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Star Trek I: The Motion Picture

Originally Aired: 1979-12-7

A mysterious entity threatens to destroy Earth, while Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are recalled to help save the planet. [DVD]

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 7.38

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- Kirk orders "warp 0.5." That's a little absurd. There's nothing impossible about such an order, but he should have said half impulse seeing as how you wouldn't (and they didn't) use the warp drive. Indeed, they actually are using the impulse drive in this film, but the dialog throughout the film is consistently misleading.
- This film was the first Star Trek production to feature ridge headed Klingons. A deliberate break in visual continuity from TOS that, unlike the set and uniform changes, cannot be rationalized without some sort of in-universe explanation. Decades later, this problem thankfully was rationalized, first by a casual reference in DS9: Trials and Tribblations, and later by Ent: Affliction/Divergence. But for many years, this continuity problem was infamously known as the "Klingon forehead problem."

- This film was inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- This film was the first Star Trek production to use the "TNG style" opening music.
- This film was the first Star Trek production to feature the Klingon language.
- This film was the first Star Trek production to mention that Starfleet Command was located in San Francisco.
- This film was the first Star Trek production to use a modern style visual effect for a ship accelerating to warp speed.
- This film was the first Star Trek production to feature a sonic shower.
- This film was created to replace the prospective new series Star Trek Phase II, which never got off the ground.
- This film was nominated for the 1980 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
- This film was nominated for Oscars in Art Direction, Music, and Visual Effects.

Remarkable Scenes
- The opening scene is really great; Klingons and Klingon ships have never looked so cool.
- Kirk is an admiral now!
- Scotty flying Kirk to his refit Enterprise via shuttle.
- It's good to see Mr. Chekov again, after 22 episodes of TAS in all of which he was absent.
- Kirk retaking his ship.
- The transporter failure. It's nice to see technology isn't infallible even in the 23rd century.
- Starfleet Command, regarding the transporter failure: "Enterprise. What we got back didn't live long. Fortunately."
- The space station being engulfed and destroyed.
- McCoy's reluctance to use the transporter.
- McCoy with a huge (unix) beard and a decidedly 70s disco outfit! Many might insult this as being too much a reference to the date of the movie, but I find this hilarious.
- McCoy: "Why is any object we don't understand always called a 'thing!'"
- McCoy: "They probably redesigned the whole sickbay too! I know engineers, they love to change things!"
- The flyby through Earth's Solar System.
- Kirk angrily questioning why his phaser order was countermanded, then humbly accepting Decker's completely valid explanation.
- Spock's appearance and overly cold reactions; even for him.
- Spock: "Who is the creator?" Ilia: "The creator is that which created V'Ger." Kirk: "Who is V'Ger?" Ilia: "V'Ger is that which seeks the creator."
- Ilia busting through a wall!
- Decker: "Jim, V'Ger expects an answer." Kirk: "An answer? I don't know the question!"
- Spock: "V'ger is a child. I suggest you treat it as such."
- McCoy: "Spock! This child is about to wipe out every living thing on Earth! Now, what do you suggest we do? Spank it?"
- The revelation that V'Ger was in fact the Voyager 6 probe.
- Text at the end of the film: "The human adventure is just beginning."

My Review
Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture... Many insults are thrown at this film for having too slow a plot. Perhaps well deserved. The story seems stretched out. The actual development is probably only enough to cover a single episode. The film also bears a close resemblance to episode TOS: The Changeling, though much improved. Finally, Lt. Ilia happens to belong to an alien species that looks exactly like humans! Okay, so the women of their species don't grow hair; my complaint is still valid. Despite all this, it is still a fine film. Most remarkable are the visual effects which are superb, especially for the time. Many people complain about there being too many visual effects, or that they take too long. This is a valid complaint, but I still like them nonetheless. Additionally, there are complaints about the uniforms being too drab. Again, I liked them. Gene Roddenberry has made claims that many elements of TMP were in fact Star Trek as it was meant to be. One particularly noticeable detail is the uniforms for women are no longer sexist. Another fine detail is the redesigned set of the Enterprise. Incredible, she was absolutely stunning, especially the engineering section and the sight of the absolutely beautiful warpcore. Remarkably, decades later the warpcore of the USS Voyager will quite strikingly resemble this one. Another good detail about the ship is the new deflector dish. The silly looking outward protruding dish is replaced by a futuristic, blue, glowing, cool looking dish. Another nice detail in this film is the multiple points of contention between Kirk and Decker, all of which are intelligently done. The resolution of the plot in this film is something of an anticlimax, but the intent of the movie was that it be viewed as a whole. A work of art, not a Star Trek episode in the traditional sense. In that respect, the film is highly successful. Notably, it was a commercial success as well. It is fitting that Decker and Ilia should be reunited in the end by both joining with V'Ger. It creates something of a happy ending out of their brief but decidedly tragic loss of one another. Indeed, the human adventure is just beginning. A fantastic film true to the spirit of Star Trek.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Old Fat Trekkie on 2011-12-15 at 10:22am:
    I thought the tension between Decker and Kirk was forced, unnecessary, and silly. Kirk is an admiral. He should behave as an admiral and he should function as an admiral. I would have liked to have seen his character grow a bit. Kirk's character never does throughout all of the movies. He remains Captain Kirk, while all of his subordinates become Captains as well.

    With such a danger approaching the Earth, why wasn't a fleet sent out? Now, Kirk as an Admiral, could have used the Enterprise as his flag ship with Decker as Captain. Kirk could have assumed a more strategic roll, and left the running of the Star Ship in the more capable hands of Decker in that role. In WWII Admiral Halsey was not the captain of a ship, he was the fleet commander. That is the role Kirk should of had.

    It becomes incredibly absurd in STIV-TVH when Kirk is demoted and this appears to be a good thing. In real life this is a career ending event.
  • From Bernard on 2011-12-16 at 12:04am:
    Ahhh, Star Trek: The Motion-less Picture.

    I actually really like this film. Yes all the complaints thrown at it are valid and it is a BIG disappointment compared to what it could and should have been. I think they were thinking too much 2001: A Space Odyssey when they should have been concentrating more on the elements that made the original series tick at its best moments.

    I have to disagree with Old Fat Trekkie because part of what gives this film the extra notch that makes it more watchable is Captain Decker. His interaction with Kirk is central because it provides some much needed conflict. Conflict, otherwise, is missing from the film because the all powerful VGER has no underhand objective or evil plan it is simply going about its business. Also what happens to Decker throughout the movie, his arc if you like, paves the way for his dramatic exit in what is for me, a special and spectacular ending.
    This movie shows how to do dramatic and tense scenes between two characters at odds with each other unlike the latest reincarnation of Trek where Chris Pine and Zach Quinto just shout and ball at each other.
    To finish, this movie is a masterpiece in terms of an artistic (effects, shots and music) feature film set in the Star Trek universe. Unfortunately the plot cannot handle the burden placed upon it and the movie drags towards its conclusion with long contrived scenes. Still love it though!
  • From Old Fat Trekkie on 2011-12-17 at 8:30pm:
    Thank you, Bernard for our thoughtful comments. I do find it interesting that you disagree with "Old Fat Trekkie," then go on to state that the tension between Kirk and Decker was needed since the film itself was lacking. In that, I totally agree with you.

    I believe a great opportunity was lost by the writers. The reason was laziness on their part. Let’s face it; this movie was going to do fantastic at the Boxes regardless of the story line. Trekkies, such as myself and I am sure you as well, had been waiting 10 years for this film. I still would loved to have see Kirk as an admiral, I mean a real admiral, leading a fleet.
  • From Bernard on 2011-12-18 at 5:41pm:
    I guess I should have been slightly more specific. I disagreed with your statement that the tension between Kirk and Decker was forced and unneccessary. In my view it was absolutely neccessary and well played. Everything else you said I can agree with!

    And yes, always nice to have dialogue though isn't it!

  • From jeffenator98 on 2014-02-06 at 7:45pm:
    After what happened in the transporter room I understand Dr. McCoys fears of "Having my atoms scattered all over the universe."
  • From Scott Hearon on 2014-04-16 at 1:25am:
    Not bad, really. I gave it a 6/10.

    The "Slow Motion Picture" jokes are warranted, as I thought that first super-slow pan of the Enterprise was was overdone. I guess they just wanted hardcore Trekkies to have time to bask in the glory, soak it all in, and then have time to recover before any more dialogue or plot movement occurred.

    The story is actually a very good one, even if it does take a while to build up to it. I love the notion of a massive, mysterious alien lifeform bearing down on Earth, and then learning that it's not malevolent. The idea of living machines is intriguing, and the noted sci-fi writer Alan Dean Foster used it well.

    I have to say that some minor parts of the story were ill-conceived and a bit contrived. As others point out, there seemed to be no need to have Kirk an admiral. It just complicated and mucked up the tale unnecessarily. And having to "get the band back together" by pulling in Spock and McCoy seemed like a silly contrivance, in the name of being sly and funny. I found it neither. And this will sound odd, but I found Spock to be too distant and cold. I know, I know - he's a Vulcan. Still, during TOS, Nimoy and the writers always managed to work in the sense that Spock was at least willing to acknowledge emotions and humor, even if he very rarely participated in them. In the Motion Picture, I didn't get any such sense.

    The clothing aesthetic was a bit weird, but hardly tragic. A bit drab, but certainly a bit more stately. Though why, oh why, can science fiction movies never get past the hairstyles of the times in which the movies are made?

    The remodeling of the Enterprise was quite nice, considering it was 1979. Much stronger, even, were the external visuals. Yes, it borrowed very heavily from the trippy, psychedelic light show of 2001, but it worked well. Though it was probably a tad too long, I actually liked the drawn out journey through and to the alien energy field. It conveyed the sense of scale needed to induce wonderment.

    The resolution was fine to me, though I feel that we never get enough information about Decker and Ilia's relationship to feel much empathy for them. it certainly is a romantic, and even poetic, ending for them both, and I liked that. But it was missing some of the emotional punch which I assume the filmmakers intended.

    A film not without warts, but a decent one nonetheless.
  • From Alan Feldman on 2022-08-04 at 4:09am:
    Hmmm. You've always complained that the aliens in TOS look just like humans. Well, you've got some exceptions: the Gorn, the Vians, the Tholians, the Melkots, Kollos, the thing in "The Savage Curtain." Anyway, now we have a Klingon with the Aquatred [yes, that's how it's spelled] forehead, and now it's a continuity problem! OK, it was cleared up later somehow. I haven't seen that part. The aliens in the newer shows basically look just like humans, but with gunk all over their heads and faces. Basically Halloween costumes. Hey, we've got FTL travel, transporters, gravity almost everywhere, everyone speaking English, stopping in deep space, no seat belts -- why not humans in Halloween costumes as aliens?

    Back to the slow-motion-picture. Yes, some parts were okay. But it was definitely too long. A 60-minute story stretched out to 2+ hours. I still recall being in the theater thinking to myself, "Alright! Enough with the blue and purple clouds. Something happen!"

    At least in the Nostalgia Critic's video on this, there is a scene where it looks like Decker is looking directly at V'ger's, uh, crotch. (Sorry, I haven't seen the full movie since it came out. I'm going by the Nostalgia Critic's videos and the "Everything wrong with <movie>" videos here. Might not be in some cuts. IDK.)

    "One particularly noticeable detail is the uniforms for women are no longer sexist." In an interview in TV Guide, Aug 24, 1996, edition, Grace Lee Whitney said it was her idea for the women to wear really short skirts, or "skorts," as she called them. And after a demo, Gene approved.

    Yes, it's _2001: A Space Odyssey_ crossed with "The Changeling." A not so great "Stargate" sequence, and they finally get to V'ger itself. Notice the weird sounds? Just like the weird sounds in the fancy room near the end of 2001 (!). Except it was much better in 2001.

    I think the lack of time allowed for making the movie, didn't help any!

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