25 years ago
I'm 16 years old. I live in Edmonton, Alberta. It's a Friday in December, so it's a school day. A cold one, at that. I have a spare last class so I leave school early and take the bus downtown. Before too long I'm in front of the theatre on Jasper Avenue, one of Edmonton's main downtown streets, and wondering if the people milling around are in line for the movie. Star Trek - The Motion Picture premieres today. Turns out most of them are waiting for a bus.
I'm there by myself. It's my first time seeing a movie alone in a theatre, but my friends aren't particularly all that interested in Star Trek, and they sure aren't keen enough to go right after school to see it on the first day. I've been clipping out the daily newspaper comic strip running in the Edmonton Sun; it started its run about a week before the movie's premiere. I've bought the novelization and then won another copy in a newspaper contest. Definitely a bit more excited about this than the rest of the guys.
A couple of guys I know from school walk along Jasper and talk to me for a little while. They're not interested in the movie, but they happen to be there when the Edmonton Journal photographer comes along and takes a picture of the lineup. There actually is one by now. In the newspaper the next day, you can just see the top of my head; the two guys who weren't even there for the movie are in front of me, perfectly recognizable.
So before too long I'm in the theatre watching the movie. The new music, the new Enterprise, the scenes on Vulcan, the amazing V'Ger special effects sequences, the sight of these old familiar characters on the big screen, the brief use of the Alexander Courage theme music during a captain's log scene... I love it all. After the movie I walk over to the comics/SF bookstore four or five blocks away and pick up the Marvel adaptation of the movie (the magazine version). I read it on the bus home, disappointed by the artwork.
I start feeling twinges of dissatisfaction about elements of the movie. Maybe I liked it because I waited years for a Star Trek movie and I'm going to damn well like it. But the movie's taking an endless critical barrage, and some of the comments are accurate. Yes, it was a bit too reminiscent of some TOS episodes. Yes, it was a bit stiff. Yes, some of the minor supporting cast are not good actors (I'm not referring to any of the regulars, or major guest stars, but to some of the bit players who have only a line or two of dialogue.)
But Star Trek is back. After years of reruns and only a handful of novels to keep us going, there they all are again, up on the screen, and larger than life, and this can't be the end of it.
And it sure isn't.
Over the next few years, thanks to seeing the expanded TV version, reading a couple of revisionist articles, including one in a Best of Trek book, and seeing the movies that followed, I came to the conclusion that the movie has a lot of merit. The music and the visuals are simply stunning. The characters are given some growth. For all its weaknesses, it doesn't try to ignore that time has gone by, that characters can change, that friendship isn't always easily resumed. I also like the fact that, in 1979, someone made a science fiction movie that looked back to 2001: A Space Odyssey instead of Star Wars as a model.
And it was 25 years ago today that I first saw it. Tonight I'll see it again, though this time I'll be at home and I won't be alone. The fact that Laura was only 11 years old at the time doesn't matter now, of course. We didn't even meet until a few months after Insurrection came out, so we've only seen one Star Trek movie at the theatre together.
For what it's worth, there's a much more entertaining version of what that day was like at the beginning of Free Enterprise, a movie every TOS fan should own. Maybe I'll rewatch at least that bit of Free Enterprise tonight, too...
(Now playing: Cocteau Twins, "Fifty-Fifty Clown," Heaven or Las Vegas.)