Directed By: Robert Wise
Written By: Harold Livingston (screenplay) Alan Dean Foster (story) Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)
It’s time to admit it and own up to the truth. There’s no denying it now as we’ve reached this point in the collection. I’ve been a closet Trekkie for my entire life and own twelve of these movies. It’s not my fault. I was born into a Star Trek family and grew up watching these movies and the television show. I don’t know any Klingon or anything like that but I have a greater knowledge than the average person. I tell people all the time that Amber is the one who loves Star Trek but that’s not true. It’s me, and I have dragged her along this journey before.
It was about eight years ago when Amber and I were really young parents. We had some kind of petty argument that all young couples have but in this one I managed to win and she wanted to make it up to me. She had always refused to watch Star Trek and with this newfound marital leverage I insisted she watch the entire series with me. I’ll never forget because it was around Christmas time when I went to a Best Buy and bought a box set of the first eight movies. I stood in line holding this box set of Star Trek movies literally trying to hide it as people walked by. Like I said, I’m totally a fan but I don’t just admit that to people. I keep it in the closet as a guilty pleasure and deny knowing anything about it when it comes up. I stood in that line for what felt like forever, switching that box set from arm to arm in an effort to hide it from people. When I finally got to the register I laid it down in front of the lady and said “my Christmas shopping is done.” Eight movies later and Amber still hated Star Trek, but I like to think I enriched her life in an interesting way.
I grew up watching the Next Generation series of Star Trek and it’s those characters I have always been a real fan of. I still appreciate the original crew and like these movies but some of the excitement in this first film has always been lost on me because of it. Half of the fun in this movie for Star Trek fans must have been seeing the gang get back together for a film. The show had finished its three year run in 1969 and ten years had passed by the time this movie came out. Star Trek had proved to be very popular airing in syndication and the movie spent a long time in production. Eventually it was scrapped in favor of doing a new television show before again minds were changed and the movie was back on the docket. This film was adapted from the pilot episode of what would have been the new television show.
The return of Spock is probably the coolest part of this movie, which doesn’t have all that many cool parts to begin with. It’s cooler because there was a big chance Spock didn’t appear in the movie at all. Leonard Nimoy had become angry over his image as Spock being used without him receiving any royalties and was initially not going to reprise his role for the film. He agreed to appear in the film only after he was paid before hand for the use of his image. It’s hard to imagine what would have happened to this franchise and Star Trek in general had they not been able to persuade Nimoy to take the role.
This movie reminds me of 2001: A Space Odessey in that everything moves really slowly. 2001 was a great movie that is incredibly influential in the movie business but I’d hardly call it watchable. I own the movie and have tried to watch it at least five times but have somehow still never seen the end. This movie too feels unwatchable at times as it takes forever for anything to happen. It’s like they figured out these new special effects and had to draw them out as long as possible.
This is a long and slow moving movie that I have never really been a fan of. I found myself sucked in more than I ever have before with this viewing but still, it is what it is. It’s impressive that the franchise was even able to continue after this film, given it wasn’t really well received. William Shatner has even been reported to have walked out of the screening and thought that Star Trek was officially over, and he wasn’t the only one. Gene Roddenberry was blamed for the failure of the film and was forced out for the sequel. That’s a cold way to treat the creator but it worked as the sequel was, for a long time, the franchise’s crowning achievement.
I think there was a time and place for this movie and that was 1979. Watching it now comes without all the anticipation that fans felt back then. It was probably really cool to see the band get back together for the big screen after ten years but that does little to satisfy a viewer today. I think this movie is for the die hard Star Trek fans out there. While I may have outed myself as a fan in this post it is still something I intend to keep quiet and I don’t qualify. I don’t think this movie is worth your time but may it live long and prosper with the true Trekkies out there.
NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)