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As a Huge Fan of 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture', the Big Screen Experience Proves a Letdown

by Rich Monetti 3 years ago in star trek
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TMP is Meant for the Small Screen

Paramount Studios Poster : https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079945/mediaviewer/rm2892498944

After 10 years in rerun wilderness, Star Trek: The Motion Picture rolled out in the winter of 1979. I saw the TV commercials, and I was ready to take the conn with old crew and newly engaged engines. But the reviews were bad, and when my brother asked me to go see it, I declined. I eventually saw TMP on TV—save a bit too much gasping at the gas cloud—I absolutely loved it. So the omission became a lifelong regret that I didn’t see it in the theaters, and when 40 years triggered a new theatrical release, I knew what I had to do. As it turns out, that decision may have been in error.

The journey begins with my first Star Trek movie—The Wrath of Khan. Believe it or not, I wasn’t crazy about the signature movie of the franchise. There were too many plot holes.

“You have genesis sir,” was the main one. How is it that Khan couldn’t laugh off the superior intellect crack and then go lay waste to the Federation. Come on, and if you can beam up Genesis from the cave, why not just cast Kirk off to the widest angle of dispersion with the transporter.

Nonetheless, a second viewing had me pretty close to where everyone else was. I just thought it was too big, too Star Wars-y and lacked the containment that made Star Trek endure. In other words, most of the exposition unfolded on the bridge in the series, and there was no need for action to settle the great issues that we were given us to ponder.

The dismay became worse when I later saw TMP. The mystery of Vger sends us in search of ourselves and explores the futility that hits us all at some point in out lives. "Is this all that I am, is there nothing more,” Spock relays the universal message.

At the same time, Star Trek II gave us a Captain who was too congenial, and subsequent movies made him seem more like a consensus builder. This opposed to the commanding figure that Sulu, Chekov, Uhura and Scottie looked to for courage, inspiration and leadership.

He leaves no doubt either in usurping his ship from Captain Decker, and the read on the faces of the bridge crew assures us that the chances of “returning from this mission in one piece may have just doubled.”

The seventies suddenly returned, and my retroactive perch felt like I was once again watching an episode of Star Trek. What a throwback, and I have never failed to get that feeling as Kirk wields confidence, authority and unswerving ability in every viewing since.

So obviously, the 40 year anniversary commanded my own presence. I began the new beginning of the human adventure inauspiciously.

I got stuck in traffic and then lost enough to roll in after the starting time. All I could think was, I’m going to miss the iconic flyby on the big screen and will have to wait another 40 years to do this again. But the film started late, and I was good.

The flyby was pretty cool. But since you’re almost expecting the ole NCC to crash through the screen, it may have been a bit of a let down. It was easy enough to get passed, though.

The big problem was the size and scope of TMP. As I watched Kirk take charge, go head to head with Decker and do his usual dance with Bones, something was missing. The scenes lacked the power that I had affectionally come to know.

The same goes for the mind-blowing resolution of the Vger storyline, and the final denouement that restored order and sense to the galaxy. A scenario we know all too well from each episode, and therein lies the problem.

An episode of Star Trek isn’t meant for the big screen. So it felt flat, small, poorly acted and trudged along as the critics have always said.

Now, the movies made sense to me. You got a film, you got to go big. The story has to fit the screen.

Still, I appreciate what Roddenberry tried to do, and I fully expect to love The Motion Picture when I see it again on TV. Unfortunately, the actual let down is revealed in my experience.

TMP originally intended to kickoff Star Trek on TV again, I could only imagine how great it would have been to get Star Trek the way its creator intended and with the original cast.

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About the author

Rich Monetti

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