Star Trek: The Motion Picture

When Star Trek: The Motion Picture debuted in cinemas, it was 1979 and, with the exception of the now obscure (and officially noncanonical) animated series, there hadn't been a Trek show on the air for a decade. Released in the years immediately following the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, this was the first installment of the Trek franchise to have been released in the era where a science fiction movie could expect to make money.

There's no denying that The Motion Picture did make money. It made enough to warrant not just one sequel, but multiple, and eventually the popularity of the franchise in the cinemas became part of the warrant for the first live-action spin-off of the original series, The Next Generation.

However, as a film, The Motion Picture is quite an oddity. The story of the film was originally supposed to have been the pilot for the scrapped sequel TV series Star Trek: Phase II and the fact that this is essentially a reworked script shows in some area of the film. A lot of the CGI sequences of the film felt like their only purpose was to make sure the movie was feature length, and some of the character development of the film did feel somewhat contrived.

Speaking of character development, a lot of the character development that had happened between the end of the original series and the beginning of this film were things that were never adequately picked up on in later films. It was never really touched on what had led to Spock going to Vulcan to perform in the mystic rituals of his Vulcan heritage; it was never elaborated on as to why McCoy remained in Starfleet after Kirk had reactivated his service status. The reasons why he'd left were never really touched on either.

So, The Motion Picture introduced a lot of character development moments that were never really explained or elaborated on later. This is a shame because this is the kind of thing which drag the movie down in the wake of the later installments in the franchise.

The character development that didn't lose value in the wake of the following films was the stuff relating to Decker and Ilia. This was mainly because they appeared in this one film and never seen or heard from again, nor were they even given so much as a mention. So they were essentially like any other character from a Trek story that's introduced for one or two episodes.

However, even with Decker and Ilia, the character development was fairly generic stuff. Decker's angry because Kirk took away his command. Decker and Ilia had been in a romantic relationship prior to meeting up again on the Enterprise. These are fairly generic roles in a science fiction movie, especially one that's part of a larger franchise like Star Trek: The Motion Picture was.

A lot of the CGI-heavy moments seem a little odd now. These are moments that don't really develop the franchise's universe that much, and in some cases they don't develop the immediate plot either. They exist only to be eye candy.

The most obvious example of this was the time spent giving the remodeled USS Enterprise beauty shots near the start of the film. This wasn't a particularly necessary move: the model itself wasn't a groundbreaking achievement in terms of spaceship modeling in comparison to some of the ships in 2001: A Space Odyssey and A New Hope.

That being said, the refitted Enterprise design that was introduced in Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a fairly graceful design. The model used in this movie was nothing groundbreaking, but it had its appeal all the same. The beauty shots near the beginning of this film were somewhat unnecessary, however all the same they did drag out a little too much.

As far as the plot of this film goes, it did present a fairly interesting sci-fi story. However, it feels a little too cereberal in comparison to the rest of the franchise; almost as if it would have been better off being a standalone film than as part of this particular franchise. By the same token, it does feel very much like The Cage which was the original pilot for the original series.

This is something that is fairly common with the odd-numbered Trek movies starring the original cast: while the even numbered films will present a sci-fi adventure story that usually goes down well with fans, the odd-numbered films will present a story that's usually just trying to be a good sci-fi story in its own right. Usually the results of this are debatable.

In the case of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it is ultimately a bad movie. It's not so much the overall plot that brings it down, but a lot of the smaller details that the film had. It's no surprise that the studio made the decision that any suggestions from Gene Roddenberry regarding future films in the franchise could be safely ignored after this film.

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