Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

G | 132 mins | Science fiction, Adventure | 7 December 1979

Director:

Robert Wise

Producer:

Gene Roddenberry

Cinematographer:

Richard Kline

Editor:

Todd Ramsay

Production Designer:

Harold Michelson

Production Companies:

Paramount Pictures , Century Associates
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HISTORY

The film concludes with a title card that reads: "The human adventure is just beginning."
       Although not considered a ratings success during its three-year run on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) network, the television series, Star Trek (8 Sep 1966—3 Jun 1969) became a worldwide “cult” phenomenon among a devoted group of active fans. With the show playing successfully in syndication after its cancellation in 1969, Star Trek enthusiasts became increasingly vocal about reviving the franchise, and on 28 Oct 1974, Cue magazine reported that series creator Gene Roddenberry had entered into discussion with Paramount Pictures about developing a motion picture based on the series. At the time, Roddenberry asserted that the cost of rebuilding the original sets would be immediately recouped through ticket sales, leaving open the possibility for more feature films or another television program.
       According to the Aug 1980 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, Roddenberry wrote the first draft of the screenplay, referred to by modern sources as The God Thing, in which the crew of the “USS Enterprise” encounters a God-like alien entity. The controversial script was rejected by Paramount in Jun 1975, and a search began for new material as the studio fielded submissions from popular science fiction writers, including John D. F. Black, Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, and Jon Povill. When Roddenberry and Paramount failed to agree on a story, Jerry Eisenberg joined the project as executive producer in Jul 1976, and recruited British writing partners Chris Bryant and Allan Scott to develop a new screenplay. A 27 Sep 1976 DV item reported the ... More Less

The film concludes with a title card that reads: "The human adventure is just beginning."
       Although not considered a ratings success during its three-year run on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) network, the television series, Star Trek (8 Sep 1966—3 Jun 1969) became a worldwide “cult” phenomenon among a devoted group of active fans. With the show playing successfully in syndication after its cancellation in 1969, Star Trek enthusiasts became increasingly vocal about reviving the franchise, and on 28 Oct 1974, Cue magazine reported that series creator Gene Roddenberry had entered into discussion with Paramount Pictures about developing a motion picture based on the series. At the time, Roddenberry asserted that the cost of rebuilding the original sets would be immediately recouped through ticket sales, leaving open the possibility for more feature films or another television program.
       According to the Aug 1980 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, Roddenberry wrote the first draft of the screenplay, referred to by modern sources as The God Thing, in which the crew of the “USS Enterprise” encounters a God-like alien entity. The controversial script was rejected by Paramount in Jun 1975, and a search began for new material as the studio fielded submissions from popular science fiction writers, including John D. F. Black, Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, and Jon Povill. When Roddenberry and Paramount failed to agree on a story, Jerry Eisenberg joined the project as executive producer in Jul 1976, and recruited British writing partners Chris Bryant and Allan Scott to develop a new screenplay. A 27 Sep 1976 DV item reported the hiring of director Phil Kaufman, who extensively reworked Bryant and Scott’s script. According to an 11 Nov 1977 New Times article, Kaufman proposed killing off William Shatner’s “Captain Kirk” in the first act of the story before bringing him back to life at the end of the film. Paramount ultimately discarded the idea, and the script was once again rewritten. Around Feb 1977, Ken Adam began preliminary production design work. However, after several months of preproduction and considerable financial investment, Paramount decided to cancel the film, and instead opted to develop the revival as a syndicated television series. As stated in the Dec 1979 Los Angeles Magazine, Kaufman was released from the project to direct Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, see entry), starring Star Trek’s own Leonard Nimoy. Various sources reported Nimoy’s reluctance to reprise his iconic role as “Spock,” making him the only member of the original cast not set to return. According to a 4 Apr 1978 HR item, David Gautreaux was cast as a new “Vulcan” character intended to replace Spock, along with Indian actress Persis Khambatta. While Khambatta’s role was carried over into the final film, Gautreaux appears as a minor supporting character named “Commander Branch.”
       Star Trek: Phase II was set to premiere with a two-hour pilot episode titled “In Thy Image,” written by Alan Dean Foster, author of several paperback novels based on episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series (NBC, 8 Sep 1973—12 Oct 1974). However, in late 1977, the studio abruptly returned to its original idea for a feature film—a decision that many attributed to the unprecedented success of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, see entries) in reviving mainstream interest in science fiction. Because Foster’s episode treatment was the only completed story already approved by the studio, “In Thy Image” became the basis for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Roddenberry, Jon Povill, and Harold Livingston made additional contributions, while Dennis Lynton Clark provided an uncredited rewrite. The 11 Nov 1977 HR claimed that the relatively small budget would “not exceed $10 million.”
       The following spring, Paramount officially announced revised plans for a $15-million motion picture to be directed by Academy Award winner Robert Wise. According to articles in the 21 Jan 1979 NYT and the Nov—Dec 1979 issue of Marquee magazine, Wise helped strengthen the character relationships in the script, and ultimately convinced Leonard Nimoy to join the project. In a Dec 1979 Screen Ticket GNTV article, Nimoy confessed to having a “deep affection” for Spock, and claimed he would not have wanted the character to be played by any other actor.
       After several delays, the 7 Dec 1979 LAHExam stated that principal photography began 7 Aug 1978 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, CA. Several crew members from the television series returned for The Motion Picture, including unit production manager Phil Rawlins and makeup artist Fred Phillips. However, publicity materials in AMPAS library files state that first-time feature costume designer Bob Fletcher made substantial changes to the inexpensive and simple uniforms of the USS Enterprise crew in an attempt to reflect the series’ more “cerebral quality.” An additional 700 costumes were created for the remainder of the cast, including a $10,000 gold and silver brocade robe of the “Betelgeusian ambassador,” which was considered the most expensive garment ever worn by a background actor.
       According to production notes, various interior spacecraft sets filled ten Paramount soundstages, while the 24 Nov 1979 issue of Cue magazine indicated that the reconstruction of the USS Enterprise bridge alone cost $1 million. Screen Ticket GNTV stated that an eight-foot model of the ship exterior was built under the supervision of Jim Dow at Magicam. Although the effects props and miniatures crew are not credited in affiliation with the company onscreen, Magicam took out an advertisement in the 19 Dec 1979 HR, thanking the team for their involvement. The following individuals are listed in HR, but do not appear in onscreen credits: Peter Anderson, David Ascher, Brad Bluth, Bob Buckner, Nick Esposet, Dann Linck, Chris Miller, Richard Raynis, Russ Simpson, Zuzana Swansea, Chris Tietz, Paul Turner, and Steve Wilson. A 24 Oct 1978 DV brief stated that Michael R. Huntoon worked as a leadman before his sudden death of a heart attack. Huntoon does not receive onscreen credit.
       The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin provided uncredited consultation on the film, while Roddenberry boasted free use of equipment from an unnamed electronics firm.
       On 30 Aug 1978, Var reported that John Thomas Askew was convicted of theft and fined $750 for stealing confidential blueprints from the set while on the studio lot to discuss merchandising tie-ins. Although the incident occurred in late 1977, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did not catch Askew until he attempted to sell the blueprints to various Los Angeles, CA-area Star Trek fanclubs. As a result, Paramount was forced to significantly increase on-set security for the remainder of production.
       According to the 14 Aug 1978 DV, additional filming took place in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, which doubled as Spock’s home planet, Vulcan. Principal photography concluded 26 Jan 1979, more than two weeks behind schedule.
       A 26 Mar 1979 New West article revealed that Robert Abel and Associates was originally hired to oversee the film’s special optical effects. During the early stages of the scripting process, Abel set up a special company for the production, which he called ASTRA (A Star Trek—Robert Abel) Image Corporation, and began developing a budget. Worried that Paramount may consider his $5.5—$6 million estimate to be too high, he scaled back costs to around $4 million. However, as production continued, Abel’s team felt the effects requested by the filmmakers were “ludicrous” and “embarrassing,” and began designing their own costumes and sets, which caused tension with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), due to the use of nonunion personnel. Although Paramount approved incremental budget increases, production fell more and more behind schedule, and the studio eventually demanded a definite figure. When Abel requested an additional $12 million, Paramount sent vice president and executive in charge of production, Lindsley Parsons, Jr., to reorganize the optical effects department under Future General Corporation (FGC) founder Douglas Trumbull. While Trumbull previously stated that he was no longer interested in producing special effects, Paramount convinced him to assist with the troubled post-production process by offering a six-figure salary and the opportunity to direct a feature film. In mid-Jan 1979, Paramount discovered that Abel had been using equipment supplied by the studio to film television commercials, and insisted he devote his company’s full creative efforts to Star Trek. After renegotiating his contract, the studio issued an ultimatum in which ASTRA was required to produce a satisfactory optical effects sequence by the following month, or be dismissed from the project. On 20 Feb 1979, Abel screened several partially completed shots for Trumbull and director Robert Wise, and two days later, he and his team were fired. Approximately $5 million had already been spent on ASTRA’s efforts, and FGC was now faced with less than ten months to complete all optical effects in time for the 7 Dec 1979 release date. More than a year after the cast had finished principal photography, the 30 Aug 1979 LAT stated that Leonard Nimoy had been called to re-shoot the “V’ger” space walk sequence, which was extensively reworked in post-production.
       Meanwhile, problems also arose between Paramount and composer Jerry Goldsmith. According to an undated article from the third issue of Cinemacabre, executives pressured Goldsmith to write a score that more closely resembled the work of John Williams, hoping that a successful soundtrack would increase the film’s appeal. Refusing to take their suggestions seriously, Goldsmith walked off the picture, but the studio quickly granted him permission to finish the score to his liking. However, Gene Roddenberry insisted that the iconic Alexander Courage fanfare from the television series be incorporated at certain key moments, claiming that fans of the show would be disappointed if it was not included. The rush to complete the film affected the scoring schedule, and the final recording sessions were held just a few days before the world premiere. Goldsmith’s main title music was later used as the opening theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation (syndication, 28 Sep 1987—23 May 1994).
       According to a 25 Nov 1979 LAT article, the final cost of Star Trek: The Motion Picture ballooned “far above the $42 million mark,” with additional sources reporting figures as high as $45 million—making it among the most expensive American feature films ever to be produced to that time.
       Adding to the inflated budget, Paramount intended to spend roughly $9 million on promotional campaigns. However, plans for selected network television advertisements were suddenly canceled when the 21 Nov 1979 DV reported that anti-blind bidding laws prevented the film from opening simultaneously in theaters across the country. The 30 Nov 1979 HR stated that fifteen states would release the picture on 21 Dec 1979—two weeks after its national debut. Regardless, anticipation for the film was strong among Star Trek fans, and the 28 Nov 1979 Var reported that $41,504 had already been collected from just five days of advance ticket sales.
       The 19 Nov 1979 HR noted that the world premiere was scheduled to take place 6 Dec 1979, as the first-ever film screening at the MacArthur Theater in Washington, D.C. Proceeds from the event benefitted the National Space Club.
       Star Trek: The Motion Picture was largely considered to be a critical disappointment. In his 10 Dec 1979 LAT review, Charles Champlin stated that the film relied heavily on special effects, but lacked the action and excitement of Star Wars to more closely resemble the “mysticism” of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, see entry). While fans of the television show noted similarities between The Motion Picture and the beloved season two episodes, “The Doomsday Machine” and “The Changeling,” the plot was not considered substantial enough to carry a two-hour feature film.
       Despite its poor reception, the 11 Dec 1979 DV reported that the first entry in the Star Trek film series beat out Superman (1978, see entry) for the highest opening weekend gross to date, taking in $11,815,203 from 852 theaters. Its success continued throughout its first week, but suffered a thirty-seven percent decrease in its second week, according to the 11 Feb 1980 Village Voice. However, repeat viewings from younger audiences and fans of the franchise brought a surge in business over the Christmas holiday, and industry estimates suggested that Paramount would easily recoup its production and promotional costs through international release, television deals, and merchandising. A 22 Nov 1996 HR brief listed a total domestic gross of $82.3 million.
       Star Trek: The Motion Picture received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, Music (Original Score), and Visual Effects.
       According to the 24 Dec 2001 Var, the televised version of the film contained an additional eleven minutes of footage not used in the theatrical release. As a result, Robert Wise convinced Paramount to finance a new cut, allowing him to insert discarded character scenes and redo many of the visual effects shots that had been compromised due to the shortened post-production schedule. Star Trek: The Motion Picture “The Director’s Edition” was released on DVD with the same 132-minute running time as the original version, but featured an extended end credit sequence. Eleven years later, the 25 May 2012 DV announced that Jerry Goldsmith’s score had been updated for re-release through La-La Land Records, including an additional seventy-five minutes of bonus tracks and twenty minutes of early, unused recordings.
       The Star Trek franchise continued with five theatrical installments featuring the principal cast: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991, see entries). In addition to The Animated Series and The Next Generation, additional television programs included Deep Space Nine (syndication, 1993—1999), Voyager (UPN, 1995—2001), and Enterprise (UPN, 2001—2005). The Next Generation also spawned four feature films. In 2009, filmmaker J. J. Abrams “rebooted” the original series characters for Star Trek and its sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness (2013, see entries). A third film, Star Trek Beyond, is scheduled for release in summer 2016.
       End credits state: “Grateful acknowledgment is made to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration”; “Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the trademark of Paramount Pictures Corporation and is registered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office”; and, "Star Trek - The Motion Picture books published by Pocketbooks.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Asimov's Science Fiction
Aug 1980
Vol. 4 #8, pp. 70-83.
Cinemacabre
#3, pp. 6-11.
Cue
28 Oct 1974.
---
Cue
24 Nov 1979
pp. 34-37.
Daily Variety
27 Sep 1976.
---
Daily Variety
14 Aug 1978.
---
Daily Variety
5 Sep 1978.
---
Daily Variety
24 Oct 1978.
---
Daily Variety
21 Nov 1979
p. 1, 18.
Daily Variety
11 Dec 1979
p. 1, 29.
Daily Variety
25 May 2012.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 1977
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 1979
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 1979
p. 21.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 1996.
---
LAHExam
7 Dec 1979
Section B, p. 1, 10.
Los Angeles Magazine
Dec 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Aug 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Nov 1979
Calendar, p. 1, 44.
Los Angeles Times
10 Dec 1979
Calendar, p. 1.
Marquee
Nov--Dec 1979
pp. 5-6, 8.
New Times
11 Nov 1977
p. 10, 12.
New West
26 Mar 1979
pp. 56-61.
New York Times
21 Jan 1979.
---
New York Times
8 Dec 1979
p. 14.
Screen Ticket GNTV
Dec 1979
pp. 26-27.
Variety
30 Aug 1978.
---
Variety
28 Nov 1979.
---
Variety
12 Dec 1979
p. 22.
Variety
24 Dec 2001
p. 21, 26.
Village Voice
11 Feb 1980.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures Presents
A Gene Roddenberry Production
A Robert Wise Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Still photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
Key grip
Addl photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Elec best boy
Elec
Key grip
Key grip
Grip best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
Art dir
Prod illustrator
Prod illustrator
Prod illustrator
Prod illustrator
Prod illustrator
Prod illustrator
Prod illustrator
Prod illustrator, Apogee, Inc.
Prod illustrator, Apogee, Inc.
Prod illustrator, Apogee, Inc.
Prod illustrator, Apogee, Inc.
Geometric des
Boston University
Asst art dir
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const coord
Set des
Set des
Set des
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Const foreman
Const foreman
Set painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward
Women's costumer
Men's costumer
Men's costumer
Men's costumer
Men's costumer
Men's costumer
Ward model maker
MUSIC
Mus ed
Scoring mixer
SOUND
Sd mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd eff created by
Sd eff created by
Sd eff created by
Sd eff created by
Sd eff created by
Dial ed
Supv re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd boom
Cableman
Sd cableman
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photographic eff dir by
Spec photographic eff supv
Spec photographic eff prod by
Spec anim eff
Mechanical spec eff
Mechanical spec eff
Mechanical spec eff
Mechanical spec eff
Graphics
Photographic eff dir of photog
Photographic eff dir of photog
Matte paintings
Addl matte paintings
Miniatures
Miniatures
Miniatures
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff cam
Photographic eff ed
Photographic eff ed
Electronic and mechanical des
Electronic and mechanical des
Mechanical des
Visual consultant
Visual consultant
Visual consultant
Photographic eff gaffer
Photographic eff grip
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Eff props and miniatures
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Photographic eff photog
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Anim and graphics
Spec electronics
Spec electronics
Spec electronics
Spec electronics
Spec electronics
Spec electronics
Spec electronics
Spec electronics
Spec electronics
Photographic eff projectionist
Photographic eff project mgr
Photographic eff project mgr
Asst to Mr. Trumbull
Asst to Mr. Yuricich
Asst to photographic eff
Asst to photographic eff
Opt consultant
Opt consultant
Mechanical des
Mechanical des
Mechanical des
Mechanical des
Photographic eff seqs by
Photographic eff supv by, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff project mgr, Apogee, Inc.
Miniatures supv by, Apogee, Inc.
Supv of opt photog, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff cam, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff cam, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff cam, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff cam, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff cam, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff cam, Apogee, Inc.
Anim eff, Apogee, Inc.
Electronic des, Apogee, Inc.
Electronic des, Apogee, Inc.
Electronic des, Apogee, Inc.
Electronic des, Apogee, Inc.
Mechanical des, Apogee, Inc.
Mechanical des, Apogee, Inc.
Mechanical des, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff photog, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff photog, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff photog, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff photog, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff photog, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff photog, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff photog, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff photog, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Eff props and miniatures, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff grip, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff grip, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff gaffer, Apogee, Inc.
Anim and graphics, Apogee, Inc.
Anim and graphics, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff editorial, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff editorial, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff editorial, Apogee, Inc.
Photographic eff editorial, Apogee, Inc.
Spec visual consultant, Apogee, Inc.
Spec visual consultant, Apogee, Inc.
Spec visual consultant, Apogee, Inc.
Asst to Mr. Dykstra, Apogee, Inc.
Asst to Mr. Shepherd, Apogee, Inc.
Asst to photographic eff, Apogee, Inc.
Asst to photographic eff, Apogee, Inc.
Asst to photographic eff, Apogee, Inc.
Asst to photographic eff, Apogee, Inc.
Asst to photographic eff, Apogee, Inc.
Opt & mechanical consultant
Opt & mechanical consultant
Opt & mechanical consultant
Certain models manufactured at
Titles
Computer motion control system for miniatures
Certain spec visual eff conceived and des by
RA&A des by
Medical computer displays courtesy of
Prod kinetic lighting eff in engine room and Voyag
Prod kinetic lighting eff in engine room and Voyag
Spec eff
Process consultant
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Spec science adv
Spec science consultant
Accountant
Asst to Mr. Roddenberry
Transportation coord
Technical assistance by
Certain computer equip by
Casting
Secy to the dir
AFI dir's intern
Craft service man
Transportation coord
Transportation driver
Transportation driver
Prod of monitor readouts
Asst to Leonard Nimoy
STAND INS
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the television series Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry (NBC, 8 Sep 1966 -- 3 Jun 1969).
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Title:
Star Trek
Release Date:
7 December 1979
Premiere Information:
Washington, D.C. world premiere: 6 December 1979
Los Angeles and New York openings: 7 December 1979
Production Date:
7 August 1978--26 January 1979
Copyright Claimant:
Century Associates
Copyright Date:
12 December 1979
Copyright Number:
PA58633
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo™
Color
gauge
35mm, 70mm
Widescreen/ratio
2.35:1, 2.20:1
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
132
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26364
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Deep in space, three Klingon warships encounter a power field resembling an expansive, blue luminescent cloud, and ineffectively open fire. A ball of plasmatic energy blasts from within the cloud and hits the Klingon vessels, causing them to disappear. Elsewhere, communication station Epsilon IX picks up a visual on the Klingon attack, and notes that the cloud is heading toward Earth. Meanwhile, on the fiery surface of the planet Vulcan, former USS Enterprise First Officer Spock has nearly completed the process of kolinahr, a ritual by which Vulcans can be purged of all emotion to achieve ultimate mental discipline. However, mysterious telepathic messages from space stir Spock’s human half, interrupting the ceremony and preventing him from attaining kolinahr. At the Starfleet headquarters in San Francisco, California, Admiral James “Jim” T. Kirk enlists his new Vulcan science officer, Lieutenant Commander Sonak, to join him on his former vessel, which has been assigned to intercept the impending alien attack. On his way to the newly renovated starship, Kirk joins chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, who fears the engines will not be fully ready in time for launch, and that Kirk has become “untried” for captain’s duties since his promotion to Starfleet Chief of ... +


Deep in space, three Klingon warships encounter a power field resembling an expansive, blue luminescent cloud, and ineffectively open fire. A ball of plasmatic energy blasts from within the cloud and hits the Klingon vessels, causing them to disappear. Elsewhere, communication station Epsilon IX picks up a visual on the Klingon attack, and notes that the cloud is heading toward Earth. Meanwhile, on the fiery surface of the planet Vulcan, former USS Enterprise First Officer Spock has nearly completed the process of kolinahr, a ritual by which Vulcans can be purged of all emotion to achieve ultimate mental discipline. However, mysterious telepathic messages from space stir Spock’s human half, interrupting the ceremony and preventing him from attaining kolinahr. At the Starfleet headquarters in San Francisco, California, Admiral James “Jim” T. Kirk enlists his new Vulcan science officer, Lieutenant Commander Sonak, to join him on his former vessel, which has been assigned to intercept the impending alien attack. On his way to the newly renovated starship, Kirk joins chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, who fears the engines will not be fully ready in time for launch, and that Kirk has become “untried” for captain’s duties since his promotion to Starfleet Chief of Operations two and a half years ago. Once onboard, Kirk reunites with communications officer Nyota Uhura, and helmsmen Hikaru Sulu and Pavel Chekov, before meeting with Willard "Will" Decker, the ship’s current captain, to inform him that he is stepping in as his replacement. Kirk offers Decker the role of executive officer, but the younger man bitterly resents the demotion. Kirk and Scotty are alerted to a transporter malfunction that kills Sonak and another officer while they attempt to beam aboard. With no Vulcan alternate readily available, Kirk decides to have Decker assume Sonak’s responsibilities as head science officer. As the captain briefs the crew on their target, now only fifty-three hours from Earth, the Enterprise receives a transmission from Epsilon IX, moments before its destruction, informing them that something lies within the cloud’s epicenter. Back on the bridge, the navigation crew is joined by the Deltan Lieutenant Ilia, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, who is thoroughly disgruntled about Kirk recalling him from retirement. As Kirk pushes the ship into warp drive, an engine imbalance launches them into a wormhole, distorting the control systems and creating a time lag. Decker counteracts Kirk’s orders to save the Enterprise from colliding with an incoming asteroid, thereby destroying the wormhole. He defends his actions based on his current knowledge of the ship’s redesign, prompting Kirk to become defensive about the competition brewing between them. Afterward, Decker and Ilia acknowledge their romantic relationship that developed when he served on Ilia’s home planet, Delta IV, several years earlier. When Kirk allows a small shuttlecraft to dock alongside the Enterprise, he and the crew are delighted to discover its passenger is Spock, who offers to take over as science officer. Despite his colleagues’ excitement, Spock coldly sets to work repairing the engines before joining Kirk and Bones in the officers’ lounge. There, he confides his reason for ending his kolinahr and seeking out the Enterprise: to investigate a series of logical telepathic thought patterns, emanating from the alien intruder. Kirk confesses his desperate need to have his friend aboard, but Bones wonders if Spock’s motives may outweigh his loyalty to the ship. Nearing the cloud’s center, Kirk is careful to avoid provoking hostility, and Spock learns the entity has attempted to contact them, but it grows confused by their lack of response. The cloud attacks, sending a plasma beam through the USS Enterprise computer that overloads power systems and injures Chekov’s hand. Spock programs the computers to establish friendly communication with the cloud’s epicenter just in time to prevent another attack. Although Decker warns against proceeding with the mission, Kirk steers the ship through a power field tunnel of spindly, colored light until they reach the alien lifeform within: a colossal, tubular structure called “V’Ger.” Suddenly, another plasma beam probes the bridge and assumes control of the computer to read the ship’s data. When Spock interferes, the probe shocks both him and Ilia, causing the latter officer to vanish. Defenseless to V’Ger’s tractor beam, Kirk allows the Enterprise to be pulled deeper inside the entity until the computer alerts them to an intruder inside one of the ship’s showers. Kirk and Spock realize the being is a mechanical probe that has assumed use of Ilia’s body to observe the human “carbon units” onboard. It explains that V’Ger is searching the galaxy for its unidentified “Creator,” presumably located on Earth. Upon medically examining the probe, Bones and Dr. Christine Chapel determine that it has been programmed with all normal bodily functions, while Spock notes that its unusual familiarity with Decker may indicate the presence of Ilia’s memories, transferred to the probe. As Decker attempts to coax Ilia’s emotions from the probe by refamiliarizing it with the ship, the mechanism declares V’Ger’s intent to reduce the Enterprise crew to individual “data patterns.” Meanwhile, Spock attempts to contact the alien by stealing a space suit and propelling himself into one of V’Ger’s orifices. Inside, he realizes that V’Ger has stored visual images of its entire journey through space, including a sensor with which Spock attempts to form a telepathic “mind meld.” However, the overpowering experience shocks him into unconsciousness, back toward the Enterprise, where he eventually revives with Kirk at his side. He declares that V’Ger is a living machine seeking to understand its purpose for existing without hope or feeling. When V’Ger receives no response to its primitive radio signals sent to Earth, it fires a series of attack probes that encircle the planet’s atmosphere, threatening to destroy all “carbon units” unless it receives an answer within thirty minutes. Spock suggests they treat V’Ger like a needy child, and Kirk negotiates with the probe, stating that he will only disclose information about the Creator directly to V’Ger’s central brain complex. The Ilia probe leads Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Decker to the system’s main satellite dish, marked with a plaque labeled, “V’GER.” Scrubbing at residue, Kirk realizes the writing spells out “VOYAGER,” and the device is actually a data probe, Voyager IV, which was launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the late twentieth century and disappeared in a black hole. The device was adopted by V’Ger’s home planet deep in space, but attempted to make its way back to Earth with data for its “Creator” after amassing enough knowledge to develop its own consciousness. Because no one currently on Earth knows how to reply to its outdated transmissions, Kirk orders Uhura to relay NASA’s former coding system. When the machine fails to turn on, Spock notices that V’Ger charred its own antennas, forcing its Creators to finish transmitting the code in person. Decker realizes that in order for V’Ger to evolve past its total knowledge of the universe, it must adopt humanity’s ability to “leap beyond logic,” and he volunteers to connect with it. After repairing the antenna cables, Decker is encased in swirling white light alongside the Ilia probe, and the two figures disappear. As the newly developed life form is born, V’Ger explodes with light and vanishes, leaving Earth and the Enterprise unharmed. Spock announces his intent to stay with the ship, and Kirk commands the crew to travel onward into space. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.