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Star Trekkin' Across the Universe: Discussing The Porgs


That’s the movie I want to see.



Warp 9.95? Daaaamn!


So I watched the movie…It is a little better than I remember it being. Not much, but a little. There were a few touches that I didn’t notice before. There was the little smirk on Kirk’s face when he puts down Decker after Decker’s “Unwarranted risk” comment. And the music is just superb.

The scale of the thing is properly cinematic as well. The production doesn’t feel like a TV show. It is really designed to be seen on a big screen. There are so many scenes of flying through vortexes and bits with the Enterprise being seen as a small speck in comparison to V’ger, which don’t really work quite as well on a TV screen.

I don’t want to just trash the movie…but it is just so slow. It is going somewhere, but it takes ages to get there. It is just so ponderous and overly earnest. There is not a lot of room for the characters to breathe (although one could argue that is because they are busy trying to save Earth) It really isn’t a lot of fun. It is just so focused on trying to be serious scifi that there is no room for being a fun space opera. And I think that is largely the point. Although this came out in the wake of Star Wars, it is coming from that late 60’s/70’s tradition of science fiction which gave us things like the Fantastic Voyage and such like…

Having watched it again, I am struck by how muddy the character’s motivations are. Kirk wants the Enterprise…but is willing to do anything to get it back, including scuppering someone else’s career? Is that in character for Kirk? I don’t think so. Spock fails at the Kohlnar ritual…because of V’ger (although why it only impacts him and no one else is entirely unclear). And McCoy…Okay, Disco Stu McCoy gets a pass. he was drafted.

None of the other regular characters get much to do, but that is fairly consistent with the original show. They are just there in the background.

Willard Decker…he’s okay I guess as a proto-Riker. He just seems to put up with things and largely gets sidelined as the story goes on. The conflict between Kirk and Decker is interesting, but never really comes to a head.

After watching a lot of the original series, with its bright, primary coloured 60’s design, the refitted Enterprise seems so drab and poorly lit. The uniforms are a bit Pan’s People in 1970’s Top of the Pops.

What I do like about the film is the overall idea of that the obstacle that they have to face is something from Earth that was sent out to explore strange new worlds, but which came back changed as a result of the journey . It was a brave, and not entirely wise or successful, choice in not giving this film a definable baddie like a Darth Vader or a Khan.

What I don’t like that Kirk is not instrumental in resolving the problem. It is Spock who flies out to mind meld with V’ger. And Decker offers to act as the creator and join with V’ger. Kirk could have stayed on the ship and things could have turned out exactly the same. I’m not sure what he could do, but he should have done something. .

On an unrelated note, there was a line from Uhura about V’ger sending out a radio signal to the creator. A little part of me wanted someone to say “Is that classical music?”, before breaking into Sabotage by the Beastie Boys.


So, the production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was underway by January 1978, following an inspection of the Phase II sets and models to determine if they’d stand up to scrutiny on film as opposed to TV (A problem that would also effect the production of Star Trek: Generations, in fact). The models are all scrapped and Robert April and Associates (RA&A) are hired to start over, with a bid of $4 million, though they hire Magicam, one of those two in-house Paramount effects shops to build the models. They set up a subsidiary called ASTRA to handle art and design. This last point causes clashes as Paramount’s internal art department is also working on the movie, and they feel that ASTRA is part of an attempt by RA&A to take over creative control of the project - leading to Paramount’s Art Director quitting in disgust in March.

As Jennings was quitting, Robert Wise is hired as director and producer, leading to more strife as Robert Collins quits the movie due to he and Wise not getting along. Eventually Roddenberry would be the only person to receive a producer’s credit on the finished movie, though Wise was the real power behind the camera, with Paramount’s blessing.

Influenced by his wife and father, both Trekkies, Wise reaches out to Leonard Nimoy to get him back on board. Michael Eisner is reluctant at first to give in on Nimoy’s financial demands, not realising how popular and important Spock is with Trek fans, but eventually Wise wins out and Nimoy is hired, having received a substantial payment for the use of his likeness. Thanks to a clause in their contracts where one gets anything the other gets, William Shatner also gets a payout. Both actors also get script consulting rights, over Roddenberry’s objections.

This of course adds to the movie’s budget - Remember that part of the impetus to switch back to a movie production was Close Encounters’ success? It had a budget of 19 million, and TMP was at 15 million before they chucked the Phase II models and paid out to Shatner and Nimoy…

With Nimoy’s return to Trek, the character of Xon is dropped as a main character, and there’s serious consideration given to whether to remove Decker or not. The problem is that David Gautreaux was hired to play Xon in Phase II, and he has a pay-or-play contract. So eventually he plays Commander Branch, the head of listening post Epsilon XI in the finished production.

By July, there’s progress, but things are still heated. ASTRA have delivered the first shooting model - the Klingon Battlecruiser - but it’s deemed to be insufficiently detailed and sent back for more work. ASTRA up their fees by $750,000 in May, and a further 220,700 in July, citing increasing studio demands.

Harold Livingston was re-hired as a script editor in May when Roddenberry begged him after script development hit a brick wall. Livingston eventually agreed on the condition that he had as little contact with Roddenberry as possible. This yields results as the shooting script is delivered near the end of July, though it’s still missing an ending. Livingston would quit the production again in the following months.

The decision is made to keep the character of Decker, and Stephen Collins is hired in August, narrowly beating out Andrew Robinson, who’d eventually play Elim Garak in DS9. Principal photography begins the following week, on the 7th of August. The first scene shot is the panning shot of the Enterprise bridge just before Kirk arrives.

In October the production hits another roadblock. Livingston has quit again by this point, and Roddenberry has a bad case of writer’s block, with his rewrites of scenes meeting with harsh criticism. The sequence where the Ilia-probe has to be convinced to allow the Enterprise crew to meet V’Ger is being shot, but Roddenberry can’t figure out how to do it. Shatner and Nimoy come up with the “child treatment” solution, present it to Robert Wise, who likes it and they go to Roddenberry, who takes it well explodes with rage. Wise has prepared for this, and with Jeffrey Katzenberg’s assistance rehired Harold Livingston (who received a substantial raise, there goes the budget again!). Katzenberg informs Roddenberry that Livingston now has executive control of the movie and Roddenberry will only be required for PR events and to write the novelisation (which he was also contracted to produce. But more on that later).

Also in October on a happier note, the scene in which Kirk briefs the crew on the Rec Deck is shot. 125 of the 300 extras in the scene are notable Trek fans, such as Bjo Trimble and Denise Hathwell, who were instrumental in organising the letter-writing campaigns that uncancelled TOS originally as well as kept the pressure on Paramount that lead to TAS and Phase II/TMP. The crowd also includes production staff and Robert Wise’s wife. There’s also a number of people in alien makeup, including an Andorian and a few new races created for the movie that would receive detail in supplementary productions.

By November, the budget is estimated at $24 million, but it is not fixed. 5 million beyond Close Encounters and rising. the Third Act still isn’t finished and filming is suspended for another script meeting. At the same time Robin Williams cycles onto the set and is given a tour of the bridge! The script is completed at the end of the month, with only two months left for principal photography. In the official published version it’s backdated to 19th July 1978 for copyright legality reasons. The Enterprise studio model is also delivered to ASTRA for painting. But they’re not out of the woods yet because…

As the year ends the relationship between Paramount and RA&A/ASTRA is at breaking point. Douglas Trumbull (of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters fame) is brought in as an unpaid consultant to try and work things out (he’d declined the effects supervisor job a year earlier). By February RA&A are released from their contract. The effects budget had been fixed at $12 million at this point, but RA&A were saying they’d need $16 million, and they’d spent $11 million already, and they had one completed effects shot!

However, principal photography completed on 26th January 1979, with a wrap party on the 10th of February. Originally planned to finish on 31st October 1978, then 22nd December, they’re eventually budgeted as being 3 months behind schedule, costing an additional $250,000 in stage time. Also in February, a local fan club are offered stolen set blueprints, and they report the call to the FBI. The thief is found, receiving two years’ probation and a $750 fine.

As March looms, Paramount are under incredible pressure. The release date for the movie is fixed at 7th December 1979 (due to accepting a $35 million payment guarantee from exhibitors), and they basically have to start the effects footage again from scratch. Rumours of the production’s problems are spreading and cinema owners are starting to back away from their commitments.

A $10 million budget for effects is agreed upon, to be funded by a drive to prearrange merchandise licensing organised by Paramount exec Dawn Steel. Remember how Paramount made two in-house effects houses back in 1975? Doug Trumbull headed FGC, the one that didn’t do model-making for RA&A, but due to office politics and a lack of work, FGC were forced to surrender equipment to RA&A, and they lost employees to the other company as well. And now FCG picked up the contract to redo the effects. Trumbull was holding a grudge and used the leverage to reclaim equipment and repoach staff.

Work proceeds at a brisk pace until May, when a studio staffer brings a girlfriend onto the set, and to impress her turns on the lighting in the model of the Enterprise. He managed to damage the circuitry due to not knowing what the hell he’s doing, causing another two months of work to repair it.

As July begins, FGC are ready to go for model shooting, with only six months remaining until the release date. Having just been repaired, the Enterprise model gets damaged by water dripping from a leaky air conditioner, leading to four consecutive all-nighters to repair this new damage.

As July ends Trumbull realises that no work has been done on the V’Ger interior, but photography is due to begin in 3 or 4 weeks. Greg Jein, a fan-turned-pro modelmaker who worked on the Klingon Battlecruiser model, was rehired to build the sets, and he recruited a legion of fellow model maker fans to help, most of whom he knew from the con circuit. He also founded his own effects company to cover legal liabilities resulting from this work.

A number of Jein’s friends would go on to become professional effects crew, working on Trek later in their careers. Notably Lisa Morton would do some work on TNG series 1, Don Pennington would work on Caretaker, and Bill George would be part of ILM, working on another 5 Trek movies as well as two Star Wars ones.

The effects work was finished on 29th November, with a rough cut screened on the 1st of December. Wise trimmed 10 minutes from the movie after this screening. Doug Trumbull was hospitalised due to nervous exhaustion for 10 days around this time. Post-production finished on the 5th of December, with a world première the following night, flown personally by Robert Wise from LA to DC and loaded into the projector a minute before the scheduled start. 2,000 copies are flown around the US by private planes to ensure the theatrical première goes ahead as agreed.

And that’s the making of TMP! I’ll do one more post with other trivia and opinion in a day or two to wrap this up!


It starts to be a lot clearer how this turned out the way it did.

By the way, I gave some thought to what @davidm said about the 6 minute introduction of the ship scene. One of my problems with this film is that it takes time to soak up all of this detail and do the fan eqivalent of stopping to smell the flowers, which robs the film of any urgency.

However I was I must have watched this trailer a dozen times, so I understand the reasons why someone would include the scene.


It’s one of the reasons why I find TMP so fascinating. It’s a poster child for the term troubled production, and that story is at least as interesting as the finished product.


It is a weird one. You can see that a lot of effort and a lot of resources went into making it. But the end product just doesn’t quite click. It feels like they were shooting for 2001: a Space Odyssey, but not quite knowing how to get there.


I think Leonard Nimoy said almost that exact thing at the time. I love that they tried it with Trek, and dismayed that the issues with the production and revenues meant they’d never do anything so ambitious with a Trek movie since. Though I plan to talk about that with my next big post!


That is true. It is far more ambitious than anything that has come after.

And I shall look forward to the third part of your post.


TMP Trivia:

As well as the main cast, the movie sees the return of Grace Lee Whitney as Janice Rand (now a transporter chief), Majel Barret as Christine Chapel (now a doctor), and Mark Lenard as the Klingon Captain - making him the first actor to play a member of the three principal alien races in Trek - Romulan, Vulcan and Klingon. He’s also the first actor to be seen in the redesigned Klingon makeup and speak the Klingon language. The movie also marks the first use of the Vulcan language.

Chief DiFalco, who takes over as navigator after Ilia is abducted was played by Marcy Lafferty, who was William Shatner’s wife between 1970 and 1994. She had a brief career as an actress in the 70s TMP was her most prominent feature.

This is one of the last movies to feature an overture - a short (in this case a 1:40 excerpt from Ilia’s theme from the main soundtrack) piece of music that plays before the opening credits begin. That main theme would of course be reworked to be the theme for TNG. The theme from TOS is heard three times in the movie (in a new arrangement), each time while Kirk is recording a log entry. The only other movie to not feature the TOS fanfare in its theme is Undiscovered Country.

The five previous ships named Enterprise that Decker shows the Ilia probe are the 18th century frigate, the WWII aircraft carrier, the space shuttle prototype (which was of course named for the starship Enterprise in the real world), an unknown starship, and the TV Enterprise. The unknown starship is an early design from TOS which went unused. Fans speculated that the Director’s Edition of TMP would replace the unknown ship with the NX-01 Enterprise, but this did not happen.

In the SF writers have no sense of scale category, V’Ger’s cloud is referred to as 82 AU in diameter in the theatrical cut. An AU is the distance between the Sun and the Earth’s orbit, and while the Solar system is quite big, 41 AU represents Eris’ orbit, and as such V’Ger would actually encompass almost the entire system. This is changed to 2 AU in the Director’s Edition, representing a cloud that would encompass all of Earth’s orbit if it were centred on the Sun.

In a Starlog article in 1980, Harlan Ellison claimed that Gene Roddenberry took Haold Livingston to arbitration with the WGA five times, trying to get a writer’s credit, but he was unsuccessful each time. Alan Dean Foster successfully did so however - he had initially no credit even though the story was based on In Thy Image, a script he wrote for Phase II.

Orson Welles provided narration for many of the film’s trailers - Robert Wise worked on Citizen Kane and the Magnificent Ambersons, so they had a connection.

The film has been cited as the most expensive ever made at the time, with a final cost of either $44 or 46 million, depending on the source. However, Superman: The Movie had a budget of $54 million, though this was not known at the time. Also, accounting for inflation Cleopatra was more expensive, and a 1966 4-part version of War and Peace made in the Soviet Union had a reported budget of $100 million at the time.

Notably, TMP’s budget included the costs of the various attempts to relaunch Trek as a movie or TV series in the 70s, While the viability of this from an accounting perspective is debatable, there is some crossover between the end of Phase II’s production and the start of TMP’s (Persis Khambatta and David Gautreaux were hired for Phase II, as were most of the original cast. Also many of the Enterprise sets were built for Phase II), so it’s somewhat justifiable.

In autumn 1978, Paramount pre-sold the movie to ABC for either $10 or 15 million depending on the source. This allowed for two airings of the movie, the first no earlier than December 1982. The TV version of the movie had scenes added to it that weren’t in the theatrical cut, one of the first films to do so.

In my prior post, I mentioned pressure to meet the December 7th 1979 release date due to the $35 million guarantees given to theatre owners. Given the financial structure of these guarantees, Paramount would have been in the hold for up to $70 million if they’d missed the deadline. However, it’s worth noting that the ABC and theatrical pre-sales meant that TMP had made back its budget before a single second had been seen by the public.

Also in my prior post I mentioned Dawn Steel’s merchandising push as how Paramount raised the cash for the effects reshoot. Steel aggressively went after licensees on the trade convention circuit, and put on an over the top show at the Paramount studios to convince them to come on board, even though she had no finished footage to show them. Somehow she convinced Coca-Cola, and McDonalds amongst others to buy into the movie. She was promoted to VP of productions in features despite being less than six months in Paramount at the time and went on to become one of the first female movie moguls.

Merchandising leading out of the movie included a novelisation; a three-issue comic adaptation form Marvel (which became an going that would run to 18 issues in total before DC acquired the license) ; View-Master reels, themed coca-cola cups and mugs, the first movie-themed Happy Meals (complete with TV ads featuring a Klingon), a poster book, a making-of book, blueprints, a cutaway poster, a photonovel, trading cards, model kits and toys, a vectrex game, and a newspaper strip which ran for four years. (Due to poor lead times on information coming out of the movie, Ilia is a character in the first two storylines as the creators did not know she died.). Steel estimated that the merchandise sales amounted to at least $250 million, of which somewhere between 1% and 11% went back to the studio depending on the product. It’s entirely possible that Steel’s fundraising drive saved both TMP and the studio.

Ultimately, TMP took in $11,926,421 in its opening weekend, with a domestic gross total of $82,258,456, and foreign gross of about $57 million (approximately $79 million more would be added in home rentals in the 80s). While this is an impressive take, between the high total budget at the time, a further $10-20 million in marketing, the fact that a lot of the merchandising fees went into keeping the production going meant it was deemed a disappointment by the studio. While Wrath of Khan was greenlit quite quickly, it was done so with severe financial restrictions. TMP’s performance was also used as an excuse to bump Gene Roddenberry upstairs to a consultant role and get him away from day to day running of the movie franchise. That said, TMP remains one of the best-performing Trek movies when inflation is taken into account, it’s the 4th highest grossing movie, outperformed only by the three alternate universe stories.

V’Ger’s core was a full-scale mockup of a Voyager probe built by JPL loaned to the production. NASA were given a mention in the closing credits as a result. Jesco von Puttkamer, a legendary NASA engineer who worked on Apollo, as well as being program manager for SETI and unmanned long-range spaceflight has a science consultant credit - he was brought in during Phase II’s production, and is apparently the person who came up with the tag “The Human Adventure is just Beginning”.

Isaac Asimov also has a science consultant credit, also dating back to the Phase II development period. He was brought in to reassure Paramount executives of the feasibility of the plot elements presented in the script for In Thy Image, of a robotic probe being sent out into space and returning to Earth.

The V’Ger sound effects were performed on a homebrew musical instrument called a Blaster Beam, invented by Craig Huxley (who played Peter Kirk in Operation – Annihilate! and Tommy Starnes in And the Children Shall Lead). It consisted of an eighteen-foot aluminium body with several strings, amplified by motorised guitar pickups. Einstuerzende Neubauten would be proud! The Blaster Beam was also used for audio effects in Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock and First Contact.

While I quite liked the new Starfleet uniforms, especially the short=sleeved version Kirk and Sulu wear, they were incredibly impractical and uncomfortable. George Takei noted that they required assistance to be put on or taken off, even for minor things like using the bathroom. A major reason for the redesign for Wrath of Khan was that the main cast refused to wear them again - though they were recycled into parts of other costumes, notably the enlisted crew jumpsuits after a dye job.

Reception coming out of the studio screening and the première were chilly. In 2,000 Barry Diller, Paramount’s CEO at the time said “The movie was horrible and we were scared to death”. He also told Nicholas Meyer that one of his most wrenching moments was seeing lines around the block for the movie, knowing it didn’t deliver.

After the première, Shatner was convinced Trek was dead in the water, saying “Well, that’s it. We gave it out best shot, it wasn’t good, and it will never happen again”. Fifteen years later, he amended the statement with the line “Shows you what I know”.

In 1983, Nimoy said the film was finely crafted, but frustrating from an actor’s perspective, that they didn’t get to play the characters the way they were used to. In 2012 he added that like Shatner, he felt the movie left the franchise as a “beached whale”, saying that “Robert Wise and Gene Roddenberry were looking to do a 2001 kind of thing”, but that there wasn’t enough drama and it didn’t use the characters well.

Fan and critical reaction is also along those lines. with nicknames including “The Slow-Motion Picture”, “The Motion Sickness Picture”, The Motionless Picture", and “Where Nomad has Gone Before”, referring to the TOS episode The Changeling. The movie has a 45% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Despite all this, TMP picked up an impressive selection of award nominations, including Oscar nods for art direction, score and visual effects; a Golden Globe nomination for score, the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (it lost to Alien); and Saturn nods for Makeup, Costumes, Music, Lead and Supporting Actress and Actor, Director, SF Film and Special Effects. The only win was the Saturn for Special Effects however.

Roddenberry’s novelisation has a number of additional details which are interesting, some of which make it into canon, and others he’d later contradict himself:

The Klingon Battlecruisers are referred to as K’Tinga class rather than D7 as they were in the show. This class name would later be used to represent a refit of the original D7.

A new character, Admiral Lori Ciana is added to the story. She’s been in a relationship with Kirk since the Enterprise returned to Earth, and argues with Admiral Nogura that Kirk should be granted command of the contact mission. She agrees to take a temporary reduction in rank and transfers aboard the Enterprise, but is killed in the same transporter accident that kills Commander Sonak.

At the start of the novel, Kirk is on holiday in Alexandria, and Starfleet transmit Epsilon IX’s recording of the Klingon squadron’s destruction directly to his brain. There’s a suggestion in this section that Starfleet that Starfleet has used implant technology for more nefarious purposes as well - this coming only a few years before Roddenberry would present an even more utopian view of the Federation in TNG.

The scenes where Spock is about the recieve the symbol of totla logic, and later when he’s recovering from his attempted mind meld with V’Ger includes a mention of the Vulcan term T’hy’la, which has a triple meaning of friend, brother and lover, being how Spock sees Kirk. This has been a major source of fuel for the Kirk/Spock shippers and slash ficcers down through the years.

The novel also establishes that Will Decker is the son of Commodore Decker from The Doomsday Weapon.

Finally, Roddenberry spells V’Ger as Vejur for much of the book. It was spelled as Veejer in the original script for In Thy Image.

The novelisation of Encounter at Farpoint suggests that Kirk inadvertantly starts a new tradition by travelling to Enterprise by shuttlepod, which Picard follows when he comes aboard the Enterprise-D. This would later be canonised during the flashback sequences in All Good Things…

The Shatnerverse novel The Return would establish that the living machiend Voyager 6 encountered were The Borg, though this is not reflected in either the main canon or the later Trek novels that have a tight continuity.

The 2005 novel Ex Machina, set immediately after TMP states that of the original crew, only Scotty and Uhura were part of the regular ship’s complement as recruited by Decker, with Admiral Nogura transferring Chekov and Sulu to the ship in the hours before Kirk took command It also says that Decker recruited Uhura specifically to help him recruit as many non-human crew as possible, making his Enterprise the most diverse ship in service at the time. Furthermore, the novel states that Decker was considering making Uhura his executive officer, adding context to her first line in the movie: “my people are all tied up here”

Opinion time (at last!):

So, this film is flawed as all hell. I can’t dispute Nimoy (or indeed @SimonJones) when they compare the film to 2001. But it’s clear that Robert Wise is no Stanley Kubrick, and Gene Roddenberry and Harold Livingston are no Arthur C. Clarke. It’s very much an SF story in the best Clarke tradition - that of the Big Dumb Object being investigated by humans. And the pacing and tone of the movie would work fine as a novel. Hell, I can look up from my laptop right now and see a good half-dozen such novels in my eyeline.

So let’s concentrate on what works, shall we? First, it looks pretty damned good. The motion controlled effects are showing their age at points (especially the rear projection shots of Kirk and Scotty in the work pod), but I still get a kick out of the dematerialistion of the Klingon ships, and the Enterprise ship model is gorgeous. When you consider the incredibly short deadlines and the number of effects shots (a then-unprecedented 500), the work is exemplary. I also love the imagery on display during Spock’s foray into V’Ger’s memories.

Second, I’m a big fan of detail-laden Hard SF. And I’m never going to claim that Trek is Hard SF, but I also love the crunch of technical detail - blueprints, technical readouts, line art. It’s a big part of why I love mechanically complex toys like Transformers and Valkyries. And in many ways, the Enterprise is a main character here. So much of the movie is given over to the end of the refit, the lengthy panning and launch sequence, the Warp Drive failing, all these little details that are basically bullshit, but they give a feeling of authenticity to the affair. And it’s a big part of why I enjoy the movie. The Starbase Kirk and Scotty depart from, the drydock and Epsilon XI have all these little ancillary spacecraft flying around, and guys in EVA suits doing stuff. It makes the world feel lived in, in a way no other Trek movie even attempts.It’s so minor, but it’s stuck with me for decades.

While most of the performances are decent, there’s a few standout moments that deserve highlighting - Kirk’s repeated attempts to get Spock to sit down when the pair and McCoy convene in his ready room is amusing, and Persis Khambatta does some great work when V’Ger is probing her - the expressions on her face are fantastic and especially convincing of a feeling of distress.

Finally, as I said upthread, it’s so incredibly ambitious as a Star Trek story that I have to respect it for attempting, and almost succeeding in telling that story. It’s fascinating to watch despite and because of its flaws, and it reinvigorated Star Trek for a new decade, leading to unprecedented success - 12 more movies over the course of 40 years, and 24 series worth of TV spread over 20 consecutive years. It’s a damned fine legacy for any movie to spawn.

Furthermore, the production of the movie is so amazingly convoluted and wrought with drama that it’d make a fine movie in and of itself, in the vein of RKO 281 (which did the same for Citizen Kane) or An Adventure in Space and Time did for Doctor Who’s early years. As Mister Spock would say - fascinating.


What a post! Kudos, m’man!

By the time this film was in production I had just started working in a psych hospital and my best bud Tim was a year into actually working in TV (and just before he worked for Dick Clark, his mentor, I believe). When low level and a Hollywood native (okay, I’m a native, Tim was born in New York City and brought to Hollywood his third day of life, so I have the dibs!) one works all the small studios, and there were dozens. A medium sized one was DesiLu, later part of the Paramount lot (with Universal and some Italians involved, I think - but don’t quote me on that bit). That’s where TOS was filmed (I can show you buildings in several episodes right on that lot, as well as a couple from Batman). That’s where TMP was supposed to be filmed. Like any brothers, we played torture each other for information. I needed info on TMP, and, well, let’s just say I knew stuff he needed to know. His info-bits were true, but there were so many shenanigans at so many levels that nothing quite seemed true - and this was decades before “alternate facts”. (Called “bald-faced lies” then,) It was a buzzed-about production, one of few where the costs made news. Main thing folks were saying was “It can’t be that good!”

And it wasn’t.


I’m glad the connection to 2001: A Space Odyssey was mentioned, but it’s also worth considering that The Motion Picture feels a lot like a Terrence Malick movie in hindsight. Malick famously made two movies in the '70s (Badlands was released in 1973, Days of Heaven in 1978), before backing away from filmmaking for two decades. These days he seems downright ubiquitous, but you can see in something like The Tree of Life exactly where his instincts converge with The Motion Picture. Slow and deliberate, evocative, and often punctuated with hotheads convinced that they’re right even though others plainly disagree.

I disagree with @SimonJones concerning the relationship between Kirk and Decker. This was set up to be a scenario where “only Kirk could get the job done,” a trope of Star Trek dating back to the original series, when every other starship captain had either gone rogue, met some horrible fate, or in all other ways failed to live up to Kirk’s heroic standards. In Kirk’s mind an unproven Decker was no match for a guy with that kind of legacy, especially one who’d grown bored of living a life without such challenges. And obviously he made a good case for himself, against an implacable admiral, to the point where even Scotty knows how impressive such a fete was. (It’s a shame that Shatner and Doohan got along so poorly, because their flight to the Enterprise is basically the last time Scotty filled out the “fifth Beatle” spot in that cast.)

I confess I can offer less of a psychological profile for why Spock alone among Vulcans could sense V’Ger’s distress, except that as a perceived outsider he’d always been especially sensitive, and he was at his most vulnerable moment, about to purge all emotion. For a half-human, it would’ve been a big step, and a clear break from a past that had once (and would again; that’s the beauty of it :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:) been so dear to him. He struggles throughout the rest of the movie to deny his past; in a lot of ways as a metaphor about V’Ger’s journey. Yet he and Decker are the ones who finish the job Kirk is so eager to begin, thereby proving Kirk was right to assume command, get the ball rolling, because only he would’ve been so bold to undertake it and get everyone that far, safely. Presumably.


From The Autobiography of James T. Kirk:

On our viewscreen, we got a look at the cramped control room of the Romulan ship and the face of its commander.

Pointed ears, slanted eyebrows, he could’ve been Spock’s father.



Ooooh, I forgot some other oddness from the novelisation - The introduction is written in-character as Kirk, and it mentions a sub-species of humanity called New Humans, who are telepathic and tend to only have one name instead of a first and surname. However their interconnecteness makes them unable to empathise with non-humans and as such they don’t leave Earth or serve in Starfleet. As a result Starfleet is increasingly seen as a refuge for throwbacks.

It also mentions that 94 members of the Enterprise crew died during the 5-year mission.

Also, a conceit of the introduction is that Roddenberry is apparently a real person in the context of the novel, who’s writing a fictionalised account of the V’Ger mission. In-universe Roddenberry was also responsible for a fictionalisation of the 5-year mission which Kirk disapproves of because it sacrificed accuracy for sensationalism and drama, but the novel has been proof-read and approved by all the notable people characterised in the book.


I’ve always assumed the novelisation was ghost-written. Actually I was fairly sure Alan Dean Foster had written it, because he wrote everything.

I’m not aware of Roddenberry writing anything else other than TV scripts.

And yet a footnote goes out of its way to emphasis that Kirk and Spock are not lovers. The wording is something like “contrary to what has been speculated”, which I assume is Roddenberry (or whoever) deliberately trying to quash the slash fic.


I’d forgotten about the footnote. I’d be sure that enough slash fans would take that as a suspiciously specific denial, especially given that it’s in character.

Also, if it wasn’t for the slash ficcers we wouldn’t have this amazing fan video


Foster. Interesting dude.

The Fosters reside in Prescott in a house built of brick salvaged from a turn-of-the-century miners’ brothel, along with assorted dogs, cats, fish, several hundred houseplants, visiting javelina, porcupines, eagles, red-tailed hawks, skunks, coyotes, bobcats, and the ensorceled chair of the nefarious Dr. John Dee. He is presently at work on several new novels and media projects.


Thought this was evocative.


It really annoyed me at first that these had DS9 and Voyager in the wrong order, and then I realised why, and now I have that emotional combination of mild irritation and grudging respect.