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Old 01-24-2011, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by samwiseb View Post
Regarding how Roddenberry himself could've botched the movie, I've never had a clear picture of how much of classic TOS -particularly in regards to the chemistry of its characters- was really his to begin with. Certainly he created the characters; I take nothing away from that. But people like Gene L Coon, DC Fontana and others are usually credited for helping to flesh them out... beyond what Roddenberry alone might have intended. He strikes me as more of a 'conceptual' writer anyway... better with ideas than with characters or nuance. Even TNG, arguably the 'truest' incarnation of "Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry," shows this pattern as it moves into its middle years and other people start to take over the show.

I have heard Roddenberry was once interviewed saying that he thought TMP was still the best of the five films (VI might have been going into production by that point; I don't know). He acknowledged it was a 'slow' film, and that it could have come out a lot better, but presumably gave no indication that he ever thought anything was missing from it character-wise. Whereas things he 'objected' to in the sequels (beyond their overall militaristic tonality) seemed largely incidental... such as Kirk phasering the eel after it comes out of Chekov's ear.

To me TMP is very much "Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry," in the same vein as 'The Cage' and TNG (particularly in its first two seasons). I also see it as being the polar opposite of ST09 in this regard, to the point that maybe I finally understand some of the derision toward the latter.

ST09
I see as being almost 'pure' TOS... much moreso than any of the STI-VI films prior. The negative side of this (so far) is that the elements that make it pure TOS, are the very elements that prevent it from being a STII or a STIV (the two films that I consider to have surpassed their episodic TV roots -at least thematically- without sacrificing the familiar Kirk/Spock/McCoy chemistry). But ST09 also couldn't be "Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry" in the sense that 'The Cage', TMP and TNG were. And it doesn't earn enough intellectual points to qualify as the 'compromise' between 'STcbGR' and NBC that classic TOS tried to be (I expect this will change with the next film).

I personally love TMP, but more as proto-TNG than as TOS. And most of the things that I love about it, are things that would not have applied had it remained a pilot to the aborted Phase II. I love the Enterprise, the Klingon ships, the space stations, and all those visual elements of the rebooted universe they continued to build upon until ENT ended in 2005. I love how awesomely huge the ship seems, moreso than any film afterward (even Khan, despite using a lot of the same footage), and how drastically the exterior lighting changes after leaving the inner planets (most sci-fi films never get this right, and certainly no other ST has).

And I love the 'darker' moments of Goldsmith's score... the low, dissonant foreboding strings that convey the empty menace of outer space, beginning from just before Spock shows up en route to V'ger. I think only Ron Jones, during the earliest years of TNG, has ever since managed to lend ST that same eerie, it's-dark-in-deep-space menacing vibe. Even though he is no Jerry Goldsmith or James Horner.

Mostly I love it as an experience in sights and sounds... and that it uses visuals rather than words to realize Roddenbery's future utopia for the audience (lucky thing too, since Patrick Stewart was not on hand). The main complaints against the movie... that it feels stiff, wooden, often lacking in character, etc, I would have to say I think also very much apply to 'The Cage' and a lot of early TNG, including the pilot. And socially Asperger-ish dialogue like "my oath of celibacy is on record, Captain" easily ranks up there with "offspring as in... he's Adam. Is that it?"


I really don't like the pastels either. Bathe the Enterprise interiors in them warmer TWOK 'battle alert' reds any day.

And perhaps that's why I can be more forgiving of 'The Cage', TMP, or even early TNG than I am, say, of Voyager. In the case of TMP, it took what might otherwise have been a sterile follow-up TV series, compressed it into a single movie, blew it up into something cinematically and poetically epic, and solidified Paramont's need to get rid of Roddenberry all in one blow. TOS had evolved into something more organic and iconic than I think he could manage without some old help, and I don't think there was Ever Any Way that a new TV or movie series would have flourished with those characters under his helmsmanship. He was better off rebuilding 'his' ST from scratch with TNG, and neo-TOS did better off without him.
Nice analysis. While I absolutely agree with your point that The Cage, TMP and early TNG is pure RoddenberryTrek with its typical slightly dry, rational and sterile atmosphere contrasted by the wonders and magnificence of space there are differences.
The Cage works for example much better than TMP, not because its characters are fleshed out better (Pike etc. feel very "scripty" which is only partly natural for a pilot) but because they are an integral part of the story. It's a story about human desires whereas TMP only features a few nice but unconnected character moments.
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