A Private Little War
March 23, 2016 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Between 1975 and 1977, Paramount and Gene Roddenberry planned to make a Star Trek movie, but it turned out to be anything but easy. What would it be about? Plot ideas included time travel, snake people, God, black holes and the titans of ancient Greek mythology. Writer after writer took a turn at coming up with a story, leaving behind a string of rejected screenplays. In March 1978, Paramount president Michael Eisner announced a film spin-off. The race to make Star Trek: The Motion Picture was on. (Via)

"In a move that would spell doom for countless films throughout history, most notably Alien 3, Paramount issued a release date for the film well before the cameras began rolling, producing a rushed film that was completed just days before the premiere. Between endless script revisions that took place during the production as well as the brazen move to fire the film’s entire original special effects team in favor of Close Encounters’ effects technician Douglas Trumbull, it’s kind of amazing that a watchable Star Trek film emerged from the chaos at all. Not unlike Close Encounters of the Third Kind, its director admitted what went to theaters was more or less a rough cut with many areas left unfinished or hastily assembled to meet the studio’s deadline."
Den of Geek: 18 Star Trek screen projects that never happened

There's a ton of trivia about the movie on IMDb, including:
* This movie was the basis for McDonald's first movie based Happy Meal.
* According to the Guinness Book of Records, at the time of its release, this was the most expensive film ever made at a total production cost of US$46 million.
* Gene Roddenberry had asked his wife Majel Barrett (Christine Chapel) if she would don fur and a tail to "reprise" the role of Lieutenant M'Ress from Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973). She refused.
Also: "On This Day In Fashion" notes: "As far as we know, [Persis] Khambatta is the first actress to shave her head for a role, and yet she is rarely included on lists of beautiful bald women." Trek Reviewer Jordan has more on Ms. Khambatta's career and hairless look.

The Viewscreen: Re-watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Fanfare post.
posted by zarq (96 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
WOOOOOORRRRRMMMMMMHOOOOOOLLLLE!
posted by Artw at 7:35 AM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


By co-incidence was reading about Trek last night... in particular the Motionless Picture. Look at the nail-biting excitement in this scene!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:46 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


"My version was really built around Leonard Nimoy as Spock and Toshiro Mifune as his Klingon nemesis," Kaufman later recalled. "My idea was to make it less 'cult-ish,' and more of an adult movie, dealing with sexuality and wonders rather than oddness; a big science fiction movie, filled with all kinds of questions, particularly about the nature of Spock's [duality] - exploring his humanity and what humanness was. To have Spock and Mifune's character tripping out in outer space. I'm sure the fans would have been upset, but I felt it could really open up a new type of science fiction."

Man, that's quite a case of hubris you have there.
posted by Splunge at 7:55 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


The 'toy' that came with the Star Trek Happy Meals were rings, with a large square section that opened up (like a poison ring) and had an embossed Star Trek character on top (the only image I could find). This was one of my favorite things when I was five years old, until that strappy part broke and the cover no longer stayed on. In retrospect I have no idea why a ring with a compartment was considered a worthy toy, but, hey, it was the first Happy Meal prize ever, I suppose a step up from Cracker Jacks would be expected.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:57 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


They paid good money for the model, and you're going to take a long look at it as Kirk and Scotty travel to it in real time.
posted by borkencode at 7:59 AM on March 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


Persis Khambatta died at age 49. That is truly sad.
posted by Splunge at 8:06 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I saw it when I was 8 years old for my birthday (we went to McDonald's for the Happy Meal beforehand; sample joke from the Happy Meal box: Why is it so hard to get aliens off The Enterprise? They always Klingon!).
posted by KingEdRa at 8:06 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


By co-incidence was reading about Trek last night... in particular the Motionless Picture. Look at the nail-biting excitement in this scene!

Endless Space Dock reference within 2 comments. Well Done.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:08 AM on March 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


I still fucking love this movie.
posted by Artw at 8:10 AM on March 23, 2016 [16 favorites]


As I mentioned in FanFare, it's worth digging up a copy of Wise's special edition even if it was never rendered in HD. It's still not the greatest Trek film but with his re-edits and effects fixes and at least it's better than any TNG film.

PS. I love the space dock scene and it almost makes me cry every time.
posted by octothorpe at 8:10 AM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, Khan is always going to be the greatest Trek movie. The others are different from this, certainly, but I'm not sure I'd call many or even any of them better than this.
posted by Artw at 8:11 AM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


I was 11 or 12 when I watched this movie. I had seen some episodes of the series, but hadn't really been that big into it. This. Movie. Blew. Me. Away. It was the first time I had truly imagined other species out there and What If we could actually travel between the stars. I practically trembled watching it.

May not be logical, but regardless of the critics, this is my favorite Trek movie just for those feels.
posted by insert.witticism.here at 8:22 AM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: That "Endless Space Dock" sequence never fails to give me chills every time I see it. If nothing else, ST:TMP sealed The Enterprise as character in its own right in my imagination. I am a of Star Trek not because of the characters but because of The USS Enterprise, and all the hope for the future that she embodies.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:22 AM on March 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


I was 11 years old when it came out, and it was SO BORING to me that I didn't watch it again until just a few years ago. Now I understand what it was trying to do, but it is very obvious that the script was being written on the fly, because it just meanders and people sit in awe and wonder at a whole lot of stuff.
posted by xingcat at 8:25 AM on March 23, 2016


Plot ideas included time travel, snake people

Nice to see they were already thinking about millennial demographic trends.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:27 AM on March 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


Artw, I feel it is the "Trekiest" movie of them all; Khan is the greatest (because it combines deep understanding of the characters with a great story), but this one captures the ideals of Trek - confronting the unknown, looking for answers and understanding, and using knowledge to solve problems - more so than any other Trek film. All the others are somewhere on a scale between Trek and generic SF action film.
posted by nubs at 8:28 AM on March 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yeah but we coulda had snake people
posted by clockzero at 8:30 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah but we coulda had snake people

Be patient, I'm sure the reboots will get there. Gonna need something to blow up.
posted by nubs at 8:31 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: That "Endless Space Dock" sequence never fails to give me chills every time I see it.

But it's such a loooooooooooong sequence. It's pretty much ship-porn.
posted by Fizz at 8:32 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Plot ideas included time travel, snake people

Nice to see they were already thinking about millennial demographic trends.


Wouldn't that be more like bacon people?
posted by Naberius at 8:34 AM on March 23, 2016


I think that the tl;dr of why it took so long to make a follow-up to the original series, and why the first movie was so disappointing even though they spent something like four times the budget of Star Wars (A New Hope to you kids), was that the studio simply didn't get Star Trek. It was obviously a success in syndication, and had what was the unprecedented phenomenon of fan conventions devoted solely to it--for a show that had been cancelled years before, mind you--and books that elaborately detailed minutiae of the props and ship models and so forth, and yet these guys kept dicking around, either flat-out rejecting the most grandiose ideas for not being big enough, or toying with plots that were obvious rehashes of TOS episodes. (The Titans thing, for example, was just riffing off of "Who Mourns for Adonais?", which was based on the idea of the Greek gods having been real aliens, and also gave us this surreal image.)

In the meantime, the fans are writing stories of their own, and while some of them probably wouldn't ever make it to the screen--especially the ones with Kirk and Spock getting it on--there were still plenty of good ideas there, and ditto for the numerous original novels being written. Probably, eventually, there would have been one that was so good that it would get the attention of even the most jaded, who-cares-about-SF movie exec. But then, Star Wars happened, and Paramount wanted to get their own product out there ASAP. So, the story that they finally go with is a supersized-version of "The Changeling", another TOS episode, and a redesigned aesthetic for the ship and crew that could be best described as having a pajama party at the mall, and in general they made the biggest movie that they could as fast as they possibly could. (One of the anecdotes about the post-production rush that DoG seems to have missed is that the SFX were finished so late that many of the already-printed copies of the film had to have the SFX shots spliced in by hand.) And, somehow, they made enough money that they were willing to pay for a sequel--but with a vastly reduced budget, "only" as much as Star Wars had cost--and Nicholas Meyer, who had never watched TOS, made the movie that we should have gotten in the first place.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:36 AM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


But it's such a loooooooooooong sequence. It's pretty much ship-porn.

That's precisely the point of it. Star Trek had been off the air since 1969; the Endless Space Dock was to give the fans a chance to see the Enterprise on the big screen after ten years of waiting.
posted by nubs at 8:37 AM on March 23, 2016 [12 favorites]


You gotta realize that we were desperate to see spaceships on a big screen in 1979, and we were willing to overlook a lot of things. I had the comic book adaptation, the novel, even the make-your-own-costume book. And Goldsmith's score is the best score. Back then I never got tired of watching the 10 minute flyover to the Enterprise.

Kirk really is a useless backstabbing PHB in this film though. Even worse since the actor that plays Decker was cast for the aborted Phase II project and probably would have been captain if Shatner had not signed up. How's that for irony?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:38 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Fizz: "But it's such a loooooooooooong sequence. It's pretty much ship-porn."

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by octothorpe at 8:38 AM on March 23, 2016 [15 favorites]


True story: about 10 years ago I was invited to a New Year's Eve Star Trek Movie Marathon at a friend's house. The idea was to start at 5pm and keep going as far as possible. At some point, the Star Trek Movie Marathon descended into a Star Trek Movie Drinking Game.

- Anything that can be perceived as a sexual pun *DRINK* "I have successfully penetrated the next chamber of the alien's Interior...." *DRINK*
- Anytime Spock does something weird with his eyebrows *DRINK*
- Anytime Bones says something snarky *DRINK*
- Anytime there are whale sounds *DRINK*

There were only two of us awake at 3 a.m. I can't even remember what film we reached. I believe we managed to get as far as The Voyage Home or maybe the first twenty minutes of The Final Frontier. Best New Year's I've ever celebrated.
posted by Fizz at 8:39 AM on March 23, 2016 [5 favorites]



I've said it before, and I'll say it again: That "Endless Space Dock" sequence never fails to give me chills every time I see it.

But it's such a loooooooooooong sequence. It's pretty much ship-porn.


Given the declining quality of Trek films as the movie franchise has dragged on, it was prescient in recognizing that ship-porn was the only thing that would make watching the later films worth-while.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:41 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Plot ideas included time travel, snake people

Nice to see they were already thinking about millennial demographic trends.

Wouldn't that be more like bacon people?

Previously on MetaFilter...
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:42 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also: "On This Day In Fashion" notes: "As far as we know, [Persis] Khambatta is the first actress to shave her head for a role, and yet she is rarely included on lists of beautiful bald women." Trek Reviewer Jordan has more on Ms. Khambatta's career and hairless look.

In 1970 or 1971, Maggie McOmie, and countless other men and women, had their heads shaved for THX 1138.
posted by the matching mole at 8:49 AM on March 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


Also Renée Jeanne Falconetti had a shaved head in The Passion of Joan of Arc, in 1928. Maybe I'm missing something here...
posted by paper chromatographologist at 8:52 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


In 1970 or 1971, Maggie McOmie, and countless other men and women, had their heads shaved for THX 1138.

Yes!! Great catch. Thank you!

(Was bothering me, but I couldn't think of any earlier movies to disprove it.)
posted by zarq at 8:54 AM on March 23, 2016


Plot ideas included time travel, snake people, God, black holes and the titans of ancient Greek mythology.

What does God need with a starship?
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:54 AM on March 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


Did someone say Snake and Bacon?

Those guys would have been GREAT in a Star Trek episode?

KIRK: I am Captain.....James T. Kirk....of thestarshipenterprise....identify yourselves.

SNAKE: Sssss..

BACON: And I'm a piece of tasty bacon! Try me in a sandwich!

SPOCK: Captain, sensors indicate that the life forms are indeed a snake and a piece of bacon.

KIRK: Dammit, Spock, I want answers, not the obvious! Bones...what do you make of it?

McCOY: Well, Jim, I sure could go for a BLT right about now, and that snake skin would make some spiffy boots.
posted by briank at 8:54 AM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]




What does God need with a starship?

Not a starship. Starship Porn.
posted by nubs at 9:00 AM on March 23, 2016


By co-incidence was reading about Trek last night... in particular the Motionless Picture. Look at the nail-biting excitement in this scene!

There's a motif from the Next Generation TV show theme in the film score (first 15 seconds of the linked video)... never noticed that before. (Of course it's the other way around: TMP was 1979, and ST:TNG started in 1987. Same composer (Jerry Goldsmith), so no stealing involved.)
posted by kurumi at 9:03 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


These are the adventures of the starship Porn.
posted by Billiken at 9:03 AM on March 23, 2016


There's a motif from the Next Generation TV show theme in the film score (first 15 seconds of the linked video)... never noticed that before. (Of course it's the other way around: TMP was 1979, and ST:TNG started in 1987. Same composer (Jerry Goldsmith), so no stealing involved.)

One of the links (possibly the imdb trivia one?) notes that Roddenberry loved the Goldsmith score for TMP, so reused it for TNG.
posted by zarq at 9:06 AM on March 23, 2016


a pajama party at the mall

Was this the Star Trek movie whose costumes left all the male characters with little flippy-floppy sacks of blancmange jiggling away just under their belts? Did the budget not stretch to a dozen pairs of briefs in supporting roles?
posted by Paul Slade at 9:07 AM on March 23, 2016


From IMDb:

*Jerry Goldsmith's famous theme for the movie almost did not happen. One of the first scenes Goldsmith scored was the scene when Kirk and Scotty do a flyover of the refit Enterprise. Robert Wise liked the music that Goldsmith composed, but in the end, he rejected it, saying it did not fit the movie because it lacked a theme/motif. Goldsmith went back to the drawing board and composed the famous theme that has become a staple of the Star Trek universe.
* Gene Roddenberry so loved the main theme from the score that he reused it for Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987).
* Jerry Goldsmith's Academy Award-nominated score featured a special musical instrument called the 'Blaster Beam', an instrument 15 feet long, incorporating artillery shell casings and motorized magnets. It was used as part of any scene featuring V'ger. The instrument was invented by former child star turned New Age musician Craig Huxley who, in his youth, had portrayed Captain Kirk's nephew, Peter Kirk, in Star Trek: Operation -- Annihilate! (1967), and Tommy Starnes in Star Trek: And the Children Shall Lead (1968).
* A clear front runner for the best original score Oscar of 1979, the reason for its failure to win is composer Jerry Goldsmith's very vocal dispute with the music branch over his other eligible score that year for Alien (1979). He had as good as disowned his score for Alien and let it be known that he is no way wanted his work to be considered for a nomination. The theory is that the Oscar voters "punished" Goldsmith for being so ungracious - and his signature score for Star Trek suffered by not winning.
* Jerry Goldsmith scored the film over a period of three to four months, a relatively relaxed schedule compared to typical production, but time pressures resulted in Goldsmith bringing on colleagues to assist in the work. Alexander Courage, composer of the original Star Trek (1966) theme, provided arrangements to accompany Kirk's log entries, while Fred Steiner wrote eleven cues of additional music, notably the music to accompany the Enterprise achieving warp speed and first meeting V'Ger.
posted by zarq at 9:08 AM on March 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


These are the adventures of the starship Porn.

With respect to Star Trek, I'm pretty sure that frontier has already been explored. Thoroughly. And often.
posted by nubs at 9:09 AM on March 23, 2016


YouTube: Blaster Beam demonstration. More.
posted by zarq at 9:10 AM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Starship porn previously.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:16 AM on March 23, 2016


Coulda been worse. Coulda been something written by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath.

I'm surprised there's not been any discussion yet of that scene with the incredibly graphic transporter malfunction that basically flips the transportees' skins inside-out ...
posted by WCityMike at 9:19 AM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Was this the Star Trek movie whose costumes left all the male characters with little flippy-floppy sacks of blancmange jiggling away just under their belts?

That's a very picturesque way of putting it. The bridge crew all seem to have two-part uniforms, with the tails of the tops concealing the final frontier, but the extras seem to be as you describe. (If I'm not mistaken, the guy in the middle is David Gerrold, who wrote "The Trouble with Tribbles.") Also, the Next Generation first-season uniforms were infamously tight in the below-decks area, to the point that some of the cast were in pain when they had to sit, before they were redesigned as two-parters.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:30 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised there's not been any discussion yet of that scene with the incredibly graphic transporter malfunction that basically flips the transportees' skins inside-out ...

"What we got back didn't live long. Fortunately."

I feel the same about discussion of the scene.
posted by nubs at 9:34 AM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


Best bit from the novelisation... Ilia (the bald woman) has some special alien magic power that can cause any male in her vicinity to get sexually aroused. Hence Sulu at one point has to exit the room, backwards, bent over to ninety degrees to avoid embarrassing himself. Oh my.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:34 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I will say the uniforms in this movie are one of the most successful "uniform but not evocative of military uniforms" costumes in Trek, which was always one of Roddenberry's goals. Its far from the best uniform of the series, but all the better ones tend to have clear links to military styles.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:37 AM on March 23, 2016


"What we got back didn't live long. Fortunately."

When first showing my wife this film, she was all "Who's this SONAK guy and does him being science officer mean that Spock's not even IN this?" and I was all "Just wait" and then we got to this scene and she was all "WELL THEN."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:37 AM on March 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, looking back the transporter scene wasn't that graphic (just actors filmed through a crumpled sheet of Mylar) but the psychological impact of the screaming and the report of the lump of goo waiting on the other side made it terrifying. That and the zombie-making laser machine from The Black Hole would haunt my nightmares.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:41 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, looking back the transporter scene wasn't that graphic (just actors filmed through a crumpled sheet of Mylar) but the psychological impact of the screaming and the report of the lump of goo waiting on the other side made it terrifying.

Indeed. On re-watch (after mannnny years) I was pretty surprised to discover that the image of the two of them as steaming, quivering piles of chunky salsa had been developed entirely by my subconscious and wasn't actually in the film.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:44 AM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


the transporter scene wasn't that graphic (just actors filmed through a crumpled sheet of Mylar) but the psychological impact of the screaming and the report of the lump of goo waiting on the other side made it terrifying.

I saw this film when I was 8 - too young to handle the pacing and what the story was - but that transporter scene always stayed with me. Now that I am older, I realize that it works because it didn't show much. The distorted screaming, the message from Starfleet, and the audience imagination are what makes it work. Would that so many of our overblown SFX films of today would remember that audience imagination is still the most potent effect.
posted by nubs at 9:48 AM on March 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


Ilia (the bald woman) has some special alien magic power that can cause any male in her vicinity to get sexually aroused.

I remember that from the novel too. That explains why the crew is so awkward when they find out a Deltan is coming on board, and one of the most underexplained lines in cinema, "My oath of celibacy is on record, Captain."
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:03 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I unabashedly love ST:TMP. I was 12, almost 13, when it hit theaters, but I'd been a Trek fan for probably 5 or 6 years already (thanks to seeing it in syndication on WPIX in New York while visiting my cousins). Yes, it's slow in spots. Yes, it's a rehash of "The Changeling". Yes, the original SFX were... not always great. But HOLY COW STAR TREK ON A GIANT MOVIE SCREEN.

It's my fourth favorite Star Trek movie[1], not counting the Abrams reboot films. The director's cut, fixing a bunch of the SFX that had been rushed so badly to get the movie in theaters, is a joy to watch.

There are some movies that are favorites because of when in your life you saw them but which do not age well (I'm looking at you, Flash Gordon, and you, Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon, and you, Real Genius). ST:TMP is not one of those movies. It's still solid, 37 years later.

[1] Wrath of Khan, Galaxy Quest, First Contact, The Motion Picture.
posted by hanov3r at 10:05 AM on March 23, 2016


On re-watch (after mannnny years) I was pretty surprised to discover that the image of the two of them as steaming, quivering piles of chunky salsa had been developed entirely by my subconscious and wasn't actually in the film.

Maybe a sort of cross-pollination with the unfortunate baboon in The Fly?
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:16 AM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's a motif from the Next Generation TV show theme in the film score (first 15 seconds of the linked video)... never noticed that before.

That's because that is the theme for TNG. Jump to 3:10 -- the TNG theme is fully there, trumpets and all.
posted by eriko at 10:17 AM on March 23, 2016


The red alert alarm or klaxon from this movie is obnoxious as hell.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:20 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


With respect to Star Trek, I'm pretty sure that frontier has already been explored. Thoroughly. And often.

To boldly go where no one has gone before!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:24 AM on March 23, 2016


These are the adventures of the starship Porn.
posted by Billiken at 9:03 AM on March 23 [+] [!]


VOYAGES! These are the VOYAGES of the starship Porn!!!!!

Thank you for not sending a SWAT team to my home for my egregious error.
posted by Billiken at 10:47 AM on March 23, 2016


But it's such a loooooooooooong sequence.

But is it really any different from the pace of most films and tv from the 60s and 70s? We had not yet moved to the ADD frenetic jump-cut hyperactive-cam style that dominates everything now.
posted by aught at 10:53 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


But is it really any different from the pace of most films and tv from the 60s and 70s? We had not yet moved to the ADD frenetic jump-cut hyperactive-cam style that dominates everything now.

I've been watching re-runs of Carson on the Tonight Show and the pace of the interviews is glacial.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:56 AM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long, fortunately."
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also keep in mind that 2001: A Space Odyssey was only eleven years earlier - it undoubtedly was an influence on both the effects and the slow pacing of ST:TMP.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:02 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I will say the uniforms in this movie are one of the most successful "uniform but not evocative of military uniforms" costumes in Trek, which was always one of Roddenberry's goals. Its far from the best uniform of the series, but all the better ones tend to have clear links to military styles

While I agree that the uniforms from TMP weren't the best looking ones, they were very "Science-y" looking ones and ones that I thought were most emblematic of what the Federation & Starfleet ostensibly stood for.
posted by KingEdRa at 11:05 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Roddenberry did explicitly say he wanted to make a 2001-grade space epic, and you can certainly see that yearning in the space dock sequence (which I love, because yes of course this is what a ST movie will do), but he didn't notice that you need to be Kubrick (or arguably Tarkovsy) to pull that shit off. Not least in your ability to handle the madness of the studios, to say nothing of being able to form and execute a coherent vision.

I'm a fan, natch, and I do write fiction for (mostly) my own itch-scratching. I've never felt any interest in writing anything in someone else's universe, let alone this one. But I can't help trying to imagine what a successfuly Kubrickian ST movie would feel like, with the characters thinking they've got agency but really playing out roles in the service of a greater fate that's supremely indifferent to their indvidual destinies. You can't have optimism or desire in Stanley's playpen without it being ironic, and ST for all its joys has had less luck with irony than with almost any other alien threat.
posted by Devonian at 11:29 AM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


But is it really any different from the pace of most films and tv from the 60s and 70s? We had not yet moved to the ADD frenetic jump-cut hyperactive-cam style that dominates everything now.

Hmm... admittedly it was out around the time of Blade Runner (and even that ramps up the action at the end)... plus there was also Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

As an aside, when you throw in, just off the top of my head, ET and Scanners that was an amazing time for sf.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:31 AM on March 23, 2016


"Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long, fortunately."

I'm now considering doing a watch of SF films from the 70s through to today and discussing their pacing changes/issues, using this line as the title of the series. Or maybe "What we got back didn't live long, (un)fortunately."

I mean, the pacing in TMP and other films is glacial...but is today's ADD style better? Worse? I guess the answer likely depends on the story you are telling and how you use the tools at your disposal to tell it, I guess. Frenetic action sequences have their place, as do long, slow meditative shots.
posted by nubs at 11:38 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


yeah, so I've just realised my brain is confusing the first one with Khan.... carry on
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:38 AM on March 23, 2016


But to use an example from the actual time... Alien is incredibly slowly paced but everything is filled with tension.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:39 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Alien makes great use of a slow pace to build the tension. Which is great, because it is a horror film, and that is what we want. Right tool, right film.
posted by nubs at 11:42 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


But I can't help trying to imagine what a successfuly Kubrickian ST movie would feel like, with the characters thinking they've got agency but really playing out roles in the service of a greater fate that's supremely indifferent to their indvidual destinies.

Who owns the rights to Consider Phlebas?
posted by thecaddy at 11:45 AM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


The Klingon battle sequence that opens this movie is so good and memorable. The starship models are gorgeous, and I don't know of a better-scored scene. The whole mood of the thing takes a 180 when the jaunty Klingon theme is suddenly interrupted by V'ger's signature PRRRROOOONNNNNGGG.
posted by Sauce Trough at 11:53 AM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


ctrl+f soundtrack.

WHAT

Ok fine i'll be the one to say it. This movie(and Wrath of Khan) have some of the best soundtracks EVER scored for film. I'll put them up against any John Williams Star Wars score any day.

The theme song was so good they literally just reused it for The Next Generation without even really touching it. I've heard it a bajillion times since i was a kid watching this on VHS, and on TNG, and it still makes me smile every damn time.

Ugh that BOWWWWW, BOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW struck metal beam sound holy shit
posted by emptythought at 12:11 PM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


ctrl+f soundtrack.

WHAT


Try ctrl+f score in this particular case.
posted by Four Ds at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long,

OR prosper! HEYYYYOOOOO i'll be here all week try the earl grey
posted by Greg Nog at 12:25 PM on March 23, 2016 [25 favorites]


Roddenberry did explicitly say he wanted to make a 2001-grade space epic, and you can certainly see that yearning in the space dock sequence (which I love, because yes of course this is what a ST movie will do), but he didn't notice that you need to be Kubrick (or arguably Tarkovsy) to pull that shit off. Not least in your ability to handle the madness of the studios, to say nothing of being able to form and execute a coherent vision.

Roddenberry didn't direct it though, Robert Wise did and while maybe he wasn't Kubrick, he's still one of the great directors (and editors) and made both Day the Earth Stood Still and The Andromeda Strain so he wasn't a stranger to Sci-Fi.
posted by octothorpe at 12:36 PM on March 23, 2016


"Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long, fortunately."

"And it EXPLODED!"

The theme song was so good they literally just reused it for The Next Generation without even really touching it.

Sort of... they do trim off the french horn fanfare that precedes the TMP main theme and replace it with the classic "Space, the final frontier" theme.

Starship Modeler has a bunch of photos of the studio model of the Enterprise Refit. It was really a beautiful, large model.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:42 PM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


The starship models are gorgeous, and I don't know of a better-scored scene. The whole mood of the thing takes a 180 when the jaunty Klingon theme is suddenly interrupted by V'ger's signature PRRRROOOONNNNNGGG.

The Klingon battle sequence, worth it just for the music alone
posted by nubs at 12:48 PM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


Has it really been less than three years since Iain Banks died? It feels longer, somehow.

I don't know why Consider Phlebas hasn't been optioned up the wazoo, and it sounds like Player of Games never got the green light for the usual SOB. So many indifferent SF epics have been made, and here's an entire franchise of wide-screen baroque going begging.
posted by Devonian at 1:43 PM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


TMP is not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, for many reasons (the almost complete lack of color, all the actors save DeForest Kelley appear to have filmed their scenes on heavy doses of sedatives, the fact that a lot of the movie consists of shots of people watching cool things, like if Rear Window had consisted almost entirely of shots of Jimmy Stewart's face watching his neighbors), and, finally, that it's basically a huge fat shaggy dog story and not even an original one, it's basically a bad retread of "The Changeling" from the second season of TOS!)

Also, seriously, why the FUCK are Decker and Ilia in the goddamned movie, there is basically no reason for them to be there at all.

Ugh, TMP, basically.
posted by Automocar at 2:01 PM on March 23, 2016


Wow... I just quickly scanned the above comment and thought "Star Trek TPM" Woah... now that would be a series I, and Iikely the rest of MetaFilter, could get behind...
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:16 PM on March 23, 2016


And to punctuate that: Shatner/Cruz.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:18 PM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hmmmm. I know the rights to Consider Phlebas is owned by a certain producer and I'm not entirely sure why Banks said otherwise in the interview. I also know that many people in Hollywood would love to make Culture movies and have had a lot of conversations about how to go about that, but currently at this moment no one has cracked that code. And let me tell you, it is an incredibly difficult code to crack. The producer who has the rights is someone who loves Banks and really gets what makes the Culture books great, and is also someone with the right skills and with the right studio relationships to put together such a mammoth undertaking.
posted by incessant at 3:43 PM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


The right way to do the Culture is on HBO, a season per book.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:59 PM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


Decker and Ilia are in the movie so the remenants of Phase II can be sent the fuck away to another dimension.
posted by Artw at 4:46 PM on March 23, 2016


Never mind Banks I'm still waiting for Hollywood to ruin the Stainless Steel Rat novels (though the continual renewal of the rights by a certain producer was basically Harrison's pension)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:41 PM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I thoroughly enjoy the movie that was made, despite recognizing its imperfections.

But, now you tell me it could have had Toshiro Mifune instead of Shatner, and been all about Spock and Klingons?

That's the Universe I want to live in. Let's go back and try again.
posted by eotvos at 7:02 PM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


SPOCK: Captain, sensors indicate that the life forms are indeed a snake and a piece of bacon.

A bowl of petunias and a very confused-looking sperm whale.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:35 PM on March 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


Decker and Ilia are in the movie so the remenants of Phase II can be sent the fuck away to another dimension.

However, they came back as Riker and Troi in time for TNG.
posted by nubs at 7:48 PM on March 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


ST:TMP definitely seemed to be the prototype for TNG in a lot of ways. Roddenberry didn't like Star Trek II or any of the subsequent films and definitely wanted a slower more talky Trek than the action direction that the later movies took.
posted by octothorpe at 8:04 PM on March 23, 2016


ST:TMP has problems but to it's credit but at least it aims high. It kinda misses, but it tries. I find it watchable and there are some good bits. (I'm already reminded, every time I watch it, of Shatner practically starving himself and eating nothing but carrots in a desperate attempt to lose enough weight to look reasonably trim in the costume, a story he tells in one of his books.)

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, on the other hand, is absolute crap. It aims very, very low and misses even that. And yet it's not the film, but the wasted opportunity that really offends.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:35 PM on March 23, 2016


I also know that many people in Hollywood would love to make Culture movies and have had a lot of conversations about how to go about that, but currently at this moment no one has cracked that code.

Banks didn't write for Hollywood, and his style kinda pushes against the Hollywood style. Hollywood likes Star Wars: good guys in white hats verses bad guys in black hats + blow shit up and the good guys win in the end. Banks did basically the same thing (hey, space opera), but his style always pushes backwards against those assumptions. His protagonists are too subtle to be heroic, and The Culture itself is too complex and amoral to really be the good guys. (Although: big-ass space ships chatting with each other, that's kinda cool. I could watch a whole movie of that. But that's not Hollywood.)
posted by ovvl at 10:11 PM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


ROU_Xenophobe: "The right way to do the Culture is on HBO, a season per book."

TAKE ALL OUR MONEY!!! NOW NOW NOW WE WANT THIS NOW NOW NOW

edited to add: ahhh, makes sense an ROU would have a clever idea like this.
posted by barnacles at 10:21 PM on March 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


At least we didn't get the story Roddenberry wanted to give us for Star Treks II, III, and IV, wherein our heroes have to make sure JFK is assassinated.
posted by bryon at 10:23 PM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Spock was the gentleman on the grassy knoll?!?!?
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:47 AM on March 24, 2016


There was a very enjoyable segment on CBC last week about William Shatner, his roots in theatre and his relationship with the series and the first Star Trek movie. Mostly done with sound bites from him over the years.
posted by sneebler at 7:07 AM on March 24, 2016


At least we didn't get the story Roddenberry wanted to give us for Star Treks II, III, and IV, wherein our heroes have to make sure JFK is assassinated.

I have many, many books on unmade Star Trek (Phase II) and how is it possible I've blotted that horrible factoid from my brain.

I've seen TMP about half a dozen times, and it never fails to be something of a snooze-fest (except the first time I saw it, aged six when it seemed to be some sort of bizarre fever dream with the melting bodies and whatever the fuck happened on Spock's spacewalk).

I hated the on-screen uniforms (the action figures from Mego actually vastly improved them) and I still want to see more of the melty-face man and his chums on screen (which I think was by big hope for Enterprise, but, nope: we got the temporal cold war), because I spent many happy hours imaging what those aliens would be like.

I mean, beige? BEIGE? Ugh.

I'm also amazed that Decker and Illa were so up-front in the artwork.

Speaking of Phase 2, which would have given us scripts from Theodore Sturgeon and Norman Spinrad, it looks like the scripts have been adapted for YouTube.
posted by Mezentian at 1:54 AM on March 25, 2016


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