The decision was also made to give the Kirk and Spock characters inner conflicts which may have made them seem removed from the TV version of the characters for some viewers. People may not agree with that choice, but it was a perfectly valid choice. The segment of the audience with strong opinions on how Kirk or Spock "should" act was very small, and if they were the only ones the film appealed to, it would have flopped. TMP was approached as a stand-alone feature with some big ambitions, and no one knew if there would ever be another Star Trek feature film. One can argue that the execution did not live up to those ambitions, and on may counts I agree. But to argue that there was some readily-understood quintessence of Trek in 1979, which TMP violated in some way, doesn't really apply to the context in which the filmmakers made the choices they made. And they made a film that was ultimately successful by most standards.
There's a great deal I agree with here, but I'm not sure Kirk was provided with much of an "inner conflict" to be resolved. (Spock had one, sure, but it was just a development of the same inner conflict he had on the TV series, now formalized and made into a Vulcan rite.)
In Kirk's case, moreover, the script has him simply taking over and then alternating between making bad decisions (the wormhole scene) and making none at all. For the whole last half of the film, he's really rather passive: He has nothing to do with Spock's decision to go EVA and learn the vital information about V'ger's nature, nor with Decker's decision to resolve the plot and dissipate V'ger's threat to Earth by coding the final sequence by hand. What good is a Kirk (or any
starship captain) who doesn't make the key decisions?
[I remember the Trek drought of the mid-1970s very well. At one point in 1975 or so, Star Trek existed only as an anti-drug abuse radio ad featuring Kirk, Spock, and Uhura that I would hear periodically (www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAwfmpt2T-g
), presumably recorded during production of the animated series; there was no generally known prospect of any future Trek productions. I don't think I learned about Phase II until after it became the pre-production phase of TMP
. I remember being excited about the early magazine ad with the "23rd century odyssey now" tag line (http://i31.tinypic.com/2rcx6hg.jpg
) in which the writing credit was "Screenplay by Gene Roddenberry and Harold Livingston" - I've never seen an early ad for a movie that had such a drastic difference in writing credits from the released film. Has any thread here addressed this?]