Seeing Star Trek:The Motion Picture in a New Light

The other night I had a moment to watch a little TV, and thought I’d find a movie. Paramount+ had a list of movies leaving at the end of August, and among them was Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I hadn’t seen it in so long I figured it was a good time.

After years of easily dismissing it I was surprised and delighted to realize that I not only did I like this movie, but LOVED it! Quite a difference from my initial viewing 43(!) years ago.

In December of 1979, I was among the hundreds locally who came out to see it on its first night. Comparing what I saw that premiere night, and what I just watched the other night were of two different people in two realities. How the first Star Trek movie would be reacted to was somehow very personal to me. When I came out of the theater that night, I was happily saying to people in line “It’s great!”. But inside I was not too pleased, an opinion that regrettably stayed with me all these years, to the point of never wanting to see it again.

You see, through my then 18-year old’s eyes, this movie was going to be my redemption, my “I told you so!” to all the people who mocked me for my Trek devotion the whole past decade. But my concern about how non-Trekkies would take it was almost central to my enjoyment of the film. Seeing that attitude now, I admit with slight embarrassment that I was WAY too concerned with physical elements of the movie, than the actual plot. Kind of like not seeing the forest for the trees. My ‘trees’ here were things like:

  1. The Klingons are bumpy!!
  2. Oh, God, is everyone going to like it?
  3. That’s a bad wig, Spock!
  4. Oh, God, the actors look so old!
  5. Why are those uniforms so bland and awful? Where has all the color gone?
  6. Why is the dialogue so soft while the music and sound effects are SO LOUD?
  7. Why is the intro to the Enterprise taking s-o-o-o-o lo-o-o-o-o-ng?
  8. Why is Spock so wooden?
  9. Why did Ilia have to be bald?
  10. Are Ilia and Decker going to take over the Enterprise?
  11. What’s up with Scotty’s mustache?

My 61 year old brain can answer all that now …

  1. The Klingons are what Gene wanted them to be.
  2. Maybe not at the moment, but in time it will age better.
  3. Yes, he needed a better long hair wig, but that’s a minor point.
  4. Wow, they all look so YOUNG here!!
  5. Well, the uniforms were what they were. very 70’s. Fortunately they were all recycled into a better look in the sequels.
  6. This was mostly the fault of the poor audio equipment at the theater I watched it at. I remember many people calling out “Turn it up!!”
  7. The Enterprise intro is a big ‘Welcome back you beautiful ship’ presentation. Still a tad longer than it needed to be, but I get it. That’s what fast forward is for; the same for the long slide into V’Ger’s realm.
  8. He did seem unnaturally stiff before his space walk, but I understand now that Spock’s search for total logic was turning him inward.
  9. After years of seeing new aliens, Ilia’s lack of hair really was no big deal, (and dear Persis was so gorgeous).
  10. Of Course Not!!
  11. It’s the 70’s, man!

I was too ‘stressed’ with these ‘pressing’ concerns to appreciate the beauty of a story I had been waiting for10 years to culminate into reality! Seeing it now, although I still think it needed better editing to move it along more quickly, I appreciate it so much more. My impressions follow.

First of all, this was a beautifully remastered director’s cut of the piece. As your eyes delve into a field of stars, it begins with the graceful and sad, yet soaring overture of Ilia’s Theme by Jerry Goldsmith. Ilia’s theme grew a whole new meaning for me since I had last watched this movie, It really stresses a deep longing, the almost unbearable yearning to find something more that must be out there.

I felt compassion for Ilia this time too instead of seeing her as an ‘other’ or just sexy window dressing. Ilia is tragic because she is swept into the vortex of V’ger before she barely serves on the Enterprise. The small blinks of her real self that flicker from the shell of her V’ger persona are almost heartbreaking. “Deck-Er!” she voices in familiarity as she touches his face. So close yet so far.

Spock too is torn. Feeling a call from V-Ger, he is drawn back to the Enterprise. He cannot focus solely on his devotion to total logic. As he has failed the Ko-li-nahr to rid himself of emotion, so he is now determined to figure out the mystery of V-Ger, even at the risk of his own life to save his fellow crew members. This is a theme that carries through to the sad conclusion of The Wrath of Kahn. After his harrowing space walk into V’Ger, Spock rediscovers and embraces his humanity. The small chuckle he gives recovering in sickbay brings us back to the Spock we knew was still there.

At it’s core, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is very much true to the formula of the original series; set in outer space, but finding ourselves through personal conflict. It is not heavy on action, but it has suspense, which is always favorable, to me at least.

Technically, it was a marvel at the time, and a joy to see the Enterprise stream into warp drive with it’s strobe-rainbow effect. The new Enterprise was beautiful sleek upgrade to the original. Remember this was still a model-driven special effect department, and CGI was still in its infancy. The Klingon ship was ruggedly detailed and far more 3-D than ever before. Spock’s voyage into V’Ger and the steep stair set surrounding V’ger were remarkable, although I was concerned that these ‘ancient’ actors at the time would trip and fall!

Costume-wise were hits and misses. The variety of duty uniforms still didn’t make much sense to me. The beige/gold, pale blue/gray palate was probably considered quite futuristic at the time, al though they still had more of a 70’s Space 1999 vibe at the time. But their blandness made the actors blend in more with the cooler tones of the New Enterprise. Thankfully, Khan brought back more color and a less leisure suit look back to the series* and Star Trek: TNG brought back the classic gold/blue/red department shades. Also, the laughable, sporty, short sleeved uniforms here were so terribly preppy before preppy became a thing in the early 80’s. What, were these the Sunday leisure uniforms? They still make me laugh, and for heaven’s sake, grown men should never wear Penguin Suits and Onesies! (TMI! TMI!)

Thank heaven we had two glorious and elegant costume moments — Spock’s first entry on the bridge in a luxurious black cape and stove-pipe trousers, and Ilia’s white mini-robe with salmon pink stand up collar.

All I can say now , is that if you haven’t seen it in a long time, you might just enjoy it as much as i did. It is still a LOT better than Shatner’s ego-fest of Star Trek V!

And now All 6 Original STAR TREK Films Beam Down on 4K Blu-ray in September, Plus TMP Director’s Edition & Special Longer Version • TrekCore.com

*The reason for the red and black uniforms of STII was budgetary — the ST:TMP uniforms had to be recycled and the only colors they could be dyed were deep red and black!

Star Trek on the Runway??

I was browsing one of my favorite sites yesterday (Tom and Lorenzo), and came across a colorful collection for Fall 2018 by Italian designer Moschino.   The  collection clearly was influenced by the bright stylings of the Mod era 1960s with a lot of Jackie Kennedy in full Technicolor and clearly other pop references.

What’s this got to do with Star Trek?  Well, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, than one of Moschino’s designers must be a Trekkie.  How else can you explain the mint green spangled gown that would either make the late William Ware Theiss proud OR have him suing for stealing his design?

Look closely, and you can see the gown was clearly influenced by Mudd’s Women. The spangled mint green fabric and upper bodice with diagonal slash is clearly Ruth Bonaventure’s gown.  And the bottom half of the gown clearly borrows from Eve McHuron’s pink gown with its diamond-shaped slashes across the hips and thighs.

Left: A model sashays down the runway in a Trek-inspired gown in the Moschino Fall 2018 Collection. Right: Eve and Ruth in the originals by William Ware Theiss in Star Trek’s “Mudd’s Women”

Now I admit, Mudd’s Women is not one of my most favorite episode of TOS, (and I’ll do a write up on it eventually) but I’m both happy and a little bummed to see Theiss’ influence a good 52 years after the original airing.   Happy that the costume design still resonate a half century later, bummed because this isn’t even trying to be original, but a clear mash-up of the two original gowns.  Well, I hope the Theiss estate gets a chunk of the profit!

You can see the whole collection here.

The Daily Scrapbook “Dressing Room Secrets of Star Trek”

Here’s today’s flashback: From TV Star Parade in July of 1967 comes this great look into the costume and make-up workings of the original series. Love the Spock make-up sessions, promotional photos, and of course the ever-incredible drapings of William Ware Theiss.  It was Theiss’s designs that inspired me to study costume design in college, a skill I still use today on my homemade dolls.  To see more of Theiss’s great Trek work, click here.  And look how much of Nimoy’s eyebrows were shaved off! No wonder he hid behind horn rimmed glasses off screen!

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Haven’t I Seen That Before? (GALLERY) Part One: Star Trek Costumes

(NOTE: This is a repost of one of my earliest articles from way back in 2011 when I started this blog!  Posting it again today since I am finally writing Part II, about Star Trek Props)

As I reviewed old episodes of Trek, it was enlightening to see where the costume and production departments saved money and cut costs while making the the episodes. In this first article in the series, I’ll discuss Costume Recycling.

William Ware Theiss ( to be referred here always as WWT) , the supreme costume designer/wunderkind for Star Trek TOS, was always on a tight budget and a tighter schedule.  Not only could this genius improvise a bolt of cloth into a ‘how-does-it-stay-on’ gown for an alien princess, but he knew when and how to re-use elements  when needed.

*In S1’s The Conscience of the King, Lenore Karidian has the wardrobe that keeps on giving. Early on, she basically wears a luxuriant  gray mink bath wrap.  At its center is a lovely cats eye oval brooch with a pearl drop.   In a later episode, (s2’s Assignment: Earth) the gray mink dress turns up on  a modern (read 1967) passerby in the crowd on Gary Seven’s Earth–this time with a longer skirt under it. Two seasons later, (S3’s Plato’s Stepchildren) the Lenore’s brooch shows up on the bosom of Lt. Uhura when she is forced into Grecian gear by the Platonians.   Just goes to show that a good piece of jewelry never goes out of style!

*Another of Lenore’s gowns had been re-purposed from an earlier episode.  The first time, in Dagger of the Mind, it was seen as a tie-closure tunic in foamy green and aqua stripes and a pale pink lame border. When Lenore wore it for her observation deck flirtation with Kirk, the gown has been reversed, sewn up at the shoulders, caftan style, and green marabou added at the sleeves, hints of the pink lining are glimpsed.   Seems a bit ironic that Lenore’s gown was recycled from the gown of a  a sanitarium resident,  since Lenore herself,  (although never seen there), ends up in a sanitarium too.

*Lenore’s Father, Karidian, wears a dramatic olive green robe of a coat with a dark blue swirly branch design running through it, with faux yellow-green fur trim. The very same coat is worn two seasons later by the mad Captain Garth in S3’s Whom Gods Destroy.  Then Garth himself has borrowed a blue suit from Commissioner Ferris from S1’s The Galileo Seven–the collar tabs were changed from white to sparkly blue, The ascot is gone,  and Garth has added jewelry. (Accessories, ladies!)

*In Season 1, Mudd’s Women, we see Eve and Ruth, two of Harry’s “cargo” looking the stunners in  rose pink and mint green sparkly gowns that Diana Ross would kill for.  In S2’s I, Mudd, who should turn up in these same gowns but the Annabelle and Maisie Series among Mudd’s improved androids.  Gives you a bit of insight into how  60’s TV worked.  I’m guessing that WWT made two gowns for the originals, especially Eve since she had more action scenes, and kept them around for incidentals.   And Harry Mudd must know a wholesale retailer for glam space lady gowns!  Also in I, Mudd, Norman and the other male androids wear tight gray knit long underwear that leave very little to the imagination.  Later two of the same gray tights show up on Lokai and Beale in Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, only with silver spangly trim added at the shirt hem and cuffs.

This recycling on WWT’s part became commonplace.  Usually, it’s the gowns of central female characters that end up on extras in later scenes.  For example:

*Attorney and Kirk-Ex Ariel Shaw wore a vibrant yellow, green and pink paisley caftan at the bar in Court Martial. (WWT loved caftans!) It shows up later on a female alien ambassador extra in Journey To Babel. And in that same scene, extra is talking to a man in another recycled suit, Lazarus’ blue suit from The Alternative Factor (Yet the suit from the later episode seems to be untorn and clean– maybe WWT made two versions?)

*In The Deadly Years, Dr. Janet Wallace first appears in brightly pink and yellow dyed burlap jumpsuit (What was WWT thinking?!) And later, in a swirly purple multi-print.  Yet both of these outfits suffer a nasty fate in the  S3 episode Where the Children Shall Lead where  (blink and you’ll miss it) they are seen on two of the doomed mothers on the planet Triacus.  (Heck, if I had to wear an itchy burlap jumpsuit, I’d die too!)  In another flashback on Triacus, we see a happy mother in a pink cowl-necked mini dress, which was originally worn in the S1 episode of  The Conscience of the King  by character Martha Leighton.  Then another of Martha Leighton’s gowns is being worn and slightly modified with straps and fluff  by the android version of Harry Mudd’s wife, Stella, in  S2’s I, Mudd.

Obsessed fashionistas will find The Ultimate Recycled Moment came from Seasons 1, 2,  and from another TV series.  In S2′s Catspaw, the wizard  Korob   wears a pumpkin colored robe with gold lame hood and front panel, with an all-watching eye at its center. In S1′s  The Squire of Gothos, spoiled brat General Trelaine wears a grand blue velvet suit and cape trimmed with gold leaves in his castle. But wait! Didn’t we see BOTH of these costumes in an episode of Gilligan’s Island?  Yup, Korob’s gown was worn by Bob Denver  as the Fairy God-Father in Lovey’s Cinderella Dream in Lovey’s Secret Admirer.  And then, Mr, Howell himself as the Prince, dances the night away in Trelane’s Cape!  UPDATE! 6/15/14:  A reader here pointed out that they may have seen Trelane’s coat on Mike Nesmith in an episode of The Monkees (Also anNBC series) and he was right: In the episode The Prince and The Pauper, we first see the coat on an old footman, then Mike dons it when pretending to be Davy’s footman.  Later we see two of Trelane’s coats in the same scene, which begs the question, how many were made?  I’ve also see a later photo of William Campbell, posing  in his Trelane finery; I’m glad the costumers let him have one!

(11/22/12 — Found another one! Another series crossover is from the 1966 Daniel Boone episode, SeminoleTerritory, where character of Fletcher wears a splendid Indian feathered cape.  Fast Forward to 1968, In The Paradise Syndrome, and Jim Kirk, a.k.a. ‘Kirok’ is wearing the same cape to marry Miramanee!   I bet some of the other native costumes were reused here too, Boone was another NBC series).

Well!  I can only presume that capes were expensive to make, and someone’s been digging into Western Costume’s warehouse!

Check the Gallery here to see each of these costume switcheroos and a few more!

Next time: Props Recycled.