Yes, yes, and yes: I’m old enough to have seen this one on first run in the theaters back when it premiered in 1979. Truth be told – if circumstances had worked out perfectly back in the day – I could’ve been one of the very first to have seen it a few days before its general release to mankind: I think it was either Burger King or McDonald’s that was running a contest for customers, and I remember receiving the letter confirming that my entry had been drawn from the box of submissions. (I’m sure that there were more than just mine in there, but I did my part to stuff that ballot box, I did.) Alas, I lived in downstate Illinois and the showing was set for the greater Chicagoland area, so I had to surrender my seats to someone who could make the trip. Yes, yes, and yes: I was devastated as a little guy … but I got over it.
I did get to see Star Trek on the silver screen when it premiered the very next week in my hometown, and I’ve no problem confessing that I saw it several times, even multiple times on the first Saturday. Me and my friends had a habit of buying a ticket for the first daily showing; if it was something we liked, then we’d sit through it twice, as we rarely had anything to do in our one-horse town. I think we repeated the experience for the next two Saturdays, as well, as The Motion Picture was something that certainly made an impression on our young minds.
Having been born in the mid-1960’s, the television show was a bit out of my intellectual reach. I’ve mentioned before (in this space) that I do distinctly remember being sat down in front of a set and shown an episode of the program; I know this because I can recall vividly being fascinated with Spock’s ears. Which adventure was it? Oh, that is lost to the ages – I’ve no recollection of the storyline – but that image of the singular Vulcan was seared into my young mind.
Like so many, I had the good fortune of discovering Trek in TV syndication, and my parents responded in kind, gifting me a few of those popular Mego action figures for either a birthday or Christmas. For a time, my Kirk and Spock went with me everywhere … until I came home from school one day to find the family dog had chewed off a leg. (I think it was Kirk’s, actually.) I made do the best I could with them in the Enterprise playset … damn that dog.
Being the age I was, Star Wars naturally became the next big thing in my life, but I never set aside my love for the Gene Roddenberry property. Though Luke, Han, and Leia were fun to cheer along with, I still believe that Kirk was the better hero. He never relied on the magical powers of the Force, but he could always count on his crew – the people he had chosen to surround himself with – to brave the Final Frontier, face any challenge, and stand tall against any adversary. As fun as that galaxy far, far away was, it just never had stories like those that the Enterprise crew faced; and – even as a young one – I was always fascinated more with stories than I was with visuals.
Believe it or not, I was a bit hesitant when I heard the news that producers were working to transition Star Trek from the small screen to the silver one. Sure, I was excited to see the original crew return to action – no die-hard Trek enthusiast worth his or her weight in gold would turn down the chance for more adventures in Starfleet – but I just felt they were going to – ahem – screw it up. Everything was going to have to be remade for the big screen, and the story was going to have to be a bit more epic: gone would be the intimacy of those weekly procedurals, and – in its place – there would have to be some yarn larger-than-life. (My two cents? On TV, the acting can be larger-than-life. Not the stories. ‘Nuff said.) That just wasn’t the way Trek explored strange new worlds and new civilizations, so I feared the worst.
Lo and behold, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was everything I hoped it would be.
Now, I’m not going to get into the endless arguments are pacing. Nor am I going to debate anyone over the film’s decidedly more adult tone. I’ve long said that folks showing up for a Star Trek movie expecting Star Wars action were going to be disappointed as Trek was never about heart-pounding action or eye-popping special effects. The show inspired scientists and astronauts – not swashbucklers and pirates – so anyone who bought a ticket thinking this was going to be some big budget space fantasy needs to get his head examined. The series made its mark spinning morality tales … and so far as this longtime fan is concerned that’s exactly what producers delivered with TMP. What else can you conclude in learning that V’Ger was – in fact – our very own creation – a future technological Frankenstein – that was returning home with the intent of causing our extinction? Could there be a more cautionary tale in all of Trekdom?
But I do get that some folks just don’t like it. They wanted something else. They wanted something faster. They wanted something maybe even hipper. I still argue they wanted Star Wars, and I’ve made my piece with that.
My purpose for bringing this up is that yesterday I had the good fortune of taking in the Fathom Events screening of Star Trek: The Motion Picture Director’s Cut at one of the local venues. This release is essentially meant to hype the upcoming home video release of the 4K version of the film, a process for which I learned that producers actually culled their way through an incredible 200,000 feet of film. And the result is the film looks and sounds even better than it ever has! Though I went in expecting a kinda/sorta more-of-the-same feeling to the affair, I was stunned by how incredible several of those longer effects sequences look with this restoration. The detail is incredible, and anyone who considers himself a fan of classic Trek really owes it to the franchise to see this one on the silver screen if you can. I think you’ll be glad you did.
Website: Fathom Events
As always, thanks for reading ... and live long and prosper!