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Star Trek: The Motion Picture Searches for the Original Series and Finds It

Too many Trekkies overlook the first movie.

I was so into Star Trek as a kid – and the tragedy of lasting only 79 episodes – that I used to dream my own original episodes in REM sleep. Always awakened to the disappointment that the nocturnal adventure didn't really exist, it’s still unfathomable to me that when Star Trek : The Motion Picture came out, I didn’t go see it.

I can only imagine how the space time continuum of my consciousness would have erupted had I actually been present for what I consider the 80th and final episode of Star Trek.

Instead, I saw it four years later and not completely engaged among all the goings on in my college dorm. Bored by the pace, I kept walking away – even while my Star Trek compatriot of a roommate implored me to stick with it.

Stunned by the ending, I realized that I lost the chance to actually see one of those dreams become real, and my awe would always have to be retroactive and after the fact. Today, I reaffirmed those feelings and my reverence for this film.

In doing so, I know I’m distinctly among the minority in terms of Trekkie's.

Yes, Star Trek II and IV are wildly entertaining, but they and the others are mostly soap operas in search of superficial friendship, manufactured feelings of family and grandiose visions of galactic congeniality. Ok, so was the TV series. The difference is 60's Star Trek was done by grinding out real conflict among the cast.

Star Trek:TMP shares this approach. Meaning, Kirk comes right out looking to kick some ass and not entirely in terms of the planetary threat involved. He wants the Enterprise and takes it. Unlike in Star Trek II when Kirk usurps Captain Spock, James Tiberius doesn’t ask sitting Enterprise Captain Will Decker how he feels about it. He just does it.

Going from this baseline, William Shatner recreates the command presence found at the helm of Star Trek’s original five year mission. At the same time, the later films made Kirk seem like a consensus builder and put the characters outside the triumvirate of Spock, Kirk and Bones on almost equal footing.

In earlier contrast, Sulu, Checkov and Uhura saw Kirk as their captain. They look to him for courage, inspiration and leadership - not a place at the three dimensional chessboard to chit chat. That’s real, and only The Motion Picture has this crucial element that helped make Captain Kirk such an enduring figure.

And then of course, the most important lacking in the remaining sequels is something called Science Fiction. Of course, we know Trek two through six has whales, genesis and God, but TMP tries to truly penetrate what it means to be human – and actually searches.

Equally important, TMP largely does this within the confines of the Enterprise’s bridge - just like the series.

Of course, the humor is there.  Provided mostly in this adventure by the cynical, probing exchanges surrounding Bones, and true to form, it doesn’t overshadow the main course of bringing sense to the universe.

On the downside, Spock is somewhat of a dolt, but that's simply because Leonard Nimoy is trying to make sense of a character that is supposed to be lost.

Despite his failure and the fact that the plot is partially lifted from an original episode, all is forgiven as the omnipotent entity threatening the earth is stunningly unraveled in the simplest possible human terms. "Is this all that I am, is there nothing more," Spock voices the alien's disposition and reason for menace.

A question that's familiar to both gods and men, according to the stunted Spock - or just another day at the office for the Star Trek we grew up with and didn't really get until The Next Generation arrived. 

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