Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Title: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Date(s): 1979
Medium: film
Fandom: Star Trek
Language: English
External Links: IMDb entry

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Star Trek: The Motion Picture (sometimes abbreviated Star Trek:TMP, ST:TMP, or TMP) was the first film adaptation of the original Star Trek television series.


After being off-screen for nearly 10 years, fans eagerly awaited the release of the first feature length Star Trek movie. They had fought long and hard, creating numerous fan letter campaigns lobbying Paramount for further adventures of the Starship Enterprise and her crew. While many fans rejoiced in the movie's release, others felt it was too long and boring suffering from a bloated plot with too many long tracking shots of traveling through space.

The novelization of the movie, however, provided K/S fans some legitimacy when Gene Roddenberry translated the word T'hy'la, an affectionate name that Spock gives to Kirk, in a footnote to encompass "friend, lover and brother." An analysis of that footnote can be found at The Footnote: An Explication de Texte.

Work began on the film in 1975. Creator Gene Roddenberry originally wrote a script (popularly called The God Thing although that wasn't the actual title), which in some respects resembled the later The Final Frontier: evil aliens are responsible for a Godlike creature that turns out to be a massive computer complex. Kirk, of course, outwits it and sends it back where it came from. In another version, the aliens aren't evil but their computer generates "prophet" figures every few thousand years intended to help humanity. Other prospective scripts came from Theodore Sturgeon, John D.F. Black and even Ray Bradbury. Harlan Ellison proposed having the crew go back in time to get rid of reptilian aliens who'd colonized Earth in the distant past. Roddenberry liked this but when they presented it to the Paramount executive in charge of the film -- Ellison said this man was really a designer and had never actually produced a film -- he suggested incorporating von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods and the ancient Mayans into this script, leaving Ellison trying vainly to explain that his story was supposed to take place millennia before those civilizations existed.[1]

Meanwhile, Roddenberry and his co-workers took so long to complete the project that at one point Paramount decided to instead reboot the original series as Star Trek: Phase II. The original cast returned, with the exception of Nimoy; the characters of Will Decker and Lt. Ilia, along with young Lt. Xon, were created to fill Spock's positions as science officer and second in command. Work was set to begin when Paramount scrapped the project in favor of returning to the idea of a feature film. The pilot episode for Phase II, "In Thy Image" (written by Harold Livingston from a story by Alan Dean Foster), became the basis for the film. Nimoy was given a check for his back royalties, whereupon he agreed to return and was given script approval along with Shatner.[2]

Plot summary

The Starship Enterprise is assigned a new captain after spending years being refitted in a space dock. Most of the crew of the Enterprise has moved on to other roles and the ship is about to be launched under the command of its new captain, Willard Decker. After an unknown entity destroys several Klingon ships, then a Federation space station, deskbound Admiral Kirk returns to the Enterprise to take over from Captain Decker for this mission. He sends for Dr. McCoy, but the Vulcan he had chosen for first officer dies in a transporter accident. Studying on Vulcan, Spock had felt the entity's approach. About to enter the final stage of Kolinahr – the purging of all emotion – the entity stirs Spock’s emotions, inspiring Spock to return to the Enterprise to seek his 'answers'. The entity absorbs and replicates a mechanical copy of the body of Ilia, one of the Enterprise navigators, who previously had a relationship with Capt. Decker. Calling itself "V'Ger" the probe claims that its purpose in approaching Earth is to find its creator. While Kirk and Captain Decker are engaged in trying to reach Ilia, Spock steals a spacesuit and travels into the heart of V’Ger hoping to mind-meld with it, but when he tries, his own mind is overwhelmed by the complexity and loneliness of the machine. Retrieved by Kirk, he explains that V'ger questions the gathering of mere facts and believes there must be more. Soon afterward, V'Ger reaches Earth and launches energy weapons that the Ilia probe says will eradicate all carbon-based life on Earth so that V'Ger’s creator – which V'Ger assumes to be a machine – can respond to its hails. Kirk insists that carbon-based life is the Creator. Claiming he can respond to V'Ger he is taken, along with Spock, McCoy, Decker, and Ilia, to the center of the machinery. There, the officers realize that V'Ger is in fact Voyager 6, an old Earth vessel built to gather information to return to its creator. Along the way, the machine developed a consciousness and is now seeking to understand the reasons behind its existence, and intangible concepts that can't be explained with reason and logic. Guessing that physical contact might allow them to communicate directly with the machine, Decker touches V'Ger's console and types in the code "Proceed to transmit". Decker and the Ilia probe merge into V'Ger to form a new entity. Moved by V'Ger's quest for meaning, Spock says he has no need to return to Vulcan to embrace their emotionless way of life, and Kirk orders the ship “out there, thataway.”[3]

A Scene Beloved by Many Fans

Spock says, "Jim... This... simple feeling is beyond V'ger's comprehension."

A 1975 Description

University campuses were a popular spot for Gene Roddenberry to give speeches and presentations to fans, both about the original show, and his future creative plans.

From a December 1975 press conference at Memphis State University:
  • 1) There will be a Star Trek movie to be released in the winter of 1976. It is tentatively entitle[d] STAR TREK II.
  • 2) Special effects will be used extensively. The Magician system [sic - the reporter meant '"Magicam"] will be used. The main sets consisting of the bridge, sickbay, transporter room, etc., will be rebuilt.
  • 4) The USS Enterprise will be the ship used with a few interior modifications.
  • 5) All original actors have been appropriated.
  • 6) A script has been accepted by Paramount. Roddenberry and three notable sci-fi writers worked on the script, one of which was Lester Del Rey.
  • 7) Paramount ran a survey which stated that there are ten million potential ticket buyers for the Star Trek movie. The movie budget is 4-5 million dollars, Paramount could make over 50 million dollars. NBC has stated that if the movie is a success, they want the show back on the air. It would not return as a sixty minute program, but as a ninety minute program which would appear once a month.
  • 8) A major article about Star Trek will appear in Newsweek magazine. A time has not been set. [4]

Fans as Extras in the Film

One chapter in the book, On the Good Ship Enterprise by Bjo Trimble, and an article by Dennis Fischer, "Part of the Magic: The Experience of Being A Star Trek Extra" for Enterprise Incidents #7, both concern the involvement of local Los Angeles "Star Trek" fans as paid extras in the movie.

A fan recorded her experiences in a poem, The Star Trek Cattlecall.

Many more fan names and memories can be found in a 2007 entry, "Faces in the Crowd", in Ian McLean's Have Phaser, Will Travel blog. [5]

The 2009 Blu-Ray boxed release, "Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection", features a reunion of fan extras from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". "Special Star Trek Reunion" includes Christopher Doohan, David Gerrold, Bjo Trimble, JoAnn Christy-Nolan and Fred Bronson chatting on the same soundstage used for the film's Rec Deck scene.

Fan Comments


[Harlan Ellison]: And television begat Roddenberry, and Roddenberry begat Star Trek, and Star Trek begat Trekkies, and Trekkies begat Clamor, and Clamor begat a Star Trek animated cartoon, and Clamor begat More Clamor, and More Clamor begat Trek Conventions, and Even More Clamor begat T*H*E M*Y*T*H, and T*H*E M*Y*T*H begat Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the mountain labored mightily and begat... a mouse. [6]

Before any feedback, before the reviews and the picking at it that so many would soon do, the audience's reaction was as mine: The Motion Picture was everything we had dreamed about. Maybe not perfect, but we were willing to forgive the little mistakes for the time being. We had the sickbay scene. We had "This. . .simple feeling." We were satisfied. No, we were triumphant!


The release of ST:TMP triggered a firestorm in the show's fandom. But while it gave the creative element of fandom a whole new set of rules by which to play, it also negated other long-held beliefs and suppositions. There were fans who loved the film. There were fans who scorned and criticized it. But did the film, in and of itself, cause a division among its devotees? I don't think so....I must confess that while I definitely did love The Motion Picture, warts and flyovers and all, it did kill something creative within me. Speaking from a purely personal observation, I found it very difficult to write Trek after ST:TMP. Bev and I produced only one major story set in the aftermath of the movie, and that was for a zine to which we had committed a contribution... But our prolific fan fiction writing days were over. It could have been simple burn out, unconnected to the movie altogether. Or the film itself may have had something to do with it. It wasn't that I saw anything wrong or "off" about what the film postulated. It was all viable canon – the end of the five year mission, Spock going to Gol for mysterious reasons, Kirk accepting a desk job. We read all the creative extrapolations and explanations, and seldom found them wanting. Reflecting back upon it all now, I think it was the idea that this world was no longer my personal playground. Someone else, someone in creative control, had stamped it with their authority. It negated any alternate suppositions I might make and forced me into the narrow confines it had deemed true. It was a clear case of "having is not always so pleasing a thing as wanting". I had begged for a film or series, for new and fresh material – but now that it was a reality, I was sorry I had asked! I suppose, from a personal perspective, I spent the rest of the next decade or so waiting for the next new movie to show me what happened next. I was no longer creatively connected to that universe; I was merely an observer. [7]
No fan has yet seemed to share the bitter disappointment I felt after seeing it.... I found it to be the first genuinely obscene movie I've ever attended. I'm referring, of course, to the design of the alien ship. I have not studied Freud, but even I couldn't miss the implications of that design. If I had had any lingering doubts, all that nonsense between Decker and Ilia about "joining" would have dispelled them. And this thing got a G rating? Just shows how far off the Rating Administration is, but naturally, if they had given it the rating it deserved, it couldn't have turned into the biggest moneymaker in history, now could it?[8] I actually felt dirty after leaving the theatre. I'm left with the impression that ST-TMP is someone's idea of a big, filthy joke, frankly. [9][10]
When I visited the Star Trek set at Paramount in August of 1978, I was not a pilgrim finding his Sanctuary; I was merely a friend of the film's casting director responding to an invitation to "come on over". I felt a little guilty at the opportunity, for I knew enough of the Star Trek fandom phenomenon to realize that millions Out There would cheerfully have sold their souls for such an opportunity. Yet I was happy it was I and not they when, after breasting a number of formidable security guards (it was a very closed set) and having to produce innumerable badges, amulets and the like, I finally came upon the central set of the Enterprise's Bridge. What can I say about this and the other sets that vere scattered about in fragments like discarded dinosaur bones? They seemed. . well, tacky. . . and cramped. . . I kept looking about for the real sets, the ones that glittered and filled the eye. Instead, I found false perspective corridors with paintings of crewmembers in miniature on the rear flats, fragments of other chambers of the Enterprise small enough for tight medium-shot canera setups, and vast amounts of what looked like junk snaking and coiling across the intertwined series of stages. Worse, all the Enterprise crew (with the exception of Spock, who was absent that day) were lounging about sweating and drinking coffee, for God's sake! I could see lint on their uniforms; and Walter Koenig (with whom I spoke at length) was more interested in his writing career than the work at hand. But worst of all was the scene that was being shot that day, the moment when the Enterprise enters an alien force field. It was a sight calculated to wilt the most ardent Trek Adherent. . . There they were, the crew assembled on the Bridge, Kirk barking out his staccato orders (and flubbing them every time); and all the while they all were shaking. Yes, that's what I said. As they spoke their lines, they all trembled and quaked while at the back of the set 3 blue-jeaned prop man waved a long pole at the tip of which was affixed an orange disc. The moving disc, apparently, was to fix their eye movements so that when the special effects were later inserted, there would be continuity. The shaking was occasioned by the fact that in the script the Enterprise was supposed to be caught in the grip of the alien force. In the harsh light of the set, however, it looked merely ludicrous. It was hardly a sight for anyone believing in Star Trek, science fiction movies, or magic. But then, who really wants to be let in on the secret behind the illusion? It was Steve Allen who said once that "some things are beautiful only at a distance; don't complain, keep your distance." Because I am not infected with the Star Trek fever, I survived the moment in relatively good shape. I have been on soundstages before and was able to adjust to the smallness of it all. The fact is, things grow and enlarge somewhere between the initial shooting on the set & the subsequent viewing in the movie theater. Somewhere in the route of passage a sea change occurs and results that are "rich and strange" emerge. That is the magic of movies and I'll be darned if I can figure out just where it happens. Fortunately, it did happen in STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. I watched in vain for a telltale sign of those gimcrack sets. Instead, my eyes were greeted with scenes of surpassing grandeur. Now, at the outset, let me explain that because I have resisted the various fevers going around - from Star Trek to Star Wars - that, presumably, I could approach the film with a relatively clear gaze. And yes, I will grant you that some of the film's sequences are just plain routine and fatiguing. Take the long sequence where Ilia has just returned from V'ger (please) and reacquainted with Decker. . . The dialogue is flat, the characters uninteresting, the camera setups head on, the direction listless. Well - and the sequence where the crewmen stand around at the end regarding the returned Voyager and offer their homilies about Life and New Worlds and all that. The dialogue in both instances must bear the burden of the film's message and it sags badly under the strain. That was a problem that has flawed films from Things to Come to Forbidden Planet. Such sequences remind me of a sneaking fear that has been growing in my gut for years now. Science fiction films of the past ten years have been lamentable short of that illusive element called "wonder". There has been hardware and razzle dazzle aplenty. . . but not much else. ST:TMP did what Close Encounters, with all its evasiveness and Star Wars, with all its snappy pace, couldn't do. . . it presented us with such a vast canvas of space that we were reminded of our true relation to the cosmos; we all felt small, a little lost, a little intimidated, even a little sad about it all. And here was where Star Trek made its giant leap off the gimcrack launching pad of the Paramount soundstages. Never has a film conveyed such a sense of the limitless fields of space: the entry into the alien cloud, a sequence that, in the opinion of many, lasts far too long, gave me, for the first time since 2001: A Space Odyssey, that incredible sense of the vastness of space - which is to say that it suggested something of the proportions of imagination itself. Some critics complain that ST:TMP is unemotional and cold. Granted, some of the scenes of human interaction, such as the reunion of the Enterprise crewmembers, seen to come off rather uncertainly. (These are the sequences that my Trek friends seem to enjoy the most) And the long scene between Decker and Ilia after her return from V'ger has all the intensity and conviction of a wet dishrag. But consider other scenes. One is for me the finest thing in the film, the reunion of Kirk with - not a human friend - but with his beloved Starship Enterprise. The long sequence of Kirk's return (with Goldsmith's Olympian music taking the measure of the events) brought tears to my eyes. Certainly, it's a visual marvel, with the orbiting Enterprise being penetrated by Kirk's shuttle as it goes in, around, and through the vast machine. But, more importantly, it is a majestic scene, grand and measured and profound. And all the while, Kirk's stunned gaze dominates the scene: slightly moist, slightly transfixed, it is the gaze of one who loves and who has Come Home. [snipped]. [11]
I liked STTMP. And after seeing it for the second time last night I can safely say, I loved it! And I know I speak for Nikki and Kay when I say that it just keeps getting better. (I think they've seen it at least 10 times between the two of them.) Yesterday, when I was making a rough draft of this column, I was going to admit the movie had a few flaws, but the second time around I found myself enjoying the parts I had disliked the first time around. My biggest complaint had been the special effects. They could have had less of that and more Kirk/Spock/McCoy scenes. But I don't think I could ever get enough of them, and I did like the alien this time. I think the reason I enjoyed it more this time was because the first time I was too nervous. I kept asking myself, is this any good? am I bored? is it a flop? I now heartily recommend that you all go see it at least twice. It just keeps getting better, and we all know that from watching the series. Episodes I didn't much care for have become great favorites with me after several viewings and my favorites are not always very well liked by other fans. So, if you didn't like it the first time, give it another chance. [12]
Behold the starship Enterprise, sailing again through cinema skies.
Her insides are fancy, remodeled and nice,
and furnished with many a new device
designed to awe, delight, and surprise.
She's a ship no Trekkie can recognize.
There's an improvement that must be admitted:
the bridge chairs with thigh-clamps now have been fitted;
when it gets rough (as it often does there),
the captain no longer falls out of his chair.
One rule of Trekking is sure and dependable-
new crew members are always expendable.
Thus Decker and Baldie, who have much appeal,
meet liquidation in the last reel.
The Klingons are made-up as ugly as sin;
Spock is a thrill when at last he walks in;
poor Uhura, despite all the years,
has not progressed far in rank, it appears;
the captain has lost his old midriff bulge;
and there's a dumb ending I shall not divulge. [13]

1980 Comments: From the Australian Print Zine "Multiverse"

Many fans wrote to Nikki White about the film, and she published some of their responses in Multiverse #2. Some excerpts are below:

[Helen D (AUS)]:

Regarding that 'ST' film, I am bound to admit that the night I went I was practically dead on my feet, ill and exhausted... It's shameful to admit the fact, but I dozed off a couple of times towards the end. Briefly,perhaps half a minute each time but the film was just sooooo drawn out in places. It should go without saying that I am going to see it again but the first time around I was sorely disappointed. It had an interesting storyline but the ending was too abrupt and contrived for my taste. I was left thinking something along the lines of 'Is that all?' It was certainly lovely to see all the old gang together again but for me it all lacked that indefinable lure of the old 'Star Trek'.

Personally, if the new tv series never gets off the ground, it won't worry me particularly. My memories of the old are fonder.
[Charlene F (US)] I stood in line for 3 hours when ST:TMP opened in Seattle, not knowing what to expect (I refused to read anything about it so the plot would not be a give away). When I left the theatre over two hours later, I was partly disappointed. The movie doesn't have the tight action that was so much a part of the TV show and of SW. There are parts that don't stand up in a second viewing (like where the Enterprise skims over the cloud. It is much too long). Some parts of the movie seem like they are out of the blooper reels (i,e, at the very end when Lt. Sulu asks for a course and Kirk says, "Out there. That a way.") but at the same time, there are parts so beautiful, so different that they challenge the imagination and reach a subconscious level (like when Decker and Ilia joined, or when Spock did his mind probe on V'jer). It was like Gene Roddenberry was experimenting with a new type of film.
[Val R (AUS)]:

I'd been concerned for ages that the movie would kill the Star Trek mystique. But now I don't think we've got much to worry about as, true to our Aussie image, we will remain defiant and ignore any intrusion - if there is any - on our cherished ideals. I think ST: TMP had the most severe airing of any movie ever shown, because we were bound to be hypercritical - even in some cases, nitpicking!

Hearing so much controversy about it, I was determined to view it with an open mind - and I thought Mark Lenard's' makeup good — a departure from the series - but good. And I think developing the language, with the resulting subtitles was an excellent idea. The new uniforms didn't bother me too much, as it stands to reason that fashions would've changed somewhat in 10 years!


The story ending concept I liked;, but it all seemed an updated and lengthened TV show, which on the big screen needed action to stop it seeming drain out. (Some people used the word 'boring.'). We were told they weren't going all out for SFX like SW; (which, unfortunately people are going to compare it with), so to balance what they should have had some action and interaction. I blame Robert Wise - a good director he may be, I have no doubt - but he just didn't do his homework and so naturally the results were NOT Star Trek, just another Science Fiction movie, which just happened to have our favourite actors in it!

As you know, the soul of Star Trek is love and the interaction between the characters. There was none of this! The only thing that came anywhere near it was Bones' reaction on coming aboard. Spock should've shown a growing touch of human emotion even if only at the end, shouldn't he? - more especially when he has been rejected by Vulcan for his failure to purge his soul of his human side. Instead, he was pure Vulcan the whole time. And Kirk was SO wooden (But of course, all this was the result of Robert Wise's direction - left to Gene Roddenberry the show would have been a success).

However, I did appreciate the chance to see the Enterprise in dry dock, from all angles. But there was no mention of what had occurred to the famous 7 in the intervening years!... I was told that Bones had become a veterinarian. There wasn't a hint of this. And there certainly wasn't enough motivation for Kirk to act like a little boy in usurping Decker's command. It's sad, because I did want the ordinary man-in-the-street to like it and appreciate it for its intrinsic value and so maybe see what we all feel about it, ST was the pioneer of SFX as we know it but I was disappointed with the matte effects - one was very aware of the outline. This is inexcusable in this day and age.

No one seems to have any enthusiasm and everyone I spoke to seemed to divorce their old ST feelings from the movie and in doing so can remain loyal to Gene Roddenberry's concept.
[Robyn R (AUS)]

The movie ST:TMP is not up to Gene Roddenberry's standards. It is the special effects and optical departments' movie, not an actor's. No one one can doubt the beauty of the Enterprise but...


The three main characters are as cold as ice towards each other. They lack feeling towards one another; there is no sign of their strong bond of mutual trust, respect and loyalty and caring for one another, their friendship which is what got them through their five year mission.


It lacked the humour, fun and enjoyment of the series. James T, Kirk was too serious,Somewhere between the TV series and the making of ST:TMP the original format of the Star Trek story got lost, particularly in the writing of the three key characters.


Captain Kirk acts and behaves irresponsibly at the end. Starship command is a very reliable job with no room for that type of stunt.
[Richard K (US)]: The ending is truly amazing. Roddenberry has pulled off the greatest science fiction saga so far, something more than just the gimmickry of STAR WARS which was nice to look at and listen to, but didn't really have a meaning when the film was over.
[Jenny M (AUS)] I did enjoy the movie. It was definitely Kirk's and McCoy's film. I've seen it three times. Not impressed by the music score apart from the Klingon music, a couple of incidental pieces... Didn't mind Collins and Persis except for the eyes...I nearly went crawling up the wall! It was also interesting counting the number of ways Kirk said 'Spock'! It was a spot the episode film.
[Leonard M (Germany]: I liked it for some reason,or rather I liked the special effects and the movie best, kind of a mixture between Kubrick's 2001 and Close Encounters, no wonder, if you ask me, considering who co-edited STAR TREK. The story itself is a little clumsy and I didn't like that Decker character that much either. Kirk looks fantastic in it as if he hasn't aged a single year but on the other hand Spock seemed to have aged twice as much as in reality - 20 years - he didn't do too fine in I think. There were scenes in which he could have shown a little bit of reflection (that scene when he stepped onto the bridge, and McCoy expresses his feelings towards him), he didn't even turn in the elevator. I was a little disappointed because this scene gave the impression of being forced or something. I enjoyed the scene where the Enterprise accelerates to warp speed,it was brilliantly done, very real. But I feel the movie doesn't keep what we were promised before it was released.
[Denise J (NZ)] Thought the technical brilliance really good but as for the pace and storylihe, a disappointment. I was not really interested in a bunch of wrinklies playing at being the creators of a new race. But it, was good to see all the old ST cast, wrinkles or not.
[Becky A (US)]:

The general consensus from this end of the globe is that the whole plot sucked rocks, to put it mildly. I have contact with about 20 people, I guess, and not one really liked the thing. I think I made a big mistake by reading the book first then going to see the movie... I think that's what pretty well turned me off about the Trek movie.


I audibly groaned t/hen I discovered within the first five minutes of the film that they skipped over the whole lead in of the book and picked up with Kirk coming aboard the Enterprise. Personally, I thought that was one of the highlights of the book.
[Bev C (US)]

I cringed quite a lot at the overacting,particularly Shatner; he made every line seem world-shaking and earth—shattering, and the scene in Sickbay when Spock discovers the value of emotion - which I thought he had already done in "Yesteryear" - was so sentimental as to cause me to sink into my seat until it was over. The science was also bad, especially compared to what ST used to have... I didn't even like the music very much; I thought it was a little too ornate and overwhelming most of the time... I think that in many ways

Roddenberry's biggest mistake with the movie was in catering to the fans; most of the worst sequences in the movie are apparently aimed at the fans, like the Grand Tour of the Enterprise (aside from being boring, this sequence pointed out a serious error in scale between the shuttlecraft and the Enterprise).


... Anyway, this is my reaction to ST: TMP. I loved it! I am well aware of arguments against it—not enough interaction with characters, etc. But on the whole, it

was TREK. I especially was happy to see that Spock developed as the good fanwriters had pro posed (or prophesized?)—he recognized the IDIC in himself and did not deny his dual identity, but rather cherished the variety/differences. He finally saw the logic in using the best of both worlds ...[14]

Now. You have the courage to solicit opinions on ST:TMP? I can just imagine next issue's LoCs! Another one of those long, impassioned controversies is about to start, methinks. It'd be a pity not to contribute my two cents worth.

The question is, I guess, did I or did I not like ST:TMP? I saw it only once. Need I say more? No, but I will anyway. From the very beginning, when they showed those updated, scrumptious Klingons —and then did not bring them back once in the entire movie!!!—to the very grandiloquent, pretentious ending, it STANK.

There. I'll probably get crucified. But I was so MAD! It's not really a very very bad movie. It's just that it's so bland. We expected so much, and got zilch. It showed us exactly what letter campaigns are worth. A letter campaign brought us back "Star Trek" for a third year. It might as well have failed, for that additional year was an embarrassment to the show, and produced very little of value. Another letter campaign 'forced1 the Paramount executives—may bird droppings cover their windshields--to use the 'old' stars instead of the 'new* blood (i.e., 'exciting young stars') it wanted. Or did it?

Most of the old Enterprise crew roles were mere walk-ons. Insults to fine actors who had made the show what it was. Spock looked, acted, talked like a robot—he is a Vulcan, not an android. Kirk, who had a more substantial role ... well, let me put it this way: I would have followed the old Kirk right down to the ninth circle of hell --I wouldn't follow the new one as far as the corner drugstore. He looked boring, pompous, and stiff.

The actors who got the interesting roles were the ones the producers wanted all along: Persis Khambatta and Stephen Collins. The 'yo*ung' ones. I was quite glad when they dissolved into a ball of light; at least it means we won't see more of artifacts, and am sick to death of them. In this case, it just meant that the hardware (a space probe, a couple of human robots, and a gosh-wow ship) got the meaty roles, while the actors we hoped to see sat around twiddling their thumbs. Judging from the performances of the two principles (Shatner & Nimoy), though, it was perhaps just as well. Kirk was ponderous, militaristic, totally lacking in sex appeal (I never thought I'd say this, or even think it)--perhaps the "Space: 1999" costumes had something to do with it. As for Spock—to turn up looking, talking, acting like a reject from "The Night of the Living Dead" and then deliver a spiel on emotion and friendship--bah! For Spock to "find himself" during that extremely dreary mission is the ultimate insult.

It would have been a thousand times better had they made an unpretentious movie about the threat of interstellar war with those lovely Klingons. Instead, they had to sound off about God—and they had to use their 'new blood'. Too bad. Their mistake . Our loss ... [15]

I don't remember who wrote the script. Alan Dean Foster, maybe. It wouldn't surprise me. I don't know how a professional could so easily fall into such an amateur trap. Namely, build up a newcomer's image by making every single person around him (or her) look and sound like an idiot (ref: any MarySue story). Don't you think Kirk would have kept track of the latest technological developments? Don't you think that if he had been desperate to get the Enterprise back' he would have made it his business to know about every little change made in its structure? As an Admiral, he was in a position to learn everything he wanted to. So don't you think he would have known about the weapons adjustments and not made a complete jackass of himself just so that Decker could save the ship and show him up for a senile fool ready for the Old Spaceman's Home? Ah, yes. Decker. I have never cared so little in my life about a character's heartaches as I did about Decker's. Since he was a character without soul or real feelings, why should I have? As for the incredible sexual aura projected by Ilia, I'm still waiting for it. Granted, I'm a woman, but women sense this, too. She came off more like Number 1 than like an Orion slave girl.

Finally, the entire V'Ger plot-line was worn-out, banal, and preposterous. I have read I don't know how many stories of God like computers who turn out to be American. [16]


This long-awaited movie was bound to be a disappointment to some, especially considering all of the expectations and anticipation preceding it. While STAR WARS (with which STTMP is bound to be compared) surprised and delighted everyone by the fact that it was filmed at all, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE was hoped to be very high class from the beginning. As opposed to the fast action, adventure, and continuous fighting in STAR WARS, STTMP was a mission of peace. Not a shot was fired. Nice for a change, as science fiction movies are often characterized by violence of some sort... us versus "them". The special effects were impressive. Perhaps that's why they spent so much time in viewing these scenes; they were supposed to be awesome and create a sense of wonder, but 10 minutes of viewing the Enterprise was on the borderline of boring. Although money may buy superb special effects, it doesn't seem to purchase a plot to match. The plot could have been contained in an hour-long television episode, being rather slow and simple. An immense object, etc... The moral seems to be: We must have feelings to really live. The Vulcan way, which Roddenberry brought to our attention in the series, and which has been admired by many, is not for us humans. What becomes of the alien, we may never know. To dedicated Star Trek fans, the most important effect of this m movie was bringing the crew back together again, all ready for a new mission. It should revitalize the fanzines, since we now have a good number of years to be filled in, and an outline to go by, provided by the original creator of Star Trek.

The music was a disappointment to me (compared to the STAR WARS track), it had only two long, symphonic themes. The lighting, especially at the beginning, was exceptionally dark. I could hardly see the Klingon ship interiors, the planet Vulcan, or the bridge... after all the work and money they must have put into those sets!

Dr. McCoy seemed to be put in for laughs. At least that was the audience reaction when I watched the movie. (And that treatment of McCoy is typical of Alan Dean Foster in his adaptations of he animated series.) I wish Starfleet could have relaxed its standards a little by this time, as McCoy looked nice with his beard, as did Spock with his long hair.

Bits and pieces: How many of us were waiting to see what happened when Ilia sat down in her new shirt skirt? And she never did! How in the galaxy did the Klingons grow bumps on their noggins in such a short time? Did any face readers notice the similarity between Decker's wide open eyes, and those of Luke Skywalker? And the girl at Epsilon 9 to Leia? And of course, we all noticed that they waited for Spock to come aboard before they finally played the original Star Trek theme! Despite my love for Star Trek, this film rates only a B. A month after seeing the Star Trek movie, and talking about it with other fans, I had to see it again. Even though I wasn't too impressed by the first viewing, I am a loyal Trekker, and wanted to make this the only movie I'd ever gone to twice. I'm glad I did. The second time was twice as good. (And that's not illogical!) Now that I knew the timing, and what to expect, I had more chance to assess and appreciate the details and special effects, to see more of the background scenes instead of concentrating on the main characters, their conversations and expressions. Now I can see why they spent so much on special effects; the engine room, for example. Arid the shuttle docking with the Enterprise was so realistic, I just took for granted that it was really happening out there in space! The long views of the Enterprise and the alien machine-being didn't seem half as long when one was looking at the details rather than impatiently waiting for what happens next. Where were all the fancy aliens that movie magazines have shown us in previews? I looked all over the space port and in the rec room crowd, and didn't see one single Andorian or non-humanoid featured being. The plot was so open and so seemingly simple that it was left to us to interpret it in a variety of ways. There seemed to be visual references to the idea of us being the cause of a new evolved life form. The first view we have of the main body of the alien machine, after coming through the clouded exterior, looks like a giant cell or fertilized egg. Partway over the strange form was a womanlike shape complete with blue fire in the crotch area, over which the Enterprise flew. Freudian students, enjoy! The orifice that the Enterprise is drawn into looks more like an anal sphincter than a camera lens opening. Enough, already, but these thoughts were reinforced by McCoy calling the end result a baby. From the philosophical, religious standpoint, maybe it was our turn to create a god. Although it was originally looking for its creator, with the sacrifice of Decker and Ilia, V'Ger now knows how to reproduce living humanoid life forms. Maybe it will now create an Adam and Eve for some other world and watch them grow and flourish. It did turn into a radiant light as it left; and it certainly held tremendous knowledge and unexplainable power, which is a definition of a god. A new beginning. And our space program was responsible for it all! Yea, NASA.

I mean, this interpretation is more encouraging than supposing that the machine blew a fuse at the final firey scene and disintegrated into space, which is what it looked like from a more earthly viewpoint. The movie did seem to be rather a put down of Vulcan's logic, as a friend pointed out to me. This gigantic logic machine had everything it needed in that line, but was looking for emotions, to really live. As if Roddenberry, having shown us the Vulcan way, now had to prove that it was not the way of it for us. But, this was proven not logically, but with the aid of a Vulcan/human halfbreed and a machine that was created by us in the first place. So much for human logic, if the alien's origin were the machine world, it might have been quite content. [17]


The movie "captured the imagination (or disdain) of many fans, revived the waning interest of some old-timers, brought new fans into the fold, and gave everyone something new and different to discuss and write stories about. It was the beginning of a new era of Star Trek fandom and fanzines -- the movie era. [18]


Possibly one of the reasons it did not and does not have the impact on me that it does for many of you is simply because I was not feeling the loss of Star Trek when it came out. My rediscovery of TOS, shortly followed by my obsession with Kirk and Spock, came in the early 80’s. Even then, I don’t recall my first viewing of TMP. I know for sure it was not on the big screen because I saw it in a theatre for the first time at a movie marathon about 1990. My overall impression of it is still decidedly lukewarm. I love that it brought Kirk and Spock back to us – what a tragedy it would have been had that not occurred. I love the music and the reverent scenes of the Enterprise in drydock. I do not like the cold interior of the ship or the even colder way the characters are portrayed for most of the movie. Kirk is gorgeous – but what happened to the expressions that we describe so frequently as like a sun going nova? Spock is embarrassingly thin and aged far beyond his years. Yes, Gol can account for this, and maybe if they had seen fit to show us more of the devastation wrought by that solitary time, I could accept it better. There just seemed to be no spark in Shatner’s or Nimoy’s portrayal of Kirk and Spock. Imagination is the only thing (except the “simple feeling” scene) that saves this movie for me. When I am able to imagine through all of the exceptional K/S stories that have evolved from it, then I can enjoy it. I can feel the terrible isolation that both men felt during their separation and can appreciate the wary approach they have toward each other. In fact, I am just now reading “Full Circle” by Killashandra, and am on an emotional roller-coaster as I learn from her just what price the years have exacted from them both. With this kind of imaginative insight, and there are many examples, I am able to say that I do like the first Star Trek movie. [19]
I still don’t think ST: TMP is a very good movie. And I remember feeling so cheated when I realized the plot ripped off The Changeling. If I recall correctly, and I think I do, I ever made a disgusted sort of noise in the middle of the theater when that became obvious. Sacrilege! didn’t matter. There they were, Kirk and Spock, together again, saving the Federation and the rest of the galaxy, too (though the Klingons never would appreciate them, would they?) and, by golly, holding hands, too!... I got the extended version DVD when it came out a few years ago, and while I like it, I don’t know that it really adds much to the movie and my views on it. I have never enjoyed the depiction of Vulcan in any of the movies, and I basically just don’t believe it. Big Red Foot, indeed! Bah!...[20] My dear Spock doesn’t look too good in TMP, I don’t think. (I know others might disagree with me!) The makeup is all wrong, in my opinion. I know he’s supposed to look ravaged by the experience at Gol, but in my opinion this doesn’t really come across. [21]


When the movie was released many of us fans had no idea if they had been successful in reuniting the entire cast. This was in the days before the Internet and pre-release reviews and marketing spin. Whenever an actor appeared on screen the crowd would scream wildly. We didn't care that the movie was padded with endless shots of traveling, traveling, traveling, through space. This was our show and it was back and we were watching it together with our people. [22]


. . . [the film] unleashed a shock wave into Trek continuity that changed everything. Before that movie, the fanzines could speculate all they liked about the future of our beloved U.S.S. Enterprise and its valiant crew, but all we knew was what the three seasons of the original TV series had shown us. That series showed us neither the beginning of Captain James T. Kirk’s five-year mission in deep space nor, more importantly, its ending. There was all the room in the galaxy to wonder what those familiar characters were doing – most fans imagined an endless sequence of planet-hopping adventures, and most fans imagined nothing more. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (movie and book) shattered the static peace of such a situation, and it did this by bringing one previously minor element to the fore: time. In the original series, characters had pasts . . . so time was always a background note. But in the new movie, we’re dunked in it: years have passed since the time of the original show’s setting. When the movie opens, Kirk has taken a desk job at Starfleet, and both Spock and McCoy have left the service – and perhaps more importantly, the whole world of those original TV adventures is over: the captain is an admiral, the bridge crew is visibly older, the celebrated five-year mission is completed … time has passed, and unlike in so many sci-fi series, it’s passed inside the story, not just outside it. Fans were slow to adopt this new reality – not just because they weren’t in any way finished with the old reality but also because they weren’t alone in this new one: they had corporate suits as company. Paramount had invested a lot of money in STTMP and its various movie tie-in products – and investments need to be watched by trained, responsible adults. Suddenly Star Trek was too important to be left in the hands of the people who’d safeguarded it all those hopeless years: the fans. This very much extended to the series of Star Trek novels that was given renewed energy (and funding) with the launch of the movie. The movie could clearly stand as the beginning of a franchise, which meant, among other things, that corporate creatures who knew nothing about Star Trek would now have the authority to dictate the very parameters of the concept. You can tell by the book-covers: the drawings of our familiar characters are patterned (traced?) on the appearances in the movie – older, weather-beaten, clearly no longer the same people who went on all those original adventures. A new fictional reality obtained. From a corporate standpoint, the first movie in a new franchise establishes the shape of that reality, the tenor, everything. In STTMP, our heroes re-unite to save the Earth from an alien space probe of awesome power. They succeed, and they all decide to stay on the newly-refitted Enterprise and head out for more space-adventures. In Paramount’s consideration, those future adventures will be movie-adventures, so writers of Star Trek books now faced two huge obstacles: they had to set their novels in the new ‘present’ of the movies, and they couldn’t radically change things without having corporate suits shutting the whole thing down." This leads into a discussion of Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath's professionally published novels as not conforming to this new reality.[23][24]


Having become a Star Trek fan during what I now refer to as the Dead Years -- the period of time between the end of TOS and ST:TMP, when the common wisdom was that ST was well and truly dead -- the news that they were making a movie was beyond thrilling. Under any other circumstances, I would have been there on opening day -- but I was on a gap year abroad. Not only couldn't I see it on opening day, but six months later, I still hadn't seen it. In those days, there was a long delay in opening new films overseas.

On my return to the States, the first question I asked my brother was, of course, "How was the Star Trek movie?" I'll never forget the look on his face. It was kind of like this: [see gif of Spock on original post]

When I finally got to see TMP, I understood that look. Most ST fans wanted so badly to love it. We were trying really hard...and it wasn't all bad, so...but still, it was hard to deny...I mean, we'd been waiting all those years, and they remade The Changeling? could have been worse though...but still, that's it?...that's all we're getting?...really?....

Hence, that look. ^^^^

I didn't realize it at the time, but the idea that was beginning to dawn on me was that it is possible to create something people will love without fully understanding its appeal. That's exactly what Star Trek was to Gene Roddenberry. (Chris Carter and The X-Files is another example...but that's a post for another day.) [25]

Other Dates

A Facebook group was dedicated to this movie was established in 2014, and is located at The Star Trek: The Motion Picture Appreciation Society. In 2019, the group surpassed 6,000 members. An ongoing fan campaign urges Paramount/CBS to consider a high definition (on Blu-Ray or 4K) release for the Director's Edition of the movie. [26]

In 2019, to celebrate the 40th anniversary, many screenings of the 1979 version were organised by Fathom Events across USA. Boutique cinemas in other parts of the world held similar screenings.

Additional Reading


  1. ^ This idea dates back to Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's Theosophical textbook The Secret Doctrine. Published in 1888, she speculated that the lost continent of Lemuria had been run by "dragon"-looking people. Robert E. Howard's 1929 King Kull novella The Shadow Kingdom drew on this idea, and it's been used in pulp fantasy and comic books ever since. The "Serpent Race" is a popular idea among UFO theorists including von Daniken, along with New Age adherents, and more recently has been explored in exhausting detail by conspiracy monger David Icke. Alien abductees and contactees have reported reptilian-looking aliens, not always malevolent.
  2. ^ There is much more fascinating detail at Star Trek: The Motion Picture at My Neat Stuff, and in Robert Justman and Herb Solow's Inside Star Trek, The Real Story and Edward Gross and Mark Altman's The Fifty-Year Mission.
  3. ^ Source:Trek Today's Retro Review of TMP, dated Jan 21, 2011.
  4. ^ from a fan's report in The Clipper Trade Ship #9
  5. ^ (Accessed June 9, 2019)
  6. ^ Harlan Ellison, "Star Trek: The Motionless Picture", Starlog, April 1980.
  7. ^ Nancy Kippax, read more of The Premiere of Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  8. ^ As a matter of fact, it wasn't. At the time, that honor went to Star Wars at $410B. Star Trek The Motion Picture grossed $82M in America; $139M worldwide. However, of the pre-2009 Star Trek film series, it remains the highest-grossing film worldwide.
  9. ^ Darlene F, from Interstate #28
  10. ^ Darlene F. is by no means alone in her assessment of V'ger's design and its Freudian imagery, as Gloria-Ann Rovelstad's review confirms. And James H. Devon's essay "Beneath the Surface: The Surrealistic Star Trek" (Best of Trek 8, p. 24) goes into considerable detail about the psychosexual aspects of the show as a whole and the film in particular, linking them to Surrealist art and the importance of the unconscious. "It is, none too subtly, a mind-enlivened imaginary journey to the sexual center of the subconscious of man."
  11. ^ the TreKon 1980 program book, John Tibbets
  12. ^ from Spin Dizzie #3
  13. ^ from Spin Dizzie #3
  14. ^ from an LoC in "Warped Space" #45
  15. ^ from an LoC in "Warped Space" #45
  16. ^ from an LoC in "Warped Space" #45
  17. ^ from Enterprise Incidents #16, Gloria-Ann Rovelstad
  18. ^ from Boldly Writing, Joan Verba
  19. ^ from The K/S Press #115, Ivy H
  20. ^ In the temple scene at Gol, there are a number of gigantic statues in red stone. Spock and the elders stand right underneath one of these statues. In the original film, it looked like this. In the updated version, like this. They are indeed standing right next to a big red foot.
  21. ^ from The K/S Press #115, Jenna S
  22. ^ personal notes, Morgan Dawn
  23. ^ Steve Donoghue, Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: Last Word from the Team! SteveReads, July 14, 2012.
  24. ^ Marshak and Culbreath have spoken about their novel The Fate of the Phoenix as having an ending which was dictated by Paramount and not themselves (see The Fate of the Phoenix#Not Canon, and The Hands of TPTB). In Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: A New Era Dawns! (April 2, 2012), Donoghue has more to say about the effect of The Motion Picture on Paramount's attitude toward the show and their effort to maintain the franchise in terms of "grey, lockstep consistency" which affected the official Star Trek novels.
  25. ^ An anniversary by Tamar Wyschogrod (December 7, 2017)
  26. ^ (Accessed June 9, 2019)