Star Trek: The Motion Picture Turns 36

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Turns 36

Star Trek: The Motion Picture -- which opened on December 7, 1979, or 36 years ago this coming Saturday -- rose from the ashes of Star Trek: Phase II, the abandoned television series that would have returned the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series to their rightful place on the U.S.S. Enterprise. And, as most devoted Trek fans know, Phase II rose out of the ashes of a proposed TOS feature that was to have been directed by Philip Kaufman. There's so much that could have been or might have been, but then we wouldn't be where we are right now, on the cusp of a third film with the current cast and also another live-action series.

But, back when TMP debuted, it marked the very first time Star Trek’s majestic, iconic starship ventured into cinemas. The jury remains out on TMP, which was directed by Robert Wise, the man behind The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Andromeda Strain, West Side Story and The Sound of Music. Some people find it slow, even boring. Others love it, especially its basic story, which echoed the thinking person’s sci-fi so associated with The Original Series. And, no question, the DVD version, Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Director’s Edition, vastly improves upon the initial release. Join StarTrek.com in celebrating the film’s 36th anniversary with some factoids, tidbits and anecdotes Trek’s first theatrical voyage.

  • Production on TMP commenced on August 7, 1978 and wrapped on January 26, 1979.

 

  • “I wasn't a Trekkie, though I'd seen a few episodes," Robert Wise recounted to the Philadelphia Daily News during an interview back in 1994. "The reason I did it was I'd done The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and The Andromeda Strain (1971), which were earthbound, and I thought it was time I got into the heavens. By far, and for various reasons, it wasn't one of my favorite experiences. The day-to-day on the set, directing the actors and working with Gene (Roddenberry), was fine, but we were rewriting the script every day, to the very last day of shooting.”

 

  • The wrap party was held on February 10, 1979, at Liu's Chinese Restaurant and Chez Moi Disco.

 

  • $46 million was reportedly the price tag on TMP, a massive sum for its day, but also an unfair number. That figure took into account the costs associated with Phase II and ALSO the oft-told TMP special effects debacle saga.

 

  • A blaster beam was utilized to create the V'ger sound effects. So, what’s a blaster beam? It’s a musical instrument invented by Star Trek actor Craig Huxley, who was known as Craig Hundley when, on The Original Series, he played Peter Kirk in “Operation: Annihilate!” and Tommy Starnes in “And the Children Shall Lead.” He also created the music for the Project Genesis simulation in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock.

 

  • What Trek language was spoken for the first time in TMP? Klingon.

 

  • One of the film's publicity shots famously has a long two-by-four clearly visible at the top right of the frame (see below, no pun intended.) 

  • A number of familiar Trek figures made uncredited cameos in TMP, among them Bjo Trimble, Christopher Doohan (son of James Doohan), David Gerrold and Susan Sackett.

 

  • In a 1983 special titled Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek Memories, Nimoy made the following, perfectly logical, statement about TMP: “It was a very finely crafted film, and it did well. But from the actor's point of view frankly, it was frustrating. We didn't feel that we were getting to play the characters that we enjoyed playing in the way that we knew how to play them. And it was frustrating for Gene Roddenberry too. It wasn't the story or script he had wanted, and the gaps seemed filled with too much emphasis on special effects.”

 

  • The world premiere for TMP was held at the K-B MacArthur Theater in Washington, D.C. The screening took place on December 6, 1979, and was part of a fundraiser for the National Space Club.

 

  • Robert Wise, were he still alive, would be 101 years old. The respected director died of a heart attack on September 14, 2005. He was 91.

 

  • TMP received three Oscar nominations: Art Direction, Music and Visual Effects
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