Once again, Dec. 7 rolls around… and as much as we celebrate The Motion Picture on its birthday for what it is, and the changing opinions and critical debates then and especially now… I still can’t unsee the meta impact of what TMP has done for, simply, the date.
This may sound odd, but within a generation Star Trek has taken what is *literally* a most infamous day (thank you, FDR speechwriters) and converted it to, with each passing year, an increasingly joyous one.
And, I mean, even moreso with each passing year.
Modern audiences simply have no idea what a cultural wallop it was, having a “dead little show” revived as a big-budget big-screen blockbuster. If you came along later to Trekville than Dec. 7, 1979, you might be tempted to think its premiere restarting Trek after after a long fallow time was noteworthy in the same way that May 8, 2009 or Sept. 24, 2017 — or even the week of Sept. 28, 1987.
But no — it’s not the same. TMP was not only a comeback for Trek — it was THE first comeback. Even moreso, it was an existential survival triumph for fans who demanded it, who fought and fanned and financially backed merch to preserve THEIR Star Trek. In short, this one was personal like no other — and created a whole new creator-audience paradigm that, almost as quickly, set the stage for even yes the Star Wars explosion.
That’s why no one siting in a movie seat on Dec. 7, 1979 ridiculed that long, sensuous camera pass of the Big E at its reveal in drydock. The ridicule only came later — along with the jibes of “The Motionless Picture” and “The Motion Sickness.” And yes, even fans eventually largely had to admit its shortcomings — especially in light of the sequel Khan triumph, and all the films and series to come later.
But the latest 4K Directors cut is no tech gimmick— it’s simply the vision and epic that twice-Oscar-winning legend Robert Wise wanted to give us ALL ALONG, with the “infamous” drop-dead Dec. 7 opening date not allowing him to overcome the saga of delays that marked writing, visual effects, and all that.
I have been preaching for months that everythnig you kidded or critiqued about TMP all these years is now, with the new and finished edit, simply MOOT. The filled ambient sound, the toned, sharp colors, the sharper editing —all now render the film so different than that cold, draggy, gray-blob feel of the last couple acts that we all came away with.
So, yes: Thanks, ST—TMP! Even as we never forget this date’s shock tragedy (and even anger) surrounding the US entry into World War II, for a huge chunk of America Dec. 7 is no longer a sad day, but a warm memory — and it gets warmer every year.