Though Star Trek is a sci-fi series what has always separated it from others in the genre is the way it focuses on the characters. Gives us something to relate to and connect with. Once they have you in with an emotional investment then you are theirs. Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry understood this better than most. Though the original television series did not last long – three seasons – it did enlist a group of very devoted fans. Extremely devoted. The next logical move was to move to the big screen.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture started the voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise in the film world. The year was 1979, so that means fans of the series had to wait 10 years from the time the tv series was canceled until its appearance on the movie screens. It also makes it 42 years of existence. If you are not a fan and have not seen the film you are now wondering if it has stood the test of time. Much has changed over the 42 years. Technology has advanced so things like special effects have advanced. It is now a world, due to computers, etc., where almost anything is possible. You can tell any tale you can dream up. But still, for the most part, the most important part of a film is the characters. Characters which have those watching wanting more.
Story here is kept simple. A typical one within the sci-fi genre. Federation space is in jeopardy. The danger comes from a powerful alien species which has arrived. They announce their intentions when they destroy three elite Klingon ships. IT does not stop there as they take care of everything in their path. Alert is sounded within the Federation.
Now the alien invaders are on their way to Earth. The leaders of the Federation decide to bring back Admiral James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner) to helm the U.S.S. Enterprise. Once back in charge he assembles his team – Sulu (played by George Takei), Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy), Dr. McKoy (played by DeForest Kelley), Scotty (played by James Dolan), Uhura (played by Nichelle Nichols), and Chekov (played by Walter Koenig) and plots his course. He will bring his ship towards and face to face confrontation with the invaders. Doubts crop up as it has been years since Kirk has led a ship. Will his time off prove him rusty?
I am sure when the first film addition to the Star Trek stable was released that Mr. Rodenberry was holding his breath behind the scenes. Why you ask? Because this was quite different from the television series. Would fans be pissed or pleasantly surprised? Big risk. Instead of focusing primarily on the interactions between characters director Robert Wise is enamored with special effects. Spends most of the film showing what could be done at the time. This took some adjustment from long-time fans. Watching today, the effects are rather laughable. Many in 1979 thought this meant the end of Star Trek. They were wrong.
Criticisms were rather harsh. While I will not battle to the death about the film as it does have its flaws; it is a decent film. A good debut for the series on the big screen. Laid the groundwork for future films and series. Brought the series to a larger number of people. Important watch for newbies to the Star Trek world as it allows you to understand where it started and where it was headed. For fans, take a step back and acknowledge it is an important element in that it showed that character development was vital to Star Trek.
-Commentary by Michael & Denise Okuda, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Darren Dochteman
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