MOVIE PAGE PICK: STAR TREK - THE MOTION PICTURE
STAR TREK - THE
William Shatner Capt. James T. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy Mr. Spock
DeForest Kelley Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy
James Doohan Chief Engineer Montgomery
George Takei Sulu
Majel Barrett Dr. Christine Chapel
Walter Koenig Chekov
Nichelle Nichols Uhura
Persis Khambatta Ilia
Stephen Collins Cmdr. Willard Decker
Directed by Robert Wise. Screenplay by Harold
Livingston and Gene Roddenberry (based on a story by
Alan Dean Foster, from the TV program "Star Trek"). 1979. Running time: 132
April sees the long-awaited release of Lost In Space
in the States.
"Lost In Space?" I can hear you ask. Well, it was a very
popular campy science fiction show back in the Sixties featuring a family who, well,
got lost in space. If you asked this question, it is exactly the type of question that the
makers of Lost In Space would dread to hear.
A big budget film made by a small-ish
studio, the films producers are hoping to exploit whatever warm nostalgia and
collective pop cultural consciousness of the original TV show remains. It worked at the
box office for another cult Sixties show recently, namely Mission Impossible.
And Hollywood is hoping that it would work for The Avengers, also in production
right now . . .
No doubt big screen adaptations of Sixties televisions shows are in vogue right
now. Besides familiarity with the shows name, Lost In Spaces studio is
hoping on cashing in on the current sci-fi craze. After all, one of last years
biggest hits was the sci-fi comedy, Men In Black. To be honest, if
youre living outside the States there would probably be little chance that you would
ever have seen an episode of the original Lost In Space - never mind remembering it
fondly! I, for example, only know the show from some comic books I read as a kid. Most of
my fellow South Africans are clueless - and I dont blame them: the show never aired
Back in 1977, Paramount Pictures were hoping for
something similar that the Lost In Space producers are hoping for now. However,
they needed have worried (although they probably did!). The film they were planning was
also based on a 1960s television show, but it was one which enjoyed universal recognition,
namely Star Trek. Even here in South Africa almost everybody knew who Captain Kirk,
Spock and Scotty were!
Much has been said about how the memory of Star Trek was kept alive by fandom
after its final first-run show of the third season on June 3, 1969 without having to
retread familiar ground here. Also, about how Paramount wanted to do a big-screen version
of Star Trek throughout the early and mid-1970s but then changed its plans to do
a Star Trek II television series featuring the original crew (with the exception of
Mr. Spock, since Leonard Nimoy didnt agree to return).
However, plans fell through and two weeks before photography on the new series was due
to start, Paramount announced that it was going to expand the new series planned
first episode into a full-length movie directed by Robert (The Day the Earth Stood
Still, West Side Story) Wise. One of the reasons for this? The unexpected
commercial success of Star Wars . . .
Star Trek - The Motion Picture saw release in December 1979.
Although it opened to mixed reaction from critics and fans, the film has been perceived
since then to have been a failure - both commercially and artictically. Besides, the
common wisdom since then was that odd numbered Star Trek movies were rubbish: the
first Star Trek movie, Star Trek III - The Search for Spock
(1984), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and Star Trek: Generations (1994). And while theres some truth in
that - Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, directed by Shatner, remains the weakest
Trek movie to date - its time to reclaim Star Trek - The Motion Picture as
one of the best films in the series . . .
- The movie is good to simply look at. After all, the first special-effects team on Star
Trek - The Motion Picture was fired, and the movies release was delayed a year
while new effects were devised and photographed. The effects are brilliant. Eye-candy as
critics pointed out, sure. However, in the process the Enterprise was updated to
look like other spaceships weve already seen in 2001, Silent Running, Star Wars and Alien.
Especially the alien spaceship which seems to stretch out into infinity is excellent.
- The plot is only predictable in so far as it is prime Star Trek stuff: the crew
of the starship Enterprise confronts some kind of alien entity. At the end basic human
values are affirmed. But the basic idea behind the picture - of the alien entity asking
very much the same questions we humans are - is actually interesting stuff. When I first
saw the film, it reminded me of Arthur Clarkes Rendezvous with Rama novel.
- There are enough in-jokes and references to keep any self-confessed trekkie happy.
I, for one, was just glad back in 1979 to see the faces of the familiar Enterprise crew
again. Little did I know that the films commercial success would ensure nine big
screen outings, several spin-off television shows, you name it. Enough to keep any Star
Trek fan happy . . .
Star Trek - The Motion Picture turns 20 next year. So how about it, Paramount?
Bring this unacknowledged sci-fi classic back to the big screen - where it belongs!
James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page