I grew up a Star Wars kid- born 3 days after my mom saw the original film opening night. If I could have talked upon birth, I would have said to my mom "Thanks for the ride-- now, let's go see that movie again."

The first several years of my life on Earth were spent largely concerned with my getting into outer space. My methods of travel were simple and readily available- repeatedly watching the Star Wars movies was essential. I also had my toys, my pencil & paper and my imagination to guide me home.  By 1983, the Star Wars series was effectively over. My love of it didn't diminish, but my desire for new space adventures remained. A year later, I saw STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK. In that film, I saw a ship explode in a desperate move by its crew to save a man with pointy ears and cool eyebrows. He wore a bathrobe and seemed confused. Fade to black.
Spoilers, Nickbot!
The emotions of that story didn't affect me, but the flavor of what Star Trek offered had me very interested. My journey from a galaxy far, far away into the final frontier had begun.

During this time, in a distant land called "Hollywood," a bunch of people at Paramount Studios made a parallel journey. Because of STAR WARS, they too had turned to Star Trek to carry on their mission (of selling movie tickets). A new TV series, called STAR TREK: PHASE II was already far along in development when Gene Roddenberry was told to change everything around for a fast-tracked motion picture.  From that came the Star Trek film series, beginning with STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (TMP). While STAR WARS was still playing in theaters a year and a half after its release, the first Star Trek film made its debut in December, 1978. The ad campaign had a couple of slogans, leading with "The Human Adventure Is Just Beginning," and a more pointed swipe at the upstart space opera: "There Is No Comparison."
Ironically, a harbinger for Star Wars: Episode I's "Plot Does Matter" poster.
TMP may have been Paramount's answer to STAR WARS, but Gene Roddenberry paid little mind to George Lucas' burgeoning series. For him, TMP was a comeback for a TV show which was conceptually ahead of its time and way in advance of the production quality of its day. With STAR WARS and also Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, visual effects technology had finally arrived, albeit still at a very high dollar amount. Nevertheless, Roddenberry could finally express his vision of humanity's future.

I watched TMP for the first time on a TV broadcast. I didn't like it. I may have even hated it, because TMP was the antithesis of what I thought should be happening in outer space. I eventually got the film on VHS because I was a completionist brat who couldn't accept having no tape in front of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN on my shelf. There it sat, collecting dust for a couple of years. If anything, I'd pop in the tape to watch the visuals of the Starship Enterprise, and of course, to listen to the music, which grew on me more with each viewing.

At some point, in my teens, I reached a détente with TMP. I no longer hated it but I still found it flawed. More so, I was frustrated with the fact that the film was a missed opportunity for a series to which I had become very emotionally invested. If TMP was better, I thought, then perhaps the budgets for the rest of the films would have been higher, and from that more epic Star Trek films would have followed. Still, that score by Jerry Goldsmith kept getting better. And that ship... the one I first saw years earlier, burning over the Genesis planet, had finally become dear to me. Yes, the emotions of that loss had finally made sense.
Retro cover art, highly logical
Then, in 1998, Columbia Records released a 20th Anniversary recording of TMP's score- with new tracks, unreleased cues and fantastic liner notes. I listened to those discs for hours, and having read more about the film itself, I decided to revisit TMP.  Armed with a letterboxed set of the movies on VHS (because this format was the height of film appreciation at the time), I gave Roddenberry's human adventure an honest chance.

From start to finish, I was mesmerized. I was also astonished by my foolishness in having dismissed the film for so long. How could I have not seen this sooner? TMP was not only "not bad," but it was actually very beautiful. The flaws were still there in terms of pacing, but having then logged hundreds of hours with Star Trek, I began to delight in its deliberate approach.
430 crew members. Finally!
I marveled at the sets, the cavernous Rec Room, the many decks and hallways, the sheer size of it all. The ship had never felt so believable inside and out. The long shots of the ship gliding through the space between stars projected an epic quality that no other Trek had captured. The film had its hero, and her name was Enterprise.
Now I have your word, Jim- not a scratch?
I also loved that the dilemma facing the crew was purely conceptual- V'Ger was a force of immense power that could could only be stopped through the hard work of problem-solving and reasoning. This wasn't just another Star Trek story, this was the "Star Trekkiest" of them all. By the film's end, I remember thinking "Why couldn't they have made more films like this?" I had officially stopped blaming TMP for being a missed opportunity. Instead, I saw it as the most undiluted version of the series.
We're going to solve this shit with science.
Since then, I have watched TMP more than any other Star Trek film.  When we adopted Clementine, I played TMP to welcome her into our home that first night- and she's seen it several times since.  There are no gimmicks with TMP, it is a straightforward science fiction tale.  Yes, there's sentimentality with the ship being reborn as a gorgeous, tactile object. But that indulgence aside, TMP is all business, filled with a texture and detail that make this the most believable and epic Star Trek adventure.  The movies that followed TMP expanded the mythology of its crew (and are beautiful stories unto themselves), but none dared to embrace exploration and discovery like the first film.  For that reason, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE is my first choice when I want to return to outer space.

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