Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Harlan Ellison Reviews ST:TMP

When Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered, a lot of people were disappointed, myself among them. I had such high hopes! And we were let down. Although the movie accomplished a lot in terms of restarting the "franchise," and laid the groundwork for the look of everything to come after it, the all-important story and character interaction left a lot to be desired. Writer Harlan Ellison, known best to Trekkers as the author of "City On The Edge Of Forever," reviews the lackluster film in issue #33 of Starlog, published in April of 1980.

Harlan manages to set aside much of his anger at Roddenberry and company over his perceived ill-treatment when writing the TV script, and in much of his review I agree with him, something I rarely do. For example, I felt that the changes made in the filmed script for the series were for the best, and better "Trek" than his original script. Most of his criticisms of the movie, however, are spot-on, and sadly warranted. However, it does end on a note of hope for the sequels, and in that he (and the fans) were rewarded.

Agree? Disagree? Comment! (To read Roddenberry's reaction to this article, read this.)

(Click on images to enlarge; once open, you may have to click again to view full-size.)
"He called me 'lachrymose'? I'll kill 'em! Wait... what does that mean?"

Bonus: below, a page from the same issue, on the comic book adaptation of the movie script.

Bonus #2: Below, an ad from the back cover, for an LED-enhanced jacket movie tie-in.

Bonus #3: Below, the inside front cover, an ad for the light-up movie Enterprise model.
Bonus #4: Below, a one-page write-up by the movie's science adviser on the theory behind the movie's "wormhole" sequence." This sequence, while marred by the crew's "jiggling" in their seats when the camera was not being shaken, was still about the only action scene in the movie that raised a little excitement and suspense. Under that is a single-panel comic taken from the letters page on the same topic.

As an aside, I am not so completely down on ST:TMP that I can't appreciate the good things about it. Seeing the new upgraded Enterprise in loving close-ups was worth the price of admission; the epic score, etc. I still take out the Director's Edition that Wise re-edited occasionally and watch it, as it is the best version. The tightening up of the film and the fixed sound and visual effects add to the experience and allow me to enjoy it more than ever before. But I could still wish for better pacing and story!


ProvidenceMine said...

I don't often agree with Ellison on matters concerning ST either, but I thought that this was a brilliant assessment of TMP. I can remember how gravely disappointed I was myself when the movie came out, and was frankly amazed that it was a box-office success.
It's interesting what Mr. Ellison said about the weak writing abilities of Roddenberry. It had often been said that when Roddenberry had as little as possible to a ST project, that project was often better than if he had been heavily involved. I have mixed feelings about that, since he was, after all, the creator of ST in the first place.
Thank you so much for posting this piece.

Frederick said...

Thanks for commenting, I agree also about Gene's writing ability, he almost wrecked the start of the series by submitting several not-so-great stories to be developed. He was a great idea man, and organizer, but so much of the series identity was created by the talented people he gathered around him. His heavy involvement with the movie script kept it from being exciting in the same way his control did for the first few years of TNG.

Unknown said...

TY for posting this StarLog - gosh, I think I bought it - and I was there to see ST:TMP on the first showing, shivering in line with other hard-core fans. I, too, was astounded at its mediocrity, but so glad that Nimoy practically saved the film for me. Glad that Ellison commented on his performance so generously.
One thing he didn't mention that I found to be the saving grace of the film was the music. Of all the things in it, that first scene and the Enterprise theme were spectacular - and resonate even today.

Frederick said...

Thanks for commenting. I agree about the music, it is epic and beautiful, probably my favorite film score of all time!