Star Trek ran for three seasons on television in the late 1960’s before being canceled, but thanks to animation and syndication it was able to boldly go to the movies.
Star Trek: The Original Series premiered on September 8, 1966 and after three seasons and 79 episodes NBC cancelled the series with last episode airing on June 3, 1969. Several years later Star Trek took off in syndication during the 1970’s, becoming more popular then when it originally aired even achieving cult status.
With success in syndication Paramount began working on a feature film in 1975. After several writers were unable to come up with an acceptable script Paramount made the decision to scrap the idea of a movie and return Star Trek to television with a brand new series entitled Star Trek: Phase II.
The success of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in theaters it convinced Paramount to reconsider Star Trek: Phase II and resumed its efforts to put Star Trek in theaters.
The pilot episode written for Star Trek: Phase II entitled “In Thy Image” was a two-page outline by Roddenberry about a NASA probe returning to Earth that’s now sentience. It was this script initially written for television that would was adapted for the big screen.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture opened in theaters on December 7, 1979 making Star Trek the first major Hollywood adaptation of a television series that had been off the air for nearly ten years to retain its original principal cast.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture would cost Paramount approximately $46 million in production costs. The movie would go on to earn $139 million worldwide, not a bad return for 1979, but it did not meet the expectations of Paramount. That would lead to Gene Roddenberry being forced to give up creative control of future Star Trek movies.
As a fan of Star Trek movies and television, I’ve never been a fan of The Motion Picture. As a kid I always had an issue with the pacing and even as an adult the movie has always developed at to slow of a pace.
The Motion Picture begins with three K’t’inga-class warships Klingons investigating the massive cloud of energy, moving through space. Within minutes all three Klingon warships are destroyed. I’ve always wondered why The Motion Picture wasn’t a race between the Enterprise and the Klingons to discover the source of the energy cloud, an idea that could have been interesting and helpful when it came to the pacing of the movie.
The starship Enterprise, NCC-1701 is as recognizable and as iconic as they come, right up there with such Hollywood space vessels as The Millennium Falcon, The Nostromo and The Galactica. The scene in which the newly refitted Enterprise is introduced on screen is meant to be a special moment for fans that waited ten years not only to see their favorite character on screen, but the Enterprise as well. After all the Enterprise is as much of a character in Star Trek as The Millennium Falcon is in Star Wars.
I have no doubt that; fans of Star Trek TOS who went to see The Motion Picture in 1979 loved the scene with Scotty taking Kirk around and over the Enterprise with the music of Jerry Goldsmith playing, it had to be extremely satisfying and exciting. If I’m being honest the scene could have been shortened. I understand completely why the scene is in the movie, you want to give the fans that loved the television show that moment of excitement and wonderment of seeing the Enterprise, a new look Enterprise up on the big screen for first time.
The Motion Picture’s villain is not the Klingons or the Romulans as one might assume instead it’s a machine named V’Ger. Throughout the entire movie the crew of the Enterprise is dealing with a massive cloud entity that generated enormous levels of power and threatened Earth with destruction. When the Enterprise reaches the center of that cloud Kirk and company discover that V’ger was an unmanned deep space probe launched by NASA in the late 20th century, named Voyager 6.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home both have something in common and that is both movies don’t have a humanoid as an actual bad guy. In The Motion Picture it’s V’ger and in the The Voyage Home it’s a probe looking to communicate with humpback whales. The Motion Picture did it ok, but for me Voyage Home did it better.
In July of 2016, before Star Trek: Beyond was released, I posted my rankings of the Star Trek movies and I ranked Star Trek: The Motion Picture at #11 out of twelve movies. Have my feeling for the movie changed in the three years since then? As far as where it ranks, no.
I recently sat down and re-watched the movie before tackling this post and even though the plot of the movie is what I would consider classic Star Trek, it’s not a story that works, at least not for me. However Star Trek: The Motion Picture does deserve to be celebrated for what it was able to accomplish. Without The Motion Picture we never would of gotten any of the twelve movies that have come sense. It also allowed Paramount to take a chance and put Star Trek back on television with a brand new crew set in the 24th century with Star Trek The Next Generation. Not to mention the other four series that has come after TNG with a fifth one on the way in early 2020.
Just like when Kirk asked Spock at the end of The Motion Picture “Did we just see the beginnings of a new lifeform?” the release of The Motion Picture in 1979 gave Star Trek a new birth in theaters and eight years later on television. So if I can’t celebrate the movie for what it gave me in story I can celebrate it for what it did give us in the years that followed and for that I can’t complain.
Categories: Movie Anniversaries