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Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Grade: B-

I probably haven’t seen the Star Trek: The Motion Picture movie the whole way through in 30 years and it’s possible that until now I’ve never actually had the patience to sit through the entire movie. When I was younger I remember watching it on TV and being quite bored and I doubt that it was ever something that I’d have rented on VHS ever. But after having read the part about Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the book The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years I decided to check it out again. And I was surprised at just how bad Star Trek: The Motion Picture WASN’T. It’s not a great movie, but it’s not a bad one either. In fact, out of the 10+ movies that were released based on Star Trek series, I’d say that Star Trek: The Motion Picture sits comfortably in the middle of the pack.

Cast members on set of Star Trek: The Motion PictureReleased 37 years ago today, Star Trek: The Motion Picture follows the crew of the starship Enterprise who must intercept and stop a colossal something that’s destroying everything in its path and is on its way to the Earth. But what they find in this destructive “cloud” is something no one on the ship is prepared for.

First off, the main problem with Star Trek: The Motion Picture is that there are several scenes that go on way too long. Whenever there’s a bit of technology involved, be it the first view of the Enterprise, Spock’s shuttle or the Vgr ship minutes upon minutes of time are spent gliding over these things. It seems silly at first, then becomes ridiculous at the amount of time being spent on this tech before finally delving into boredom. Easily five or 10 minutes of screen time could be cut out of these scenes. (And reading on the film it seems like this was addressed in the special director’s cut of the movie released a few years ago.)

However, other than that Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a pretty solid movie that looks nothing like anything else Star Trek. Here, crew members of Starfleet wear different versions of the costumes not seen in any of the other series or movies and sport a more utilitarian, drab look that’s actually quite interesting. Since this is the only live-action Star Trek series to exist in the 1970s it’s interesting to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture is rooted in the aesthetics of that decade.

And while the storyline of Star Trek: The Motion Picture seems like its just a long episode pulled from the TV series, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Other than the aforementioned “lingering” shots, the plot of the movie flows well and, even knowing the “twist” ending I thought it held up well nearly 40 years after its release.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is one of those movies the fans of the franchise deride as being the worst Star Trek but I really disagree. I mean, there’s The Search for Spock, The Final Frontier, Nemisis and Into Darkness that aren’t half as good as Star Trek: The Motion Picture and some of which are actually bad.

If you do decide to checkout Star Trek: The Motion Picture for yourself just be aware that the theatrical cut at least takes a while to get going and when it does get going there are long stretches of the “spaceship porn” to get through. But I think if you can keep an open mind about the movie you’ll be as surprised as I was as to just how interesting Star Trek: The Motion Picture really is.