The inaugural big screen voyage of the Starship Enterprise is a fairly dull and straight forward science fiction tale full of elements Trekkies will cherish but destined to leave newbies to the series out in the cold. After a slow moving first act that takes forty minutes of screen time to gather all the original members of the cast and set up a weak personal conflict between Capt Kirk and a younger Capt Dekker. The film finally blast off and is able to maintain interest throughout it’s elongated 145 minute running time. The script for this was original conceived as a pilot for a proposed second Star Trek Television series titled Phase II. Sensing they had a hit on the level of Star Wars Paramount quickly pushed and expanded the screenplay to fit a feature length film. Which may explain why Star Trek: The Motion Picture is such a curiously disjointed movie. The film looks great the producers must have thrown millions of dollars at this lavish production. Yet, it’s a shame they didn’t spend as much time on script and character development.
The original cast is front and center but the story truly revolves around Capt. Dekker and his battles with Kirk to maintain control of the Enterprise. There is also a silly sub plot that centers on Dekker’s unconsummated infatuation with a beautiful member of the federation known as Lt. Ilia. When an alien probe kills his beloved girlfriend and takes her physical form Dekker finds himself still strangely attracted to her. Maybe fans feel that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the silliest of the franchise I argue that this picture is by far the strangest. The entire plot hinges around the consummating of a man and machine. It’s quite unexplainable. However the acting is top-notch all around and its great fun to see all the returning cast members particularly McCoy and Kirk. If anyone is left stranded it’s Spock, he serves no real function to the story and is included more for tradition than purpose.
A dazzling and majestic score from Jerry Goldsmith is the best thing to come from this outing. It would later be reintroduced as the theme for ST:TNG some 10 years later. This is a picture that holds many awesome sights and thought provoking debates on friendship and loyalty, but it’s also labored and talky. Casual viewers of the Star Trek Franchise may want to adjust the rating down by a half star.
Director: Robert Wise
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley