TOS movies: Lacking a certain sense of the bizarre?

Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies I-X' started by Commander Kielbasa, Jan 8, 2017.

  1. Commander Kielbasa

    Commander Kielbasa Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I'm not sure how to properly phrase this thread...

    Many episodes of TOS feature wacky things, or really intriguing worlds and characters. From the scruffy con artist Harry Mudd, to the insane, powerful and mysterious Trelane; the creepy Salt Vampire; the Guardian of Forever, Kirk and the crew often find themselves mired in the strange; on vivid worlds that are imagination stirring and with creatures and characters that defy normality.

    Consider alone this fantastic vista
    [​IMG]

    or this amazing, tantalizing, world the crew visits - torn apart by an invisible war, run by computers and calculated inhumanely to the very casualty (A subtle metaphor, perhaps for Vietnam?)
    [​IMG]

    In comparison, the adventures the crew has in the films are much more mundane, and while greatly enjoyable, much less interesting and daring than they could've been. Gone is the vivid almost technicolor and amazing vistas and otherworldly pleasures and delights; Gone is the subtle allegory to modern day society, and in their places are much drabber colors and much more personal journeys.

    The main thrust of the first four films can be seen as more character pieces than anything else - Kirk accepting middle age and understanding his role in life; Spock coming to terms and making peace with his humanity at long last. I'd argue this arc plays across the first four in totality. They are not shallow films, nor are they overly deep - but they offer very little of the bizarre, mind tingling, imagination stirring voyages - the wagon train to the stars - that Gene Roddenberry first pitched back in 1964.

    The closest that come to this vision are the first and fifth entries in my opinion, and they are the most panned unfortunately. They are the only entries to seek to take us "where no man has gone before." But even then - long gone are the days of the handsome, lady killer Kirk. Gone is the technicolor and retrofuturistic setpieces. Gone are the green dancing space girls; or tantalizing beasts such as the Gorn and the Horta. Gone is the wildness of something like "I, Mudd." Overall in the TOS movies, gone is the utopian view of the future TOS pushed forward - we see the underbelly of the Federation underneath the glitter, and there's a certain subtle cynicism toward it that wasn't really presented in TOS. There's a certain emphasis on Starfleet as a military organization - down to the military style uniforms in II-VI - rather than as an exploratory force - That wasn't present in the original series. There's more naval allegory and rather transparent tributes to Shakespeare and Moby Dick than there is to subtle space western-ism.

    I feel the films while great are in many ways a series of missed opportunities.

    I like the TOS films for what they are, but I feel that in most cases they really miss the sense of otherworldly adventure that had to have been a major selling point of the series for kids, teens and adults back in 1966. Every week, the audience got to see what was a mix of Bonanza and Forbidden Planet, in essence - sometimes darker, sometimes lighter and sweeter - always futuristic, often thought provoking. The films, especially after the first, offered an experience that while very very much enjoyable, was a much different beast.

    Am I alone in feeling this?
     
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  2. Paradise City

    Paradise City Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    There's the Katra business of the third film. So we've Vulcan mysticism and whale mysticism of the 4th to add to the pot as well. First film shares some traits with the Nomad episode, the second has some of the cat and mouse features of Balance of Terror albeit the antagonist is radically different with different grudges of course. There's huge stakes on the line in the third one and some of the aesthetics visible in Amok Time appear in that film. TUC is almost the biggest divergence from a TOS episode. I think more is made of the movie divergences from TOS than actually exists, tbh.

    The biggest difference is in Kirk. He's almost traumatised, lol from his stint from being an Admiral and Shatner plays him a bit differently. Not implausibly so btw..
     
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  3. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think you might be missing the point of the movies in relation to the TV series. After the colossal mistakes of TMP, the films took their correct place as the continuing adventures--but the nature of those adventures changed (in part) because career officers aged and (largely) moved into positions beyond--as Carol Marcus put it--

    In other words, they were no longer the week-to-week space Navy/explorers of the TOS/TAS era encountering strange things in parts unknown. The movie stories shifted their focus to experienced heroes finding themselves pulled back into action, involved in fantastic events--some personal, others with a greater effect on the universe (both in some cases) in a concentrated period of time. The age effect (explored to great effect in The Wrath of Khan) was the logical framework for the TOS movies, as they were not on a 5 year mission.

    Further, the movie subjects just as fantastic as that seen in TOS--the Genesis device (turned into a weapon by a returning, genetically engineered tyrant--and being the means to restore a dead man), the Katra transfer / Fal-tor-pan religious ceremony, the Whale Probe, time travel, encounter with/debunking another man attempting to be God, etc. Again, other than the mission and place in life of the heroes being different (no longer "chasing through the universe"), I'm not seeing the movies failing to keep the basic storytelling tradition of the series.
     
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  4. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I do think they were aimed in that direction for TMP & the Phase II project from which it spawned, but given its slightly lackluster reception at the time, they went a different route for the next attempt, which found itself much beloved, & resulted in a series spawned from it instead

    One must remember the show dynamic of TOS. Almost all the time, the episodes focused on a story element. Any character aspects were purposefully stagnant for the benefit of the episodic nature.

    There was perhaps more character development in the 8 hours of screen time between 2 & 6 than in the entire 80 episodes of the show combined, & I don't think that was an accident. Clearly the reason the show was still beloved in reruns, enough that a move deal was struck at all, was because people loved these iconic characters

    Can you even think of any character development from the show? Kirk had a brother die, & a few old girlfriends. Spock had an arranged marriage, & a disapproving dad. Plus, each character has some hobbies or a little back story in their synopsis, but actual development like Kirk struggling with aging & retirement, or losing a son, or Spock growing to understand that logic is only the beginning of wisdom? Nah.

    Those characters came alive on that big screen. That's worth the sacrifice of tabling the intrigue of the universe until a new show can't be made imho
     
  5. Green

    Green Commander Red Shirt

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    2-4, 6 are part of one long and fairly successful saga that didn't have to do much with exploring but more with the lives of the main characters.
    You could say the same thing about TOS itself. After the first season they spent so much more time focusing on the lives of the main characters rather than the spooky, lonely, unknown aspect of space travel of the first season.
    Delta Vega, Miner's planet in Mudd's Women, planet M-113, the outpost in Naked Time, Corby's planet, the "star desert" in Squire, the lonely planet where Sulu almost froze in the Enemy Within -- no animal-skin-clad humanoids running around. Even the Romulans hadn't been heard from for a 100 years. The miners on Janus didn't even know they were sharing the planet with the Horta. In the Cage -- "You wouldn't believe how fast our new ships can go." -- indicating that deep space was something that had just opened up recently.

    Then in Metamorphosis, "We're on a thousand worlds and spreading out.." -- a thousand worlds?!?
    So we're not in the first phase of deep space exploration. Then they keep bumping into other Constitution Starships. There's only a dozen but they have 5 in one place in Ultimate Computer? Oh, and we're in a galactic "cold war" with the Klingons?
    For my money Trek became a pretty darn mundane long before the movies.
     
  6. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    A key part of the mundane in the movies was that they effectively flipped the TOS format on its head.

    The TV show was all about 'strange new worlds' and a starship outside of reach exploring the great unknown. In fact, the writer's guide even specifically states that the Enterprise should not return to Earth in its own 23rd century timeframe, at least in part because 'home base' is not the point of the show, the point is going where no man has gone before.

    The movies, by contrast, see the ship (in its waning years) seemingly based at Earth, and doing what really amounts to 'milk runs'. Going back and forth around the local neighborhood, starting and ending back at Earth, being always answerable to the Admiralty rather than being an autonomous entity 'out there' in dangerous unfriendly territories..... frankly, while it just about works, it also loses a little something that was essential to the Star Trek format.
     
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  7. Commander Kielbasa

    Commander Kielbasa Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Exactly.

    I would say the films which play closest to the TOS spirit, if not with the formula proper, are ironically the most panned: I and V being the most "otherworldly"; the only films which can properly be titled voyages to the unknown. Yes, V starts and ends on Earth, but IMO it's the last film in the TOS series to have that "Let's explore the the unexplained" frame of thought going for it. TMP is the only film which really ponders more universal, rather than personal, themes (akin to deeper episodes of TOS): "Is this all I am?" and V'Ger might as well be a world in and of itself or herself. V questions the concept of God itself...Pretty daring.

    Also, I think showing Earth in the 23rd century is something which should never have been done, because...It'd have made for a better mystery that way. I'm not phrasing it exactly as I'm thinking it, forgive me, but basically, I think never seeing what Earth looks like in that time period would have been interesting. I mean think of how alien our modern 2017 world would seem to someone in 1717. Showing home base really in a sense limits, perhaps is the word, the series...Makes it more a product of its time, more a speculative vision of the future. Trek was never about the tech or portraying an accurate vision of the future. It was about the unknown. It was reaching for an ideal. It was to boggle the mind and ignite the imagination.

    Showing Earth really makes things more mundane, lesser, because frankly, in a galaxy where we've in TOS established that there's TONS of utterly strange things, creepy things, almost supernatural things, Earth is in contrast quite boring, even in the 23rd Century. Also, seeing that Terran society in the 23rd Century is not all that different from our current society really was sort of a bummer. With the way TOS is played, I'd have imagined a much more, for lack of a better word, sterile Earth. Think of the way for example Krypton is portrayed in the Superman comics and the first Superman film - a cold sort of sterile world of science - I always imagined the home world of our characters in TOS to be something akin to that. Not dystopian, but utopian to the extreme if that makes sense, too perfect - which is why these characters would want to go to space to begin with. Not a San Francisco that doesn't look all that different from modern day Frisco.
     
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  8. Commander Kielbasa

    Commander Kielbasa Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Forgive me, but it sounds like you're almost saying two different things...I think that while a certain sense of repetition had set in by Season 3, I don't see how they focused too much time on the main characters after Season 1. We get sketches of Spock's life and what being a Vulcan is like, and Kirk's in the form of his brother but...It's still a largely monster of the week format. The only thing which IMO expands about the characters after Season 1 is their relationships with each other, which is natural for a series I'd say - the sense of camaraderie is tightened up. But I don't see how the show becoming "mundane" in the sense of sticking to a formulaic monster of the week format made it mundane in the sense I'm talking about - there were still "more worlds to conquer" so to speak that we were shown every week.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
  9. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I like TOS but I far prefer the movies. It wasn't the 1960's any more and taking that approach would have made a dire film series.

    Personally, I'd have loved a more TMP-like aporoach to the later movies, but TWOK is also a standout. The movies actually went way downhill when they tried a TOS like premise with the frankly dismal STV...
     
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  10. Commander Kielbasa

    Commander Kielbasa Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    What makes you think the TOS approach would've made for a dire film series?

    Look at the success of the original Star Wars trilogy - while more of a space fantasy than Trek ever was - it dealt with interesting alien worlds and such and yet was successful, wildly so.

    I don't see how, if done right, continuing the space western approach would've harmed the series. Of course things couldn't be as loud, either thematically or visually, as they were at times on TOS, because as you noted times had changed - but doing it in a way tailored to the times could've worked. You yourself note you'd have loved a more TMP like approach - which I feel took the TOS formula and matured it.
     
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  11. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    They did. It was called Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. It did terrible is not very well received even by fans.
     
  12. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    I think the gigantic mushroom spacedock in III (although possibly thought of as mundane now due to endless reuse), the Vulcan magic etc more than qualifies as TOS bizarre. Seeking God at the centre of the galaxy in V too.
     
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  13. Vger23

    Vger23 Commodore Commodore

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    I often find it ironic that the two films that really did try to tackle "the unknown" (TMP and TFF) find themselves the most-maligned amongst the fanbase. And then people wonder why Paramount won't make a "more Trekkie" style movie now.
     
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  14. Vger23

    Vger23 Commodore Commodore

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    It was well-received by this fan... I loved Star Trek V. Easily the closest in tone and theme to the original shows.
     
  15. Commander Kielbasa

    Commander Kielbasa Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Amen.
     
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  16. Phoenix219

    Phoenix219 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I absolutely love the Jack Marshall fan edit. It brings out ALL the strengths of the movie, by turning it into a TOS style pilot. :D
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
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  17. Kor

    Kor Admiral Admiral

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    I think that in the interests of creating something with more gravitas (and more "respectable"), some of the colorful flavor of the series was lost.

    Kor
     
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  18. Solid Snack

    Solid Snack Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    The time travel scene in Trek IV wasn't weird enough?
     
  19. A Chimpanzee & 2 Trainees

    A Chimpanzee & 2 Trainees Captain Premium Member

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    I don't see the movies as mundane, and like the fact that it is character focused. Yes, TMP and TFF are the most TOS-like, but even TMP ends with "the human adventure is just beginning." Kirk had built his career and reputation on that 5 year mission, and I think it's altogether fitting that the movies focus on his need to deal with not only the loss of his youth, but acceptance of his entire life, and it's choices.

    It's something that he never really completely achieved until Generations, which is the most satisfying angle of that particular movie to me. However badly handled his actual death was, - "it was fun" with that grin - was his finally letting go of the pain and regret he had built up over 1/2 his adult life - first exposed in TWOK (my life that could have been, but wasn't), the amplification of that pain in TSFS (You've killed my son!), clinging to it so badly in TFF (I want my pain! I NEED my pain!), then can't imagine life without during TUC, and finally hiding behind (in a very un-Kirk-like way) while in the Nexus.

    Finally, at the end, realizing that he not only doesn't need it, but that he wouldn't change a thing. He finally became satisfied with the life he led rather than wonder about the one he didn't.

    I take the Kirk arc as a whole as a lesson in how to deal with the regret that comes with making choices in your life.

    Not to go too far afield, here, but that's one of the greatest swings-and-misses of Generations. His Nexus fantasy life should have been married to Carol Marcus, with David and his grandchildren around him. I know that Merritt Butrick's death would complicate that picture somewhat, but I feel it could/should have been recast.
     
  20. Vger23

    Vger23 Commodore Commodore

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    Very nice post...well done!