I have a friend who calls Star Trek The Motion Picture a ‘very long tea party in space.’ Jokes on him, though, because they don’t even DRINK tea in this movie. And jokes on me, because even with the lack of tea drinking I understand the point he’s making (in his very snarky manner).
The plot for the first Star Trek movie breaks down basically like this: Some giant space anomaly type thing comes along and starts sucking up Klingons and space stations and common sense. Starfleet gets a bit freaked out when it realizes the anomaly is headed toward Earth so they decide to send the Enterprise out to intercept it. Of course Admiral James T. Kirk HAS to lead the mission, even though he’s spent the last few years working a desk at Starfleet headquarters AND the Enterprise has been almost completely rebuilt with a new Captain at the helm. Tensions rise (very slowly) as Admiral and Captain clash, Captain is re-introduced to an old love interest, friends are re-united to less than bromance level excitement, and EVENTUALLY the Big Bad at the heart of the anomaly is revealed to be someone(thing?) no one could have really expected because wow that was kind of a cool and surprising reveal.
Star Trek The Motion Picture is a big, long, strange mess. It feels nothing like an episode of the show, and nothing like any of the other movies in the franchise. The costumes don’t look right, the characters don’t really act right, and the story just doesn’t FEEL right. It isn’t that this movie is BAD, it’s that it is so WEIRD. Long scenes with people staring at things. Crazy effects and graphics just for the sake of having crazy effects and graphics (“look guys, we have a huge budget and we’re gonna spend it ALL on computer images and models and anything else we can think up!”). The inside of V-ger’s (the Big Bad’s) ship is cool and all, but it goes on FOREVER and traveling through it is just a lot of staring and making faces and staring and gasping in wonder and on and on and ON. The thing is I actually quite like the whole V-ger thing. It’s an interesting idea. Unfortunately it’s buried in all the weirdness of the rest of the movie.
And is it just me, or does it seem like the creators/costumers on Star Trek can’t ever figure out what exactly future fashion will look like? It changes almost every film and sometimes it is way more bizarre than others. In this first film in the series they’ve settled on a future/ancient Grecian … style? … I guess? Lots of short tunics and short dresses and short sandals and, yeah, lots of shortness going on. Except when people pop up in 70’s leisure suits with swanky medallions and bushy beards (Bones was into bushy beards BEFORE they were cool).
Anyway, so yeah, Star Trek The Motion Picture, kind of a mess BUT like I mentioned before, the reveal of the Big Bad is pretty cool and raises all these great questions about robots and artificial intelligence and what it means to be alive and questioning existence and who may have created that existence. And while much of the cast is left in the background, miling around and getting randomly electrocuted from their work consoles, some good depth is given to Spock (quit trying to grow out of your emotions there buddy, it never works out well in the end for you) and Admiral/Captain/WhateverHeIsToday Kirk. From the second he catches sight of the Enterprise you can see in his eyes that he will never love anyone as much as he loves that ship. He’ll never fight as hard for a human relationship as he will for his right to sit in that Captain’s chair. In an incredibly d-bag-like maneuver first thing in the movie he steals the Enterprise from the guy who he told Starfleet to hand the ship to. Poor Captain Will Decker, he never really stood a chance, in his less-than-flattering gray unitard and righteous indignation. Decker wants to be Captain because that’s the next step in his Starfleet career. Kirk wants to be Captain because he’s married to his ship and doesn’t know any other way to be.
In addendum, some things I noticed and kept track of in this, my dozenth (is that a word? cause I’m using it whether it is or not) viewing of this film: Dr. McCoy walks on and off the bridge of the Enterprise six times for no particularly good reason (he’s the head of medical, why is he ALWAYS up on the dang bridge? doesn’t he have medical stuff to be doing?), there are six costume changes between the main characters of the film and most of those do not seem like they need to happen (though I do find the white short sleeved shirt uniform Kirk sports for a while quite fetching), and the scene that shows off the Enterprise for the first time in the movie takes a whopping five minutes. Five minutes of nothing but showing off the ship from every conceivable angle – to a rendition of the Star Trek theme done on harp, no less. Quick sidenote on that ‘five minutes,’ however, as I think that scene used to be longer. In fact I think several scenes in this film used to be longer, so maybe I had a special edition of the movie OR someone realized along the way that all the staring and gasping and watching scenes did nothing for the flow of the film and cut them down a bit.
– Mia V.
Star Trek The Motion Picture, 1979
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, Stephen Collins
Directed by Robert Wise
Written by Gene Roddenberry, Harlod Livingston
*Watch Star Trek The Motion Picture on ThisTV: Tuesday September 23rd at 7pm, Thursday September 25th at 8am, Monday September 29th at 7pm!