On Sept 15 and 18, "Star Trek--The Motion Picture" returns to the big screen in its original, theatrical cut, courtesy of Fathom Events, to commemorate its 40th Anniversary release (officially set for Dec 7.)
"Star Trek--TMP" was a dream come true for Trekkies and science-fiction fans in general, who had long yearned for the saga to return to the small screen. However, due to the box-office success of "Star Wars" ("A New Hope"), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Superman: the Movie, "Trek" went warp speed ahead with a theatrical treatment and a budget that dwarfed those of its competitors. It also recruited legendary director Robert Wise, of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "The Andromeda Strain", to helm the project; and Oscar winners, Douglas Trumble and John Dykstra to enact its special effects.
Though "Trek--TMP" generated great buzz and immense, box-office success, it was not without controversy. Despite its poster slogan, "There Is No Comparison", some argued that the movie was as much a collective retelling of the episodes, "The Doomsday Machine", "The Changeling" and "Balance of Terror": the latter in debt to Wise's "Run Silent, Run Deep". In addition, its tone was more in line with "2001: A Space Odyssey" than the trendy, fast-paced "Star Wars".
"Trek--TMP" also added new characters to Gene Roddenberry's "'Wagon Train' to the stars" roster: Stephen Collins' Will Decker (son of "Doomsday Machine'"s Matt Decker, though the evident link is only mentioned in Roddenberry's novelization) and Persis Khambatta's Ilia, a beautiful, long-legged Deltan. The couple impacts the plot's finale in a most significant way and some claim that Roddenberry even once referenced the duo (if only in jest) as the basis for an adversarial, "Next Generation" conglomerate. (Go on--venture an assimilating guess.)
Though Decker and Ilia are in search of fulfillment beyond their Enterprise posts, William Shatner's Admiral Kirk seeks satisfaction from the opposite end, wishing to rejoin his fabled (and now refurbished) starship for the sequelized haul.
This idea of wanting (or more precisely, the need to fill one's emptiness with purpose and plan) is perhaps best demonstrated by Leonard Nimoy's Commander Spock, who melds with the film's marauding force, V'ger: an enigma that seeks its creator and along the way, the meaning of life. As a result of his meld, Spock comes to appreciate his essential bond with Kirk and DeForest Kelley's Dr. McCoy and why Vulcan no longer paves a logical path.
The concept's innate poignancy has been discussed at length by viewers over the decades and was even essayed by "Trouble with Tribbles" scribe, David Gerrold (an early opponent of the film) in a Starlog column, where he used Spock's revelation to persuade detractors to re-evaluate the movie's conceptual depth.
It's suffice to say that "Trek--TMP'"s springboard for ongoing discussion designates it to classic status. There's no doubt that few films released before or since have prompted such vast analysis.
Revisit "Trek--TMP" on its theatrical re-release or engage one of its disc offerings. Its "human adventure" will either enthrall or disappoint, but either way, there's nothing wrong with (re)experiencing a little, thought-provoking debate.