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Star Trek - The Motion Picture (1979) - An Illustrated Reference

Updated on November 17, 2017

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was directed by Robert Wise. It premiered on 6th December 1979. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols. Screenplay by Harold Livingston. Music by Jerry Goldsmith. 132mins.

An alien entity of unimaginable size is on a direct heading for Earth, the only starship in interception range is the Enterprise, under the command of Admiral James T. Kirk.

Star Trek was created by TV producer Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991) . His idea of a “Wagon-train to the stars” was sold to Desilu Studios and picked up by the NBC network, the pilot episode “The Cage” starring Jeffrey Hunter (1926-1969) as Captain Christopher Pike was rejected and another pilot episode was commissioned “Where no Man Has Gone Before” starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk.

The series began in September 1966 and was cancelled after the third season and 79 episodes. The series went into syndication in the early 70’s and became a phenomenon. Far more popular in reruns than it was in its original run Star Trek was sold to 60 international markets. Fan conventions started appearing, 15,000 fans attended one Star Trek convention in New York in 1974.

Scotty: Admiral, we have just spent eighteen months redesigning and refitting the Enterprise. How in the name of hell do they expect us to have her ready in twelve hours? She needs more work sir, a shakedown.
Kirk: Mr. Scott, an alien object with unbelievable destructive power is less than three days away from this planet, the only Starship in interception range is the Enterprise! Ready or not, she launches in twelve hours!

William Shatner (1931-) / Admiral James T. Kirk

Born in Quebec, Canada, William Shatner has starred as James Kirk in 7 Star Trek films, his other films include - The Brothers Karamazov (1958), Judgement at Nuremberg (1961), Big Bad Mama (1974), The Devil's Rain (1975), Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), Airplane II (1982), Loaded Weapon 1 (1993), Miss Congeniality (2000), Dodgeball (2004), Over the Hedge (2006) and The Wild (2006).

McCoy: Spock, you haven't changed a bit. You're just as warm and sociable as ever.
Spock: Nor have you, doctor, as your continued predilection for irrelevancy demonstrates.

Leonard Nimoy (1931-) / Mr. Spock

Born in Boston, Massachussets, Leonard Nimoy has played Spock in 7 Star Trek films, his other films include - Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952), Catlow (1971), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Transformers the Movie (1986), Atlantis the Lost Empire (2001), Land of the Lost (2009) and Transformers - Dark of the Moon (2011).

DeForest Kelley (1920-1999) / Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, DeForest Kelley has appeared as Dr. McCoy in 6 Star Trek films, his other films include - The Men (1950), Illegal (1955), Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957 as Morgan Earp), Raintree County (1957), The Law and Jake Wade (1958), Warlock (1959), Black Spurs (1965), Apache Uprising (1965) Night of the Lepus (1972).

James Doohan (1920-2005) / Cmdr. Montgomery Scott

Born in Vancouver, Canada, James Doohan has played Scotty in 7 Star Trek films, his other films include - Test Pilot (1957), The Wheeler Dealers (1963), The Satan Bug (1965), Pretty Maids all in a Row (1971), Loaded Weapon 1 (1993) and The Duke (1999).

George Takei (1937-) / Lt. Cmdr. Hikaru Sulu

Born in Los Angeles, California, George Takei has appeared as Sulu in 6 Star Trek films, his other films include - Never So Few (1959), Hell to Eternity (1960), Red Line 7000 (1965), The Green Berets (1968), Return from the River Kwai (1989), and Larry Crowne (2011).

Walter Koenig (1936-) / Lt. Pavel Chekov

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Walter Koenig has played Pavel Chekov in 7 Star Trek films, his other films include - Nightmare Honeymoon (1974), Moontrap (1989), Deadly Weapon (1989), Sworn to Justice (1996) and InAlienable (2008).

Nichelle Nichols (1932-) / Lt. Cmdr Nyota Uhura

Born in Robbins, Illinois, Nichelle Nichols has appeared as Uhura in 6 Star Trek films, her other films include - Porgy and Bess (1959), Mister Buddwing (1966), Truck Turner (1974), Snow Dogs (2002), Are We There Yet? (2005) and The Torturer (2008).

Majel Barrett (1932-2008) / Dr. Christine Chapel

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Majel Barrett has also played Dr. Chapel in Star Trek IV The Voyage Home (1986), her films include - The Buccaneer (1958), The Quick and the Dead (1963), A Guide for the Married Man (1967), Westworld (1973), The Domino Principle (1977) and Teresa's Tattoo (1994).

Grace Lee Whitney (1930-) / Janice Rand

Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Grace Lee Whitney has appeared in 4 Star Trek films, her other films include - House of Wax (1953), Riding Shotgun (1954), The Naked and the Dead (1958), Pocketful of Miracles (1961), Irma la Douce (1963) and The Man from Galveston (1963).

Mark Lenard (1924-1996) / Klingon Captain

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Mark Lenard appeared as a Romulan commander in the Star Trek first season episode "Balance of Terror". Lenard is best known as Spock's father Sarek. He first played Sarek in the classic second season episode "Journey to Babel" he would resume the role in three of the Star Trek movies and Next Generation series.

Stephen Collins (1947-) / Captain Will Decker

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Stephen Collins plays Will Decker, son of Commodore Matt Decker of the USS Constellation, played by William Windom in the first season episode "The Doomsday Machine". His films include - All the President's Men (1976), Fedora (1978), Brewster's Millions (1985), Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986), The First Wives Club (1996), Blood Diamond (2006) and The Three Stooges (2012).

Persis Khambatta (1948-1998) / Lt. Ilia

Born in Bombay, India, Persis Khambatta's films include - The Wilby Conspiracy (1975), Conduct Unbecoming (1975), Nighthawks (1981), Megaforce (1982) Warrior of the Lost World (1983) and Phoenix the Warrior (1988).

A new Star Trek series was planned in the mid-70’s titled Star Trek Phase II, it was meant to be a new 5 year mission starring the original cast, sets were built and 13 scripts written. It all fell apart when the proposed Paramount Television Service closed down and Star Wars was released to phenomenal box office. Paramount decided to make a Star Trek movie.

One of the stories planned for the pilot of the aborted Star Trek Phase II, “In Thy Image”, about a NASA probe returning to Earth, would be expanded into a screenplay for the first Star Trek movie.

The look of the Klingons in ST-TMP was changed from the 60’s TV series, they now had bony ridged foreheads to make them look more alien. This look was carried over to Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) and other Star Trek series.

The uniforms of the Enterprise crew in ST-TMP were never used again, the actors hated the uniforms and new ones were designed for the sequel.

Director Robert Wise (1914-2005) was no stranger to science fiction, he directed the seminal sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and 20 years later brought Michael Crichton’s bestselling SF novel The Andromeda Strain (1971) to the screen..

Oscar-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) created the music score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. One of his greatest works, the memorable main theme was used as the theme to the series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Goldsmith’s score received an Oscar nomination.

Alexander Courage (1919-2008) composed the famous theme to the original 60’s Star Trek and snatches of it can be heard during the movie.

The movie was beset with problems, wasting months and millions of dollars on special effects that didn’t work the original special effects crew were removed and Douglas Trumbull, creator of the effects for Close Encounters and 2001, came on board as Visual Effects supervisor. The spectacular effects were nominated for an Academy Award, losing to Ridley Scott's Alien.

ST-TMP was one of the most expensive films ever at the time, it cost a massive $45m to make. To put that in perspective the cost of the first two Star Wars movies combined was about $32m.

The film had a record breaking opening weekend in the US, an unheard of at the time $11.8m in 3 days, and the film grossed an impressive $139m worldwide, $82m in US. Every Trek fan in the land must have poured into theatres to see their TV heroes on the big screen.

For the DVD release Robert Wise was given permission by the studio to re-edit the film and create a director's cut closer to what he originally intended for the film had he been given more time back in 1979. Some new visual effects were added.

For the Director’s Cut the original 1979 matte paintings depicting Spock's planet Vulcan with moons were replaced with new mattes after fans complained that Vulcan has no moons.

Slow and ponderous Star Trek: The Motion Picture ultimately was not a fan favourite, with some dubbing it “Star Trek: The Motionless Picture”. There was too much emphasis on visual effects, much of the film consisting of the starship crew staring in amazement at the viewscreen. Unlike the TV show the charismatic actors seem stiff and uncomfortable here.

But personally I have always had a fondness for this first big screen Trek. The stunning special effects particularly those depicting V’Ger’s interior still impress, the extended tour of the Enterprise in space dock was a memorable highlight, And the icing on the cake, a magnificent score by Jerry Goldsmith.

The crew of the Enterprise would return in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

The Critics Wrote -

“The special effects are marvellous but the mumbo-jumbo that passes for dialogue only adds to the tedium.” (News of the World)

“A very well-made piece of work, with an interesting premise... Some of the early reviews seemed pretty blasé, as if the critics didn't allow themselves to relish the film before racing out to pigeonhole it.

My inclination, as I slid down in my seat and the stereo sound surrounded me, was to relax and let the movie give me a good time. I did and it did.” (Roger Ebert)

“A superb piece of work... It benefits from a clever basic premise, a taut script and excellent special effects, impeccably integrated into the movie without self-congratulation by director Robert Wise.” (Alan Frank)

"The formidable Robert Wise, who once directed "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951), directed "Star Trek," but I can't imagine what there was for him to do after telling the actors where to stand. Because most of the drama in such a movie is created in the laboratories, the actors are limited to the exchanging of meaningful glances or staring intently at television monitors, usually in disbelief.” (New York Times)

"Producer Gene Roddenberry and director Robert Wise have corralled an enormous technical crew, and the result is state-of-the-art screen magic." (Variety

"Spectacular but ponderous cinema spin-off from the cult TV series." (Chris Tookey)

“The film is about a century too long and will be best appreciated by those who like colourful lighting displays, loud music and bald women.” (Daily Mirror)

Highest Grossing Star Trek Movies


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    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      I have seen them, the shortlived 70's series with most of the original cast voicing? I don't think they were ever released on DVD here. I remember not liking the animation much, static heads with just the lips opening and closing. But some of the stories were good, from the writers of the original series.

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 6 years ago

      that's cool. Have you ever seen the brief animated series on Star Trek before?

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Hey thanks Steve, I appreciate that. It's nice to see another movie fan checking out my hubs.

      I grew up with Star Trek and have only really gone nuts over the first Star Wars film (1977) not so much the sequels and prequels, so I'd say I'm more of a Star Trek fan. The very first series of Star Trek is still my top tv show. But I have bought all 700 episodes on DVD.

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 6 years ago

      This is definitely a very interesting hub, and chalk full of useful information too, I might add. To be honest, I didn't realize the budget for the first start trek movie was considered to be one of the more pricey films of that era until I read this. It's good to know. Plus, I'm very impressed with the level of detail that you put into this too, as I can tell that you really did your homework on this.

      Although, I prefer the "Star Wars" series over this, I also have something of a soft spot for "Star Trek" as well. However, it does surprise me sometimes that when I talk to some people, they have the audacity to think that "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" are basically the freaking same. Which if they bothered to learn ANYTHING about what each series was about, then they would clearly see their almost as different as night and day. However, to each their own I guess. Anyway, keep up the good work, as I'll be sure to check out your other star trek hubs later.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks for commenting Cogerson's mum! At least your encounter with The Shat (as we affectionately call him here in England) turned you into a Trek fan. My mother wasn't a fan but dad was and I remember watching reruns of the series with him on the BBC back in the 70's.

    • BERN1960 profile image

      BERN1960 6 years ago


    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      If the romance continued between your mom and Shatner there might not have been a Cogerson posting here, or maybe an alternate Cogerson signing off each comment with Live Long and Prosper. :)

      Thanks for the mini-review Rob, it is appreciated.

      I'll try and finish off The Wrath of Khaaaaan! tomorrow.

    • Cogerson profile image

      UltimateMovieRankings 6 years ago from Virginia

      Evidently the romance between my mother and Billy Shatner was short lived because Shatner got "too fresh" who would have thought that Captain Kirk would get too fresh.....personally I was shocked when my mother first told me about

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      I'm a life long Trek fan and used to be a fanatic trekkie (or trekker, whichever the preferred nickname is now) and I was super-psyched when the first Star Trek film was released. I was 14 at the time and I couldn't wait to see it. And then when I finally saw it, I was disappointed. It seemed that 75% of the flm was the cast staring slack-jawed at the Enterprise viewscreen.

      I've watched it again since then and I hoped that as an adult, would appreciate the slow pace better than I dd at 14. Alas, I still find it tedious. I didn't mind the lack of action (Star Trek was never meant to be an action show. That was the mistake the recent reboot made) but the problem was, there was really nothing underneath it all. None of the social issue metaphors that the 60s show was known for. No morale lessons. Just...bleh!

      The worse part, as Flora points out, was the loss of the character interactions which made the original series so entertaining. The famous three-way banter between the lead triumverate of Kirk-Spock-McCoy was sadly absent. There was no chemestry in the scenes with the three of them in it. (Fortunately, it was back in the next film)You'd have thought they never worked together before.

      This film did make a lot of money, despite the bad reviews, which guaranteed a sequel. Thank

      goodness the second one got it right!


    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Cogerson-your mother dated William Shatner?! Now there is another hub for you. Shatner often comes back to visit Canada and he still speaks fluent French.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Hey thanks joevassar. Writing this has got me wanting to watch the movie again too. :)

    • joevassar profile image

      joevassar 6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Live long and prosper! Great hub, I'm going to go watch ST-TMP again...

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Interesting you should say that, Trek fans have been trying to link V'Ger and the Borg. That the unfeeling machine aliens which created V'Ger out of the NASA probe are related to the Borg. Other fans want to believe V'Ger gave birth to the Borg.

      There was a second season episode "The Changeling" which has similarities with ST-TMP.

      Thanks for commenting Mentalist.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      To Me,This Was Stiff And Drawn Out But An Intriguing Concept Of A Machine Civilization That Thought It Found Its Creator Or Reason For Their Existence...

      A Little Research:

      In Spock's Dialog He States:Any show of resistance would be futile, Captain.

      A Little Borg Preamble?

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Hey thanks Cogerson much appreciated. To give Robert Wise credit he wasn't trying to emulate Star Wars and tried to make a more adult sci-fi adventure, no fantasy elements, no space battles, no cuddly aliens and no funny stuff. The result was that few people embraced the film or listed it as a favourite (except yours truly). :)

      Persis Khambatta sadly died of a heart attack before her 50th birthday. The only other film I saw her in was Nighthawks (1981) starring Sylvester Stallone, she played a terrorist.

    • Cogerson profile image

      UltimateMovieRankings 6 years ago from Virginia

      Great job Steve, the Star Trek movies have always had a special place in my heart.....probably because of my she was fascinated with the Star Treak television show as well as all the movies with the original cast....I do not think the fact that she used to date William Shatner in the early 1950s, when they both lived in Montreal had anything to do with

      Lots of great facts in this hub...the sad fact...I did not realize Persis Khambatta had passed away...I think the other title Star Trek The Motionless Picture is a great name for this movie.....I think they got so caught up in the visuals they forget that Star Trek is about characters and story versus awesome visuals...I think when we see the Enterprise for the first time...they give that about 15 minutes of screen time.

      I agree with Flora about some humor being on the editing room floor, Nimoy and Shatner both reference that point in their biographies....Robert Wise wanted nothing to do with humor....I think that was the fan's loss.

      But without this movie and its box office success....we would not have the great Star Trek movies Khan, Voyage Home and Undiscovered Country....but then again we would have been spared the Shatner directed one.

      Plugging my own hub....I did a Star Trek vs Star Wars hub and this movie finished 11th of the 18 movies in those two franchises.

      Another great Illustrated Reference...voted up and awesome.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Thanks for commenting Flora. I agree, and there should have been more friendly banter from the leads. The film was pretty humourless.

      It's a unique, more cerebral entry in the series and that makes it more "collectible" for me.

      I first saw it at the Empire Leicester Square in it's opening week in December 1979. I remember people clapping and cheering as each name came up on the opening credits, more cheers as each character made their first appearance. I was caught up in it and cheering too. When it finished we all got up quietly out of our seats and walked out silently. :)

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      I wish that the actors were allowed to ad lib and to have that ad libbing in the film. Robert Wise didn't appreciate it. There was some great humour on the cutting room floor.

      I haven't seen the director's cut yet, although from what I understand Wise didn't have any recent type of technological effects added. Instead, he added effects that completed the film better while still staying in the framework of the type of technology that was available in 1979. I love that. If you want the film to look like you intended it to look you should either stick to what was available at the time the film was made, as Wise did-or wait to make the film as George Lucus did with the Star Wars franchise. Don't add new technological special effects to a film that is old beyond trying to restore it. Restoration, of course, is essential.

      I'm referring to what happened to ET on its anniversary year. Speilberg made it a completely different film. He didn't just add films originally edited out. He redid the effects to present day.

      Back to TMP:

      It's not my favourite film of the original cast-that's Wrrath of Khan-but I quite enjoy it. The concept itself of V'ger and what happens to V'ger is an interesting gone as well as bringing in Dekker's son. I just think it would have a lot more to it if Wise had allowed his actors to ad lib.


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