- William Shatner, who saw the completed movie for the first time at the world premiere, was struck by the overall sluggishness of the movie, and was convinced that the Star Trek franchise died there and then. He reminisced "Well, that's it. We gave it our best shot, it wasn't good, and it will never happen again." But having recalled his reaction fifteen years later, he has added "Shows you what I know."
- Nichelle Nichols noted in her autobiography that she was one of the actresses most opposed to the new uniforms added for this film because the drab, unisex look "wasn't Uhura".
- The producers and the cast were very worried about their appearances after being away from Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) for ten years. Special lighting and camera tricks were used to hide the cast's aging, and William Shatner went on a near-starvation diet prior to filming. However, in all subsequent Star Trek movies, it was decided to make the aging of the crew part of the story.
- It was understood in the script, but not stated in the movie that Commander Willard Decker was the son of Commodore Matthew Decker from Star Trek: The Original Series: The Doomsday Machine (1967).
- Uhura's communications earpieces are the only original props from Star Trek: The Original Series (1966). They were dug out of storage when this was realized someone had forgotten to make new ones for the movie.
- Orson Welles narrated trailers for this film. Director Robert Wise was also the editor on Welles' masterpiece Citizen Kane (1941), and participated in the reediting and reshooting of Welles' follow-up, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). Because of the latter issue, Welles held a long-standing grudge against Wise, and it was perceived that Welles only recorded the trailers was because he needed the money.
- The rec-deck briefing was filmed to finally show the entire crew complement of the Enterprise, something that had always been impossible during the television series due to the low budget. All of the extras in the rec-deck briefing sequence were Star Trek fans called upon to appear in the film. Most of their checks were not cashed; Harve Bennett said that they were probably framed as souvenirs by the fans.
- During the rewrite of the final scenes, the studio executives clashed with Gene Roddenberry about the script's ending, believing that the concept of a living machine was too far-fetched. The executives consulted Asimov: if the writer decided a sentient machine was plausible, the ending could stay. Asimov loved the ending, but made one small suggestion; he felt that the use of the word "wormhole" was incorrect, and that the anomaly that the Enterprise found itself in would be more accurately called a "temporal tunnel".
- The amazing popularity of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) had a definite impact on the storyline, pacing and even marketing of Star Trek (1979). Many hardcore sci-fi fans (including prominent sci-fi writers) viewed Star Wars as mere fantasy, an updating of Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon level matinee fluff. Gene Roddenberry always saw Star Trek as a more serious endeavor, and did not want Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) to be seen as "cashing in". So the story for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) was pushed toward more sophisticated and complex ideas, the decision was made to have no battle scenes of any type. In fact, the earliest Presskit promotional material for newspaper ads had as the main line "There is no comparison".
- Gene Roddenberry so loved the main theme from the score that he reused this for Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987). This was also reused in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), after not being used in the second, third and fourth films.
- Jerry Goldsmith's famous theme for the movie almost did not happen. One of the first scenes Goldsmith scored was the scene when Kirk and Scotty do a flyover of the refit Enterprise. Robert Wise liked the music that Goldsmith composed, but in the end, he rejected it, saying it did not fit the movie because it lacked a theme/motif. Goldsmith went back to the drawing board and composed the famous theme that has become a staple of the Star Trek universe. That theme would be reused in four more films, and would also become the opening theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987).
- Robert Wise was convinced to accept the position as director by his wife Millicent, who was a huge fan of Star Trek: The Original Series (1966). His wife was also instrumental in convincing Wise to campaign for Leonard Nimoy's return to the project.
- The uniforms that appear in this movie never again appear in any other Star Trek episode or movie. What appears to be a buckle on the uniform was intended to be a device that relays medical readings to the medical bay computer.
- Had this movie aired as a two-hour television series premiere as intended, the episode title would have been "In Thy Image".
- In his special Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek Memories (1983), Leonard Nimoy spoke briefly about the film saying: "It was a very finely crafted film, and it did well. But from the actor's point of view frankly, it was frustrating. We didn't feel that we were getting to play the characters that we enjoyed playing in the way that we knew how to play them, and it was frustrating for Gene Roddenberry too. It wasn't the story or script he had wanted, and the gaps seemed filled with too much emphasis on special effects." Years later, in a 2012 Los Angeles Times video interview, Nimoy added that he too had felt that the movie had left the franchise stranded like a "beached whale" at the time, clarifying, "I think (Robert Wise) and Gene Roddenberry were looking for a (2001: A) Space Odyssey kind of thing, like (Stanley) Kubrick had done. A cold, cool "we're out here in space and it's kind of quiet and things move very slowly." (laughs) There was a lot of that and a lot of cerebral stuff. There wasn't enough drama. It just wasn't a Star Trek movie. We had the Star Trek people, but it didn't use us as Star Trek characters very well."
- Before Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), this film had the longest running time of any Star Trek movie and, until the release of Star Trek (2009), this was the only one to break the two-hour mark.
- According to the Guinness Book of Records, at the time of its release, this was the most expensive film ever made at a total production cost of $46 million. However, following the release of Superman II (1980), total production costs of $109 million were attributed to the first two Superman films, which were shot simultaneously as a single production. The producers of the Superman films then retroactively attributed a cost of $55 million for Superman (1978), and $54 million for Superman II (1980), therefore claiming that Superman was the most expensive film made at that time.
- Derogatory nicknames for the film included "Star Trek: The Motion Sickness", "Star Trek: The Motionless Picture", and "Star Trek: The Slow-Motion Picture".
- The first and only film in the Star Trek film franchise to have a overture before the opening credits.
- Three types of uniforms were fabricated: dress uniforms used for special occasions, Class A uniforms for regular duty, and Class B uniforms as an alternative. The Class A designs were double-stitched in gabardine and featured gold braid designating rank. It was felt that the traditional four gold sleeve stripes for the Captain's rank was too blatantly militaristic. Jon Povill had to send out a memo to Robert Fletcher with the modified stripe rank system, as the designer continued to get the 20th and 23rd centuries confused. Fletcher designed the Class B uniform as similar to evolved t-shirts, with shoulder boards used to indicate rank and service divisions. Each costume had the shoes built into the pant leg, to further the futuristic look.
After religiously watching every single episode from The Original Series as well as The Animated Series, I finally got to watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Released in 1979, a full decade after the end of The Original Series, the film is quite different from the show, and this is the primary concern.
One of the essential part of the series was the friendly camaraderie between the seven characters of the show. Kirk, McCoy and yes, even Spock would constantly play at each others, help each others in dire situations. All the seven main characters (including Scotty, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov) were a friendly family on the colorful home that was the starship Enterprise.
THIN AND SERIOUS KIRK
In this movie, the characters are back together, but they do not act the same way they used to. First, Captain Kirk, now admiral, is having a sense of gravitas that we rarely had seen with him. It seems the entire weight of the Universe lays on his shoulders. Perhaps it is the case, but it feels odds to see him that serious. At the same time, this new Kirk very serious, very thin and very focused is welcomed and I must admit I loved watching him on the big screen.
Spock is back to the roots. After having spent some time alone on Vulcan, he has lost touch with his emotions and I could enjoy that.
My biggest concern is without any doubt with Dr. McCoy. The story has literally no place for him in this film. He is totally useless and is there because he has to be. I was quite saddened by it and I think his character was clearly under-utilized.
A NEW THEME
Jerry Goldsmith is directing the music operations and that was quite a shock too. From the very first second – actually, a musical introduction with no images – the tone is set. We are in a big adventure on the big screen. Enough with the fun musical cues. This is big.
I liked the new theme he composed. Fun anecdote, the new theme almost didn't make the film, as he actually composed it to replace some music when Kirk discovers the refitted Enterprise. This worked very well in my opinion and, again, shows the scope of Star Trek, which brings me to the financial element.
THE MOST EXPENSIVE MOVIE TO DATE
Helped by the recent release of Star Wars, the studio went fully at it, hoping to replicate the surprising success of the the Space movie. Ironically, the movie was the most expensive movie to date, at $46 million, and therefore the first major movie based on a TV series.
And this can been in every frame. This was actually quite a shock to me, because the series was so cheap. By the third season, there were episodes with partial sets (the cowboy town with just random sets) or no sets at all (no more scenes outside). Costumes were often ridiculous and special effects rather poor.
Here, every frame is screaming money. The Enterprise, once a cozy home, has morphed into a gigantic beast that even the characters no longer recognize. The crew has different costumes, there are elevators everywhere, etc.
While this feels like a breath of fresh air, it is also a concern. Because we don't recognize anything. Therefore, the characters feel out of place. And since the story is not helping, this feels even more out of place. It's basically the same characters and the same set, but characters acting a different way (more serious) and in a set that has drastically changed (more serious as well).
So, we don't laugh in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Oh, sure, there are a few scenes in which Admiral Kirk winks, but that's about it. In my view, there are not enough jokes. When you compare with the tone from Star Wars, this is night and day. But don't think this is unintentional. Which brings me to the story.
2273: A SPACE ODYSSEY
The story is very complex. There is not a simple evil character that wants to destroy the Enterprise. And in a way, this is very good. The story is quite original and has lots of resemblance with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. And this was very good. This is not about characters fighting with laser swords. This is about exploring new worlds, as Kirk used to say.
So, this is both an upside and a downside. On one level, it's great and fascinating, but on the other, the movie drags itself and for some time you don't even know what you are watching.
And that is a major problem to me. I find the film to be way too long. Running at 132 minutes, I would have cut at least 20 minutes. For instance, when Kirk is discovering the new Enterprise, this scene lasts for so long I couldn't understand the point of not cutting it. Clearly a mistake if you ask me.
Now, I find myself in a dire situation. I need to rate this film. And this is quite a daunting task. It is so good and so bad at the same time that I cannot figure out which note to pick. Because of its flaws, I think I will go for a 5 out of 10. But this note will not tell the full story. This review, hopefully, does.
***Stands Alone in the Feature Film Series***
A colossal, mysterious space cloud called V'ger travels across the galaxy and threatens Earth, annihilating interlopers along the way ; the origins of V'ger are revealed at the end.
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (1979) addresses some of the deepest questions of life: Is this all there is? Why are we here? Does love exist since it cannot be proved via pure logic? Who is the Creator? The core message is the intrinsic need to seek one's Creator and reconcile in order to attain a (necessary) higher level of consciousness. Those found the film boring simply failed to penetrate beyond the surface.
Like the Star Trek episodes "The Corbomite Maneuver" and "Metamorphosis," “The Motion Picture" (TMP) is a mature, cerebral sci-fi story with very little action. Most kids and young adults won't like it or grasp it. It's depth is evidenced by the emotional wallop experienced when Spock grasps Kirk's hand in Sickbay, truly revealing emotion despite his conflicting desire to attain a consciousness of pure logic; or later when Spock weeps for V'ger and comments on its personal dilemma, which perfectly coincides with Spock's own search for fulfillment: "As I was when I came aboard, so is V'ger now: empty, incomplete and searching. Logic and knowledge are not enough... Each of us at some time in our lives turns to someone — a father, a brother, a God — and asks, 'Why am I here?' 'What was I meant to be?' V'ger hopes to touch its creator to find its answers."
Another powerful sequence is a crewman's self-sacrificial fusion with V'ger so that it may evolve to the next level of awareness (seemingly self-sacrificial, that is).
My conclusion on the film runs parallel to Roger Ebert's comments: "My inclination, as I slid down in my seat and the stereo sound surrounded me, was to relax and let the movie give me a good time. I did and it did." In other words, just accept the film as is, and you WILL be entertained ; put on a pot of coffee (you're gonna need it, lol), kick back and relish the movie magic.
Let me add that TMP was one of the most expensive films of its time, but it did well at the box office and thus made a decent profit, a testimony to how hungry the public was for Star Trek after ten long years (since the cancellation of the original TV series in '69). In fact, aside from "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (1986), TMP is still the most profitable of all the Star Trek feature films with the whole original cast (Making FOUR TIMES its expense worldwide); it therefore can't very well be the cinematic turd that many critics claim. Also, consider the fact that TMP made more at the box office than the acclaimed films "Alien" and "Apocalypse Now," both released the same year.
I should add that, although this film is an "Grade A" picture as far as epic, awe-inspiring pieces of cinematic art go, I understand why some would grade it lower. In such cases I suggest making the necessary psychological adjustments and watching it again as it is more along the lines of "The Cage" than "The Doomsday Machine.”
TMP is the sole Star Trek film that aspires to and attains a level of cinematic awe along the lines of "2001: A Space Odyssey." Actually, TMP is leagues better IMHO. "2001" lacks characters to care about; it's also cold and overly artsy, with way too many unnecessarily boring sequences. TMP, by contrast, has heart. Not to mention an interesting story that delves into the deepest of all universal questions.
Say what you will, but "The Motion Picture" towers alone, utterly unique in the feature film series — a profoundly spiritual TRIUMPH.