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Star Trek Movies I-X Discuss the first ten big screen outings in this forum!

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Old March 1 2014, 04:13 PM   #1
Warped9
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ST-TMP: your first time...

When Star Trek - The Motion Picture first premiered in December, 1979 I was already 20 years old, and about ten years after I started watching TOS

TMP was coming at the close of a drawn out decade where the last new Trek onscreen had been TAS five years ealier. Five years can seem like an eternity to a teenager. Before TMP when I had been in high school there had been some buzz about the forthcoming feature. But the only advance information we could get was in sci-fi and fantasy magazines, occasional newspaper articles and feature articles in magazines like Starlog and Omni. One might also pick up some news at conventions, which was something I wasn't frequenting yet. Whatever articles (and photos) we ran across could be considered gold since information could be scant compared to what we can learn about a film today before it's released.

I, too, had reservations when seeing some of Ralph McQuarries concept paintings early on, but as the realease drew nearer and Phase II pics started surfacing as well as lastly actual TMP shots then I started to feel more reassured.

The anticipation was almost unbearable. Star Trek was then (and remains still) my favourite television series. It consumed me and I soaked up every scrap pf knowledge and trivia I could lay my hands on. You can be assured I was there on opening night.

Over the years I've seen TMP (in vaious versions) numerous enough times. Last year is when I most recently revisited the DE version. Looking back my feelings haven't changed much although in some respects I like the film more now than way back in '79. I see it in a somewhat different perspective that allows me to appreciate some things that might not have registered consciously originally.


Opening night:

The opening credits with the main title theme. Stirring with a touch of bombast. But I will say I missed the familiar Star Trek fanfare (which we'd hear next in TWOK).

Without question TMP was visually breathtaking. This was Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek writ large. Today we can be almost desensitized to the splashy and polished f/x of contemporary visual spectacles---practically anything that can be imagined can be realized. But back then you simply couldn't have been prepared for the opening sequence of three detailed Klingon battle cruisers approaching the Vger cloud. Then we got to see the new look Klingons. And then we got to hear them speak in their own language (with English subtitles).

It..was..mind-blowing.

You're still absorbing that opening sequence when you find yourself on Vulcan. Here Vulcan seems more alien than it did in "Amok Time" and certainly more expansive. The music feels appropriately strange...and then the Spock and the Vulcans are speaking their own language.

You've just been repeating "Holy shit!" to yourself during the first several minutes of the film when you next find yourself at Starfleet Central in San Francisco. And the audience erupts when Admiral James T. Kirk appears on the screen, completely drowning out the film.

Things slow down a bit broken only by a cheer for the appearance of Commander Montgomery Scott. What follows is a mixture of silent and whispered "OMG!" throughout the crowd...

The refit Enterprise is revealed.

Today there can be a lot of groaning over this scene. Contemporary audiences don't seem to really care for it. But there is context at play here. Today most SF tech in film and television, no matter how cool looking, is still basically hardware to the creators and the audience. And that includes pretty much every Trek ship since the film era of including each successive new version of Enterprise after the refit. But to starving Trek fans this was the reveal of one of TOS' most popular characters: THE starship Enterpirse.

It..was..gorgeous! And many of us felt like Kirk as he looked over the new ship. And as then no succesive Trek ship has managed to look so nice on the screen.

The WTF moments would slow down after these incredible sequences broken by successive cheers for the reveal of each familiar character from TOS, but most particularly for McCoy and Spock. The Vulcan shuttle sequence was also wicked.

It's not long after this that TMP started to run into trouble. It never got bad, but it could start to drag, most notably during the Vger flyover sequences. Back then as an awed 20 year old I couldn't yet articulate what was wrong, but now I can say it needed to be edited and it needed more character drama to offset and liven up the proceedings. Not necessarily action in the conventional sense of run-and-jump and phaser battles, but in the character sense alike some of TOS' best moments. The film didn't back up noticeably until our heroes finally come face-to-face with Vger.

Just prior to that sequence I still recall one distinct moment of disappointment with the f/x: the moment the crew go out on the hull. The scaling and perspective were so poorly done and in such constrast to what was otherwise a spectacular looking film.

My mind was spinning when I left the theatre. In many respects I was blown away with what I had just seen. But that said I still recall a measure of doubt over something (at the time) I couldn't put my finger on.

Even with my misgivings I was ecstatic that live-action Star Trek was back. The ending sequence left little doubt in my mind that further adventures would follow, only it remained to be seen what form they would take. In the iterim I read quite a few of the subsequent Trek novels being published as if they were picking up where TMP left off.

Over the years my opinion of the film wavered as I was exposed to ever fading prints of the film on television. It became more sterile and monochrome looking. Eventually I picked up a VHS release of the SLV cut seen on television. The picture and colour looked much better and the addition of previously cut scenes helped alleviate some of the protracted f/x sequences. But it wouldn't be until seeing the DE version that I would really start to appreciate the film on a level more like how I felt in 1979. And in some respects even more so. The editing certainly tightened things up. I still regret the missing extra character drama, but that's something you can't cgi into a film.

A few years later in 1982 I went to the premiere of TWOK. That, too, was a mixed experience. It was definitely more energetic than TMP, but I really didn't care for the new look of the uniforms and the somewhat retro approach Nicholas Meyer layered into it. At the time I thought, even with my criticisms, TWOK was better in overall execution. But since those days my opinioned has swung. Now TMP is the film I prefer and TWOK comes in a conditional second.


Anyone else recall their first time?

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Last edited by Warped9; March 1 2014 at 04:40 PM.
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Old March 1 2014, 04:34 PM   #2
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

...Admiral, your recollection and recounting are nothing short of worthy of a Federation computer database...

...I was 18 years old, and standing in line in Joliet, Il, for the premier in December of 1979...it did not occur to me until much later what the flaws and disappointments were, but it was Star Trek, and I was happy...
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Old March 1 2014, 04:37 PM   #3
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

HIjol wrote: View Post
...Admiral, your recollection and recounting are nothing short of worthy of a Federation computer database...

...I was 18 years old, and standing in line in Joliet, Il, for the premier in December of 1979...it did not occur to me until much later what the flaws and disappointments were, but it was Star Trek, and I was happy...
I also remember being ecstatic albeit with a trace of doubt. And I really remember that flubbed f/x shot.

I was excited for each of the first six films. but none quite matched the first viewing of TMP.
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Old March 1 2014, 06:00 PM   #4
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

Great review Warped9, I can only look back at the movie with the biggest rose-tinted spectacles - it was the first film I ever saw on the big screen at the age of 5, and I've been hooked ever since.

Totally agree about the drydock flyby scene - modern audiences don't seem to 'get' the scene and tend to shrug their shoulders at it from my experience, but it remains possibly my favorite scene in all of Trek - and I don't say that lightly. Context is indeed the thing.

I enjoy other films in the series more, even the JJ ones and Nemesis, but secretly, TMP is the daddy - it's still the most epic, grand entry in the series for me, more so than the new ones even, and boasts the finest score in the series and one of the best of all time to boot.

That's no mean feat for a 1979 film - in many ways I consider TMP to be the jewel in Trek's crown. A little more humor and action sprinkled in and it would be even more of a classic.
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Old March 1 2014, 06:28 PM   #5
Brutal Strudel
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

December, 1979: I was 9 years old, just becoming a Trekkie through my love of the ships of TOS. I'd loved Star Wars in 1977 but was quickly won over by Star Trek's broader imaginative canvas, budget and technological limitations be damned. TMP, with its still unmatched beauty shots of the Enterprise, the new Klingon ships, the Vulcan shuttle, the Jerry Goldsmith score (the blaster beam and Klingon theme made strong impressions) blew my mind. Still my favorite Trek movie, warts and all.
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Old March 1 2014, 06:36 PM   #6
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

I saw the extended version on TV so I never got the cinematic experience. There was a lot of Phase II style merchandise surrounding the release (aliens you barely glimpse and pictures of characters in action poses etc) so the movie was nothing like what I was expecting. I think the Enterprise flyby does lose a bit of impact on the smaller screen and modern audiences have seen it all before so it doesn't surprise that many like to see that scene shortened.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and I liked the ending but even today I still wish that the crew had all got the chance to get off the bridge and pull some action poses...
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Old March 1 2014, 06:38 PM   #7
Brutal Strudel
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

Reading Warped 9's description of the mishapen Enterprise primary hull, I'm reminded that, back then, even the most fx-laden visual masterpieces had at least one bad effect in it--Star Wars in 77, Superman in 78; even 2001 in 68 had the marginally convincing ape men. Visual effects are more consistently convincing these days thanks to cgi.
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Old March 1 2014, 06:43 PM   #8
Warped9
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

Brutal Strudel wrote: View Post
Reading Warped 9's description of the mishapen Enterprise primary hull, I'm reminded that, back then, even the most fx-laden visual masterpieces had at least one bad effect in it--Star Wars in 77, Superman in 78; even 2001 in 68 had the marginally convincing ape men. Visual effects are more consistently convincing these days thanks to cgi.
Well the DE thankfully fixed the misshapen hull sequence.

1979 was also the year we got Alien. That and ST-TMP made for a good year for science fiction on film. In my eyes Star Wars couldn't compare with that.
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Old March 1 2014, 06:50 PM   #9
Smellmet
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

Pauln6 wrote: View Post
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and I liked the ending but even today I still wish that the crew had all got the chance to get off the bridge and pull some action poses...
That's all that was missing from the film really, a chance for a bit on action and humor on another planet, say.

We can't really complain though, none of the subsequent films were as pure 'Trek' as this one, or even had the scope til arguably '09.

TMP was a simply awesome film - let's bask in it in this thread...
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Old March 1 2014, 07:35 PM   #10
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

Despite an element of reservation that lingered after my first viewing it was still apparent (to me) that TMP was aiming for something different. It was fulfilling the idea begun in TOS of being adult oriented science fiction. There was next to no whimsy in it. Its tone was straightforward and serious albeit with some contextual humour. It wasn't run-and-jump. It went right back to TOS' opening saga narration: Space, the final frontier...to seek out new life...to boldly go where no man has gone before.

And again the villain or threat wasn't conventional. Vger wasn't driven by vengeance or hate, but by ignorance. It was trying to understand its own existence. Even as deadly and destructive as it could be its actions were not of malicious intent.

Despite some lack of character drama it's quite a smart and ambitious film. It deals with big ideas and characters trying to find who they really are and where they belong. Kirk, Spock, Decker and Vger are each looking for answers.

I didn't appreciate those things in 1979 in quite the same way as I see them now.
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Old March 1 2014, 07:38 PM   #11
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

Couldn't have put it better myself
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Old March 1 2014, 07:51 PM   #12
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

I was a few days away from turning 20 when I saw it in the theater. All the way through the film I was spellbound. The flyaround shot of the Enterprise is still one of my favorite movie moments. That's a beautiful ship.
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Old March 1 2014, 08:01 PM   #13
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

Absolutely, The Enterprise-E wouldn't have looked the way it did if it wasn't for TMP
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Old March 1 2014, 09:09 PM   #14
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

I was in my second year of college. The movie didn't open in my dinky little college town, which only had a couple of movie theaters way back then, so our entire science fiction club drove over a hundred miles to catch the movie on opening night in Everett, Washington. It was a very festive atmosphere; not counting the animated series, this was the first new Star Trek in over a decade. Pretty much every character got a standing ovation, so that I actually didn't hear some of the dialogue until later viewings.

And, yes, the drydock scene also got a standing ovation, which meant it was paced just right for that opening night. Nowadays, when watched on TV, yeah, it goes on too long, but I can personally testify that it worked that night. The Enterprise was back--and on the big screen no less!

Good times.
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Old March 1 2014, 09:09 PM   #15
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Re: ST-TMP: your first time...

I saw the film the morning after opening night. In fact, my ride didn't show up after the film and so I saw it again right after. I was 16.

I loved it, and despite its many many flaws, still do because of its scope and the attempt to say something, even if it didn't exactly deliver on its message.

Re the opening. I liked the stark opening credits. A like the big BUM BUM at the start, which tells you "this is gonna be BIG". The fact that I could hum the theme after seeing the movie tells me how catchy it was/is.

(A clarification: the Courage Star Trek theme is in the film, just not at the top. It plays over the Captain's logs.)

Context is everything or course, so effects that were spectacular in 1979 are seem pretty pedestrian today. The first shot of the Klingon ships was a shot like we'd never seen before in a sci-fi film. 2001 and Star Wars introduced us to big ships, but that tilt down to the passing ship and the 180 spin was like "whoa" on an 80 foot screen. And after eons of glowing lines for ray beams the ray-spewing photon torpedoes and the V'ger energy weapons were a real novelty. The Enterprise (in most shots) looked flipping huuuge. Seeing human figures next to the ship for the first time really helped this.

I wasn't sold on everything, tho. I noticed matte lines around the Klingon ships. The Vulcan matte was just too painted looking and you really didn't even notice the giant stature because of how poorly the shot was designed. I thought it was weird that they didn't even keep a hint of the original door or transporter sounds to make things feel even a little familiar. I didn't like the transporter effect, though I loved the accident (and that creepy scream). I wasn't in love with the bridge, which felt kinda empty.

I do remember people laughed at the funny bits: many of McCoy's lines, Spock's ditching Chekov at the airlock, "Absolutely I will not interfere!", etc. (when I saw the film again at a Jerry Goldsmith retrospective a few years ago the same was true).

My brother didn't like the film so much. Another friend loved it not for its qualities but because it was Star Trek and it was new...finally!

When TWOK came out I appreciated the pace and the focus on the characters but it was obvious Star Trek wasn't going to be about science fiction plots any more, but melodrama set in a science fiction milieu. The original series did that to a degree, too, but what I liked about TMP was its attempt to be a little more hard sci-fi, and with subsequent sequels and the ongoing franchise never again going "there" my interest in it waned. The me TMP, for all it's misfires is a hint at a "coulda been" which, to me, anyway, is more interesting than where it actually went.
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