Film (1979). Paramount. Produced by Gene Roddenberry, directed by Robert Wise. Written by Harold Livingstone, from a story by Alan Dean Foster. Starring the lead players from the Star Trek television series, along with Persis Khambatta, Stephen Collins. 132 minutes (released with additional material on video and television at 143 minutes). Colour.
After more than a decade of rumour and counter-rumour, Star Trek (1966-1969) was finally relaunched, and on the big screen at that, with a very big budget. Orson Welles narrated the trailer. The plot, one of Roddenberry's old favourites about the godlike thing in space, seems to have been based on the original television episodes The Changeling (1967) by John Meredith Lucas and The Doomsday Machine (1967) by Norman Spinrad, the latter about an implacable Alien force heading straight for Earth, the former about an old Earth space probe that develops autonomous life. The response from Star Trek fandom was disappointing – they warmed more to the cosier, more domestic, more small-screenish movies that followed – but there is much to enjoy in Wise's partly successful effort to meld a story of old mates together again with a story of transcendental union between human and Machine, the film ending with a daring sexual apotheosis. At times the film becomes almost too contemplative, especially in the drawn-out, quasimystical finale, but most of all (and traditionally) it is the disparity between the soap-opera ordinariness of the crew and the extraordinary events that surround them that keeps the Sense of Wonder visible in the distance but never quite there where you need it.
The novelization is Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) by Gene Roddenberry. [PN]
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