Nicholas Meyer's Interpretation of Star Trek

Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies I-X' started by Clark Terrell, Mar 17, 2014.

  1. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    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.

    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.
     
  2. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  3. Brutal Strudel

    Brutal Strudel Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    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.
     
  4. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    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."
     
  5. Brutal Strudel

    Brutal Strudel Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    And you can't hit all the bases in one film. That's why I'm quite comfortable loving both TMP and TWoK.
     
  6. Hober Mallow

    Hober Mallow Commodore Commodore

    Roddenberry's ideas about ST changed quite a bit over the years.
     
  7. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    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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  8. Hober Mallow

    Hober Mallow Commodore Commodore

    Well, he and his lawyer.

    When a lawyer becomes your only real friend, you're in big trouble.
     
  9. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    :lol:
     
  10. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  11. Shaka Zulu

    Shaka Zulu Commodore Commodore

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    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: Mar 30, 2014
  12. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  13. Hober Mallow

    Hober Mallow Commodore Commodore

    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.
     
  14. starshipfan

    starshipfan Ensign Red Shirt

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    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!"
     
  15. trevanian

    trevanian Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  16. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    Roddenberry had no friends left in large part because he believed he was Star Trek rather than actors and actresses who brought the show to life. That he kept pimping his ridiculous JFK movie idea didn't help his cause.

    --Sran
     
  17. LMFAOschwarz

    LMFAOschwarz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I distinctly remember reading once upon a time (around the time of its release, actually) that Meyer's original title for Star Trek II was Star Trek II: The Undiscovered Country. Little short on ideas, Nicholas? :lol:

    Man, some people just never can let an idea go.
     
  18. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Putting Khan's name right upfront made a hell of a lot of sense under the circumstances, especially for anyone who was worried that the film might be uncomfortably similar to TMP.

    I have no problem with the title being used for VI; I thought it fit well there.
     
  19. LMFAOschwarz

    LMFAOschwarz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Oh, I didn't either, I didn't mean to come across that way. It's just that I'd think a director (or any creative person) would have more than one arrow in his quiver.
     
  20. EliyahuQeoni

    EliyahuQeoni Commodore Commodore

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    But it really doesn't. In the quote from Hamlet that the title comes from:

    The undiscovered country is death and/or the afterlife, which fits TWOK, with its themes of growing old and aging. To make it fit in TUC they had the clumbsy line equating it with "the future," which can work, but its not really what the original line means.