Monday, February 11, 2013

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture this weekend. I hadn't seen it since I was about twelve or thirteen. I'd forgotten so much and, really, I'd never quite understood the movie's importance. Now, watching the film again after being so immersed in Star Trek: The Original Series for the last month and a half, I feel like I get it--at least a little.

When my dad was a kid he, like so many other kids, loved Star Trek. He was a little boy when it went off the air and he figured it would never come back. He contented himself with reruns for years. Then, when my dad was in high school, Star Wars came out and changed everything. The movie was huge. It broke records all over the world. You'd think it would've proven to studios that SciFi could sell tickets but it didn't. Everyone seemed to be saying, "Yes, but we can't duplicate that. Besides, Star Wars is for kids. Grownups won't go to a SciFi movie." Fortunately, six months later, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was an enormous success and, with that success, Paramount said, "Ok, fine. Let's do it. Let's bring back Star Trek."

So, when my dad was a teenager he, like so many other teenagers, had been growing their hair out, sitting around in bean bag chairs and reading Star Log. That's when this happened:

When Star Trek: The Motion Picture was finally released, after a full ten years of reruns, it must have seemed like a great fog had lifted. Trekkers high-tailed it to theatres and... and... a lot of them (including my dad) were a little disappointed. 

In some ways, I get it. The movie is VERY long. And, even though the special effects are sweeping and the story ends up being very epic, Star Trek: The Motion Picture felt sort of different than they way all those little boys remembered Star Trek. Where was Kirk's double-fisted back smash? Why wasn't he macking all over that bald lady? Why weren't they beaming down to a bunch of strange planets, phasers in hand? What's with all these long conversations and why did they make new music? This music sucks. They'll never end up using it for anything. 

 It's hard to see your franchise grow up. It's hard for you to grow up. It's hard to realize that neither of you are exactly the same as you once were. I understand.

But, I also contend that The Motion Picture is a truly great Star Trek movie. In fact, after watching, dreaming, living and breathing TOS for the last six weeks, I feel that The Motion Picture is an excellent representation of what that show was--what it was trying to be. It's a movie about friendship, loyalty, obsession, and confronting a thing that is bigger than yourself. It moves slowly but that's ok with me. I want long, lingering shots of the Enterprise. I want the silence of space to impose itself on the movie. I want a big mystery be solved in the end with enough heart and smarts to make me gasp. And that music? It ended up being the theme to The Next Generation. It became iconic, not only for my dad's generation, but for my own as well. 

I love Wrath of Khan. It's probably still my favorite TOS movie and I'll get to that later. But man, I'm not sure it gets any better than Kirk seeing his Enterprise after all those years: 


  1. I've always been more of a "later series" fan, like a lot of the younger ones, but I must make the time one day to catch up on all the original episodes and movies I've missed.

    1. Yes, it's totally worth it. It's like seeing your best friend's childhood photo albums and saying, "Oh, so you've always been the way you are now," and also, "Woah! Look at your clothes!"

  2. I'm going to have my dad read this. He watched the show, but after the disappointment of the movie, he never watched any other Star Trek. I think he would find this resonant.

    1. Yes! I would love to hear what his reaction is!

  3. I was 15 when ST:TMP opened. Almost everyone of your comments rang true: where's the fighting? where's the original music? (when they played it for a captain's log mid-point, I about cried with joy). where's the red, yellow and blue uniforms? where's the colorful bridge? where's the alien planet?

    But, I saw this movie several times in the theatre and always liked it. It was one of the first VHS tapes I bought. What annoys me are all the recuts of it, because having seen 3 or 4 versions, none of all my favorite moments are colected together in one version. The director's cut has this, this and this, but not that. My old videotape has that and that, but not this other thing, etc.

    Hard to believe this was rated G when it first came out. The transporter accident has always bothered me.


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