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Peter T Chattaway

Star Trek: the first ten movies (1979-2002)

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Thom Wade wrote:

: I presume had there been another Next Gen film we would have been treated to Data-esque antics in the vein of the early seasons of the show. Because we needed to recycle the weakest points of the Next Generation.

Oh, heck, Insurrection was already pointing in that direction. That's the one in which Data left his emotion chip at home.

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The idea of having an emotion chip is more amusing to me than setting him back 20 years... the bit in First Contact where Picard recommends he turn it off and he basically cracks his neck is funner than any moment from Insurrection or Nemesis.

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Thom Wade wrote:

: . . . the bit in First Contact where Picard recommends he turn it off and he basically cracks his neck is funner than any moment from Insurrection or Nemesis.

Heh. I agree.

Incidentally, have you ever seen The Questor Tapes (1974)? It's a Gene Roddenberry-produced pilot for a TV series that never got the green light, and it, too, concerns an android who is lacking the ability to feel (because the scientists who put him together interfered with his creator's original design -- and yes, *this* artificial intelligence goes looking for his creator, too! he even goes to Mt Ararat!).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N2XpKEmEKs

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Attica   

After seeing the latest Star Trek reboot I decided to go back and watch Star Trek: the Motion Picture.

I hadn't seen that film since it came to the theatres when I was 9 or 10 years old and I've always remembered it as being a real bore fest. But low and behold when I watched it as an adult I found it to be a splendid film. I liked it much more than the last Trek movies. The visuals and the music were beautiful, and the philosophy in the film were interesting enough. The word that I kept thinking when watching the film was "majestic".

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NBooth   

After seeing the latest Star Trek reboot I decided to go back and watch Star Trek: the Motion Picture.

I hadn't seen that film since it came to the theatres when I was 9 or 10 years old and I've always remembered it as being a real bore fest. But low and behold when I watched it as an adult I found it to be a splendid film. I liked it much more than the last Trek movies. The visuals and the music were beautiful, and the philosophy in the film were interesting enough. The word that I kept thinking when watching the film was "majestic".

Agreed. TMP is woefully under-rated and provides an interesting glimpse of what might have been if it hadn't been disappointing enough to demand a re-tool for the series in the next movie. It's interesting to hear in the commentary how very opposed Wise was to having nautical imagery/music--since we now know that nautical was the way to go for the series, at least at that time (the JJVerse seems to me to have reverted to something approaching the TMP aesthetic).

[The shift from TMP to TWOK is interesting in another way because TWOK is in many ways a self-conscious reaction against the perceived cerebral nature of TMP--which would set it in a continuum with JJTrek, at least in some ways]

Edited by NBooth

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I haven't watched TMP in at least ten years. While some of the imagery, such as Spock in the spacewalk, was memorable, I thought the film as a whole was a glacially paced snoozefest, coasting on memories of the TV show to pander to Roddenberry's more dull ideas. I prefer almost any other Star Trek film to this one.

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Buckeye Jones wrote:

: I thought the film as a whole was a glacially paced snoozefest . . .

Just wondering, but could that not also be said of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris, two films that Star Trek: The Motion Picture was clearly influenced by? Would we dismiss *all three* films on that basis? Or is there some basis on which ST:TMP is dismissable and the other two are not?

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Attica   

Yep. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was obviously influenced by 2001.

If I can remember right. When I was a kid one of the reasons I went to see this Trek in the theatres is because of my love for Star Wars (by that time had a whole bunch of Star Wars toys), and Trek certainly wasn't Star Wars. I can only think that coming out so soon after Star Wars hurt the film. I mean people were thirsty for some more of Star Wars and at that time there was nothing similar coming out except Battlestar Gallactica on TV. Maybe also Buck Rogers (or was that in the early 80's).

So, for all of those thirsty for something Starwarsy, ST:TMP would have been a big let down. Disney's "the Black Hole" also came out at that time, and it to was a bit of a flop.

But, its interesting in this light to notice that TWOK is most likely the most similar to Star Wars of all the Star Trek movies.

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Attica wrote:

: Yep. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was obviously influenced by 2001.

But also Solaris! Simulations of former lovers punching through metal doors... a tall humanoid figure looming before an astronaut... etc. :)

: I can only think that coming out so soon after Star Wars hurt the film.

Well, the only reason the film came out *at all* was because of Star Wars. Roddenberry had been preparing a new Star Trek TV series when suddenly Star Wars came out and made all the studios want to put out their own big-screen space movies. Since Paramount already owned Star Trek, and Star Trek was a recognizable brand, they went with *that*.

: But, its interesting in this light to notice that TWOK is most likely the most similar to Star Wars of all the Star Trek movies.

Even to the point of having its special effects made by George Lucas's special-effects shop!

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Attica   

Peter T Chattaway wrote:

:But also Solaris! Simulations of former lovers punching through metal doors... a tall humanoid figure looming before an astronaut... etc.

Sure. I can see Solaris, but I'd think 2001 is more obvious. Especially in the slow pacing of the space shots, especially that scene where they were being transported to the Enterprise near the start of the film. That was one long scene, and like 2001 the intention seemed to be to show the majesty of the Enterprise sitting in the space dock in the massiveness of space.

:Well, the only reason the film came out *at all* was because of Star Wars. Roddenberry had been preparing a new Star Trek TV series when suddenly Star Wars came out and made all the studios want to put out their own big-screen space movies. Since Paramount already owned Star Trek, and Star Trek was a recognizable brand, they went with *that*.

I didn't know this, but it makes sense. So I supposes its a bit of a mixed bag then. Because ST:TMP also paved the way for their later films, then for the later TV series.

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NBooth   

But, its interesting in this light to notice that TWOK is most likely the most similar to Star Wars of all the Star Trek movies.

Interesting point (at least, until the JJVerse--lots of folks have argued that ST09 is more Star Wars than Star Trek). Of course, Wrath of Khan was originally titled The Vengeance of Khan until Lucas objected on the grounds that it could be confused with The Revenge of the Jedi. And I've always been under the impression that the strange aliens seen in TSFS owe a bit to Star Wars (the blue guy McCoy meets with when trying to get back to Genesis, for instance).

Then again, the differences are pretty striking as well; importantly, Khan has a face and is about more than evul for the lulz (though he's that, too): his beloved wife is dead (and he wears her Starfleet insignia in her memory--a little detail that's never explicitly pointed out, but which adds a layer to the character); his crew has been devastated--if he's still the antagonist, he's an antagonist who has a story beyond "he turned to the Dark Side." (Of course, at that time Lucas was already moving Darth Vader away from the evul-for-the-lulz model, but he did this in large part by creating someone worse than Vader).

And, of course, TWOK illustrates Trek's uneasy relationship with itself--intensified, even, by Meyer's insistence on pushing the naval metaphors over the exploration/NASA focus of TMP. So Kirk and co are really part of the Establishment, and part of the conflict is convincing the anti-Establishment scientists (! Imagine that in the world of TMP!) to join forces with the Establishment. It's not quite a world where the Empire from Star Wars is the good guy, but it's certainly less sympathetic toward rebellion and anti-establishment feeling than Star Wars is. And, of course, having protagonists who are older, who are dealing with loss of youth and the inevitability of death, makes TWOK more morose than even The Empire Strikes Back.

(Of course--hmm--even if Spock was originally supposed to be permanently dead, TWOK essentially repeats the cliffhanger of The Empire Strikes Back, which might be another way in which TWOK imitates Star Wars. Although the difference in who is removed from the narrative could say interesting things about the respective franchises).

The conceptual gap between TMP and TWOK also fits the pattern set up back when the series was first created: "The Cage" is a cerebral meditation that fell a bit short of the adventure promised by Roddenberry's phrase "Wagon Train to the Stars"; the second pilot, "Where No Man has Gone Before," is a more personal, action-oriented story--and that's the version of Trek the studio wanted.

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Attica   

Great thoughts. Maybe I should have said "most similar until the JJ movies.".

But actually one of the places where I noticed the similarity was in Khan and his crew, in relation to their design (clothing ect.) and the world that they lived on. To me that is more similar than the JJverse which has a sharp clean feel. Not the rugged worn feel that we find in Star Wars and in Khans world on TWOK.

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NBooth wrote:

: The conceptual gap between TMP and TWOK also fits the pattern set up back when the series was first created: "The Cage" is a cerebral meditation that fell a bit short of the adventure promised by Roddenberry's phrase "Wagon Train to the Stars"; the second pilot, "Where No Man has Gone Before," is a more personal, action-oriented story--and that's the version of Trek the studio wanted.

Definitely.

: And, of course, TWOK illustrates Trek's uneasy relationship with itself--intensified, even, by Meyer's insistence on pushing the naval metaphors over the exploration/NASA focus of TMP. So Kirk and co are really part of the Establishment . . .

The military element was always there in the original series, of course: just witness the first episode with the Klingons, or the first episode with the Romulans (which may have inspired TWOK inasmuch as both that episode and the movie had a submarine-warfare subtext). And I vaguely recall that The Myth of the American Superhero quoted one of Star Trek's producers to the effect that *of course* the show was taking the side of the Establishment viz-a-viz Vietnam-War protestors and the like.

Attica wrote:

: Because ST:TMP also paved the way for their later films, then for the later TV series.

Yeah, you can see some of the innovations for TMP recycled in TNG, such as the Decker-Ilia relationship which gets replicated in Riker-Troi. I believe the Decker-Ilia thing had actually been part of the Star Trek: Phase II TV series that ended up getting shelved in favour of the movie. (And I believe a few of the scripts written for that series were eventually dusted off and used in TNG during a writers' strike that took place early in the show's run.)

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NBooth   

And I vaguely recall that The Myth of the American Superhero quoted one of Star Trek's producers to the effect that *of course* the show was taking the side of the Establishment viz-a-viz Vietnam-War protestors and the like.

See also: "The Way to Eden." It's hard to imagine any other reading of that episode.

But yeah, I didn't mean to imply that the militarism wasn't in TOS; it's always been present--and always, to some extent, in tension with the five year mission's exploratory purpose. It's a tension that actually lets the series tell a broader range of stories, of course; one week they're exploring temporal anomalies and the next they're cold-warring with Klingons. In some sense, TWOK and TMP represent the two poles of Trek, with Wise focusing on the futurism/exploration aspect (and so, for instance, insisting that the Enterprise theme not sound too naval) while Meyer draws explicit military/naval comparisons (and, iirc, specifically instructed Horner to evoke the sea in his score). The other movies seem to mix the elements to a larger or smaller degree (TUC is much more on the military/Establishment side; TFF is on the exploration side, but with a heavy dose of military; etc), but I think TWOK really "baked in" the military imagery. And a lot of that has to do with the "lived in" look--the world of TWOK feels more "real" than the world of TMP (or of TOS, for that matter).

FWIW, I once volunteered at a small library that had a paperback of fan reactions to TWOK and in my spare time (before I had seen the movie!) I used to read it. I seem to recall at least some fans being disgruntled that the Trekverse had suddenly taken a Star Wars aesthetic as its guiding principle.

Edited by NBooth

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And now, the expanded edition of the Star Trek: Insurrection soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith. Once again, I found the movie to be somewhat lame, but I've always liked the music, especially its more romantic elements.

With this, the only Star Trek soundtracks that will *not* have received expanded re-releases so far are Nemesis and Into Darkness. (I guess one could always quibble that the expanded edition of the 2009 film's soundtrack wasn't really a "re-release", since it came out around the same time as the regular version of the soundtrack, but still. You get the idea.)

One disappointment, for me, is that it appears this CD *won't* have the bit from the movie where Picard and Worf sing Gilbert & Sullivan's 'A British Tar'. Since the expanded Generations CD had the bit from that film where Data sang 'Lifeforms', there was reason to hope that this new CD would have had a similar bonus feature, but oh well.

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NBooth   

Not sure if this has shown up in the thread, but:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKkvbBoas9Y

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NBooth   

Variety: ‘Star Trek’ Producer Harve Bennett Dies

 

Bennett joined Aaron Spelling in developing and producing “The Mod Squad,” then moved to Universal, where he produced “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “The Bionic Woman” and “Gemini Man.” He then worked at Columbia Pictures Television on “Salvage 1,” “The Jesse Owens Story” and “A Woman Called Golda.”
 
He was then recruited by Charles Bluhdorn, head of Paramount parent Gulf+Western, to produce a second “Star Trek” movie and developed “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan,” based on the TV episode “Space Seed” which featured Ricardo Montalban as the villain Khan Noonien Singh.

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A Facebook friend of mine commented that Harve Bennett's Star Trek films represent the peak of the franchise -- the fulfillment of the potential of Gene Roddenberry's series.

 

I'm not sure I'd go quite *that* far, but it's certainly true that Bennett "saved" the franchise.

 

First, he did his homework and watched all 79 episodes (and this was before they existed on VHS). Out of all that episode-watching, he came to the conclusion that the episode with Khan was really interesting and could lead to a big-screen sequel. This, it turned out, was an inspired idea -- and then Bennett persuaded Leonard Nimoy to come back to the franchise by promising to kill Spock half-way through the movie. (As it turned out, Nicholas Meyer's rewrites pushed the death of Spock later and later in the story until finally Spock died at the very end of the movie... and then, after test-screening audiences reacted negatively to the death of Spock, they added a coda which showed that Spock's coffin had landed safely on the Genesis Planet, thereby paving the way for Spock's return...)

 

And so, Bennett produced what is frequently cited as the best Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan. He also produced the most popular Star Trek movie, The Voyage Home, which held the record for top-grossing film in the franchise until JJ Abrams came along 23 years later -- and it was the success of this movie (and its predecessors) that prompted Paramount to commission a brand new series, The Next Generation, which led in turn to Deep Space Nine and Voyager and Enterprise and now the JJ Abrams films. And then, alas, Bennett produced the worst Star Trek movie, i.e. The Final Frontier. (Bennett also produced The Search for Spock, which was neither the best nor the most popular film in the series, and it certainly wasn't the worst either; it was just sort of "there", and it fulfilled its main purpose, which was to bring Spock back to life after the events of The Wrath of Khan.)

 

After the failure of The Final Frontier, Bennett wanted to make a prequel that would show Kirk and Spock and everyone else at Starfleet Academy. Many fans, including myself, rejected this idea at the time, partly because we couldn't conceive of seeing other actors play these characters, and also because it raised a thousand continuity issues. In the end, Leonard Nimoy came up with an idea that would give the original-series cast a more graceful note to end on, and would also bridge the gap between the old and new generations -- and thus The Undiscovered Country, which Bennett did *not* produce, came to be. (Eventually, of course, Bennett's idea for a prequel centred around Starfleet Academy would be picked up by JJ Abrams, whose film dodged some of the continuity issues by taking place on an entirely different timeline.)

 

Most films have only one director and multiple producers. So it wouldn't be true to say that the original-series films have lost *all* of their producers now. (One producer who is still very much alive, for example, is Ralph Winter, who I believe worked on three of Bennett's films as well as The Undiscovered Country.) But the *top* producers for the first six films have all passed away now, if we count Gene Roddenberry as the top producer on the first film, Harve Bennett as the top producer on films two through five, and Leonard Nimoy as the top producer on the sixth film (he does have an executive producer on that film, according to the IMDb).

 

And of course, Robert Wise (director of the first film) and Nimoy (director of the third and fourth films) have passed away, too, leaving just Nicholas Meyer (director of the second and sixth films) and William Shatner (director of the fifth film).

 

End of an era, in some ways. But not quite the end, yet, in others.

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Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country turned 25 this month. Here's an interesting tidbit from Trek Movie's interview with Nicholas Meyer: "It was inspired by the headlines, and it was inspired by a changing world that we were trying to keep up with it, and in some cases we not only kept up with it, but we were ahead of it. And in other cases, as time has passed, we were behind. We were wrong about things. We were absolutely right about the Soviet coup, in fact, when former Soviet Union leader [Mikhail] Gorbachev was abducted and no one knew whether he was dead or alive we were already in the cutting room. We’d already killed him in the movie. In that sense, we predicted the Soviet coup and we were ahead. But in terms of what happened afterwards, and the notion that we were all destined for a much better world than it was, as Francis Fukuyama suggested 'the end of history,' and that people who tried to prevent that—the conspirators—were in a sense just scaredy-cats. As Kirk says, 'people can be very frightened of change.' But, in fact, the change that came is a lot more awful than what was before, so in that sense the film has dated in a weird way. . . . I think when I look at the movie, and I listen to Kirk say 'people can be very frightened of change,' I think there is, for my money, a kind of implicit smugness about those sentiments. We were so sure that it was all going to be a bed of roses. And looking back, the film is an interesting artifact of the time and circumstances surrounding its creation."

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So, I'm getting a chance to let my kids see Star Trek II on the big screen.  For the 35th anniversary of The Wrath of Khan's release, the film's being screened for a couple of nights (link below).  It's the director's cut version, so, not quite what I took in in 82, but it will be fun to have them see it in widescreen glory.

https://www.fathomevents.com/events/star-trek-ii

 

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FWIW, I recently came across this video, which indicates that the theatrical and director's cuts are more different than I thought (to wit, I knew about many of the scenes that were missing from the theatrical cut, because I videotaped the film off of TV and watched that version for several years before buying the film on VHS -- and I was shocked to discover that the VHS version was missing several scenes that the TV version had; but there are also several instances where different versions of the film use different takes of the same line of dialogue):

One difference that is *not* mentioned in this video is the scene where Kirk talks to Saavik in the turbolift. That scene might be identical between the theatrical-cut and director's-cut Blu-Rays -- it's a single wide shot -- but in the TV version that I videotaped way back when, I believe it was a series of alternating close-ups.

By the way, I've never liked the bit in the director's cut where someone asks Marcus "Where are we going?" and she says, "That's for us to know and Reliant to find out." If I had been the person who asked her the question, I'd be like, "Right. Us. It's for us to know. So where are we going?"

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Well, it was fun to see this on the big screen again, though I'm not very impressed with Fathom Events.  The screening kicks off with a fawning interview of Shatner.  There's a great moment though.  Shatner tells a story about being on a tight filming schedule due to his TJ Hooker obligations (which I dutifully watched as a kid who's dad was a huge Star Trek fan even though all my friends were watching Dukes of Hazzard, which aired at the same time).  Apparently, he was back to back with filming scheduled to end on one day for Trek, and Hooker picking up the very next day.  That final morning, there was a fire on set on Trek, and Shatner, oblivious to the danger, was so worried about missing the start of Hooker's schedule he rushed in to put out the fire with a garden hose before the firemen arrived.  They did, the set was saved, and all was well.  The interviewer, who's name I don't recall, corrects Shatner.  "One small correction, Bill...that happened on Star Trek III, not Star Trek II."  

Shatner:  "It did?"

Interviewer: "Yes.  You were still filming TJ Hooker, in 1984, but its a great story."

Shatner: "They all run together anyway."

Interviewer: "Do you have any favorite stories from filming Star Trek II?"

After which, Shatner moves on to other matters.  

Other notes--the director's cut was what was shown, and the transfer seemed funky.  Peter's link above shows many issues that were present, but other areas of concern were the sound quality and picture quality.  Often dialogue would jump in quality within the cuts of a scene.  Sometimes it would sound as if improperly mixed ADR happened for a line reading or two--almost like when cuss words got dubbed out on a TV broadcast, though of course, in this case it was as if someone just had no other take than the one recorded in ADR but not mixed into the scene's overall sound.  With regards to the picture quality, frequently the focus seemed off, especially in well lit medium shots.  

This is still the best Trek movie, and its powerful story is realized in a moving and impressive way.  Glad to see it on the big screen once again.

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