Spoilers TOS: Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Avro Arrow, Oct 3, 2019.

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Rate TOS: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

  1. Outstanding

    11 vote(s)
    39.3%
  2. Above Average

    6 vote(s)
    21.4%
  3. Average

    8 vote(s)
    28.6%
  4. Below Average

    2 vote(s)
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  5. Poor

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    3.6%
  1. Avro Arrow

    Avro Arrow Vice Admiral Moderator

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    [​IMG]

    Blurb:
    Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Trek: The Motion Picture with this classic movie novelization written by legendary Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry!


    The original five-year mission of the Starship Enterprise to explore strange new worlds and to seek out new life and new civilizations has ended. Now James T. Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise have separated to follow their own career paths and different lives. But now, an overwhelming alien threat—one that is ignoring all attempts at communication and annihilating all opposition in its path—is on a collision course with Earth, the very heart of the United Federation of Planets. And the only vessel that Starfleet can send in time to intercept this menace is a refitted Enterprise, with her old crew heeding the call to once again boldly go where no one has gone before….

    About the Author:
    Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991) was the legendary writer, producer, and creator of Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the bestselling author of the novelization for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

    https://www.simonandschuster.com/bo...ture/Gene-Roddenberry/Star-Trek/9781982139193
    _______________________________________________________

    Please note that based on what other board members have posted, other than correcting some typos, the 40th anniversary re-release is identical in content to the original 1979 release. So please feel free to still review/rate the story even if you have only read the original version.
    _______________________________________________________

    I have to admit, it feels slightly odd to use the spoiler tag on a 40-year old book, based on a 40-year old movie that we've all probably already seen at least once... ;)
     
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  2. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    The book that made me a "Star Trek" fan.

    I have told my Path to Trek Fandom story here several times but, essentially, a school friend and his brother scored tickets to a gala preview of TMP, just a few days before my 21st birthday. It was attended by Sydney TOS fans, many in costume. They applauded the opening credits and every first-appearance of each character. Topic of conversation for part of the night of my party was the "Star Trek" movie. I was just out of teachers' college, which had been a very participatory experience and would be at a loose end unit a job offer. (We did quite a bit of creative stuff - writing, performing, costuming - at college, so finding organised Trek fandom in early 1980 was life-changing and filled an aching niche.)

    After that gala preview on Thursday 13th, the movie itself didn't commence public screenings until Friday 21st. I had used a birthday record voucher to buy the soundtrack LP - and picked up the paperback novelization from a spinner rack over the cash register in my local supermarket. While I tried to convince a few relatives and friends to come to the movies with me, I started reading the book (and studying its captioned colour plates), not intending to read past halfway. I could not put it down. For me, having ploughed through some tricky SF literature for my college assignments (including "The Sheep Look Up" and "Dune"), this fast-paced novelization was both approachable science fiction and a joyful reunion of TV characters I (barely) knew mainly from random episodes of Filmation's TAS (in b/w on Saturday mornings) and selected TOS episodes to celebrate the coming of colour TV to Australia in 1975! TMP was certainly a big step up from "Rescue from Gilligan's Island" and "Halloween with the New Addams Family".

    The novelization introduced some intriguing aspects of Roddenberry's wordbuilding: brain/communication implants in members of the Starfleet Admiralty; one-year marriage contracts; the New Human Movement; Deltan pheromones (I had never encountered the term before and assumed it was created specially for the movie; as it was, pheromones were never mentioned in the movie itself, even though the script and Persis's performance seem to take them into account); glimpses of 23rd century Earth; spray 'n' wear clothing; and Kirk's amusing footnotes, including one of him addressing rumours I would come to understand was actually Roddenberry cheekily addressing the "K/S ladies" of fandom, with a delightful double entendre, which all sides of fandom could take to their hearts should they desire. While Roddenberry's rookie-novelist writing style gets criticized often, such as his seeming overuse of italics, ellipses, footnotes, short chapters, for me it just made the novel more intriguing. By Sunday lunchtime, I had run out of pages!

    [​IMG]
    ST: TMP colour plates (Futura, 1979)
    by Ian McLean, on Flickr

    A local afternoon newspaper ran a week of daily articles, "My visit to the 'Star Trek' movie set" by Aussie journalist, Jim Oram. He made the idea of the movie as a "must see" even more compelling. I finally got to the cinema, alone, on the Monday 24th, the day before Christmas. The first time I had ever gone to the cinema by myself, but I was back at least five more times over the next few months. (The gorgeous Paramount Theatre had art deco elements and always did thoughtful foyer and window displays. I would stare at them every week, walking passed the cinema. The movie ran till Easter 1980 before it moved out to the suburbs and country towns.)

    Any of my unanswered questions about the movie had already been answered by the novelization, such as "Is Willard Decker connected to mad Commodore Decker?" Over the decades, I have recommended the book to many fans. It stayed in print by Pocket Books for at least 15 years, I think. Before going home that first day, I went to about eight CBD bookshops, magazine stands and second hand stores, collecting up random Blish and Foster novelisations and original Trek novels. (The Christmas of 1979 was the one where I bought myself all the presents!) It would take me several more years to find a reliable "list of titles", something we take for granted today. Before long, I owned a few "Gold Key" comics, found a forgotten childhood copy of "Mission to Horatius" in my brother's toy box, and bought my first beloved "Starlog" #30, which then led me to issues #1-29 and #31 till the end.

    I cannot believe we finally got an unabridged audio novel of TMP, from S&S Audio, almost 40 years after that movie premiere. Thank you! I am about to go and ask Mr Robert Petkoff to start his narration, while I read along with my Australasian Futura Books MMPB (with photos!), to see for sure if there are any other text variations I hadn't noticed before.
     
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  3. DarthPipes

    DarthPipes Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The first seven Star Trek novelizations are great and to me are the standard of what novelizations should be.
     
  4. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    Disappointed no one else has chimed in yet. :(

    I am up to Chapter 9 of the Robert Petkoff unabridged audio and really enjoying it. I was reading along with the 1979 UK text I had handy and am surprised how many minor tweaks are in Petkoff's script to improve the flow. (I am sure these are not all tweaks to the new edition's text - one early reference to God is gone, but another was there. I was particularly interested how they would present the (many) footnotes, but it is working well.

    If someone told me I'd wait 40 years for this experience, I'd have laughed. ST IV was Simon & Schuster's first audio Trek book, only 90 mins long!
     
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  5. Koric

    Koric Commander Red Shirt

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    Hey Therin,

    I agree with all your statements about TMP except I was 6 when it came out. I was hooked for the McDonalds picture box Star Trek TMP happy meals. I got the blue communicator wristband. It wasnt until 1983 or 84 when I saw pieces of TMP being played on the TV screens at the Waldenbooks bookstore then. I confess I flirted with Trek in the 1980s. I read the novelizations of II, III, IV, and V then saw the movies later. Mostly on VHS but I saw III, and IV in the theater. Then in 1989 I was slowly becoming a big TNG fan. So I wanted to see V, but Indy 3 and Batman took all my movie money that summer sadly.

    But I was also on a movie novelization kick that summer, I bought the movie novels to Ghostbusters 2, Indy 3, Batman, then ST V, and came across the TMP novelization later that summer in a used bookstore so ten years later. It wasnt until way later I saw TMP in full until 1997 I think. Finally. I was blown away that the TNG theme was from the TMP. I love the movie and really appreciate it alot. I'm glad TMP is getting its due finally. From the great special effects, from John Dykstra, of ILM fame to form Apogee, Andy Probert's design of the Enterprise, Ralph McQuarrie's early work too. I get the cast and people's critical view. But it Ray Wise's direction and he is a great director. I think the most important thing to understand the difficult jump from tv to major motion picture was a difficult one.

    But I see it as without TMP you dont have TNG at all. There are shades of TNG in TMP everywhere. The futuristic design in the uniforms and the ship, the Enterprise being as big and grand as the D too. Deckard and Riker, except Riker and Picard are close. But I also feel that there was no way in hell TNG would have been made or accepted budget wise at $850 million if 1978's Battlestar Galactica hadnt been made in 1979 for $1 million an episode.

    I also like to think Vger encountered the Borg too. Which further made TMP more important and harder to dismiss in the Trek universe for me.

    As an aside, I also love 1979's Disney's The Black Hole. I know Im weird like that. Both TMP and the Black Hole are underrated and overlooked. Both were rushed into production because every studio wanted their own Star Wars.

    I miss the 1970's sci fi craze. It was great. Star Wars, ST TMP, Alien, The Black Hole. On the TV side Battlestar Galactica 1978, Buck Rogers.

    I doubt it will ever be repeated again. It wasnt even after Star Wars The Force Awakens was a such a hit in 2015.

    Lastly Therin in the Star Trek Magazine last issue with Kirk and Spock had some great articles on TMP and the lastest issue too.

    Sorry for the long post. :) Cheers.
    -Koric
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2019
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  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Robert Wise. Ray Wise is the actor who played Liko in TNG: "Who Watches the Watchers?" and Arturis in VGR: "Hope and Fear," as well as Leon in RoboCop and Leland on Twin Peaks.
     
  7. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    I read this in high school and was fascinated by the depiction of the Federation as well as the idea that Starfleet was made up of atavisms because everyone else had switched to alien religions.
     
  8. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    I read and reviewed it a couple months ago for my 80's novel continuity read-through thread, after I concluded that enough of the books were clearly mining TMP's novelization for material that was only found in the book. I had mixed feelings, resentment that it threw off my forward progress, but also deeper regret that I didn't catch on sooner that TMP deserved a place on my list. I ended up having a grand time reading it, and it cheered me up as I caught and recovered from being sick. I was engaged enough that it took my mind off my illness, when reading it.

    My review in the 80's novel thread got a bit overlong, but I was enthusiastic about it! Some abbreviated points from my review, from memory:

    Positives
    --There's some beautiful imagery that Roddenberry creates with his prose, a couple times throughout.
    --Moments where the reader is inside Kirk's head, really put me in the setting, making me imagine more closely what it's like to go on board the Enterprise, and travel around within the ship. ST novels are great for putting us closer to the feel of being inside that world, somehow TMP went even farther.
    --The novelization gives a satisfying sense of the Enterprise as genuinely fast and maneuverable, more nimble and dynamic than I tend to think.
    --I felt drawn in more by Kirk's starship captain withdrawal moments. There's a scary point where he is dissociated inside his mind, realizing distantly that he is screaming and shouting at McCoy. Add that to the movie's effect of making Vejur an intimidating presence, and it really makes the whole story psychologically gripping.
    --I was fascinated by how Vejur's core is described as the primordial part of Vejur's brain, but it also has the air of a temple or a sacred place. It gives the story a nice sense of spirituality, and gives McCoy a chance to contribute his medical knowledge the process of resolving the Vejur encounter.

    Negatives
    --The prose sometimes trips up characters. So sometimes another character has to repeat dialogue that they only have to say in the movie one time, because when the prose goes off on a tangent, it means that a character is losing their train of thought. Makes some characters (particularly Kirk) seem like day dreaming space cadets.
    --The prose even trips over itself, when it goes off on a tangent while Spock's shuttle arrives to deliver him to the Enterprise. The fact that the prose itself has confused itself it's quite an astounding writing achievement.
    --There are one or two moments where I got the sense of the story/script having residual echoes of it's conception as an episode that could have been played out of order. The best example is Christine Chapel saying that Ilia had spoken with her about her personal history and culture on the Deltan homeworld, when all other evidence indicates that Ilia is new, having only just arrived for the first time on the Enterprise, with barely any time to interact with other crew. She may have had a physical in sickbay, but they aren't at the point where there Dr. Chapel has comfortable familiarity with Ilia's life.

    The other day I was at Changing Hands bookstore and saw that a used copy of the new reprint of TMP had turned up. It had only been out for a couple of days. Someone had time to buy it, read it, and then turn around and sell it. It seems counter to the point of the anniversary re-release.

    I'm also now listening through Robert Petkoff's narration of the audiobook. I placed an order for a copy on CD, but distribution is slow, so I went for the downloaded version. Petkoff is terrific for Star Trek, and particularly for Kirk. His reading is very professional, especially through parts of the book that are often singled out by readers as awkward and uncomfortable moments. Really enjoying the performance.
     
  9. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I'm about halfway through it right now. I'd heard about all the old chestnuts over the years, love instructors, Lori Ciana giving Kirk a boner, the rather copious sexual references scattered throughout, but so far the biggest WTF is one I somehow hadn't heard about all these years: Alcatraz Children's Park. That is so weird and amusing.
     
  10. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    If you're implying that the Borg are responsible for creating V'Ger, the timeline doesn't fit. The Borg are thousands of years old.

    Also, the Borg would have ignored the Voyager 6 probe, dismissing it as primitive and unworthy of assimilation. Just like they did with the Kazon.
     
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  11. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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  12. Shon T'Hara

    Shon T'Hara Commander Red Shirt

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    That's in the movie too (at least the extended cut) when Chapel tells the probe about Ilia's headband. But if Ilia and Decker could have a previous relationship, there's no reason she and Chapel couldn't know each other, too.
     
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  13. Tallguy

    Tallguy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Warning: I can write about this book a LOT.

    I never bought the "Borg made Vejur" but it was a Roddenberry idea.

    OTOH, one might (must?) assume that Voyager traveled back in time as well as space. That gives it enough time to explore "the universe".

    OK. When there is a new printing of a book that has been a constant part of your bookshelf for forty years (and sometimes with more than one copy) and you still think of buying it you just may have a problem. I'm not positive but I don't think I've gone more than five years at a time without re-reading this book.

    This book works for me on multiple levels. First it's a great Star Trek book that tells a great story that might even be paced a little better than the movie. The movie is frequently described as slow (your mileage may vary) but the book is breezy!

    But the real meat here is that this is the first and only telling of the 23rd Century from The Great Bird himself. He gets to tell you what Earth and life for humanity are like in his grand vision of the future. He gets to figure out why his lofty ideal world is populated with characters out of the Old American West on phaser laden spaceships. Part of it, he says, is that Starfleet (I forget, does he spell it Star Fleet or Starfleet?) is peopled with "throwbacks", rougher more comparatively conservative types as opposed to more "evolved" Roddnberryan New Humans. The other part is that the television show Star Trek is not what actually happened but rather a dramatization of true events. (One wonders who the audience would be? The New Humans are into melodrama? Also, where does the author himself fit on this scale?)

    If you don't read ANYTHING else, read Roddenberry's introduction and Kirk's. (Yes, Roddenberry introduces the idea of "love instructors", simultaneously telling us that people in the 23rd century are not as obsessed with sex and that Roddenberry was obsessed with not much else. Also, could the name be any more seventies if it tried?) It's a charming device that tells us that 1) this is all true 2) Roddenberry is a real person in the 23rd century and 3) James Kirk was not happy with Star Trek. Ha!

    Yes, Roddenberry created an entire race that was just really good at sex. (But also great navigators?) Outside of the Ferengi (rabid capitalists who keep their women naked and are prodigiously endowed) the Deltans may be the most Roddenberry creation ever.

    We hear of an Earth where the Mediterranean Sea has been dammed for power and reduced to a lake (and people complain about Lake Powell!), above ground cities are museum pieces now (take THAT Star Trek: Picard!), and we learn more of Earth's growing pains by finding out about the "mind control revolts" of the 21st century. (We have it good compared to Star Trek!) As noted by someone else, Alcatraz is now a children's park. Benedict-Khan, you monster!

    I've heard criticism of the footnotes. I don't get it. I enjoyed the way that they makes the book feel like an historical document (twenty years before Galaxy Quest) or at least a non-fiction book. It also allows the occasional first person account from other characters. I'd actually have liked to have seen it more.

    The most explicit reference to The Original Series is from For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky of all things! McCoy wears Fabrini medallions and has been researching Fabrini medicine. It's also noted that this research was contributed to the redesign of the Enterprise's cutting edge sick bay. Of course Wil Decker's father Matt is also mentioned (although I don't recall if by name).

    Scotty's character in this book is interesting to me. He feels like the character given the most spicing up from his on-screen appearance. He's on a first name basis with Kirk and is far less deferential than he was sometimes depicted. Of course I also feel that Doohan played him as far more grown up and less of a cartoon in this film than almost anywhere else.

    I love all of the Kirk stuff before he gets to the Enterprise. Touring the Library of Alexandria, how the Klingon attack is shown to him (twice!), his relationships with Lori and Nogura.

    One nice detail that is sometimes borne out on ships schematics and sometimes not is that the windows on the Enterprise are actually in front of little pockets of hull where they can't put anything else. Certainly not what we would get in later Treks.

    Another interesting detail for me (given later Treks) is how often Kirk considers things in terms of defense. An obvious example is when he sees the new Klingon K'Tinga class ships and notes that experts have worried that they will outclass their Federation counterparts. Kirk notes that while the Enterprise is classed as a Heavy Cruiser that term is polite fiction and the ship would be better classified as a battleship. (I forget, did Franz Joseph come up with Heavy Cruiser or did that come from The Making of Star Trek? I'm leaning towards the latter. This is why I need digital copies of all of these that I can search wherever I am.) Another point is when the Enterprise is engulfed by Vejur's whiplash bolt and the crew is nearly paralyzed by the sheer deafening sound and Kirk thinks to himself "If I don't die I need to tell Nogura what an effective weapon sound can be." Yikes!

    Another interesting quirk in the mind of Roddenberry is how he tries to note that the "Officer's Lounge" is open to anyone who wants to go. But they just don't out of respect and deference to the upper ranks. I've always wondered how Ensign Jones would be received if he decided to hang out in the lounge where he was supposedly welcome. I might uncharitably make a comparison to "People of any color can come in here they just choose not to." Maybe.

    The movie goes from being Kirk's story in the beginning to really being Spock's by the end. I feel that the book stays on Kirk from start to finish with some good Spock moments (Vulcans have a seventh sense that tells them there is a god!) that are usually dictated by plot more than an exploration of the character. If I'm misremembering or misinterpreting, please chime in.

    The book ends with a triumphant James Kirk mulling what he would do next. He notes that Nogura will give him anything he wants at this point and what he wants is the Enterprise. (This is why I believe that while they're not incompatible The Motion Picture are really parallel rather than consecutive stories.)

    Whew! I think I've hit everything. It's a great book. It distills the best parts of the movie and adds the kind of "definite take" that only Roddenberry could manage. And I think he does it well.

    Has anyone revisited David Gerrold's Encounter at Farpoint lately?
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The diagrams in TMoST label it a "space cruiser." The "orders to Captain April" in the original series pitch call it "cruiser class." The writers' bible just says it's somewhat larger than a present-day Naval cruiser. So the "heavy" may come from FJ, unless it's from Blish. It makes sense that FJ would've added it to differentiate it from the smaller ship classes he created.
     
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  15. Arpy

    Arpy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I loved the futurism of it. It made me feel like it was really a different time and there were new things to work toward. Both it and season 1 TNG. There were things that needed work in both but both have resonated with me, and I think that resonance is part of why I’m still interested in Trek despite there being so much of it that left a lot to be desired since.
     
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  16. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    After finishing this, I can see that towards the end of writing it Roddenberry had to have been fighting the clock. After all, the first half of the novelization is embellished with all the funky concepts like Senceivers, love instructors, Alcatraz Children's Park and all sorts of other worldbuilding stuff, while the back half is more or less a dry recounting of the movie.
    I took issue with the pointless footnotes, like the one during Kirk's introduction that's something like "see STF 7997B." As there is no STF 7997B for me to consult, what's the point of saying that?
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    To create the impression that what you're reading exists in a larger universe. The conceit of the novel was that it was being written in the 23rd century as a dramatization of an actual event, so including references to things that readers in the 23rd century would have access to helps create that impression. It's a common practice. For instance, in Marie Brennan's Lady Trent series, written as the memoirs of an acclaimed dragon naturalist in an alternate world, Lady Trent often references the earlier, more scientific texts that she's published over the years. (Although I dearly wish Brennan would write those books as well.)
     
  18. Tallguy

    Tallguy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I erase my comment and substitute "What he said."
     
  19. Mysterion

    Mysterion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Contrary to what Franz Josef seemed to think in his work, an Ensign is a commissioned officer. Granted a low ranking officer (equivalent to and probably just as useless as a Second Lieutenant in the other services), but an officer nonetheless.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    True, but there are still plenty of enlisted personnel on the Enterprise, with titles like Crewman, Specialist, Chief, and Yeoman. So aside from the rank, Tallguy's question is fair.
     
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