« Tech & Geek

Star Trek hit theaters 34 years ago today

by Greg Belfrage

Star Trek hit the big screen for the first time 34 years ago today. "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" debuted on Friday, December 7, 1979.

Originally, Paramount did not intend to make a Star Trek feature film. Instead, they were working on a new series titled, "Star Trek Phase II". Sets had been constructed, scripts had been written and the show was in early production. Paramount intended to use "Star Trek Phase II" to launch it's new cable television network.

Read more: The Great Unmade? Star Trek Phase II - Cinetropolis
However, those plans changed quickly due to the huge success of "Star Wars". Paramount wanted to cash in at the box office on the popularity of science fiction and realized they were sitting on a gold mine. "Star Trek Phase II" was immediately scrapped and the making of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was quickly underway.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - 1978 teaser narrated by Orson Welles
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" performed well at the box office, despite disappointment from critics and fans over the weak story line and slow pace of the movie. "In Thy Image" was written by Allen Dean Foster to launch "Star Trek Phase II". In Paramount's rush to make "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", they adapted Foster's television screenplay rather than commission a new film script.

Paramount publicity materials for "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"
It was a mistake that proved costly, as the movie had too many story elements that fans had seen in the original series. However, the modest financial success of the movie convinced Paramount that a well done Star Trek movie would be a huge blockbuster.

They were right. Fans flocked in record numbers to see Nicolas Meyer's 
"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" in 1982.

Paramount corrected deficiencies in
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" with the release of the Director's Cut DVD in 2001. The original movie had been so badly rushed that many special effects sequences for the film were never completed.

Paramount brought back
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" director Robert Wise to oversee the creation of new CGI effects for the movie. The goal was to complete Wise's vision for the film based on its original storyboards. The film was re-edited, remixed with new sound effects, and the new CGI sequences were included.

In my opinion, the Director's Cut is far superior to the original theatrical release of the film.

"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" Director's Cut teaser

Fast forward to 2013. Twelve Star Trek feature films have now been in theaters with more on the way. Star Trek's 50th Anniversary is rapidly approaching. 

And as Star Trek fans were known to say often in the 1970's... "Star Trek lives".

Greg Belfrage is an avid Star Trek fan, serious Batman toy collector and hopeless geek. He can be contacted at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com.