Star Trek: The Motion Picture
I watched The Motion Picture again yesterday. It was the first time in a very long time. I was trying to get a better understanding of the disappointment in that movie. I was disappointed but not as viscerally as some of my older ST:TOS fan friends. There are some subtleties that I saw that might have missed when I was young and not as big of a Star Trek fan, but there is still not enough of them to really carry this movie into the realm of a good Star Trek movie.
The original show was cancelled after 3 seasons because of lagging ratings. The writing was suffering towards the end too. With that perspective you can totally understand the reasons for what we ended up getting. Paramount saw an new market emerging but like in the final season of TOS, did not understand it. So we got the Motion Picture, a truly “diet” version of what we really wanted. At the start, it had a little of what we were hoping for – Kirk’s return to the bridge, the personal conflict between Decker and Kirk (although I wanted more in relation to his dad), and the rejoining of the trio, but there needed to be more. We rushed into the exploration of the MacGuffin too quickly.
The MacGuffin – V’Ger – was a problem in and of itself. I do realize that it went through a lot of changes and redesigns. The final decision to make it a huge cloud with a super-computer made sense and I did not mind that. But there needed to be something else, perhaps more dangers to be faced. Klingon ships were destroyed in the beginning of the movie, why not place a few more cloaked, looking to take revenge on whatever destroyed their comrades. I am sure they can figure out a way to blame Earth and think that it’s a new human weapon. In the end, was it not something human related anyway?
Exploration into a 80+ AU cloud is boring in and of itself. That thing is not only a danger to Earth but the entire solar system. I realize we are limited to 1979 special effects but something could have been done. Something more than just repetitive reaction shot of Syd Mead’s design (as good as it was). The whole second act needed to be redone.
Star Trek was resurrected for two reasons – (1)the cult following was a noticeable market finally and (2) Paramount needed it’s own Star Wars. I think #2 was more of an influence than #1 however. But that came into conflict with the Roddenberry’s own vision, I think. From what I have read and seen, Roddenberry story telling was far more cerebral than what Hollywood wanted. At times, I felt like I was watching 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’s not a Star Trek movie.
I can see why this movie missed its mark but I think it goes to show you that even in 1979, they did not get the sci-fi and more specifically, the Star Trek, fandom.