On Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Hardly a fan of Star Trek: The Original Series, I am much more particular for the films, such as The Motion Picture, which I thought was quite well done. According to The New York Times review:

“Star Trek,” the popular television series that died 10 years ago but would not be forgotten, has, like Lazarus, come back to haunt the skeptical and reassure all those who have kept the faith. It’s called “Star Trek — the Motion Picture,” rather superfluously, I think, because I doubt anyone who sees it could possibly confuse this film with those shards of an earlier, simpler, cheaper television era.

Watching “Star Trek — the Motion Picture,” which opens today at Loews Orpheum and other theaters, is like attending your high-school class’s 10th reunion at Caesar’s Palace. Most of the faces are familiar, but the décor has little relationship to anything you’ve ever seen before. Among the friends are good old Captain Kirk (William Shatner), commanding officer of the Starship Enterprise; pointy-eared Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), whose humanity disqualifies him from attaining “kolinahr,” the state of grace on his native planet Vulcan; Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), the spaceship’s general practitioner, nicknamed “Bones,” just as he might have been on H.M.S. Bounty, and such other reliables as Scotty (James Doohan), the engineering officer, and Sulu (George Takei), the ship’s helmsman.

The newcomers are Stephen Collins, who plays Commander Decker, the Enterprise’s stalwart young executive officer, and Perris Khambatta, an actress from India who plays Ilia, a shockingly beautiful young woman whose head has been shaved as clean as a whistle in the fashion of her home-planet, Delta Four.

This time out the mission of the Enterprise is to intercept a mysterious cloud, which is apparently light years in diameter and is heading toward earth for reasons that not even Mr. Spock can divine. It’s not revealing a secret to tell you that the cloud contains what is usually referred to under such circumstances as “a superior intelligence,” though just what that intelligence is must remain one of the film’s few witty surprises.

I suspect that wit is not what “Star Trek” fans are looking for. Instead they want to see favorite characters who are as ageless and multidimensional as characters in a comic strip, and not at all ashamed of those origins. The dialogue — at least what dialogue one can hear over Jerry Goldsmith’s music and the sounds of rockets being fired — is of a banality that soothes the weary mind, like Magic Fingers that work on a tired brain. Unlike “Star Wars,” which was full of conscious associations to other literature, “Star Trek” refers only to itself, with the possible exception of the climactic sequence that borrows freely from Christian myth.

The film’s vision of the future, which is a bit tacky at the beginning, becomes increasingly hypnotic as the movie goes on, or maybe it just seems that way as one falls under the spell of so many abstract patterns of light and color, designed to simulate the experiences of the members of the Enterprise crew as they pass through various dimensions of time and space.

“Star Trek” is yet another film that owes more to Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra, who did the special photographic effects, and to Harold Michelson, the production designer, than it does to the director, the writers or even the producer, Gene Roddenberry, who also created and produced the television series.


5 thoughts on “On Star Trek: The Motion Picture

  1. Pingback: On Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan | The Progressive Democrat

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  5. Pingback: On Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country | The Progressive Democrat

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