So, imagine that you’re a Star Trek fan back in December 1979. It’s been over 10 years since the last real episode (June 1979), 5 years since even the last animated episode. Is this a worthy return to Star Trek? Or is this Star Wars Episode One?
The Motion Picture is, I think, a pretty good 90 minute movie. Sadly, there’s about 30-40 minutes on top of that of momentum destroying special effects indulgence that absolutely destroy the pace of the film.
To start with, there’s an overture before the film even begins. There’s the infamous five minute space dock sequence with the Enterprise. Another two or three minutes just on the ship leaving dock. There’s a solid ten minutes of special effects on initially entering V’Ger, with another five to ten minutes scattered over the next hour. Oh, and several minute or two long sequences with no dialogue other than count downs.
The real problem with these parts is how they destroy the momentum and the sense of danger. It feels like a two-part episode of the TV series bulked out with special effects and self indulgence.
Those special effects are, for the most part, pretty remarkable. There are also some great moments, such as Kirk’s naked longing for The Enterprise in his scene with Scotty on the way over to the Enterprise, and the gloriously grumpy return of McCoy. I found the costumes pretty terrible, though – clearly others agree on that, as they never appear again.
This movie does mark an important turning point. It’s when Star Trek moves from being generic ‘future’ to being ‘future history’. Including a brief shot of San Francisco, the importance of NASA to the plot, all make the movie feel like something that’s happening in our future, not just a future. Star Trek hasn’t felt like that to me until this point.
This movie also marks one very important Star Trek moment: the first appearance of the ‘proper’ Klingons, and the Klingon language. Although I have to wonder if some people were confused at the time, as other than the ship design there’s little to relate this Klingons back to the ones seen in The Original Series.
Overall this is not a good movie, but (unlike some of the later ones), neither is it a bad one. It’s certainly not Episode One.
102 down, 635 to go.