way too many exterior shots that drag the length out.
Too many unanswered questions regarding the probe itself. It's huge, how would you even build such a thing and in such a time scale for it [Voyager] to be found by the machine planet, build it a ship and then send it back!
One thing I would love to see, if it exists, is an exterior shot of the probe/ship as a whole.
Overall, I give it a 2 out of 4.
Wed, Nov 30, 2011, 10:50am (UTC -6)
I feel TMP is underrated. Yes, it's slow moving and not action oriented, but there is so much here to enjoy.

First, I think this is the one TREK film out of all 11 which truly lives up to the "seek out new life, etc." mantra. The exploration of V'Ger's vessel, the encounter with the Ilia probe, Spock's spacewalk sequence all contribute to the crew of the Enterprise seeing something definitely new and alien.

And while the characterizations aren't as strong as in later films, for this story I feel it makes sense. Spock is attempting to purge emotion so he is going to come across as more cold and distant than he ever has before. Kirk's focus is on regaining the Enterprise and then learning along the way that he does have a lot to learn regarding how the refit Enterprise works. McCoy seems pretty much the same in his characterization.

Spock's story is the focal point, I feel, because this is where he finally learns the balance between logic and emotion. His open admittance of friendship with Kirk in ST II and his conversation with Valeris in ST VI state this lesson more clearly, but he learned the lesson in TMP and I'm glad that even though no specific mention is ever made to the events of this film in subsequent films/episodes his characterization carried through to the rest of his appearances.

My favorite color is blue so I don't mind the uniforms in this film. I do like the updated style from TOS although some of the uniform shirts look more like pajama tops and I've always thought the rank stripes were the best rank insignia design so it's good to see them one last time.

It's not perfect as a movie, but it feels like a true movie production with a sense of living up to the credo of the TV show opening.
Wed, Feb 8, 2012, 3:38am (UTC -6)
I adore TMP. Yes it's slow-moving and pondering, but it's also fascinating. This is Star Trek as it was meant to be, and by far the purest representation of Gene Roddenberry's original vision. How many films conclude with the protagonists not only making peace with the villain, but with one of them even merging with him to travel the stars? I'd also like to point out that TMP is without a doubt Shatner's finest performance as James Kirk, and I was impressed how well he plays the unfulfilled admiral who yearns to captain a starship again, a character thread which is fleshed out in the subsequent films. I give this movie four stars easy.
Fri, Apr 13, 2012, 1:37pm (UTC -6)
Oh my God Jammer. Thank you for cementing my opinion that you are one of the worst critics who has achieved success, and thank you to everyone who commented on this for proving what bad attitudes you have.

I have no problem that you liked the movie. If you did, great. What I do have a problem with is that you portray it as some kind of misunderstood masterpiece. WHAT BULLCRAP!

I hate 2001: A Space Odyssey with a passion that's hard to put into words, but Kubrick at least spouted some rubbish about how his film was supposed to be unintelligible, which at least makes the fact it's about something arguable. NOBODY SAID THAT ABOUT THIS MOVIE!!!!!

There are first hand reports from the cast and crew at all levels that this films was the RUSHED, SLOPPY, PRODUCTION DISASTER THAT MADE IT'S WAY ONTO THE SCREEN! DID YOU BOTHER READING BEHIND THE SCENES MATERIAL?!

There is EVIDENCE that this movie is about nothing. So to all you snotty nosed superior fans who tell me that this movie being a masterpiece is inarguable, I can definitively say you're complete jerks and are completely wrong. THIS. IS. CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!
Rhyan W
Tue, May 22, 2012, 9:10pm (UTC -6)
The film is only boring to Luddites who lack the capacity to pay attention to anything without CGI and big explosions for more than a few seconds at a time. TMP is a film for people that enjoy story, and there is quite a sci-fi space yarn in the film for those without the previously mentioned mental handicap. I'll wager the majority of those replying in the negative are of the "Justin Bieber" generation.
Tue, Jul 24, 2012, 6:31am (UTC -6)
@Rhyan W thank you for proving me right.

What you've just said is exactly what I was talking about in my comment. My problem isn't that people like this movie it's that fans have this terrible attitude that anyone who doesn't like the movie is being anti-intellectual.

There is nothing intellectual about this movie and that's not just me saying that. There is actual PROOF given by people involved in the production that there was no story and that the film was the rushed production disaster you saw on screen.

If you like this movie, that's fine, but when you're ARGUING that it's a great, philosophical work you have to contend with FACTS. There's no great masteriece here, no work of genius. It's a sloppy production disaster.

You like the film, great. But seriously, I don't like your attitude, with all due respect. It's extremely obnoxious and won't endear you to anyone. Just because people worked out this film has no story, no characters and is quite possibly one of the biggest insults to Star Trek fans doesn't mean they're drooling idiots who only like 300 (which is a great movie, by the way, nothing wrong with that, it's just an example of what you're probably thinking).

Additionally, Leonard Nimoy said he hated this movie. Are you saying he suffers ADHD and loves Justin Bieber?
Sat, Nov 10, 2012, 10:45pm (UTC -6)
Q gave the box office receipts higher up and while your conclusion that TMP was the best film of them is quite debatable I think you missed that your hard data also makes it look like Wrath of Khan did NOT save the franchise but Voyage Home did. A sci-fi comedy. Now isn't that something you don't want to consider? haha

This movie is ponderous but I like the idea it was built on. Just like I liked it in Changling. Could definitely have trimmed the "majesty" down by about 10 minutes and then cut out all the silly chest-beating between Kirk and Decker. That cuts off about 30 minutes right there.

I had just finished watching the entire original series and jumped right into this movie so, while this movie may be the most trekkian in it's ideals and message it was also extremely jarring to have all the characterization and interplay I was accustomed to, to suddenly be absent. This crew didn't act like old friends that have been through thick and thin together. Instead, they acted as if they hadn't talked in the 10 years since the end of their mission.

Jarring. Oh and Chekov screams. aaaaAAIIIEEE!
Thu, Jan 3, 2013, 4:33am (UTC -6)
Ok... Maybe TMP's plot was improvisation but this movie is most artistic ST film, equall only to TWoK (TMP is visual masterpiece, when TWoK is rather narrative brilant). First is like a eccentric picture of modern painter, second - like postmodern book full of interstructural allusions.

TMP is also first (at lasc second to "Doomsday Machine" and - maybe - "Balance of Terror") quality Trek, a worthy precedensor of TWoK, TNG "Yesterday's Enterprise" or "The Inner Ligt", DS9 "The Visitor" etc., and maybe closer to hard SF of them all, almost realistic. (TWoK, altough brilliant too, realistic isn't. And have these Santa Claus', ellegant, but stupid, uniforms.)

Next, TMP is one of really few Trek movies that's look cinematic (followed only by FC and Abrams' films).

ps. Maybe it will be kind of blaspemy for some of you, but I think that only two ST films really worth watching (and I saw all of them, many times) are TMP and TWoK. The rest of them have too much brain's hurting elements, even, partially very brillant TUC and visually impresive FC...
(And... I love 2OO1, but I love The Empire Strikes Back too. And I think, that one of Trek strenghts is that he may be siiliar to both of them, and dfferent of both of them, because Trek is really universal franchise: hard SF, social fiction, philosophic parable, mind blowing space opera, etc., etc.)
Thu, Jan 3, 2013, 4:55am (UTC -6)
And one more thing... TMP and TWoK are compatibile oppositives. First seen in TMP Kirk's middle age crisis continues in TWoK. Also Spock's noble death in TWoK is logical ;) consequence of his V'Ger lesson. And godlike Genesis technology is best prove that "human adventure is just begins...".
Also great is matter of colors - TMP's blue vs. TWoK's red-and-orange. Water and fire. Yin and Yang. Brillant.

No other Trek movie is so artistic-and-clever. The're never try.

(But TVH, FC and '09 are enjoyable at last. And TUC is better of them and almost good - I love the final scene.)
Fri, Mar 8, 2013, 7:03am (UTC -6)
So, Kirk comes aboard, goes to the captain, says he is taking command and that the captain is degraded to the rank of commander. Right after that he tells him to go to his station. LOL.
Tue, Sep 10, 2013, 9:34am (UTC -6)
No one can deny that this is not the most zippy movie in town, but it definitely has its "ups".

Spock on Vulcan at the beginning, the relaunch of the Enterprise, to name just two.

There was also some real character interaction here, and I would argue it felt much more "futuristic" than some of the newer series and movies.

And like it or not, it was a "true" sci-fi story.

Relaunching Star Trek from a slightly bizarre series into a movie franchise was never going to be easy, and should never have been too action based or hurried...

I haven't seen the new director's cut, and I will, but I think that TMP really holds up to scrutiny, even after nearly 40 years.
Tue, Sep 10, 2013, 10:27am (UTC -6)
@T'Paul: TMP is too slow, but that's not really the biggest issue. The characterization in this movie feels off.
Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 4:33pm (UTC -6)
Perhaps so, but I feel more that they were simply getting back into the swing of things, remembering their old characters, establishing their new take on them in a movie and not TV environment - if we look at it from the actor's point of view.

If we look at the characters, I think the motivations are there... Spock and his personal searches, Kirk's being uncomfortable with his promotion, etc., etc.

Plus it seems that perhaps some parts of the story were chopped, that could have explained any such "anomalies".
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 1:42pm (UTC -6)
It's been years since I watched this movie. I'll always have a soft spot for it, because Star Trek coming back was a dream come true. I used to rush home from school to watch Star Trek reruns. The animated series certainly had its faults, but we were happy to have it because it was Star Trek. But getting the real thing back, that was something special.

It's a good movie, despite being very similar to Nomad, and being a little long. But sitting in that theater in 1979, people wanted every minute of Star Trek they could get. My father bought a VHS copy back around a 1980 or so, and paid $80 for it. I admit I'd rather rewatch The Wrath of Khan, but maybe it's time to give TMP another watch.
Tue, Feb 11, 2014, 2:17pm (UTC -6)
I saw this film recently as it was the only TOS film I hadn't seen.

I wish I still hadn't, I HATE this film.

The characterization is way off (Everyone except Kirk is boring, and Kirk himself is a right prick), the effects aren't anything that great, the story wasn't interesting to me in the slightest, the music (aside from the theme) just blends together, the costumes are ridiculously bad (the Federation wearing pajamas) and worst of all, it's dull, boring and has nothing fun about it whatsoever.

I'd rather watch Star Trek 5 than watch this film again.
Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 2:49pm (UTC -6)
Clearly, producer Gene Roddenberry and director Robert Wise were creating their own vision of the future. With a story focused on amazing visuals and intellectual exploration, it’s more 2001 than Star Wars. Perhaps that’s why it’s one of the least-liked movies in the Star Trek canon.
Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 3:02am (UTC -6)
I finally felt immersed in the 23rd Century when I watched the first Star Trek film. While I liked the design of the original Trek, it clearly was built on a shoestring budget. The Motion Picture was the most expensive movie ever made at the time — and it showed.

Huge sets. Amazing visual effects. The future imagined. I loved the dark corridors with lighting near the floor. The immense new engineering set with glass catwalks and open elevators. The sleek cool bridge and sickbay were clean and efficient looking.

I also liked the way that the outside and inside of the ship matched up. Seeing ships dock, and then understanding where the ports were in relation to everything else was so cool.

While most people like the other films in the Trek canon because of the acting and sense of camaraderie (and I agree on that), Star Trek: the Motion Picture is the only one with truly visionary design. It’s worth another look if only from that standpoint!
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 5:40pm (UTC -6)
I grew up on TNG, and am just now watching TOS on Netflix.

I had seen TMP before, but it must have been over 20 years ago when I was a pre-teen, and I didn't really "get it" at the time.

Now watching TMP, having seen all of TNG and the first season of TOS, the first thing that struck me about this film was: the music! It's (what I thought was) the TNG theme song. But apparently, it never was the TNG theme song. It was the score from the first TMP, later re-applied to TNG!

Also, the interior design of the new enterprise (especially the engineering deck and the corridors) seems to me to be almost directly re-used for TNG!
Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 10:30pm (UTC -6)
I have to disagree with the prevailing opinion; as science fiction, this is a much better film than The Wrath of Khan, which has some embarrassingly bad ham acting (in particular, from William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban).
Thu, May 15, 2014, 4:12am (UTC -6)
God Awful. I just watched this first time ever on Netflix. So the first 1 hour and 30 minutes is sappy "oh we are all back together now" and "oh Spock" to which he does not give a sh*t of course. ONE HOUR AND 30 MINUTES. The enterprise has been redesigned with 70's pontiac air intakes everywhere. Oh and there is some pretty boy captain who is butt hurt when kirk takes command and some dead eyed dumb model chick with her hair cut off that he loves. She is not even attratctive kind of looks like a 10 year old boy suffering from cancer. So then the next 30 minutes they fly over this "alien" ship SLOWLY (which is the key word for this film). They are stretching like 2 minutes of content into an over 2 hour movie. Eventually they get to the center of the ship I suppose you could call it where there is a mechanized pulsating butthole (I kid you not). Of course spock is the first to fly into the butthole, you would think it would be Sulu, but whatever. And then the enterprise gets sucked in blah blah, to the butthole, this whole film is a butthole. So they find out inside is voyager 6 which looks like it was made out of duct tape and tinfoil and it wants to contact its "creator" but it will not take any radio contact so the pretty boy sacrifices himself to "merge" with it because it has now become the creepy no hair model chick. Oh yeah she was abducted and turned into a "probe"/robot at some point during the 30 minutes of "oh spock youre back" crap. It is all special effects and no story much like todays movies and the nostalgia factor just seems forced. GIANT BUTTHOLE SPOCK. Blast on in.
Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 11:01am (UTC -6)
TMP is closer to classic, cerebral Trek, and in line with the themes of TOS.

I like it, and 3 out of 4 stars is deserved..

-I get why they spent so much time on the introduction to the new Enterprise, but it is still WAY too long. The entrance into the V'ger cloud is also way too long. Show a shot of the cloud, a shot of Sulu's face. A shot of the cloud, a shot of Kirk's face. A shot of the cloud, a shot of Decker's face. Yeesh.

-Was surprised to find that this was the origin of the Star Trek: TNG musical score. I always thought that started with TNG. Nope. TMP.

-Listening to the audio commentary was most interesting, especially with regard to how the ideas from "Star Trek: Phase II" were incorporated into the movie, and how those ideas later morphed into TNG. (ex: Will Decker's character turned into Will Riker. Illia turned into Deanna Troi. Zahn (a full-blood vulcan who didn't appear in TMP) turned into Data. etc.)
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 5:12pm (UTC -6)
Many, MANY people have expressed their displeasure with this franchise-igniting movie. Trekkies were dying for some new Star Trek, and though many of them walked away disillusioned, I was not one of them. This film is a science-fiction revelation. It is a science-fiction masterpiece. It is in many ways a perfect movie-the story, the effects, the music-and it is an utter joy to behold its scope and venerable sanctity. While not the best Star Trek movie, it is an incredibly well-made masterstroke.
The movie's opening scenes are among the most interesting in Trek canon; the closing scenes some of the most thought-provoking. I suppose that all I can say is that not every one will like this movie, but it it my opinion that it stands proudly among the Star Trek movies as a pinnacle of science fiction mastery.
Darren Carver-Balsiger
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 5:15pm (UTC -6)
TMP. It's slow. So slow. Yet one of the best films by far.
Okay, so let's go straight to the plot. It's different and the first time Star Trek had really involved Earth in the 23rd century. It worked well and despite the slow start, the Klingon investigation was well thought out and relatively pacey before Kirk joined the show. Oh dear. The whole "I've got the Enterprise, fuck off Decker" part of the plot was played down far too much. I found that despite his continual insistence that he's not after the Enterprise utter bullshit. As McCoy explained. He's been a total dick. Okay, so Decker was boring and the baldie was interesting but never expanded but this film is about characters which was the films weakest point. The next hour of film was the lowpoint. The entire section of exploring V'Ger was pointless. It never went anyway and was totally boring. The warp drive malfunction was filth. It wasn't needed and added hardly anything to an already boring film. The idea of the weapons being connected to the warp drive was crap.
The characters worked well. Kirk was crap and I hated his new personality. Spock was his usual logical self but he became more of an arse in this film. McCoy did nothing except a few good lines. Uhura, Chekov and Sulu did nothing except look good. Scotty had a few nice lines and scenes but a fattening James Doohan did not stand out. Decker appeared interesting but I couldn't stand the way he reacted to Kirk or how he acted. He was abysmal. V'ger was exemplary and had some great scenes and I liked the metal lifeforms. My only criticism is that we didn't say the lifeforms and I find it hard to believe such a being could exist.
The special effects was great for the time but there was too many and it never made sense as to why there was that many. The uniforms were crap and it didn't distinguish ranks very well.
This film failed on a character level and lacked the necessary direction and looks to secure it as the best. But it'll always be remembered as the slow motion picture. Although I would prefer it to be called "the slow motion picture until the last 40 minutes". If you can get through the slowness you will find it one of the best films and the closest to Roddenberry's vision despite the fact that its always been overshadowed by great films like "First Contact" & TWOK (both of which I aren't too keen on). So, from a 14 years old perspective - 5/10 but from my Trekkie perspective - 8 / 10
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 5:17pm (UTC -6)
I've watched the Director's Edition of the motion picture and soon after the 2009 Star Trek film. It was very much refreshing!
Most people say it's slow. And that's right, it's not fast-paced. But that's not at all a bad thing! In my opinion, TMP shows that a very good sci-fi film can be made without action packed into every single second of it. It's also very much Star Trek, showing the whole idea that conflicts can be resolved peacefully and that we fear only what we aren't familiar with. The scene with Klingons being evaporated is a nice touch to show how war is a bad option.
The graphics in the Director's Edition are stunning. The flyby to the centre of the cloud was very eye-pleasing, mysterious and calm. The Enterprise refit was also very nicely made. I especially like the bridge of the new ship - everything looks very modern and functional. And just look at those comfy chairs!.. The only thing I didn't really like was the funny-looking old shuttle that brought Kirk to Enterprise.
The characters are very realistic as well. I'd say McCoy had the best reaction to everything there. I kept laughing during the scene when he came aboard! And his "It's like working in a damned computer center!" line is priceless! Kirk was also very realistic - knowing how he loved the command of the Enterprise in TOS, I wasn't surprised by the conflict between him and Decker. Spock was a little let-down for me, though, he just wasn't the same somehow. Other characters didn't have many lines like in the original, and although it was a missed opportunity to show more of those characters, it was very credible. Oh, and Rand, where has she been the last few TOS seasons? :)
The music there is simply amazing. It always stood out and was always perfectly fitting! It was also interesting to hear the new versions of the original sounds, such as the intercom tone.
There were no major logic flaws in the whole story, too, and the slowness of the episode gave enough time to think things through. There were no irritating and unnecessary things in here, unlike in any films I've recently seen. Since there are only a few minor mistakes separating it from being perfect, I give the motion picture a 9/10.
Chris S
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 5:20pm (UTC -6)
Despite the resentment by many trekkies, it is fact that the arrival of Star Wars made Paramount summon Gene and the cast to re-launch the famed series to cash in on the success of the genre. To quote a phrase from Leonard Nimoy after seeing said film "Soon Paramount will be calling me".
The studio set into motion with ‘The Great Bird of the Galaxy’ to create a film about the famed series; after all there was an audience begging for its return, and there was a chance to replicate the success of Lucas’s film but with a greater scope of victory due to the cult status build up over the years and around the world via the numerous repeats on TV.
The prospects were staggering.
Alas what Paramount wanted and what Gene dreamt of were two different things. Think chalk and cheese, small businessman and bank manager and you get the idea; Gene was given unlimited access to finances and technology to make Star Trek more that a film; here was a chance to see the Enterprise and his vision not seem possible but real. It was light-years away from the TV series and its cardboard cut-out sets, dodgy scenery, and naff props. In the film, the bridge seemed workable, the technology believable, and everything looking sensible. The Enterprise was no longer a simple model but appeared to be a real spaceship. To Gene, and many sci-fi fans this was like all our Christmases coming at once.
To Paramount it was the reverse - they wanted (at best) a $15 million film that was their Star Wars, but instead got something that became Gene’s fantasy going into overdrive.
For a start there are numerous pointless scenes, like the transporter disaster, the warp drive failure, Spock on Vulcan with mullet, said character pontificating over V’ger, laughing, crying, sympathetic etc, the courier shuttle rendezvous with tumbling module, the travelling through the cloud only through the view screen and not seen with the Enterprise flying though it, and poor editing and re-editing to name but a few.
Then there are the characters; the usual suspects are muted, and aside of their names, could be anybody playing the roles. The so-called romance of the new characters Ilia and Decker (embryonic Riker and Deanna) is a waste of space, and even when its purpose is made clear at the end, it still feels that they have made no impact to the entire story.
The story itself is a joke too, having traces of the TOS story "The Changeling" in it, but was plagued by re-writes and re-writes, right up to the end. Despite having Robert Wise ("The Day The Earth Stood Still") directing it, the film is badly edited and acted.
Combine this with erratic writing, and over bold ambitions, and SFX that were testing the limits of what existed and often failing to be delivered on time, the budget spiralled to a whopping $45 Million.
On seeing it, I agree with what many said - it is "The Slow Motion Picture", and not much happens. Its obvious influence being that of "2001: A Space Odyssey". That is no way a detriment, but Star Trek had aliens, warp drive, shields and weaponry, and people expected something done with those elements.
Even the re-edited 2001 version improves a lot but not to great heights. The CGI scenes do not improve the movie, just makes one wish that they started from scratch, and the fact its at certain points of the film rather than the entire movie itself makes it more disappointing.
However, I always watch this when it's on. Why when I have just pointed out its flaws? Well flawed it may be, but there are a lot of amazing elements that make this film rise above almost all the others.
First off, it feels like the future - a plausible one too. The cleanliness, the style of most of the uniforms, and the technology looks plausible. Its the most futuristic film I have ever seen.
Then there are the visuals; maybe delivered late, badly edited, and even unnecessary but they are staggering. The inside of V’ger, the cloud, and the overall visual has an immense cinematic quality. I love the immensity of V’ger, the alien giant nature of it, the way its clouds are formed, and the inside is breathtaking. The sequence with Spock flying through the giant holograms is a spectacle in itself.
The orbital office is a treat, the air-trams a joy, Star Fleet HQ looked modern, the inspection pod a technical possibility, work bee modules looked excellent, the space dock appears feasible, and so much proper technology on display, internally and external, its bliss. It feels like the people who did this CARED.
Of course perhaps the greatest joy of all is the re-designed Enterprise - all true technology, no silly toys or concepts. When Kirk and Scotty flew pass to see the new ship, many have condemned the move, but I LOVE IT! Its like seeing a new concept sports car, the latest super aircraft, or the finest luxury ship. People who appreciate good design will want to look and look intensely. More, she looked like a STARSHIP, a futuristic vessel that CAN take man beyond the system. When the floodlights come on, you feel it powering up and that this thing can actually work. Plus the fact that the Enterprise is just as important a character as Kirk, Scotty, and Spock.
Unlike Star Wars, Star Trek was not about blasting things, but exploring the stars, encountering the alien, and asking deep questions. The scene with the Klingon cruisers emphasise the point - they wanted to destroy but got destroyed whereas the Enterprise rather talked, and they made it, showing the power of words over actions.
Then there is the score; its brilliant, alien, unusual and matches the scenes with perfection; you felt the mood of Kirk when he saw his ship, the heroic nature of the Federation, the entry of the cloud, the discovery of V’ger and the finale. Jerry Goldsmith was on fire here.
Finally it feels like a big adventurous film. It feels like space, it feels massive and futuristic, encountering the alien, the unknown and the amazing, and the ending maybe last moment but is true Sci-Fi in nature - that we can go further, that we can evolve, and that there is more beyond.
It felt like Science Fiction - sensible, intelligent, clever, and believable. At the time it came out I was nine, I loved this film, and I loved it more than Star Wars because it just came across as plausible. Had they not made it so long, without Ilia and Decker and all them irrelevant scenes it would be a 10/10, but that means supporting all the un-necessaries in the film. So its a nine.
David B.
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 5:22pm (UTC -6)
I have often criticised trekkies for being too close minded in their analysis and/or acceptance of anything Trek related that is not TOS. Obviously, this is not true for all trekkies, but it is a concern. We saw it with TNG and, most recently, we saw it with the Star Trek reboot, which I loved.
Well, I see this film as one of the very best of the entire Trek film series. When I watch a movie, a pay attention to the visuals, including directing and cinematography, and ST:TMP is a masterpiece in those fields. Robert Wise, who is a brilliant director to begin with, did an expert job in adapting Trek for the screen, and I still pull a facepalm when I remember Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory say that this movie was poorly filmed.
As for the story, I know it could have been a 45-minute TV episode, and was supposed to be, but it nevertheless is a high-concept, intellectual plot that makes Star Trek great.
In conclusion, this is simply a wonderful film.
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 5:24pm (UTC -6)
This movie has to be the most resonating of the bunch. You either love or hate this film, as there is no one that I ever asked that stated that he had a neutral opinion on it.
You know what? I very much like it, despite the fact that its very long. The opening scene with the Klingon ships (first appearance of the famous ridged fore-heads and Klingon language) and the battle are amazing to this day. The awesome soundtrack and the sound design in general just made it perfect. The scene with the Enterprise in drydock is too long for most people, which I understand. But again, with that soundtrack its pure eye and ear candy to me as we gaze at every inch of the beautiful studio model. Fans haven't seen that ship in ages back then, so it's cool that they allowed us a good look at the "new" Enterprise.
The plot is straightforward and feels more like it would have rather fit a TV episode (or maybe a two-parter). No surprise, considering that the story was initially meant to be a pilot for Star Trek Phase II which never happened. The journey into the innards of V'Ger is even more eye-candy but even I gotta say it takes forever. For many sections of the movie, you have no dialogue or even sound effects. You just stare at the bridge crew as they in turn stare at the inside of the cloud and V'Ger itself as they travel through it.
The story of Voyager 6 and how it came back I thought was very creative and original. Its just too bad we never found out what happened to Decker/V'Ger after the fusion. Also I would have liked to know more about the living machines that sent V'Ger back. Other than non-canon media, we have no clue who they were.
Bernd Schneider
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 5:27pm (UTC -6)
"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).
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 5:30pm (UTC -6)
Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture... Many insults are thrown at this film for having too slow a plot. Perhaps well deserved. The story seems stretched out. The actual development is probably only enough to cover a single episode. The film also bears a close resemblance to episode TOS: The Changeling, though much improved. Finally, Lt. Ilia happens to belong to an alien species that looks exactly like humans! Okay, so the women of their species don't grow hair; my complaint is still valid. Despite all this, it is still a fine film. Most remarkable are the visual effects which are superb, especially for the time. Many people complain about there being too many visual effects, or that they take too long. This is a valid complaint, but I still like them nonetheless. Additionally, there are complaints about the uniforms being too drab. Again, I liked them. Gene Roddenberry has made claims that many elements of TMP were in fact Star Trek as it was meant to be. One particularly noticeable detail is the uniforms for women are no longer sexist. Another fine detail is the redesigned set of the Enterprise. Incredible, she was absolutely stunning, especially the engineering section and the sight of the absolutely beautiful warpcore. Remarkably, decades later the warpcore of the USS Voyager will quite strikingly resemble this one. Another good detail about the ship is the new deflector dish. The silly looking outward protruding dish is replaced by a futuristic, blue, glowing, cool looking dish. Another nice detail in this film is the multiple points of contention between Kirk and Decker, all of which are intelligently done. The resolution of the plot in this film is something of an anticlimax, but the intent of the movie was that it be viewed as a whole. A work of art, not a Star Trek episode in the traditional sense. In that respect, the film is highly successful. Notably, it was a commercial success as well. It is fitting that Decker and Ilia should be reunited in the end by both joining with V'Ger. It creates something of a happy ending out of their brief but decidedly tragic loss of one another. Indeed, the human adventure is just beginning. A fantastic film true to the spirit of Star Trek.
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 11:09pm (UTC -6)
Okay, if you want to make your case and be long-winded about it, by all means go ahead. But do everyone the courtesy of doing it without using 10 different names to repeat your same points in posts that are minutes apart. It just comes across as disingenuous. You probably aren't fooling anyone -- but you certainly aren't fooling me, because (hint) as site administrator I can see that all these posts were made from the same IP address.
Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 11:56pm (UTC -6)
I thought that was weird--I figured the only non-shady explanation was that a group of Jammer fans had got together, watched the film, discussed and posted as a group
Paul M.
Sun, Jul 6, 2014, 5:39am (UTC -6)
Yeah, that was weird. Especially as many of those "names" belong to people who reviewed Trek or are otherwise known in the fandom.
Sarah M
Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 12:14am (UTC -6)
I'm going back through the Star Trek movies now (not a task for the faint of heart, when it comes to some of them, but I find myself liking TMP a little more every time I come back to it. Liking, not loving, but it's a decent sci-fi story that benefits from having the high expectations that must've rested on it at the time stripped away.

And as the review notes, it LOOKS great. It's hard not to think of 2001 and Star Wars when watching it and, while it's not a marvel like those were, it's clearly of a piece with the better space movies of that era. I also liked Decker and Ilia more than I suspect many do, even if their screen time does come at the expense of the series characters.
Sat, Nov 22, 2014, 5:53pm (UTC -6)
The One with the Giant Cloud

And so, 10 years after the last time anyone had seen a new episode of Star Trek, comes The Motion Picture. I'm sure if you're reading this, you know the basic back story, but in a nut shell, Trek had become popular again through syndication and a 2nd Trek series was mooted. However, with the success of Star Wars and 2001, it was decided to take Star Trek to the big screen and give it a budget worthy of it's name. wasn't brilliantly received, by critics or most fans. The tone floored most people and their expectations were not met for what a Star Trek Feature film should look like and more importantly, FEEL like. To be honest, that was my view of it until when I watched the Directors Cut for this blog. Maybe it's because I'm older, but I was really impressed by this film. Let's explain why:

In what was a brave (if possibly foolish move), the writers decided to not have the cast as they were a decade ago. Normal time has passed for them and us. Kirk is an Admiral in what is essentially a desk job, McCoy has retired and Spock is on Vulcan, about to undergo a ritual to purge human emotion. None of them are in a good place and the theme of belonging and going home again carries through the whole film.

Kirk essentially bullies his way back onto the Enterprise and ousts Decker (who I believe is meant to be the son of Commodore Decker from "Doomsday Machine"), a Captain who is not a bad guy or weak, just someone who happens to be in Kirks way. Kirk is lost on this newly refitted Enterprise (more on that later) and Decker has too continually guide him through the new systems, not maliciously, but he does seem to take a grim satisfaction in correcting Kirks flawed commands.

Kirk recalls McCoy (in a lovely scene in the transporter room with Rand as well, though her cameo kind of throws you as her relationship with Kirk is so different, but it's good to see her back), who isn't happy and isn't sure of Kirks command of the Enterprise.

Spock comes back next, his ritual abandoned by the voice he hears from V'ger, a being of extraordinary scale and power, heading for earth to destroy it. He is cold and logical, nothing like the Spock we knew and loved from the show. Kirk is not happy, neither are his friends, and the whole mission seems in jeopardy.

Then things start to click, as he uses his instincts to get past the first defence of the cloud and Spock starts to tune into V'ger. At this point, when they start to go deeper into the cloud, the film does drag and even in the slightly edited directs cut version, it is still too long. But having said that, the sheer size and scale of V'ger does come across and I think the potential patience breaking scene is worth it.

The rest of the crew don't really have large parts to play. Scotty has a lovely scene with Kirk at the start as they fly round the newly refitted Enterprise. This is also a very long scene, but my God, it still holds up. Out of all the films, this give's the ship character and treats it with the love it deserves. Especially as up to now, all anyone had seen of her was stock footage in TOS. Here we see her from every angle, larger than life. Kirk and Scotty have always shared a special bond to the ship. Scotty looks after her and patches her up whilst Kirk commands her, but she has touched both their hearts.

Chekov, Sulu and Uhura have their standard roles and even Chapel has a nice walk on part. it's disappointing there wasn't more for them to do though. Of course, we have 2 new characters, Will Decker and LLia, who are basically a template for Riker and Troi. I found their relationship arc rather boring and because you know they're never seen again, it's hard to invest.

This film has brought so much to the Star Trek universe; The Klingons are the one's we know and love today, with a different language and of course, the bumpy foreheads. The opening scene with the 3 Klingon cruisers is brilliant as well. The music is also superb and it's no surprise TNG nicked it for their theme tune.

Of course, it is a flawed fim. The first hour works fine for me, but once they enter the cloud it does drag slightly, especially with the LLia robot learning to love. The uniforms are also awful, though thankfully Kirk changes his half way through. The main problem I have is Spock, and to a certain degree the relationship with the Trio. They continue the antagonism between them for far too long, Spock especially as his sudden personality switch after melding with V'ger come's very near the end. Bones is also sidelined after an impressive debut.

I haven't really discussed the end, mainly because the twist is the whole part of the last hour. Once you know it, it's really just a lovely, slightly psychedelic journey you're on. V'ger is of course Voyager 6 , a probe sent years ago into deep space and came back as an all powerful being. This is very similar to "The Changeling", but at least I believe this ship could destroy solar systems. And there's no harm in dipping into your back history.

There has never been another Star Trek film that has has the epic scale, the vast special effects and the patience and indulgence to tell the story it wants to tell. It's probably the closest Star Trek has ever came to Art which is perhaps why it divides people into Love or Hate. Me, I loved it, for this is a flawed masterpiece.

Sat, Nov 22, 2014, 6:00pm (UTC -6)
A great cloud is heading for Earth. It has already destroyed three Klingon vessels that investigated it, and a Federation Space Station that happened to be in the way. The only ship in range is the Enterprise, nearing the completion of a refit but not quite ready…

I think it’s fair ro say that this film is either a love it or hate it kind of film. The people tht criticise it claim that it just doesn’t feel like Star Trek as we knew it, but I have to say that I disagree. Although made ten years after the series was cancelled in 1969, I get the impression that it is meant to be set 2 and a half years after the five year mission ended, so about four to five years after the show. The Enterprise has been gutted and rebuilt, and now hardly resembles the original, certainly internally, and the outside looks a lot more streamlined. In fact, our first look at the scrubbed up Enterprise is that magnificent sequence where Scotty takes Kirk over to it via shuttle, as the transporters are not working. You are teased with shots through the side of the space dock, but that first full head on shot is very emotional – no doubt partly due to Jerry Goldsmith’s amazing score. This sequence alone tells you it’s Trek, but not quite as you know it.

Captain Decker is the new boss, but most of the rest of the crew (apart from McCoy and Spock) are doing their old jobs. It was nice to see Janice Rand again, after she vanished half way through season one. And I loved the fact that Kirk used the crises as an excuse to get out of his stuffy Admirals office at StarFleet and take command of a ship again. You get the impression that he has been bored out of his mind these last two years or so.

The sets are okay – some of them are too recognisable as the sets that get reused for The Next Generation. In particular, the Engineering set is very similar indeed, as is the basic look of the corridors.

The new characters – Decker and Ilia – work well, but their relationship is rather similar to that of RIker and Troi on The Next Generationbut there’s a good reason for that: when this film was being put together, it was actually the pilot episode of the new TV series, and as Nimoy didn’t want to appear, Decker was the new first officer and Ilia a navigator (Checkov seeming to havce moved to security). There would have been a Vulcan science officer, Xon.

This is Star Trek done on a grand scale – for it to work it had to feel big, and it did. Never has planet Earth felt like it was going to be destroyed in the series – in fact, we never visited 23rd Century Earth on the show, though we did visit the past on numerous occasions. Some of the effects look excellent – for example the detail on Vulcan, and also the Golden Gate Bridge by StarFleet HQ. All good stuff, and the sequences inside the cloud – everything looked enormous. Some argue that this all went on for too long, that the sequences inside the cloud were boring. I can see that point of view, but I don’t agree – they helped build the tension very well.

This is a very adult Trek – I don’t mean language and violence, I just mean in the seriousness of it. There is very little humour in it – unlike the TV show and most of the other movies. Again, this put a lot of people off, but I really like it. Had all the films been this heavy, then it would have become boring, but this was pitched just right, for me anyway.

I also liked the ending, the revelation that is was an old Voyager probe that has been picked up by a race of computer beings, souped up, and helped on it’s way. Some fans suggest that the sequence at the end is the start of the Borg, and whilst I would love to think that it true, it cannot be – the Borg did not know about us until much later, and has they been formed from a StarFleet commander and a drone with the memories of a navigator, they would have got here a lot quicker!

A couple of minor nigges: why did Kirk draft a retired McCoy back into the service? He didn’t really need him as a Doctor (Chapel is now fully qualified) it just felt like he wanted to bring him along for tha sake of it! And how come Spock was able to fix the Enterprise engines just like that when StarFleets finest couldn’t?

So, all in all, a really confident start to the series with great effects and a real sense of scale. And, incidentally, the introduction of Jerry Goldsmith’s excellent theme that went on to be used in another three films and every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Crew Deaths: 4
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 56
Score: 8/10
Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 2:24pm (UTC -6)
There are those that say that Kubrick’s 2001 with its minimal dialogue is such a movie and if that be the case, I have to give TMP in its 70mm presentations due consideration in that regard as it clearly was influenced by his prior work, right down to their own spin on an alternate creation for a “starchild”.

I recall exiting both films with a “WOW!” and a deep sense of wonder.

I recall pondering whether V’yger’s translation of Ilea was really much removed from how the transporter was said to work? And whether the created merging with its creator would be the ultimate destiny for any AI that mankind might develop?

I think it is safe to say that TMP was the deepest G-rated picture that I’ve ever seen.
Paul M.
Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 3:22am (UTC -6)
"How come 3 people have posted long reviews of this film within 3 hours of each other, after no comments since July?"

Return of the Jedi! ... Or is it Revenge of the Sith?
Sat, Dec 13, 2014, 7:31am (UTC -6)
I can't read this many comments, so here's my unabashed take on this thing.

If the movie didn't have Decker it would be alright. He slows the plot waaaay down, and it's more or less his only function, other than to merge with Ilia at the end and leave the Enterprise conspicuously un-Captained.

Without Decker, or by making him less of a central character, this movie would move along a lot faster.
Sun, Mar 1, 2015, 1:15pm (UTC -6)
I just watched this on Netflix for the first time since watching it at the movies when it first came out. I am going to watch all the movies in sequence as my personal homage to Leonard Nimoy. It surprises me how affected I am by his death. Anyway, I remember disliking this movie for all the same negative reasons stated on the many posts above. Watching it yesterday, I could not believe how much I loved it.The one thing I truly disliked were the sleazy, stretch pajama-like uniforms. So drab and ugly. But setting that aside, i was awed and surprised by how good this movie is. The wonder of the universe, the profound visuals, the uplifting, evocative score. I had truly forgotten the plot, and it was like seeing it for the first time, only through much more mature eyes. Decker and Ilia were not particularly engaging characters through the bulk of the film, but they redeemed themselves in the ending. There is room in the Star Trek universe for different kinds of films and TV shows. This movie will go down in history as a classic, I think. Slow? Yes. But so what? It redeems itself in other ways.
William B
Mon, Mar 9, 2015, 8:56am (UTC -6)
On tablet so forgive typos please.

While there is gap in tone between TMP and the pictures of the Harve Bennet area starting with WOK, right down to the uniforms, the character material is very consistent: the two biggest stories for the main cast are Kirk's ambivalence about his admiralty (read: age) and inappropriate behaviour resulting, and Spock's coming to understand more fully the linits of logic. These complementary arcs have to do with weighing the pros and cons of Kirk's ambitious, self-interested adventuring and Spock's self-abnegating pursuit of logic. Spock's attempt to purge all feeling seems to me at least partly a response to the time on the Enterprise, where he got so used to humans he started getting perhaps too comfortable with his own imperfect humanity; if we take the main series as canon, I wonder if what pushed him over the edge was actually All Our Yesterdays and finding love and murderous intent were linked in him, and if we take the animated series on board Yesteryear may have rekindled his childhood shame about his humanity, especially with his SPOILER pet's death hitting him hard. Either way, Spock has become an ascetic, an image which continues through the movies (see his monklike calm and attire in STIV), and wants to deny even the few instances of humanity he picked up in the series. In effect he wants to "return" to a, possibly imagined, state in which he is uninfected and unencumbered by feeling. Kirk wants to return, too, but to his command, i.e. his youth, and his denials that he just wants the best for Earth are punctured quickly and easily by McCoy. It is not that Kirk doesn't want to save Earth, but he also wastes a way a little without feeling important and actively contributing; he is afraid of change, wants the ship and crew to be frozen in time as of TOS, mostly wants Decker to disappear so that Kirk remains a hero. His desire pretty much throughout the films is to resist or undo change, culminating in the original series films in his reluctantly having to approve of the possibility of peace with the Klingons, and in Generations with accepting and embracing death.

I sort of take Decker and Ilia as being mirrors of Kirk and Spock, respectively; Decker is like TOS era Kirk (or s1-era Riker, who was obviously based on Decker) without the authority that Kirk readily enjoyed, believing he is competent and qualified but without the trust of others to build himself up; he and Kirk envy each other throughout until the end. Ilia has Spock’s alienness, telepathy, and asceticism, having taken a cow of celibacy and seeming to be in control of her emotions and on the surface no longer swallowed up by them. What happens to Decker and Ilia tells us about Kirk and Spock; first Ilia dies and her form is hollowed out into an emotionless shell, rather akin to what Spock was trying to do to himself through the Kholinar and what will happen in STII-IV, and she/V’Ger now experiences a tremendous longing and emptiness. It is through V’Ger, whose humanoid face in the film is Ilia’s, that Spock realizes that logic is not enough. And while this seems like an obvious lesson, it makes sense to me that Spock needs a real jolt to wake him up to this; pure logic is such a difficult goal that it has never been within his sights enough to fully evaluate the meaninglessness that logic without love, feeling, belief, purpose would be, especially when his perspective has always been skewed by his somewhat irrational frustration and even self-hatred over his unexcisable human half. In the series, Spock sometimes accepted his humanity, but I generally took it more as him broadening his definition of what was logical (ala the end of The Galileo Seven) or him accepting that his humanity existed, albeit reluctantly.

Decker’s arc mirrors Kirk, to the extent that (as in STII with Spock, and STIII with David, and probably other examples) Decker essentially plays the heroic-sacrificial role mostly reserved for the protagonist; it is Decker, NOT Kirk, who joins with V’Ger, loses his personal self for something greater, and saves the world. Kirk is not irrelevant and I think it is clear that Kirk partly originated the idea, but Decker is the one who does the deed, which basically involves giving up his command and identity as adventurer for love and joining with the ST-metaphor divine. The (re)joining of Decker and Ilia in V’Ger represents the reunifying of logic and passion, machine and spirit, which has Kirk’s desire for heroism and meaning without selfishness, and Spock’s desire for purity and rejection of the baser aspects of reality without losing love and meaning. It also means that Kirk really does have to take a backseat to Decker, hence his restoring Decker’s proper rank at the very end. Kirk and Spock are not “there” yet; TMP by giving the huge transformative experience to secondary characters allows for Kirk and Spock to lose some of the restrictions holding them back without moving beyond human limitations altogether, and allows room for growth and change in the forthcoming films.

The slow pace and focus on tech is both a product of Wise probably being a 2001 fan, and also fulfills a narrative purpose: we are reminded early on of McCoy’s skepticism about the transporter, and Kirk is unfamiliar with his new ship. Technology, which provides the support for humans (now and in the future) is perfectly rational and even has a type of beauty to it, but without being populated by humans (or animated by human motivations) is cold, austere. The icy beauty of V’Ger is meant to be the ultimate extension of Kirk’s (and the camera’s) love for the Enterprise, objects rather than people...but not wholly without meaning. V’Ger is the world we might be building, but if we infuse a technological, rationalistic world and worldview with meaning and love we maybe can, like Decker and Ilia, reach real transcendence.

I liked it very much but I still find parts a bit too slow. 3.5 stars; this and WOK are the best of the films.
Captain Jon
Wed, Mar 18, 2015, 11:51pm (UTC -6)
Here's my review. The full experience (including pictures) can be found at my review blog ""

When Earth is threatened by a mysterious cloud that destroys everything in its way, Admiral James T. Kirk retakes command of the newly-refitted U.S.S. Enterprise. His mission is to explore what's in the heart of the cloud and, if possible, attempt to reason with any intelligence that's inside before Earth is destroyed.

When Star Trek went off the air in 1969, one newspaper columnist addressed disappointed fans who had waged a letter-writing campaign to keep the show alive with an article that read:

"You Star Trek fans have fought the 'good fight,' but the show has been cancelled and there's nothing to be done now."
Thanks to a little thing called syndication, Star Trek gained second life and developed a cult following. What originally was intended as an attempt by Paramount executives to recoup loses from the show led to the studio giving serious consideration to bring life to a Star Trek feature film. In 1975, Paramount hired Roddenberry to begin development on the feature.

Getting the production off the ground proved to be quite challenging and the studio would decide to return the Star Trek to television with Star Trek: Phase II. But thanks to the one-two punch of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977, Paramount exec Michael Eisner decided to make the project a feature film.

Instead of trying to emulate the formula that had worked for Star Wars, Roddenberry and director Robert Wise decided to make Star Trek first venture onto the big screen more along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey. With a troubled production that began filming with an incomplete script and post-production woes in the visual effects department, Star Trek: The Motion Picture barely made it on schedule to its December 1979 premiere. Much like 2001, The Motion Picture debuted to mixed reviews that criticized its slow pace and lack of characterization. Unlike 2001, however, which has gone on to become a Science-Fiction classic, The Motion Picture would be overshadowed by its eventual sequel only three years later. One can't help but wonder how The Motion Picture would be regarded if not for the franchise that had been born due to its financial success. In recent a recent viewing I was amazed at how much more I enjoyed the film than I had in the past. In an age where movies move at breakneck speed, TMP is actually a somewhat refreshing change. That's not to say that it should now be considered a classic like 2001. After all, The Motion Picture is still flawed and lacks adequate characterizations or even the heart that was found even in the original 60's TV series. But it was nice to watch a movie that took its time to tell a story, even if that story was rather thin.

One can't help but wonder if there were better ideas floating about during development that could've been used since the story is largely a rehash of a couple of episodes of the 60's TV show, a frustrating decision as something more original should've been told. The thin plot feels as though it's meant to service the visual spectacle instead of being the other way around. On a visual level, The Motion Picture is quite impressive with effects that still hold up today. But much of the film's running time is spent indulging in lengthy establishing shots of space stations and starships. Time that was spent on lengthy establishing shots could've been more effectively used for characterization. Instead we get long stretches of cutting back and forth between visual effects and the characters reacting rather unconvincingly and sometimes comically to things they're supposed to be witnessing on the viewscreen. Most guilty of this is George Takei with his wide-eyed attempt at awe.

One such character seed that's planted but never adequately developed is that which follows Kirk, portrayed in a fairly somber and serious performance by William Shatner that is a striking departure from the show. Kirk is now an admiral at Starfleet Command who hasn't been on a starship in over two years. As the mysterious intruder threatens Earth, Kirk coerces his way back into command of the Enterprise, bumping Will Decker (Stephen Collins in one of the film's better performances) out of the captain's chair. Collins brings confidence and passion to the role and plays well against Shatner's Kirk making the tension between the two of them believable. Though Decker has enough reason to be upset with Kirk, he fears that his new captain's actions are not only against the best interests of the ship but the mission as well. The Enterprise has been completely redesign and it's a design with which Kirk is not familiar and he doesn't hide those concerns from Kirk. To Kirk'a surprise, not only does McCoy side with Decker but goes one step further by saying that Kirk is obsessed with the Enterprise and that he intends to keep the starship. This has the beginnings of interesting character work that dates back to the original series but goes nowhere after McCoy calls Kirk out on his actions. Unfortunately, the film's ultimate resolution leaves the pieces in a place where Kirk doesn't need to be held accountable nor be put in the position of having to return the Enterprise.

Also planted early on but not developed nearly enough is the love story between Decker and Ilia (Persis Khambatta), a precursor for the Riker/Troi dynamic in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Most frustrating about this character arc is that it's the most important one in the movie and yet very little is done to develop it. Outside of one conversation between Decker and Ilia, nothing is done to establish the connection between these two characters and make us feel for their relationship. Thus there's no impact when Ilia is taken by the V'Ger probe. Nor do Decker's attempts to rekindle any feelings buried within the Ilia probe carry any resonance because there was nothing there for us to believe in anyway. While Collins works well as a foil for Shatner, he's less effective with Khambatta as the two of them have no chemistry. Khambatta, especially, is stiff and rather uninteresting. Had more time been spent developing the relationship, perhaps Decker's actions in the film's climax would've carried more emotional weight. Instead it's a visual marvel that emotionally feels hollow and falls flat.

The third character thread is that of Spock. At the film's outset, Spock is on Vulcan having left Starfleet in order to go through a Vulcan ritual to purge all emotion. Midway through the ritual, Spock feels a powerful presence from space that stirs his human blood. Spock (in a stiff and uninvolved performance by Leonard Nimoy) returns to the Enterprise to explore the V'Ger spaceship for his own personal interests, perhaps the most intriguing of all the setup character threads. Just like he did with Kirk, McCoy questions Spock's motives and whether the Vulcan officer will sacrifice the safety of the ship for his own personal needs. Unlike with Kirk, more time and development is put into Spock's arc but mainly because it helps us to learn more about V'Ger. However, it's never really clear for what Spock is searching nor do we get a clear understanding what he supposedly finds that helps him to find resolution. Perhaps the finale would've carried more power and meaning had it been Spock who had merged with V'Ger instead of Decker. Of course, that would've removed any hope of bringing the character back for the subsequent sequels but it certainly would've been an interesting conclusion here.

The rest of the cast and characters are sadly nothing more than cardboard cutouts left to provide lines of exposition here and there while having no life or personality of their own. This sadly includes DeForest Kelley's Dr. McCoy, who wanders on and off the bridge at random as though he's walking about trying to have any reason to be there. Though he provides a few lines here and there that question the motives of both Kirk and Spock in a half-baked attempt to keep them accountable for their actions, McCoy has little else to do in the rest of the movie.

That's not to say The Motion Picture is all bad. There's plenty to admire. Robert Wise is an excellent director with an impressive filmography (The Sound of Music and The Day the Earth Stood Still) and he manages to craft a visually magnificent film. Before 2009's reboot, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was easily the most epic film in the movie franchise. While the first half manages to capture the romance and beauty of space and starships, Wise brings a sense of mystery and intrigue in the second half as the crew explores the secrets of V'Ger. The ultimate revelation that V'Ger is the lost NASA probe "Voyager 6" is interesting and the resolution also had promise. As mentioned before, however, the resolution would've been better had more depth existed in the characters of Decker and Ilia as well as their relationship.

The Enterprise gets a new but familiar makeover that works well and Wise fills the sets with plenty of extras to give the ship life. The uniforms are a bit on the drab, colorless side which is a big departure from the series but they're serviceable.

Easily the most noteworthy piece of The Motion Picture's production, however, is Jerry Goldsmith's Academy Award-nominated score. From its opening notes all the way to the final seconds of the closing reel, Goldsmith's score is rich and romantic filled with themes and motifs that carry the movie. The long sequences of visual effects work as well as they do because of Goldsmith's score which is not only probably the finest music in the franchise but also some of the best movie music ever written.

The most frustrating aspect is that there is plenty of potential to be found in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It's performances are stiff and characterizations are lacking despite magnificent visuals and a story that has mystery and wonder. Perhaps if more time had been spent fleshing out more of the ideas that are found here, The Motion Picture could have been brilliant. Instead we get a movie that's somewhat enjoyable as its flaws drag down its strengths.

Writing: 1.0 / 2
Characters: 1.0 / 2
Acting: 1.0 / 2
Entertainment: 1.0 / 2
Music: 1 / 1
Visuals: 1 / 1

TOTAL: 6.0 / 10
Fri, Apr 24, 2015, 6:40am (UTC -6)
Often maligned as “slow and boring”, in my opinion, this is actually the best Trek film.

The human adventure is just beginning

I’ve had the argument for years. Most people think Star Trek: The Motion Picture is plain boring. I recently saw it described as “the motionless picture” in a writer’s blog. It’s considered slow. Ponderous. Monochromatic. Humorless.

The conventional wisdom holds that the second movie, The Wrath of Khan, is not only the best Star Trek film, it is also one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. But I have to admit that — while I really enjoyed Khan — ST: TMP is, by far, my favorite of the eleven Trek movies.

Before you roll your eyes, please let me explain. For me it all boils down to one unifying idea — Star Trek: The Motion Picture is on a very small list of modern films that depict a powerful, beautiful, and original view of the future. I may not change your mind, but I hope you can experience the film through my eyes.

December, 1979

Think about the time when it was made.

It was 1979. Star Wars and Close Encounters graced the screen two years earlier. Superman: The Movie made us believe that a man could fly in 1978 and The Empire Strikes Back was just around the corner in 1980. For anyone with an imagination, it was a tremendous time to be alive and the golden age for blockbuster sci-fi cinema. But none of the aforementioned films mattered to me as much as Star Trek.

As a wide-eyed, twelve-year-old seventh grader, I probably had built up more excitement and anticipation for The Motion Picture than any other event in my entire life. My childhood heroes — Kirk, Spock, and McCoy — were about to grace the big screen! What would the Enterprise look like? Would they change it? How would it look flying through space with modern visual effects? I was so excited to see what they would do with a big budget.

Once I started seeing the commercials, I went nuts. I remember the voice of Orson Wells: “It will alter your perception of the future by taking you there.” That was what I wanted to hear. The FUTURE. Finally, a film about the future!

Star Wars took place “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” What did that have to do with me? I felt like I was finally going to get what I wanted from a film: a real depiction of human potential hundreds of years in the future.

I had seen 2001: A Space Odyssey a few years earlier. It was the first honest tour of tomorrow that I had ever seen. It seemed very possible and right around the corner based upon what had been happening with NASA’s space program. Krypton in Superman was really, really cool. But again, that was an alien planet with magical technology. I wanted to see something that connected to Earth and, ultimately, to me.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture delivered exactly what I was looking for. While 2001 showed me the world that I expected to live in as an adult, Star Trek promised to reveal a future of my dreams.

Finally, It Arrives in Theatres

When I saw the film with my cousin James, we were mesmerized from the first moment. Seeing the camera do a 180-degree pan of the updated Klingon cruisers as they approached a huge blue luminescent cloud blew my mind. Once we were inside the ships, I was sucked in by the production design. Clear screens with data projected on them. Actual Klingon language graphics on screen — not English! Then we moved on to the Epsilon 9 space station with astronauts jetting around outside. I was blown away, and this was just the beginning.

After a quick and epic stop at Vulcan to visit a hippie version of Spock, I finally got to see what I had been waiting for: Earth in the future. You see, when I watched the original Star Trek as a child, I always wanted to see what Earth looked like in the 23rd Century.

Yes, it was cool to travel around the galaxy seeking out new life, but I wanted to know what it was like at home. It always felt like they avoided it due to budget or something. And, no; visits to Earth in the 1960’s didn’t count.

Earth in the 23rd Century

Now, here was Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge covered by pneumatic travel tubes. Shuttles flitting across the sky as routinely as a buses travel the streets. We then move to an orbiting office complex bustling with traffic; followed by an extended drydock sequence that reveals the Enterprise in all of its futuristic glory.

Speaking of the Enterprise, Andrew Probert took Matt Jeffries’ original design and blew it out of the water. The clean lines and details make this still the best ship to ever grace a Star Trek film or TV series.

For the first time, we’re able to ascertain the actual size of the ship. As Admiral Kirk and Scotty circle in a travel pod, the front window is large enough to see them inside. This — when mixed with the floating astronauts and traffic — gives us a real sense of scale. It was like going to the airport, and watching the airplanes and ground crews. There is something magical about it.

The ultimate sequence was the launch of the Enterprise. A tiny astronaut waving goodbye. The sun rising as the ship cruises away. Seeing Earth dwindle in the viewscreen as Sulu takes them to impulse. Shooting past Jupiter and its moons was awe inspiring. All of these aspects felt like a love letter to us from the future. I felt like I was finally there.

The sets and costumes were amazing. Every aspect felt rich and fully realized. The visual effects were spectacular. Each time the Enterprise went into warp speed, I was left speechless. It was even more amazing than watching the Millenium Falcon jump into hyperspace.

The icing on the cake was the final reveal of who/what V’ger really was — an evolved NASA space probe that had returned home after a galaxy-spanning adventure. The fact that the core concept was about exploration and connected to Voyager — a real planetary mission at the time — was validating and inspiring.

The only complaint I had about the film was that the plot reminded me of the Original Series episode called “The Changeling” where the Nomad probe went through a similar conversion. But I could forgive this.

A Futuristic Work of Art

All in all, seeing Star Trek: The Motion Picture was the greatest experience I had ever had at the time. My cousin James and I were blown away when it was over. As this was not the time of instant mp3 downloads, we drove back from the theater singing the theme over and over in an attempt to remember it. We must have driven my Aunt Cecelia crazy.

The soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith remains legendary to this day. Few sci-fi films have ever topped it. In fact, I was ecstatic when Gene Roddenberry chose to use the theme for The Next Generation in 1987. I still listen to it often.

Roddenberry wanted to tell this story. He was inspired by the future and wanted to share that vision with the world. He finally had the budget, and the team to do it right.

Director Robert Wise, the actors, and the production staff — which included effects wizards Douglas Trumball of 2001 and John Dykstra of Star Wars — crafted a beautiful journey to tomorrow. It moved at a thoughtful pace so that the audience could take everything in. There was art transpiring on the screen; it like a classic painting — you don’t just scan it for two seconds and walk away.

All I ask is that you revisit the film and give it another chance. This time, look around. Take it in. You might find that you like it a little more than you expect.
Thu, May 7, 2015, 4:49pm (UTC -6)
History remembers, rightly so, that The Wrath of Khan is the great Star Trek movie. But the Enterprise's maiden voyage on the big screen has much to recommend it. Though not as totemic as its sequel, Star Trek: The Motion Picture positions itself as a more thoughtful, measured interstellar drama in response to Star Wars' whiz-bang pow-pow. Later Kirk, Spock et al. adventures would pump up the action and shtick, but The Motion Picture emphasized brains and awe: It's the one Kirk film that feels like a worthy tonal predecessor to The Next Generation series that would give the franchise a creative second wind.
Fri, May 8, 2015, 8:44am (UTC -6)
Star Trek Done Right!

It's amazing how many Trekkies I meet describe Star Trek the Motion Picture as "A good sci-fi film, but an awful Star Trek movie."....And that's when they're feeling generous!

This statement can't be farther from the truth. The story is well written and director Robert Wise makes the characters believable. The movie is not filled with the goofy jokes and ridiculous Shatner back-flip fight scenes that some Trekkies seem to enjoy. Instead, the battle with the mysterious alien entity reveals the dynamics and inner conflicts of the crew. Spock realizes that pure logic alone cannot answer all, but must be coupled with emotion in order to tap into our creative imagination and see the possibilities of our universe. Kirk is portrayed as a daring and brilliant captain, who learns that as a leader he needs to rely on the expertise of those around him. He is a more believable figure who is fallible and struggles to learn from his mistakes.

The Enterprise is not envisioned as an easy to fly wonder ship that requires no more than the main Trek cast to run, but as a complex machine that needs precise tuning of components balanced by a crew of hundreds. The scene where Spock and the engineering crew struggle with balancing the mathematical models needed to program the warp engines convey the real dangers of space flight.

Additionally, both the visual and audio effects add to the impact of this movie. For a film made in '79, before the advent of believable CGI, the special effects are superb. Believe it or not, I've noticed special effects scenes in Independence Day taken directly from Star Trek:TMP footage (scan the shots of the inside of the mother ship (ID4)when Will Smith is making his escape run).

All in all, the ingredients of good character development, believable conflict, and hard science make this movie the true precursor to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Unfortunately, Star Treks III, IV, and V avoid the hard work this movie required and depend on the silly antics of its maturing crew.
Adán Castillo
Fri, May 8, 2015, 8:53am (UTC -6)
The Most Beautiful Science Fiction Movie Period....

**No Spoilers**

I think Orson Welles said it best in the trailers for this film.

"It will startle your senses. Challenge your intellect. And change your perception of the taking you there."

Indeed it will and does.

Let me start off by saying, by all means: You don't have to be a fan of Star Trek to get into this movie. I'm not. Just watch it, and the motion picture will do the rest. I've been told countless times that Star Wars is the greatest Sci-fi film of all time. I'd like to correct those people. Star Wars is the greatest "action and special effects sci-fi film" of all time. Nothing more....and nothing less. I'm a big fan of Star Wars. It was my favorite sci-fi movie--even beating out Alien, 2001, and Starship Troopers.

That was until I saw this film. I remember right after watching Star Wars that I felt good inside because it was a rush that one can only get--from eye candy. Star Trek: The Motion Picture gave me a different rush--a more profound touch that made me realize movies can have a deeper meaning. Much like 2001, this deals with life....actually more about the "meaning" of life. The purpose of existence. Some of the best quotes in cinema history can be traced to this film. My favorite line is from Spock. It pretty much sums up the theme of Star Trek: The Motion Picture

"Each of us, at some point in our lives, turns to someone - a father, a brother, a God - and asks, "Why am I here? What was I meant to be?"

One thing that really stands out in Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the musical score by Jerry Goldsmith that makes me wonder if it was blessed by God. Star Wars could never get me to buy the soundtrack on CD. This movie has. I wonder why this didn't win an Oscar for best score.

Now to the plot:

When three Klingon (Alien) Starships are attacked and erased from existence by a vast giant omnipotent cloud, drifting in space; a close by Star Base finds out that not only is the cloud headed directly towards them, but is also on a direct path for Earth. The Star Base in question (The Epslion 9) sends a message to Star Fleet for a Starship to be sent and prevent it from reaching Earth.

The only Starship in enough range to stop the cloud in time is none other than the famous Enterprise from the infamous 1960s television series. The Starfleet legend and hero Captain Kirk and the rest of his crew from the also famous five year mission of the show, make a comeback for one last mission (and many more later, but those are other movie reviews).

Before the crew can start on their mission, they patch up old wounds put aside their anger for each other to face the menacing unknown that awaits them, realizing this may be the last time they speak to one another...alive.

Not much is known about the cloud or why it is erasing everything in it's path from existence; other than what Spock, the science officer of The Enterprise, has sensed from it....

"It only knows that it needs, Commander. But, like so many of us, it does not know what."

Suspense eats away at you when the final showdown between The Enterprise and the intelligent vast cloud finally comes. And the movie doesn't stop their. Like I said, the movie talks about the meaning of life.

If you can, buy the director's cut on DVD or VHS. This IS the most beautiful science fiction movie you will ever see.
mr Marble
Fri, May 8, 2015, 8:57am (UTC -6)
This is what science fiction is all about

Watched this one after few years, didn't remember what it was all about. Oh yes, it was the one with "V'ger"...aka amazingly beautiful Persis Khambatta...with her head shaved. Most beautiful bald woman I can think of right now...

The film is about huge unbeatable "cloud" approaching and threatening Earth, only thing standing in between is Enterprise with it's legendary crew. It appears I enjoy the film more and more each decade I see it again.

I thought there was slightly too much time used on introduction and drafting of old crew, but once the "action" began it kept me on edge of my seat all the way through. Don't think that "action" I mention was fighting and shooting, it wasn't. Perhaps lack of silly fighting makes (all too) many people to say that this film was too long and slow paced. Well, I disagree - this is exactly the kind of science fiction I love, you are given chance to use your own imagination. Some say pacing and the film is similar to Kubrik's 2001...I won't argue against it.

The film had amazing special effects for it's time. No, not amazing, incredible. But don't watch it for special effects only, the real interest of this film lies in the nature of the alien "cloud" and Enterprise crew trying to figure it out and trying to cope with it. Special effects were used as a tool to launch YOUR imagination, as they should be.

This film is probably closest to spirit of original series, without much campiness though. A thinking man's Star Trek film. What a wonderful treat. They don't make films like this any more.

Fri, May 8, 2015, 9:01am (UTC -6)
Who is 'VGER'?

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the first film in the Star Trek series, the most successful series in movie history. After all, the fact that a movie series can hold the public's interest for 21 years (and nine films) and that the whole Star Trek concept is alive and well after over 30 years says something about the genius of Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek's creator.

People seem to cricitize this film heavily. Some of the criticisms of the film that I have heard in my discussions with people include phrases such as "frightfully boring," "way too long," and "chronically lacking in action." However, if that is all you saw in the film, then you clearly missed out on the film's beauty. This film is not about guns, explosions, blood, or machismo. It is about the philosophical relationship between logic and emotion.

The film is masterfully directed by Robert Wise, the academy award winning director of "The Sound of Music." The film reunites the original cast of the Star Trek series with a few new faces ... Stephen Collins as "Capt. Decker" and Persis Khambata as "Lt. Ilia". It also recaps the events that have transpired in each original series character since the television series in the late 60's with a sensitivity to newcomers to the Star Trek universe. It effectively introduces newcomers to Star Trek without insulting the intelligence of those of us who are thoroughly familiar with Star Trek.

The plot features an intelligent, logical entity that calls itself VGER. VGER is an innocent entity with one mission ... "learn all that is learnable... transmit that information to the creator." VGER in its incredible journey has in essence gained knowledge that spans the very essence of the universe. VGER now has set a course for Earth in an attempt to share its knowledge with its creator. VGER believes that its creator is on Earth.

VGER becomes a threat to life on Earth when its destroys three Klignon vessels and a Federation space station with incredible destructive power. To counter this threat, Admiral Kirk takes command of the Enterprise and leads the Enterprise in an intriguing battle with this alien entity.

While battling this alien entity, Admiral Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew learn about the relationship between human logic and emotion. They explore philosophical issues such as "Is this all that I am?" and "Is there nothing more?". I believe Spock summarizes the quest for answers to these questions by his statement about two-thirds of the way into the film that indicates that "logic alone is not enough". They eventually learn to appreciate the unique attributes that make us human ... "our weaknesses ... and the drive that compels us to overcome them."

In conclusion, this film has a great plot, great special effects, and excellent music and cinematography. Definitely see it if you are truly interested in taking a philosophical journey into the essence of what makes us human.
Fri, May 8, 2015, 10:05am (UTC -6)
You're totally just the same person trolling this board, right?
b c
Fri, May 8, 2015, 10:24am (UTC -6)
an under-rated film

This was an under-rated film in the first version, and it is improved a great deal with the changes that Robert Wise made just a few years before he passed away. There has been a backlash against this picture, mostly for two reasons; it was not Star Wars, and it was not what people expected of Star Trek.

If you put these expectations aside, and if you also have some attention span and willingness to relax into a picture this is a remarkable experience. I often here people use words like boring, too long etc. Well yes, if we are expecting a quick-hit, film that can be digested in 90 minutes like a TV show, this is not that type of film. If we apply these standards to Lawrence of Arabia, 2001, Blade Runner, Bridge on the River Kwai, or Citzen Kane (which Robert Wise edited, none of these films would have ever been made.

If you put Star Trek The Motion Picture in context of it's scale and the craftsman involved you start to appreciate it's quality and elegance. Robert Wise does not need qualification. He brings an elegance and texture to work and life in space that StarWars has not put to screen to this day.

Star Wars even now seems like nothing more than an impressive exercise in effects and sound. It is always reminding us that it is a movie. ST-TMP on other hand departed into an "immersive experience" developed by Robert Wise, with the amazing talents of Doug Trumbull and John Dykstra, and the enormous contibutions of Jerry Goldsmith. Likewise, the photography, the scale of the sets and the editing of the film all contribute to a immersive world that saturates the viewer into the film.

You gain a lot of knowledge and appreciation of this film and the experience that they achieved by watching the Director's Edition DVD and listening to Wise, Trumbull, Dykstra, Goldsmith and others discuss the production. This was a uniquely creative and enormous effort, and considering the technological limitations, the demands of the studio, and the many demands of the Star Trek Bible that qualified the creation of the movie. I am pleased to see that other reviewers here have come to appreicate this movie many years later. I encourage the skeptics to find the time to relax and watch it on the biggest screen you can find.
Shawn Watson
Fri, May 8, 2015, 11:41am (UTC -6)
As far from the restrictions of TV as it could possibly be.

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Oooh, a difficult one this. Very difficult indeed. Unless you are particularly patient, or are a hardcore Star Trek fan this is going to take some effort to stick with. It doesn't seem like a Trekkie movie. Nowhere near as much fun as Wrath Of Khan, or First Contact. Not as much humour as The Voyage Home. In fact, there is no humour at all. Something that cripples the film badly. Everything is very straight-faced and sincere. To introduce someone to Star Trek with this film would be a bad idea.

Being the first Trek product since the original series one might expect the familiar campy story lines and beaming down to "M-class" planets - a bit of desert 10-minutes drive from LA - but there's none to be had. Veteran director Robert Wise has crafted a film very much in the style of his original version of The Haunting. His w-i-d-e-s-c-r-e-e-n compositions are beautiful and he really manages to lift Trek from the small screen to the cinema screen. It was a hard undertaking, but he set the standard for nine sequels to date.

The plot has a giant alien force destroying three Klingon ships on its direct course with earth. If the Federation doesn't stop this thing, it will blow up the planet. Admiral Kirk leaves his sunny San Francisco home to assume command of the Enterprise from Captain Decker and stop the alien menace. But Decker has a chip on his shoulder. The new Enterprise is not finished yet and he doesn't appreciate Kirk moving in on his territory.

Very slowly the original crew return and are in command of their posts again and there is a weird new navigator, a bald-headed, celibate alien woman named Ilia. Decker seems to have a thing for her. For some reason.

Once they reach the mysterious alien mass, the crew learns its name is Vger. Ilia is kidnapped and replaced with an android. Spock is driven to tears as he finds TOTAL logic in Vger actions and motivations. This is all sub-subtext and the actual explanation behind Vger might not come as a surprise to most. Once they fly inside Vger's mass of clouds and orifices it takes a healthy hour for the damn thing to be fully revealed.

To criticise a film for its length may be an ignorant thing to do. Audiences today are too satisfied with any plot lasting less than 100 minutes. This is not a good sign. Films with the scope and, dare I say it, class of Star Trek: The Motion Picture need their full and proper running time. Coherent story lines can be sacrificed for fast paced, exhilarating storytelling, or a dull, seemingly endless narrative can be the result of a big story being fully fleshed out. It's difficult to achieve both length and pace. Sadly, this film doesn't. But it looks very good, is well directed and has the balls to bite off more than it can chew.
Sat, May 9, 2015, 2:31pm (UTC -6)
As much as I like the visuals and exploration feeling in this movie, I find parts of the writing really strange. Like how a woman gets vaporized/replaced and there's hardly any emotional reaction to it, as well as the earlier transporter accident which also has a lack of reaction. Weirds me out, man.
Ian Dawe
Sat, May 16, 2015, 9:25am (UTC -6)
A Defence of Star Trek The Motion Picture

I don’t like to rank art, instinctively. This isn’t a sport, and it’s not about ringing all the bells and checking off all the boxes. So, when people ask me to rank the Star Trek movies I always decline. There are ones I like more than others, for sure, and there are some that I think are of particularly low cinematic quality, but they’re all interesting in different ways. (Save for the Next Generation films, which all seem to come from a different show than the one I remember.)

In any case, they’re all of a piece, particularly the core films made during the 1980s and early 1990s (II through VI). They defined the look, feel and mythology of Trek for the late 20th century and provided both a path forward to the Next Generation and backward to the earlier series. But the first Trek film was different, and many fans would rather it were forgotten.

I’m going to be making an argument here for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but I’m fully aware of its flaws. That should be mentioned right away. Its pacing is glacial at times, it lingers where it should proceed forward, everyone seems to be taking it way too seriously, there’s a smug self-importance about it (Shatner picks up on it and lets it infect his performance as a distant, arrogant Kirk) and its compressed production schedule led it to make technical mistakes and necessitate multiple cuts. The best version is Robert Wise’s “Director’s Edition”, which he produced in 2002 with the help of a young digital special effects team, but even the best version of this movie will have those flaws.

But if you can see beyond that, within the film itself is the most Trek-like story of all the original films, except possibly The Undiscovered Country. Star Trek puts its mission statement right on front street: “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Well, Star Trek The Motion Picture is the closest they come in the film series to actually doing that. Although at times it comes close to plagiarizing scripts from the 1960s, but in an interesting way The Motion Picture is the closest to the spirit of the original series, or at least what the original series stood for.

Even The Original Series (TOS for those not in the know) strayed from its original tone, with greater or lesser success, through its three seasons. The first few episodes, such as “The Cage”, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, “Charlie X”, “Mudd’s Women”, and “The Omega Glory” (written early but not filmed until later) all had a great deal of involvement from Gene Roddenberry himself. They all reflect Roddenberry’s peculiar interests: social utopia, sexuality, humans coping with power and political allegory. You can argue about whether later incarnations that focused more on characters and traditional good guy-bad guy conflicts were better or worse, but there’s no debate that these early episodes most closely reflect Roddenberry’s vision.

One perennial issue in the world of Trek is that Roddenberry wasn’t exactly the only, or even the best, voice in creating the show. The recent These Are The Voyages books, now in two volumes, go a long way to clarifying some of the historical myths that grew up around the show, many of which were created by Roddenberry himself. (For example, the myth that NBC objected to a woman in a command position in “The Cage”. In fact, the network encouraged this sort of thing and simply objected to Majel Barrett being in the role because she was having an affair with the then-married Roddenberry, not out of sexism. This is typical Roddenberry: create a politically-charged myth to cover up his own character flaws.) Better, worse or indifferent: the public spoke loudly, finally, and Roddenberry’s version of Star Trek is emphatically NOT the one that succeeded.

Roddenberry’s journey from sole auteur to crazy old Uncle, locked away in a “Consulting Producer” position with little power over his creation was repeated at least twice in the franchise history. First, during the run of the original series (he had little to do with Season 3) and second during the run of the movies, where the perceived failure of The Motion Picture (I say “perceived” because it was a huge box office smash, usually a golden ticket in Hollywood) led to his being promoted “upstairs” for the remainder of the run. By 1990, he was reduced to sending strongly worded memos to Nicholas Meyer, where they were politely ignored. In fact, one could say he was living that story out a third time during the run of The Next Generation also, but passed away before he could be completely censured.

Of all those “pure Roddenberry” Star Trek products, and I think there are a rather limited number that can honestly claim that title, The Motion Picture is the best. That sounds like equivocation because it is. No one would argue that it’s a “great” movie. But it is significant in Star Trek history and represents the last time the original creator got to engage with his creation in its original form.

One of the reasons for its middling quality comes from its tortured and long production history. To make a very long story somewhat short, the film grew out of a TV show that was planned as the flagship of a new “Paramount TV Network” that was being bandied about as a “fourth network” for American TV in the late 1970s. Star Trek, one of their popular cancelled franchises, seemed like a safe bet to bring back. Significantly, much of this planning was done before the release of Star Wars in the summer of 1977, an event that forever changed the way popular science fiction would be made and marketed. Star Trek Phase II would essentially continue the mission of the original ship, but without Leonard Nimoy, still smarting over likeness rights and marketing points from the original series. In his place would be a new character, Xon, a Vulcan who wanted to understand human emotion, and Roddenberry also brought in new characters Decker, the young Buck of a first officer, and Ilia, who came from a race of psychically sensitive people. (The parallels between the Next Generation characters of Data, Riker and Troi are too obvious to miss.) Scripts were written, sets were built, and everything seemed to be going along when Paramount decided to drop plans for a network and instead take the proposed pilot episode of Star Trek Phase II, a two-parter called “In Thy Image”, originally conceived by sci fi novelist Alan Dean Foster, and turn it into the first Star Trek movie. Once the project became a film, Nimoy was convinced to return, with a substantial cash settlement. (Nimoy recalls the check arriving 15 minutes before the script.) Robert Wise, the Hollywood veteran, was hired as a capable and professional Director, and they were off.

The movie they finally made eliminated Xon, of course, and since in their minds a continuing series was not in the offing, they were able to take bigger risks with Decker and Ilia. But other than that, they stuck pretty much to the plan for Phase II’s “In Thy Image”, using the new sets and the new uniforms, which resembled pyjamas. (Yet another of the many ways this film anticipates The Next Generation.)

Picking up a few years after the end of the “five year mission,” Kirk is now an Admiral at Starfleet, Spock has moved back to Vulcan to become a monk and McCoy is retired and sporting a seventies beard that would make a modern hipster weep. Just as in the proposed pilot episode, an alien entity of unimaginable power is heading towards earth and no one understands it. The Enterprise, fresh from a refit, is “The only ship in the quadrant”. Kirk is called back into action, recruits his fellow shipmates (the other four major characters, Chekov, Uhura, Sulu and Scotty, never left) and goes off to save the world.

Notice that just from that plot outline, there isn’t much in terms of character-motivated drama and conflict there. There’s no “big bad” villain licking his chops and giving great speeches. There’s no opportunity for Shatner to get his shirt off and fist fight with an alien, not to mention getting in the tights of some feisty alien (or human) lady. Oh, there’s some muted tension about how Kirk pushes the ship past its limits, or how Decker struggles with his role as first officer, rather than the Captain’s chair he had been promised, but really this isn’t that kind of movie. The human tension works least well, and seems the most forced. The movie works best when focused on the huge alien, which appears like a gigantic cloud, threatening the earth with destruction. The step-by-step, professional way the Enterprise crew tries to understand and address the threat, working together, is what gives the film its drama. At one point, relatively late into the movie, Kirk says, frustrated, “We know nothing about it as of yet!” He’s frustrated by a lack of understanding, not by a lack of firepower and strength.

This is what Star Trek is supposed to be about. The crew is on a journey of understanding, not conflict. The phasers are never fired in the entire movie, and even a torpedo is used only to clear an asteroid from their path. Instead, the crew uses their minds, their collective power to assimilate and analyze data. It’s what they went to Starfleet Academy for. It’s what these people do. The remarkable thing is that in the history of Trek we so rarely actually see them doing that! Some episodes of the original series of course have this pattern. “The Corbomite Maneuver” is probably the closest in terms of plot and tone, and of course many have pointed out that “The Changeling” is also very close to this plot (although not the mood). I find it interesting that these similarities, when applied to The Motion Picture, are used at criticisms of the film for lack of originality. And yet the very next movie, The Wrath of Khan, literally is a sequel to an original series episode and is structurally identical to many other series instalments, and yet is hailed as a masterpiece.

I mentioned before that after its December 1979 release, the film was a huge box office success, more than covering its then-enormous $40 million budget. (Most of that budget was money that was spent developing the TV series and never made it to the screen.) But mentioning the budget became one of the many ways people attacked this film in subsequent years.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was always the red-headed stepchild of the Trek movies. (Star Trek V was, of course, much worse, but that one was at least consistent with the other later instalments in look, feel and tone.) Lampooned as the “slow-motion” picture, with its stuffy tone and high-minded ideals, everything I just mentioned as a positive was used as a negative. And, importantly, many of these arguments were applied to the next film as a positive. “It’s just like the series!” “It’s not like the series!” (I know… you can’t win.) “They don’t even use the phasers!” “Kirk doesn’t get into a fight!” Etc. etc. There was something about this movie the fans really hated, once they were given something to compare it to, of course. Remember that Khan didn’t appear until the summer of 1982, two long years in which there was only The Motion Picture, playing in various cuts on TV, re-edited. That made sense: the studio spent so much on it that getting back even part of the revenue from the then-new market of home video was worth it.

Despite being rated “G”, and thus interpreted by everyone as meaning that it was “for kids”, this is actually the least child-friendly of any Star Trek film. It really is Star Trek for thoughtful adults, not those who yearn for fisticuffs and explosions and spaceships flying around. Maybe that’s why the fans turned on it so quickly? It did seem to be a disproportionately bitter response. Perhaps, in their heart of hearts, some fans are ashamed that while they speak in lofty terms about “IDIC” and Trek’s great socially moral program, what they really want are some bloody spaceships and lasers.

Taken out of its Star Trek context and compared to its contemporaries, such as Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars and Alien, it really ranks up there with Alien for being fully-realized, well thought-out science fiction, rather than fantasy adventure. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, either! Apples and oranges.) It represents a much more adult, intelligent and mature engagement with science fiction themes than its contemporaries, and probably grapples with its themes just as capably as The Undiscovered Country. Compared to the rest of Robert Wise’s films, it once again makes a great deal of sense, being very similar in tone and style to his 1975 film The Hindenberg. Wise was no lightweight: he directed West Side Story, The Sound of Music and The Day The Earth Stood Still, in addition to having a history that stretched back to Citizen Kane. He made a film in his style, not necessarily the Star Trek “house” style, which may have alienated some longtime fans.

I mentioned right off the top that The Motion Picture has flaws, but many of those flaws recede if you think of this film as not really a Star Trek film but as a Robert Wise film from the late seventies. Skilled, a bit old-fashioned, but with an unmistakable grace.

For his part, Wise himself was never satisfied with the editing, effects, music and pacing, the picture having been rushed into theatres for Christmas 1979. Subsequent versions added and trimmed but it wasn’t until the aged Wise came back in 2002 to do what he called his final “check cut” (to use his old-fashioned Hollywood term), improving effects with CGI, creating a real 5.1 soundtrack and, probably most importantly, doing dozens of small, subtle edits, sometimes cutting a single line at a time. It’s the work of a master technician, who by that point had worked in the business for 60 years and knew what he was doing. (Nick Meyer, on the other hand, who directed and wrote everyone’s “favourite” Trek films wasn’t even really primarily a filmmaker, but a novelist and script doctor.) In some ways, this was the only Trek film made by a truly professional director until JJ Abrams took over in 2009. (JJ’s films, by the way, can be defended or attacked on the same basis: forget Trek, how do they compare to other sci-fi in 2009, or 2013? How do they compare to his other films?)

The problem with enjoying Star Trek: The Motion Picture today is that we can’t take ourselves back to 1979, when all the Trek we had was the original series, and the die-hard fans may or may not have seen some of the animated series. There were the Gold Key comics, of course, but in the public imagination, this was a startling, engrossing and thoroughly adult take on Star Trek. I doubt we’ll ever see another Star Trek film like it again, which I think is a real shame.
Brent Holmes
Sat, May 16, 2015, 10:15am (UTC -6)
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.
Paul M.
Mon, May 18, 2015, 12:48pm (UTC -6)
So, I have to ask... Is the guy who pretends he's different people and then debates with himself back?

This whole thread is becoming kinda creepy.
Tue, May 26, 2015, 4:16pm (UTC -6)
STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE: was directed by Robert Earl Wise who received a Saturn Award as Best Director for this film. "The Motion Picture" had a record breaking premiere at theaters during 1979. The movie reunites the classic crew of the USS Enterprise NCC 1701 once again, a decade after successfully completing their legendary five-year mission of deep space exploration going boldly where no man has gone before...

In 2270 Mr Spock lives on planet Vulcan. At the Gol temple, he attempts to complete the disciplines of Kolinahr by purging the last of his human emotions. However, the Vulcan is clearly distracted by something far away in the distant depts of space. A Vulcan Elder is about to place the ancient Kolinahr pendant of logic around his neck but a disturbed Mr Spock stops her. A mind meld later reveals Spock is still conflicted about human emotions which an alien entity has somehow awakened. Spock fails to complete his Kolinahr vulchie training and instead is drawn to a powerful object named V'Ger making direct contact with it.

Meanwhile in close proximity to the Federation's Neutral zone, three Klingon battle cruisers are violently engaged with a vast, mysterious object on a direct collision course with Earth.

The Klingon K'tinga class fleet attempt to investigate a celestial cloud, scanning it and firing torpedoes at will, except the Klingons have underestimated the power hidden deep within this unknown. The cloud assimilates everything sent its way. Frightened, the lead captain orders a retreat but its too late. A bolt of plasma energy is fired out from within the dark expanse of the mystery unknown and strikes the Klingon ships, one by one.... The cloud systematically eradicates them along with their fierce warriors who vanish into thin air.

James T. Kirk has now become a cranky desk-bound Admiral promoted to Chief of Starfleet Operations on earth. The former starship captain shuttles over to Starfeet Headquarters with every intention of regaining command of the USS Enterprise NCC 1701. Once on board the ship, Kirk meets Captain Decker in Engineering who is hesitant about relinquishing command of his beloved starship. Angered, Decker sandbags Kirk about being "out of touch" with the new Enterprise systems.

Kirk realises Decker's expertise is crucial to the success of the mission and with the Enterprise, her crew and earth hanging in the balance, Decker stays onboard as Executive Officer, temporary grade reduction in rank..

Kirk suffers an early blow when his new vulcan Science Officer, Commander Sonak is captured in a horrific transporter accident along with another crewman. Yeoman Rand is struggling with the transporter controls when the Alarm sounds.

Chief Engineer Scotty yells into the intercom: "Transporter room, do not engage! Do not...."

Kirk exits on a run, followed by Scotty.

Strange flashing sounds and a defective transporter beam up is in progress. Its obvious something has gone badly amiss with the transporter. At the console Chief Rand is trying to overcome the problem with the beam up of Commander Sonak's lifeform degrading before them. The human energy patterns flicker into fuller materialization but they're "Forming". Rand vainly attempts to save Sonak and the woman but her grief, panic stricken face says it all. Its a desperate no-win scenario..... We hear a scream of pain and a moan from Vulcan. Kirk takes over but its too late. The death cries reverberate around the Enterprise transporter room, a strange phenomenon in itself.

"Starfleet, do you have them?" demands Kirk anxiously
"Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long.. fortunately."

On the Recreation Deck, the admiral informs the assembled Enterprise crew about the effect V'Ger's destructive powers have had on Earth's defenses. Its unlike anything Starfleet has ever been faced with before. Kirk tells his crew that V'Ger is two and a half days from earth. The Epsilon Nine Station interrupts the briefing with an emergency call from Commander Branch.

"Enterprise... the Cloud is definitely a power field of some kind... Measures... My God! Over 82 A.U.'s in diameter..."

Branch reveals repeated friendship messages have yielded no response. Neither do tactical scans which are reflected back by something within the cloud. Maybe its a vessel of some sort...

Branch orders their shields to maximum power as the Epsilon station is attacked and obliterated before the Enterprise crew's very eyes. Cadets and Officers alike are shocked and stunned into silence. Somebody eventually lets out a scream. Admiral Kirk has to compose himself.

"Our orders are to intercept,investigate; and take whatever action is necessary... and possible. We can only hope that the life form aboard that vessel reasons as we do."

The Enterprise has to Intercept V'Ger and prevent it from reaching Earth at all costs. The crew is given 40 minutes to gather their wits prior to the prelaunch countdown.

Dr Leonard "Bones" McCoy retirement on Earth is rudely cut short along with Lieutenant llia, the navigation officer who beams aboard the USS Enterprise NCC 1701 at Kirk's request. "Bones" is not a happy man. In fact he's extremely peeved about being drafted into service without a moments notice.

James T. Kirk: "Well, for a man who swore he'd never return to Starfleet.."

Leonard McCoy: "Just a moment, Captain, sir. I'll explain what happened. Your revered Admiral Nogura invoked a little-known, seldom-used reserve activation clause. In simpler language, Captain, they drafted me!"

James T. Kirk: "They didn't!"

Leonard McCoy: "This was your idea. This was your idea, wasn't it?" yells McCoy pointing the finger of blame right at Kirk.

James T. Kirk: "Bones, there's a thing out there."

Leonard McCoy: "Why is any object we don't understand always called a thing?"

James T. Kirk:

"Its Headed this way. I need you. Damn it, Bones, I need you. Badly!" pleads the admiral extending a hand.

Leonard McCoy: "Well, Jim, I hear Chapel's an M.D. now. Well I'm going to need a top nurse... not a doctor who will argue every little diagnosis with me. And they probably redesigned the whole sick bay too! I know engineers, they love to change things."

James T. Kirk: "Well, Bones, do the new medical facilities meet with your approval?"

Leonard McCoy: "They do not. It's like working in a damn computer center."

The original crew are called into action on a deadly mission with one exception. The safety net, Spock is missing. This is gonna be one heck of a rough ride. Starfleet Officers have sworn a solemn oath to serve and protect. Theres little hope about reaching a truce with the killer energy cloud exterminating Federation ships and planets completely from existence.

The Enterprise leaves earth's orbit except an anti-matter imbalance with the warp drive engines causes a terrible malfunction creating a wormhole distortion. A sudden spiraling of stars and light appear hurtling the USS Enterprise NCC 1701-A into a Vortex.

Kirk shouts "Wormhole!.... Get Us back on impulse power! Full reverse!"

The Enterprise has been drawn into a matter-time distortion, with stars, people and voices becoming strange, distorted shapes and sounds the further the ship ventures deeper into the vortex. It stays what seems like a really long time with Sulu reporting negative helm control and Uhura confirming that subspace frequencies have been jammed.

Suddenly the computer alerts the crew to a collision alert! The vortex has pulled in a pitted asteroid which is obstructing the Enterprise's flightpath threatening to destroy the entire ship. The Deflector Shields are over loaded, so too are the main power systems. Kirk orders Chekov to standby on phasers but Decker steps in and belays the admiral's order. The asteroid is getting larger on the viewscreen. With Chekov's help, Decker diverts power in time for him to arm the photon torpedoes and save the ship.

Decker: "Fire Torpedoes...!"

Chekov: "Torpedoes away...!"

The photon torpedoes float towards the asteroid and explode disintegrating the asteroid into several thousand pieces. The Enterprise's forward shields smash the rock fragments into smithereens as they crash against the ship. Bridge Officers brace themselves as the debris field collides and reverberates throughout the ship, making the Enterprise shudder until a feeling of smooth motion reveals their out of it.

Decker explains to Admiral Kirk in the Admiral's quarters why he countermanded his phaser order. Bones tags along and is listening intently.

"Sir, the Enterprise redesign increases phaser power by channeling it through the main engines. When they went into anti-matter imbalance, the phasers were automatically cut off."

An embarrassed Kirk swallows his pride and acknowledges Commander Decker for acting properly and saving the ship. Decker is aware of this and asks to speak freely.

"Sir, you haven't logged a single star hour in two and a half years. That, plus your unfamiliar with the ship's design, in my opinion, sir, seriously jeopardizes our mission."

Kirk has to grovel: "I trust you will... nursemaid me through these difficulties, Mister?"

Decker: "Yes, sir, I'll do that."

Decker is excused."Then I won't keep you from you're duties any longer."

Bones sandbags Kirk over the way he got command of the Enterprise.

"You pulled every string in the book short of blackmail to get the Enterprise, maybe even that. And when this mission is over, you have no intention of giving her back."

Kirk turns to McCoy for advice: ..."and I intend to keep her?"

McCoy: "It's an obsession that can blind you so far more immediate and critical responsibilities."

Kirk tells the doctor he has noted his opinion and asks if there's anything else.

The Chief Medical Officer gets to the point. "that depends on you."

A Vulcan shuttle withdraws from the Enterprise bringing Science Officer Spock on board. All is not what it seems with Mr Spock who takes refuge within the safety of the USS Enterprise starship after his humiliating Kolinahr experience on Vulcania. The Vulcan reports for bridge duty much to everyones delight. Spock is clearly not himself and attempts to implement his mathematical computations without even greeting his old Enterprise friends whom he regards rather coldly. The old bridge crew are puzzled by his reaction to them. Uhura is upset.

The vulcan explains he's knows about the Enterprise design difficulties because he's been monitoring Kirk's transmissions with Starfleet Command. Isn't this illegal? why I do believe, Mr Spock has been a very naughty little pointy eared, green blooded vulchie indeed!!!

Spock offers his services as Science Officer with all due respect to Decker. The exec gladly steps aside and allows Spock to take over and assess the defective engineering readings.

Spock turns to Kirk: With your permission, I will now discuss these fuel equations with the Engineer."

Kirk manages a nod but is puzzled by the Vulcan's strange manner.

Kirk: "Mister Spock, welcome aboard!" Mr Spock departs via the turbo elevator.

McCoy: "Never look a gift Vulcan in the ears, Jim."

Engineering to Bridge... New intermix balance holding steady. She's not even straining! Scottys been dying to give the Enterprise a proper shakedown cruise.

The USS Enterprise soon arrives at the V'Ger intercept coordinates. The ship is on Red Alert! Kirk recommends against defensive action as it may be interpreted as hostile. Sulu pushes a button revealing a beautiful, yet menacing cloud on the Enterprise viewer. Uhura continues with friendship messages on all hailing frequencies. Kirk orders the ship to move into the heart of the clouds center.

Spock confirms the Enterprise has been scanned but senses puzzlement. "They have... they have been communicating with us. I sense ... puzzlement. Why have we not replied?"

Computer: Incoming fire. Ahead. Zero,
... mark, zero.
Incoming fire. Ahead. Zero,
mark, zero.

The Ship is under attack from an energy bolt which drains the deflector shields by 70%. V'Ger is puzzled because the Enterprise has ignored its message which Spock isolates from the computer records. V'Ger message lasted for only a millisecond!!! In the blink of an eye Spock re-sends the standard Federation message matching the clouds signal speed which instantly calls off the whiplash energy splattering over the entire ship. It was a close call.

An alarm klaxon sounds. A terrifying column of mysterious plasma energy bursts onto the bridge. Its a plasma probe. The plasma wave approaches Spock's Science station and attacks chekov who is petrified and screams out in agony. The probe attempts to gain control of the main computer.

Mr Spock leaps into action. The "Intruder" learns about the Federations defences. Spock is between the probe and Ilia which moves closer to her freezing her into immobility. In a flash of blinding white, the energy plasma vanishes with Lieutenant Ilia ditching her tricorder behind. It rattles to the deck plates with a metallic clatter marking the very spot where lovely Ilia was standing.

Decker is furious "This is how I define unwarranted!"

And almost at the same moment a new Bridge Alarm Signal goes off. The Enterprise has been seized by tractor beam. V'Ger beams an android "Ilia" aboard the ship to communicate and learn about the humans "infesting" the USS Enterprise 1701 and planet earth.

Ilia speaks for V'Ger now: "I have been programmed by V'ger to observe and record normal functioning of the carbon-based units infesting USS ENTERPRISE."

Kirk: Who is...'V'ger'...?

Ilia: "V'ger is that which programmed me."

Kirk: "Is V'ger the Captain of the alien vessel?"

Bones: "Jim, what the blazes...."

Ilia: "V'ger is that which seeks the Creator."

Bones: "Jim, this is a mechanism...!"

Kirk: "Where is Lt. Ilia?"

Ilia: "That unit no longer functions. I have been given its form to more readily communicate with the carbon-based units infesting Enterprise."

Security Guard: "Carbon-based units"...?

McCoy: "Humans, Ensign Lang: us."

Kirk: "Why does V'ger travel to the third planet of the solar system directly ahead?"

Ilia: "V'ger travels to the third planet to find the Creator."

Decker is assigned to get to get "friendly" with the facsimile of Ilia and find out what she knows about V'Ger.

Spock leaves the ship without authorisation in order to attempt a mind meld with V'Ger. He gets more than he bargained for and is thrown into a coma but rescued by Kirk. Spock explains that he wanted to make contact with a being of pure logic.

V'Ger wants to talk to its creator who it believes is on Earth except theres a complication. The cloud, a machine enhanced by machines calls itself V'Ger! This machine is sentient and is actually what remains of the Voyager One spacecraft launched from Earth in the late twentieth century. Despite its vast knowledge incorporated into its memory banks by the machine world, it cannot comprehend human beings or their simple feelings. V'Ger "feels" lonely and barren!

"This simple feeling..."(Spock looks at Kirk)
... is so far beyond V'ger's comprehension. I saw V'ger's planet: a planet populated by living machines. Unbelievable technology. V'ger has knowledge that spans this universe. And... in all this order... all this magnificence, V'ger feels no delight... no beauty... I should have known..."

Kirk wakes Mr Spock up: "Known what, Spock? What?.....

What should you have known?"

Spock: "No meaning... No hope... summoning strength)And, Jim, no answers...!Jim, it's looking for answers itself!"

Kirk: "What answers?"

Spock: "Is this all I am? Is there nothing more?"

V'Ger's experiences have exceeded it complex programming and it wants more.

The craft apparently entered a machine-dominated universe, and encountered an intelligence that reprogrammed it and sent it back on a new mission to seek out and destroy inferior, non-machine infestations. The Enterprise crew rushes to stop it. It reaches Earth and easily deactivates the entire planetary defence system. V'Ger intends to deactivate Earths 'carbon based units' lifeforms unless they bring forth the creator, "The Kirk Unit." who built Voyager One. Kirk is mistaken for the creator and explains to the Ilia probe that he won't reveal who the creator is to V'Ger's mechanism. The bluff works and Kirk, Spock, Dr McCoy, Decker and the replicated`llia'mechanism make their way to a central structure towards the very heart of V'Ger.

There's an ancient human space probe there, and Kirk discovers what is in fact Voyager VI scarred by years of deep space exploration..... It is essentially V'Ger, an old earth probe enhanced by an ancient machine race. It wants to complete its programming by telling its creator all it has learnt except V'ger refuses to accept that it was created by a human. Spock suggests that V'Ger has done all it can with logic which is amazing even for him.

Kirk: "Capture God! In order to retrieve V'ger's data, the Creator has to physically come here!..."

Commander Decker decides to join with the Ilia mechanism.

Spock: "Jim... he wants it."

Decker: "You got the Enterprise, it's what you wanted. This is what I want." And then Decker shoves the tricorder into the access hatch.

Ilia and Decker merge as one, and transcend our universe. Self preservation kicks in and our heroes decide to hightail it back to the ship. Planet Earth is saved from the wrath of V'Ger. Back in the captain's chair, Kirk orders a shakedown cruise for the new USS Enterprise NCC 1701.

Guest stars include: Stephen Collins and Persis Khambatta, as well as brief appearances by previous Trek stars Grace Lee Whitney (reprising her role as Rand) and Mark Lenard (playing the Klingon captain). Of note: Marcy Lafferty, William Shatner's wife, also appears. Gene Roddenberry returns as producer, and science-fiction author Alan Dean Foster created the story, which was in turn scripted by Harold Livingston. The special effects team of Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra, along with the musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, made the movie a landmark epic in the industry. The movie broke both production cost records (with a budget of over $40 million spent) and box office totals. Though described as the "motionless picture" by many fans this film has a classic, with a fascinating storyline. You have to visualise being there on the USS Enterprise NCC 1701 for your thoughts to run wild with excitement.

Live Long and Prosper.
Thu, Jul 9, 2015, 1:59pm (UTC -6)
i really like STar Trek The Motion Picture. I think it's very underrated. It looks awesome, the whole feel of the film is kind of spaced out and creepy, it has a sexy bald woman.
Fri, Sep 4, 2015, 5:16am (UTC -6)
Underrated. Not a masterpiece, but not a flop.

In both its successes and its failures, TMP is the most "Star Trek" of the TOS films.

As in TOS, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy work perfectly, alone and together. I love the way Kirk gazes lovingly at the Enterprise upon reuniting with it -- I even love when Shatner goes completely over-the-top and actually tears up. I love how Kirk thoughtlessly removes the Enterprise captain from duty because the Enterprise is his ship, damnit. I love the decision to turn McCoy into a hippie pacifist. I love that Spock is cold and distant when he returns. I especially love that while Kirk knows something is wrong, McCoy chalks it up to Spock being a Vulcan.

As in TOS, the characters are tragically under-explored. Kirk's conflict with Deckard just kind of evaporates, and McCoy never really gets a moment to shine. Spock's arc actually has a proper beginning and end, but no real middle -- he has a problem, and he overcomes it, but we don't really get to see him work through it.

Also as in TOS, most of the main cast -- Uhura, Checkov, Scotty, Sulu -- are completely sidelined and do nothing of note.

As in TOS, the plot is haphazard and stretched thin. The long sequence of the Enterprise going too fast serves no purpose other than to pad the running time. It almost pays off in the Kirk-Deckard conflict, which could have been really interesting, but it takes too long and that subplot ends up being pointless.

As in TOS, we have an obvious mystery plot with a twist ending. But TMP does something that TOS did rarely, if ever: the twist is genuinely surprising and at least somewhat effective. TOS had a lot of twist endings, but its best episodes are almost invariably much simpler stories. TMP's twist is kind of hokey -- as in TOS -- but it's also genuinely interesting.

As in TOS, the guest stars stick out awkwardly against the perfect chemistry of the main trio.

As in TOS, we see a character get a tiny bit of development, only to be callously killed off. Also as in TOS, the reaction to the death is horribly understated. When Ilea dies, Deckard -- who we're supposed to think loves her -- just makes a quip at Kirk, and that's the end of that.

As in TOS, the gender politics are clumsy and awkward at best. Practically the first thing Ilea says when she walks onto the bridge is, "My oath of chastity is on record." Um, ok. What?

As in TOS, the film wants to be great sci-fi, with lofty ideas about the future, the development of the human race, our relationship with technology, and the possibility of other intelligences.

As in TOS, it doesn't quite reach its aspirations. TMP wants so badly to be 2001 you almost feel bad for it. I don't mind the slow pace. Hell, I don't even mind that the plot essentially comes to a standstill halfway in. (The film looks beautiful all the way through, and the 2001 ripoff sequence is no exception.) But the standstill overstays its welcome; and, more importantly, it essentially destroys the character interactions which had shown so much promise.

Each of TMP's three acts feels like a separate film. The first act looks like it's going to tell the story TOS always deserved. The second act is visually stunning but otherwise empty. The third act rushes to give the Deckard-Ilea relationship some kind of substance before moving on to the twist ending. Each of these acts has promise, but the second act is clearly the most unlike the other two. Instead of trying in vain to be Stanley Kubrick, the writers should have had some confidence and tried to tell their own story.

I'm willing to overlook a lot of flaws in something that *tries*. I would rather see a deeply-flawed film with high aspirations than a highly-polished film with no substance. This isn't pretension -- insubstantial films simply bore me. As with TOS, TMP had high aspirations -- but it came closer than nearly all of TOS to achieving them. Unfortunately, TMP would be the last time Star Trek had such aspirations.
Sat, Mar 19, 2016, 9:16pm (UTC -6)
I enjoyed the film a lot more than the crappy jj trek.I just sorta skip the docking of the enterprise scene and the space opera music at the beginning. i still think three stars is being generous, though.
Mon, Jul 11, 2016, 3:02am (UTC -6)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the most beautiful Trek film, and the least human
A partial defense of the weird first film

Star Trek turns 50 this year. It is the most important of the great pop culture franchises, maybe, the first realized vision of a cross-platform fictionalized universe. There are long-running narrative ideas that predate Trek’s 1966 TV debut, sure: James Bond, Middle-Earth, Godzilla, Spider-Man, Superman, Sherlock Holmes. But the Star Trek half-century is the half-century of fandom, canon, mythology, spin-offs, young faces growing old across sequels and reboots. It is the age that fandom took over the movie industry – or the age of the movie industry co-opting fandom. Consider: The other franchises had to come to Hollywood. Trek started here – to the south, in Culver City, at Desilu Productions, rescued from development oblivion because Lucille Ball had serious sway.

If you want to understand everything fascinating about our movie moment – the push and pull between fans and creators, between beloved actors and the characters who define them, between the executives with all the money and the creators with all the ideas, between the demand for more of what has already worked and the constant need to set off in bold new directions, between the infinite creative possibilities of special effects and the infinite destructive possibilities of special effects – you need to understand Star Trek. It is the miracle of modern entertainment.

Star Trek turns 50 this year. It is the most inessential of the great pop culture franchises, maybe, forever chasing the stylistic advances of younger upstart entertainments, forever entrapped in narrative tropes and hackneyed philosophy, a vision of the future long past. Once progressive in vision, the franchise turned conservative in its desperate curation. In Trek, you see the beginning of the Faustian bargain between fan and executive – between the person who wants more of the same, and the person unwilling to try anything new – that would transform genre storytelling from the fascinating fringe into the vanilla mainstream. In Trek, you see the end of science fiction as a venue for ideas; the never-ending birth of remake culture; you can pinpoint the moment when every movie needed to be an action movie.

If you want to understand everything depressing about our movie moment – how every movie is an advertisement for another movie, how the most expensive films in history have less emotional impact than a middling episode of Better Call Saul, how directors became crossing guards, how actors became spokespeople, why a Pulitzer Prize-winning author is working on the Hasbro Cinematic Universe – you have to understand Star Trek. It is the downward spiral, the totalitarian Mirror Universe. It is modern entertainment’s original sin.

There is no simple way to understand Star Trek. There are high highs and low lows. There is canon and fanon, a general sense that continuity doesn’t matter running alongside a fierce protection of holy canon. There are arguments: Kirk vs Picard, Deep Space Nine vs everything, Voyager was secretly brilliant the whole time, J.J. saved Trek, J.J. ruined Trek.

Best to focus in, I think. On July 22, the 13th Star Trek movie will arrive in theaters. If Star Trek Beyond is awful, it still might not be the worst Star Trek movie. If Beyond is fantastic, it still might not be the best Star Trek movie. Trek cinema is all over the map: Thrilling, boring, experimental, primitive, expensive, shoestring. Maybe Star Trek should only be a TV show. (A new one arrives 2017.) Maybe Star Trek should only be about an Enterprise. Maybe it should just end. Maybe we’re just beginning. Every week from now until Beyond, we’ll look closely at one of the movies, in chronological order from Kirk to Picard to Kirk again. Hopefully, we’ll understand more at the end.


There are some moments in Star Trek: The Motion Picture that are so beautiful – serene, cosmic, passionately alive with the possibility of The Infinite. You want to cry, you don’t know why. There are planetscapes and solaric abstractions and effervescent fugue-core incoherence rippling across electric oceans. The villain in The Motion Picture is one such abstraction: A demi-god vapor-planet of unknown origin and unknowable purpose. It is the first thing we see in the movie, and we never really see it at all.

In the first scene of The Motion Picture, three Klingon ships approach the cloud. In 1979, a Star Trek fan would have recognized the design of the Klingon ships. But things would have also looked different, to that diehard Trek fan. The camera follows the ships move across the stars – the kind of special effect that was practically impossible when Star Trek was on TV.

The Klingons are different, too: more alien, with makeup and forehead prosthetics. The subtext could be understood by a child: Star Trek is now $tar Trek!. And things sound better, too. The Motion Picture opens with the new Star Trek theme by Jerry Goldsmith, one of the greatest and most instantly recognizable musical cues in the last four decades. And the first scene is set to Goldsmith’s Klingon Battle Theme. That track might actually be better than Goldsmith’s theme tune, the way John Williams’ “The Imperial March” is deeper, richer, funnier, more dramatic than the Star Wars main theme.

The Motion Picture needs you to know that it’s a movie, by god. It’s right there in the title: “The Motion Picture,” a phrase connoting something bigger, better, more official, maybe even more pure than all that had come before. (You can feel an implication: Wouldn’t Star Trek be even better on the big screen?)

Today, “The Motion Picture” is a meaningless title. It runs along another outdated idea: That movies are fundamentally better than television. Almost four decades on, TV is more like movies, and movies are more like TV. And – roll with me, please – “motion pictures” stopped being A Thing You Watch and started being Your Life And How You Express Yourself. Your ten-year-old nephew makes motion pictures. Your ten-year-old nephew films from better angles than Robert Wise.

Wise directed The Motion Picture. He is one of perhaps twenty people who you could say saved Star Trek, and he is one of perhaps thirty who you could say almost destroyed Star Trek. (The lists overlap. Gene Roddenberry’s on both, at the top.) But if you allow for some wide wiggle room in your definition of “authorship,” all the best motion pictures in The Motion Picture comes from Douglas Trumbull.

Trumbull was a special-effects guy, worked on some of the most famous sequences in 2001: A Space Odyssey, was just finishing Close Encounters of the Third Kind, would soon craft the neon gritworlds of Blade Runner. An impressive run, and one that maybe Trumbull himself only appreciates as a complimentary prize from fate. In the early ’70s, Trumbull directed Silent Running, a Big Idea space thinker that earned the kind of negative money cult sensations always earn.

Trumbull only agreed to do The Motion Picture out of spite. Paramount was in a jam; he was on contract to them; they needed him; he wanted nothing to do with Paramount ever again. So he agreed to finish the movies’ special effects on a tight turnaround, on the condition that he would never have to work with Paramount again. He worked his team hard – in his own telling, Trumbull wound up in the hospital for two weeks, exhausted. Working alongside onetime protégé John Dykstra (who created some of the most memorable effects in Star Wars) and much of the Close Encounters team, Trumbull the weirdest and gorgeous and often wildly incongruous visions ever seen in a science fiction movie.

Much of it looks unreal, like this early shot of Planet Vulcan, rendered across matte paintings and smoke effects and the tease of rockform gargantuans. Who knows how this played in 1979, so soon after Star Wars imagined alien planets as real on-location set-ups in Tunisia and Guatemala.

In the best and maybe most despised sequence from The Motion Picture, the Starship Enterprise enters the godcloud, and, for 10 minutes, we see an interior that seems to hold the cosmos. It’s the closest thing to a tesseract ever caught on film: The deeper we go, the more there is.

There’s a shot in this sequence that may be the single most stunning image ever captured in a Star Trek project. Maybe that doesn’t matter as much as we think; maybe the franchise only gets worse when the people involved think “stunning images” are what define Star Trek. But, toward the end of this journey inwards, the camera pulls back to what a cinematographer might call a “Cosmically Extreme Long Shot,” and we see the great starship Enterprise, a tiny speck on this monster’s horizon.

Later, Spock puts on a spacesuit and goes on his own private journey through what you can only safely describe as a cosmic vaginal endoscape. The cutting strategy is familiar to anyone who saw 2001: Spock’s face, something crazy, Spock’s face, something crazy. At the end of Spock’s journey, there is a woman – Ilia, but it doesn’t matter, names don’t matter in The Motion Picture, nothing any person does really matters. We know that’s not the real woman; she’s back on the Enterprise, or some version of her is.

But Spock is tantalized. To the extent that any character has a “journey” in The Motion Picture, Spock has been seeking something the whole movie. A higher state of consciousness, maybe? He seems to find it here, in this glowing representation of WOMAN. An unearthly glow encompasses him, erasing his face from our sight. He reaches out his hands – to mindmeld, to know.

The mindmeld blasts Spock backwards. The effect is, no other way of saying this, orgasmic. Spock describes the strange thoughts he experienced, inside the creature’s brain. “Is this all I am?” he says. “Is there nothing more?”

The Motion Picture’s monster is in the midst of an existential crisis, it turns out. It was a computer, created by man – Voyager 7 6, or “V’GER,” a satellite sent out to the stars. In the stars, it found more computers, which gave it inconceivable power. It has seen everything now – and, in achieving total cosmic awareness, it has also achieved sentience. It lives: So what?

In The Motion Picture, the “what now” is… well, sex. Or togetherness. Or the awareness of other life. Or the knowledge that we live only so that we can create other things that live. It’s all a bit abstract – but don’t Zen Buddhists seem pretty happy? The movie ends with Ilia and Decker – another nothing character, they might as well be named Eve and Adam, Woman and Man, Thing One and Thing Two – bonding with the cloud-thing. The climactic image of them – receiving enlightenment? ascending to a higher state? dying? being reborn? – is one of the silliest and most transcendent special effects shots ever.

“I think we gave it the ability to create its own sense of purpose,” concludes SpockKirk. You might point out, rightly, that “creating a sense of purpose” is not the most dramatic concept for a movie. You might also point out, just as rightly, that “creating a sense of purpose” is the central experience of humanity. How do you put such a vague but universal experience onscreen? How do you conjure up the fear that there is no purpose? Maybe you need a new language, something beyond words. Cinema, or whatever cinema used to be.

Decades later, Wise worked on a special cut of The Motion Picture. It was released with added digital effects – not the first time a major moment in Trek history happened because of Star Wars, not the last time a terrible moment in Trek history happened because of Star Wars. That special cut adds in a few shots that seem to clearly identify what V’Ger looks like. This is helpful only if you think that incoherence was The Motion Picture’s problem, and not its saving grace. The first Star Trek film has almost no real story, and the characters are only “characters” because we know their names and faces from a long-dead TV show. But you could spend a long time pondering the image of the Enterprise, dwarfed and surrounded by V’Ger.

You wonder what it must have been like, to see that on a big screen. You wonder what it must have felt like, to only see motion pictures on the big screen. You wonder, above all, what it was like to feel so small in the universe.

The Motion Picture depends on you loving space – and I mean “space” both ways, as in “everything outside of Earth” and as in “height and depth and width and distance.” In 2016, nobody pays much attention to outer space, except as one more piece of nostalgiabait trending curiosity. (Is Pluto still not a planet?) And maybe we don’t pay as much attention to the other definition of space: What does distance mean, to digital natives?

So The Motion Picture is beloved by film theorists and special effects nerds and people who treat marijuana as a sacrament. But in 2016, special effects are too common – and marijuana too legal – to feel sacred.


Kirk looks at the Enterprise for the first time around minute 16 of The Motion Picture, and doesn’t stop until minute 23. Kirk and Scotty are riding a little shuttle to their ship, and that ride takes seven minutes of screen time. It is slow, and nothing “happens,” unless you love Douglas Trumbull’s special effects and Jerry Goldsmith’s music, unless you can groove onto the idea that “Looking” is an active state. (Wrath of Khan is to The Motion Picture as The Motion Picture is to Solaris.)

Kirk’s returning to the old ship after years behind a desk. He ascended from the captain’s chair to become, ahem “Chief of Starfleet Operations.” One of the many accidental gags in The Motion Picture’s nonsense script is that Kirk must have been truly terrible at operating Starfleet. There is a giant killer gas cloud coming towards Earth – and “the only starship in interception range is the Enterprise.” The only starship? Isn’t Earth, like, the center of Starfleet Operations? Wouldn’t this be, like, the Joint Chiefs saying, “We’ve only got one fighter jet defending Washington!”)

Kirk is out of practice. “You haven’t logged a single star hour in two years!” declares Commander Decker, the man who would have been in charge of the Enterprise if Kirk hadn’t unretired himself. Decker is played by Stephen Collins, with retroactively creepy blandness. There is a ghost of a good idea here, the whole DNA of Wrath of Khan: What if Kirk is too old for this? But part of the strangeness of The Motion Picture is that the special effects sequences are vivid, mad with pulsating power – and the scenes with human beings are void, stilted, static. Wise shoots with wide angles and deep focus, so you can appreciate how full this Enterprise is of humans standing immobile, unresponsive.

Wise had a huge budget, and so he built huge sets, each less compelling than the last. The Enterprise’s Rec Room looks as playful as a prison cell, and the observation lounge allows crew members to sit on asylum sofas and contemplate the eternal void.

You could say that the whole problem of Star Trek – or a problem that many brilliant creators and actors have grappled with – is how stilted the core ethos of the franchise is, on narrative and visual levels. Star Trek must have a cast of characters who obey authority and work together. Everyone’s an officer in some codified organized military or other. Everyone wears a uniform. Because most of the action happens with the main characters on “The Bridge,” most of the climactic sequences in Star Trek history happen with all our heroes sitting down.

Wise does not try to bring life to this structure. He doesn’t send the crew into a fistfight, doesn’t blow up the ship, doesn’t ram spaceships into each other. He does send a couple characters out into space – but they don’t fire lasers at anyone. Late in the long first act, Dr. McCoy arrives on the Enterprise, and Kirk asks him for help. Look at how Shatner insistently extends his hand; that is the closest Kirk comes to an action scene in The Motion Picture.

Maybe the problem was Roddenberry. The creator of Star Trek spent the decade after Star Trek trying to bring back Star Trek. He would not let it die. You think of George Miller, returning to create the perfect Mad Max 30 years later. Or maybe you think of George Lucas, who returned to the saga he created with no clear sense of what made the saga work so well. Or maybe you think of other people – Chris Carter? Roger Kumble? Anyone on Fuller House who isn’t John Stamos? – returning to the most popular item on a long-dormant IMDb page.

Roddenberry was devoted to Star Trek, but he carried the blame for all the perceived faults of The Motion Picture. This is the only Trek film Roddenberry really worked on. History repeats: Years later, Roddenberry was booted from The Next Generation. Mythology holds that Roddenberry’s utopian vision was the antithesis of drama. So in The Motion Picture, Decker is only ever mildly upset with Kirk, and Kirk is only ever mildly concerned about Spock.

The film can’t even commit to a lack of emotion. One of Ilia’s first terrible lines is, “My oath of celibacy is on the record, Captain.” Soon, celibate Ilia is transformed into an emotionless robot – two different layers of Spocklike indifference! But Ilia can’t keep her eyes off love interest Decker, and Decker can’t stop smiling at her. Here again, another ghost of a good idea – what if Kirk Junior had to romance Lady Spock for the good of the cosmos! – but the outcome is never in doubt, the drama never dangerous.

Roddenberry was a utopianist. He believed in the best ideas about humanity getting along. This is the beautiful thing about Star Trek, and it is why people who love Star Trek get nervous whenever some new Star Trek thing tries to be dark, or less-than-hopeful. It strikes me that the vision of Starfleet in The Motion Picture is as close as Roddenberry ever got to a pure utopia. Everyone is so… serene. Everyone is so… peaceful. Everyone is so… bland. George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig are only in the movie to smile at Kirk.

Kubrick’s big joke in 2001 was that the computer was more human than the humans. That’s another accidental joke in The Motion Picture. Shatner, dangerously toned-down, seems more Vulcan than the Vulcan. The Enterprise crew listens patiently to Kirk giving commands, follows orders. Spock pursues great knowledge, with no ambition or thirst. He seeks cosmic transcendence with all the exhausted energy of a TSA officer opening her 31st carry-on of the day, knowing there’s probably nothing inside but a toenail clipper and a forgotten half-empty water bottle.

The Motion Picture has a simple problem: It’s too goddamn slow. Every other Star Trek film is, in some way, a reaction against that complaint. But the slowness creates the great parts of The Motion Picture – those long moments of sound and image, unencumbered by plot or character or even dialogue. You could argue that The Motion Picture is 2001 for Dummies, or the misbegotten mash-up of 2001 and Star Wars with placeholders where characters should be.

But The Motion Picture is reaching for something no other Trek film has even tried to reach for. It is Head-Trip science fiction, Big Question science fiction. No one involved can think of a compelling way to dramatize those questions. Surely there was a way, though! You think of “Balance of Terror,” one of the greatest of all Star Trek stories. “Balance of Terror” is a bottle episode about people in one set trying to outthink people on another set. Like a lot of great original series episodes, it might as well have a declarative title: “THIS IS ABOUT THE COLD WAR.” The characters have no psychology: They exist as mouthpieces for thought-notions, “Let’s shoot first,” “Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt,” “We can’t trust anyone,” “We need to trust someone.” The narrative is Socratic, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Not every fight needs to be choreographed.

Could The Motion Picture have worked like that, as a thoughtful exploration? It still almost does, even if everyone besides DeForest Kelley looks bored. There’s no other film like it – besides maybe Final Frontier (more on that in four weeks). So The Motion Picture is a fascinating curio. There are better Treks, but they’re smaller, too, and maybe less ambitious. This could be the last Star Trek ever. Will anyone ever even try to write the last Star Trek?


Further sign of the cognitive dissonance that powers The Motion Picture: The special effects are colorful, neon-dark against the infinite, and the clothes are beige, gray, light brown, and off-white. The clothes look like furniture, the furniture looks like clothes. These are the shortest-lived of the Trek uniforms, and the extras all look like they’re wearing pajamas. I am not sure we will ever be in a moment like this again: One of the most expensive movies of the year takes for granted that you want to see middle-aged men wear V-necks.

But, devil’s advocate: The Motion Picture uniforms are the only Star Trek costumes that look made for comfort. They are loose, turtlenecks and sweatshirts, onesies, shirts that don’t ever get tucked in. Witness the Holy Trinity in slanket-chic.

The grand exception is Ilia, played by Persis Khambatta. An Indian model with silent-cinema eyes, Khambatta was cast as Ilia when The Motion Picture was going to be a new TV show, and her character only just barely transitioned to the feature film, with the barest whisp of a backstory and a kinda-nude scene. Captured and reprogrammed by V’Ger, Ilia returns to the Enterprise in a barely-there bathrobe with a cowl and high heels – a clear sign that V’Ger is much kinkier than the movie allows.


The first lens flare in any Star Trek film occurs about 35 minutes into the original theatrical cut. You can see it floating next to Sulu’s head. This was almost certainly a mistake brought on by Wise’s abject love for unnecessary camera trickery. But penicillin was a mistake, too.
Peter G.
Mon, Jul 11, 2016, 11:25am (UTC -6)
Excellent review, Darren. Are you the same Darren Franich who writes for Entertainment Weekly? Your prose is too professional, I think, to be a mere fan comment, despite the respect I do have for some of the posters on this site.

I'd like to add a thought to your comments about the film's theme of searching for meaning in life. Several different elements in the film point towards a sense of incompleteness: Decker and Alia sharing a love but not sexuality; the basic notion itself of the union of man and woman; Spock searching to perfect his Vulcan side and reject the Human; V'Ger searching for its creator and for a purpose; Kirk searching for what is missing in his life; even the expanse of space itself, dwarfing even V'Ger, which in turn dwarfs everything else, created a sense of cosmic emptiness. Through all of these modes of longing we come to a central conclusion for each and every one of them, which is synthesis. A thing in itself has no meaning. Space bereft of that which inhabits it has no meaning. A human standing alone has no meaning. But put one thing *next to* another thing, and now both have meaning, which is another way of saying purpose. Even if that purpose is merely to gaze upon each other, that is purpose enough to give a meaning to action. And that, I think, is what TMP is about, and quintessentially also what Star Trek is about. It's about exploration - about looking at things - as the ultimate end in itself. Not exploration for some ulterior purpose; just the process of looking and exploring the objects that curiosity suggests are so fascinating just because they are *something else*. It is being in the presence of being.

For the paradigm of man and woman the synthesis is sex and orgasm. We see this through Alia and Decker; through Decker and V'Ger; even through the Enterprise itself and V'Ger at it's inserted deeper and deeper into V'Ger's openings. The sexual union plus orgasm is the source of life, and in turn, the question that has no answer but only exists to create more questions. Can there be any better analogy to the quest for knowledge than sex?

For Spock the synthesis is reconciling his Vulcan and Human half in a way he was never willing or able to do previously. He failed to perfect his logic on Vulcan; he did not know why. He finally learned, after melding with a pure machine, that logic is not an answer, but the means of answering a question. Perfecting logic does not take away the question - the emptiness that permeates the universe. When confronted with V'Ger Spock realized that even a monumentally perfect machine of logic has the same disturbing incompleteness he did back on Vulcan. He knew that no amount of training would remove it or satiate it. The only answer was to open his mind to the question itself - "why"? He knew the only answer lay in his Human half, the irrational and creative part of himself that could give meaning to that which has no meaning. Of all the stories of incompleteness, Spock's is the only one that is explored on a continuing basis through every single motion picture (possibly excepting The Final Frontier). Spock seems to have come to terms with what he learned here by Star Trek VI, where he announces "Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end."

The Vulcan/Human synthesis is mirrored in V'Ger with the need for a synthesis in the Human/machine, which is itself a sort of love - the reconciling of opposites. The search for a creator must be anything but a search for oneself. This is not a tale of wandering the woods to find oneself. 'Oneself' is exactly the thing we are all already stuck with, where the learning process in the Trek universe is to find that which is different. Ideally one finds that which is completely different, so different that one finds exactly what one is not, and one learns to love and integrate that into oneself. The end result of this type of questing for completeness must be the desire to be - everything, to have the god's perspective, to see all points of view and to be cut off from nothing. The very worst way to achieve this is to idealize the "I" and instead to find ways for the "I" to become "we", which can then become a new "I". Unlike the Borg, who seek to remove everything other than "I" (and in so doing lose the sense of "I" entirely), the Trekkian morality is to cherish everything other than "I" and to desire to merge with it in a kind of treaty-sexual partnership, where neither is lost but both are found.

I must agree that this is both the very best and very worst of Trek. The more I think about it the more I like it, and conversely, I cannot imagine liking it more by watching it more.
Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 8:19pm (UTC -6)
@ohx over two years later, long after you've long and gone, I came, I saw, and I laughed much too much at your assessment of things. "Spock flying into a giant butthole" indeed. The resemblance was not lost on me in my first viewing of this movie, and your hysterical description of events has only served to make sure I will always see it as such each subsequent viewing, probably to the confusion and annoyance of fellow watchers. I thank you for this, wherever you are now.

This movie seemed in love with its own special effects, and I found myself waiting for it to stop showing me what I'm sure were awe-inspiring and moving visuals. The focus on Ilia and Decker seemed pointless, I found that I couldn't bring myself to care about two new characters that didn't integrate with the old cast and took screen time away from them.

Killing off Sonak after only giving him one line was extremely disappointing to me, especially in a chillingly horrific transporter accident. I was looking forward to seeing the portrayal of a normal Vulcan Starfleet officer (Spock clearly had issues and wasn't really a good representation) and to seeing the rest of the crew's reaction to Kirk's preference for Vulcans in the top science spot and an exploration of what that said about Kirk and his longing to see Spock again, as well as Spock's own reaction to being obviously missed and replaced, but sadly that was never to be.

Kirk seemed oddly untroubled by Spock coming back out of the blue and resuming his post while ignoring his friends and clearly having his own agenda. McCoy comments on this but Kirk is just glad to have another familiar face around and doesn't mind that Spock could easily be replaced by a robot and no one would know the difference, and this whole arc is quickly guillotined with a round trip through a giant space sphincter and some brief hand-holding apparently reconciling Spock to his friends and convincing them he won't betray them.

V'ger was immediately obviously Voyager. There wasn't any surprise, from the first time I heard the name I knew this was a movie-length rehash of "The Changling" except this time we were supposed to be glad that the murdering space junk moved on to a higher plane of existence instead of blowing up. And Decker loving it even though it killed his girl and stole her form... Hmm.

All in all, not necessarily a bad movie, but I feel like I would have enjoyed it more had it not been Trek, or if I hadn't watched TOS and this was my first outing with the franchise.
David Pirtle
Tue, Nov 29, 2016, 11:14pm (UTC -6)
This is my favorite Trek film. I understand where fans are coming from when they bemoan it, either as being too slow-paced, dour, and disinterested in telling a coherent story. However, those are my favorite things about it.

I was going to write that it's undeniably a slow-burner, but that's not fair. It doesn't even try to burn. There's nearly no plot to speak of beyond getting the band back together (and a vague rehash of a livelier TOS episode), but that doesn't bother me any more than a Jackson Pollack painting's lack of figures or narrative.

Even though it came out in 1979, The Motion Picture held the distinction of having the very best visual effects of the entire franchise for a full 30 years, and it's still got the best soundtrack of just about any science fiction film, let alone any Trek iteration. The movie's a visual and aural extravaganza that also happens to make you think a tiny bit, something seriously lacking in today's Star Trek films.

Several comments above have noted its similarities to 2001: A Space Odyssey, while others have taken umbrage at the very notion that this movie be compared with the Mona Lisa of science fiction. Personally, though I recognize that this film isn't in the same league as Kubrick's masterpiece, I have to salute the filmmakers for deciding to reach for that aesthetic when just about everyone else in Hollywood was trying (largely without success) to ape Star Wars' brand of flashy space opera. It was a bold move.

Another frequent complaint is that the characters aren't handled the way the audience wanted them to be, but I prefer TMP's more realistic vision of what' happened to our heroes to what we got in the soft-reboot that was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Kirk's become a bitter, middle-aged paper-pusher willing to sabotage the career of his own hand-picked successor just to get back in the captain's seat, and it nearly gets everyone killed more than once. Spock, having failed to find a comfortable place with humanity in Starfleet, has turned his back on that half of his being (and his best friends) in pursuit of pure logic, and even that doesn't work out for him. McCoy's so happy to have left the service that he has to be 'drafted' back onto the Enterprise. I imagine he spent most of his time between TOS and TMP getting loaded in a Federation version of a VFW bar.

That might seem depressing to some of you. Heck, it is depressing. But on top of being a boring person, I'm also a moody person, so I guess this film just speaks to me. :P
Wed, Nov 30, 2016, 6:31am (UTC -6)
David Pirtle,

Glad you love it. It's probably the most "Star Trek" Star Trek movie. I saw it when it came out in the theater and I was inammered.... went back and saw it 3 more times.

One of the biggest gripes I've heard about the movie, and I think I would agree is that the actors didn't think their character releationships were right. I've heard that take from a bunch of the TOS actors to include Nimoy and Walter.
Matt Singer
Mon, Dec 26, 2016, 2:17pm (UTC -6)
To Slowly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before: In Defense of ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’

The poster for Star Trek: The Motion Picture is so dramatic. The faces of William Shatner’s Captain Kirk, Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock, and Persis Khambatta’s Lieutenant Ilia refracted through a rainbow spectrum of light. That image promises excitement beyond imagination. Adventure! Passion! Every color under the rainbow!

So why is the film so ... beige?

Look at that; not a single primary color on screen. The original Star Trek television show was so visually dynamic, with splashes of bright reds, blues, and yellows. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the opposite. It’s like an explosion at a milk factory. It’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khaki. (According to the Star Trek: The Motion Picture Blu-ray commentary, director Robert Wise felt the classic Trek uniforms looked “garish” on the big screen and decided to change them.)

I suspect that’s one big reason why Star Trek: The Motion Picture is widely regarded as one of the worst Star Trek movies. It is also, somewhat perversely, one reason I like it more than almost anyone I know and find myself drawn back to it over and over again, perpetually caught in its hypnotic, tractor-beam-like pull.

With hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, blockbuster filmmakers typically have to play it safe, catering to the masses with simple stories and messages. Star Trek: The Motion Picture didn’t do any of that. True to Captain Kirk’s famous catchphrase, Star Trek boldly went from television to film with grandiose ambitions. Who spends the equivalent of $115 million in 2016 dollars to alienate audiences with tortoise-like pacing, philosophical musings, and psychedelic imagery? With Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Paramount Pictures did. Even its subtitle suggest towering aspirations. This isn’t a movie, it’s a motion picture.

Where the original Star Trek television series (and most of the films that followed The Motion Picture) were lively and colorful, ST: TMP was deliberate and contemplative. Trek finally made the jump to the silver screen in large part because of the wild financial success of the original Star Wars, but TMP feels nothing like the original Star Wars. Moody, methodical, and downright depressing at times, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is as much a rejection of the Star Wars sci-fi model as a space epic made in its wake. The results are much closer in tone and spirit to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey; a thoughtful consideration of a possible future where technology enables mankind to encounter (and join with) an evolved alien consciousness.

The plot isn’t a huge departure from classic Trek; the crew of an updated Starship Enterprise must confront a UFO on a collision course with Earth. (It’s almost the exact same premise as “The Changeling,” a second season episode about an Earth probe that evolved into a killing machine.) The difference is entirely in the presentation of that premise. After a prologue in which the cloud (named V’Ger) destroys some Klingon warships, the movie shifts to Earth, where James T. Kirk, now an admiral chained to a desk at Starfleet Headquarters, uses this new threat to leverage himself back into command of the Enterprise. He demotes the Enterprise’s new captain, Willard Decker (Stephen Collins), and orders the ship out of Spacedock — but only after about 35 minutes of leisurely preamble.

Every aspect of the original Star Trek’s technology was about speed. The Enterprise’s warp engines allowed it to travel faster than the speed of light; its transporters could beam crew members across vast distances in the blink of an eye. The opening credits of each Star Trek episode showcased the Enterprise zipping around outer space. In ST: TMP, it takes Captain Kirk six minutes just to board to the damn ship on a shuttlecraft.

Once Kirk finally arrives and assumes command, he takes the ship into warp speed and its first action sequence: The new Enterprise suffers an engine glitch and careens into a wormhole, which is visualized onscreen with bleeding light and colors and everyone onscreen moving and talking really reeeeeeally slowly.

The line readings are so stilted — “Phoooootoooooon torrrrpeeeeeedooooos!” — they’re almost comical. Is Kirk trapped in a wormhole or is he doing an impression of Dory speaking whale? Star Trek: The Motion Picture may be the only production in Hollywood history where the action scenes actually slow the movie down. (And this thing didn’t exactly move like lightning to begin with.) In ST:TMP, even superluminal motion happens at a snail’s pace.

This is an observation, not a criticism. The movie moves slowly because it’s designed to move slowly. Star Trek: The Motion Picture, unlike so many blockbusters, is not engineered to work like an amusement park ride. It’s much more observational, like a guy considering an amusement park ride from a distance and admiring its aesthetic beauty. It imagines, in a way few science-fiction movies do, how the granular operation of a giant spaceship might actually work. It gets into the minutia of things like chain of command, bureaucracy, and technological errors. Exploring the galaxy in The Motion Picture isn’t fun; it’s a job. And it’s a pretty monotonous one sometimes.

You see it in both of the clips above; the way Scotty (James Doohan) takes Kirk up to the Enterprise in a roundabout way, not just to give the audience time to appreciate Douglas Trumbull’s incredible special effects, but because that is how traffic flows around the Enterprise while it’s parked. Observe the systematic way the Enterprise leaves Spacedock in the second clip; permission from dock control, maneuvering thrusters, thrusters at station keeping. Every order is given and then repeated. This is a movie about process. If Steven Soderbergh made a Star Trek, it might look a little like The Motion Picture.

(This attention to the mundane is why the uniforms, bland and boring as they are, make sense. What kind of military organization wears flashy multicolored regalia? These soft pastels and utilitarian jumpsuits fits the film’s more grounded approach to space travel and exploration.)

TMP’s meticulous structure also suits its characters. Now deep into middle age and a full decade removed from their final live-action TV appearance, Kirk, McCoy, and the rest are no longer the hotheaded cowboys of the original series. They’re getting older, and facing the frustrations and disappointments that come with that. They’re graying at the temples and sagging at the bellies. Kirk’s fitness to command is repeatedly challenged by Decker, who accuses him of being rusty. (He’s right, too.) Spock returns from a lengthy stint on Vulcan where he tried (and failed) to ritualistically purge all his human emotions. Dr. McCoy shows up for duty in a hobo beard and a giant astrosign medallion like he’s auditioning for a role in the crossover Grizzy Adams Meet the Wild and Crazy Guys in Space.

In this environment and with these characters, a breathless thriller would simply not make sense. One might even call director Robert Wise and producer Gene Roddenberry’s decision to match their film’s structure to their heroes’ temperaments entirely logical.

Even with a muted color palette, and even in the midst of a story about the sometimes tedious nature of outer-space life, Star Trek: The Motion Pictures has some truly gorgeous visuals. Wise takes full advantage of the widescreen frame, providing images that were never possible on the old Star Trek television show, and weren’t possible in many of the movies that followed, most of which were scaled down significantly from The Motion Picture, and occasionally shot on retrofitted television sets. As wonderful as the later movies were, they often felt like television shows projected on the big screen. Star Trek: The Motion Picture looks like a movie.

TMP also plays much better in a theater, where you can shut out the world and give yourself over completely to its hypnotic imagery. No wonder a generation of VHS and DVD viewers hate the film; it isn’t nearly as effective on home video. Once the Enterprise journeys inside V’Ger, the visuals get even more grand. These are some of the loveliest images the Star Trek franchise has ever produced:

Also lovely: Jerry Goldsmith’s magnificent score for the film. His terrific theme later became the music under the opening credits of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In a widely derided film, this is probably the only universally beloved element:

What should also be beloved about The Motion Picture is the depiction of the relationship between Kirk and Spock, which is maybe the most tender of any in the Star Trek canon. Fans of Kirk/Spock need look no further than scenes like the ones below. The subtext here is so obvious it’s not even subtext.

These scenes mark a significant shift in the Spock character, who finally embraces his human side at the end of the movie. And they fit perfectly in TMP, which is largely a story of “simple feeling” about the importance of emotion in the grand scheme of the cosmos. In the end, what defeats V’Ger isn’t great weaponry or overwhelming power. It’s simple human love. Unfortunately, (SPOILER ALERT for the most famous Star Trek movie moment of all time) Spock got killed in the next movie, and the process of bringing him back to life basically erased all of his character development in The Motion Picture. One wonders if people would like TMP more if Star Trek II hadn’t ended in Spock’s death, and his evolution in The Motion Picture had been allowed to continue in future movies.

If you’re looking for someone to argue The Motion Picture is the best Star Trek movie with the original cast, you’ll have to look elsewhere. I still prefer The Wrath of Khan or the underrated The Undiscovered Country. As much as they fit in this context, the uniforms are so hideous (Why do they have belt buckles but no belts? Why?!?) that it’s sometimes hard to take the movie as seriously as it would like. I mean, look at that jackass security officer between Spock and Decker.

That guy’s supposed to maintain order on the bridge? He looks like he just came from playing laser tag. (My buddy and Trek fan supreme Jordan Hoffman says he looks like an extra who wandered out of the set of Spaceballs, and he’s absolutely right.)

In a recent interview with SFX Magazine, current Captain Kirk Chris Pine said he didn’t think “cerebral” Star Trek would work in “today’s marketplace.” “You can hide things in there,” he added. “Star Trek Into Darkness has crazy, really demanding questions and themes, but you have to hide it under the guise of wham-bam explosions and planets blowing up.”

Whether Pine is right or wrong is debatable. It’s inarguable, though, that the Star Trek movies he’s made have been less brainy than most of the ones from the previous cast. In fact, Pine’s Star Treks are way more like Star Wars than The Motion Picture, the Star Trek whose production was a direct result of Star Wars’ success. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bad; the first Pine Trek is enormously entertaining. Just that they’re a bit more ordinary, a bit more formulaic, and a lot less weird.

That’s all the more reason to celebrate Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which defied tradition at almost every turn and was a truly cerebral piece of science fiction on an epic scale. The Star Trek movies that followed were often much more conventionally entertaining. But they were rarely more formally adventurous.

Vulcan philosophy (and therefore Star Trek itself) is built on the concept of “infinite diversity in infinite combinations,” and one of the best things about this franchise after 50 years is the fact that the movies now reflect that diversity; there is a Star Trek movie for any mood or situation. If you want thrilling naval adventure, go with Wrath of Khan. If you want self-referential humor, pick The Voyage Home. If you want modern visual effects, try J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. And if you’re in the mood to ponder man’s place in the universe while blissing out on amazing cinematic vistas, turn on Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Wed, Jan 25, 2017, 2:57pm (UTC -6)
I remember being a little kid absolutely giddy walking into the theater - my heroes from the show I watched on TV every day when I came home from school were going to be there on the big screen in front of me. And... I literally fell asleep watching it.

Obviously, it wasn't made for little kids. I've rewatched it a few times since and I still can't quite get all the way through it in one sitting. As has been noted, it's got a "2001 Space Odyssey" feel to it as opposed to swashbuckling Star Wars, and that's commendable as an attempt, but not in execution, IMO. To me, there's no getting around the fact the way these characters were portrayed, they almost completely removed the essence of what makes them memorable. I enjoy Star Trek as much for the character development as for the science fiction elements, and there was precious little about these characters that made them interesting here. The Kirk/Decker rivalry is blah, and that's about it. I'm all for stepping back and contemplating the cosmos and our place in it, etc. etc. but this seemed like 2 hours of exposition containing about 3 minutes of actual plot. JMHO
Mark Geraghty
Wed, Mar 1, 2017, 11:14am (UTC -6)
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE was a response by Paramount Pictures to the success of STAR WARS two-and-a-half years earlier in 1977. The STAR TREK TV series had found a large youth audience in syndicated re-runs in the early 1970s and it was partly this audience who had swept George Lucas's space opera to box office domination throughout 1977 and early 1978 right around the world. As it so happened, Paramount was looking to resurrect a TV version of STAR TREK throughout 1976 and 1977, based on the original show's syndicated performance, as a head-line show on Paramount's new TV network. When STAR WARS "happened", Paramount management decided that Gene Roddenberry's STAR TREK could be the studio's answer to the George Lucas science fiction adventure.

STAR TREK had had an element of action, but it was action on a television budget and it was not viewed as a "thrilling space adventure". The discourse that had been built around the show during its syndicated success in the early 1970s had more to do with its intellectual appeal and the humanist arguments that Gene Roddenberry had publicly presented about the reason why the show told the stories it did. The challenge for STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE was always going to be in the type of story that was selected to tell for its big screen adventure. Alan Dean Foster received the story credit for the film and Harold Livingston the screenplay credit, but the central concept of the story is very much Gene Roddenberry's.

The movie that finished up on the screen was certainly more compromised than most productions. Not only was the screenplay something of a hostage to expectation, the participation of the actors who had made the television series so successful was not guaranteed. Leonard Nimoy held-out until shooting was nearly ready to start and contingencies had been made just in case Nimoy was a no-show. Various accounts of the principal photography have told how the continuous screenplay revisions made it difficult to keep up with what version of a scene was being shot at any given time. On top of the issues on the soundstages, the production also ran into trouble with its special effects requirements. The sheer number of shots over-whelmed the original effects house engaged to produce them, but the extent of their difficulties did not become apparent for many months and, as a result, Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra were brought on board the film in early 1979, less than 12 months before the release date, to complete twice as many effects shots that had been present in STAR WARS!
One of the main difficulties associated with STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE is its pacing. The film is leisurely-paced and doesn't ever create an urgency or excitement in the same way that films like JAWS, STAR WARS or SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE had created in the preceding four years. The responsibility for this lies with Director Robert Wise and his Editor Todd C. Ramsay. During the film's principal photography, concerns had been raised that Wise was working far too slowly even by the less frantic feature-filming pace. This practice seemed to flow into the film'e editing and was reflected in the way scenes were edited together, with more time than necessary spent searching for "moments" that would please the show's fans and give the broader audience a better sense of who the characters were. The problem was that both fans and non-fans felt that the finished product was boring and some even went so far as to suggest that the film's sub-title should be changed to: 'The Motionless Picture'.

The film's story is pretty straight-forward. A hostile alien probe is headed toward Earth and the Starship Enterprise is the only vessel that can intercept it before it arrives at Earth! At the time, the premise must have seemed sound. Retrospectively, it's really easy to poke holes through and ask a lot of questions that seem quite, dare it be said, logical. For example, why is the Enterprise the only vessel that can intercept? Surely, Starfleet would take precautions for the sake of humanity to have Starships whose responsibility it was to protect our Solar System ... Why would Kirk be allowed to take command of a ship and crew he doesn't know after sitting behind a desk for years? It's a story point that is addressed in the film, but it just doesn't make sense. There's a lot of things that a lot of people would like to do in the world, but they don't get the chance because there's a greater sensibility being applied. Just because Kirk thinks it's a good idea doesn't mean it's a good idea ... Why is there only one transporter room on the Enterprise? After all those years exploring the galaxy in the original series, it must have occurred to someone when they were refitting the ship that several transporter rooms were required and that they needed to be run independently of each other just in case, heavens above, they broke down ... Why are Klingons so determined to die? The opening sequences with the Klingons actually creates a false sense of security in the audience because it's the part of the film that has energy, excitement and jeopardy. The effects are cut together with the live-action footage really well and are superbly backed by Jerry Goldsmith's 'Klingon Battle' theme. It's a real shame that this wasn't the pace that was maintained throughout the entire film.
One of the other main criticisms of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE was its utter lack of humour. One of the endearing elements of the STAR TREK TV series was that the crew didn't always take themselves seriously. Episodes like 'The Trouble With Tribbles' demonstrated that the science fiction setting of the show allowed its writers to take the audience beyond their own frame of reference and introduce the unexpected and sometimes downright ridiculous. None of this exists in the 1979 version of the film, but that's not to say it didn't exist in Harold Livingston's screenplay. The STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE - The Director's Edition, released in 2002 on DVD, is proof that character 'moments' were part of the story and those scenes were even filmed. Robert Wise confirms this in his liner note that accompanied this DVD release:

We had removed several key dialogue scenes in order to accommodate our incoming effects work, but no time remained to work on properly balancing these two components.

One of the most baffling puzzles about STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURES is how Jerry Goldsmith did not walk away with every major film score award for 1979. Goldsmith's score elevated the entire film beyond what it may have deserved as his majestic, swelling tunes took what could have been extremely tedious effects segments and provided them with a grandeur that, at points in the film, make you think you could be watching LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in outer space! The first three pieces of music heard in the film really set the scene, as the opening scenes from the film are preceded by a very 'old school' overture piece that doubles as 'Ilia's Theme' throughout the film. In addition to 'Ilia's Theme' and the 'Main Title' that incorporates the Klingon battle music, the 'Floating Office' rack became a signature piece of music, as it incorporated the extended arrival of Admiral Kirk aboard the refitted Enterprise via shuttle.
Peter G.
Wed, Mar 1, 2017, 1:39pm (UTC -6)
Great review, Mark. I do think it's helpful to think of TMP as being good science fiction rather than underwhelming Trek. Putting this in a category with 2001: A Space Odyssey makes more sense to me than grouping it with Star Trek: TOS or Star Wars.
Wed, May 17, 2017, 11:01pm (UTC -6)
The irony is reading every comment here would take longer than watching The Motion Picture.
Mon, May 29, 2017, 12:47pm (UTC -6)
I grew up watching Star Trek. Captain Kirk and Mister Spock have always been a part of my own self image. I recall how excited we were when this film came out as well as how disappointed we were when we first saw it. It was just too damned long and dull.

My perspective is quite different today. It's not as good as the wholly entertaining Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but in some ways it's going for something far more interesting. Wrath of Khan was an action movie. There's no action here. This movie is a contemplation on the human heart. We're not talking about romantic love here--well, at least only in part--this movie sets out to explore what it means to be alive.

That's a pretty big theme.

It's too big, making for something of a muddled story. Still, what Robert Wise does is to try and delve into the meaning of life in visual terms. That's what ultimately makes the film worth watching, even if it's slow and imprecise. Wise uses loads of organic and sexual imagery in trying to make sense of it all. If you've got the patience, this picture has its rewards.

Minus a half star for giving us the awful version of the Klingons all series and films have used since. Klingons were so much more interesting in the original series.
Mon, May 29, 2017, 12:50pm (UTC -6)
The best Trek movie by a mile

It's certainly long overdue for a cultural reappraisal - having recently rewatched the whole Trek film series, the others - even the beloved Wrath of Khan - all fail to even approach the heights of this ambitious, thought-provoking, and deeply psychedelic
Mon, May 29, 2017, 12:52pm (UTC -6)
2273: A Star Trek Odyssey. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the very first Star Trek feature film made 10 years after the original TV series ended. After the show became even more popular during syndication on TV, and with Sci-Fi films such as 2001, Close Encounters and of course Star Wars being big box office business, a revival of the Star Trek franchise felt right. The first Star Trek film is very unique because unlike the more popular Wrath of Khan, it features almost no action sequences and it runs at a very slow, dreamlike pace. I would describe this as "deep" or "intellectual" Sci-Fi and it has a lot in common with Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece both visually and stylistically.

The Star Trek crew are reunited including Kirk, Spock, Checkov, Sulu, Uhura, McCoy and Scotty. Kirk is reunited with the beloved Enterprise in a grand revealing shot that slowly pans across the spaceship. It is a practically wordless 5 minute scene which shows the absolute awe on Shatner's face as he goes to board the ship, in what is a delightful scene. The famous score by Jerry Goldsmith fits incredibly well with the scene and it is a truly iconic Star Trek moment. The whole score to this film is just breathtaking. The only real drama in the film comes from Kirk and Commander Scott continuously clashing in a game of who knows the ship better (as Kirk has been away for 10 years but assumes command over the more experienced Scott). The crew go exploring a distant mysterious force in space called V'ger and it takes them almost the entire 2+ hour length of the film to get there and find out what it is. Yes you can say the plot is quite minimal and there isn't a lot of conflict and barely any action, but I found this rather refreshing and unique. A lot of Space Odyssey is devoid of action and drama, and yet it is still seen as a masterpiece because it actually explores the depth of space in a existential sense. Star Trek: TMP does a similar thing.

The best parts of this film are the hypnotic and trippy sequences where the ship travels through stargates. There is a lengthy scene in the middle of the film similar to the stargate sequence at the end of 2001. They go through a vortex of spiralling lights and colours that is just a delight to watch. It displays some of the very best visuals and practical effects you will ever see in a Sci-Fi film. In fact even modern Sci-Fi blockbusters wish they could look this good! It has this classic feel that you just don't see often enough, with a mixture of great models, and incredibly well worked camera and light placements that modern CGI just has no match for.

Star Trek: TMP does have a few negatives. The film length is a little too long considering how bare the plot is. It runs a little too slow and it has lots of wordless moments. I actually got on board with this and enjoyed this because the atmosphere is so good that it actually takes you on a trip. But fans of the more modern Star Trek films or Wrath of Khan will probably find this quite jarring and difficult to sit through. It is a purposely slow film. Also I was a little let down by the fact that you see Klingon's at the beginning of the film quite briefly. It felt like it was implying they would end up being the main villains, but this never materialises and the Klingon's aren't heard from again, so their place in the film is a bit pointless.

Otherwise, Star Trek: TMP really feels like it has really taken you on a trip through space. Rather than establish a strong storyline full of action and drama, it just reunites the brilliant characters and it is good enough just to see them all slightly older and interacting together once again. The film is driven by the characters, the visuals and the effects. It has a mood to it that is rarely seen in Sci-Fi and I actually applaud the film makers for attempting such an ambitious film. I also really like the sequel Wrath of Khan, but the two films are almost nothing alike stylistically as Wrath of Khan is fast paced and full of action and drama. TMP isn't as fondly remembered by fans, but I am glad that it exists because it is so different to the other Trek films I have seen and it is a little enigma, that feels more akin to the tone of the original series. If you want to feel like you have been on a real trip to space and want something similar to Space Odyssey or Silent Running, I would highly recommend this film. Don't look down on it too much because of its lack of action.
Mon, May 29, 2017, 12:54pm (UTC -6)
the most underrated film on rym? i think so!

sublime, serene, sumptuous visuals. possibly the most beautful visuals i've ever seen. the cosmos was built for the silver screen and vice versa. DICKS on space oddysey.

the visuals are like what i think of when i imagine heaven, the ether etc.

ok, so it can drag on at times, and the plot aint all that, and there are some cheezy moments. but still. FUCK!
Jason R.
Wed, May 31, 2017, 5:50am (UTC -6)
I got to watch the first part of this movie (up to the end of the Enterprise introductory sequence). Watching it made me realize that I had never actually seen this movie. I may have seen pieces of it here and there, but I don't think I have ever actually watched it, start to finish.

I couldn't watch any further due to other obligations, but let me say, wow. The visuals are sumptuous, as is the score. Just splendid. Even the Enterprise sequence, which seemed to go on for 20 minutes, I liked.

I'm going to find the time to finish what I started.
Thu, Jun 1, 2017, 1:48pm (UTC -6)
There was a visual towards the end where they're approaching VGER where a sort of "tunnel" appears on the viewscreen, and it looks remarkably like part of the intro sequence to mid-/late-'70s Doctor Who. A friend of mine said she kept waiting for Tom Baker's face to appear when she saw it.
Witney Seibold
Wed, Jun 7, 2017, 5:12am (UTC -6)
The saga is well known to all good Trekkies: Star Trek was canceled on June 3rd, 1969, after flagging ratings barred the crew of the USS Enterprise from finishing their proposed five-year mission. While it was airing, Star Trek was reasonably popular but wasn’t drawing the numbers it needed to survive. Unbeknownst to the show’s producers, however, Star Trek was quietly fomenting a fan base, and when the show went into syndication, that fan base only grew. Over the course of the 1970s, Star Trek grew in cultural estimation, fans “came out” in droves, and conventions were born.

By the late 1970s, after Star Wars proved that science fiction movies could make money, there was enough cultural clout to put a brand new Star Trek TV series into production. However, behind-the-scenes troubles and contract conflicts kept the Star Trek: Phase II project in a stalemate. But it was during that struggle that the show was serendipitously mutated into the glorious 1979 feature film epic Star Trek: The Motion Picture, forever changing the direction of the franchise.

Although Star Trek is seen as a comfortably safe “franchise” these days, one needs to take a step back an acknowledge just how daring Star Trek: The Motion Picture truly was back in 1979. In addition to being based on a TV series cancelled a decade earlier, Star Trek: The Motion Picture took no cultural cues from the pervasive sci-fi trends of the time. There were no space battles, no evil robots, no brisk pacing or young, roguish characters. It was to be directed by Robert Wise, the old-guard Hollywood master behind thoughtful genre films like The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Haunting, but who also helmed well-regarded mainstream award-winners like The Sound of Music and West Side Story. This was as far from the zeitgeist-rattling Star Wars as one could possibly get without skewing directly into the super-psychedelia of something like Phase IV or 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Sci-fi audiences were, in 1979, being re-primed on pulp action, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture hoped to capture audiences by being – imagine that! – cerebral. It was intended, it seems, to be a new type of movie: the franchise-based prestige genre film.

It was dimly received by critics, and only half-heartedly welcomed audiences, perhaps as a result of its blend of the high commercial and the high-falutin’. Here was a pop product that aspired to be, at least in its construct, high art. Its broadly-based sensibilities perhaps clashed with its more philosophical ambitions. As such, we have a film that, at times feels like it is neither-fish-nor-fowl, but mostly feels like one of the most ambitious sci-fi films of a generation.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture takes place a decade after the events of the TV series after Captain Kirk has been promoted to admiral, and the crew of the Enterprise has continued their careers apart from one another. When a giant destructive space cloud is discovered drifting very, very slowly toward Earth, Kirk and Co. are reassembled to command the Enterprise (to the dismay of its current captain Willard Dekker, played by the handsome Stephen Collins) and uncover what it might be. After two full hours of speculation, and after Persis Khambatta is abducted to be transformed into the cloud’s robotic ambassador, the crew discovers that the cloud is actually a massive holding facility for something astonishingly familiar. I will leave the final plot twist a mystery, although it is well-known to most science fiction fans.

What is most notable about Star Trek: The Motion Picture, however, is its pace. The film originally ran a whopping 132 minutes, which was eventually expanded to 136 when Robert Wise was allowed to recut it for home video in 2001. Much of the film’s running time is spent with long takes of slow-moving starships, and slowly progressing through the abstract space landscape of the cloud. A lot of screen time is devoted to talking, the minutiae of starship command, the construction and function of the Enterprise itself, and general philosophizing. By the time the story actually gets going, almost an hour has already passed, and once we know the plot, we spend a good time merely floating forward.

This slowed pace, however, is consistent with the best of science fiction. Gene Roddenberry, the original creator of Star Trek, was clearly impressed with the vast infinity of the cosmos, and while the original series had its pulp elements, there was always an air of a near-spiritual, classical contemplation of INFINITY lurking underneath. Star Trek: The Motion Picture went for broke, left adventure behind, and dove straight into the eye-expanding, lobe-electrifying experience of asking cathartic Big Picture questions. Why are we here? What part does humanity play in the vastness of the astral map? And can our tiny, petty feelings of love and sex somehow spell the next steps in human evolution.

Oh yes, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is also very much about sex. Roddenberry, you see, was a hippie par excellence, and many episodes of his original show promoted free love, gentle anarchy, and sex without strings. And if you didn’t get his free love philosophy from Star Trek, check out his 1971 thriller Pretty Maids All in a Row. Gene was clearly a sex advocate.

So it should come as no surprise that Star Trek: The Motion Picture is riddled with sexual imagery. In addition to dialogue about penetrating the orifices in the cloud’s interior (and Persis Khambatta’s continuous addressing of Kirk as “Kirk unit”), the film’s (ahem) climax is more or less a consummation of a sexual act that was teased in act I. That consummation, we learn, may tie directly into human evolution, the fabric of the cosmos, and a beautiful new era of human existence. Roddenberry is equating human orgasms with cosmic synchronicity. Maybe not quite as profound as the themes of 2001: A Space Odyssey – or perhaps simply more prurient – but it’s standing in the same place, facing in the same direction.

None of the multiple Star Trek motion picture sequels even attempted what the 1979 film achieved, preferring to skew more toward plot and character, and away from the heady and the philosophical. After 12 additional feature films, Star Trek slowly revealed that it’s often worked best on television, more naturally revealing its well-known themes of human diversity, moral dilemmas, and sci-fi symbolic coding of modern-day social problems.

But in 1979, cinematic Star Trek may have reached its pinnacle in terms of what Star Trek always hoped to achieve: A glorious look into a hopeful future where our understanding of infinity, our very thoughts, our intelligence as a species, and our superior devotion to peace and togetherness, all began to allow the human race to scrape against a newly discovered and vastly larger landscape of galactic citizenship.
Garret Mathany
Wed, Jun 7, 2017, 5:25am (UTC -6)
As old friends and former crew members Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner), and Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (James Doohan), approach the docked Star Ship Enterprise aboard the small transport shuttle, it’s impossible not to share their sense of wonder and reverence for the updated NCC-1701, while they take in the ship’s clean lines and rounded precision artistry. Unlike the blue collar looking Nostromo in Alien, the Enterprise gleams like a polished diamond as the scene slowly unfolds, riding the wave of music that composer Jerry Goldsmith ebbs and flows like the moon controlling the tide. It’s epic filmmaking that commands the big screen, allowing Star Trek: The Motion Picture to break out of its rusty television cage and run – successfully transitioning to a bigger canvas that’s worthy of the expansiveness of space (the final frontier).

Two-time Academy Award winning director Robert Wise, who had proven himself a master of multiple genres, was tapped to helm Gene Rodenberry’s prodigal sci-fi son. Wise had edited Citizen Kane, directed two Best Picture musicals (West Side Story & The Sound of Music), as well as helming The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Sand Pebbles (Best Picture nominee), The Haunting and The Andromeda Strain. His resume ran the gamut of story-telling diversity and it would take all of Wise’s experience and knowledge to navigate a shoot that began without a finished shooting script and was beset with technical delays (the 15 million-dollar budget was comically under-estimated, as the film would come in at 47 million). Wise introduces the main players (V’ger, Kirk, Scotty, Bones, Decker, Ilia, and Spock) individually, much like Jonathan Demme reveals the Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense, with Uhura, Chekov and Sulu appearing at the same time as they react to Admiral Kirk’s return to the bridge.

When a bearded Dr. “Bones” McCoy and Admiral Kirk are reunited in the transporter room, the cantankerous good doctor belly-aches that he was drafted for this mission, and when Kirk extends his hand with the plea, “Damn it Bones, I need you. I need you badly!” The two actors vocal cadence plays out like an Off-Broadway production of the Tempest – a kind of Shakespeare in space. The actors appear not unlike two newborn deer trying to find their legs, as they negotiate their way from the RCA, GE boxes that sat in people’s homes – to the expectations of the silver screen canvas. Screenwriter Harold Livingston had just five weeks (after another scribe bowed out) to get the script ready to shoot after the studio scrapped the reboot of the series Star Trek: Phase II – in favor of a big screen Star Trek rebirth – with the success of Close Encounters proving that Star Wars wasn’t an anomaly for sci-fi hungry audiences.

While STTMP detractors deride the film for what it lacks in terms of action and pace, the film is actually an excellent representation of what Star Trek the Original Series was intended to be – morality tales with some religious and political issues of our time Trojan-horsed into an intelligent science fiction conversation with its audience. Trek creator Gene Rodenberry had already cut his teeth on Have Gun – Will Travel, with the show’s main character “Paladin” (Richard Boone) preferring to dispense ethics and morals in lieu of violence, but the mercenary gun fighter always kept his .45 caliber Colt revolver with the platinum chess knight piece on the handle at the ready. The nomadic nature of the show’s protagonist, certainly helped Rodenberry develop the necessary storytelling structure skills that would allow Star Trek to avoid merely being the equivalent of CHiPs in space – interplanetary space cops looking for bad guys.

Unlike the super hero films that dominate today’s box office, STTMP doesn’t have a MacGuffin-like device in the hands of a villain that wants to end the world. Trek’s threat in its big screen maiden voyage is an alien cloud of energy (V’ger) that is controlled by a highly evolved artificial intelligence seeking to conjoin with its creator. That’s heady stuff for a 1979 studio picture, even by Star Trek standards. STTMP’s cinematic aspirations have Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey all over the special effects sequences, with breathtaking matte, roto-scope and model shots that are not only the most visually stunning of the franchise, but when supported with Goldsmith’s score, are in the conversation with the best that’s ever been put on screen.

Paramount initially elected to use Robert Abel & Associates to head up the special effects after Douglas Trumbull (holding out for a directing gig) turned the studio down. Abel & Associates were let go by the studio after racking up 5 million dollars in contracted charges, while falling woefully behind the film’s effects schedule. Trumbull (who was working in a consulting/supervisor capacity for the film’s special effects) took over the daunting task of getting the effects back on schedule, and with the help of John Dykstra, Robert Yuricich, and the entire effects team – Star Trek: The Motion Picture uses visuals in the same way that Shakespeare uses language – challenging your mind to take in the beauty and complexity of how the story is presented.

Trumbull used a special periscope lens system to shoot the model of the Enterprise in a way that would match the scale of the big screen requirements. His team used light reflecting off over 50 little dental mirrors to give the illusion of various light sources in space. Multiplane exposures of artwork were used to fill in the crew’s reaction shots to what was appearing on the ship’s monitor, or when Spock attempts to approach the alien power cloud bathed in harsh blue light – maneuvering his space suit close enough to perform his signature mind meld. Spock’s external view of the breath-taking images as he enters V’ger are reason enough to see the film on the big screen.

While Trek loses a lot of its playful sense of humor in the transition to the big screen, it is replaced by superb ensemble acting. Shatner struggles with the mid-life crisis of wanting to be relevant again, usurping command of the Enterprise from Captain Decker (Stephen Collins) “I’m taking over the center seat, Will,” flaunting his battle tested experience for just such an instance as the alien force bearing down on earth. Collins (an actor who had never seen a single episode of Star Trek) tries to hold his ground, forcefully pointing out to Admiral Kirk that due to the ship’s design changes, he alone should remain in the Captain’s chair. Persis Khambatta as Ilia, creates one of the most interesting, intelligent and vulnerable screen performances in science fiction history. Her striking good looks and intimidating shaved head, are softened by the hurt she carries from a past romance that Captain Decker had broken off. When the alien cloud probes the Enterprise’s bridge and attempts to hack the computer records, it ultimately leaves with Ilia to further the alien vessel’s “insatiable curiosity”. She later returns to the Enterprise as a probe programmed to communicate to Admiral Kirk that V’ger is on a mission to locate the “creator” and become one with it. When Ilia’s examination is complete, “all carbon units will be reduced to data storage.” This was a direct way of informing the crew, that they too will be body snatched and absorbed into V’gers artificial intelligence needs. Her transformation is powerful as the doppelganger like cyborg that roams around the ship to collect information for V’ger, all the while struggling to reconcile the emotions still buried within her soul. Ilia is a character that should’ve remained as a regular crew member in the Star Trek voyages.

The rest of the Enterprise crew? Hell, it’s like spending an evening with old friends who offer up interesting conversation. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Leonard McCoy (DeForrest Kelley), Mr. Sulu (George Takei), Doohan’s “Scotty” and Spock (Leonard Nimoy), bring back to life their characters that were made to be performed on a grander scale. I saw STTMP on opening day as a 10-year-old, having grown up with the original series in syndication. The film experience for me all those years ago felt like riding in a space ship and looking out the window. I just ate my Red Vines and gazed into space, happy to see my old TV heroes back together again, and remarkably, the majority of the effects hold up to this day. STTMP is a film that not only celebrates the reunification of the Enterprise crew, but the art of filmmaking as a collaboration that can transport an audience into places like deep space – with a Jerry Goldsmith score that remains one of his very best.

Star Trek: The Original Series was cancelled in the spring of 1969, after three seasons and 79 episodes. While never a network darling, the show was granted a reprieve from cancellation after its second season, due to a passionate letter writing campaign that inundated NBC with tactile proof that the show (despite the ratings) did indeed have a fan base. While a second letter campaign couldn’t keep Trek on the air after season three, the cultural impact of the show (in all its different iterations) and its longevity, can be retraced to the letters that convinced the brass at NBC to give the show a third season. It’s the third season that allowed Trek to reach 79 episodes – a number that fell short of the industry standard 100 episodes necessary for syndication – but still enough content for affiliates looking for a show to go up against the six-o’clock news.

For Trekkies, getting Star Trek: The Motion Picture to the movie theater was a “space odyssey” of its own. We didn’t care that the lab was sending reels that were still wet to waiting film cans as they raced to make the film’s opening (Robert Wise always called the film a “rough cut” and eventually put out a director’s cut on DVD). We don’t apologize for the film’s Blue Danube-esque sequences that play out like a presentation at the Griffith Observatory. The fans brought this franchise back to life, and we’ll be damned if we’re going to be shamed into not liking it because it doesn’t have any spaceship dog-fights, or bad guys with labored breathing. In STTMP the plot is dense, the crew ethnically diverse, the music and visuals kick ass, and an independent bald woman is abducted by alien artificial intelligence. What’s not to like? For fans of the original series, this was the band getting back together and they’re playing Miles Davis B-sides. Pour yourself a drink, sit back and enjoy the show.
Wed, Jun 7, 2017, 8:53pm (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone!

@Witney Seibold

@Garret Mathany

Thanks for these....

Regards... RT
Daniel B
Sat, Jul 8, 2017, 2:48am (UTC -6)
The Changeling: Now It Takes 2 Hours Instead of 45 Minutes.

{ ST:TMP is one of the most ambitious and interesting films about AI ever made, much more so than Steven Spielberg's more-recent film called AI }

That movie sucked too.
Kirk Kirkssen
Sat, Jul 8, 2017, 4:20pm (UTC -6)
"That movie sucked too. "

If somethinig sucks here, sucks immature hate for this movie. "Fans" who rejected TMP, the crown and cornerstone of pure Roddenberry's vision are vicariously responsible for crap like Berman's and Abrams' movies, soapy and maligned 7th season of DS9, and forgottable, generic, vast majority of VGR and ENT episodes.
Sat, Jul 15, 2017, 3:54pm (UTC -6)
So if you dislike this movie it must mean you are immature. That's it! The Motionless Picture wasn't a crown. If it belongs on a throne, it is only one made of porcelain.
Daniel B
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 12:59am (UTC -6)
You have the name of that movie wrong. It's supposed to be Where Nomad Has Gone Before.
Bobby Carly
Sun, Jul 23, 2017, 10:54pm (UTC -6)
This movie is bad.

Not bad because it's slow. (It is). Not bad because nothing happens. (Nothing does). Not bad because there's almost no action, drama, violence, or gadgetry. (There isn't). Not bad because it's boring. (It's painfully so).

It's bad because it's dumb.

(That's also why soccer is bad---not because no one ever scores or fights).

The writing is awful. Very little makes sense, is interesting, or matters.

The acting is atrocious. You liked Kirk in the 60's? Fine. You liked him in '79? Fine. But by the 90's, now you've seen Patrick Stewart...and you can STILL stomach Shatner?? How??!!

Three stars out of ten.

But it's still better than literally any of the Trek, Star Wars, Marvel, or any other high-profile superhero or Sc-Fi offering of the past 10-15 years. Except Ant-Man, which, SHOCKINGLY, was awesome.
Mon, Jul 24, 2017, 10:37am (UTC -6)
"But it's still better than literally any of the Trek, Star Wars, Marvel, or any other high-profile superhero or Sc-Fi offering of the past 10-15 years. "


If you actually think THIS is better than Winter Soldier, Guardians and Iron Man I'm shocked. Marvel is fun, not all of it is gold, but it's fun. But a few of them have been truly exceptional.

Likewise I'm not sure but are you including First Contact on this list? FC had it's problems, but it's soooo much better than this movie. And it was 11 years ago.

And I personally liked most of the SW prequels/FA better than this, but at least one could make an argument.
Mon, Jul 24, 2017, 10:51am (UTC -6)
Re: Shatner vs. Picard

This is your basic apples and oranges. These actors are both incredible and iconic Star Trek heroes that compliment eachother. Not to mention that Shatner was accompanied by legendary performances from Leonard f-ing Nimoy.

Also, Ant-man is better than Iron Man? Comment is a fun attempt at satire, 4/10.
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 6:11pm (UTC -6)
Perhaps the biggest blunder of this film, imho, is that an enormous amorphous cloud as an intruder is awfully hard to show on the screen because it simply looks like a nebula or some other sort of background, not the object we should be looking at. Plus, it looks very different at different zooms... which might actually be realistic, but very difficult for someone watching the movie to get the first time or two.

Basically, there's simply no clear establishing shot of the cloud. When they show (apparently) the widest angle of the cloud, there's absolutely nothing to give any sense of scale, huge, tiny, or neither. This gets back to basic filmmaking... don't TELL me it's over (8)2 AU's in diameter, somehow SHOW that.

This continues when the Enterprise travels through the cloud, with the bridge crew staring at awe at the viewscreen for several minutes at what could well be a computer screensaver. Only a couple times does the movie show an external view of the Enterprise relative to the cloud/Vger, and those are actually good.

I do agree the best thing about the movie is how much trouble they went to to make it seem really real, like this event is actually occurring. Massive kudos for that.
Fri, Sep 22, 2017, 12:43am (UTC -6)
Easily one of my favorite Trek movies - it's different but not in a bad way. Maybe not #1 on my list but definitely up there.

That transporter malfunction scene is probably one of the most horrifying things in all of Trek. Suddenly McCoy's fear of the transporter isn't so funny anymore...
Thu, Oct 26, 2017, 5:02am (UTC -6)
Radically underrated film, and I'd say it's probably my personal favorite, even though I know Wrath of Khan and First Contact were better movies from a standpoint of cinematic common sense.

The beginning is probably why. Several minutes of just looking at the damn ship with awe as Goldsmith's gorgeous score plays with incredible dignity, I can watch that any time. And the ideas of the plot work well as representative for what science fiction should be, no matter how much reach exceeds grasp. The slowness is an asset in my opinion. Four stars.
Mon, Mar 26, 2018, 8:41am (UTC -6)
So the real question is who is this loser who comes back every 6 months pretending to be different people posting gushing comments about TMP that are longer than the film and even debates with himself?

He's been rumbled already as being from the same IP, been warned and keeps returning. He even posted the entire rambling synopsis of the film!
Sun, Apr 1, 2018, 12:19am (UTC -6)
After watching the Blu Ray version (the original theatrical cut, I'm 99% sure) I can definitely say the Roger Wise Directors Cut is waaaaaay better. Spend the extra money to get the Directors Edition; why the heck didn't they release THAT version on Blu Ray alongside the original? I can only find the Directors version on DVD; too bad.

All the same, the moments when Enterpise is launched and when Kirk sees the redesigned Enterprise for the first time are some of the best in the franchise. In a way, it's a shame that you don't see moments like that anymore, now it's all about explosions and shooting and whizzing about - a bit of a sad reflection on us. The movie takes its time so we can appreciate the beauty of the sequences and I remain firm in defending them as highlights. We really don't get much in the way of *good* cerebral endings anymore; its too bad really.

Probably my second or third favorite movie. (TWOK of course is my favorite but TMP is a classic of its own and vastly underrated in my opinion.)
Sat, Apr 14, 2018, 1:29am (UTC -6)
Just my two cents worth. There are a few good things that can be said about ST:TMP. No question the special effects are wonderful, the cinematography is incredible. I saw this movie when it came out, I must have been 13. I was very impressed with how good the Enterprise looked. I still am. The ship was colorless and dull, but seeing it and the old crew on the big screen was terrific fun for a kid my age. Visually the movie was stunning, even if the color palette was bland. It's been described in other reviews as "Logans Run", lots of white and soft pastels. And everyone wears their jammies to work.

The ships were done with actual 3D modeling, the old-fashioned way, not CGI. In fact, STII: TWoK was somewhat famous for the groundbreaking demonstration film for the Genesis Project. That was a very early use of computer imagery. ST:TMP was all old-school.

Jerry Goldsmiths score was incredible. It was so good, it was reused and became the theme for the Next Gen series when that started. That score is now synonymous with the Star Trek franchise. There are some commendable things about ST:TMP, others have pointed out various qualities as well. But generally these things boil down to effects, the score and other post-prod factors. And then there is the emotional aspect of seeing the ship and the old gang on the big screen. There's nothing wrong with appreciating these things.

Nonetheless, this film is plodding, poorly paced and the characters are not well developed. Their interactions are mostly mechanical and dull. The story is, as has been noted, just a retelling of The Changling. I don't know why Roddenberry did this. He had to be aware that he'd told this story before. He, or someone at Paramount, had to realize fans were going to notice. But he went ahead and did it anyway. He might have thought, this is how I really wanted The Changling to be, but I didn't have the screen time or budget to do it right. Now I do. I don't know, I'm speculating.

Gene Roddenberry, and the directors he worked with on the old show, seemed to do a pretty good job of making economical and effective use of air time when working with an hour long episode format. One hour minus open and closing credits, and commercials, leaves about 42 or 44 minutes, or so? And you really have zero wiggle room. He seemed to respond well to being boxed into that time frame. You've got this many minutes to tell your story and your out, like it or not. It worked. But when he got a chance to make a movie, with no specific limit on running time, and a (relatively) open-ended budget, Gene Roddenberry just seems like he couldn't discipline himself as well.

The result is Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I like the joke title Where Nomad Has Gone Before. That's exactly what this is. It's just an old episode remade (The Naked Now, anyone?). It's no secret this film is the product of quite considerable changes in format (it's a tv show, it's a tv movie, it's a tv show again, it's a theatrical movie...), and the victim of seeming endless script rewrites. This tells me the whole project was just poorly conceived and executed from the beginning. It went into production with just too many questions unanswered for filming to be going on. It really shouldn't surprise anyone that the film is poorly paced and the interactions between the main characters is almost robotic.

This film cost about 51 million dollars to make. I think it brought in a couple hundred million overall. You can probably Google. Star Wars was made on about 11 million and grossed about a thousand bazillion dollars in ten minutes. Ok, that's being silly. But you get the point. Star Wars was cheaply made. In some places, the sets and props seem almost 1960's Dr. Who cheap. And that's saying something. I almost expect Patrick Troughton to come running out chased by a paper mache monster. But it doesn't matter. Star Wars was a great film, not just entertaining, but a great film because it was a wonderful example of great story telling. The people, their relationships, their adventures, everything was done superbly. Star Wars is everything ST:TMP is not. STII:TWoK is also everything ST:TMP is not. And for all the same reasons. Star Wars and Khan are both just great story telling. They are engaging, compelling, beautifully told stories. For all the money Paramount spent on TMP, it's like watching paint dry.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture, despite some really good things that can be said about certain aspects of it, is ultimately a bad film. It's a bad film because it simply fails at the one thing a movie is supposed to be from the beginning, a good, well told story. If it fails at that, impressive special effects and a beautiful score won't save it. If you're trying to defend this picture based on things like that, you're just proving my point.

Apparently Paramount agreed. This film did make money. It made back its investment and then some. But it wasn't nearly what it should have been. The return on TMP, given Star Treks legacy, the expectation, the money put into it, should have been multipes of what the studio actually made back. This is why Paramount green lighted a second film, but also promoted Gene Roddenberry to somewhere out of the way. Harve Bennett was brought in to salvage the situation. Bennett was made executive producer and put in charge of the film. The result (STII:TWoK), as about 99.999% of people will agree, was a vast improvement over the previous film. The comparisons of this movie to Moby Dick are already discussed on the internet, you can find those yourself. Needless to say, this film is no less cerebral and intelligent than TMP, but it has the story telling qualities that make great movies great. They're the same qualities that make great novels great.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is an exercise is aimless, uncertain production plagued with a producer and staff who were apparently making up a lot of this on the fly. This movie had the potential to be so much more. Given the anticipation leading up to its release, ST:TMP really should have been a home run, knocked right out of the ball park. Instead we got a mess whose gaping flaws they attempted to cover over with obscene amounts of sparkle and flash. That's not story telling. It's superficial crap. This film is, as I said, ultimately a bad film.
Cody B
Thu, Jun 21, 2018, 9:34am (UTC -6)
I’ve always thought of this film as a update on the original crew and a high budget tour of an updated enterprise. The blu ray remaster looks great. I actually enjoy the visuals especially after watching TOS. It’s cool to see what everyone is up to and marvel at how great and updated everything looks. But then there’s Spock and V’ger. Yeah the writers really REALLY blew it
Sat, Sep 22, 2018, 9:03am (UTC -6)
Gonna start movie any minute and comment as I go. I always hated this movie. It was so stupid. McCoy and his crabbieness-----he would be a deterrant in space because ill-tempered people would not be capable of handling the claustrophobic travel. McCoy fought with everyone in TOS, esp. with Spock because Spock WUZ a alyen after Jim's command.

And oh wowsie Ilia is only on the ship for sex with all the men cause all the women on her planet just f--k it up all day long!!! Why they can't have that on the Enterprise.
Ohhhhhh yeahhhhhhhh, Kirk porked [Throw Mama From the Train] every woman in every episode in the 1960's but one; he raped Elaan to show her and teach her that the male penis is God and it teaches women respect for men.

Where did that come from? Remember the young lady who cut off her hubby's thing for raping her? I went home from work the day the trial was ending and the prosecutor was a fat old bastard shouting and glaring at that little lady, how the manhood controlled the woman and she couldn't understand it all.......I wanted to thrust my fist through that t.v. screen and kill that old f--t! She was found not guilty. Thank you Jesus almighty!

That is what Kirk did to those women. Even Elaan did not deserve that treatment and I don't watch that ep if I can help it. It is disgusting. In case you need reminding, Kirk brazenly opened another man's gift and that is something Picard would not do!

I did like the improvement of the Klingon's. A language was created for them.

LOL ha haha ho ho and so on------the sex satellite from Lexx's 2.6 Stans' Trial !!!!!!!
I rekkin I ain't seen this movie since 'fore Lexx aired on Sci-Fi. It has been a long time.

Spock is unkempt. I do not believe Spock would let himself go like that.

About the comment on Ilia, seems somebody took out the sexist material. I do know that in 1979 and several years on that Ilia was referred to in that manner.

McCoy's beard is awful.

I had planned to say more but it is just too agonizing to fool with at this time.
Peter G.
Thu, Oct 18, 2018, 5:10pm (UTC -6)
A line I never took notice of before:

Spock: "Any show of resistance would be futile, Captain."
Sean Hagins
Thu, Oct 18, 2018, 7:32pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G,

This is one reason why I love the Shatnerverse novels. In them, V'ger was repaired by the Borg! *(It's why Spock can't be assimilated-the 24th century Borg see him as already Borg from the time he mind melded with V'ger
Peter G.
Thu, Oct 18, 2018, 8:05pm (UTC -6)
@ Sean Hagins,

As I understand it, Gene had conceived of a hive mind race either around this time or a little later, and what developed into the Borg were meant to be insectoid originally. I imagine that Conspiracy was going to tie in to the Borg later, but instead they developed Q Who to change course. I expect it was due to budget and technical limitations of creating the insects, plus there was probably some backlash from the visuals in Conspiracy. Maybe V'Ger had been intended to later tie into something else, and by the time they re-wrote the Borg into cyborgs probably a lot of people looked back at V'Ger and went "hmmm...."

It's certainly cool to develop head canon about the connection between V'Ger and the Borg. I have a version of my own that I fancy, even though strictly speaking some TNG content involving the El-Aurians invalidates it. It seems to me that if V'Ger was reprogrammed by an advanced cybernetic race to find its creator (which happened to be humans, a la Nomad), after merging with Decker it would have been the genesis of a perfection-seeking (i.e. god-seeking) being comprised of human and machine. And I suppose that this being might have gone on to reproduce, and eventually to develop a geometrically-inclined species like the Borg. The fact that the Borg supposedly had already existed for centuries makes my head canon implausible but I like the idea that the Borg quest for perfection is more than just a metaphor for mindless totalitarianism.
Fri, Apr 5, 2019, 5:45am (UTC -6)
This film is really beautiful though I have mixed feelings about the story. I don’t tend to really get anything out of the exterior shots of ships so many other ST fans seem to love but I was pretty much mesmerised by the sequence showing off the Enterprise. (Though it did make me laugh that they had a floating man in every other shot doing nothing much apart from showing the scale and that it’s in space, just because they could - which is fine! - but in one shot he’s apparently hurtling off into space to die. Bye!)

The bits where we swapped between V’ger getting even weirder and weirder the deeper they went and the crew’s :o faces got a bit tedious after a while. I wish there had been more discussion of what they were seeing and how it made them feel mixed in with the speechless awe.

I thought the actress playing Ilia was very good at bringing the life back into her face when they were getting through to her. I wasn’t impressed by Decker but they didn’t give him a lot to work with. As someone who grew up on TNG it was weird to see the TOS crew with what I consider to be TNG’s music, and it’s hard for me not to see Ilia and Decker as a cheap rip off of Troi and Riker even though it’s obviously the other way around. It’s interesting though.

I felt the plot was too obvious and it made Kirk and the rest look a bit thick that they couldn’t get what the Ilia probe was telling them about V’ger coming from Earth, and that Kirk apparently wouldn’t have realised it was a voyager probe if the letters had rubbed off instead of being covered up, but this film is 10 years older than me and I guess it could have been more of a shocking twist/concept at the time. I do appreciate what they were going for with a scientific, diplomatic first contact kind of approach paying off.

I don’t know when I’ll watch it again but I’m struggling to understand how anyone who likes Star Trek could actively dislike this film even if they want to fast forward through bits of it.

I can also see how Discovery’s writers took a lot of inspiration from this. Spock’s weird psychic connection to menacing space clouds because he is half human, unnecessary but cool zooming through space in a thruster suit, there were some other things that jumped out at me too but I’ve forgotten. Maybe just the update to the Klingon prosthetics and giving them/relying on their own language.
Sat, Apr 20, 2019, 2:23am (UTC -6)
I've grown to love this movie more and more over the years, and it's actually become my favorite of the original Trek movies. The cinematography, set design, costuming, and music are all absolutely beautiful. It's grand spectacle, something that would have been amazing to have beheld on the big screen.

The cast have never looked cooler than they do in '70's chic. They get to wear the hippest uniforms and casual clothes we ever get to see them in, and everybody is as trim, bright-eyed, and full of vitality as we'll get to see them. (Spock's black robe in particular is so great. It looks like something out of Lord of the Rings, especially with the Vulcan symbols. And I wish they would have let Spock keep wearing it along with the long, shaggy hair we see him sporting on Vulcan.)

I for one love the slow pacing of ST I. It gives the movie such a sense of atmosphere and moodiness that fits with it's themes of exploring the unknown and unraveling the mystery. It also allows us to spend more time admiring the design, visuals, and score.

ST I is all about cinema as art. It's a tribute to the original series taking what Trek fans had known and loved and giving it the movie star glam treatment. There was no initial thought that there would be any sequels, so this was a gift to the fans who hadn't had a chance to see these actors for 11 years since the original series was cancelled. It's more of a celebration of what Trekkies had cherished in bigger, bolder terms than something that was meant to break any new ground.
Other Chris
Mon, May 13, 2019, 12:04pm (UTC -6)
Great movie, and the sections with just music and little to no dialogue still rope me in. It's pure nerd indulgence (if you're the right kind of nerd) and I love it. I'm also reminded that Kirk, in my opinion, is a better character in the films than in the show. Dealing with age, twilight years, death and the yearning for old friends all make him a character much easier to like. The show spends so much time selling Kirk as the ultimate, while the movies reinforce that he is very much just a man.
Thu, Jun 27, 2019, 10:00pm (UTC -6)
Just watched for the first time yesterday.

Is there an explanation - either in-universe or movie-making reasons - for the oddball costumes? They were so beige, so . . . truthful.

If the answer is in the most recent fifty comments, I despaired of reading all of them and finally jumped to the comment box myself.
Fri, Jul 19, 2019, 2:34pm (UTC -6)
I hace a question: why is Will decker the captain? I assume that scotty is the first official but in the crew remains sulu and uhura both liutenants in TOS. somebody has a in/out universe explanation? thanks
Aaron Edwards
Sat, Oct 26, 2019, 4:09pm (UTC -6)
An ambitious misfire, this film is the closest to Gene Roddenberry’s vision but also one of the more boring entries in the series. The film desperately wants to be the Star Trek version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but ends up feeling lost and ponderous. Skipping it wouldn’t hurt your viewing experience, but if you like ambitious and existential sci-fi you might find some enjoyment here.
Sun, Oct 27, 2019, 2:26am (UTC -6)
To be fair, I've always thought 2001: A Space Odyssey also ended up feeling lost, pretentious and over-ponderous. Never understood why that film received such high praise. It took a great fascinating *idea* and turned it into a sluggish script. It's only saved from being a complete dud by a few iconic scenes that uplift the boring slog that's the rest of the film.

The special effects were amazing for the time, though. I'll give them that. "Ambitious misfire" pretty much sums that film up.
Sat, Dec 7, 2019, 12:14pm (UTC -6)
Reacting to the theatrical cut ...
It's very ambition, kind of enjoyably majestic, weighty (the best part was the crew both being different and close enough to how they were before and reuniting), deep/thought-provoking, impressively so different from rather than trying to be Star Wars, but a bit too weighty rather than dynamic or fun and even in its deep themes at times a bit too awkward, abrupt and/or repetitive. It's interesting both in itself and in retrospect how much this film seems like a precursor to the Borg and to TNG-style generally but not really doing it well, TNG definitely did both the style and some of the specific themes much better.
The Kirk/Decker conflict is good but a bit too overdone, the idea of Spock maybe not being loyal way too awkward (McCoy quickly becoming suspicious too out-of-character), too much of the Decker/Ilia relationship, before and after she is replaced, feels too just there to be there and overfocused on. The crew in general, though seeing them reunite was fun, is too often too lacking in energy or warmth/chemistry and does get too overshadowed by the effects (which are strong but too often feel excessive).
A lot of Jerry Goldsmith's music is really good but a lot of it, though mostly with regard to the Decker & Ilia relationship, also feels a little too obvious and clearly-present and repetitive.
Jonathan Lane
Tue, Dec 24, 2019, 6:13am (UTC -6)
The first Star Trek feature film elicited mixed reviews from fans (and from the general public). Some Trekkers consider it a masterful exploration of the iconic characters of the Enterprise crew with breathtaking production values and a sweeping musical score that updates the 1960’s television series and prepares it for a bright future on the big screen. Other fans see it as a plodding snooze-fest of slow, indulgent editing—an opinion often sarcastically supported by pointing out that the Enterprise crew are all wearing pajamas, as if to say this movie will put us all to sleep.

But the one thing that nearly every fan and viewer agrees on is that the visual effects sequences are stunning and some of the grandest, most beautiful, and unforgettable in Star Trek‘s 50-plus year history. Among the most iconic and well-remembered of the segments were the introduction of the refit USS Enterprise with Kirk and Scotty flying around it for nearly five minutes (too long?—poppycock!), the opening sequence of the the three Klingon battlecruisers confronting and then being destroyed by V’ger, and the refit Enterprise leaving dry dock.

Those VFX sequences, overseen by the legendary DOUG TRUMBULL (who did the Enterprise shots) and JOHN DYKSTRA (who handled the Klingons, the Epsilon XI space station, and other segments) were rushed together in less than six months using models and blue screens and contraptions like periscopes to get cameras within inches of the amazingly detailed models. To see the finished breathtaking scenes, one would hardly think any of them were created with anything other than the most painstaking attention to detail over years…not simply months.
Thu, Jan 30, 2020, 5:08am (UTC -6)
I like the movie and the refit Enterprise is absolutely stunningly beautiful. I'm mostly ok with the lengthy Kirk/Scotty Enterprise approach, EXCEPT:

Kirk rightfully gazes in awe at the ship... But also at the light panels pointed at it and other parts of the drydock that seemingly are irrelevant. It's confusing at first because you think it's stuff that is relevant but it isn't. Cutting out the shots of that stuff and Shatner's reactions to them would have greatly improved this scene.

Similar problem when the Enterprise travels through the cloud. Endless shots of the crew reacting in awe to what is essentially a screen saver on the view screen.

What makes it worse is later when Kirk and company walk out onto the outside of the ship, there is no reactions to what should be jaw dropping. Yes they're in a hurry but not even one shot of McCoy or whoever looking around bug eyed for a moment.
Sun, Feb 9, 2020, 11:06am (UTC -6)
It's funny Q above here posted how great this film did financially. Actually, the most interesting thing about this film is its legacy in that regard. I went to read the production history for this and it's filled with pages of excerpts from "Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture". To paraphrase the bulky material, apparently the film did not meet Paramount's financial expectations and they used this movie as an excuse to remove Gene Roddenberry as a creative element for future Star Trek movies.

Personally, I think there's a great story here. It should be a novel, though, not a movie. I'm not sure which version is on Amazon, but it's over two hours long and 45 minutes of it felt completely unnecessary. Goldsmith's score is great, the special effects are great, seeing the old cast is great, but all those things combined surprisingly don't make this a great movie.

Peter G.'s take on this film closely resembles what the L.A. Times' reviewer thought while watching this. Though based on Christian myth, much of this film's artistic metaphor is about sex. However, the sci-fi twist is that Decker and Ilia get together in the end not to copulate and make babies, but instead to make this amazing merger of technology and life in the future.

I'm just going to quote the L.A. Times here because they say it better than I can:

"[Star Trek: The Motion Picture] is, beyond doubt, a phenomenon and an attractive one in that it reflects a kind of double idealism: good fictional people in quest of whatever may be best about tomorrow, with enthusiastic audiences, able to be optimistic about tomorrow if not today, going along for the ride."

But it's dull and it feels like much of the action (ex: a fleshed out Kirk-Decker rivalry, the tension of a cataclysmic event hitting the Earth) was left on the drawing board.

Perhaps one of the best things about the Star Trek: TMP is that it encouraged better minds to come to the rescue of Star Trek and we got Nicholas Meyer and The Wrath of Khan thanks to this movie.
Wed, Feb 19, 2020, 9:29am (UTC -6)
"apparently the film did not meet Paramount's financial expectations"

Which is really funny, because no other Star Trek film earn more money for them.

"encouraged better minds to come to the rescue of Star Trek"

I don't think that Nicholas Meyer (although I respect his Trek, and not-Trek work) is better mind than Roddenberry or Wise. Or that Star Trek needed rescue in that time.
Wed, Feb 19, 2020, 9:39am (UTC -6)

I really recommend you read the article on Memory Alpha about this movie. They’re comparing this film to “Waterworld”. A film can have huge box office numbers and still be a failure if it’s over budget.
Wed, Feb 19, 2020, 1:54pm (UTC -6)

I'm one of Memory Alpha bureaucrats (in most part retired ;) ), so, I'm not only read but also write/wrote MA articles. But that's not the point. The point is that profits from TMP were not that small, also in context of relatively big budget of this film (budget spend also for unmaked Phase II, etc.). They're only smaller than unrealistic (unrealistic then, and unrealistic today) expectations of Paramount blue collars.
Wed, Feb 19, 2020, 1:59pm (UTC -6)
- white collars
Wed, Feb 19, 2020, 3:04pm (UTC -6)
And eventually Waterworld made a profit too. That doesn't change these films from being major disappointments to the studio. TWOK was given only 1/3 of TMP's budget thanks to TMP's relatively dismal performance and luckily they made a miracle out of it.
Wed, Feb 19, 2020, 3:14pm (UTC -6)
Ah, you are just a TWoK fanboy, as I am a fanboy of TMP ;).
Wed, Feb 19, 2020, 3:23pm (UTC -6)
I don't have a pony in this race. If there's something factually wrong with my math, I would welcome additional data. Please be respectful and refrain from name calling.
Thu, Feb 20, 2020, 11:52pm (UTC -6)
Chrome, the one on Amazon prime right now Is the original theater release, not the Director’s cut.
Mon, Feb 24, 2020, 1:36pm (UTC -6)
Thanks, Silly.

I wanted reiterate that I don't dislike this one and am definitely not making the argument that financial success equates to a good movie. That part of my comment above was just dealing with an aspect of trivia I found interesting.

Comparing this one to the other five movies, it's the least like the TV series. But then again, STV feels like the tv series and its still bad.

I think this one should be lauded for its compelling and creative conclusion. I just think the pacing aspects of the film make it hard to get to that point.
William I. Lengeman III
Sun, Mar 1, 2020, 1:32pm (UTC -6)
My peak Star Trek watching years came in the seventies. Those of us who were too young to catch the show when it first aired in the mid-sixties could gorge ourselves on seemingly endless reruns of three seasons worth of shows. It was a far cry from Netflix and calling up any episode any time but we made do.

As the seventies wound down my interest in Star Trek waned and I wasn’t really cognizant of what came along later — four more TV series and a heap of movies. I sought to rectify this in the early years of the new century, watching as many TV episodes as possible and some of the movies, but my intake of the latter was sporadic.

So with the recent announcement of yet another Star Trek TV series I decided it was as good a time as any to rewatch the movies. What better place to start than with Star Trek Movie: The Motion Picture, the one that kicked it off. I’d seen bits and pieces of it over the years but as it unfolded I realized I had never seen it all the way through.

Even though it was the first instance of live-action Star Trek in more than a decade, the first movie doesn’t have a particularly good reputation. Of the original cast movies, only The Final Frontier ranks lower, as measured by the thoroughly scientific and foolproof method of Rotten Tomatoes rankings. The only other movie of the bunch to rank lower than The Motion Picture is Nemesis.

My aim is not to be a contrarian, but I actually liked TMP quite well. Which is not to say that it didn’t have its share of shortcomings, because it did. Yes, those endless shots of the Enterprise were well done but they got to be a bit much. Yes, those interminable shots of the Enterprise making its way through the innards of the big dumb object were very well done, especially by 1979 standards, but they too were a bit much. And that’s just for starters. But for the most part I thought the good outweighed the bad.

The history of TMP has been covered elsewhere much more capably than I could hope to so I’ll summarize very briefly. Suffice to say that after the original series was axed, ideas for another series and a movie were tossed around and the movie finally won out. Which surely had nothing whatsoever to do with the success of late Seventies SF hits like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

To summarize the plot in the broadest terms, Earth finds itself threatened by the aforementioned big dumb object. Coincidentally the Enterprise is the only starship in position to be able to save the day. The audience is treated to long, lingering glances of the ship in drydock before Admiral Kirk comes aboard, wrests command from the existing captain, gathers the old gang about him and sets off to make things right. There’s a decent twist at the end of it all this which explains what the BDO is and what it was up to and there’s a halfhearted romantic subplot that’s resolved at about the same time.

As I’ve already suggested, there’s an okay movie at the heart of all this. The BDO (which is pretty knowledgeable, mind you, but lacking in street smarts) is a promising concept, as far as these things go, and is presented in a manner that conjures up all that stirring science fictional sense of wonder type stuff. In terms of concept (and pacing) I’d venture that TMP isn’t that far removed from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. But while Kubrick had a way of transforming the glacial pace of his yarn into something stylish and gripping, TMP director Robert Wise seemed to lack that rare skill. It should be noted that he took another crack at it some years later, with a director’s edition, but this was not the version that I watched.

I’ll close with a few random observations.

The theatrical release debuted on the 38th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Make of it what you will.

Dr. McCoy’s first appearance here — sporting a spiffy Grizzly Adams beard and growling like a cranky grizzly bear — livens up the proceedings considerably. He’s used to good effect elsewhere, especially when he’s acting as Kirk’s conscience and daring to actually question his motives. The more TOS I rewatch the more I like the doctor.

Spock’s first appearance — ice ice, baby.

The uniforms weren’t much of an improvement over the TV show but at least they ditched those absurd mini-skirts. Except for Ilia, who sports the mini-skirt to end all mini-skirts and high heels, to boot. Why ask why.

Seeing a large group of crew members in one place once again raises the question of what they all do. One assumes that automation must be very sophisticated this far into the future. So what need is there for 400 or so crew members? I shouldn’t skip ahead but let’s note that in The Search for Spock a handful of the core cast members manage to operate the Enterprise quite nicely by themselves.

Klingon 2.0. The vaguely “Oriental” and “swarthy” Klingons of yesteryear have now given way to big imposing types with sporty body armor and latex headpieces.
Mark A. Altman
Fri, Apr 24, 2020, 12:27am (UTC -6)
I’ve always felt that Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the most cinematic of the Star Trek films with a brilliant visual style and scope evocative of 2001: A Space Odyssey that truly felt like a motion picture, rather than an episode of the TV show writ large.
Sarjenka's Brother
Fri, May 15, 2020, 7:02pm (UTC -6)
I clearly remember exiting the theater in 1979 (yeah, I'm old) and being pretty disappointed. Of course, in 1979, I thought "The Apple" was great "Star Trek" because they killed a lot of crewmen in a lot of ways. And I thought "City on the Edge of Forever" was boring.

So, 1979 me was kind of stupid is what 2020 me is saying.

Since 1979, I've seen the movie a few more times over the decades, the last time being last night. And I must say the movie grows on me more and more with each viewing. It grows better with age and as I age.

I agree with Mark above. It's the most cinematic Trek movie ever. It's the most beautiful Trek movie ever. For my money, Kirk and Scotty could have taken twice as long surveying the stunning Enterprise from their little shuttle. It was glorious.

The movie is blessed relief from the whiz-bang / lens flares / million action moments we get today. I had a subdural hematoma about 10 years ago, and all that stuff literally gives me a headache since then.

Also, I like films, such as "Lawrence of Arabia," that I can actually STUDY. And this lets you study.

And no one has talked about it much on here, but the Klingon opening and score was a perfect 10!

In the end, though, the characters came off a bit cold. And Trek characters should be warm and emotive and passionate. Like many others, "Wrath of Khan" is the best Trek movie for me. It was character-driven with big thoughts. This was more scenically driven with even bigger thoughts.

In the final analysis, though, it's a good movie. Nowhere near the bottom of my Trek movie list. They aimed very high and lofty with this and didn't quite reach it, but the effort was laudable and gorgeous.
The T-Dog
Wed, May 20, 2020, 11:01pm (UTC -6)
OMG, I love this movie, it's so damned FUNNY!

The 1983 TV adaptation... "I weep for V'Ger as I'd weep for a brother" as the whole crew waxes philosophical "Of course! The basic philisophical questions! Who am I? Where have I been?")

Spock "I'm entering the second orifice."

I love how V'Ger fell into "what they used to call a black hole" (what DO they call it now?) and then everybody comes up with this big story about how it shot through on the other side, it was picked up by a machine culture, put back togeher and became sentient. They all keep building on the story. It's damn hysterical. So bad it's wonderful.

And there's that cool Klingon scene in the beginning.
Sun, May 31, 2020, 7:17pm (UTC -6)
The Boldest Trek Of Them All

Of everything that is Star Trek this is without a doubt the boldest voyage the Starship Enterprise has ever taken. A Machine Planet Sending A Machine To Earth To Find Its Creator and not till the final 20 minutes does the absolute WOW factor reveal itself as to who this machine is. As a lifelong Star Trek fan I really appreciate this film and the more times I watch it I love it even more as this film has every element that makes Star Trek the incredible story that it is and yes there is still a lot of hate out there towards this film but for me it is simply the perfect Trek of all,the return of Kirk,Spock,McCoy,Sulu,Chekov,Uhura and Scotty,the incredible intorduction the the new Enterprise,the magnificent new theme and incredible score by the legend himself Jerry Goldsmith,Douglas Trumbull,John Dykstra creating simply amazing visual effects throughout the entire film that give Star Wars a run for its money any day and at the helm none other than director Robert Wise who shows why he is the legend he is as a director,every shot in the film is so beautifully crafted and shot,I cant say I think its long overdue that Paramount release this film in 4K with a Dolby Atmos Soundtrack but I imagine it will happen sooner than later.
Chuck Gilreath
Mon, Jun 8, 2020, 8:34pm (UTC -6)
I might not be the first to note it, but I especially enjoyed Spock’s comment “any show of resistance would be futile.”
Sat, Jun 20, 2020, 7:49am (UTC -6)
Although often ridiculed, Gene Roddenberry's first effort to bring Star Trek to the big screen is actually a masterpiece of science fiction despite reactions. "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" displays all the great qualities of sci-fi, not merely for how powerful its visuals are, but also because of its thematic exploration around the concept of freewill. It examines if we are capable of operating beyond what our deterministic coding suggests, or whether we have the power to act of our own volition. This is why "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" is great, and we should all give it another chance.
Cody B
Sat, Jun 20, 2020, 10:06pm (UTC -6)

Making the Voyager probe turn evil and calling itself V’Ger is not anywhere what I would call “masterpiece” writing. I like this movie more than a lot of people, I think it’s stunning after watching TOS, but there’s problems all over the place with it
Sat, Jun 20, 2020, 11:29pm (UTC -6)
Voyager probe turn evil? Is that what happens in the movie? I don't remember that at all.
Sat, Oct 10, 2020, 4:35pm (UTC -6)
Great visuals and i chuckled at the reveal near the end.

but in terms of a movie, it's pretty bad, it tries to say many 'deep' 'profound' things but fails miserably, ultimately a dull and convoluted ( and hollow for me ) affair. felt like a prototype to show off what special effects they can show on the big screen.
Tue, Jan 5, 2021, 9:05pm (UTC -6)
Paramount put much budget blame on Roddenberry, because they really didn’t like working with him. More likely, the bigger problem was:

they were making a tv movie, no, a new tv show, no a movie, no a new tv show for our new Paramount Network, build sets, buy scripts, get the cast under contracts — HOLY CRAP LOOK HOW MUCH STAR WARS JUST MADE, WE’RE MAKING A MOVIE — but don’t tell anyone for like six months, and keep buying scripts as if we’re making the tv show, and, shh, start refurbishing these sets that were built for tv resolution.

It’s not hard to see how costs spiraled out of control.

While I do like the movie, it’s extremely flawed. I think it was a miracle it did as well as it did. Probably a combo of Star Wars coattails and lots of weird movies in that era anyway. Probably 2001 coattail too. Considering it’s essentially a remake of the episode The Changeling, I just don’t buy any notions of deep intellect in this picture, but I can sure imagine lots of ticket buyers not wanting to look lowbrow by saying it was boring or they didn’t get it.

Paramount, while motivated by the $ucce$$ of Star Wars, did try to set TMP apart from that, and indeed emphasized Trek being more intellectual. They forbade space battles for this reason, and there’s barely even an antagonist. But squeezing a 50 minute episode into two hours doesn’t turn a picture into Kubrick, and 30 minutes of the bridge crew staring at FX on the view screen just ain’t quite David Bowman flying through a stargate.

I like it, but come on, this was the waning days of Auteur filmmaking, and Paramount threw a bunch of money at Roddenberry, Wise, etc and hoped something good— or at least profitable— came out. Lucky for the studio, it was handsomely profitable. And perhaps lucky for fans, Roddenberry reused much from the Phase 2/TMP era in TNG. Ilia became Troi, Decker became Riker, Zon became Data. The TNG music was unusually spectacular for a series, because it came from TMP.

Also, it is nifty to have this 2001/Andromeda Strain type clinical treatment of Trek. In a lot of ways, TMP was the vision of Trek from the original pilot, The Cage.
Sun, Jan 24, 2021, 6:59am (UTC -6)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture

"You rammed getting this command down Starfleet's throat. You've used this emergency to get Enterprise back.”

- Bones

3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

TMP was the last live-action Star Trek to premier before I was born, and as such, it is, for me, part of that hazy past we call pre-history. Pre-history, of course, is different for everyone. I have watched Star Trek the post-TMP movies again and again and again. But I can remember watching TMP itself only once, and that too, more than a quarter century ago. As I watch it now, after just completing a rewatch of The Original Series, I am happy to say that reports of TMP's tedium and boring nature are completely overblown. This movie, quite simply, is a work of art.

And an enjoyable one at that.

The movie starts with an absolutely gorgeous 3 minute long musical introduction, with just a few stars streaming by to keep us company. I can’t remember ever enjoying the opening of a movie more. I can only imagine what my folks must have felt when they sat in that theater on a date in anticipation of what this new episode of Star Trek would bring after more than a decade with the show off the air.

After the Paramount mountain we are treated to the music theme song that will carry us through so many Star Trek movies, and of course which is most famous for being the TNG intro. Wow, I envy living in a world where studios put that much power and beauty into a score.

The three big heroes get their names flashed, then the entire crew - down to now-doctor Chapel - get a frame for their actors' names, and then Persis and then Decker. And then we begin this glorious journey. Already I am in the best mood I’ve been in in a very long time.

TMP teases us with Klingons. I don’t have any real idea of how movie promotions used to work back before I was born, but I have to imagine that the fact that Klingons were in the movie was a big plus point for many Trekkies. Here we get the wonderful full view of the three ships, and of course the great Klingon theme music. These are the new ridged Klingons we’ll see more of in TNG. Fortunately the age of black-face makeup is behind us. They speak in Klingon, but the movie is good enough not to bother with any translation. The movie is confident to let the musical score and the sound of the Klingon grunts convey the mood of the scene. The three klingon ships are in a formation that evokes the feel of an old-school cavalry run. Martok would be proud.

Now, 7 minutes into the movie, we get the first english we can understand and a wonderful shot inside the starbase. I love the uniforms, and everyone is so ridiculously good looking. The scene has a very old school Battlestar Galactica vibe, which of course was on TV at the time.

And it is here that the movie shines at a whole new level, when we cut to Vulcan. Spock is close to completing the Kolinahr. He is getting ready to purge the last of his emotions. So while we are ten minutes into the movie, and we get a glimpse of the first person we actually recognize, Spock and his surroundings are allowed to be completely alien to us. We can’t understand the literal translations of the words in the ceremony, but the larger meaning is absolutely clear. The larger than life statutes on Vulcan are surreal. Almost something out of a fairy tale. And that necklace carries so much weight. When it falls to the ground, you know something profound has been broken.

It’s hard to put into words how impressive all this is. TMP has a gravity that so many of the later Trek movies lack.

Finally we see the Golden Gate Bridge. The theme music for the movie plays loud. We, the audience sit up straight and take notice.

TMP is a fairly straightforward tale, not altogether dissimilar from the Season 2 episode “The Changeling.” (@Daniel B, LOL!).

Many of The Original Series episodes leaned heavily on classic literature. There was of course Hamlet that formed the basis for the Season 1 episode "The Conscious of the King”. Ovid’s Pygmalion provides that backdrop to the Season 3 episode "Requiem for Methuselah”. The bible, Plato, Nietzsche. TOS was a literary delight. So it’ll hardly surprise anyone when I say that TMP has its foundation in Moby Dick. Which is quite appropriate given that that same story was the basis for the Season 2 classic episode "The Doomsday Machine.”

In "The Doomsday Machine” Commodore Decker lost his crew to a weapon of unbelievable power. His obsession with hunting down that destructive force moves him to eventually take command of the Enterprise away from Captain Kirk. Here, in The Motion Picture, we find Decker’s son, Will, in command of the Enterprise. And we find an Admiral Kirk pull rank and take over the captaincy from the younger man. They say history does not repeat itself. But it sure does rhyme.

TMP introduces a new ticking clock: the matter of planetary security. I suppose it is better than the TOS Season 3 trope of a plague. In the quote I put at the top of this review, Bones confronts Kirk and says that Kirk has used this entire situation to get the Enterprise back.

So essentially, Kirk is the original “evil Admiral” we saw so many of in TNG, who were always trying to take over command!

Admiral Ahab wants command of the Enterprise more than anything, and he’s not above using this emergency to get it.

The movie’s main conceit, and one that I don’t buy for even a second, is that an Enterprise still in space dock, is the only ship within 54 hours of Earth. But like seeing Worf on the Enterprise for the TNG movies - when by all rights he should be on DS9 - I’ll let this one slide. The fact that we even got a Star Trek movie seems like such a remarkable cheat of fate, why quibble with minor miracles?

The movie makes good use of the youngsters. Will Decker clearly can’t stand the old man. And Kirk is old. By the time TMP premiered, Shatner was 48, older than Bones was back when TOS began. Ilia clearly shares Decker’s point of view on the entire situation. Two key pieces of dialogue take us into the younger generation’s mind set. First,

ILIA: *Commander* Decker?

Translation - I came here to serve under my old boy friend who is supposed to be captain, who the fuck are you, old man?

KIRK: Yes, our Exec and science officer.

Translation - look here young lady, I’m in charge.

DECKER: Captain Kirk has the utmost confidence in me.

Translation - the old man is a fuck all.

KIRK: And in you too, Lieutenant.

Translation - how you doin’?

ILIA: My oath of celibacy is on record Captain.

Translation - ew!!!! I’ve heard all about you!

The other piece of dialogue that gets us into the mind set of the younger generation is,

ILIA: Was it difficult? [seeing Kirk in his quarters, she means]

DECKER: No more than I expected.

It’s a short spinet, but it shows that these two youngsters are well aware what a pain in the ass it is going to be being stuck with Kirk on this ship.

Here we finally get Spock on the ship. The crew is now complete. The movie rewards us with just the slightest hint of the original series theme song. It is a nice touch.

TMP has all the old chestnuts that Gene packed into the original series. Uhura and Chekov have little to do. A fembot, Ilia, speaks in a robotic voice and orders everyone around, and Kirk thinks the computerized adversary can be overwhelmed with a little flirting. Fortunately the old man doesn’t undertake this task himself (ew!!!!). He points love-sick Decker in the direction of the fembot, and then the two old men, Kirk and Bones, watch him make his moves on a view screen. As this was also a core strategy from The Original Series, we are again treated to the slightest hint of the original series theme song. Again, it is quite welcome.

The Enterprise goes deeper and deeper into the belly of the whale. Fortunately, the movie lays off the Moby Dick theme from here on out, and the Jonah story takes over. The season 2 episode “The Immunity Syndrome” comes to mind. And like that episode, this is the only part of TMP that starts to feel like it drags.

The writers try to alleviate the drag by adding some semblance of jeopardy. Sadly the writers way over-compensated, and the whole “Earth will be destroyed in 10 minutes if we don’t push the right button” cliche was born. And omg did it creep into almost every single movie from here on out. If only they had known what a Frankenstein’s monster they were creating...

A mainstay of Season 3 of The Original Series was a long expository monologue - often by Spock - towards the end of the hour that would magically explain everything that had just happened. TMP treats us to that, when in a ridiculous piece of dialogue, Decker, Kirk and Spock unravel the entire mystery of the Voyager VI probe, including, evidently, that it fell into a black hole, found its way to a planet inhabited by sentient machines (Borg? h/t @Peter G.), the machines gave the probe its own ship in which it could travel and do its work, and somewhere along its journey home, Voyager achieved consciousness. Yeah, sure, whatever. I hope someone writing this stuff was high.

Watching TMP right after watching all the old TOS episodes is a fantastic treat. A lot of folks here at @Jammer’s website seem to think that “All our Yesterdays” is a better finale for our crew than “Turnabout Intruder.” But for me, it is The Motion Picture that really serves as a well-deserved bookend for our crew. Here we see how each person has turned out. How that five year mission left them stronger, wiser, better. Uhura sports a cool new hairstyle. Chekov got promoted and heads security. Scotty looks quite good for his age and is valued by the service for his unparalleled expertise. Sulu is still helmsman, which means Harry Kim and Hoshi Sato were not the only asians to get screwed over for promotions. Which brings us to the core five for this movie.

Bones is retired, but jumps in the saddle again when his captain needs him. Spock too hears the call of duty even though he is light years away and deep into a very personal journey. We think Spock is going to be a lifeless logician from here on out, but fortunately his experiences in this movie with Voyager actually brings him into better balance with his emotions. The two youngsters get screwed over. Decker first gets his Captaincy snatched from him, and then he basically sacrifices his life on the mission. Ilia? We hardly knew ya.

And Kirk. First of all, Kirk looks incredible. Slim and trim and fit for duty. He’s been promoted, sure, but like Peter Pan, I don’t think he’s quite grown up. And he’s still an incredible leader. Perhaps the best leader we’ve ever seen on Star Trek.

There is a scene early in the movie when Rand (erstwhile Yeoman Rand) is struggling with a malfunctioning transporter and it appears that the two officers might be lost. Kirk takes the controls. If these two are going to be lost, it is going to be at his hands. There is no need for Rand to carry the burden of that guilt. Kirk pushed the crew to take the Enterprise out of dry dock before she was ready. This is on him. He tells Rand after she’s turned away, and only her back is to us,

KIRK: There was nothing you could have done, Rand. It wasn't your fault.

And in a way that is the theme of the entire movie. A massive alien cloud is heading for Earth. If the Enterprise can’t stop it, maybe that is the end of all. There is every chance they will fail. And even if they succeed, they may not live to see it. If that is to be their burden, is it right for Decker to shoulder it? Is he ready for that level of guilt if he fails. That’s what Kirk is taking on when he sits in that chair. Heavy hangs the head.

My favorite scene in the movie comes when Kirk and Scotty are in a pod floating towards the ship. Kirk cranes his neck to get a glimpse - a peak - at the Enterprise. As Kirk tries to catch a view, we try to catch a view. Our anticipation is reflected in Shatner’s every expression. And then we see her. The music soars. Kirk’s face reflects our awe. This is the big reveal. The money shot. And Shatner is incredible. Not too much, just a touch of wonder. Just a pinch of anticipation. Just a hint of excitement.

This is going to be the adventure of a lifetime.
Peter G.
Sun, Jan 24, 2021, 12:36pm (UTC -6)
Part of the interesting aspect of both Decker and Ilia is that they are both incomplete at the start of the film. The film suggests that in fact we are all incomplete, but that we potentially have different ideal ends to merge with. For Decker and Ilia their ideal merging is with each other; or specifically the person-to-person connection to make their exploration of the unknown a reality. To them the unknown is best found in someone else. For Kirk the merging has to, in the end, be with the Enterprise. Someone else was docking with his mate, and he had to stay in that chair. We could see it as him being one of those hateful admirals, but in TOS those admirals are invariably people totally unsuited to the captain's chair. They are bad not because they are admirals, but because they are treading where they don't belong. In Kirk's case it is where he belongs, and he is a better captain than an admiral. William Decker himself chooses the merging in the end as his ultimate good. Yes, we could argue that it was the typical selfless Starfleet sacrifice to save his crew, but the film gives us enough to show it's more than that; this was his ultimate happiness. Not in command of a ship, but merged with his lover. From that standpoint I'm not sure he had entirely made up his mind about even being a captain. From the pilot we see Pike ruminating about another life, about being with a woman, and he's miserable. He gets his happy ending in The Menagerie, but he did not leave The Cage a happy camper. Decker gets his happy marriage, and it is not to his ship. So to me that makes it right and proper that Kirk gets the ship and Decker gets the marriage. Until TNG comes along, family and command did not mix, and TMP makes it very clear he wants both very badly. So unlike his dad - and perhaps in a subtle but deliberate nod to The Doomsday Machine - William goes a different direction from Matt, choosing something other than an obsession with hanging on to his ship.

From Ilia's standpoint we don't get quite as much, other than she seems more Vulcan than human in disposition. I hardly think it's a coincidence that V'Ger, the machine that wants more, chooses her as its vessel. There is something in common with Spock there, except it's somewhat the inverse: Spock has the human element and thinks he wants less; Ilia seems to lack it to an extent and wants more. She gets more by connecting with Decker, and Spock seems to realize in the end that he shouldn't want less. So what begins as an inverse perhaps ends in a kind of parity; they both realize they need more than just themselves to be complete. Spock's completion doesn't necessarily happen until ST: IV, but the arc begins in TMP. II-IV are largely the Spock saga, showing how he comes to terms with accepting his human half, but all the cards are laid out on the table right here in terms of the Kolinar failing for him, and needing (in a cosmic sense) some great thing that is currently beyond him. For V'Ger that thing was humanity itself, as it seems to be for Spock. Perhaps this film is saying that the attempt to banish or destroy the thing bothering us inside ourselves leads to destruction; that we have to find how to give it a proper home.

The thing that's beautiful about most of the TOS films is they have some heavy meta-content while still whizzing along on the literal story level. ST:V fails in this regard because the literal story barely makes sense in its pre-occupation with the message. TMP is different because both message and story are there, but the story is as drawn out and cosmic as the message is. This uniformity makes it hard to watch for some people, especially when contrasted with WoK or other films whose story moves at a brisk rate, even though its delineation of the meta-narrative is slow, even taking multiple films to complete. But in TMP the story is just as slow as the message, making the experience of seeing one already get you to the other. I think this is a neat device, similar as mentioned in other posts to 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I do think TMP pulls it off. I'm sad to have to say that no TNG film had the heft of this one in terms of what it was trying to get across. These older films were far more ambitious, and less pandering to what they thought people wanted. Granted they did realize for ST: II they needed more action, but even so the messages didn't become pandering and trite.
Mon, Jan 25, 2021, 12:54pm (UTC -6)
If you want a good laugh, read the novelization of TMP. It's written by Gene Roddenberry himself, and it's bonkers. If you ever wonder why there were so many cringe inducing moments during the early TNG years, read this book and you'll understand who was the source for most of them.
Wed, Mar 17, 2021, 5:42pm (UTC -6)
You're my hero, Bob. I'll never read that novel but I've always felt, very similar to Lucas, that at some point Roddenberry's creation outgrew him and was worse off for his involvement. I also think Roddenberry gets far too much of a messiah treatment by Trek fans.

He did some great stuff and cribbed a ton from other projects. He's hardly unique in that way but I really wish some fans would tone down just how much of a visionary they've imagined him to be. The fact that First Contact's Cochrane is stand-in for Gene is lost on people who have a goofy vision of who he actually was is incredibly painful for me. I respect what Roddenberry did and I'm glad we have Star Trek but I also like living in reality.

I saw TMP in the theaters when I was too young to remember anything except thinking that Spock was flying towards a big piece of corn-riddled poop in space. My parents and grandparents took me and they hated it.

I ignored it for decades and only decided to give it a second watch sometime around 5 years ago and I was really, really happy with it. The story is what the story is but I really respect the aesthetic and the tone. Much moreso than WOK and Undiscovered Country which are significantly more fun but are a pretty big departure from what TMP was trying to do and more about being fun popcorn flicks.

I love a lot of the 80s movies, I'm an 80s kid. But I do miss how much of the 80s departed from a lot of the tone we saw from movies in the 70s. So many of those movies are much more challenging and rewarding than Harry and the Hendersons, which isn't a knock against that movie it's just an attempt at characterizing it.

Honestly, this is probably my favorite Star Trek movie now but not one I watch very often, if that makes sense.
Mon, Apr 26, 2021, 7:46pm (UTC -6)
I just watched it again. I do enjoy it, but I've seen it enough to figure out more rough edges.

One rather damning thing, IMHO, is despite how much of we see of the V'Ger cloud, the cloud is completely irrelevant. It could have been removed completely and just had V'Ger's huge ship approaching. And note that, btw, the full ship itself was never shown in the theatrical, though this was fixed in the director's cut.

And of the abstract visuals, the only part that was really good was Spock's solo trip. That looked really good AND was significant.

Another huge problem is so many of Spock's lines are so obvious, he sounds like a poseur.

(Flying toward something in the middle of the view screen)
"SPOCK: Captain, I believe that is our destination."

(V'Ger pulls the Enterprise in)
"SPOCK: I believe the closed orifice leads to another chamber. Undoubtedly part of the vessel's inner mechanism."

(Enterprise approaches cloud)
"SPOCK: Captain, I suspect there's an object at the heart of that Cloud."

And at other times making gigantic leaps of reason:
(Ilia Probe's glowing neck thing)
"SPOCK: No doubt a sensor-transceiver combination, recording everything we say and do." (Really?)
Mon, Apr 26, 2021, 8:05pm (UTC -6)
Regarding Gene Roddenberry- he probably does get deified way too much, but the original series and TNG are the ones with staying power.

Now we have new stuff that's either prequels or milking TNG one more time. And they use curse words now!!

Bleh, of course his stuff wasn't perfect, but it does seem to drift toward genetic mediocrity without Gene there.

And even TNG-- as wacky as the first season was, I still find it mostly a lot more entertaining than season seven.
Tim C
Fri, Sep 17, 2021, 10:29am (UTC -6)
Over the decades, I've made many upgrades to my home theatre setup. Every time a notable advance in the technology has reached a consumer-friendly price point, I've been there, because I'm a huge nerd and love that stuff. And the first* thing I always test it with is the Enterprise flyby scene from TMP. I'll turn off the lights, crank up the volume, and just chill out for a couple of minutes, vibing in sync with Kirk as Scotty indulges their mutual fetish for starship porn.

Visually, sonically, emotionally: for a Star Trek fan, there is no greater catnip than this scene.

I say this because I find myself in agreement with Jammer's review that TMP's aspirations to be a grand *movie*, and not just a good Star Trek episode, elevate it beyond the ho-hum plot that recycles many prior stories from TOS. (And Roddenberry would later recycle parts of this movie into TNG.) This is a movie that *knows* it's a movie. It knows it's an *event*, and accordingly, it swings for the fences. That it doesn't score a home run doesn't mean we can't appreciate the attempt.

TMP, you glorious half-failure: I salute you.

*The second thing is the "stealing the Enterprise" scene from TSFS, which is also excellent starship porn with a similarly fantastic soundtrack.
Gorn with the Wind
Fri, Sep 17, 2021, 11:11pm (UTC -6)
Probably the third best Trek after Voyage Home and Wrath of Khan.

After enduring a decade or so of dismal, cacophonous action schlock courtesy of Kurtzman, it’s a relief to go back to 70’s sci-fi like this. TMP is a relic of a different era, where thoughtful subject matter and a patient approach that gives the audience time to consider what they’re watching (as opposed to distracting them with a flurry of nonsense) was, if not the norm, then at least a common occurrence in sci-fi. The psychedelic New Wave books of Zelazny and Le Guin were similar in their focus on interiority over whiz-bang pyrotechnics.

Don’t get me wrong, I like space opera adventure like Thor Ragnarok, early Star Wars, and, yes, even Star Trek Beyond, but The Motion Picture is a form of story telling that will never come again, at least not with A listers and a huge budget.

I miss it.
Mon, Sep 20, 2021, 4:09pm (UTC -6)
@Gorn "The Motion Picture is a form of story telling that will never come again, at least not with A listers and a huge budget."

Well we might have moved back in that direction though. "Midsommar" has an extremely leisurely pace. Though, the gore was rather excessive to me.

"Interstellar" had both A listers and a high budget, and it definitely aims to be epic.

2014's "Young Ones" has a markedly slow burn, almost Kubrickian in many ways. Not much really happens, but it gives what I thought was a very creepy vision of a near future Dust Bowl Great Depression. It's creepy because although there is technology from maybe 30 years ahead of use, most people are quite poor. This is probably what the Great Depression was like. They didn't have computers and cell phones, but the 1930s was hardly primitive.

(And, likely completely coincidentally, "Young Ones" could fit in the "Interstellar" verse. )
Tue, Sep 21, 2021, 6:27pm (UTC -6)
Gorn, have you seen "The Vast of Night", 2019?

Not but budget or A listers, but a slllooooowwwwwww pace.

The IMDb user reviews are about as polar as I've ever seen. But at a minimum, it does seem there are a lot of people who would like to see more old style pacing.

I personally didn't like it at all. Extremely long takes and scenes, sometimes in just a profile. Longer than you will believe. It would have been better as a radio story, so little actually happens.

It's based around a radio host when people start calling about UFOs. I thought I would really like this because I used to listen to Art Bell's Coast to Coast radio program where they would have callers on this type stuff.

I was sure it was 99% BS, but it could really get the imagination going sometimes, listening to these callers on my radio driving around at 1AM. It was like sharing secrets in a tiny club. The title of the movie absolutely conveys that feeling.

But the movie doesn't, at least not to me.
Jeffery's Tube
Wed, Sep 22, 2021, 12:48am (UTC -6)
I love this film. It's a snapshot of what Star Trek might have been. A way that Star Trek might have gone, and then didn't. And none of the other TOS films ever had this much money to spend again. This film had budget (and went way over it), and you can really see all those dollars on the screen. Oh, I know it isn't a good movie, per se. The first time anyone watches it, I can't imagine this being the movie they'd hoped it would be. The movie they'd hoped to see. But the second time. Or the third time. When you already know what it's going to be, and what it's not going to be. What then?

I don't think it can be argued this is a *good* film. But it has merit. And I love it anyway. I do.
Bad Brad
Wed, Nov 24, 2021, 7:12pm (UTC -6)
After reading through half of these comments and skimming over the rest, I can confidently conclude that fully half of them were, in fact, made by the same person under different names. All I have to say on the subject, is that whoever you are, you are the BIGGEST Star Trek nerd on the planet. Not to mention the fact that you surely had to have been smoking some of Heisenberg's Blue Sky meth, had no job, and no family to be posting such long winded stuff over and over ( and over) again. Congratulations buddy 😆
Thu, Apr 7, 2022, 4:22pm (UTC -6)
You really must watch the new 4K remastered version of TMP released a couple of days back on Paramount+.

It's truly remarkable how they have cleaned up the image and enhanced the effects to modern standards, but most striking of all the film is colourful now, taking full advantage of HDR, and not dreary and cold looking like the original versions. I wouldn't watch any other version of the movie now, and it'll go into my collection when released on Ultra Blu-ray later this year.
Sat, Apr 9, 2022, 7:11pm (UTC -6)
I'm watching the 4K Director's Cut and it is nifty.

The 1701 refit remains staggeringly beautiful to me. It's gorgeous, and to me remains by far the most believable starship in Trek.

The split diopter effect on the bridge remains as distracting as ever, but not much they could do about that.
Sun, Apr 10, 2022, 7:22pm (UTC -6)
Looks like they did fix a noticeable blunder that the first director's cut didn't, and that was Spock's and Bones' Jacket arm bands changing color in the final scene on the bridge.

They added in a weird thing, right before V'ger's probe arrives on the bridge, where we see the Enterprise flying over V'ger. And that would be the Enterprise spinning around. It's subtle but whatever.

They trimmed the arrival of V'ger's probe on the bridge. Probably this is better, but I did like the dramatics of the earlier versions.

What they DIDN'T fix, and I don't understand why, is the massive fx flaw of the probe on the bridge. In the original production, the plan was to have a stage tech drag the probe- a very bright light- around the set and that the tech would be invisible because of the brilliance of the light.

This did not work because the tech was visible, so they fixed it by splicing the film vertically. The defects are obvious because the two sides don't match. And this wasn't fixed.

I can see the first DC not being able to fix this on their budget, but if you're touting a 4K thing... hrm.
Sat, Apr 16, 2022, 11:56pm (UTC -6)
One thing the Director's Cuts do EXTREMELY well is that when fx shots are corrected or updated, they take great care to make them match in film grain and such so that the whole film looks like it was made at the same time.

The DC does this so well, it's possibly the standard. Usually this is blundered, like the added shots of ET and Jabba were obviously cgi that didn't match.

UNFORTUNATELY, the TOS blunders this horribly, with most (or all) of external shots of the Enterprise not matching at all. It's ridiculously high res and distracting. It just doesn't match the interior shots and the CGI manages to make the ship look more like a model than the original footage.

I'd seriously prefer to watch the remastered interior footage with the original space footage.
Peter G.
Fri, Feb 10, 2023, 11:50pm (UTC -6)
Many things of interest I picked up on this watching. I've always seen the story as being a do-over of The Changeling, but my wife astutely pointed out that it also combines some content from Metamorphosis, in the alien entity/cloud merging with a human to find a connection.

First of all, the FX of the V'Ger cloud and how it eliminates the Klingon ships feel to me like they're already anticipating the major story points. The blue energy envelopes the ships, slowly dis-integrating them in an organized fashion, and then they are gone. They are not destroyed; that much is apparent right away. Later on we see entire planets displayed as images near V'Ger's core, and Spock surmises that these are reproduced in full and exact detail, perhaps even displayed at full scale. This may be why the cloud is 2 AU's in diameter: it requires that much space to visually display all the knowledge V'Ger has collected. And that is also why the FX nicely show us what V'Ger is doing to the Klingon ships: assimilating them directly into digital information, to 'learn them'. It doesn't occur to V'Ger that digital information is any different than the original 'analog' structures that were assimilated. Much like how if you copy a file on a PC you'd never think you were 'destroying' the information, as digitized information is fungible. But matter and life are not, and this seems to be the piece V'Ger is missing, that there is *value* is certain structures beyond their digitized content. But to understand that you need to start with a value-sense first: you can't arrive at that from first principles. As Spock cryptically puts it, warning ships away would imply an emotion, compassion, the feeling that there is value extrinsic to oneself that needs to be protected. But V'Ger is a being of *pure logic*, which is what drew Spock to it. And yet V'Ger is also a child; and more than that, possibly an alien monstrosity, nothing that we could even consider as a role model. And yet Spock strived to be exactly like V'Ger: a being of pure logic, putting aside all emotion. And now he sees what that really means, to lack all purpose, meaning, and even regard for life. For better or worse, IDIC requires a core belief that goes beyond logic, and values life and meaning *as* life and meaning, not as any logical means to an end. One look at V'Ger's true nature and Spock weeks for both it and for himself, at how empty that existence is.

Spock's tears bring up some technical points that I find intriguing now. For one thing, I never before noticed that he was in fact weeping. This is because I grew up watching TMP on VHS on small screens, never having seen it in the cinema. Today I watched it on the biggest TV screen I've seen it on by far, and noticed the tears right away. That's a fascinating change of perspective, as I had always interpreted Spock's "I weep for V'Ger" lines to be metaphorical. Seeing him in much better relief highlights what a great job he did earlier in the film, in what seemed like stilted and wooden scenes. And I knew it was deliberate, as it's logical that Spock would be particularly bereft of his human half after having almost gone through with the Kolinar. But it's hard to gauge this because the switch to the motion picture format creates so many other changes that we don't have a controlled experiment. The sound quality is funny, for one, with voices coming out lacking sufficient bass and having too much treble. And the camera work is light years away from how they handled the shots and close-ups in TOS. The actors are IMO visibly uncomfortable with how the director is handling them in most scenes. There are some times where Kirk practically looks like a prop on the bridge, in contrast with TOS where he held the energy of all scenes he was in as a living special effect. With a production this overblown and extras everywhere, the focus on the human acting is diffuse to the extreme. It makes it hard to exactly see the nuances Nimoy was intelligently going for, although they are there. Likewise, Shatner seems to have been going for a state of numbness as the film starts, disappointed or even weakened by his current Admiral duties. His energy is lacking, and only when the danger level rises does he begin to wake up. This is also apparent, but mostly lost in the maelstrom of effects and sidetracks (such as the wormhole incident). It doesn't help that his first scenes take place in unbelievably large settings such as Starfleet headquarters, where we can barely see what he's doing. We don't get the intimacy we need to see how off he is by this point in his life. Only Kelley, as Bones, manages to pull out his usual flair in every scene, although it's helped by the fact that he was able to fall back on exactly the temperament he had in TOS. Being in familiar character territory, he was on solid footing no matter what the director and the production had going on. Kirk and Spock got shafted by the production's needs until toward the end of the film. From this standpoint I'm a bit less impressed by the film as I used to be. Capturing magic among cast mates is very difficult and should have been the first priority, no matter how ambitious the production is in technical terms. And falling back on 2001: A Space Odyssey as guidance for the grandieur of the sci-fi was also a trap, as the story of 2001 is how small man is compared to what's out there, whereas this story is how great and large we are despite what's out there. It's the reverse message, and yet employed the scaling and scope that did end up making the humans look small. That ends up being counterproductive and undermining to the themes.

I'll also mention briefly that this is the first time I heard resonance of religious questions in the search for the Creator. Being too used to Trek and sci-fi language I think I always understood this as being the jargon of a robot, its clunky use of English. But on reflection this seems to be a natural use of language if in fact we're talking about a search for God. V'Ger wouldn't think of it as God because V'Ger is stuck in only asking questions about material things it has assimilated. So it has narrowed down the idea of a Creator to the idea of whomever constructed it. And yet is has the instinct that this couldn't have been a mere 'carbon unit'. It doesn't really know what it's looking for, even in type, but it knows it must merge with this Creator. Such an idea doesn't really have a meaning other than as a sci-fi thing, unless you consider the Christian notion of merging with God. I don't know of other religions that have this idea, so there definitely seems to me a Christian theme running alongside these others, of life having a purpose, and that purpose being to merge with that which raises up up into something greater. The smaller mergings we see - Kirk with the Enterprise, Alia with Decker, Spock with his human half - are all scaled down fascimilies of the larger merging V'Ger was searching for, and which I think the film implies we're all looking for too. The small mergings are what we can find right now to help us understand the greater merging, whatever that would be.

At the risk of going on too much longer, as I fear I could spin out an extended essay about this film, I'll just conclude with one more observation. If the themes circle around the need to be close to that which fulfills our purpose, there's a nice detail implied where Kirk summoned all of his old crew mates to be at his side on this mission. Out of all of them I get the idea that only Scotty was actually serving on the Enterprise for the refit. We're told overtly that Kirk had McCoy drafted, but I suspect he had the others brought there as well. And all of that, being an obvious necessity of having them in the film, somehow dovetails nicely with the idea that Trek itself and this crew have a purpose, to be part of society and present in people's lives. The 10 year hiatus between TOS and TMP serves as an interesting analog to Kirk being separated from his ship, and his longing for command perhaps links the audience to him in their desire for Trek to return. One thing this film does recognize very well is the awe and perhaps trepidation of acting coming back into the public view after all that time. Ultimately Trek has served an important purpose in our lives, one which required once again for the crew to be merged with their audience.

Just for fun, a few small details: did anyone else notice Isaac Asimov being listed as the special science advisor for the film? Heaven knows what he told them that helped! I can only imagine his face when asked what would happen is a warp drive was activated with glitchy circuitry near a stray asteroid. Naturally "a wormhole, of course!" would not be the first reply I'd imagine. Also, it's the very first time I realized that one of the two casualties of the horrific transporter accident was that Vulcan with the British accent Kirk was walking with in Starfleet HQ, the Enterprise's XO. Kirk does say right afterward that they'll need a new science officer, but I never connected those points. I think the scale of the directing is once again to blame, because did Kirk and Decker really get a decent chance to show the camera what a loss had just occurred, that the ship's first officer had just died a torturous death? It comes off as pretty unceremonious, even mercenary, how Kirk orders the need for a replacement. Actually I also blame the script for this one. And finally there is a super-awkward moment when Alia first reports to the bridge, where Kirk makes some remark to her and her immediate reply is that her vow of chastity is on record. Did someone in production think it would be cute to imply that Kirk is known for hitting on all good-looking women, and that she's taking a defensive posture against this in advance? If so it doesn't play at all, and is frankly insulting if that was their idea. But if that wasn't their idea then I don't know what was. Something in the script and direction was also wrong there. It barely even serves a purpose as a plot exposition point, the way it was handled.

Why not also just throw in a mention to the outstanding score. The scene touring the Enterprise in space dock was made entirely because of the score, going through its fascinating permutations. Another fascinating thing is Goldsmith's use of electronic musical sounds for V'Ger, including score a lick of it during the Kolinar scene on Vulcan, illustrating quickly what draws Spock away from the ritual. If not for V'Ger calling to him I think he would have gone through with it. Out of all Goldsmith's work on Trek I've always felt this one hit it out of the park, while the others merely get to the finish line doing their basic job. This one helped define the film in a way we rarely see, much like what happened in Star Wars.
Peter G.
Fri, Feb 10, 2023, 11:53pm (UTC -6)
Sorry, an annoying typo at the end of the first large paragraph above:

"One look at V'Ger's true nature and Spock WEEPS for both it and for himself, at how empty that existence is."
Peter G.
Mon, Feb 13, 2023, 12:15am (UTC -6)
My wife came up with an alternate theory about this exchange:

ILIA: Lieutenant Ilia reporting for duty, sir.
KIRK: Welcome aboard, Lieutenant.
DECKER: Hello, Ilia.
ILIA: Decker!
DECKER: I was stationed on the Lieutenant's home planet some years ago.
ILIA: 'Commander' Decker?
KIRK: Yes, our Exec and science officer.
DECKER: Captain Kirk has the utmost confidence in me.
KIRK: And in you too, Lieutenant.
ILIA: My oath of celibacy is on record Captain. May I assume my duties?
KIRK: By all means.

My first guess was that her comment about her oath of celibacy was a reaction to Kirk seemingly complimenting her while moving toward her in a friendly fashion; the 'I'm not available' defense. My wife's new guess is that the sequence of lines garbles what was actually an attempt on Ilia's part to explain that despite Decker's intimation that he and she had a relationship on her home planet that will not get in the way of her duties since she has an oath of celibacy. If so then that's one horrible failure in scripting and direction. After all, why have Decker explain his temporary demotion, followed by Kirk saying he has complete faith in Ilia, and then have Ilia say she has an oath of celibacy? The first moment featuring her smiling at Decker followed by his remark about knowing her from before, would perhaps be amenable to a follow-up about her having no intention to pursue a romantic relationship while on-board. But throwing in a reference to Decker's demotion, Kirk's attempt to reassure Ilia, and then making the remark about her oath...nothing fits together in this awkward scene. I'm left mostly concluding that they just tossed in the oath remark as some random exposition, which amazingly turns into a red herring since it doesn't matter. Of if you want it to matter you have to invent the reason why. For instance, maybe V'Ger chose her as its probe because she's the only one on board who is dedicated to celibacy, therefore making her the most logical and least emotionally volatile one around: a good fit for a robotic probe. Spock, of course, would have plot immunity and so wasn't a viable candidate. But since I made this up out of whole cloth it is certainly an unsatisfactory explanation for a line that really didn't have to be in the film, most especially because Decker actually does merge with her in the end!
Mon, Feb 13, 2023, 11:11am (UTC -6)
Rewatching the film several days ago, the "oath of celibacy" scene struck me as odd too. It's a very clunky line.

But it does fit in with the themes of the film: Spock begins the film hoping to "purge his emotions". He's become a cold, distant, machine-like person, much like Ilia, who won't let herself get emotionally or sexually close to anyone. You might say Kirk is the same way; he seems hard and bristly since being cut off from the Enterprise.

All this dovetails with Vger, who was reprogrammed by a race of cold machines, but wishes to connect, touch, see, f*ck, and feel the Creator. This typically gets read from a "religious" angle - Vger wanting to find God - but it works better on a simpler level. Vger wants companionship, and to assuage a sense of loneliness. If Vger's made in God's image, after all, then God must be like Vger. One becomes Two, One is no longer alone.

"The Motion Picture" gets touted as a "cold", "Kubrickian" picture, but it's ironically the one Trek film which is thematically about closeness and community. The human Decker and the cold Ilia learn to have weird techno-sex. The machine Vger mates with fleshy humans. The "rational" Spock turns his back on the Kolinahr - the ritual by which all remaining vestigial emotions are purged - in favor for hanging with the Bones and Kirk. And the jovial Kirk gets a ten minute sex scene with the Enterprise.

The film was made at a time when science fiction was obsessed with the idea that "technology" and "modern society" were "turning men into machines". Nowadays this is seen as a false dichotomy - humans are machines, and what passes for "reason" is both bound to emotion, and rational only within contexts that are themselves irrational - so there's a kind of naivety to the film's clean demarcations. But there's a kind of truth to it too. There's a kind of truth to the way it shows how humans conceive of themselves, and how they oscillate between, or yearn to master, (animal) flesh and (machine) mind.

Like Kubrick's "2001", there's a theme of transcendence here. What's ironic is that the transcendence runs the other way. In Kubrick's masterpiece, lowly human touches Super Advanced Alien God and evolves into a StarChild. In "The Motion Picture", we see the opposite: lowly humans are God and Super Advanced Alien touches them to achieve transcendence. Enlightenment, in Trek, is thus to retain some kernel of "humanity".

As much as I love Nicholas Meyer, "The Motion Picture" is the only Trek film to be directed by a legitimately great director. Yes, Robert Wise was probably too old and out of touch to really get Trek or science fiction, but there's a compositional masterly to countless scenes in this film, and almost all the sets are gorgeously photographed and framed. The Enterprise in particular feels like a real ship, and there's a real tangible, spatial feel to her interior.

People complain about "The Motion Picture's" pacing, but IMO most of the damage is actually done by that awful "asteroid sequence". That scene looks hokey, kills the momentum of the film, and stalls its transition from its first act to second. Remove that sequence, and trim a couple of the Vger flybys, and you have a pretty great and streamlined "Hearts of Darkness" narrative, the Enterprise going "up river" into the wild, lawless, mysterious Unknown. With a few tweaks, this is a genuinely haunting and scary plot, pregnant with foreboding. And allow yourself to forget that she's a NASA probe, and Vger really does feel alien, and the machine race which "rebuilt her" like something dark and almost Lovecraftian.

Speaking of aliens, too often people forget that Vger didn't "evolve by herself". She contacted something big and horrible (and friendly?) out there at the edges of the galaxy. Trek is filled with alien races, and science fiction with what authors call BDOs (Big Dumb Objects), but "The Motion Picture" is IMO the only time Trek has actually crafted an alien that feels alien. The machine race in this picture retains some semblance of grandeur and unknowability (I'm reminded of the unseen aliens in "Forbidden Planet").

I've seen "The Motion Picture" about four times, and every time it goes up in my estimation. Nowadays I'd probably put it only behind the Nicholas Meyers films. The visuals are rightfully praised (that drydock sequence is special), but IMO Spock, Bones and Kirk are pitch-perfect too. Once you remember they've been separated for a while, and it's been a while since their Five Year Mission, everything just clicks.
Peter G.
Mon, Feb 13, 2023, 11:35am (UTC -6)
@ TheRealTrent,

"Yes, Robert Wise was probably too old and out of touch to really get Trek or science fiction, but there's a compositional masterly to countless scenes in this film, and almost all the sets are gorgeously photographed and framed. The Enterprise in particular feels like a real ship, and there's a real tangible, spatial feel to her interior."

I noted discernably that the Kirk-Enterprise sex scene is not just a grand view of a technological triumph, but is in fact introducing what is in effect the star of the movie: The Enterprise. They are all practically worshipping this ship, and the only reason that isn't offensive is because we are too. And I've considered before that this is one reason much of the so-called NuTrek falls completely flat for me: the ships aren't people, but they need to be. The merging of man with technology, to the extent that we care about this theme, requires us to both admire and root for the ships themselves. We have to know them, care that people respect them. Kirk's fondness for the ship itself in TOS is not a mere character ideosyncracy for him, but in fact connects us to the ship too. When Scotty says he hits the Klingon for saying the Enterprise is garbage, we're laughing because of Kirk's reaction, but also because that's the last straw for us too. I think TNG had some headwinds when it came out, not only because of "that's not our crew", but perhaps equally because "that's not our Enterprise!" What business did those Ent-D shuttlecraft have being equipped with warp drive, anyhow?

I say all this in recognition that Robert Wise lived up to his name to make sure the Enterprise was treated as a person, and that the V'Ger cloud was its opponent. However for a film all about how machine alone cannot have any meaning without man as its companion, it seems to miss its own point by mostly being fascinated by the machines and how they look. There's an almost American-Psycho-eque flexing toward the mirror going on as the splendid machines want us to keep looking at them and all the achievement they contain, while meanwhile the characters on the ship have too many wide shots, for example making Kirk in his command chair seem positively small and powerless, in contrast to him seeming like a mighty and wise king on his throne in TOS. And McCoy, who was always Spock's equal and opposite in the contest for the human soul, is scarcely even provided with a justification for being on the mission once the ship is underway. If someone was going to suggest that V'Ger was a child, it should have been McCoy, and it should have been in irritation at V'Ger's so-called perfect logic being nothing more than a cheap excuse for ignorance. Spock's epiphany should have been McCoy's victory, from all the arguments they had had over the years. Instead McCoy has one-liners and Spock is practically narrating the plot since they have no other way to get it across. All this to say, I think forsaking the characters in favor of the tech and the ship is a stupendous irony, given what the message seems to be.
Mon, Feb 13, 2023, 12:48pm (UTC -6)
Peter said: "...requires us to both admire and root for the ships themselves."

And the film is aware of this. Characters outright say that the Enterprise is a "living entity". As Spock explains to us, machines and ships are viewed, by the alien race, as "living beings".

Peter said: "it seems to miss its own point by mostly being fascinated by the machines and how they look"

Part of me thinks Robert Wise does get the tone of the picture wrong. The TOS script is actually a brilliantly pulpy, fast-moving thing, and had Roddenberry directed the film it would probably play like a TOS episode.

But a larger part of me thinks Wise read the script, understood its message, and employed an austere, cold tone as a deliberate part of the film's strategy.

Yes. the film is aloof and distant for most of its running time - like the aliens, it is drawn to machines and regards corporeal beings as furniture - but the gaps between everyone are nevertheless constantly shrinking as the show progresses, until it climaxes with everyone closer and people touching.

Watch how when Ilia becomes a probe, she touches Decker's face intimately. Later the film climaxes with Vger hugging Decker. And when Spock goes EVA, he essentially mind-melds with and so touches an alien race. When he's adrift in space, it is then Kirk who goes EVA and intimately holds him close (while the Enterprise looms over his shoulder like a protective mother) which I believe is their first touch in the picture. Spock is then taken to sickbay. A concerned Kirk hugs and holds him close, and its only then that Spock's coldness cracks and he begins to feel like the Spock from TOS. "For all its logic, Vger is barren" and cold", Spock says, and then explains that Vger is essentially "yearning to do this" , and reciprocates Kirk's hugs by holding Kirk's hands in tight friendship.

The film is cold, but IMO that's only because it's building up to all the touching in the final act. And its initial coldness only makes those little acts of closeness more powerful. They're like little burning flames, surrounded by the frigid darkness of space.

So I think the aesthetic of the film is fitting. It's a cold film about cold, rational, machine people in the future who have been separated for a long time - watch how the separation of the TOS crew echoes the separation of Vger from Earth, and the separation of we the audience from our heroes, and the separation of Kirk from the Enterprise, and Ilia from Decker etc - and who are very slowly learning to come together.

So I'd say BEING close and together is not what the film is about. It's about the distance, the loneliness, and the eventual act of touching. The actual warmth comes later, which we see in the subsequent films.

Peter said: "And McCoy, who was always Spock's equal and opposite in the contest for the human soul, is scarcely even provided with a justification for being on the mission once the ship is underway."

Yes, this is one big problem with the flick. Bones is missing a big monologue or dramatic moment in the final act. He doesn't do much after the trio meet in the lounge.
Peter G.
Mon, Feb 13, 2023, 1:49pm (UTC -6)
@ TheRealTrent,

"The film is cold, but IMO that's only because it's building up to all the touching in the final act. And its initial coldness only makes those little acts of closeness more powerful. They're like little burning flames, surrounded by the frigid darkness of space.

So I think the aesthetic of the film is fitting."

Oh, granted, I think it's entirely by design, and fitting to the sort of Kubrick-clone film he wanted to make. My point is that it misunderstands the purpose of the Trek property and therefore underserves the characters. The arc of closeness is technically there, but the relationships shown are not great, when it would have taken minimal effort to make them great. The cast already knew how. You would have had to actively stand in their way to give us trouble connecting with them, and the last 15 min of the film is too late to get the "finally we've come home to Trek" feeling we need. And actually we barely even get it at all. ST II does a far better job of this despite being more of an adventure story, and in fact not until ST IV did they give FULL attention to bringing back the true character dynamics TOS had already given us.
Mon, Feb 13, 2023, 4:14pm (UTC -6)
Peter said: "My point is that it misunderstands the purpose of the Trek property and therefore underserves the characters."

That's funny, because I remember thinking to myself a few days ago that the film plays well if you pretend it's not a Trek film. It almost feels like a live-action version of Arthur C Clarke's "Rendezvous With Rama".

Maybe it's even more a Robert Wise film than a Trek film. I've seen a lot of his films, and while I wouldn't call him an auteur interesting for his pet interests or themes - IMO he's one of those workmanlike directors who lucked out into making a handful of classics - he did seem to keep revisiting stories about first contact with aliens ("The Day the Earth Stood Still", "Andromeda Strain", "TMP"), and he did seem interested in shipboard life ("Run Silent Run Deep", "Hindenburg", "The Sand Pebbles") and the sort of ghostly death and rebirth we see at the end of TMP ("The Haunting", "Audrey Rose, "Wanda June", "Curse of the Cat People").

Regarding your "underserves the characters" comment, I think I mostly agree with you. Still, some of the character scenes hit me powerfully last time I watched it. Granted they were all between Kirk and Spock - the film sort of forgets about everyone else - but these little moments got the characters perfectly IMO. Kirk's friendship shone through powerfully for me, it's just conveyed differently to the other movies, with little glances, or subtle gestures.
Wed, May 3, 2023, 1:49pm (UTC -6)
The notion of the space probe Voyager returning home was beautiful. The music first showing us the Enterprise is also a classic scene/theme.
Sat, Sep 9, 2023, 4:53am (UTC -6)
I came to despise Robert Wise largely because of this movie.

It's possible he was just around too long (meaning directing too long, not the man's life ;) ).

Having seen this and Audrey Rose, I think he was basically an office manager, and Shat's biographies suggest the same thing. Watch Audrey Rose... yes there's a story there that technically makes sense, but the director is just following someone else's vision. Audrey Rose is some odd passionless copy of The Exorcist. TMP is a passionless copy of TOS.

The attempts to make this a 2001 clone are awful. I applaud the lengths they went to to make this look like a real ship in a real universe, and the refit is my favorite Enterprise to this day (exteriorally).

The long look Scotty gives Kirk of the Enterprise might be a tad excessive. But that serves a story purpose. The extremely lengthy flight of the E through V'gers cloud and then across its hull, while the crew looks on in wonder? I don't think so.

One might argue the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite scene is excessive, but it serves the purpose of showing Dave flying through the stargate and being transformed. Here? It's all just "wow, look at these fx!!" There's no meaning whatsoever here to the cloud or V'ger's design.

Ilia: I read the novel. This is a concept that didn't work on the screen at all. Deltans emitted strong pheromones and their overall sexiness was so overpowering that it incapacitated humans.
Sat, Nov 4, 2023, 10:48pm (UTC -6)
By this time Robert Wise had a few films under his belt that were considered high points in all of filmdom. As has been expressed in other points on this board, Wise evidently sought out the polar opposite of the pulp-inspired action of ‘Star Wars’ back to the elegiac slower-pace of ‘2001’. Just watched that film very recently, and the similarities in pacing are pronounced.

Also, and this cannot be overstated, Wise was, with the help of all the moviemaking craft that anxious money could buy, trying in every cinematic way to ‘make a lot out of a little’, while working with actors who’d spent their careers ‘making a lot INTO a little.’
The contrast shows, but nevertheless all of their hard work, all of it and all of them, are right up there on the screen. This clip is the first time in a long time that I’ve seen this material… I owe it to all of them to see the full movie again.
Peter G.
Sun, Nov 5, 2023, 2:00am (UTC -6)
@ TheRealTrent,

"But it does fit in with the themes of the film: Spock begins the film hoping to "purge his emotions". He's become a cold, distant, machine-like person, much like Ilia, who won't let herself get emotionally or sexually close to anyone. You might say Kirk is the same way; he seems hard and bristly since being cut off from the Enterprise."

As it turn out both of my guesses above were wrong. I read the character bibles for Star Trek: Phase 2, which includes Ilia (who was going to be a main cast member in the new series that almost happened), and it seems to address some threads mentioned in TMP that have no contextual meaning within the film. The Deltans (her race) are apparently supposedly sex maniacs who have sex as easily as we say hello. So Kirk's remark about having faith in her must be some kind of statement about trusting her to do her duty and not...I dunno...have sex all the time, and her reply is that she has an oath of celibacy so it won't be an issue. This would mean something if we had ever heard of the Deltans before, or if her being a Deltan mattered to the story.

The reason I quoted you above is because in light of what she is actually supposed to be, it seems we should understand Ilia as fundamentally wanting sex all the time, but having that cut off by her choice to be cold and unemotional as part of her chastity vow. Her robotic manner seems to be a choice rather than a racial trait. And so V'Ger might have something in common with her, in that it wants nothing more than to merge with someone, but is halted by its cold logic. I suppose she would be an ideal vessel for V'Ger since both she and it are longing to merge, as soon as possible, and yet surround themselves with cold logic. Spock is different from this, in that his urge to 'merge' isn't realized in him yet, as he only comes to that by the end of the film.

That's probably the best attempt as an explanation of the awkward scene as I'll be able to make. It assumes that the writing implicitly uses the premise of the ST: Phase 2 characters without any explanation letting us in on the fact. For those of us discussing Death of the Author in the City thread, let this stand as an example of (to answer Booming) a writing error. Yes, there are errors in writing, where a good editor or thinker would tell them it needs a change!
Tue, Nov 28, 2023, 10:31pm (UTC -6)
The novelization explains more about the Deltans.

"the sex act [became] a complete union in which both body and mind are shared. For Deltans this was natural and pleasant, but the experience of actually becoming part of another person's mind almost always incapacitates a human partner. It was sometimes said that a non-Deltan who entered into a physical relationship with a Deltan risked insanity"

In the actual movie, this was all just creepy and uncomfortable. Basically something along the lines of human men being too horny to control themselves when a Deltan woman shows up... ugh.

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