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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek Movies > Star Trek Movies I-X

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

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Old March 26 2014, 03:03 PM   #181
J.T.B.
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

TREK_GOD_1 wrote: View Post
TOS has its essence--that which defined the series no matter the sub-genre of any particular episode. At its best, TOS' essence was the difference between having a story unfold as fantastic, or be some soulless, gadget-laden production, like most of Lost in Space. TMP rejected that essence in a vain attempt to be some eye-roll-inducing, would-be highbrow search for meaning. Chalk that up to Roddenberry, et al being hopelessly stuck in the pretensions of late 60's hippy / faux philosophers' inability to accept themselves, thus leading too many to fantasize that they "must" have some lofty purpose in the universe.
Those are subjective criticisms, though, and depend on execution as well as concept. What I mean is, what could one describe as "the essence" of Star Trek in 1978, in practical terms that could be applied to the new production? I think the idea of an essential "Star Trek-ness" was a much less-defined concept then than it was after several more movies, not to mention a new series or two.

Brutal Strudel wrote: View Post
I thought it was interesting that Meyer caught the Hornblower-in-Space vibe without knowing that Roddenberry was shooting for that (along with aspects of the western genre) with TOS. But he leaned on it a bit too heavily--too much Hornblower, not enough -in-Space.
I may be wrong, but my impression was that Meyer's "Hornblower" influence was pretty much exclusively from the Gregory Peck movie, not its literary origins.
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Old March 26 2014, 04:04 PM   #182
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Roddenberry's allusions of wagon train to the stars and Hornblower in space were a means of conveying a general idea to the network suits. He never meant it literally, and if you watch TOS you can see that. Meyer seemed to take it almost literally.

TOS was essentially an anthology series only with an established setting and recurring characters. There was little obvious continuity from episode to episode except for the characters and setting being established. Over time they built up a measure of consistency in how the universe and technology worked as well as establishing how the characters behave in given situations.

The anthology format allowed TOS to do all kinds of stories so one like TMP is not foreign to Star Trek. But TMP is the first major example of the property bumping up against broad audience expectations. A broad segment of the audience had developed a sense of what they thought the first Trek feature film should be whether they were familiar with the minutia of TOS or not. I think the advent of Star Wars two years earlier might have also played into that expectation.

In a larger sense, though, TMP was defying convention just as TOS had done. TOS from the onset was the idea of doing science fiction and space adventure but with an adult mindset while periodically mixing in allegory. So for TMP not to emulate Star Wars shouldn't have surprised anyone, except it seemed to anyway.

Robert Wise evidently understood the science fiction aspects of Star Trek as evidenced by the look of the film and how the ideas are conveyed. TMP is also a reflection of the core idea that Roddenberry had all the way back with "The Cage"---science fiction and space adventure presented with a more adult mindset. The more colourful look of TOS had more to do with pushing the sale of colour televisions than the necessity of the subject matter. That said the more colourful aspects of TOS did lend a sense of brightness and optimism to this idea of the future. But also note Jerry Finnerman's wonderful lighting that seemed to tone down the brightness of the colour. And so while I can appreciate what GR and Wise had in mind they shouldn't have overlooked that people still thought of TOS as Star Trek much more than "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" in terms of appearance. To that end all they would have had to do was inject a bit more colour (albeit muted) into costumes and sets as a nod to what people were more familiar with. As a standalone there is nothing wrong with the way TMP looks if you were launching a new SF property, but it doesn't quite gel with what came before.


The big issues with TMP can be traced right back to the story that was chosen and their inability to get the script properly finished. They struggled for years to find the right story and then struggled to get an acceptable script. From the finished film we can see it still wasn't properly finished. Maybe they were all too close to it and with everything else going on no one managed to take a step back and see what was missing. The parallels with "The Changeling" are really broad ones, but the general audiences weren't going to see beyond that to the finer differences. That said I do think the passage of time is kinder to TMP because it allows us to step back and appreciate it and its ideas on its own terms rather than in terms of expectations. In that sense it is quintessential Star Trek.

I think they would have been better served to have gone for a smaller scale story. Compare: TMP is basically about a direct threat to Earth (an old trope in sci-fi) while also pondering philosophical questions. TWOK is basically about one man's revenge against another. TSFS is basically about what one will sacrifice for the sake (or love) of a friend. TVH is basically about saving the Earth again. TFF is basically about one man's search for God. TUC is basically a Cold War story. The films of 1982-91 tend to be about more immediately graspable things that most audiences can readily identify with. On those basic terms they were more like TOS doing its anthology like stories week after week.

Part of the challenge of doing a feature film for Star Trek is that near everyone has different take-aways of what Star Trek is and thus different expectations of what they want to see. That's why I maintain Star Trek is better served on television where it has the flexibility to meet those diverse expectations because the format easily allows it to from week to week. Feature film expectations hamper meeting diverse viewer expectations.

This discussion parallels dicussions regarding possible reboots. Everyone envisions different possibilities based on what each individual focuses on in Star Trek. And often enough they overlook the unlikelihood of their ideas being viable. No one is going to reboot VOY or DS9 or ENT or TMP or TWOK-TUC era because the general idea of Star Trek isn't set there in the minds of general audiences. To an extent TNG is also touched by this because, while it was once popular, it seems somewhat as part of that whole. But a TNG reboot might not be totally dismissible.


Getting back on topic. Meyer's take on TOS wasn't wholly wrong because he caught part of what audiences had expected to see. But that isn't to say that he was completely right or that he was more right than anyone else. It's why I say that TMP and TWOK are basically two sides of the same coin only both missed something in the translation.
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Old March 26 2014, 06:06 PM   #183
Brutal Strudel
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Well-said, though GR used Hornblower to convey ideas to potential writers too, not just the brass at NBC. The bell used at court proceedings, the bo'sun's whistle that was used to signal intra-ship communications: these elements were there in TOS but they were subtle. Meyer dialed them up to 11.
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Old March 26 2014, 11:26 PM   #184
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Warped9 wrote: View Post

Part of the challenge of doing a feature film for Star Trek is that near everyone has different take-aways of what Star Trek is and thus different expectations of what they want to see. That's why I maintain Star Trek is better served on television where it has the flexibility to meet those diverse expectations because the format easily allows it to from week to week. Feature film expectations hamper meeting diverse viewer expectations.
Exactly. One of the great strengths of the original series is that the format was broad enough to encompass any number of storytelling modes: morality plays, courtroom dramas, murder mysteries, war stories, social allegories, horror, even the occasional out-and-out farce.

Which is why I tend to roll my eyes whenever anyone insists that Star Trek is all about "exploration" or "utopia" or "science" or whatever. Star Trek is a big tent, including everything from "City on the Edge of Forever" to "The Trouble with Tribbles."
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Old March 27 2014, 01:44 AM   #185
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

And you can't hit all the bases in one film. That's why I'm quite comfortable loving both TMP and TWoK.
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Old March 28 2014, 11:04 PM   #186
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Roddenberry's ideas about ST changed quite a bit over the years.
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Old March 29 2014, 12:55 AM   #187
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Roddenberry's ideas about ST changed quite a bit over the years.
GR began to believe his own press and the fans' praise. When TOS was in production he was open to outside feedback and dealing with talented people. Later he became convinced he was the only one who understood Star Trek.
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Old March 29 2014, 02:23 AM   #188
Hober Mallow
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Warped9 wrote: View Post
Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Roddenberry's ideas about ST changed quite a bit over the years.
GR began to believe his own press and the fans' praise. When TOS was in production he was open to outside feedback and dealing with talented people. Later he became convinced he was the only one who understood Star Trek.
Well, he and his lawyer.

When a lawyer becomes your only real friend, you're in big trouble.
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Old March 29 2014, 03:39 AM   #189
Lance
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Warped9 wrote: View Post
Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Roddenberry's ideas about ST changed quite a bit over the years.
GR began to believe his own press and the fans' praise. When TOS was in production he was open to outside feedback and dealing with talented people. Later he became convinced he was the only one who understood Star Trek.
Well, he and his lawyer.

When a lawyer becomes your only real friend, you're in big trouble.
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Old March 29 2014, 04:21 AM   #190
trevanian
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Warped9 wrote: View Post
Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Roddenberry's ideas about ST changed quite a bit over the years.
GR began to believe his own press and the fans' praise. When TOS was in production he was open to outside feedback and dealing with talented people. Later he became convinced he was the only one who understood Star Trek.
Well, he and his lawyer.

When a lawyer becomes your only real friend, you're in big trouble.
And that's when he is writing lines referencing Shakespeare' 'kill all the lawyers' first season tng. Irony ... it can be pretty ironic at times.
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Old March 29 2014, 04:00 PM   #191
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Warped9 wrote: View Post
Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Roddenberry's ideas about ST changed quite a bit over the years.
GR began to believe his own press and the fans' praise. When TOS was in production he was open to outside feedback and dealing with talented people. Later he became convinced he was the only one who understood Star Trek.
All of which combined to create the mess that was the first season of TNG as far as the characters were concerned (especially for Denise Crosby and Tasha Yar.) IMHO, Roddenberry should have been given a creator credit, but not be allowed to do anything else as far as the show was concerned; the showrunning should have been left to Gerrold and Piller.

At least Meyer, for whatever faults Warped 9 has with him, understood human beings to write them well, even if the flaws are a bit jarring.

Last edited by Shaka Zulu; March 30 2014 at 09:35 AM.
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Old March 30 2014, 12:51 AM   #192
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
Warped9 wrote: View Post

Part of the challenge of doing a feature film for Star Trek is that near everyone has different take-aways of what Star Trek is and thus different expectations of what they want to see. That's why I maintain Star Trek is better served on television where it has the flexibility to meet those diverse expectations because the format easily allows it to from week to week. Feature film expectations hamper meeting diverse viewer expectations.
Exactly. One of the great strengths of the original series is that the format was broad enough to encompass any number of storytelling modes: morality plays, courtroom dramas, murder mysteries, war stories, social allegories, horror, even the occasional out-and-out farce.
The phrase I think that was used was near-anthology. By virtue of that, you cannot get the whole into any one movie. Near-anthology pretty much screams at least a limited series, just to strike enough of the different notes to define or expand that universe.

I don't know that Wise understood SF better than anyone else, but his 'procedural' aspect to storytelling relied on the experts to inform his storytelling, which is clear in ANDROMEDA as well as TMP. But TMP leaned too heavily on the NASA guy for some things and ignored him on others (the fact we don't have a 'explodes from a point to a giant form filling screen' moment like CORBOMITE points that up -- the GR drafts of IN THY IMAGE very specifically note how objects in space remain points til they get close and then they get very big.)

I'd love to see any camera tests done by Kline &co for Wise before TMP started shooting. I have a really hard time believing the look they got was what they intended going in. Compare it to ANDROMEDA or HINDENBURG and it is just SO mushy, and lacking in any snap. TMP has its own style, but it is a style arrived at by repair or out of despair.
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Old March 30 2014, 02:07 AM   #193
Hober Mallow
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Shaka Zulu wrote: View Post
All of which combined to create the mess that was the first season of TNG as far as the characters were concerned (especially for Denise Crosby and Tasha Yar.) IMHO, Roddenberry should have been given a creator credit, but not be allowed to do anything else as far as the show was concerned; the showrunning should have been left to Gerrold and Piller.
I may be wrong, but IIRC Paramount promised Roddenberry he'd be in charge.

Piller definitely turned things around for the better, but I think Melinda Snodgrass, had she stayed with the show and been the showrunner, would have also turned things around and at the same time given us a much better SF series than we got. No real way to know now, though.
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Old April 1 2014, 12:14 AM   #194
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Clark Terrell wrote: View Post
Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
To say nothing of a hierarchy in... well, everywhere in life.
This is true, but hierarchies in other areas generally aren't represented by various uniform designs or rank insignia. There are exceptions: hospitals may require physicians of different specialties to wear different colored lab coats, and organizations like the Boy Scouts have various ways of noting accomplishes by the display of rank and merit badges.

In sports, teams may designate captains with an extra patch sewn onto the team's jersey or by having them meet with officials before the beginning of a game (as seen in basketball and American football).

But my gripe with Roddenberry's characterization of Starfleet is that it doesn't fit with what we see onscreen. Orders are expected to be followed, and any form of disobedience sparks some form of discipline. We aren't shown anything overly harsh (crewman scrubbing an officer's quarters, for instance), but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist or that one should deny it's ever happened. I just don't see what Gene was getting at.
Your mention of Star Fleet discipline reminded me of a cartoon I once saw. On the deck of an old pirate vessel are the standard pirate crew, looking rather dumbfounded as the captain gives the order "Warp Factor 5, Mister!"
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Old April 1 2014, 01:51 AM   #195
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Re: Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Shaka Zulu wrote: View Post
All of which combined to create the mess that was the first season of TNG as far as the characters were concerned (especially for Denise Crosby and Tasha Yar.) IMHO, Roddenberry should have been given a creator credit, but not be allowed to do anything else as far as the show was concerned; the showrunning should have been left to Gerrold and Piller.
I may be wrong, but IIRC Paramount promised Roddenberry he'd be in charge.

Piller definitely turned things around for the better, but I think Melinda Snodgrass, had she stayed with the show and been the showrunner, would have also turned things around and at the same time given us a much better SF series than we got. No real way to know now, though.
Based on the work she did and what she had to say about the work of hers that was discarded or messed with, I'd agree that she had a very good idea of what made Trek work. Also I think she'd have been inclined to pursue aspects of the universe that weren't so Starfleet-centric, if given the chance. There's an ancient STARLOG interview in which she mentioned wanting to do something sort of in the Han Solo cum Nostromo/working class space travel thing is pretty much exactly my idea of heaven, and has been for at least as far back as that interview, way way before FIREFLY.

I get that she and Piller absolutely did not hit it off, but it is a shame Piller didn't work through Behr to deal with her instead of alienating her, because even if she'd been around to freelance after her tenure it'd only have been a good thing.
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