by Billie Doux
Kirk: "Bones, there's a thing out there."
McCoy: "Why is any object we don't understand always called a thing?"
There's a reason fans refer to this movie as "The slow motion picture." You can hear a comedian saying, "Really? How slow was it?"
Well, the action skidded to a halt when Kirk and Scott took a pod around the Enterprise in space dock. It dragged and meandered when we got a long wormhole sequence. And again with the excruciatingly slow approach to V'ger. It probably looked gorgeous and somewhat like 2001: A Space Odyssey back in 1979, but I think it was a huge mistake to spend so much time on visuals. They also spent way too much time establishing characters that the audience already knew, at the expense of more interesting character development and a better story.
Maybe I'm being a bit unfair because of how this movie suffers in comparison to the superlative Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. But unfortunately, at its core, The Slow Motion Picture is a really long, Roddenberry-esque searching-for-God outwitting-a-computer episode of the original series with a lot of updated visual effects, and costumes that reminded me of Tupperware. It did do a very good thing, though. When it first came out in 1979, fans of the original series had been waiting ten very long years for more Star Trek, and The Motion Picture got them excited about the franchise again. And what didn't work for this movie made the Star Trek powers-that-be think long and hard about what they were going to do in the second movie.
At any rate, I wish they hadn't given us Spock the crabby Vulcan. I rather liked the costume he arrived in, but Spock's grouchiness at failing Kolinahr practically negated all the progress he'd made toward relating to his crewmates during the original series. I did like that Kirk had been promoted to Admiral, and that after over two years in Starfleet Operations, he'd had second thoughts about accepting that promotion. And DeForest Kelley's McCoy was a breath of grumpy fresh air.
And hey, good for them, bringing back all of the original cast and even acknowledging that women had made some social progress in the 1970s. No more miniskirts! Janice Rand as transporter chief, and Nurse Chapel as a doctor! And Uhura had an Afro. You've come a long way, baby.
I thought Will Decker, son of Matt Decker from my favorite original series episode "The Doomsday Machine," pretty much worked, too. Stephen Collins did a good job as the displaced and bummed out captain, although his motivation for giving up his humanity in order to bond with an electronic version of his former girlfriend didn't really work for me. And that was probably because Persis Khambatta as Ilia, the Deltan, didn't work for me, either. We barely got to know her in the first place, and her death and replacement by an automaton in a bathrobe didn't affect me at all. As I already said, maybe they should have used some of the time spent on the lengthy special effects shots and explaining who the original crew were for more effective character development. (Apparently, they rethought Decker and Ilia a bit before giving us Riker and Troi in Next Gen. Especially the lack of hair.)
When I sat down to rewatch and review this movie, I hadn't seen Star Trek: The Motion Picture in a long time. It's not terrible, but quite honestly, it hasn't aged well. If you've never seen it, I don't recommend it. And fortunately, you don't have to see it to follow Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Which I do strongly recommend, because it is awesome.
Bits and pieces:
-- Star date 7411.4. I completely forget where they went this time.
-- The new music over the opening credits was used for The Next Generation. No original series theme.
-- There was new Klingon make-up that carried over to Next Gen, too, and they even got their own language. For that matter, so did the Vulcans.
-- Starfleet Headquarters were established as residing on Earth at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I'm pretty sure that was never mentioned in the original series, but call me out if it was.
-- The transporter accident was shuddery. It also felt like a response to the constant fan nattering about what an easy plot device it was. I also thought the "seat belts" were a response to fan complaints. The wrist communicators were a step in the right direction, although I rather missed the flip phones. (Maybe that's what they had glued to their stomachs in lieu of belts.)
-- One shot I really enjoyed was the landing party actually walking on the surface of the saucer, and stepping off onto those graduated octagonal steps. In my opinion, the best effects shot in the movie.
McCoy: "Your revered Admiral Nogura invoked a little known, seldom used reserve activation clause. In simpler language, Captain, they drafted me."
Kirk: (grinning) "They didn't."
McCoy: "Spock, you haven't changed a bit. You're just as warm and sociable as ever."
Spock: "Nor have you, Doctor, as your continued predilection for irrelevancy demonstrates."
I could have used more of this. Much more.
Uhura: "Heading, Sir?"
Kirk: "Out there. Thataway."
This is my second least favorite Star Trek movie. (So far, since they're still making them.) One out of four bald Deltans who should have been sexy and cool but wasn't,
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.