After its run on TV, Star Trek earned its first film ten years after finishing its production in 1969. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) sets the stage for future films in a way that’s quite unique – presenting a final product that greatly resembles what we’ve come to know and love from all aspects of the many Star Trek television series. I will state that I have not seen all of the original television series. I always enjoyed the films from the original series, and I’m an avid fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. As a fan of any Star Trek franchise, it’s completely okay to like what you like or dive into whatever series when you can, if you want to. This will always be an important message to tell our kids. Enjoy what you enjoy – even if you haven’t seen what came before. Not seeing something doesn’t make a person less of a fan. For example: A fan of the original Mary Poppins shouldn’t be dismissed because they haven’t seen the recent adaptation.
So, 40 years of Star Trek films begins with a magical quality. After re-watching this film for the first time in 30-plus years, it’s somewhat of an incredible watch. As with any film made decades earlier, it’s important to overlook effects that aren’t as spectacular as you might find today. What makes Star Trek: The Motion Picture so important is its ability for viewers to fall into the story. There is a seven-minute sequence (approximately) where Admiral Kirk is introduced on the Enterprise. These minutes are so telling. They indicate the importance of the mission, while also softening Kirk’s persona as he relishes every moment in watching the Enterprise get closer from his transport ship.
This sequence alone is a perfect moment for parents to share with their kids. It will highlight that one’s satisfaction doesn’t have to happen in an instant. Admiral Kirk loves every second of being transported to his ship, and this type of storytelling relays the significance of being somewhere – feeling needed. The Enterprise stands for exploring “strange new worlds,” and Kirk wants that more than anything. Despite the positive message of finding one’s place in the world, it’s important to note Admiral Kirk’s intent. He’s to be Captain again. One of the most important messages comes through early on. Captain Decker commands the Enterprise, upon Kirk’s recommendation, but that doesn’t matter. Kirk’s desire to lead overtakes everything else.
William Shatner portrays Captain James T. Kirk, and his ability to soften his tough exterior is remarkable. His confidence seems closely related to the proximity of the ship and those he’s grown to need in his life – his crew. Nothing matters more than leading the Enterprise, even if it means usurping control in a way that obviously questions his integrity. As if on cue, those closest to him remind him of his fallacies. In today’s world where it’s difficult to have any kind of confrontation or have a conversation in absolutes, it’s important to see members of his crew be blunt. Characters like Bones, Scotty, and Spock speak their minds, and they do so in an effort to reveal truths. These characters are vital to Kirk’s being. He needs to be tempered, and it appears he’s quite aware of this quality.
It’s important for kids to see individuals question authority in a way that’s not outrageous. Characters are given the freedom to speak their minds, and, in doing so, they address fundamental flaws in Kirk that prevent him from commanding his ship perfectly. Kirk’s crew members are his counterbalance. They don’t just serve as positive points in Kirk’s life, they help him in being positive. If I were to recommend a Star Trek film, it might just be this one. I have always thought that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn or Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country are my favorites, but this re-watch has me reconsidering what I might tell others to watch first.
“Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?”
These questions are relevant in everyone’s life at some point. Star Trek: The Motion Picture presents these questions in such a fascinating way that dives into our own history. It’s remarkable to get lost in a fictional world, and that’s what happens when you watch this film. 40 years since being released on the big screen, and it still has an astounding impact. This film doesn’t rely on exorbitant battle scenes, but makes viewers wonder about characters’ intentions while also diving into the unknown. Star Trek leans into spectacular storytelling when trying to determine the ultimate question: How do you find answers when dealing with the scary unknown?
If I can hope for anything, it will be that my own kids will have guidance from others who aren’t only self-interested. I want my kids to find bonds that lead them to bettering themselves, and the characters in this film seem responsible for leading Kirk into making decisions that benefit the whole group. It’s not easy to stand up to friends, but it’s an important skill when tackling issues that affect so many. It’s a particularly important message that seems worth repeating, even in today’s world. If there were ever a time to watch Star Trek and hope for the future, it’s definitely worth visiting it for its 40th anniversary.
Are you or your kids a fan of this film or any part of the Star Trek franchise? What’s your favorite? Do you have a certain film you’d recommend above all others? Share your comments below or share with your friends over on Facebook or Twitter. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a chance to watch this movie. Perhaps we’ll all get something special out of it.
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.