Star Trek: The Motion Picture - Reconsidered

In July 2018, @Navaronegun got us started on a Qt3 mission to rewatch the original series with these words:

See that thread here.

We got through that journey together. And then we watched Star Trek: The Animated Series, which carried us through another 2 years of the original 5 year journey of the USS Enterprise. @GregB helped us cross the finish line there.

See that thread here.

And now it’s time to watch the six movies that followed up the series.

The first film is Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I’ll let the wikipedia entry on this film set the stage.

When the original television series was canceled in 1969, Roddenberry lobbied Paramount Pictures to continue the franchise through a feature film. The success of the series in syndication convinced the studio to begin work on the film in 1975. A series of writers attempted to craft a “suitably epic” script, but the attempts did not satisfy Paramount, who scrapped the project in 1977. Paramount instead planned on returning the franchise to its roots, with a new television series titled Star Trek: Phase II . The box office success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind , however, convinced Paramount that science fiction films other than Star Wars could do well, so the studio canceled production of Phase II and resumed its attempts at making a Star Trek film.

In 1978, Paramount assembled the largest press conference held at the studio since the 1950s to announce that Wise would direct a $15 million film adaptation of the original television series. With the cancellation of Phase II , writers rushed to adapt its planned pilot episode, “In Thy Image”, into a film script. Constant revisions to the story and the shooting script continued to the extent of hourly script updates on shooting dates. The Enterprise was modified inside and out, costume designer Robert Fletcher provided new uniforms, and production designer Harold Michelson fabricated new sets. Jerry Goldsmith composed the film’s score, beginning an association with Star Trek that would continue until 2002. When the original contractors for the optical effects proved unable to complete their tasks in time, effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull was asked to meet the film’s December 1979 release date. Wise took the just-completed film to its Washington, D.C., opening, but always felt that the final theatrical version was a rough cut of the film he wanted to make.

Released in North America on December 7, 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture received mixed reviews, many of which faulted it for a lack of action scenes and over-reliance on special effects. Its final production cost ballooned to approximately $44 million, and it earned $139 million worldwide, short of studio expectations but enough for Paramount to propose a less expensive sequel. Roddenberry was forced out of creative control for the sequel, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). In 2001, Wise oversaw a director’s cut for a special DVD release of the film, with remastered audio, tightened and added scenes, and new computer-generated effects.

I believe that the version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture that’s on all the streaming services now is the DVD release with the additional scenes and special effects. Let’s watch it and find out!

Please rewatch the movie this weekend or this week, and come back and share your thoughts.

I swear I typed 2018. Discourse is haunted!

Fixed. Thanks.

Awesome. I absolutely love this movie, still remember my mom taking me to see it in the theater when I was a young’un, and I will totally watch this again.

Let’s do this. I wish I could rewatch in like 40,000K

I shall do a re-view tomorrow, fellow carbon-based units.

I just realized I don’t own a copy of this movie. I do have 2, 3 and 4 but not this. Luckily, it appears to be available on Hulu.

I think I own it in like 3 formats and on 2 streaming services. Sad. Unforgettable profligacy. And laziness.

I’ll be watching it this weekend!

So I looked into the different versions of the movie a little bit. This is enlightening:

The only version I’ve seen is the “Super Long version” (144 minutes aka 2 hours 24 minute version). I thought it was too long. There’s also the theatrical vesion (132 minutes aka 2 hours 12 minutes) and the 2001 DVD version (136 minutes aka 2 hours 16 minutes).

I looked on my Hulu app on my phone, and it lists the version there being 2 hours 10 minutes. That doesn’t match any of the above! I wonder which version it is? I don’t have Prime Video right now, can someone check the runtime on that one?

And I just checked two weeks ago, and CBS All Access used to have 5 of the first 6 star trek movies, and the one they didn’t have was Star Trek IV. And only Hulu had that. But now it’s seems to have switched. Hulu and Prime Video now have the other 5, and only CBS All Access has Star Trek IV now? So weird.

I watched this a few months back for the first time in decades, and I came away really impressed. It might actually be my favorite Trek film?

Think I’d be up for a second viewing this weekend.

The opening introduction of the redesigned Enterprise goes on far too long in all three cuts of the film

I disagree. When I saw it in a theater I just loved it.

Thanks for sharing this! I was disappointed when I saw that the blu-ray release doesn’t include the director’s cut, but find that the redone cgi was rendered at 480i it makes sense that it isn’t part of the blu-ray. Oh well.

For what it’s worth, I’ve always liked ST: TMP despite its flaws.

  • Incredible visual effects that are spiritually descended from 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Magnificent score by Goldsmith
  • My favorite scene in any Star Trek movie (Enterprise flyby)
  • That old ‘sense of wonder/big ideas’ vibe, long since lost in the post-Abrams era
  • Shatner hadn’t yet got the bloat and can still go full Kirk

All that said, it is dramatically pretty inert compared to the punchy, character-based actioner that followed it. But I’m still a (qualified) fan. 1, 2, and 4 are still the only Trek movies I am much interested in. (6 has its merits, including some of the best cinematography of any Trek movie, but I think it’s pretty overrated - that said, I haven’t seen it since its release, so it’s probably due for a re-watch.)


The Gordon-unit no longer functions.

Think of that scene where Spock boards the ship for the first time after the Kolinar thingy. Him and Bones and Kirk in a room together at last! But it just ends up being mostly blah expository/solve-the-problem discussion. It doesn’t remotely crackle like the best Kirk/Spock/Bones interactions (I’m thinking Bread and Circuses, Immunity Syndrome, that sort of thing). I get that Spock is supposed to be a total cold fish now, but I didn’t get the sense of Kirk/Bones grappling with that in an interesting way, and his arc (merging with V’ger in space suit, shedding a tear) is pretty self contained.

The Decker/Kirk stuff was pretty effective, though. I actually think Stephen Collins was rather good.

Well, like I said, I saw it only a few days after it was released to theaters. I was so psyched. The new Enterprise examination flyby hit all of my Trek buttons.

That stuff bothers me less. I actually like the Spock is a cold fish and that the camaraderie has to be recreated. What does bore me is the “lets see the new Enterprise” leftover Phase II pilot tv show sort of stuff (not the fly by, mind you).

Probably have more in-depth stuff to say though after I review it tomorrow.

Oh sure, if ever there was a love letter to fans. Especially since all there had been since '69 was the animated series.

Y’know what creeps me the hell out, still?

“They’re forming.”
“What we got back didn’t live very long… fortunately.”