Star Trek: The Motion Picture is finally complete
September 24, 2022 6:19 AM   Subscribe

After 1500 or so edits, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a film that finally feels properly paced, looks stunning, and, after long last, no longer keeps the viewer at arm’s length.
posted by Pater Aletheias (68 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
A surprisingly uplifting interview!

David Fein's name wasn't familiar to me so I went on IMDB and wow, there are a few other things in there, but caretaking the first Star Trek really does seem to have been his life's work. I feel like this career trajectory is pretty rare in Hollywood.
posted by jeremias at 6:36 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


Fascinating.
posted by adamrice at 6:42 AM on September 24 [24 favorites]


I just rewatched II, III, IV, and VI with my wife. She wanted to know why I skipped ST:TMP (“it’s a drag”) and V (“I’m in my fifties and that means I don’t have enough years left on this planet to waste on a fourth viewing.”)

Looking forward to correcting the oversight on one. Doubt there’s much that can be done for the other.
posted by mph at 7:06 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]


I was born in 78 and Star Wars was so huge in our household that I only brushed up against the original Star Trek cast in reruns. It was Patrick Stewart’s brilliance and the writing of TNG that drew me in.

I say all this because I didn’t even know this film existed, what problems it had and why, and so I am more than a little excited to dial this up and watch with my partner who will share my interest.

I must add that, while the interview is illuminating, it is poetic that the piece could have benefitted from some editing. I feel like that was the five-hour beginning-to-end version :)
posted by gestalt saloon at 7:22 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]




So, is this the sort of thing that I'd have to get a TV and player that could handle 4K? Because I'm not sure that I like the story itself enough to do that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:43 AM on September 24 [2 favorites]


How exciting! I always had a fond spot in my heart for this movie; it was so interesting seeing Star Trek brought to the screen, and I was the right age, and the core story of V'ger seemed really compelling sci-fi to me. But yeah, some awkwardness in the theatrical release. Excited to see it anew!
posted by Nelson at 7:44 AM on September 24 [2 favorites]


I kinda loved the original version for all its weirdness. I hope this doesn't destroy what made the original cut unique.
posted by goatdog at 7:51 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


I actually liked this movie a lot, even though I recognized how unevenly long it was. In that interview, there was this bit...

The probe on the bridge always felt to me like the quality difference was so dramatic that I felt like the movie practically stopped and something else went in there that didn’t match the rest of the film. And we spent a month going in and focused on doing everything we can just make it look like the probe actually showed up on the bridge. And a whole goal, from the beginning, was to smooth out the film. To take away anything that’s distracting. Well, when you had a probe going across the screen going, “boing!,” it completely takes you out of the movie. So these were stabilized. Everything was stabilized, enhanced, cleaned up. The grain that was all over the place was stabilized and smoothed out.

I know the scene they refer to, and I always felt it worked incredibly well. It was so different than the film up to that point and that helped emphasize the alien-ness and power of what they were dealing with. The insanely bright, single point of light, burning-out the exposure a bit. Even the grain really added to the drama. I really hope they haven’t smoothed it out too much to where it’s just like the rest of the film.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:09 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]


I believe this version, "The Director's Edition," as well as the original theatrical version are streaming right now on Paramount Plus. I unabashedly love this film—saw it on opening day all those years ago. It's one of those films that's amazing, but not for everybody. You know, I watched John Boorman's Excalibur last night for the first time since I saw it in the theater in 1981, and then read some contemporary reviews of it. The reviewers all thought it was "meh." I think Ebert said it was bonkers and lacked characterization. What the hell? It's literally the perfect film of the Arthurian legend, with the director as auteur. What more did people want? ST:TMP is sort of the same kind of thing: Yes, it's long and slow. It's also magnificent.
posted by jabah at 8:11 AM on September 24 [14 favorites]


This is a very convincing interview that makes a lot of sense. It really sounds like there were issues the revised edit could and did resolve.

That said, there is--and I say this gently, and with affection for a fanbase I am highly sympathetic toward, even if not myself exactly within--a nagging tendency I have seen amongst fans of this franchise to come up with new reasons why I should have to rewatch stuff I have already seen and did not enjoy. It could just be anecdotal within my own circle of friends, but "I know you didn't like that Star Trek thing, but if you'll just watch it again..." is some real Lucy setting up the football kind of stuff.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:12 AM on September 24 [7 favorites]


I am a TNG kid, and have not watched maybe *any*? of the original Star Trek movies, and now I want to watch this movie! Thanks, Pater Aletheias!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 8:24 AM on September 24


https://youtu.be/Xla4BnppeUM

“Jim, I want this. As much as you wanted the Enterprise, I want this.”

I love this movie, and I especially love this scene. After all is said and done, the solution is not “let’s blow it up!” It’s “V’ger must evolve.” It’s also about how we — humanity — will have to evolve.

You just don’t see blockbusters with big ideas any more.
posted by zooropa at 8:28 AM on September 24 [9 favorites]


And now I want to watch this movie!

Strongly suggest Wrath of Khan over this one. The crew seem to just hate each other in the first one.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 8:39 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


@mph - While I'm not sure V can ever be great, I read the novelization of the film before it came out (which was a weird thing. Who purposely releases the story before the film exists?). The V movie, compared to the book anyway, would have to have been like 2x longer to match it. The book made a lot more sense and was just better overall, from what I can remember. ; )
posted by bitterkitten at 8:49 AM on September 24


FWIW this was released on Blu-Ray September 6. I think it's already available on most streaming services; at least Amazon has it both for individual rent and as part of Paramount+.
posted by Nelson at 8:59 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


Who purposely releases the story before the film exists?

It was pretty common back in the days when we wore an onion on our belts. Star Wars was initially released in May 1977 (and went wide in June); the novelization was out in late 1976.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:00 AM on September 24 [23 favorites]


Strongly suggest Wrath of Khan over this one. The crew seem to just hate each other in the first one.

I think I must be the only person in the universe who finds Khan just kind of meh. I mean, it’s easily one of the better TOS episodes. But, for me, it really isn’t any better than the best of the TOS episodes, either, which it really should be.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:41 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


Interestingly enough, it appears that the new version is a few minutes longer than the original. I plan to get them both from Amazon prime and compare.
posted by tclark at 10:16 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


It was pretty common back in the days when we wore an onion on our belts. Star Wars was initially released in May 1977 (and went wide in June); the novelization was out in late 1976.'

The Star Wars novelization was how I learned that, as a middle-schooler, that some things that are in screenplays, and even that get filmed, do not make it into the final film. It was my introduction to there being different versions of the same thing.
posted by Well I never at 10:43 AM on September 24 [11 favorites]


I know the scene they refer to, and I always felt it worked incredibly well. It was so different than the film up to that point and that helped emphasize the alien-ness and power of what they were dealing with. The insanely bright, single point of light, burning-out the exposure a bit. Even the grain really added to the drama. I really hope they haven’t smoothed it out too much to where it’s just like the rest of the film.

Sometimes artists do something brilliant by accident and don't seem to realize why it worked better than they intended and make it worse when they try to fix it. Sometimes those artists are directors of movies with "Star" in the title. But judging from the article, I'm optimistic this isn't one of those times.
posted by straight at 10:48 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


Thorzdad, yours is the superior intellect. Yours…is…superior…gaaaak.

Khan is more than meh, it is in large part laughably bad. It is space camp turned up to 11. The hair on the space supermen alone is worth the price of admission. Plus a space showdown between two of cinema’s greatest scenery chewers? I can smell the ham all the way from Seti Alpha 6.

Ricardo Montalban quoting Ahab is maybe the most over the top thing in the history of SciFi.

I absolutely love it.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:54 AM on September 24 [14 favorites]


II, III, IV, and VI

This is the way.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:37 AM on September 24 [7 favorites]


ricochet biscuit: "Who purposely releases the story before the film exists?

It was pretty common back in the days when we wore an onion on our belts. Star Wars was initially released in May 1977 (and went wide in June); the novelization was out in late 1976.
"

And I read the novelizations of both before I saw them in the theater. Empire Strikes Back too.
posted by octothorpe at 11:58 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]


I liked TMP in the theater. Young enough and from a Scifi that TOS reruns had been a staple. Sorta reminded me of 2001, a longish slow movie that has to be dissected at the end. II was just a rehast/callback to an old TOS episode. Even TMP was a bit of that and IV, god like probe thing causing some havoc.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:08 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to recall my rundown of the movies for the Trek Uninitiated:

1 : The Motion Picture
with the huge success of the first Star Wars, the studio looked around for another intellectual property they could make a Big Sci-Fi movie of, and went with Star Trek, since it still had fans, even after being off the air for a decade. Somewhat unfortunately, they went with a model more like 2001: A Space Odyssey - "Hey, I know it's so slow and ponderous you're falling asleep. But look at all this cinematography! Sci-Fi doesn't have to be cheap schlock!"

II: Wrath of Khan
this is the one that gets all the recommendations, because it's more of a movie-movie. It introduces all the players and their motivations, has a beginning, middle, and end, etc. Sure the beginning is a Meditation on Aging that 12 year olds don't relate to, but it ends up with a tense submarine-fight-in-space that they do. And there's a character death that you actually care about, sincerely moving enough to be one of those things that Makes Dads Cry.
Again, it gets a lot of recommendations from Trekkies to people who ask "what is a 'Star Trek' and why do people like it?"

III: the Search for Spock
picks up right after the prior installment. Remember that Main Character Death, where you don't know how the franchise can continue? Maybe we can write our way out of it! And maybe Sci-Fi can be a little schlocky, sometimes, as a treat. It's got Doc Brown from Back to the Future in alien makeup as the Bad Guy.

IV: the Voyage Home (aka the One with the Whales)
Picks up literally hours after the events of III. Has a spirit of Hey! The Gang's All Here. The characters you are already fond of are back again, this time having some fun with it! 80's Era environmentalism and feminism, In Space!

V: the Final Frontier
Someone hijacks our favorite starship and crew, to fly to the center of the galaxy and give God a ride. Someone else asks 'Hold on. What does God need with a starship?' That's it, that's the whole thing.

VI: the Undiscovered Country
Hey, remember those aliens that were kind of a clumsy Cold War metaphor, with a Neutral Zone instead of an Iron Curtain? With the collapse of the Soviet Union happening, let's turn that into a spy thriller / a clumsy metaphor for detente between two arrogant peoples who don't trust each other because they've been at war for so long.

1 is good if you want to get high and look at some ponderous psychedelic special effects
2 is a stand alone space action movie
3 and 4 are if you want to make a coherent trilogy binge watch of 2,3,and 4 some weekend, with the lightness and corny jokes of 4 keeping you from ending up exhausted by the end.
5 is for completionists, and can be skipped
6 is camp. Everyone is over-acting, but that's because they all Understand the Assignment - it's what they (and the audience) are here for.
posted by bartleby at 12:54 PM on September 24 [20 favorites]


I have the old Robert Wise cut of this on DVD from the early 2000s and it really is worth watching. I'm a fan and will probably buy the new Blue Ray to see how it looks.

It's worth mentioning that Jerry Goldsmith's score is incredible and was recycled for ST:TNG.
posted by octothorpe at 12:55 PM on September 24 [3 favorites]


What I remember most about TMP was how cold it was. Existential, lonely, alienating, brutal, cold. Starting with the (new!) Klingons getting vaporized. The transporter accident, which was a bit traumatizing to 10 yr old me. Spock failing his ceremony on Vulcan and getting absolutely rejected by his own. Ilia just getting absorbed & puppeted by something completely alien. And there's little warmth in the crew interactions. The terrible uniforms didn't help anything either.

I can see why many rejected it. I was deeply uncomfortable with it. It really broke almost every one of the Star Trek conventions & tropes that had made the initial series so loved. But in the end I really liked it. It was great seeing something truly alien which made the stakes feel quite serious. The soundtrack was something I put on repeat at home. And, in the context of my fundamentalist childhood, it was the perfect movie for me. Challenged everything I believed in. Gave me my first real glimpse of a universe where there was no god and religion was nowhere to be found. Disturbing & liberating all at once.

The novelization was something else too. I remember joking with friends on the playground that the movie was rated G (!) but the novel was rated X. Roddenberry wrote the novelization and it was rather horny in places. In the absence of VHS & DVDs or streaming, we just ended up re-reading the novel enough times that it could be casually referenced in conversation. It was a different time.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 1:24 PM on September 24 [10 favorites]


I have a somewhat unusual relationship with Star Trek in that I love it deeply and it was hugely formative, but almost entirely through the medium of the books. I've since seen the shows, but they are just completism to me, really. It was just a sweet spot of timing that I had easy access to them via the library but TV was in an era where if it wasn't on right then, forget about it. Anyway, I always really liked the first movie because I felt that it captured a certain level of reality that the others didn't. The intro scenes with the red alert going through the smaller outposts and ships, the transporter malfunction, etc. is a kind of sci fi they don't really deal with in the other movies, there's just something almost scary about it, like there is a real danger, and in the remaining movies, well, Spock has jet boots or whatever and we all know it. I haven't seen this edit but I'm curious how true it is to my perspective of the source.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:28 PM on September 24 [5 favorites]


6 is camp. Everyone is over-acting, but that's because they all Understand the Assignment - it's what they (and the audience) are here for.

Woah, let’s not forget, 6 is fan-servicey camp. The Klingons laying claim to Shakespeare, Sulu captaining the (much more ooh than the Enterprise) Excelsior, all the way down the line, it had what fans craved, and awesomely so.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:37 PM on September 24 [10 favorites]


Good list, bartleby, but you skipped Galaxy Quest?
posted by Pronoiac at 1:47 PM on September 24 [10 favorites]


Galaxy Quest is great, but it's a little meta. It's fan service about fan service. One thing it does have going for it is that while it's going after Trek, and Shatner in particular, it's relatable for a lot of sci-fi.
If you were never a fan, just had a roommate or something who was, it still applies; even if the fandom was for Trek or Babylon 5 or Farscape or Stargate or whatever, you still get some "ha ha, I've met people like this" laughs.

Similar things can be said for the early seasons of The Orville, which is 'what if Trek, but it's a Wacky Workplace comedy'. It holds up because all you have to be aware of is 'oh, it's The Office, but with Space Goofs'. Trek fans like it more, but you don't have to have a background in Trek to enjoy it.

As you can probably tell, one of my criteria for 'is this good' is 'does it hold up for a new viewer, without any nostalgia or prior investment to mine, instead of telling its own story'.

I didn't make any mention of the TNG movies, because I feel like they'really just feature length episodes of the show, shot with better cameras.
If you don't already know and like everyone in the cast before the opening credits, it's very likely that you're going to end up disappointing the excited person who's showing them to you, by scrolling through twitter on your phone and looking up only occasionally - "yeah honey, great, Jordo has eyes now, and Datey has feelings, pew pew those Borks, glad you're having a good time".
posted by bartleby at 2:46 PM on September 24 [7 favorites]


I'm on team TMP. I liked it in the theater, and liked it even more on rewatch when I was older. In fact, TMP vs Wrath of Khan has become a kind of mental shorthand for what I look for in a sci-fi movie vs what tends to bore me. I like slower, thinky sci-fi and tend to dislike more actiony sci-fi. So, Ed Astra: Loved it. Solaris (both versions): Loved it. All the reboot Star Trek movies: hate them. Alien: Loved it. Aliens: hated it.

Agree completely with teegeeack's take on the movie: Existential, lonely, alienating, brutal, cold. This is a feature, not a bug in my view. It makes for a space story with a slight tinge of cosmic horror hiding beneath. (Or at least so it seems in my memory. It's got to have been over 20 years since I last saw it.) But I understand how this is probably not a great formula for sci fi box office blockbuster success.

Any chance this new cut would/could be re-released in theaters? I would really really dig that.
posted by WhenInGnome at 4:54 PM on September 24 [4 favorites]


Roddenberry wrote the novelization and it was rather horny in places.

This doesn’t entirely surprise me, as my recollection from a long ago watch of TMP is that there was a lot of barely subtextual space-entity sex.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:24 PM on September 24


It's literally the perfect film of the Arthurian legend, with the director as auteur.

John Boorman was under-rated by film critics, and a swell Auteur.
posted by ovvl at 5:39 PM on September 24 [1 favorite]


From the novel, Ilia was from an alien race who gave off sex pheromones which drove humans to a horny madness. They were only allowed in Starfleet if they took a drug or something which greatly reduced the pheromones. Even then, they still had a somewhat discomfiting effect on people like Kirk. The book plays this up quite a bit. If memory serves me correctly, I think it’s almost entirely cut from the final script. There’s a moment in the movie when Kirk meets Ilia and is uncomfortable having her on the ship but that moment doesn’t last long.

I don’t remember if the book had any explicit scenes. I don’t think it did. But Roddenberry was very much in love with the idea of Ilia and his descriptions were rich. When V’ger reconstructs her and puts her back on the Enterprise in her quarters shower, the book scene goes into great detail about her pheromones being on full blast and Kirk can’t handle it well. Made a big impression on ten year old me, but in retrospect it was a bit silly.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 6:14 PM on September 24 [5 favorites]


Fein noted that the new endeavor was roughly a six-month process, beginning July 2021. “It was the perfect pandemic project. We all seem to work from our homes all around the world, over the Internet.” He chuckled. “That wasn’t even possible or conceivable 20 years ago!” (from the link shared by IdeeFixe, above)
posted by mecran01 at 7:05 PM on September 24


I will never like TMP. Ever since I was a kid, I've always found V'Ger's disassembly/assimilation/murder of the Klingons, space station crew, and Ilia to be too disturbing, and the ambiguity about whether they're really gone is just too much. I know we're supposed to have deep philosophical conversations about the nature of identity and Decker's (naive?) belief that Ilia is still in there somewhere and whether or not they're together one he joins with V'Ger, but given how cheap her "death" is and how the movie does squat to resolve anything other than have Kirk declare her and Decker to be MIA for funsies, I just can't take the movie seriously. TMP just has it's head so far up it's ass.

Star Trek IV is clearly the superior alien-probe-threatens-Earth story. "Only human arrogance would assume the signal must be meant for mankind" is a much more humbling theme than whatever it is that TMP is trying to say about the Creator. Also Voyage Home has wacky 1980s hijinks, so it also has that going for it.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:27 PM on September 24 [1 favorite]


I've always loved this movie, without overlooking some of its deficits. It was beautiful, it gave us a gorgeous new version of the Enterprise, and Jerry Goldsmith's music was and is marvelous. I'm eager to see the polished edition.
posted by bryon at 8:43 PM on September 24 [1 favorite]


Who purposely releases the story before the film exists?

Back in the day--before the web--that was a way to drum up interest in the screen version.

Even today people like to see adaptations of works they're already familiar with.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:23 PM on September 24 [1 favorite]


Oh wow, how apt, i literally just did a rewatch of TMP last week - and in the lands outside of the Five Eyes agreement, trying to get a legit access to all of Trek is these days... quite enraging to say the least. I blame SNW for getting me back, especially post-STID (though that's not the movie that earned the distinction of making me quit the franchise cold turkey, that honour goes to Insurrection).

Good thing TOS is still on my Netflix but their days could be numbered I don't know. I've no idea if there's a way to even buy a download where I am.

Anyway, in my head, it's always been:

I: The Search for Boss
II: The Search for Kirk
III: The Search for Spock
IV: The Search for Whales
V: The Search for God
VI: The Search for Plot

But last week's rewatch must have hit me at the right mood, because even with all the flaws it really took me back. I didn't grow up with TOS (more TAS) but the movies especially with video rental shops sprouting and the first few movies had excellent posters/video covers. But I believe TMP played on tv a lot. And i remembered that V'ger reveal blew my tiny little child mind.
posted by cendawanita at 10:59 PM on September 24


Count me in the "V is good, actually" camp. The opening scene is SO strange (and fun), the score is GREAT, and it has some of the best hang-out moments between Kirk, Spock, and Bones. Sure, it has some other issues and is a bit silly, but when are those not features of Star Trek? It is much more fun than its reputation suggests. I always root for it.
posted by Dokterrock at 11:15 PM on September 24 [5 favorites]


It is much more fun than its reputation suggests

This is a brave attempt and you have my respect but, sorry, no.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 12:30 AM on September 25 [1 favorite]


I fell down a rabbithole on this and found a really interesting breakdown and comparison of the different versions of Star Trek TMP. I won't lie, I think I've been convinced to give it another shot.
posted by ZaphodB at 1:46 AM on September 25


So…obtained a 4K copy of The Directors Edition from 'sources.' I’m about half way through it. A few impressions:

- Wow, the PQ/SQ is pretty amazing for a 40+ year old film. Some of the compositing is showing it's age but overall, well done.

- WRT the uniforms: feels like an early attempt at depicting Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism. (Too much 'day spa'?) TNG would correct that.

- I had forgotten that most of the music used in ST:TNG was originally written for this film.

- I’d be hard pressed to say how the film was re-edited from the original theatrical release but it doesn’t feel *entirely* awful the way I remember it. Just kind of forced, like it was trying too hard to be something. Also it’s almost entirely devoid of humor. I won’t say ‘grim’ but Kirk comes across as almost ruthless (Bones calls him on it too) and Spock seems like he’s just struggling to avoid becoming the character we’re going to like so much going forward.

- And speaking of ST:TNG, it’s interesting to consider that Decker and Lt. Ilia were clearly the prototypes for Riker and Troi, including having had a romantic relationship.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 6:16 AM on September 25


Roddenberry lost control of the movies after the first one and was vocal about his dislike of Khan and the directions the films went after that. ST:TNG was his attempt to continue what he'd started with ST: TMP.
posted by octothorpe at 9:27 AM on September 25 [1 favorite]


TNG is notable in this regard for how it didn't really start getting good until he lost control of it
posted by wotsac at 9:30 AM on September 25 [6 favorites]


What does God need with a starship?

In spite of the fact that I know it's in a TOS movie, in my head this line is always delivered in Patrick Stewart's voice, probably because Picard spends so much time being faintly outraged by things and this is one of those quintessential lines of uncomprehending outrage.

Really, Picard should have delivered this line every time Q showed up.
posted by jackbishop at 10:19 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


I can't believe we've gotten this far into the thread without mentioning the biggest, most glaring problem of the entire movie: Kirk's hair.

And no, I'm not entirely joking. Shatner's terrible toupée was, objectively, bad, in and of itself. But it was also a signal that something was really off with the characters. Yes, these were older, more mature versions of the crew that we had come to know in endless reruns, but it was more than that. This first glimpse of them in years just felt off--at least that was the impression when very young me saw this during its first run in the theatre. Spock was so much stiffer and withdrawn than he had been when the series went off the air. The feeling of familiarity and comradery was just missing. Cold and cool and sterile are absolutely the correct adjectives to apply to not only the 1970s "modern" space aesthetic, but also to the presentation of the crew that viewers had grown very attached to on the small screen.
posted by sardonyx at 10:33 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


One really jarring moment in TMP - when Bones first beams aboard his phobia of the transporters is played for comedy, including wry glances from Kirk, who just moments ago witnessed a gruesome transporter accident on the very same platform in which two crew members were killed. There's maybe 5 minutes separating the two events in the movie? McCoy is actually having the only rational reaction to the transporters, yet he's presented as a cantankerous luddite.
posted by Dokterrock at 12:40 PM on September 25 [10 favorites]


It is much more fun than its reputation suggests. I always root for it.

I agree. V is not a good movie. But the Kirk-Spock-McCoy trinity plays well in it. It's a dumb plot, but it's also warm & fuzzy. If you think of it as a bad but enjoyable episode of TOS, it goes down much more easily. Besides, "What does God need with a starship?" is a quote that almost redeems the film. For those of us who escaped conservative religions, that quote hits in a very nice way.

Cold and cool and sterile are absolutely the correct adjectives to apply to not only the 1970s "modern" space aesthetic


It's a fun thought to think of TMP as being the last of the cold 70's scifi movies. Star Wars almost killed that genre off, but TMP kept it going one last time.

Also worth remembering TMP came out of a planned new series of Star Trek. Working title of Star Trek: Phase II TOS crew minus Nimoy were going to return. Decker and Ilia were going to be new major characters. Was originally slated to air in 1977. 13 episodes were plotted out. It honestly looked a bit terrible. Paramount decided not to go with the series and went with the movie instead.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 1:06 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


The opening scene is SO strange (and fun), the score is GREAT

Yeah. I'll agree with that. The weird cold open that ends with Sybok revealing himself as a Vulcan and cackling madly while the supercharged Jerry Goldsmith theme strikes up is the best and most adventurous beginning to any Star Trek movie. I have to give Shatner credit because he really nails it there. It's too bad the rest of the movie doesn't live up to that potential.

"What does God need with a starship?" is a quote that almost redeems the film.

For sure. It's one of those rare moments when Kirk being a smug, self-assured asshole really works. And following it up with Spock's insistence that the question be answered and then with Bones' declaration that he doubts any god who inflicts pain for selfish pleasure really completes the trifecta. It's a shame the movie can't get to this point without debasing all the other characters into mindless followers of Sybok and it's a bigger shame the movie didn't dare leave some ambiguity as to whether or not the entity they found really was the god Sybok was looking for. The entity gets mean and everyone's too quick to say well of course this isn't the god of Sha Ka Ree and it would have a better resolution if maybe it was.

Also, also: I don't know whether Bones' "you don't ask the Almighty for His ID" was inspired by that line in Ghostbusters about saying 'yes' if someone asks if you're a god, but it's a nice complement to it in any event.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:07 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


Fascinating.

I continue to enjoy the theatrical version. (The list of my favorite films suggests I actually rather like being kept at arms length as a viewer.) I even liked the pan-and-scan, randomly cut-for-time VHS version I first saw. But, I'm looking forward to this. Really interesting interview.
posted by eotvos at 6:53 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


"Hey, I know it's so slow and ponderous you're falling asleep. But look at all this cinematography! Sci-Fi doesn't have to be cheap schlock!"

Roddenberry was a little obsessed with Star Trek being more respectable; he'd complain about how he'd get letters from doctors and lawyers and all these respectable people who were also Trekkies, but whenever they had a convention the press would always run pictures of the guy dressed as an Andorian and the guy with a vest with every Star Trek button in existence at that point on it. And it's true that a lot of the press regarding the stubborn failure of Star Trek fandom to die away was kind of condescending, but Gene was so damn self-important about it; this would eventually show up in TNG as well, with Gene insisting that humanity had basically no character flaws whatsoever, which made it really difficult for the writing staff. It's interesting to see what fans pick out from TMP now as its key moment; it's not when Decker and Ilia-V'Ger having a Big Glowing Glorious Space Fuck, it's when Spock takes Kirk's hand after his space walk/mind meld with V'Ger and says, this is what it's really all about.

(Of course, Gene was also horny as hell, hence Ilia and, eventually, Deanna Troi wearing a unitard on the bridge when the rest of the crew wore uniforms; even the skants were more dignified. Whatever else you might say about Jellico, at least he gave Troi her uniform back.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:01 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Whatever else you might say about Jellico, at least he gave Troi her uniform back.
It's been a while since I've seen it, but I'm ashamed that I never specifically recognized this until now. Thanks! I'm now curious who put that bit in.

Personally - and I realize this will make me enemies - I actually think the released version was at least as good as 2001 and far better than Solaris. (Not at all because of the quality of the effects.) It's very different in tone from the TOS program. But, I'm not sure that's actually a bad thing. Trek can be many different things.
posted by eotvos at 11:32 PM on September 25


who just moments ago witnessed a gruesome transporter accident on the very same platform in which two crew members were killed

That's another reason I can't take TMP seriously. They just throw in this randomly gruesome transporter accident for no reason at all and everyone just dismisses it as a fluke and moves on. What was the point? To emphasize the fallibility and imperfection of human-made machines? To show that working on a day spa starship is still dangerous? My guess is that as with Ilia's pheromones it's just another artifact of Rodenberry's creative vision creepiness coming through with minimal filtering. In the novelization, one of the transporter victims is Kirk's wife, who was described as a "surrogate Enterprise" for Kirk.

this would eventually show up in TNG as well, with Gene insisting that humanity had basically no character flaws whatsoever, which made it really difficult for the writing staff.

That's actually one thing I don't fault Rodenberry for. With the way the present day is going, I kind of want to escape to a future world where most problems have been solved and everyone's living in fully automated gay space luxury communism and the threat of the week isn't existential. I think recent Star Trek keeps forgetting that. This is why I really enjoyed earlier seasons of The Orville when it was just The Office but in Space with some really cheesy stories thrown in to give characters something to do.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:16 AM on September 26


I kind of want to escape to a future world where most problems have been solved and everyone's living in fully automated gay space luxury communism and the threat of the week isn't existential.

But that's basically the Culture and its humans (and drones, and even Minds) are full of character flaws. I think almost the only interesting stories you can tell about something like the Culture center on the character flaws.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:34 AM on September 26


That's another reason I can't take TMP seriously. They just throw in this randomly gruesome transporter accident for no reason at all and everyone just dismisses it as a fluke and moves on

The reason was so that they'd have an excuse to use the little shuttle craft to take Scotty to the enterprise and spend 2 and half minutes just looking at the Enterprise while Goldsmith's strings play.
posted by octothorpe at 6:49 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


Thereby launching a new story tradition!

I'm this close to asking friends in Australia to let me have a P+ trial so i can check out this cut on VPN, grrrr damn u currency fluctuations where's my luxury space communism.
posted by cendawanita at 6:53 AM on September 26


The reason was so that they'd have an excuse to use the little shuttle craft to take Scotty to the enterprise and spend 2 and half minutes just looking at the Enterprise while Goldsmith's strings play.

They did it in Wrath of Khan (albeit more time compressed) while Horner's score played. They didn't even need a disgusting transporter mishap for an excuse. Kirk and Spock just get on a shuttle and fly up to the Enterprise. And it's the same damn footage of the shuttle and the Enterprise. And up until now I've never even thought about why they took a shuttle instead of using the transporter because it doesn't matter.

But that's basically the Culture and its humans (and drones, and even Minds) are full of character flaws. I think almost the only interesting stories you can tell about something like the Culture center on the character flaws.

Definitely. But sometimes I think Star Trek overcorrects for Rodenberry's absurd limits on character flaws and goes too far into grimdark.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:36 AM on September 26


They were only allowed in Starfleet if they took a drug or something which greatly reduced the pheromones. Even then, they still had a somewhat discomfiting effect on people like Kirk.

That would explain the wooden acting! "Long-term use may cause split diopter monologues."
posted by credulous at 8:48 AM on September 26


I've also never needed an in-universe reason for them to be in shuttles at the end of Star Trek IV so there could be that reveal of the new Enterprise rising up from behind Excelsior. They just happen to be in shuttles.

That's just how completely unnecessary the transporter scene is in TMP.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:51 AM on September 26


Why Star Trek: The Motion Picture's Horrifying Transporter Accident May Be The Director's Edition's Most Important Scene. Producer David Fein cynically explaining that scene and his new edit.
We wanted to also tell people this was a better film and a different film, a mature film. And we realized that the G rating that they gave, time had changed from a G just being something that wasn’t as harsh for audiences, to G [means a] kids film. And we knew that if I was able to send the film back in for re-rating, it would and it could get a PG. And that would spark people’s interest in the film and [they'd be] like, ‘What could possibly have been done to that film at the time to gain a PG rating.’
So they added a sound like "the most horrible pain of your life and you needed to scream just to get it out, but you had no way, no orifice, to even scream". I guess that's Fein's idea of "a better film".

If you want to watch the transporter accident, it's at 26:20 in the new edit. The sound is unpleasant but doesn't seem particularly compelling. I dunno; I've always liked the body horror and philosophical conundrums involved in the transporter. They could have made that interesting in the movie. But as RonButNotStupid notes they just insert this awful scene and then move on. Dokterrock is also right that the way they make a joke out of Bones getting uncomfortable about being beamed up just makes no sense.

(Also in true Star Trek fashion the staffing makes no sense. For some reason it's Nurse Doctor Chapel at the transporter controls. Then Kirk pushes her aside to operate the transporter himself, killing them. Meanwhile the preternaturally competent Chief Engineer is standing right there. Perhaps he knew better than to get involved.)

I noted that the Kirk / Scotty in the shuttle scene comes before the accident; Kirk has to beam to a space station nearby because the Enterprise transporters are down entirely. They could easily have gotten their indulgent Enterprise fly by (4 minutes 30 seconds, with harp plucking music!) without the horror. But killing off the not-Spock Vulcan science officer at the start was an important part of the plot and the Spock headfake, so eh.

Those costumes, wow. It's distracting how well you can see the outline of so many men's genitals in their pants. I mean I like a nice basket but this is more like badly fitting pyjamas. Shout out to Bones' leisure suit though, complete with giant Age of Aquarius pendant.
posted by Nelson at 10:46 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


(Also in true Star Trek fashion the staffing makes no sense. For some reason it's Nurse Doctor Chapel at the transporter controls. Then Kirk pushes her aside to operate the transporter himself, killing them. Meanwhile the preternaturally competent Chief Engineer is standing right there. Perhaps he knew better than to get involved.)

Not Chapel—it’s (formerly Yeoman) Rand. Not that it disproves your point, but as a lifetime Trekker, I had to make the correction.

I’m watching it now for the first time in decades. It definitely is beautiful. It’s been long enough that I don’t notice a ton of difference, but I’m only a third of the way in. I still can’t get past the dentist’s office uniforms, and I’ll probably never be able to.

Also Decker is just the most insufferable.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 7:42 PM on September 26 [2 favorites]


Not Chapel—it’s (formerly Yeoman) Rand.

Yikes, you are absolutely right. And in that story she is the Chief Transporter Officer. So at least her presence makes sense. It's interesting they brought her character back; she'd been cut from the TV show in the first season.
posted by Nelson at 7:14 AM on September 27


The actress, Grace Lee Whitney, was sexually assaulted by a producer of the series in the first season which is why she didn't appear again.
posted by octothorpe at 7:37 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Sorta reminded me of 2001, a longish slow movie that has to be dissected at the end.

As I said once before on the blue, I have revisited my views on the ponderousness of TMP in an era with a frat boy Captain Kirk who does rad BMX moves.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:31 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


It is much more fun than its reputation suggests

Well, it would just about have to be, wouldn’t it?

I actually booked the evening off work so I could see opening night. I know exactly where I was from seven until nine pm on June 9, 1989. If I’d been at work I would have made two hours at minimum wage — I think $10.50 in those days — and been a happier man.

It was also the dawning of a new Trek experience for me: the bit of Trek that I knew I’d have zero interest in ever revisiting (and I have not... I bought a boxed set of the TMP movies maybe fifteen years ago; there is only one I have never rewatched).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:48 PM on September 27


« Older "So there's one in the breach?"   |   "Isn’t Star Trek: The Next Generation just a... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments