Rewatch: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Just before my pilgrimage to PAX, I announced that the iTunes Store was selling all 10 original Star Trek movies (basically everything up to Nemesis, which effectively killed the franchise), in HD, for 50 bucks. And, after my triumphant return from Seattle, I availed myself of that opportunity.

So, I’m rewatching the flicks… Even number V. (The horror. The horror.)

I just finished #1, and let me tell you, it was amazingly, incredibly, outstandingly mediocre. Like the waters of the oceans, its mediocrity was both vast and deep.

The colorless uniforms were uninspiring and bland, the interior sets surprisingly generic, and the plot and themes almost a Star Trek self-parody. (Okay, no “almost” about it.) The only formulaic Trek element missing was a hot alien Kirk could have interstellar sex with. Instead, Commander Will “Wait, is my shirt red? Well, it should be!” Decker gets the scorchingly hot, but bald, alien nookie.

A spoiler-riffing summary illustrates just how derivative the plot is:

“Spock! You’re back!” “I could not achieve total logic on Vulcan, because of my human emotions.” “Wait, there’s an enemy!” “It’s a living machine, captain, a being of total logic! But it needs to combine with a human!” “Wait, this living machine of total logic needs human emotions?” <meaningful pause, just long enough to let the irony really sink in> “Let’s give it some!” “Yay! The Earth is saved!”

Believe it or not, the movie itself is even more obvious and ham-fisted. Subtle and moving, this shit ain’t. The only thing missing at the end was a small child who Kirk could deliver the theme to. “And knowing is half the battle!”

In fact, the movie series as a whole tends to repeat thematic elements. ST:TMP deals with Admiral Kirk, who has no command and wants one back, and a crew scattered to the stars. Wrath of Kahn deals with… Kirk, who has no command and wants one back, and a crew scattered to the stars. I suspect one or two of the other TOS movies also cover the same territory.

TMP deals with an alien probe which comes to Earth in search of a signal, threatening to wipe out all life on the planet, unless the signal it wants is sent. The Voyage Home deals with… pretty much exactly that.

Which isn’t to say these movies are bad, just derivative of each other. Yet, even with those weaknesses, the original generation movies (1 to 6) are more evocative and moving than the pretty-but-brainless J.J. Abrams duo and the largely lifeless Next Generation quartet.

In my opinion, the best of the TOS flicks qualify as landmark Sci Fi, especially Wrath of Khan. That movie is a classic of the entire genre, one I’d stack up against anything Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein produced, any day of the week.

It’s also, coincidentally, the next movie I’ll be rewatching. I suspect I might enjoy it somewhat more than The Motion Picture.

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