(written from a Production point of view)
"The Human adventure is just beginning..."
"Ten years ago, a television phenomenon became a part of life, shared in 47 different languages, read in 469 publications, and seen by 1.2 billion people. A common experience remembered around the world. Now Paramount Pictures brings the memory to life."
- - 1979 TV ad
After an eighteen-month refit process, the USS Enterprise is ready to explore the galaxy once again. But when a huge, invincible cloud approaches Earth, Admiral James T. Kirk must assume command of his old ship in order to stop it. Crew members old and new face new challenges, and must work together to triumph over the unknown.
In Klingon space, three Klingon K't'inga-class battle cruisers are patrolling an area and encounter a huge cloud-like anomaly. On the bridge of IKS Amar, the Klingon captain orders his crew to fire torpedoes at it, but they have no effect. The captain immediately orders retreat.
Meanwhile, in Federation space, a listening post, Epsilon IX, picks up a distress signal from one of the Klingon ships. As the three ships are attempting to escape the cloud, a "bolt" of plasma energy emerges and destroys each ship one by one. On Epsilon IX, the crew tracks the course of the cloud. Commander Branch inquires as to its heading. He discovers that it is headed on a precise course for Earth.
On the planet Vulcan, Spock has been undergoing the kolinahr ritual, in which he has been learning how to purge all of his remaining emotions, and is nearly finished with his training. The lead elder tells Spock of how their ancestors had long ago cast out all animal passions on those sands, and says that their race was saved by attaining kolinahr, which another elder describes as the final purging of all emotion. The lead elder tells Spock he has labored long and she prepares to give him a symbol of total logic. She is about to give him a necklace, when Spock reaches out and stops her, clearly disturbed by something out in space. She asks for a mind meld to read his thoughts, to which Spock complies. She discovers that the alien intelligence which has called to him from deep space has stirred his Human half. She drops the necklace and states, "You have not yet achieved kohlinahr.", and then tells the other elders, "His answer lies elsewhere. He will not achieve his goal with us." Then she bids him farewell, telling him to "live long and prosper". Spock picks up the necklace from the ground and holds it in his hand.
Meanwhile, at the Presidio campus of Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, Admiral James T. Kirk arrives in air tram 3. As he steps out, he sees Commander Sonak, a Vulcan science officer who is joining the Enterprise crew and was recommended for the position by Kirk himself. Kirk is bothered as to why Sonak is not on board yet. Sonak explains that Captain Decker, the new captain of the USS Enterprise, wanted him to complete his science briefing at Starfleet Headquarters before departing. The Enterprise has been undergoing a complete refitting for the past eighteen months and is now under final preparations to leave drydock, which would take at least twenty hours, but Kirk informs him that they only have twelve. He tells Sonak to report to him on the Enterprise in one hour – he has a short meeting with Admiral Nogura and is intent on being on the Enterprise at that time.
Following the meeting, Kirk transports to an orbital office complex of the San Francisco Fleet Yards and meets Montgomery Scott, chief engineer of the Enterprise. Scott expresses his concern about the tight departure time. After the two men enter a travel pod and the doors seal shut, Kirk explains that an alien object is less than three days away from Earth, and the Enterprise has been ordered to intercept it because they are the only ship in range. Scott says that the refit, a process that took eighteen months, can't be finished in twelve hours and tries to convince him that the ship needs more work done as well as a proper shakedown. Kirk firmly insists that they are leaving, ready or not, in twelve hours. Scott activates the travel pod's thrusters and they begin the journey over to the drydock in orbit that houses the Enterprise.
Scott tells Kirk that the crew hasn't had near enough transition time with all the new equipment and that the engines haven't even been tested at warp power, not to mention that they have an untried captain in command. Kirk tells Scott that two and a half years as the Chief of Starfleet Operations may have made him a little stale, but that he wouldn't exactly consider himself untried. Kirk then tells a surprised Scott that Starfleet has given him back his command of the Enterprise. Scott comments that he doubts it was so easy with Admiral Nogura, and Kirk tells him he's right. While sharing a laugh with Kirk, Scott remarks, "Any man who can manage such a feat I wouldna dare disappoint. She'll launch on time, sir... and she'll be ready," and gently puts his hand on the admiral's arm. They arrive at the Enterprise held in drydock, and Scott gives Kirk a brief tour of the new exterior of the ship.
Upon docking with the ship and entering the Enterprise's cargo bay, Scott is immediately called to engineering. Kirk takes a turbolift up to the bridge, and upon arrival, is informed by Lieutenant Commander Uhura that Starfleet has just transferred command from Captain Decker over to him, and she, along with several other crewmembers including Sulu and Chekov, step forward excitedly to greet Kirk, who appreciates the welcome but wishes it were under more pleasant circumstances. Kirk asks the crew where Decker is. "He's in, uh, engineering, sir. He, uh... he doesn't know," Sulu says. Kirk makes his way to the new engine room and pauses to look at Enterprise's heart the warp core before taking the lift down to where Captain Decker is busy assisting Scott with launch preparations. After Kirk takes him aside to talk, he becomes visibly upset when the admiral tells him that he is assuming command. Decker will remain on the ship as executive officer and will receive a temporary demotion to commander. As Decker storms off, an alarm sounds. Someone is trying to beam over to the ship, but the transporter is malfunctioning. Cleary informs Scott that there is a red line on the transporter. Kirk and Scott promptly race over to the transporter room. Transporter chief Janice Rand is frantically trying to tell Starfleet to abort the transport, but it is too late. Commander Sonak and a female officer are beaming in, but their bodies aren't re-forming properly in the transporter beam. The female officer screams horrifically, and then their bodies disappear. Starfleet tells them that they have died. With tears beginning to form in his eyes, Kirk tells Starfleet to express his sympathies to their families. He mentions that Sonak's can be reached through the Vulcan embassy. "There was nothing you could have done, Rand," Kirk tells the upset transporter operator, "it wasn't your fault."
In the corridor outside the transporter room, Kirk sees Decker and tells him they will have to replace Commander Sonak. Kirk wants another Vulcan if possible. Decker tells him that no one is available that is familiar with the ship's new design. Kirk tells Decker he will have to double his duties as science officer as well.
In the Enterprise's recreation room, as Kirk briefs the assembled crew on the mission, they receive a transmission from Epsilon IX. Commander Branch tells them they have analyzed the mysterious cloud. It generates an immense amount of energy and measures 82 au (only 2 au in the director's edition) in diameter. Branch also reports that there is a vessel of some kind in the center. They've tried to communicate with it, but there was no response. The lieutenant reports that further scans indicate something inside the cloud, but all scans get reflected back. It seems to think of the scans as hostile and attacks them. Like the Klingon ships earlier, Epsilon IX is destroyed. Ordering Uhura to deactivate the viewer, Kirk informs the crew that the pre-launch countdown will begin in forty minutes and the assembled crew leaves to attend to their duties.
Later on the bridge, Uhura informs Kirk that the transporter has been fully repaired and is functioning properly now. Lieutenant Ilia, the Enterprise's Deltan navigator, arrives. Decker is happy to see her, as they developed a romantic relationship when he was assigned to her home planet several years earlier. Ilia is curious about Decker's reduction in rank and Kirk interrupts and tells her about Decker being the executive and science officer. Decker tells her, with slight sarcasm, that Captain Kirk has the utmost confidence in him. Ilia tells Kirk that her oath of celibacy is on record and asks permission to assume her duties. Uhura tells Kirk that one of the last six crew members to arrive is refusing to beam up. Kirk goes to the transporter room to ensure that the person is beamed up.
When told by a yeoman that the crew member insisted on them beaming up first, "said something about first "seeing how it scrambled our molecules,"" Kirk tells Starfleet to beam the officer aboard. Dr. McCoy, dressed in civilian attire and wearing a thick beard, materializes on the transporter platform. McCoy is angry that his Starfleet commission was reactivated. He realizes that Kirk is responsible for the draft. His attitude changes, however, when Kirk says he desperately needs him. McCoy leaves to check out the new sickbay, grumbling about all the new changes to the Enterprise.
The crew finishes its repairs and the Enterprise leaves drydock and heads into the solar system at impulse.
- "Captain's log, stardate 7412.6. 1.8 hours from launch. In order to intercept the intruder at the earliest possible time, I must now risk engaging warp drive while still within the solar system."
A clean-shaven Dr. McCoy arrives on the bridge and complains that the new sickbay is now nothing but a "damned computer center." Kirk is anxious to intercept the cloud intruder at the earliest possible opportunity, and orders Hikaru Sulu to take the ship to warp speed. Suddenly, the Enterprise enters a wormhole, which was created by an engine imbalance, and is about to collide with an asteroid that has been pulled inside. Kirk orders the Enterprise's phasers to be fired on it, but Decker tells Chekov to fire photon torpedoes instead. With just four seconds to spare before the Enterprise is obliterated, the asteroid and the wormhole are destroyed. Annoyed, Kirk wants to meet with Decker in his quarters. McCoy decides to come along.
Once in Kirk's quarters, Kirk demands an explanation from Decker on why his phaser order was countermanded. Decker pointed out that the redesigned Enterprise now channels the phasers through the main engines and because they were imbalanced, the phasers were automatically cut off. Kirk acknowledged that he had saved the ship – however, he accuses Decker of competing with him. Decker, in his opinion, tells Kirk that, because of his unfamiliarity with the ship's new design, the mission is in serious jeopardy. Kirk sarcastically trusts that Decker will "nursemaid me through these difficulties," and Decker tells the captain that he will gladly help him understand the new design. Kirk then dismisses him from the room. In the corridor, Decker runs into Ilia. Ilia asked if the confrontation was difficult, and he tells her that it was about as difficult as seeing her again, and apologizes. She asked if he was sorry for leaving Delta IV, or for not saying goodbye. He said that if he had seen her again, would she be able to say goodbye? She quietly says "no," and goes to her quarters nearby.
Back in Kirk's quarters, McCoy accuses Kirk of being the one who was competing, and the fact that it was Kirk who used the emergency to pressure Starfleet into letting him get command of the Enterprise. McCoy thinks that Kirk is obsessed with keeping his command. On Kirk's console viewscreen, Uhura informs Kirk that a Starfleet registered shuttlecraft is approaching and that the occupant wishes to dock. Chekov also pipes in and replies that it appears to be a courier vessel, non-belligerency confirmed. Kirk tells Chekov to handle the situation. Turning the viewer off, Kirk asks McCoy is he has anything more to add, to which McCoy quietly states "that depends on you," and leaves Kirk to ponder this, while he stands silently.
The shuttle approaches the Enterprise from behind, and the top portion of it detaches and docks at an airlock just behind the bridge. Chekov is waiting by the airlock doors with a security officer and is surprised to see Spock come aboard. Moments later, Spock arrives on the bridge, and everyone is shocked and pleased to see him, yet Spock ignores them. He moves over to the science station and tells Kirk that he is aware of the crisis and knows about the ship's engine design difficulties.
He offers his services as the science officer. McCoy and Dr. Christine Chapel come to the bridge to greet Spock, but he only looks at them coldly and does not reply to them. Uhura tries to speak to Spock, but he ignores her as well and tells Kirk that with his permission, he will go to engineering and discuss his fuel equations with Scott. As Spock walks into the turbolift, Kirk stops him and welcomes him aboard. But Spock makes no reply and continues into the turbolift. Kirk and McCoy both share a look after Spock leaves the bridge.
- "Captain's log, stardate 7413.4. Thanks to Mr. Spock's timely arrival and assistance, we have the engines rebalanced into full warp capacity. Repair time, less than three hours. Which means we will now be able to intercept intruder while still more than a day away from Earth."
With Spock's assistance, the engines are now rebalanced for full warp capacity. The ship successfully goes to warp to intercept the cloud. In the officers lounge, Spock meets with Kirk and McCoy. They discuss Spock's kolinahr training on Vulcan, and how Spock broke off from his training to join them. Spock describes how he sensed the consciousness of the intruder, from a source more powerful that he has ever encountered, with perfect, logical thought patterns. He believes that it holds the answers he seeks. Uhura tells Kirk over the intercom that they have made visual contact with the intruder.
The cloud scans the ship, but Kirk orders no return scans. Spock determines that the scans are coming from the center of the cloud. Uhura reports that she's transmitting full friendship messages on all frequencies, but there is no response. Decker suggests raising the shields for protection, but Kirk determines that that might be considered hostile to the cloud. Spock analyzes the clouds composition and discovers it has a 12-power energy field, the equivalent of power generated by thousands of starships.
Sitting at the science station, Spock awakens from a brief trance. He reveals to Kirk that the alien was communicating with him. The alien is puzzled – it contacted the Enterprise – why has the Enterprise not replied? Before they can think further, a red alert sounds, and a plasma bolt beam from within the cloud hits the ship and begins to overload the ship's systems. Bolts of lightning surround the warp core and nearly injure some engineering officers, but Chekov was hurt – his hand is badly burned while he was sitting at the weapons station on the bridge. The bolt then finally disappears, and Scott reports deflector power is down seventy percent. A medical team is called to the bridge, and Ilia is able to use her telepathic powers to soothe Chekov's pain.
Spock confirms to Kirk that the alien has been attempting to communicate. It transmits at a frequency of more than one million megahertz, and at such a high rate of speed, the message only lasts a millisecond. Spock programs to computer to send linguacode messages at that frequency and rate of speed. Another energy beam is sent out, but Spock transmits a message just in time, and the beam disappears. Kirk asks for recommendations, and Spock recommends proceeding inside the cloud to investigate, while Decker advises against it, calling the move an "unwarranted gamble." Kirk asks Decker what constitutes "unwarranted" to him, while Decker retorts that Kirk asked his opinion.
Kirk orders that the ship continue on course through the cloud. They pass through many expansive and colorful cloud layers and upon clearing these, a giant vessel is revealed. Kirk asks for an evaluation and Spock reports that the vessel is generating a force field greater than the radiation of Earth's sun. Kirk tells Uhura to transmit an image of the alien to Starfleet, but she explains that any transmission sent out of the cloud is being reflected back to them. Kirk orders Sulu to fly above and along the top of the vessel at a distance of only five hundred meters.
As Enterprise moves in front of the alien vessel and holds position, an alarm sounds, and yet another energy bolt approaches the ship. The crew struggles to shield their eyes from its brilliant glow and their ears from the high-pitched shrieking buzz it lets out. Chekov asks Spock if it is one of the alien's crew, and Spock replies that it is a probe sent from the vessel. The probe slowly moves around the room and stops in front of the science station. Bolts of lightning shoot out from it and surround the console – it is trying to access the ship's computer. Spock manages to smash the controls to prevent further access, and the probe gives him an electric shock that sends him rolling onto the floor. The probe approaches the navigation console and it scans Ilia. Suddenly, she vanishes, along with the probe, and the tricorder she was holding falls to the floor. Decker retrieves the tricorder and angrily exclaims, "This is how I define unwarranted!"
Another alert goes off, reporting helm control has been lost. Spock reports they've been caught by a tractor beam and Kirk orders someone up to take the navigator's station. Decker calls for Chief DiFalco to come up to the bridge as Ilia's replacement. Decker suggests that the ship fires phasers, but Spock, evocatively, asserts that "Any show of resistance would be futile, Captain." The ship travels deep into the next chamber. Decker wonders why they were brought inside – they could have been easily destroyed outside. Spock deduces that the alien is curious about them. Uhura's monitor shows that the aperture is closing – they are now trapped inside. The ship is released from the tractor beam and suddenly, an intruder alert goes off. Someone has come aboard the ship and is in the crew quarters section.
Kirk and Spock arrive inside a crewman's quarters to discover that the intruder is inside the sonic shower. It is revealed to be Ilia, although it isn't really her – there is a small red device attached to her neck. In a mechanized voice, she replies, "You are the Kirk unit, you will assist me." She explains that she has been programmed by an entity called "V'ger" to observe and record the normal functions of the carbon-based units "infesting" the Enterprise. Kirk opens the shower door and "Ilia" steps out, wearing a small white garment that just materialized around her. Dr. McCoy and security officer Ensign Perez enter the room, and Kirk tells McCoy to scan her with a tricorder.
Kirk asks her who V'ger is. She replies, "V'ger is that which programmed me." McCoy tells Kirk that Ilia is a mechanism and Spock confirms she is a probe that assumed Ilia's physical form. Kirk asks where the real Ilia is, and the probe states that "that unit" no longer functions. Kirk also asks why V'ger is traveling to Earth, and the probe answers that it wishes to find the Creator, join with him, and become one with it. Spock suggests that McCoy perform a complete examination of the probe.
In sickbay, the Ilia probe lays on a diagnostic table, its sensors slowly taking readings. All normal body functions, down to the microscopic level, are exactly duplicated by the probe, even eye moisture. Decker arrives and is stunned to see her there. She looks up at him and addresses him as "Decker", rather than "Decker unit," which intrigues Spock. Spock talks with Kirk and Decker in an adjoining room and Spock locks the door. Spock theorizes that the real Ilia's memories and feelings have been duplicated by the probe as well as her body. Decker is angry that the probe killed Ilia, but Kirk convinces him that their only contact with the vessel is through the probe, and they need to use that advantage to find out more about the alien. Suddenly, the probe bursts through the door, and demands that Kirk assist her with her observations. He tells her that Decker will do it with more efficiency. After Decker and the probe leave, Spock expresses concern to Kirk of that being their only source of information.
- "Captain's log, stardate 7414.1: Our best estimates place us some four hours from Earth. No significant progress thus far reviving Ilia memory patterns within the alien probe. This remains our only means of contact with our captor."
Decker and Ilia are seen walking around in the recreation room. He shows her pictures of previous ships that were named Enterprise. Decker has been trying to see if Ilia's memories or emotions can resurface, but to no avail. Kirk and McCoy are observing them covertly on a monitor from his quarters. Decker shows her a game that the crew enjoys playing. She is not interested and states that recreation and enjoyment have no meaning to her programming. At another game, which Ilia enjoyed and nearly always won, they both press one of their hands down onto a table to play it. The table lights up, indicating she won the game, and she gazes into Decker's eyes. This moment of emotion ends suddenly, and she returns to normal. "This device serves no purpose."
"Why does the Enterprise require the presence of carbon units?", she asks. Decker tells her the ship couldn't function without them. She tells him that more information is needed before the crew can be patterned for data storage. Horrified, he asks her what this means. "When my examination is complete, all carbon units will be reduced to data patterns." He tells her that within her are the memory patterns of a certain carbon unit. He convinces her to let him help her revive those patterns so that she can understand their functions better. She allows him to proceed.
Decker, the probe, Dr. McCoy, and Dr. Chapel are in Ilia's quarters. Dr. Chapel gives the probe a decorative headband that Ilia used to wear. Chapel puts it over "Ilia's" head and turns her toward a mirror. Decker asks her if she remembers wearing it on Delta IV. The probe shows another moment of emotion, saying Dr. Chapel's name, and putting her hand on Decker's face, calling him Will. Behind them, McCoy reminds Decker that she is a mechanism. Decker asks "Ilia" to help them make contact with V'ger. She says that she can't, and Decker asks her who the Creator is. She says V'ger does not know. The probe becomes emotionless again and removes the headband.
Spock is now outside the ship in a space suit with an emergency evacuation thruster pack. He begins recording a log entry for Kirk detailing his attempt to contact the alien. He activates a panel on the suit and calculates thruster ignition and acceleration to coincide with the opening of an aperture ahead of him. He hopes to get a better view of the spacecraft interior.
Kirk comes up to the bridge and Uhura tells him that Starfleet signals are growing stronger, indicating they are very close to Earth. Starfleet is monitoring the intruder and notifies Uhura that it is slowing down in its approach. Sulu confirms this and says that lunar beacons show the intruder is entering into Earth orbit. Chekov tells Kirk that airlock 4 has been opened and a thruster suit has been reported missing. Kirk figures out that Spock has done it, and orders Chekov to get Spock back on the ship. He changes his mind, and instead tells Chekov to determine his position.
Spock touches a button on his thruster panel and his thruster engine ignites. He is propelled forward rapidly, and enters the next chamber of the vessel just before the aperture closes behind him. The thruster engine shuts down, and the momentum carries Spock ahead further. He disconnects the thruster pack from his suit and it falls away from him.
Continuing his log entry, Spock sees an image of what he believes to be V'ger's homeworld. He passes through a tunnel filled with crackling plasma energy, possibly a power source intended for a gigantic imaging system. Next, he sees several more images of planets, moons, stars, and galaxies all stored and recorded. Spock theorizes that this may be a visual representation of V'ger's entire journey. "But who or what are we dealing with?", he ponders.
He sees the Epsilon IX station, stored in every detail, and notes to Kirk that he is convinced that all of what he is seeing is V'ger, and that they are inside a living machine. Then he sees a giant image of Lt. Ilia with the sensor on her neck. Spock decides it must have some special meaning, so he attempts to mind meld with it. He is quickly overwhelmed by the multitude of images flooding his mind and falls back unconscious.
Kirk is now in a space suit and has exited the ship. The aperture in front of the Enterprise opens, and Spock's unconscious body floats toward him. Later, Dr. Chapel and Dr. McCoy are examining Spock in sickbay. Dr. McCoy performs scans and determines that Spock endured massive neurological trauma from the mind meld. While he is telling Kirk this, they are interrupted by an incredible sound: Spock, regaining consciousness, is laughing softly, saying he should have known.
Spock describes V'ger as a sentient being, from a planet populated by living machines with unbelievable technology, allowing it access to a truly galactic store of knowledge. Yet for all that, V'ger is barren, with no sense of mystery and no emotions to give meaning to its actions. Spock, seeing the irony when comparing V'Ger to himself, could not help but laugh: V'Ger has, for all intents and purposes, achieved Kolinahr – flawless logic and limitless knowledge – yet doing so has only made it see the gaps in its own understanding. Spock grasps Kirk's hand and tells him, "This simple feeling is beyond V'ger's comprehension. No meaning, no hope. And Jim, no answers. It's asking questions. 'Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?'"
Uhura chimes in and tells Kirk that they are getting a faint signal from Starfleet. The intruder has been on their monitors for a while and the cloud is rapidly dissipating as it approaches. Sulu also comments that the intruder has slowed to sub-warp speed and is only three minutes from Earth orbit. Kirk acknowledges and he, McCoy, and Spock go up to the bridge.
Starfleet sends the Enterprise a tactical report on the intruders position. Uhura tells Kirk that V'ger is transmitting a signal. Decker and "Ilia" come up to the bridge, and she says that V'ger is signaling the Creator. Spock determines that the transmission is a radio signal. Decker tells Kirk that V'ger expects an answer, but Kirk doesn't know the question. Then "Ilia" says that the Creator has not responded. An energy bolt is released from V'ger and positions itself above Earth. Chekov reports that all planetary defense systems have just gone inoperative. Several more bolts are released, and they all split apart to form smaller ones and they assume equidistant positions around the planet.
McCoy notices that the bolts are the same ones that hit the ship earlier, and Spock says that these are hundreds of times more powerful, and from those positions, they can destroy all life on Earth. "Why?", Kirk asks "Ilia." She says that the carbon unit infestation will be removed from the Creator's planet as they are interfering with the Creator's ability to respond and accuses the crew of infesting the Enterprise and interfering in the same manner. Kirk tells "Ilia" that carbon units are a natural function of the Creator's planet and they are living things, not infestations. However "Ilia" says they are not true lifeforms like the Creator. McCoy realizes V'ger must think its creator is a machine. Decker concurs, comparing it to "We all create God in our own image."
Spock compares V'ger to a child and suggests they treat it like one. McCoy retorts that this child is about to wipe out every living thing on Earth. To get "Ilia's" attention, Kirk says that the carbon units know why the Creator hasn't responded. The Ilia probe demands that Kirk "disclose the information." Kirk won't do it until V'ger withdraws all the orbiting devices. In response to this, V'ger cuts off the ship's communications with Starfleet. She tells him again to disclose the information. He refuses, and a plasma energy attack shakes the ship. McCoy tells Spock that the child is having a "tantrum."
Kirk tells the probe that if V'ger destroys the Enterprise, then the information it needs will also be destroyed with it. Ilia says that it is illogical to withhold the required information, and asks him why he won't disclose it. Kirk explains it is because V'ger is going to destroy all life on Earth. "Ilia" says that they have oppressed the Creator, and Kirk makes it clear he will not disclose anything. V'ger needs the information, says "Ilia." Kirk says that V'ger will have to withdraw all the orbiting devices. "Ilia" says that V'ger will comply, if the carbon units give the information.
Spock tells Kirk that V'ger must have a central brain complex. Kirk theorizes that the orbiting devices are controlled from there. Kirk tells "Ilia" that the information can't be disclosed to V'ger's probe, but only to V'ger itself. "Ilia" stares at the viewscreen, and, in response, the aperture opens and drags the ship forward with a tractor beam into the next chamber. Chekov tells Kirk that the energy bolts will reach their final positions and activate in 27 minutes. Kirk calls to Scott on the intercom and tells him to stand by to execute Starfleet Order 2005 – the self-destruct command. A female crewmember, Ross, asks Scott why Kirk ordered self-destruct, and Scott tells her that Kirk hopes that when they explode, so will the intruder.
The countdown is now down to 18 minutes. DiFalco reports that they have traveled 17 kilometers inside the vessel. Kirk goes over to Spock's station and sees that Spock has been crying. "Not for us," Kirk realizes. Spock tells him he is crying for V'ger, and that he weeps for V'ger as he would for a brother. As he was when he came aboard the Enterprise, so is V'ger now – empty, incomplete, and searching. Logic and knowledge are not enough. McCoy realizes Spock has found what he needed, but that V'ger hasn't. Decker wonders what V'ger would need to fulfill itself.
Spock comments that each one of us, at some point in our lives asks, "Why am I here?" "What was I meant to be?" V'ger hopes to touch its Creator and find those answers. DiFalco directs Kirk's attention to the viewscreen. Ahead of them is a structure with a bright light. Sulu reports that forward motion has stopped. Chekov replies that an oxygen/gravity envelope has formed outside of the ship. "Ilia" points to the structure on the screen and identifies it as V'ger. Uhura has located the source of the radio signal and it is straight ahead. A passageway forms outside the ship as Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Decker, and "Ilia" enter a turbolift.
The landing party exits an airlock on the top of the saucer section and walks up the passageway. At the end of the path is a concave structure, and in the center of it is an old NASA probe from three centuries earlier. Kirk tries to rub away the smudges on the nameplate and makes out the letters "V G E R". He continues to rub and discovers that the craft is actually Voyager 6. Kirk recalls the history of the Voyager program – it was designed to collect data and transmit it back to Earth. Decker tells Kirk that Voyager 6 disappeared through a then-called black hole.
Kirk says that it must have emerged on the far side of the galaxy and got caught in the machine planet's gravity. Spock theorizes that the planet's inhabitants found the probe to be one of their own kind – primitive, yet kindred. They discovered the probe's 20th century programming, which was to collect data and return that information to its creator. The machines interpreted that instruction literally and constructed the entire vessel so that Voyager could fulfill its programming. Kirk continues by saying that on its journey back, it amassed so much knowledge that it gained its own consciousness.
"Ilia" tells Kirk that V'ger awaits the information. Kirk calls Uhura on his communicator and tells her to find information on the probe in the ship's computer, specifically the NASA code signal, which will allow the probe to transmit its data. Decker realizes that that is what the probe was signaling – it's ready to transmit everything. Kirk then says that there is no one on Earth who recognizes the old-style signal – the Creator does not answer.
Kirk calls out to V'ger and says that they are the Creator. "Ilia" says that is not logical – carbon units are not true lifeforms. Kirk says they will prove it by allowing V'ger to complete its programming. Uhura calls Kirk on his communicator and tells him she has retrieved the code. Kirk tells her to set the Enterprise transmitter to the appropriate code frequency and to transmit the signal. Decker reads the numerical code on his tricorder and is about to read the final sequence, but V'ger burns out its own antenna leads to prevent reception.
"Ilia" says that the Creator must join with V'ger, and turns toward Decker. McCoy warns Kirk that they only have ten minutes left. Decker figures out that V'ger wanted to bring the Creator here and transmit the code in person. Spock tells Kirk that V'ger's knowledge has reached the limits of the universe and it must evolve. Kirk says that V'ger needs a Human quality in order to evolve. Decker thinks that V'ger joining with the Creator will accomplish that. He then goes over to the damaged circuitry and fixes the wires so he can manually enter the rest of the code through the ground test computer. Kirk tries to stop him, but "Ilia" tosses him aside. Decker tells Kirk that he wants this as much as Kirk wanted the Enterprise.
Suddenly, a bright light forms around Decker's body. "Ilia" moves over to him, and the light encompasses them both as they merge together. Their bodies disappear, and the light expands and begins to consume the area. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy retreat back to the Enterprise. V'ger explodes, leaving the Enterprise above Earth, unharmed. On the bridge, Kirk wonders if they just saw the beginning of a new lifeform, and Spock says yes and that it is possibly the next step in their evolution. McCoy says that it's been a while since he "delivered" a baby and hopes that they got this one off to a good start.
Uhura tells Kirk that Starfleet is requesting the ship's damage and injury reports and vessel status. Kirk reports that there were only two casualties: Lieutenant Ilia and Captain Decker. He quickly corrects his statement and changes their status to "missing." Vessel status is fully operational. Scott comes on the bridge and agrees with Kirk that it's time to give the Enterprise a proper shakedown. When Scott offers to have Spock back on Vulcan in four days, Spock says that's unnecessary, as his task on Vulcan is completed.
Kirk tells Sulu to proceed ahead at warp factor one. When DiFalco asks for a heading, Kirk simply says "Out there, that-away."
With that, the Enterprise flies overhead and engages warp drive on its way to another mission of exploration and discovery.
- The Human adventure is just beginning.
"Sir, it's on a precise heading for Earth."
- - Branch asks an Epsilon crewmember about V'ger's destination
"Admiral, we have just spent eighteen months redesigning and refitting the Enterprise. How in the name of hell do they expect me to have her ready in twelve hours?!"
- - Scott, to Kirk
"Mr. Scott, an alien object of unbelievable destructive power is less than three days away from this planet. The only starship in interception range is the Enterprise. Ready or not, she launches in twelve hours."
- - Kirk
"They gave her back to me, Scotty."
- - Kirk, heading to the refitted Enterprise in a travel pod
"He wanted her back, he got her."
"And Captain Decker? He's been with the ship every minute of her refitting."
"Ensign, the possibilities of our returning from this mission in one piece may have just doubled."
- - Sulu, alien ensign, and Uhura, regarding Kirk replacing Decker as captain of the Enterprise
"I'm replacing you as captain of the Enterprise. You'll stay on as executive officer, temporary grade reduction to commander."
"You personally are assuming command?"
"May I ask why?"
"My experience. Five years out there, dealing with unknowns like this. My familiarity with the Enterprise, this crew."
- - Kirk and Decker, on regaining captaincy of the Enterprise
"Admiral, this is an almost totally new Enterprise. You don't know her a tenth as well as I do."
"That's why you're staying aboard. I'm sorry, Will."
"No, sir. I don't think you're sorry. Not one damn bit. I remember when you recommended me for this command. You told me how envious you were, and how you hoped you'd be given a starship command again. Well, sir, it looks like you found a way."
"Report to the bridge, commander. Immediately."
- - Decker and Kirk, on the new Enterprise
"Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long. Fortunately."
- - Starfleet transporter chief to Kirk, after the transporter malfunction
"Just a moment, captain, sir. I'll explain what happened. Your revered Admiral Nogura invoked a little known, seldom used reserve activation clause! In simpler language, captain, they drafted me!"
- - McCoy to Kirk, on returning to Starfleet
"Why is any object we don't understand always called a thing?"
- - McCoy
"Well, Jim, I hear Chapel's an MD now. Well, I'm gonna need a top nurse, not a doctor who'll argue every little diagnosis with me! And they've probably redesigned the whole sickbay, too! I know engineers. They love to change things!"
- - McCoy, on the new Enterprise
"Thrusters ahead, Mr. Sulu. Take us out!"
- - Kirk ordering the Enterprise out of drydock
"Well, Bones, do the new medical facilities meet with your approval?"
"They do not. It's like working in a damn computer center!"
- - Kirk and McCoy
"No casualties reported, doctor."
"Wrong, Mr. Chekov, there are casualties. My wits! As in, frightened out of, captain, sir!"
- - Chekov and McCoy
"Well, so help me, I'm actually pleased to see you!"
- - Chapel and McCoy, as Spock arrives
"Spock, you haven't changed a bit. You're just as warm and sociable as ever."
"Nor have you, doctor, as your continued predilection for irrelevancy demonstrates."
- - McCoy and Spock
"Will you please sit down!"
- - Kirk to Spock
"Captain, as your exec, it's my duty to point out alternatives."
- - Decker
"Moving into that cloud, at this time, is an unwarranted gamble."
"How do you define unwarranted?"
"You asked my opinion, sir."
- - Decker and Kirk
"Don't interfere with it!"
"Absolutely I will not interfere!"
"No one interfere! It doesn't seem interested in us. Only the ship."
- - Decker, Chekov and Kirk
"It's taking control of the computer!"
"It's running our records! Earth's defenses! Starfleet's strength!"
- - Decker and Kirk
"This is how I define unwarranted!"
- - Decker to Kirk, after V'ger vaporizes Ilia
"I don't want him stopped! I want him to lead me to whatever is out there."
"And if that whatever has taken over his mind...?!"
"Then, he'll still have led me to it, won't he?"
- - Kirk and McCoy, on Spock
"Spock, this child is about to wipe out every living thing on Earth. Now what do you suggest we do? Spank it?"
- - McCoy, on the Ilia probe
"Your child is having a tantrum, Mr. Spock!"
- - McCoy, after Kirk denies V'ger the wanted information
"I weep for V'ger as I would for a brother. As I was when I came aboard, so is V'ger now. Empty. Incomplete. Searching. Logic and knowledge are not enough."
- - Spock, with tears in his eyes
"Each of us, at some time in our life, turns to someone – a father, a brother, a god – and asks: Why am I here? What was I meant to be? V'ger hopes to touch its creator to find its answers."
""Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?"
- - Spock and Kirk
"Capture God...? V'ger's liable to be in for one hell of a disappointment."
- - McCoy, after realizing that V'ger wishes to physically join with its creator
"Jim, I want this! As much as you wanted the Enterprise, I want this!"
- - Decker, before joining up with V'ger
"We witnessed a birth. Possibly a next step in our evolution."
"Well, it's been a long time since I delivered a baby and I hope we got this one off to a good start."
- - Spock and McCoy, on Decker's merger with V'ger
"List them as missing."
- - Kirk to Uhura, on Ilia and Decker
"Out there. Thataway!"
- - DiFalco and Kirk
- This film was the last Star Trek release to occur in the 1970s, and the only live-action one to take place in that decade.
- Grace Lee Whitney (Janice Rand) and Mark Lenard (Klingon captain) are the only actors, besides the original cast, to appear in both this film and the final Star Trek: The Original Series film, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Lenard plays the Klingon captain in The Motion Picture and Ambassador Sarek in The Undiscovered Country, while Whitney plays Janice Rand in both films.
- Likewise, Majel Barrett and Leonard Nimoy are the only original series actors to participate in both this film and the first Star Trek film set in the rebooted timeline, Star Trek. In The Motion Picture, Barrett played Dr. Chapel and in Star Trek she voiced the computer for the alternate Enterprise, while in both films Nimoy portrayed Spock (in the 2009 film he played the Spock of the original "Prime" timeline). However, James Doohan's son Chris also appeared in both this film and the 2009 film. In The Motion Picture he is in the recreation deck scene (with his twin brother Montgomery) when Kirk addresses the entire crew; and in Star Trek he is in the transporter room scenes as an engineering lieutenant commander. Concurrently, Barrett and Nimoy are the only two cast members from the original pilot "The Cage" to appear in this first Star Trek film. Nevertheless, Nimoy is the only actor to portray the same character in both productions, having played Spock in both, whereas Barrett played Number One in the pilot and Dr. Chapel in the film.
- Also, Nimoy is the only actor to participate in both this film and Star Trek Into Darkness. In both films, Nimoy portrayed Spock.
- Bruce Logan was the director of photography for the Klingon scenes. He was scheduled to be the Director of Photography (DP) on "In Thy Image", the un-produced pilot for Star Trek: Phase II, the immediate predecessor television project of the film. Both the plot and script emerged from the un-produced pilot.
- One of the most persistent myths in Star Trek-lore, erroneously propagated in numerous reference works such as Star Trek Movie Memories, Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, to name but a few, is that the 1977 science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind played a decisive key role (besides Star Wars) in the decision to upgrade Phase II to The Motion Picture. Actually, the upgrade decision was already firmly in place for nearly a month before Close Encounters even premiered. It was Star Wars, and Star Wars alone, that had been the prime motivator for the upgrade decision. The reference book Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which contains a contemporary account of the production history but was only released in 2014, confirmed this to be the case (p. 48) Still, in the mind of the studio executives, the phenomenal success of Close Encounters served as the validation of their decision. (see Production history below)
- Fred Phillips saved Leonard Nimoy's ear molds from the Original Series. They were put back into use when the molds being made for the film were damaged.
- Principal photography, the filming of scenes which required the principal cast, began on 7 August 1978 and was finished on 26 January 1979.
- The theme from the TV series is heard three times in the film. Each time it is used, it is for a "captain's log" dictation. The first one is heard just before Kirk engages the Enterprise's first warp test. The second time is when Spock is making his repairs to the warp drive, and the third time is when Kirk and McCoy are watching Decker and the Ilia-probe from Kirk's quarters.
- This film, and the last TOS cast film (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), are the only two that do not use the original series fanfare in the opening credits of the film. That fanfare was not heard at all in the score to this film, and did not make an appearance until Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Jerry Goldsmith did, however, bring the fanfare back for the subsequent Star Trek films he scored.
- According to David Gerrold's The World of Star Trek, a blooper occurred in the scene where Kirk and Spock leave to investigate the intruder alert, William Shatner, as Kirk, tells Stephen Collins as Decker, that he has the bridge and Collins jumped down to the floor, grabbed the command chair and yelled like Daffy Duck, "It's mine! It's mine! At last it's mine! All mine!" which led Shatner to turn around and yell "I take it back!"
- The five previous ships named Enterprise, which Decker shows the Ilia probe in the rec room are, according to Mike Okuda's DVD text commentary, an 18th century frigate, the much decorated World War II carrier, the space shuttle orbiter prototype, an unseen ship which was actually an early Matt Jefferies design for the TV Enterprise and of course, the original configuration of the Enterprise from the original series. Internet rumors from 2001 speculated that the unseen ship might be replaced by the NX-01 Enterprise; however, this did not happen. Christopher L. Bennett's novel Ex Machina establishes (albeit non-canonically) that the image of the NX-01 Enterprise was added after the events of this film. Incidentally, it was Jefferies, who had provided both the historical lineage concept and the artwork upon which the backlit transparencies of the vessels were based, for the Motion Picture's immediate predecessor, Phase II. It has set a tradition that was adhered to in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series and films, as well as in Star Trek: Enterprise. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 94)
- According to an article written by Harlan Ellison (writer of the acclaimed Original Series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever") and published in Starlog in 1980, Gene Roddenberry took Harold Livingston to arbitration with the Writer's Guild of America five times, seeking a screen credit for the film's screenplay. The Writer's Guild apparently sided with Livingston, as Roddenberry never received any credit for the script. However Alan Dean Foster did successfully arbitrate with the Writer's Guild as he had initially received no story credit at all, even though he had written an early draft of the "In Thy Image" script which was rewritten into the TMP script.
- The film was one of only a few Hollywood productions, and also one of the last along with Disney's The Black Hole, that introduces the film with an overture – a practice commonly used for "epic" films. For that purpose, Jerry Goldsmith chose to present the auditory "Ilia's Theme", which he also referred to as a "love theme". The overture runs for approximately three minutes, and is then taken over by the film's concise main theme (which later became famous as TNG's main title) (20th Anniversary Special Edition soundtrack booklet).
- This film marks the first depiction of Earth in the 23rd century. Although a parkland near Christopher Pike's native Mojave was seen in TOS: "The Cage", this was merely an illusion created by the Talosians. Every subsequent film except for Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Beyond has included a scene set on Earth in the future.
- Academy Award-winning film legend Orson Welles provided the narration for many of the film's trailers. Director Robert Wise worked as film editor on Welles' first two films, Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons.
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture was one of the last heavily-marketed, non-animated big studio films with just a G rating, and the only Star Trek film to receive this rating (although in 2001, the director's cut got a PG for sci-fi action and mild language). Ever since, such productions were released with at least a PG rating. (citation needed • edit)
- The Star Trek newspaper comic strip was launched in coordination with this film, four days prior to its premiere. The character of Ilia is inexplicably featured in the first two story arcs, even though they take place after the events of the film.
- The world premiere of the film took place at the K-B MacArthur Theater in Washington, DC on 6 December 1979 as a fund-raising event for the National Space Club. With thousands of Trekkies expected to attend, the event fell somewhat flat as only about three hundred showed up due to bad weather. A black tie affair, it was followed by a reception with all the film's stars and Gene Roddenberry at the Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum, complete with an orchestra playing the Jerry Goldsmith theme (some internet sites incorrectly state it was at the Kennedy Center). The admission price to the reception for non-affiliated guests was a, for the time, hefty US$100. (The Washington Post, 6 December 1979, p. C12; 7 December 1979, pp. C1, C3)
- In the United Kingdom, the film had a gala premiere at the Empire Leicester Square Cinema in London on 15 December 1979. All of the principal cast attended. The Motion Picture was released theatrically on 21 December. At the time, to generate interest in the film, the BBC was re-running the series on television. The Motion Picture enjoyed a three week stint at the top of the UK box office and grossed £4,774,456 overall. 
- Paramount sought and obtained a variety of design patents on some costumes, ships, and props from this film, which directly resulted from Dawn Steel's merchandising fund drive. (see below) They would continue to do so for the next two films, as well as for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- The film was adapted as a novel and as a three-part comic, as well as becoming the third of five official Star Trek productions to be adapted into View-Master reels.
- Several props and costumes from this film were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay, including Walter Koenig's uniform,  William Shatner's uniform,  a bio-monitor,  a beige class-B Starfleet uniform,  a brown class-A uniform belt,  several uniform patches,    a schematic lot of Enterprise deck one's exterior,  and many background uniforms and civilian costumes.   
- In his commentary on the Star Trek DVD, J.J. Abrams (who can be seen in the DVD's gag reel wearing a TMP production jacket) stated that the reveal of the new Enterprise in that film was, as much as possible, intended as an homage to the "amazing" shuttle sequence where Kirk sees the refit Enterprise for the first time.
It is somewhat unclear as to what exact year the first Star Trek film took place. StarTrek.com, Star Trek: Star Charts (p. 39), and the Star Trek Encyclopedia (3rd ed., p. 691) written by Michael Okuda, place The Motion Picture in 2271, stating that it took place 2.5 years after the end of the last five-year mission that in turn took place from 2264 to 2269, according to Okuda.  This was based on Decker's line to Kirk, that the latter had "not logged a single star hour in the last two-and-a-half years," and Kirk's line to Scott, "Well, two and a half years as Chief of Starfleet Operations may have made me a bit stale, but I certainly wouldn't exactly consider myself untried." This indicates a minimum of two-and-a-half years between the time the Enterprise returned to dry dock and the beginning of the first film.
In 2019, StarTrek.com released a timeline video of events in the Star Trek universe, placing The Motion Picture in 2273.  On screen, in VOY: "Q2" (which aired in 2001, after the third edition of the Encyclopedia was published), it is stated that Kirk's five-year ended in 2270, meaning it began a year later, in 2265. This would establish the earliest point at which The Motion Picture could have possibly taken place some time in either 2272 or 2273 (depending at what point in 2270 the ship ended the five-year mission). On the other end of the spectrum, the latest this film could have taken place is in 2278, since the red The Wrath of Khan-style uniforms were in use by some time that year based on TNG: "Cause and Effect". The stardates mentioned in the film cannot be used to accurately date the events, since the four-digit stardates beginning with the digit "7" were used for fifteen years between 2270 and 2284, based on "Bem", "The Ensigns of Command", and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The final TAS episode, TAS: "The Counter-Clock Incident", takes place in 2270, as does the entire second season of the series.
Toward the end of the film, Commander Decker tells Captain Kirk, "NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Jim, this vessel was launched almost three hundred years ago", and given that the Voyager 6 probe would naturally have been launched some time after Voyager 1 and 2, which were launched in 1977, then this would put a lower limit of 2278 on the year of the film's events.
Apocryphally, the dating of the film has been set by Pocket Books to be 2273 in their 2006 chronology Voyages of Imagination. The novel Triangle supports this dating, as it is set after The Motion Picture, and takes place seven years after "Amok Time", in 2274. Also, the novelization of the film written by Gene Roddenberry states that it has been 2.8 years (nine Vulcan seasons) since Spock left the crew. Due to all this obscurity, however, Memory Alpha leaves the exact canonical dating open, and simply dates the film in the 2270s.
Costs and revenues
According to the Guinness Book of Records, when the film was produced, it was the most expensive theatrical feature ever made with a total production cost of US$46 million dollars (or $44 million dollars, according to the reference book Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 75). This proved incorrect however, as Superman: The Movie had an even higher budget at US$54 million, though the producers didn't give the exact figure for some years afterward. This doesn't take inflation into account, however; taking it into account, Cleopatra was, at the time, the most expensive film ever made. And even Cleopatra was arguably surpassed by far by the Soviet-made version of Tolstoy's War and Peace, the 1966 (four-part) film Voyna i mir, reported to have been produced at a for the time staggering US$100 million budget.
The original production budget for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, set at US$15 million, included the costs made for the aborted Star Trek: Phase II series, as well as the earlier false starts in getting a Star Trek film off the ground. (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, pp. 34, 69) The inclusion of these costs is debatable from a business economics point of view, since anywhere else in the corporate world research and development costs of projects that do not come to fruition are usually written off and are commonly charged against the balance sheets of corporations. This is a sound business generally accepted accounting principle (as stated in any business economics text book and where the principles are known under their acronym GAAP's) since it prevents cost price inflation with undue elements, therefore avoiding pollution of their viability assessment, of products that do come to fruition. Still, in the particular case of Phase II, an argument could be made for carrying over production costs already incurred to the Motion Picture, since some of those costs were applicable to the Motion Picture as well, such as those of the sets that were already constructed and the fees for production staff and cast already paid, who continued to work on the film.
This film was pre-sold in the autumn of 1978, while it was still in production, to the ABC TV network for US$15 million – or $10 million, according to performer Walter Koenig. (Starlog, issue 32, p. 58) That fee allowed two airings of the film, the first to run no earlier than December 1982. Its ABC premiere was on 20 February 1983, and its second run was in March 1987 (ABC ran the film a third and final time in the summer of 1989). The television run of the film marks one of the first times that scenes not incorporated into a theatrical cut were reintegrated for the television airing, making the television cut longer than the theatrical cut.
Another revenue guarantee the studio secured was the amount of US$35 million that theater owners committed to, provided the film was released on 7 December 1979 as announced, allowing them to plan for the Christmas season. It was exactly for this reason that the studio could not deviate from the release date, even if they had wanted to, when the visual effects debacle occurred in February 1979, which left the production in dire straits (see below). Barry Diller, then studio head and chief financial overseer of the production, recalled, "Once the theater owners realized that we pulled this scam off on them, none of them liked it. They were all trying to get out of it and we wouldn't let them out of it and we knew, of course, that if we didn't open this picture on December 7, the guarantees would evaporate..." (The Keys to the Kingdom, 2000, Chapter 6) The actual potential financial damage was reportedly even far greater than Diller led to believe, as the studio, in case of non-timely release, not only forfeited the guarantees, but had also to pay out the same amount to the distributors as damages (a not uncommon reciprocal feature for this kind of arrangements), meaning the total financial damage would amount to US$70 million according to Animation and Graphics Artist Leslie Ekker. (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 351) It was more than enough reason to have the release date set in stone.
In the spring of 1979, a second revenue source was additionally tapped long before the film premiered, necessitated by the February visual effects debacle, which had left the studio without cash to finish the film. Charged with creating that stream was recently appointed vice-president of Marketing and Licensing, studio executive Dawn Steel. Then novice studio producer Jerry Bruckheimer recalled, "I was here doing American Gigolo when they were doing Star Trek. The budget was going up, up, up. They needed money to cover the negative. Eisner went to Dawn and said, "I want X amount of guarantees for this merchandising." She went to conventions and got every toy-maker, anyone who made T-shirts and key chains and raised every nickel she could. She shook the trees. There hasn't been that energy vortex in merchandise since she left." Steel however, had a problem since the production was running over schedule by that time, as she clarified, "I was a desperate person. There was no product, because there was no movie to show anyone. So I had to this razzmatazz bit onstage, so I could convince the people making pajamas and toys and Coca-Cola and McDonald's to do the tie-ins. I figured out this laser thing. I beamed myself onto the stage." Held in the largest theater on the Paramount lot, and joined in a similar fashion by the principal cast, the imaginative presentation was met with rambunctious enthusiasm. "It was the most unbelievable party Paramount ever had.", another attending studio producer, Brian Grazer, remembered. As already indicated by Steel, the, at the time, most unlikely corporations to sign up were Coca-Cola and fast-food company McDonald's, "Coca-Cola bought all this network time to advertise our movie. It had never been done before.", Steel enthused. Crudely drawn comic strips (as no other imagery was available) were subsequently featured on the containers of both companies, a legendary one featured on those of McDonald's, featuring Klingons eating hamburgers and drinking Coca-Cola. Often incorrectly credited as McDonalds's very first outing in their "Happy Meal" concept, The Motion Picture was nevertheless their first themed one, coming from December 1979 onward in five boxes with items included such as bracelets, puzzles and the like. McDonald's ran several thirty second television commercials, promoting the Motion Picture Happy Meals, one of them featuring a Klingon, endorsing them in, what was supposed to be, Klingonese. Impressed with her performance, studio COO Michael Eisner promoted Steel the following day to vice-president of productions in features, having been less than six months in the employment of Paramount, and she went on to become one of the first female "Hollywood Moguls" by holding a position as studio head in the then predominantly male-dominated industry. (New York magazine, 29 May 1989, p. 45; Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History, pp. 108-109) The amount thus generated for the studio has never been disclosed, though Steel herself has given a conservative low estimate of at least $250 million dollar in total sales of licensed Star Trek-related merchandise, of which, "depending on the product", 1 to 11 percent were fees for the studio. (Playboy magazine, January 1980, p. 310)
Arguably, Steel not only saved the film, but the entire studio as well with her fund drive. Not only were the US$35 million dollar payable as damages to distributors avoided, but also the loss of the approximately same amount, already sunk in the production. That money had not been Paramount's own, but had been a loan from the obscure investment company Gulf+Western's Charles Bluhdorn bought Paramount Pictures in 1966, the studio was in dire straits, rapidly descending towards bankruptcy. It took nearly seven years to painfully restructure the company and reverse its fortunes, and it was only by the mid-1970s that the studio became profitable again, albeit still somewhat tentatively. It was therefore that the studio still did not yet possess a war-chest large enough, to fully fund their own productions on their own, when The Motion Picture came along. It would not have been the first time that a studio was killed off by an overly ambitious film project, nor would it be the last time; Previously, in 1957, RKO Pictures was terminated as an independent film production company by its owners (some of its remnants absorbed by Paramount and Desilu, as the former RKO property was adjacent to those of both), due to the fact that John Wayne's 1956 epic, The Conquerers, failed to earn back its production budget. And only one year later, the 1980 western, Heaven's Gate, the US$44 million budget box-office disaster, ended United Artists, its remnants absorbed by MGM, though keeping the name as a separate dependent division.. When
Having avoided the fate of Heaven's Gate, the Motion Picture earned US$82,258,456.in its opening weekend at the US box office, a record at the time, and its total domestic gross theatrical revenue was
The total gross was, considering the estimated US$10-$20 million marketing expenditures incurred, reported to be a disappointment for the studio. At first glance, this came as no surprise as Gerrold had noted, when he estimated shortly before its release that the film had to gross two to three times its budget to cover the indirect overhead costs to be profitable for Paramount, meaning it ultimately barely broke even in the home market if at all. (Starlog, issue 30, pp. 37, 63) Yet, a somewhat different spin on the studio's position – already contradicted by their decision to do the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan follow-up film shortly after the premiere – is put, when the additional foreign gross of , the gross world wide rentals of , the ABC pre-sale of $10 – $15 million, the above-mentioned undisclosed licensing fees for associated merchandise and the equally undisclosed home media format sales are taken into account (but discounting revenue streams from home media format re-releases, merchandise and television rights, spawned in later decades, still trickling in to date). These figures were commonly not disclosed to the home public by the Hollywood Studio System, as it was until the mid-1990s customary in the American motion picture industry, to publicly judge the performance of a film solely on how well it did in its home market, discounting other revenue streams which traditionally remained undisclosed. This used to be a conscious strategy policy as it afforded Hollywood studios certain decision-making advantages. If a film did not do well in the home market, it allowed them to curtail future legal, artistic and financial requirements of hitherto successful producers and/or directors for subsequent productions – essentially preventing them becoming too expensive or too difficult to work with – using bad home market performances as negotiation arguments. A particularly notorious, even infamous example of this was the 1995 science fiction film Waterworld of Director/Producer Kevin Costner (and served by Star Trek alumnus Steve Burg as assistant art director), then famed and lauded for his exceptionally successful western Dances with Wolves (produced for US$18 million, it grossed US$424 million in world-wide ticket sales alone). At US$176 million, the most expensive film ever made at the time, Waterworld failed at the home box office and, like Heaven's Gate, it went on to become considered to this date as one of the biggest recorded disasters in motion picture history, severely damaging Costner and thereby diminishing his market value for the time being. What Universal Studios purposely did not disclose at the time however, was that the film did well abroad, particularly in France and Japan, and that the additional revenue streams made the film ultimately break even. But, for Costner and his film, the damage was already done. From the mid-1990's onward, the traditional stance of Hollywood studios has since then become untenable due to the ballooning production costs of major motion picture productions.
Likewise, Paramount Pictures now saw an opportunity to distance themselves from Gene Roddenberry. Ever since the inception the Original Series, Roddenberry was perceived by the studio as a thorn in their side, due to his unbudging character when it came to his Star Trek creation, of which he was over-zealously protective, as well as being stung by his surreptitiously orchestrating the letter writing campaign that for saved the Original Series for a season. At the time, no longer shielded by Herb Solow (who ran interference for Roddenberry and the studio during the first two seasons), it had forced him to remove himself from control of that series' third season. But once the former was gone, so was Roddenberry, and during the production of the Motion Picture Roddenberry again had his share of run-ins with the studio. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp. 371-375) It had been exactly for this reason why the studio had brought in their own producers, Robert Goodwin and Harold Livingston, during the early stages of the production of Phase II in June 1977, with the express intent to keep Roddenberry's perceived eccentricities in check. (Star Trek Movie Memories, 1995, pp. 59-60) The studio now made Roddenberry the sole scapegoat for the (in their eyes) disappointing performance of the film, faulting him for the high production costs due to the visual effect debacle, the incessant script rewrites and creative direction for the "plodding pace". (From Sawdust to Stardust, pp. 240-241) Bumped "upstairs" in a ceremonial figure head function as "Executive Consultant" to the studio's equivalent of the "Bermuda Triangle", Roddenberry was forced out of creative control of the Star Trek franchise. Under the stipulations of his new contract, directors and creative staff could ask for his opinion on the project, but his advice – which he, unsolicited, provided nevertheless for years in the form of a fruitless avalanche of story outlines, script drafts, annotations, memos and the like, particularly for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, none of them really read – was not needed to be taken. As subsequent film production histories showed, none of the subsequent film directors and producers ever bothered to consult with Roddenberry in person or in writing again, his formal "Created by" and "Executive Consultant" credits for them notwithstanding. (Star Trek Movie Memories, pp. 99, et al.) This fate already befell Roddenberry while The Motion Picture was still in production, and the film turned out to be his second and last major theatrical motion picture production.
Implicating Roddenberry in the high production costs, which was only partly justified (see below), was, in hindsight, indeed studio politics by COO Michael Eisner and his studio executive colleagues, adeptly turning a disadvantage into a publicity advantage by carefully managing cost information dissemination. Usually, corporations, regardless in what industry they are operating, are loathe to divulge costs, especially if a product is not doing well, but in this case aggregates were made public around the time the film premiered, already allowing reporter Peter H. Brown to divulge a US$45 million price tag as early as November 1979, even before the film premiered. (Reader magazine, 23 November 1979, p. 7). Roddenberry was indeed largely responsible for the script problems, which did cause production delays and thus over-budget expenditures, but the visual effects debacle situation (see below) was somewhat more nuanced. It was Post-production Supervisor Paul Rabwin who selected Robert Abel & Associates (RA&A), the unfortunate visual effects company. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 202-203) Still, being the primary managerial operations overseer as executive producer, Roddenberry formally did bear final responsibility for Rabwin's actions, which was skillfully exploited by the studio, made easier as Roddenberry lacked the political skills to maintain himself due to his character. During the production of The Motion Picture, it was Director Wise, who had grown weary of the constant script delays, who skillfully maneuvered Roddenberry out of creative control in October 1978. (Star Trek Movie Memories, 1995, pp. 107-110) Only once afterwards, in 1987, was Roddenberry ever allowed back in the driver's seat for the development for a new Star Trek production, Star Trek: The Next Generation, only to have it yanked out from under him again upon the conclusion of its second season, when the series turned out to be viable and was turned over to the studio's watchdog, Rick Berman. David Gerrold, reaffirming that the studio still blamed Roddenberry for the perceived The Motion Picture failure, stated when he was pulled from the series, "Gene didn't like Rick, at all. But Rick was installed on the show by the studio as a way to keep a control on the show... to keep the budgets in line, make sure that the scripts were done. Ultimately, Berman ended up in control rather than Maizlish [note: Roddenberry's lawyer, who tried to establish creative control of the new show for his client] because Berman played the politics of the studio more effectively.", indicating that the studio was grooming Berman and had never considered Roddenberry to continue in the first place.  The studio politics, effectively deflecting any costs responsibility from themselves and Director Wise, worked like a charm; for the remainder of his life, the US$45 million Motion Picture price tag stuck to Roddenberry's name like glue.
Yet, not everyone bought into the studio line, as Roddenberry had never been without staunch supporters of his own, like the author couple Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, who have bluntly stated in their reference book The Art of Star Trek (p. 156) that, "(T)o be fair, the movie itself cost only $25 million to make. The extra $20 million or so represented all the cost Paramount had occurred over the years on all the other STAR TREK projects that were not made." Considering that their "$25 million" – having taken Rodenberry's 1979 interview statement to that effect at face value (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 653) – were already taken up by the visual effects production and set construction alone (see below), meant that the Reeves-Stevens/Rodenberry assertions should therefore be considered as equally manipulative as those of the studio, albeit at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Concurrently, Director Robert Wise too, bore some of the responsibilities of the high production costs, after he was brought aboard in March 1978 and was given near-carte blanche latitude by the studio. As was his habit for all the films he worked on, Wise stipulated on that occasion that he was to have executive producer rights as well, which the studio granted, in the process curtailing those of Roddenberry. (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 76) Nearly all non-script related production decisions made after March were Wise's and not Roddenberry's, which included, among others, his decision to completely revamp at great cost (see below) the vast majority of the Phase II sets, which he "didn't like very much". Wise's management style as producer did also backfire in regard to the visual effects, and it was Roddenberry, of all people, who sounded the alarm when the situation started to spin out of control (see below). But Wise was never associated by the studio with the high production costs, as he was, consciously or not, and unlike every other of his films, never officially credited as producer and therefore shielded from criticism. It should likewise be noted that Wise in his role as director also should have shared to some extent in the "plodding pace" criticism but, in his defense, in this regard he had by then little choice due to the February visual effects debacle, as he was forced to "start putting our effects into the body of film, one at a time, as they came in from the effects houses". (Star Trek Movie Memories, 1995, pp. 101-102, 122-124)
While the studio has successfully deflected any performance responsibility for the film from itself, there actually was enough blame to go around for them as well, already starting with the upgrade decision proper of 11 November 1977. Business economics generally states that a radical mid-stream course change for any product or project development, especially for one as advanced in development as Phase II was, is bad management decision making. If overriding reasons does make it imperative, huge transition costs, even if carefully managed, are by definition unavoidable. When Robert Wise was approached for the director's position, he recalled, "And when I first came into the film, I was told by Michael and Jeffrey [Katzenberg] that they were out to make a "top-notch picture", and that our budget stood at somewhere between fifteen and eighteen million dollars. They didn't exactly expect we'd be able to actually spend that much(...)" (Star Trek Movie Memories, 1995, p. 87) Essentially speaking for all production staffers, when he was informed of the upgrade decision on 21 November 1977, Phase II Art Director Joe Jennings recalled in 2009, somewhat mellowed, but still aghast, "We were within two weeks of starting the new series, and somebody said, "Wheeew, let's make a motion picture!" Just like it was a whole different thing, you know. They've always thought that about the TV people. We did something, sort of down here and they did things that were sort of up there, that we could not do up here, what they did down there, whatever!" (Star Trek: 45 Years of Designing the Future) Both remarks implied that the upgrade was a "spur-of-the-moment" decision, whereas the somewhat flippant "top-notch picture" annotation by Eisner, additionally indicated that the consequences of their upgrade decision was neither thought through, nor fully understood by the studio.
In the case of RA&A, though Roddenberry was formally responsible for its selection, contract negotiations and the actual contracting are traditionally the purview of the studio, as producers usually have no authority to do so. While studio executives are dependent on their producers for providing accurate production information – studio executives are generally business people, not film or television makers, and they usually have more than one production under their auspices at any given time – this does not discharge them from the responsibility of performing their own due diligence assessments, especially on financial matters, which are their primary responsibility in the first place. With RA&A, as related below, it was abundantly clear that the executives dropped the ball in this regard. On this, RA&A's Visual Effects Designer, Richard Taylor, has later dryly commented, "Well, what I found was fascinating was, that why Robert Abel Studios, which was really doing graphics and television advertising and so forth, was asked to do the effects for this film, because there was no track record there. (...) So, to this day I'd love to know who has made the decision at Paramount to come to us, and say, "We want you to do the effects on this film." (2013 interview for Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise, 2nd ed.) Then RA&A Executive Producer Sherry McKenna, has put it even more succinctly, having bluntly stated, "Paramount didn't check us out..." (New West magazine, 26 March 1979, p. 59)
As an industry professional, Michael Eisner was aware of what the production budgets had been for the two most visually influential science fiction films in the previous ten years, he had in mind for his "top-notch picture", 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, and as indicated at the time by Production Illustrator Andrew Probert, who had stated, "Originally, when Bob Abel was on the project, everybody was extremely hopeful that this would surpass the classic 2001.") and Star Wars (1977), which was approximately $10 million each (Close Encounters of the Third Kind had not yet premiered by the time of the upgrade decision). And when he set the initial film budget at $15 million, he could at first glance have been excused for thinking that this was ample. However, his budget included the costs already incurred for all previous revitalization attempts of the Star Trek live-action franchise, which included, among others, $500,000 for script development and $1 million for the Phase II bridge set alone. (Return to Tomorrow, p. 156; Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, pp. 34, 69; Starlog, issue 27, p. 26) Adding to this other incurred, otherwise undisclosed costs, such as for the other Phase II sets, the studio models (all of which later discarded) and other production staff fees already paid, meant that the amount made available for the actual upgrade was less than the publicized figure of $15 million originally suggested. According to Unit Production Manager Phil Rawlins it was even substantially less, "When Bob Wise took the show over, there were, I believe, close to $5,000,000 worth of false starts. That includes all the versions they didn't do, the small feature, the TV series, the TV movie and all of that." (Return to Tomorrow, p. 112) Furthermore, when inflation adjusted, the production costs of 2001 came to US$18 million in 1977 prices (incidentally, conforming to Eisner's adjusted remark when he approached Wise), all of which pointing at Eisner's original budget being on the meager side to begin with. Eventually, it became known that the total production budget for Close Encounters came to approximately US$19 million, but that film required far fewer visual effects than The Motion Picture ultimately did.
Even with the in hindsight unrealistic original budget of US$15 million dollars, The Motion Picture was still the most complex, ambitious and expensive film project the studio had ever embarked upon in its history, Cecil B. DeMille's (inflation adjusted) 1956 remake of his own 1923 silent film classic The Ten Commandments, being the sole exception. In comparison, all the studio's biggest box-office successes of the mid-1970s, John Travolta's Saturday Night Fever and Grease, as well as Mario Puzo's The Godfather, were "low-budget" productions, none of them exceeding a production budget of US$6 million dollars. Only in the mid-to-late 1980s did production budgets start habitually to balloon exponentially, first in double digits, and subsequently into the triple digits.
In the case of Star Wars, Eisner and company, formed in the "Hollywood Studio System" tradition, failed to grasp that that film was produced under unique and radically different circumstances. Firstly, George Lucas employed an, at the time, virtually unknown and therefore inexpensive, cast (the only two established names, Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness, agreed to perform in the film for token fees); Secondly, Lucas combined within himself the roles of director, producer, as well as story and script development, affording him to maintain production integrity, and ensuring that the production stayed strictly on course creatively. In the case of the Motion Picture these roles were divided over a half dozen people, each of which with his own agenda, resulting in the somewhat unstructured and drifting production history and constituting a classic case of having too many helmsmen at the wheel; thirdly, and most importantly, cost-wise speaking, all effects were produced in-house. Lucas employed in his new Industrial Light & Magic company (then merely a subsidiary department of Lucasfilm, and later to play a significant part in the Star Trek film franchise) a team of young, highly motivated and enthusiastic effects staffers, all sharing Lucas' visionary approach, and each of them willing to work for low wages and putting in huge amounts of unpaid overtime. Thus organized, Lucas was ensured of minimal meddling by the powerful Hollywood Unions. (Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects, Chapter 1) This circumstance was certainly not lost on Phase II/The Motion Picture Production Illustrator Michael Minor, when he already in 1979 emphatically commented, "I love science fiction, but it's proved itself to be costly, damaging in human terms, costly in terms of money and time, and it is just much of a bankroll to bet too often. And the only person who seems to know how to do it right now, forgive me, is George Lucas, because I firmly believe Steven Spielberg hasn't the slightest idea what storytelling is all about. He's proved that rather conclusively." (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 165)
Paramount Pictures could never enjoy these advantages, if only for the fact that they, as a venerable and well-established motion picture industry corporation, were subjected to more stifling Hollywood Union regulation. The circumstance that two Paramount subsidiary companies, the visual effects companies Magicam, Inc. and Future General Corporation (FGC), provided a huge and substantial amount of The Motion Picture work for their mother company did not help at all either. Corporate laws in those territories employing the free market economy system, universally have it that the subsidiary structure of a corporation, if utilized, may not lead to unfair competition advantages in regard to companies not encompassed within a group. This translates in practice that these subsidiaries can not give parent or sister companies undue advantages by offering them services or products at (below-)cost, and are to be treated as independent, outside companies with their own profitability responsibilities. Considered paramount, it is one of the most strictly enforced corporate laws in the Western world, the US, EU, and Australia in particular, where authorities are singularly keen on meeting any perceived transgression with traditionally hefty fines. It was exactly this circumstance Magicam's Vice-President Carey Melcher referred to, when he made the statement on the occasion of his company being reinstated as the primary studio model vendor for the Motion Picture in January 1978, "Even though we were a Paramount company, we had to submit bids just like any outsiders. We were expensive, because we're a[n] union shop, but they knew we could do the work." (Starlog, issue 27, p. 26) For a group as a whole (in this case, Gulf+Western), this has no consequences, as inter-company costs and profits within a group, cancel each other out in the aggregated, or consolidated, profit-and-loss statements, submitted to tax authorities. However, for Paramount Pictures proper, the profits made by Magicam and FGC did turn up on their individual profit-and-loss statement as production costs. While Paramount had done nothing untoward legally, it would have in hindsight behooved them, if they had taken these inter-company profits into account when acquiescing the publication of the aggregate production costs, allowing for a more honest assessment of the performance of The Motion Picture.
As it turned out, the "inter-company" situation only played a part of any substance in the case of the Motion Picture, as it was not applicable in any of the later Star Trek film productions. Until 2005 that was though, when the issue re-emerged in a slightly different format when Gulf+Western's successor Viacom (old) was split into two separate entities – CBS Corporation and (new) Viacom. For Paramount proper it again resulted in very similar adverse circumstances for the profitability performances of their three, 2009-2016, alternate reality films.
The cost-inefficient situation of having "too many helmsmen at the wheel" was not restricted to the highest management echelons alone. When hired, a second, equivalent Art Department, Astra Image Corporation (ASTRA), was allowed to be established by RA&A to operate on par alongside Paramount's own Art Department, resulting in confusing situations with hugely overlapping responsibilities, as Jennings attested to, "We made a camel. It started out to be a horse, but a committee got hold of it. Everyone got into the act on that movie. There was creative pulling back and forth, fumbling around, coming and going of people ad infinitum and ad nauseam. Everyone who worked on the art direction provided too much input to be ignored, so we all got credit, and Hal Michelson, brought in as art director, ended up getting credit as production designer." Jenning's co-worker Mike Minor, was even more vehement in his appraisal, "It was one of the most soiled and shabby chapters of Hollywood history, in terms of how people were treated. The trouble, as always, was that the wrong people were in charge. We're in a business in which the people at the top, who make the decisions, really don't know a damn thing about making pictures. I think we all knew then that we were associated with a bomb. It's too bad the movie happened at all." (Cinefantastique, Vol 12 #5/6, p. 58) The comments of Minor and Jennings notwithstanding, this situation was partly due to the contractual obligations the studio had committed to for the Phase II production. Yet, if anything, studio executives exhibited the ability to learn, and this particular situation was avoided for later film productions where either a single art department was employed, or when multiple ones were, responsibility boundaries were strictly defined with all of them answering to a single studio appointed production designer.
As the previous points already implied, none of the studio executives, Michael Eisner especially, seemed to have a firm grasp of the products of the industry they were actually working for at the time, at least where visual effects heavy projects, which The Motion Picture (as the very first one for Paramount) actually was, were concerned. In the visual effects case, this was exemplified by Eisner's treatment of FGC and his later reaction to the visual effects situation in July 1978. (see below), further indicated by his upping the initial budget to US$18 million within a month. Only in 2000 did Diller concede this to have actually been the case, "We didn't know what these things were, Bob Wise was a lovely man, but he didn't know, either." (The Keys to the Kingdom, 2000, Chapter 6) It was again Mike Minor who had made a scathing observation in this regard at the time, "Why do I think the filming took so long and cost so much? Poor planning. From the beginning, we all said there was never any one in control. The people running all the studios in Hollywood are cost accountants, bankers and idiot sons of advertising executives from New York. They have no idea whatsoever – underline that in italics [sic.] – what moviemaking is about. Since it sold to Gulf&Western, Paramount is no exception. To make room for parking on the Paramount lot, one of these executives had the western lot torn up – the last surving western lot in town. My question, and the question of most art department directors, to these individuals would be, "OK, what happens when Star Trek, Star Wars and the other pictures have had their run and you're back to making westerns? Where are you going to do them? You're going to have to build it again." And westerns will come back. They always come back." Motion picture history has proved Minor right. (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 165)
Three years later, the studio made a big deal out of the fact that The Wrath of Khan, still produced under the auspices of Michael Eisner, was realized under its tight budget of approximately US$11.5 million, which officially (considering the worldwide box-office gross of US$97 million) makes this film the most profitable outing in the entire film franchise, putting Roddenberry in an even worse light. (Cinefantastique, Vol 12 #5/6, p. 52; et al.) This too has to be taken with a grain of salt, as that film made use of many visual, and special effects elements – both commonly responsible for the largest part of a science fiction production budget, as it already had been for the Original Series – previously produced for the Motion Picture, the studio models, props and sets in particular and even including the reuse of entire visual effects sequences, thereby realizing huge savings in effects costs not incurred, known in business economics as "opportunity costs". Common GAAP's have it elsewhere in the corporate world, that these costs should have been charged in proportion against this film and in the same proportion deducted after-the-fact from the Motion Picture – or put more simply, amortized over both productions. As stated above, the studio actually did charge in full all costs made for every single prior revitalization attempt to the Motion Picture, further hinting at information manipulation, an industry phenomenon known as "Hollywood accounting". While Roddenberry was effectively put out to pasture, Eisner went on to become the, up to that point in time, highest paid media executive in history, when he switched over to The Walt Disney Company in 1984, receiving over $40 million in 1988 alone.
The fact that The Motion Picture had been delivered just in time to the theaters, resulted in that both the US$35 million dollar theater guarantees as well as the ABC pre-sale of US$10-$15 million dollar were secured. Add to this that the studio has been able to raise the US$10 million dollar shortfall due to the February visual effects crisis, on its own, meant that the film had already earned back its direct production budget, before even a single second of footage was seen by the public.
Another spin on the studio's position is put when one considered that despite its mixed reception, The Motion Picture was for three decades the best world-wide performing Star Trek film adjusted for inflation, US$422 million in 2014 prices, even outperforming the highly successful films Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek: First Contact (US$284 and $222 million in 2014 prices respectively) when inflation adjusted, and was only to be surpassed in 2009 with the advent of the film set in the alternate reality. And even in absolute dollars, the film still ranked fourth as of 2014.
The most remarkable coda to the whole Motion Picture cost-price "controversy" was provided by the aforementioned obscure production, or investment company Century Associates (who actually fronted Paramount Pictures the funding for The Motion Picture), when their Star Trek films.were submitted to the film website IMDb decades later. A substantially lower production budget of US$35 million (indicating that at least some of the above-mentioned avant-premiere revenue streams were now accounted for) was allowed for in these figures, making the Motion Picture the fourth most profitable outing in the entire Star Trek film franchise as of 2022, incidentally outperforming the three alternate reality ones by far. For a more detailed breakdown of the individual performances in the film franchise, please see
Though Roddenberry was later implicated in the high visual effects over-budget expenditures, Michael Eisner and his studio CEO colleagues could actually be as equally faulted as well, as they, prior to the Phase II project, seriously mishandled the relationship with Paramount's subsidiary effects house, FGC led by Douglas Trumbull, as Trumbull years later bitterly recalled (the studio of course, did not share that information with the public at the time), "Paramount had no vision at all and [was] going through a big management change. The guy [remark: Frank Yablans] that I did the deal with was ousted, and Michael Eisner and Barry Diller came in and they couldn't see what I was trying to do and wanted to get rid of it. I don't know, there's just a whole train of disillusionment that accompanies my history in movies." . Trumbull, one of the effects supervisors for 2001: A Space Odyssey, whose grandeur the studio wanted to emulate for the upgraded film, was actually the first party approached for the film's visual effects, but he had to decline as he and his company were knee-deep involved in the post-production of the science fiction classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the time. (Cinefex, issue 1, pp. 4, 6) How bad the relationship between the two parties already was by that time was exemplified by the fact that Trumbull failed to communicate that the work was close to completion, since Close Encounters already premiered on 16 November 1977, and that the studio immediately went in search for another company, making it debatable how sincere their inquiry was.
As it turned out, both parties were to pay the price for their failure to communicate and Paramount was forced to come yet knocking on Trumbull's door later on during the production, hat in hand. One can only wonder if a little more diplomacy on part of both sides could have prevented the ensuing visual effects debacle. At the time, the studio falsely spun Trumbull's refusal in contemporary press releases as being, "regrettably", unable to meet Trumbull's demand of serving on the film as its director (though having dangled, insincerely however, as they never had for a second considered doing so, the position as a carrot in front of him – like Roddenberry, Trumbull had a "solid" reputation of being too difficult to work with), instead of Wise. (Return to Tomorrow, pp. 42, 46-47, 353)
Robert Abel & Associates
After Douglas Trumbull had turned it down, it was visual effects company Robert Abel & Associates (RA&A), ironically already suggested by Trumbull to Paul Rabwin in late October 1977, that was given the assignment to produce the film's visual effects, having tendered an initial bid of US$1.6 million for a television production, upped to US$4 million, once it became clear that the visuals were intended for a full-fledged theatrical motion picture production, for the commission, accounting for approximately 140-185 effects shots, slated to start in January 1978. (New West magazine, 26 March 1979, p. 60) The company was selected by Rabwin, taking along Mike Minor on the second meeting, on the strength of their groundbreaking contemporary commercials, unaware that the company was at the time not ready to handle a project of this magnitude, while correctly assessing that Paramount's other subsidiary effects house, Magicam, who were to do the effects for the television predecessor, was not either. In Rabwin's defense, many studios were at the time interested in doing science fiction, and he had a hard time finding an available effects studio at all. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 202-203; Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise, 1st ed, p. 46; Return to Tomorrow, p. 42) In the end, they indeed proved unable to provide visual effects that met the producers' requirements.
Before Rabwin was tasked with selecting an effects house, Roddenberry and Phase II director Robert Collins had already made a quick precursory round of the established visual effects houses in mid-October 1977, but found out that visual effects production had been tremendously revolutionized since The Original Series (not in the least due to Trumbull and his colleagues when working on 2001: A Space Odyssey, and not even mentioning what ILM had done on Star Wars) and were unanimously informed that the visual effects they had in mind could not be produced for less than US$9-$10 million. It was mainly for this reason that the studio executives increased the budget from US$8 to $15 million for the upgrade. (Star Trek Movie Memories, p. 83) That the relatively unknown RA&A, which had no track record whatsoever in the motion picture industry for major features, was willing to do the effects for US$4 million, should have raised at least some executive eyebrows. The cat came out of the bag in February 1979 when it became known that Robert Abel was actually aware that he could not do the effects for his initial bid. In December 1977 his company was in financial troubles due to the fact that his acclaimed Levi's commercial had run hugely over-cost (tendered at US$190,000, the commercial ended up costing US$330,000, and measured in thousands instead of millions was proof how small Abel's company actually was in fact) and he needed the Paramount commission for his company's survival. His then Executive Producer Sherry McKenna, who had flat-out stated, "Paramount didn't check us out...", revealed that, presented with an early script draft, an internal analysis for the effects production already revealed that the production of these could not be accomplished for less than US$5.5-$6 million, but Abel, fearing that this amount was too high for Paramount (indicating his lack of experience with major feature productions), decided to take a gamble with his bid as not to lose the account. The shortfall was almost exactly the amount he requested as the first two budget upgrades in the early stages of his company's involvement. McKenna incidentally, left RA&A in late December 1977, when negotiations entered into their final stages, as she did not want to be party to the deception. (New West magazine, 26 March 1979, pp. 59-60)
While pulled from the visual effects production proper, Magicam was retained by RA&A for the construction of the studio models for the film. However, this entailed discarding all the ones made for Phase II, deemed unsuitable to meet big-screen requirements, and starting all over again. (Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise, 1st ed, p. 46)
Inexplicably, both the studio and director Wise failed to register that the departure of Post-production Supervisor Rabwin, who was not succeeded once RA&A was in place, had left a dangerous void in the production, as there was now no dedicated studio liaison and/or specialized supervisor, leaving an unsupervised RA&A pretty much to their own devices for nearly seven months. Apparently, Wise saw no need for one at the time, as he had none on the two science fiction films he worked on before, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and The Andromeda Strain (1971, and on whose strengths he was hired in the first place), instead dealing directly with the effects staffers in his role as producer. On both films he was well served by conscientious effects staffers, especially on the latter one where it was Douglas Trumbull himself who directed the effects and with whom Wise formed a close relationship on that occasion. However, the effects requirements for these two films were in no comparison to the ones needed for the project Wise was now working on, as was indicated by Diller's above quoted "he didn't know, either" statement, and he was forced to rely solely on the, by Roddenberry below quoted, "it sounds reasonable" word of RA&A's namesake. Abel, as it turned out, was concurrently looking out after the interests of his own company, having produced several commercials in Paramount's time and at their expense, as was conceded by RA&A's own Executive Producer for Commercials Jeffry Altshuler. (New West magazine, 26 March 1979, pp. 60, 62)
This situation translated itself in a continuous stream of budget increase requests from RA&A, something that, while no longer his purview, came to the attention of an alarmed Gene Roddenberry and it was he who alerted Michael Eisner to the fact that the visual effects situation was rapidly spinning out of control in a memo dated 24 July 1978, informing him that the visual effects budget had already hit the $5 million dollar mark. Roddenberry, drawing upon the very good experience he had on the Original Series with Edward K. Milkis, advised the studio to appoint liaisons between RA&A and the studio. Eisner immediately responded by appointing Richard Yuricich to the production and concurrently instructing studio executives Jeffrey Katzenberg and Lindsley Parsons, Jr. to spend more of their time on the project, which for both men meant a raise from 20 to 50 percent of their available time. However, in doing so, Eisner exhibited his lack of understanding and empathy as both Katzenberg and Parsons were at the time business managers (not yet a film maker in the former case), and neither had any experience with visual effects whatsoever, whereas, intentionally or not, forcing Yuricich to serve as an unpaid liaison due to contractual obligations, was a particularly uncouth act on the part of Eisner, as an unmotivated Yuricich was co-founder and co-CEO of the by Eisner maligned FGC. Roddenberry, who suggested him, was not aware of the problems between FGC and the studio, and unsurprisingly, Eisner's actions did not do much to remedy the situation. In his memo, Roddenberry predicted, "Indeed, we may not have heard the last of optical expediting expenditures. It is possible we could also have other expenditures in dollars and delays on optical techniques, systems and equipment which do not work out as planned. Major optical effects of this type carry many hazards under the best of circumstances, and the director and myself have an urgent need to make decisions on them from something more than "it sounds reasonable" basis." Roddenberry's prediction was in hindsight painfully accurate. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 203-204; Return to Tomorrow, pp. 25-26, 390)
Regardless of what the shortcomings of RA&A proper were, in one respect Gene Roddenberry did cause the effects budgets to balloon. A still exasperated Richard Taylor later clarified, "They just kept changing the playing field. Then they would get upset when the budget would go up. We'd say, "You just added a whole sequence that wasn't there." The original budget, I believe, was — they came to our studio with was 12 million for the effects, something like that. Initially, what the script was, we probably could have fit it into that, but they kept changing stuff and the budget kept going up and we finally were up to 16 million or 17 and they're going, "Well you guys are out of control!" – and we're going: "Well you're the one who's changing the script. You can't shoot these shots without people, without models."  Roddenberry's incessant rewrites were mainly responsible for the amount of required effects shots to rise from the initially planned and budgeted 140 to over 350, resulting in that RA&A had to ultimately hire over a hundred staffers. (New West magazine, 26 March 1979, p. 60)
The first serious clash between the studio and RA&A occurred around Christmas 1978, when producers and executives, rather belatedly, came by Abel's company for the first time to ascertain the state of affairs regarding the studio model photography. Much to their horror, they found what little model photography was produced was both incomplete and entirely unacceptable. To aggravate matters even further, it was discovered on that occasion that RA&A had, in the studio's time (and at their expense, by using both the studio's equipment and money), continued to produce commercials, as mentioned above. Irate, the studio demanded that the company cease any and all side projects and be given a final budget figure for the effects, which at that point in time stood at US$14 million. Abel brazenly retorted that he needed US$16 million, and a desperate studio did reset the budget at that amount. In order for them to concentrate on the other visuals, RA&A was however entirely pulled from the studio model photography, from here on end completely denied access to them, which for the time being was reverted to FGC cinematographer Bill Millar while Douglas Trumbull was, ironically, concurrently appointed as an unpaid technical consultant in a last ditch effort to regain control over the situation. Trumbull only agreed to do so as a courtesy to his old friend Robert Wise. As it so happened, both Trumbull and Abel were headstrong characters and for the next two months they were locked in vicious combat with each other. Trumbull was ultimately not able to get Abel back on track and the situation proved to be unsalvageable. (New West magazine, 26 March 1979, pp. 60; The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 203; Enterprise Incidents; special edition on the technical side, pp. 38, 42;)
The situation truly came to a head on 20 February 1979, when studio executives and producers came again sizing up the visual effects status at RA&A. Reportedly, the company had only a single completed effects shot to show for all the time and money spent. For decades the exact extent of the damage was mired in lore as sources were not quite in concordance with each other regarding costs incurred, mentioning figures such as US$5 million (by Wise, though he had the July Roddenberry memo in mind, being sent a copy at the time, when recalling the figure decades later), and a budget standing by then at US$16 million as above indicated by RA&A's own Richard Taylor, the latter amount the most mentioned but both already indicating millions of dollars over-budget expenditures by December 1978. Yet in 2000, by then former Paramount CEO Barry Diller, who had been the chief financial overseer on the film, revealed, "The studio poured $11 million into effects, and none of it worked." Feeling thoroughly dismayed at "being lied to", Wise pushed for the removal of Abel and, in an acrimonious atmosphere, the latter was fired and his company released two days later, effective immediately. In a state of near panic, a frantic search for a replacement was started, as the studio now unexpectedly found itself extremely pressured for time since the December premiere date for the film was a given. (The Keys to the Kingdom, 2000, Chapter 6; Star Trek Movie Memories, 1994, pp. 119-120; The Special Effects of Trek, pp. 29, 31; Enterprise Incidents, issue 13, pp. 25-26; Starlog, issue 27, p. 26) As to more detailed specifics in regard to Abel's over-budget expenditures, please refer to the individual entries for:
Wise's "being lied to" feeling was reported to be an understatement as the otherwise levelheaded Wise apparently lost it on that fateful day and erupted in a full-blown rage. As a consequence, Abel threatened to sue the studio over perceived injuries sustained by Robert Wise. Jeffrey Katzenberg, confirming the incident, was hardly perturbed, "That much is true, Abel has said he's going to sue us because of [Wise's] statements. And I say, let him. Problems with special effects have caused various scenes to be reshot, driving up the cost considerably higher." (Reader magazine, 23 November 1979, p. 7) In turn, informed that Abel had sold off some by Paramount paid equipment, studio auditors started a criminal investigation, whether or not this was the case. (New West magazine, 26 March 1979, p. 63) Without much further ado however, both litigations were settled out of court a few months later, amicably according to Katzenberg. (Return to Tomorrow , pp. 348-350).
One RA&A visual effects sequence made it into the film though, that of the wormhole (an early and primitive CGI effect), whereas the V'ger probe on the bridge sequence was very much executed as designed and pre-produced by RA&A.  It earned the company a slightly diminutive "Certain Special Visual Effects Conceived and Designed by" credit, albeit near the bottom of the end credits roll.
Future General Corporation and Apogee
The state of near-panic was exemplified by studio executive Don Simpson, who, realizing that virtually all visual effects footage had to be reproduced from scratch, now wanted to pull the plug entirely. Dawn Steel recalled, "The story goes that Simpson tried to talk Jeffrey out of it, that he said to him, "Star Trek is a nighttime freight train. It's bearing down on you at 200 miles per hour. Get off the f---g track!" He didn't. It wasn't in Jeffrey's nature to get off the track." Steel was subsequently charged by Eisner to find additional cash by organizing the earlier mentioned merchandise and license fund drive, "My job was to merchandise this runaway freight train.", she has added. (New York magazine, 6 September 1993, p. 40)
Trumbull was ultimately given primary responsibility for the film's visual effects in March 1979 through his own visual effects company, FGC. Ironically, RA&A's Con Pederson, who was the second of four visual effects supervisors for 2001 (the others were Tom Howard and Wally Veevers) was one of Robert Abel's lead men. Paramount, stung by Trumbull's initial rejection and already at loggerheads with its headstrong manager as previously touched upon, withholding funding for a new project he had lined up and already in the process of shutting down FGC, now had to headlong reverse their policy, as Trumbull clarified, "I was under contract at Paramount, who began closing down Future General in order to provide my cameras to Bob Abel's company. At the same time, Bob was already a year into the production, trying to implement a radically new computerized and computer graphics driven process."  Getting back the equipment he initially was forced to surrender to RA&A, Trumbull used the problems the studio were in as leverage to secure a proviso that he would be released from his contractual studio obligations if he accepted, as did Yuricich. For the work, Trumbull was able to partly reassemble his team he had on Close Encounters, but was forced to let go by the studio over a year earlier. Both Trumbull and Yuricich left FGC upon completion of the project.
For the reproduction of the visual effects, a new budget of US$10 million was approved. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 204) Coincidentally, this amount corresponded with the amount the cost-price was adjusted downwards as mentioned previously, suggesting that this was the amount Steel had netted the studio with her fund drive as well as corresponding with the minimum cost estimates Roddenberry and Collins were given fourteen months earlier by effects companies in the first place.
The problems with RA&A resulted in that virtually no visual effects were produced by the time Trumbull was brought in definitively, and he found himself particularly pressed for time, as the studio would not delay the planned December release. Trumbull, in turn, was thus forced to sub-contract Apogee, Inc. in order to divide the workload. Apogee was operated by famed cinematographer John Dykstra, a former protégé of Trumbull, who had coached him on the 1972 science fiction cult film Silent Running. Actually, Dykstra had already been approached by Paul Rabwin as one of the VFX companies sought out for the upgrade in October 1977. However, he was at that time still working on his classic Battlestar Galactica commission (during which he had formed his company), and had already committed his company to a follow-up project, the 1980 film Altered States, so he had to decline on that occasion. (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 46-47) Faced with the gargantuan task of recreating all the VFX from scratch for the film at the eleventh hour, Trumbull suggested his former protegé again so as to get a headstart on VFX production, as he scrambled to reassemble his own near-dismantled FGC. At that time, however, Dykstra's Apogee was still working on Altered States and had to again decline—until Altered States fell through only a month later. With no work in the pipeline, Dykstra was able to take on the Star Trek emergency after all, to Trumbull's relief. (Cinefex, issue 2, p. 51; Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 372-374)
Apogee was entrusted with the opening Klingon scene, the digitizing of Epsilon IX station scene, the wormhole mishap sequence, the V'ger approach scenes and the V'ger-probe on the bridge scene. Part of their responsibility was, under the supervision of Grant McCune, having their model shop build a number of studio models for the film, including a two-foot articulated thruster suit puppet, three models of the Epsilon IX station (an entirely original Apogee design), and exterior sections of V'ger, as well as extensively modifying Magicam's D7-class model for it to become the K't'inga-class model. (Cinefex, issue 2, pp. 50-72)
All other effects visuals were the purview of FGC, including those of the interior scenes of V'ger, which required the build of several interior section models. While FGC operated an, at the time, small subsidiary model shop, Entertainment Effects Group (EEG), the sheer amount of models required, necessitated the subcontracting of additional model makers, which came in the form of Gregory Jein and his team. (Cinefex, issue 2, pp. 42-45)
Despite the fact that two effects companies were working full-time on the visuals, Trumbull was still working 24×7 on the visuals one week before the film was about to premiere, the final cut of the film only completed by Wise one day before. (Cinefex, issue 1, p. 4). Not having been able to take a single day off for four months, Trumbull suffered from nervous exhaustion upon the completion of the work and had to be hospitalized for ten days afterwards, his personal price he had to pay for his part in the failure to communicate with the studio two years earlier.
Nearly missing the premiere date due to the visual effects debacle still had consequences, as Wise elaborated upon in the Director's Edition DVD audio commentary track, where he stated that out of the forty films he directed, Star Trek was the only one that never got a sneak preview. According to Wise, the visual effects came in so late, they didn't have time to preview the film to an audience and get some feedback and so they were stuck with just dropping the expensive effects into the film and basically having to rely on them. Wise also mentioned that he literally carried the first print of the film to the premiere and it was loaded into the projectors as they waited in the theater. Then, after the world premiere, he and Gene Roddenberry considered doing some more work on the film, but Paramount overruled them, saying it might show a lack of confidence in the film if they did that. Wise also said that the Director's Edition is a tighter cut and more focused on the characters, within the restrictions of the film's story.
Magicam's refit-Enterprise studio model took over fourteen months, aggravated by mishap delays, to complete from start to finish and came in at a for the time staggering amount of US$150,000. Even more staggering was the cost of the drydock model whose final tally totaled up to US$200,000. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 207, 210) Yet, to put some perspective on the issue, the reference book Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series (p. 75), strongly indicated that the costs already incurred with the construction of their immediate Phase II predecessors, and which were simply discarded after the upgrade from a television production to a motion picture, had to be included.
With nearly five hundred visual effects cuts, it was reportedly the most effects laden motion picture to date. (Cinefex, issue 1, p. 4)
The film marked the first time that Klingonese was heard spoken. The spoken Klingon language was developed by James Doohan, who had expertise with various dialects, after he had a discussion with Gene Roddenberry over lunch. Roddenberry had very recently hired a dialectician from the University of California, Los Angeles to devise some words for the Klingons. Decades later, Doohan remembered, "[Roddenberry] didn't like what [the dialectician] created. I said, 'Well, I'll do it for you after lunch.' I was doing something close to Mongolian." At the time, Doohan told his co-workers, "We have to cut out vowels as much as possible." (Star Trek Monthly issue 80, p. 16) At that time the language as featured, only consisted of a few exclamations, and it took until Star Trek III: The Search for Spock before the language was somewhat beefed out by linguist Marc Okrand.
Concurrently, the film also represented the first time that the Vulcan language was heard spoken out aloud in a coherent matter – a few loose spur-of-the moment incoherently invented exclamations were previously heard in the Original Series episode "Amok Time". Like the first pass on the Klingon language, it was developed for the film by linguist Hartmut Scharfe, but unlike his original Klingon, the Vulcan language did make it unaltered into the film as Associate Producer Jon Povill recalled,
"The Vulcan masters were actually shot and recorded speaking English. Eventually, we decided we didn't like the way it sounded and we didn't like the way it played in English. It was Gene's idea to try and find other words that would synch up to the English mouthing which would not sound anything at all like English, and that's how the Vulcan Language came about. We got this professor from the linguistics department at UCLA, Hartmut Scharfe, and he constructed a Vulcan language for us very well. In fact, I think Hartmut is, in voiceover, one of the Vulcans. When we switched from TV to motion picture, we had decided to make sure that the Klingons weren't speaking English, so we now asked our language expert, Hartmut, to help us construct a Klingon language. Whereas he had given us just what we needed for the Vulcans, his Klingonese didn't sound alien enough. Hartmut is Indian, and he was using it as a combination of Sanskrit and Germanic, it sounded in some ways recognizable, so we were not completely satisfied. Jimmy Doohan has always been good at just kind of making up dialects and languages, so he volunteered his services to help us. After Hartmut had done his thing and worked it all out logically, Jimmy and I just sat down one day and made up stuff. We created the Klingonese by using some of what Hartmut had done and then combining it with our own: we strung together nonsense syllables, basically, totally made up sounds with clicks, and grunts, and hisses. Jimmy actually taught it to Mark Lenard and the others just prior to the shooting of that scene, which didn't take place until many months later." (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 260-261)
Construction Coordinator Gene Kelly has compiled an overview statement on the costs and use of the Motion Picture sets, which was reproduced in The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (p. 95):
- Footage was later discarded
- Footage was later discarded
- All figures rounded off to the nearest thousand
- Figure does not include $85,000 for special lighting
- Figure also includes the tram
While it is stated above that the studio included costs already incurred for previous revitalization attempts of the live-action franchise, Kelly stressed that the costs he listed are those that were exclusively made during the production of The Motion Picture proper, meaning from February 1978 onward. Of the bridge set for example, already nearing completion for the Phase II production, is known that it had already incurred over US$1 million in construction costs by the time the production was upgraded to a theatrical feature. (Starlog, issue 27, p. 26) Kelly's breakdown indicated that eleven of Paramount's thirty-two sound stages were in use for the single Star Trek production during 1978-1979, more than for any other production in Paramount's history up to that point in time. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 94)
Part of the reasons why RA&A's budgets kept rising was that they became involved in set construction as well, which had not been their assignment originally. RA&A's Art Director Richard Taylor, clarifying that this was on the studio's insistence, stated, "There was conflict from the very beginning. And Bob Abel, who was one of the top sales men in the history of film, would go in there, and we'd get involved in more things than we should have ever been. We were initially there to do the models and the model photography, but we got involved with the sets, we got involved with the costumes, and all these other things, we never should have been, and that was a real problem." (2013 interview for Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise, 2nd ed.) This however backfired on the company, when the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) became aware that RA&A started to employ non-union set constructors and started procedures against the company, only adding to the growing friction between the studio and RA&A, as Production Illustrator Andrew Probert noticed when he recalled the toll it took on his art director, "I remember how utterly exasperated he was, every time he returned from meetings at Paramount...mostly with the late Hal Michelson (Production Designer), an absolutely brilliant Art Director who was out of his element, on this, his first Science Fiction production." (New West magazine, 26 March 1979, p. 60; )
This film is the first time that the Klingons were depicted with their cranial ridges, as opposed to the more human-like appearance from The Original Series. However, in this movie, the Klingons all had identical cranial ridge patterns. It would not be until Star Trek III: The Search for Spock that Klingons would have unique cranial ridge patterns. The change in the Klingon's appearance would not be acknowledged in-universe until the Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations."
Voyager aka V'ger
The fictional Voyager 6 probe around which V'ger was built, was actually a full-scale mock-up of the real world Voyager 1 and 2 probes of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL). JPL's director John Casani agreed to loan the model to the studio in October 1977, mere months after the actual Voyager probes were launched in August and September that year. Then Phase II Producer Robert Goodwin reported in a progress memo, dated 21 October 1977, "After your conversation with John Casani at Jet Propulsion Laboratories, JPL has agreed to loan us the mock-up of the Voyager, to be used as part of our set as the interior of the Alien Spaceship. Joe Jennings and Matt Jefferies attended a briefing in JPL last night in the Voyager and Joe Jennings will return there next week with Bud Arbuckle to get measurements so that we can incorporate this large full-scale mock-up into our plans for the set." (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 52) According to the text commentary on the Director's Edition DVD, JPL was willing to go a step further and loan the production an actual engineering duplicate of the Voyager spacecraft, but the studio declined, saying that the risk of the duplicate being damaged on the set was too high.
The V'ger sound effects were performed on the blaster beam – a musical instrument invented by former Star Trek actor Craig Huxley. The sound was created by several strings attached to an eighteen-foot aluminum body and amplified by motorized guitar pickups. The blaster beam effect was later reused in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (during Kirk's battle with Khan in the Mutara Nebula) Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (very briefly, during the theft of the Enterprise from Spacedock) and in Star Trek: First Contact for the spacewalk sequence and Picard's final encounter with the Borg Queen.
|Andrew Probert saucer separation concept art|
|Walk to V'ger concept||...as featured in the film|
Throughout most of the filming of The Motion Picture, a final ending story had yet to be developed. Production Illustrator Andrew Probert provided the producers with his own script suggestions for a visually dramatic conclusion, and storyboarded the key event, and Mego's licensed toy model of the new ship had instructions for separating its saucer from the secondary hull. For the record, the possibility of the original Enterprise's undergoing a saucer separation was first mentioned in the original series episode "The Apple". But it was not until the pilot episode of The Next Generation that the maneuver was finally depicted.
The walk to V'ger
Twenty-two years after The Motion Picture appeared in theaters, the film was re-released with the intention of depicting an improved version, closer to the director's original vision. The Director's Edition added a new sound mix and new scenes to Robert Wise's film, but one of the most notable changes from the original version was the stunning addition of new visual effects, specifically in how the mysterious craft V'ger was revealed. Since the walk to V'ger scene was the climax of the film, it was important to convey a sense of the extraordinary and fantastic by using the new visual effects to complement the original film rather than overwhelm it. Critical opinion is mixed as to whether or not it succeeded. Some fans remained critical of the film and they continue to refer to as "Star Trek: The Motion Sickness", "Star Trek: The Motionless Picture", or "Star Trek: The Slow-Motion Picture", as given to the original cut. (The World of Star Trek)
While strictly speaking the production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture officially spanned the time period of December 1977 through November 1979, its history, as an attempt to bring back Star Trek as a live-action production, stretched as far back as 1967, and as such these attempts were intertwined, especially if one considered the players involved, with some elements originating from those early attempts, the atheist theme in particular, surviving long enough to turn up in edited form in the final production. This was especially true for the Star Trek: Phase II television movie, né series, -project, which directly preceded The Motion Picture, as much of the groundwork for The Motion Picture was laid during the pre-production of that project. Therefore, in order to fully appreciate the efforts that went into the production of The Motion Picture, a full overview of the live-action revitalization history is warranted.
Late 1967 – June 1976: Early revitalization attempts
- Late 1967: Gene Roddenberry, Associate Producer Gregg Peters and Leonard McCoy Performer DeForest Kelley discuss among themselves in the former RKO commissary, the possibility of doing a Star Trek motion picture on a number of occasions, intended as a filler for the production hiatus between the second and third season of the regular Original Series. Being the earliest recorded notion of a motion picture, the idea is nixed however, or as Kelley has put it, "Who would ever think of making a motion picture out of a television show?" As it turns out, the series proper soon finds itself fighting for survival, threatened by cancellation. (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 3, 5)
- 22 June 1972: D.C. Fontana writes in to the fanzine Star-Borne about the possibility of a theatrical film. In her letter she writes, "Paramount...[is] enormously impressed by the quantity (and quality) of fan mail they continue to receive. The possibility seems to be slowly developing of a Star Trek feature movie for theatrical release, aimed at becoming the new Star Trek television pilot...on the network front, NBC still expresses great interest in doing Star Trek in some form. Both NBC and Paramount continue to receive a great deal of mail and have had to assign secretaries for the sole job of answering it."  While it does not lead to a live-action production at the time, the notion does eventually entice NBC to commission Star Trek: The Animated Series.
- 1973: With the help of his former Desilu boss Herbert F. Solow, Gene Roddenberry first approaches Paramount with an idea for a feature film, tentatively called "The Cattlemen". On this occasion, Solow actually repeats his exact same role when he took Roddenberry to NBC to pitch The Original Series back in 1964. The idea is based on the story outline called "A Question of Cannibalism", one of the twenty-five earliest Star Trek story outlines developed in 1964 as back-up for the original pilot episode "The Cage". Then Paramount President, Frank Yablans, envisioning a high-tech space film potentially grossing US$30 million years before Star Wars, is interested. However, very much aware of Roddenberry's Original Series reputation and of his utter failure as producer to control the antics of director Roger Vadim for the 1971 film Pretty Maids All in a Row in particular (which caused the movie to run over-time and over-budget), Yablans emphatically refuses to have him serve as producer, only willing to hire him as writer. Through his attorney Leonard Maizlish, Roddenberry counters with demanding a hitherto near-unprecedented US$100,000 writer's fee, which Yablans dismisses as unacceptable and subsequently trashes the entire proposition. Solow is later told by two Paramount attorneys, "He lost the deal arguing over nickels. Nickels!" (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 2nd ed, pp 420-421)
Despite the failure of the negotiations, Yablans' interest in producing high-tech science fiction is piqued nevertheless and to this end he facilitates and provide the funding for the establishment of two Paramount visual effects subsidiaries, Douglas Trumbull's Future General Corporation (FGC) and Carey Melcher's Magicam, Inc, one year later. Unfortunately, his immediate successors, Barry Diller and Michael Eisener, have zero affinity with science fiction and with visual effects in particular, and try to shut down FGC immediately upon their ascent, which will come back to haunt the production.
- Early Autumn 1974: Entirely independent from Roddenberry, Arthur Barron, Paramount's then chief financial officer (of all people, considering that it was predominantly financial executives who pushed for the cancellation of the Original Series back in 1967) and bypassing Yablans, approaches the highest top executive, Gulf+Western President Charles Bluhdorn, with the idea of turning Star Trek into a movie. Having completely reversed his stance when he acquired Desilu in 1967, Bluhdorn by now has become enamored with Star Trek due to its huge and unexpected success in syndication and has embraced Star Trek as something of a pet project. (The Keys to the Kingdom, Chapter 5)
- October 1974: Bluhdorn instructs freshly-appointed Paramount President Barry Diller (having just replaced Yablans, who was "invited" to leave after failing to show respect for his boss and who, incidentally, had failed to inform Bluhdorn of Roddenberry's prior overtures) to turn the idea into a project. Not particularly interested in doing Star Trek in any format whatsoever and, by any standard, a formidable executive himself, Diller nevertheless does not want to antagonize his new boss and his new-found infatuation with Star Trek by refusing and approaches Roddenberry for the project. However, still smarting over Yablans' rejection the year previously, Roddenberry has somehow become aware of Bluhdorn's interest and, on instigation of his attorney Maizlish, decides to play studio politics by holding out on Diller for the better part of half a year. Diller plays along – for now. (The Keys to the Kingdom, Chapters 2, 5; Return to Tomorrow, pp. 9, 48) Much to his detriment, Roddenberry will later find out that Diller has a long memory and is by no means a man with whom to be trifled.
- 12 March 1975: Roddenberry signs a contract with Paramount to do a Star Trek movie with a US$3 million budget. (Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, p. 62)
- May 1975: Roddenberry returns to the office he occupied during the production of the Original Series and writes a script called The God Thing, start of principal photography projected for the fall of 1975. By then the budget is increased to US$5 million. (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 16; ) William Shatner, who is purely by coincidence at the studio for unrelated business, chances upon Roddenberry and is on the occasion given a beat-for-beat expose on the story outline of The God Thing, which he will later recall in his memoirs. Shatner's own 1989 film, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, would feature very similar atheistic themes akin to The God Thing, angering Roddenberry, who is convinced that Shatner stole his story, also dutifully recorded by Shatner in his memoirs. (Star Trek Movie Memories, 1995, pp. pp. 46-49, 289-291)
- 30 June 1975: First draft of The God Thing script is submitted to the studio by Roddenberry. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 23)
- August 1975: The script for The God Thing is rejected by Diller. (The Lost Series, p. 16)
- September 1975: Roddenberry, now with input from Jon Povill, starts a new story and script outline for a movie, tentatively called "Star Trek II", with a new production start that is moved up to 15 July 1976, again moved up to January 1977 at a later point. (The Making of, p. 25)
- January 1976: The studio toys with the idea to turn "Star Trek II" into a television series and a relieved Diller dumps the property in the lap of the recently appointed (by him) Michael Eisner. Then-television department head Eisner, misinformed by industry peers, at first does not believe in the viability of a science fiction proposition like Star Trek and now wants to cancel the project altogether, yet his colleague Jeffrey Katzenberg, who, as a former Trekkie, is very much aware of the fan convention phenomenon surrounding the Original Series, believes in the potential, and convinces Eisner to push ahead with the development, also being subtly reminded by Diller of their boss' interest in Star Trek. (Decades later, in 2002, Eisner nearly makes the same error in judgment with Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.)  Eisner now commissions new story outlines for which numerous Writers Guild of America authors are approached to turn in story pitches for episodes, including noted science fiction authors like John D.F. Black (producer on the Original Series and writer of its episode "The Naked Time"), Robert Silverberg, the aforementioned Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, and Theodore Sturgeon. (The Lost Series, pp. 16-17)
Ellison, only involved in the production during this period, later recalls on Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show how his and Roddenberry's story ideas are met by Eisner. Idea after idea is rejected, including ones about time-travel, Adam and Eve, dinosaurs (a treatment of Bradbury's classic short story "A Sound of Thunder" and met with Eisner's remark "It's gotta be bigger!"), and one in which the Enterprise finds God—the real one—to which Eisner responds after a brief pause, "Not big enough." (The Making of, p. 25; Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before, pp. 63-64; )
- April 1976: All story outlines are rejected and the property, now rapidly becoming something of a hot potato, is bounced back to the motion picture department of the studio, again the responsibility of a slightly dismayed Diller. (The Making of, p. 25)
July 1976 – May 1977: Star Trek: Planet of the Titans
- April 1976: Gene Roddenberry assumes the producer role for a new Star Trek movie project, Star Trek: Planet of Titans, to be produced in Great Britain. (The Star Trek Compendium, 4th ed., p. 151)
- May 1976: Roddenberry's company Lincoln Enterprises relaunches the first "official" fanzine, Inside Star Trek, now as "Star Trektennial News" and continuing the numbering where the source publication had left off when it ended its first run upon the cancellation of the Original Series. Express intent of the relaunch is to keep fandom abreast of the live-action revitalization attempts, starting with the above mentioned Star Trek II, and engender as much public awareness as possible. This is not entirely a benevolent effort on Roddenberry's part, as the magazine is also as a public platform for self-promotion through numerous interviews, serving as counterbalance to studio policies in regard to his person, and to which end he has assigned his longtime personal assistant, Susan Sackett, to serve as one of the two editors. The publication will run for another thirteen issues over the next three years, regaining its original title along the way and ceasing publication prior to the premiere of The Motion Picture. 
- 22 June 1976: Jon Povill tenders a proposal list of possible directors. The list includes names of later renowned directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas, who at the time are still at the start of their careers. More established names include William Friedkin, George Roy Hill, and Robert Wise. None of the directors are available, though. (The Making of, p. 29)
- 1 July 1976: Jerry Isenberg is appointed executive producer for the project by the studio for the express purpose to keep Roddenberry's eccentricities in check, and it is he who brings in British writers Chris Bryant and Allan Scott for the script treatment, who will start their work in September. Povill is now appointed assistant producer to Isenberg. Though initially appointed as the film's producer, Roddenberry is after the hiring of Philip Kaufman as director shortly afterwards, effectively sidelined on the insistence of Diller, which marks the first time that the Star Trek creator is purposely left out of a production entirely, though Povill keeps him clandestinely abreast of the production by continuously consulting with him. (The Lost Series, p. 17; The Making of, p. 27) Diller, who by no means has forgotten his affront two years earlier, is not done with Roddenberry yet, not by a long shot.
- 6 October 1976: Paramount accepts the script treatment and gives the green light to write the full script. Concurrently a movie budget is set at US$7.5 million. Illustrators Ken Adam and Ralph McQuarrie are subsequently brought in as concept artists. (The Lost Series, p. 17)
- 1 March 1977: The final Planet of the Titans script is submitted by Bryant and Scott. (The Lost Series, p. 19)
- April 1977: The script is rejected by the studio, and Kaufman, hired previously as director, immediately embarks on a rewrite without any input whatsoever from Roddenberry. (The Lost Series, p. 19)
- 8 May 1977: Kaufman's rewrite too, is rejected by the studio and Planet of Titans, by that time budgeted at US$10 million, is permanently cancelled and the property is once again bounced back to Eisner's television department. (The Lost Series, p. 19)
May 1977 – November 1977: Star Trek: Phase II
- 25 May 1977: Star Wars premieres. Considered by the studio as a fluke at first, the ultimately resounding success of this movie plays an important role in a series of decisions by studio executives regarding the Star Trek production. (Star Trek: 45 Years of Designing the Future, et al.)
- Late May 1977: Even before the series is announced, Roddenberry, together with Povill, who has rejoined him as story editor, starts writing the Star Trek II Writer's/Director's Guide, otherwise known as the "Writer's Bible", dubbed after the similar internal document already used for the Original Series. The new guide is actually an updated rewrite of the original. Aside from Roddenberry and Povill, Robert Goodwin and Harold Livingston, upon being hired, make substantial contributions to the guide as well. (The Lost Series, pp. 83-103)
- 10 June 1977: The television series Star Trek: Phase II is officially announced as the flagship for Paramount's newly conceived fourth television network, to be called "Paramount Television Service", by studio President Barry Diller, with a two-hour television movie as the series pilot, reset at a budget of US$3.2 million, and slated for a February 1978 broadcast with principal photography to start on 28 November 1977. Roddenberry is again to serve as the executive producer. Officially, the series was to be called Star Trek II. Eisner continues to be the primary studio overseer of Star Trek, but is reinforced with Jeffrey Katzenberger, who Diller transfers from the marketing department by promoting him to the newly-conceived title for the new web, Head of Programming. (The Keys to the Kingdom, 2000, Chapter 6; The Lost Series, pp. 21-22, 49; The Making of, p. 34)
- June 1977: Robert Goodwin and Harold Livingston are brought in as producers to form the nucleus of the production team, Goodwin as operations manager and Livingston for story and script development. Goodwin fulfills for the production the role Robert Justman had on the Original Series. Actually, Justman has been approached for the position by Roddenberry, but overruled by the studio; he subsequently does not return Justman's calls when the latter reports for work. Justman will later claim that if he had been there, some of the mistakes in the making of the film could have been avoided. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 432) Neither Goodwin or Livingston are either solicited by Roddenberry or even wanted by him, but are brought in by the studio nonetheless, essentially a repetitive move of what Diller had already ordained for Planet of the Titans a year earlier. Diller and Eisner, like their television predecessors, become increasingly alarmed by Roddenberry's reasserting character flaw of stubbornly adhering to storylines he himself (and nobody else) has conceived. Most ironically, Roddenberry is starting to mimic Vadim's behavior, which has caused himself so much trouble six years earlier. Livingston in particular is to serve as a counterbalance to Roddenberry's stubbornness. But while the executives are, for the time being, shielded from his obtuseness, Livingston almost immediately finds himself at loggerheads with Roddenberry, resulting in a continuous series of increasingly vicious battles over story outline and script rewrites and re-rewrites, often performed surreptitiously by Roddenberry. The ongoing creative battle lasts for almost two years and proves to be particularly detrimental to the production, aside from entirely destroying the relationship between the two men. (Star Trek Movie Memories, 1995, pp. 67, et al.)
Subsequently, the senior staff of the art department, responsible for the visual look of the production, is filled. Initially, Original Series veteran Matt Jefferies is offered the position, but he declines tenure, agreeing only to serve on a temporary basis as a technical consultant. In his stead he recommends another veteran, Joe Jennings, his assistant on the second season of the Original Series, and who is appointed art director. Jefferies immediately starts the redesign work of his Original Series creations, the bridge of the Enterprise and the ship itself, whereas Jennings starts design work on the other sets. (The Lost Series, pp. 23-26)
Concurrently that month, Roddenberry's assistant, Susan Sackett, starts her series of "Star Trek Reports" for Starlog magazine, in which she keeps readership appraised about the progress of the Star Trek live-action production, starting in issue 6. The reports run through issue 29, 1979, and are to be the starting point for her book The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the writing she embarks upon directly pursuant to her "Reports" and finished a month before The Motion Picture is completed. She eventually appears in the The Motion Picture recreation deck scene as an Enterprise science division crewmember alongside a multitude of other Star Trek fans.
- July 1977: Hiring of creative production staff continues unabated, and in this month Jenning's art department is beefed out with Set Designer Lew Splittsberger, Graphic Artist Lee Cole, and Assistant Art Director John Cartwright. A noticeable addition to the production staff is another Original Series veteran, William Ware Theiss, reprising his role as costume designer. (The Lost Series, pp. 28-29)
- Late July 1977: Diller's superior, Gulf+Western President Bluhdorn, pulls the plug on Paramount's plans for a fourth television network due to lack of advertiser interest, informed as such by his subordinate Mel Harris. The Phase II project is upheld however, in order not to lose the US$500,000 already incurred in development costs – for all previous revitalization attempts – as well as not to lose several hundreds of thousand more due to "pay-or-play" commitments to contracted cast. Yet, Phase II is now no longer a television series pilot, but a medium-sized stand-alone television movie, reset at a budget of US$8 million. Both Eisner and Katzenberger – who will be reinforced by Lindsley Parsons, Jr. the subsequent month – stay on, now promoted to President, and Vice-President of Production in Features, respectively. (The Lost Series, pp. 34, 69; Return to Tomorrow, pp. 25-26)
- 25 July 1977: Alan Dean Foster is contracted to write the story for the pilot episode of Phase II, with an option to write the teleplay as well. (The Lost Series, p. 31) The bridge set construction is started on this day on Paramount Stage 9, for which yet another Original Series veteran was brought aboard on recommendation of Jefferies, Special Effects Artist Jim Rugg. (The Making of, p. 36)
- 31 July 1977: Alan Dean Foster, with input from Goodwin, submits a story treatment for Phase II, entitled "In Thy Image", which was actually in part based on a story called "Robot's Return" written for Roddenberry's television series Genesis II, which had not been picked up after its pilot episode. (The Lost Series, pp. 31, 33; )
The sentient robot theme does not sit well with some of the highest and more conservative corporate executives for religious as well as scientifically believability reasons, and for over a year they resist the theme. It is for this specific reason that Isaac Asimov is brought in as an additional science consultant later on in the production. Despite his reassurances, and even though that by that time it has been too late to alter the story, their fears are only allayed when Penthouse magazine, of all publications, publishes an interview in their October 1978 issue (incidentally, also featuring a Leonard Nimoy interview) with NASA's director of their Institute of Space Studies, Robert Jastrow, in which he broaches the subject favorably. (Return to Tomorrow, p. 193; Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History, p. 101) This will solicit an acerbic response from Asimov himself, after he had spent weeks trying to do the same to no avail, "There it was in Penthouse, in black and white, so the studio figured, "It must be true, OK, go ahead with your ending." (Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History, p. 101)
- 3 August 1977: Other set construction is started as well; Stage 8 is assigned for the planetary sets, Stage 9 for the Enterprise sets, and Stage 10 as a backup set for what Goodwin calls "swing sets". NASA scientist Jesco von Puttkamer is for the first time mentioned in an internal memo from Goodwin as a technical consultant. Von Puttkamer, a Star Trek fan and later to receive an official credit as "Special Science Advisor", will continue to provide his services well into the production of the Motion Picture. Von Puttkamer is for the production what Harvey P. Lynn had been for the Original Series. (The Making of, pp. 36-37)
- 9 August 1977: Another Original Series veteran, Mike Minor, is interviewed for the position of (Production) Illustrator, and subsequently signed on recommendation by Jennings, who had been Minor's mentor at the start of the latter's career. A few days earlier, Robert McCall was interviewed for the position, but was passed over in favor of Minor. McCall is yet to work on the Star Trek production, nearly two years later. (The Making of, p. 37)
- August 1977: Harold Livingston starts work on the adaptation of the "In Thy Image" treatment into a motion picture screenplay.
- 12 August 1977: The new Star Trek II Writer's/Director's Guide is completed and distributed. (The Making of, p. 39)
- Late August 1977: Robert Collins is hired as director for "In Thy Image". The casting process is started up immediately for which casting directors Pat Harris and Marcia Kleinman, under the auspices of Head of Casting Hoyt Bowers, are the primary responsible staffers. (The Lost Series, pp. 40, 355)
- Early September 1977: Magicam, Inc, a Paramount subsidiary, is contracted for the visual effects of Phase II, including the construction of the studio models. They have outbid Original Series visual effects company Howard Anderson Company, with whom Goodwin was also engaged in detailed negotiations during the previous month. (The Making of, p. 37) In order to alleviate work pressure on Magicam's model shop, headed by Jim Dow, Brick Price Movie Miniatures is subcontracted for the build of the new Enterprise model, based on the redesign by Jefferies, Jennings, and Minor. Price brought along NASA technician Don Loos as its lead model maker. Price also starts the design and construction of props. (Starlog, issue 27, p. 26; The Lost Series, p. 27) Additionally, Magicam subcontracts Gregory Jein for the build of the three-foot D7-class studio model, using the actual Original Series model, on loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, as a template. The Klingon vessel is at the time endowed with the designation Koro-class heavy cruiser. (The Lost Series, p. 64) This was Jein's very first official Star Trek assignment, but not his last by a long shot, as, firstly, he was not done with this production yet, and secondly, he was to provide the franchise with a plethora of models for later Star Trek live-action incarnations. To oversee the effects production, relative newcomer in the motion picture industry, having just turned 30, Paul Rabwin is appointed in the vital role of post-production supervisor. As his title already suggests, he will be responsible for all post-production aspects of the production and his role is comparable to the one Bill Heath, and more specifically Edward K. Milkis, had on the Original Series.
- 12 September 1977: William Shatner is signed to reprise his role as Captain James T. Kirk, after lengthy negotiations that started in July. (The Lost Series, p. 43)
- 26 September 1977: David Gautreaux is cast in the role of Xon. However, his casting becomes somewhat unhinged for a while as Majel Barrett, recast as Christine Chapel, raises some objections. Barrett, unaware that both the series concept and the character of Spock were already dropped, and fearing that the Original Series "unrequited love of Chapel for Spock" plot line will not play well against an actor as young as Gautreux, requests an older actor against whom to play. A new test screening is called with both Gautreux and an older British actor in mid-October, but the older actor's performance is "absolutely abominable" and Gautreux is definitively reaffirmed by the third week of October. (The Lost Series, pp. 53-54)
- 21 October 1977: Livingston turns in his completed screenplay, seventeen days overdue. (The Lost Series, p. 50) However, on this day the decision is internally made by the studio to upgrade Phase II from a television movie to a full-blown theatrical motion picture production. The only people who know of this decision at that moment are Bluhdorn – who ordained the upgrade that day from high above, quite literally as lore would have it, since he was reportedly inflight aboard a plane when he made the downstairs call by radio (The Toys That Made Us) – , Diller, Eisner, Katzenberg, Roddenberry, Livingston, Collins, Goodwin, von Puttkamer, and David Gautreaux, who happens to come by to sign his contract, becoming the first cast member to be aware of the upgrade decision. Roddenberry and Collins are subsequently sent on a fact-finding mission to the established visual effects houses, but return with the sobering report that the visual effects the studio executives have in mind for the upgrade cannot be produced for less than US$9-$10 million. First contacts laid with visual effects company Robert Abel & Associates (RA&A). (Movie Memories, pp. 77-78, 83; Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 8, p. 27; Return to Tomorrow, p. 42)
- 22 October 1977: In a lengthy expose to hundreds of Star Trek fan clubs, Gene Roddenberry publicly announces what was already known for quite some time in production circles, that Leonard Nimoy will not reprise his role as Spock, finally confirming the rumors that have abounded for months. Negotiations with Nimoy had actually already been conducted since the 1975 The God Thing project, but by July it has become abundantly clear that Nimoy emphatically declined the rigors of a weekly television show. It is for this reason that the Xon and Commander Decker characters, dividing between them the part Spock played on the Original Series, are conceived for the new series. (The Making of, p. 39)
- 27 October 1977: Persis Khambatta and an unidentified actress hold their screen tests for the part of Ilia. Neither actress require their heads shaven yet on this occasion; instead they wear bald caps. Khambatta is the one who is signed the following day. (The Lost Series, p. 54)
- 7 November 1977: Gene Roddenberry completes a second draft rewrite of Harold Livingston's original first draft. The script mostly follows Harold Livingston's original draft, although several action scenes were removed and replaced with character moments and scenes of future Earth. This draft also has the first scene of Decker merging with V'Ger, although Ilia survives the adventure. (Star Trek II: In Thy Image, Second Draft) Michael Eisner reads both drafts and concludes the second draft is a step back. Robert Collins attempts to "blend" the scripts together in December, but also fails to get the script accepted. (The Lost Series, p. 60)
- 11 November 1977: The upgrade decision is made formal for the upper echelons by the studio, and the budget, mainly due to Roddenberry's fact-finding mission, is initially set at US$15 million by studio CEO Michael Eisner, but is by March 1978 already upped to US$18 million. Katzenberg and Parsons are reinforced with colleague Don Simpson. (The Making of, pp. 47, 85; The Lost Series, pp. 69, 75)
- 16 November 1977: Close Encounters of the Third Kind premieres and is attended by several people involved with the Star Trek production. In their minds, the impressive visual effects by FGC strongly reinforces the upgrade decision made by the executives and producers. Michael Eisner, conveniently forgetting that he had wanted to liquidate FGC and withdraw from science fiction entirely less than two years prior, is reported to have shouted, while raising his hands toward the screen, "Jesus Christ, this could have been us!!!" Over the next couple of days, Gene Roddenberry and Robert Collins screen this, as well as the Star Wars movie, several times over to get a feel of what they want their movie to look like. (Movie Memories, pp. 78, 83) The phenomenal of Close Encounters, produced at US$19 million and grossing US$303 million worldwide, further reinforces the validity of the upgrade decision in the mind of the studio executives. At the same time however, it will also become one of the sources of their chagrin over the performance of The Motion Picture later on.
- 21 November 1977: The executive upgrade decision is disseminated through the lower production echelons, and production on Phase II is suspended in order to ascertain the requirements for a motion picture production, save for the construction of the studio models. The start on the new production is moved up to March or April 1978 in order to make the necessary upgrade changes to scripts, sets, wardrobes, production assets, etc. Production crew such as make-up artists, hair dressers, cameramen, stand-in performers, set dressers, and the like, just hired that week, are immediately fired. Veterans Matt Jefferies and Jim Rugg by that time had already left the production earlier that month, the former to return to his regular job. (The Making of, p. 47; Return to Tomorrow, p. 46)
December 1977 – December 1979: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- 1 December 1977: Post-production Supervisor Paul Rabwin, together with Roddenberry and Director Collins, inspect the studio models to see if they hold up in big-screen resolution. With them are Robert Abel and Richard Taylor of RA&A to help them out with the analysis. Both men realize they do not. After Rabwin submits a findings memo five days later, construction on the models is now halted too. (The Lost Series, pp. 69, 72)
- December 1977: Writers are still blissfully unaware of the upgrade and episode scripts keep pouring in right until January. Povill, Livingston, and Roddenberry (who publicly keeps up the ruse in Star Trektennial News magazine, issue 24 of November/December) intentionally keep them in the dark by continuing to annotate their work. However, gossip columnist Rona Barrett does blow the whistle in her Rona Barret's Hollywood December issue tabloid, with her largely correct report that Phase II has been halted and that Roddenberry is offered an opportunity to make a theatrical movie. The studio goes on record vehemently denying the supposition, only willing to concede that the premiere has been postponed from February to Autumn 1978, and that the projected series is expanded from thirteen to between fifteen and twenty-two episodes. (The Lost Series, p. 67)
- 12 December 1977: Rabwin also inspects the sets and deems them salvageable, albeit with additional upgrading and detailing. To this end he has Director Collins and Cameraman Bruce Logan start shooting test footage and lens tests of the sets on this date, (including, among others, the engineering set), but now with anamorphic lenses, required for wide-screen movies, to get a feel of how these sets will translate on theater screens. Shooting of this test footage continues throughout this and the subsequent week. (The Lost Series, pp. 67, 73, color inset)
- 30 December 1977: Due to ever-increasing creative differences with Roddenberry, causing the relationship between the two men to sour considerably, Producer Harold Livingston decides to leave the Star Trek production after turning in his last report, effective immediately. (The Lost Series, p. 73) With RA&A set for the visual effects, Paul Rabwin too has left the production to pursue other ventures.
- Early January 1978: RA&A, who have tendered a bid of US$4 million, is signed for the visual effects for what is now Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Its namesake, Robert Abel, is the main responsible effects producer/director, whereas Taylor will serve as effects designer.  Brick Price Movie Miniatures is released from the production (Jein had already left after completion of his one assignment). It is now definitively decided to discard all the, in various states of completion, Phase II models and start all over again, with RA&A being responsible for the necessary redesigns. To this end Robert Abel establishes a subsidiary art department company, ASTRA, responsible for all art work and design. Aside from his visual effects duties, Richard Taylor is to serve as its Art Director, working on par with Paramount's Art Department, headed by Jennings. Magicam, released from the visual effects production, is retained as a studio model shop only, and it is they who are to build the models. From the start, there is strife and conflict between the two art departments as ASTRA is perceived, by Jennings and Minor in particular, as performing a power-grab by aggressively trying to assert total creative control over the entire concept production. (The Making of, p. 202; Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise, 1st ed, p. 46; Return to Tomorrow, pp. 71-72)
- 5 January 1978: In a budget allocation memo, Goodwin allows for a salary allotment for Leonard Nimoy as Spock, indicating that the production staff at least now considers Spock as instrumental for the new movie. Studio executives though, for reasons mentioned below, still hold out. (The Lost Series, p. 65)
- Early February 1978: While awaiting the redesigns, Magicam, upon receipt of Taylor's blueprints, specifying the new movie dimensions, starts model construction with the build of the new Klingon battle cruiser studio model. The early start is facilitated by the fact that the basic design of the model is to remain unchanged. Magicam's Chris Ross is appointed lead modeler on the construction. (American Cinematographer, February 1980, p. 153)
- February 1978: Life returns to the abandoned and near-complete bridge set on Stage 9, as RA&A shoots test footage in order to ascertain visual effects requirements, with extras still clad in Original Series/Phase II uniforms. To this end, an internal document, "Enterprise" Flight Manual, intended to instruct the stage effects technicians on wiring up all of the work station's control panel backlits, working switches and indicator lights as well as giving performers basic button-pushing lessons, is distributed among the various departments that month, prior to shooting. The manual was a few months later updated to reflect the design changes that were implemented after April. (The Lost Series, pp. 78, 104-108) A fourth draft the of script is completed. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Revised Draft)
- Late February 1978: Even though redesign work has just started up, construction is started on the new "hero model", the refit Enterprise as well. This early start is made possible due to the fact that Roddenberry emphatically vetoes any notion of the radical redesign Taylor has in mind, ordaining that the lines as set by Jefferies are to be observed. Magicam's Chris Crump, is appointed lead modeler on the build. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 8, p. 85; Starlog, issue 27, p. 29) Nevertheless, due to the fact that redesigned elements are continuously added, at first by Taylor and Probert and subsequently by Douglas Trumbull, the model will not be completed for another fourteen months. (The Making of, p. 207)
- Early March 1978: After negotiations that lasted for two months, Robert Wise is signed on as director and producer. He was already suggested by Jon Povill as one of the possible directors to direct Planet of the Titans back in 1976. Wise's unwillingness to share producer credit with "that kid in jeans", causes Robert Goodwin (who was thirty at the time) to leave the production in disgust. Phase II director, Robert Collins, too is released from the production. Povill is officially promoted from story editor to associate producer. As it will turn out, Wise is only to officially receive a director's credit, and not one as producer. That credit is reserved for Roddenberry only, even though his influence is considerably curtailed by the studio, after Wise comes aboard, who essentially takes over as the primary overseer of the production. However, thoroughly fed up with ASTRA and their attempts to grab total power, Art Director Joe Jennings quits the production in disgust, leaving the Paramount art department without a head. (The Lost Series, p. 76; Return to Tomorrow, pp. 71-72)
- March 1978: One of the first things Wise does is replace William Theiss, considering his costume designs sub-par, calling them "pajamas". Wise brings Robert Fletcher aboard as the new costume designer. (Movie Memories, p. 102; The Lost Series, p. 62) Wise also brings along his regular production illustrator of many years, Maurice Zuberano, who is primarily tasked with the re-imagining of what is to become V'ger. (The Making of, pp. 81-82)
Yet, as far as the Star Trek fan base is concerned, Wise's most important contribution this month is to bring back Leonard Nimoy as Spock. Wise, who in turn is enticed by his wife Millicent and her father, ardent Trekkies (which Wise himself is not) to do so, only accepts the assignment on the condition that Spock is brought back. Aside from the officially given reason that Nimoy does not want to commit to the rigors of a weekly show, there is an unofficial reason as well; Nimoy has, since the end of the Original Series, been involved in a conflict with the studio over residual amenities of the use of his likeness on merchandise, for which neither he, nor any of his co-stars, ever received any financial compensation in the form of royalties. Up to that point the studio has steadfastly refused to give in, with Michael Eisner at first still not convinced of the necessity for the Spock character. "Who gives a fuck what this guy with the ears does? Just make the movie! Who could understand why anyone cared about Star Trek? We would watch the TV episodes – they were the dumbest things you ever saw.", Eisner exclaims to Wise. (The Keys to the Kingdom, Chapter 6) But now, on Wise's insistence, the studio caves and the conflict, which had dragged on for a decade, is resolved within a week with a "check for a reportedly substantial figure", and Nimoy is signed on. It is Jeffrey Katzenberg, running interference for the studio and Nimoy, who is instrumental in both convincing Eisner and resolving the conflict. The deal is advantageous for Shatner as well, since he and Nimoy had years earlier, during The Original Series, entered into a mutual "favored-nation clause" covenant, which stipulated that, simply put, what the one got so did the other, and the compensation they receive, charged against the movie, adds yet another undue element to its cost. (Movie Memories, pp. 86-94, 244)
Millicent was rewarded for her input with a cameo as one of the Enterprise crewmembers gathered for the briefing scene on the recreation deck of the refit Enterprise, where she appeared alongside a multitude of other Star Trek fans. Wise's only child, son Rob Wise, will also serve on the movie as assistant cameramen, as is his nephew, Doug Wise, as assistant director. An important change this month is Wise's addition of Richard H. Kline as director of photography, responsible for the principal photography. Kline thereby replaces Bruce Logan as such, who is made the main responsible cinematographer for the second-unit photography. (The Making of, pp. 79, 186)
- 25 March 1978: The royalties conflict now resolved (when Nimoy received the settlement check the previous day), a long, first time meeting is held at his house with Katzenberg, Roddenberry (with whom Nimoy has a by now very strained relationship, due to the fact that Roddenberry had refused to side with Nimoy on the royalties conflict), and Wise to discuss the script. Nimoy expresses trepidations for his character, as the script does not yet allow for the Spock character, and is not reassured with Roddenberry's ideas for the character. Ultimately though, Nimoy decides to put his trust in Wise, not Roddenberry, when he decides over the weekend to commit to the movie, also realizing that if he declined that he has to answer for the rest of his life questions with remarks like "I didn't like the script", "I hated Gene", or "I was angry at the studio". (Movie Memories, pp. 91-94) His trust in Wise will prove to be justified, as Wise later on in the production, bypassing Roddenberry, arranges to have both him and Shatner be given script input.
- 27 March 1978: Leonard Nimoy is finally signed for the movie. (Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History, p. 101) As soon as he is confirmed, a frantic series of yet another round of rewrites is started to get the Spock character into the movie. This however, has ramifications for the Xon character, as he is now dropped as a principal character, and indeed, even the Decker character, which is not yet cast, is in doubt. Struck definitively during the summer months as a principal character, for which he will receive US$35,000 in September as play-or-pay compensation, Gautreaux is offered the consolation role of Commander Branch. (The Lost Series, p. 77; Movie Memories, pp. 111-112)
- 28 March 1978: Star Trek: The Motion Picture is announced to the public at Paramount Pictures in the largest press conference held since Cecil B. DeMille's announcement of his 1923 silent movie, The Ten Commandments. (The Making of, pp. 50-51)
- Late March 1978: Harold "Hal" Michelson is brought in by Director Wise as production designer, to fill the place vacated by Joe Jennings as head of the art department. Michelson is responsible to perform redesigns on the Phase II sets in their various states of completion for their motion picture use. Unlike Jennings, most of the art department staff has stayed on, including the equally critical Minor. A new staff member is Production Illustrator Rick Sternbach, a future Star Trek alumnus, while remaining uncredited for The Motion Picture. (The Making of, pp. 85, 87)
- 1 April 1978: A noticeable addition to ASTRA on this date is future Star Trek alumnus, Andrew Probert, who is to assist Taylor with the redesign work as production illustrator, most notably that of the Phase II Enterprise. He is brought in on recommendation of his former mentor Ralph McQuarrie, who was originally approached for the position, but who had to decline due to the fact that he has already committed to the second Star Wars installment. (Return to Tomorrow, p. 65)
- April 1978: Forced by the studio to dine on ashes, Gene Roddenberry begs Livingston to return as script development has hit a brick wall. Livingston only agrees to do so after a meeting with Wise and additionally secured guarantees from studio executives Michael Eisner and Jefferey Katzenberg, specifying his own working conditions and that he is to have as little as possible to do with Roddenberry. (The Lost Series, p. 76)
- May 1978: RA&A, feeling compelled to do so by ever-increasing studio demands, ups their original bid for the visual effects with US$750,000, the first raise of many. (The Making of, p. 203)
- 17 May 1978: Another draft of the script is released, titled Star Trek: The Motion Picture likely written by Dennis Clark. The script comes with a preface (possibly by Harold Livingston) saying that the script will have more extensive rewrites coming, but that the sets and action will mostly stay the same. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Revised Draft)
- Mid-July 1978: Brick Price Movie Miniatures, previously released from the Star Trek production, is now signed for (mostly) hand-held prop manufacturing, three weeks before the start of principal photography, though they were never to receive an official credit for it. (Starlog, issue 20, p. 71) Officially contracted until January 1979, and employing twenty staffers at the height of the company's involvement, their stay becomes extended well into October with a reduced staff, as a result of all the tumult surrounding the production. (Return to Tomorrow, pp. 223 & 319) The Klingon D7-class model is the first studio model completed and delivered for filming. Test footage is shot of the model, but Taylor decides that the model needs additional detailing and reverts the model back to Magicam/ASTRA for rework. (Starlog, issue 27, p. 29; American Cinematographer, February 1980, p. 179)
- 19 July 1978: Shooting script.
- 24 July 1978: In a memo, Roddenberry informs the studio that RA&A has made an additional US$220,700 request for the visual effects. Sensing that problems are brewing, Roddenberry advises the studio to appoint liaisons between RA&A and the studio. Michael Eisner immediately responds by appointing Richard Yuricich (as of yet unpaid) to the production and concurrently instructing studio executives Katzenberg and Lindsey Parsons, Jr. to spend more of their time on the project. On the recommendation of Yuricich, several former Close Encounter visual effects staffers, including effects cameraman Dave Stewart, are brought in to reinforce RA&A's team. (The Making of, pp. 203-204; Return to Tomorrow, p. 174)
- 25 July 1978: After nearly a full year, the role of Captain Decker is still to be filled when a final round of cast interviews is held. The continuous script rewrites, resulting in perpetual changes in the characterization of Decker – even going as far as considering whether or not the character is needed at all for the movie – are in no small measure contributing to the arduous process of filling the role. Nine actors are interviewed this day; aside from Stephen Collins, Andrew Robinson is also interviewed for the role. (The Making of, p. 104)
- 26 July 1978: Make-up artist Fred Phillips shaves Persis Khambatta's head in preparation for her role. (The Making of, p. 6) The act is recorded and later included in the documentary The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and in the special feature "A Bold New Enterprise" on the 2001 Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition) DVD release.
- 1 August 1978: Stephen Collins is signed for the role of Decker. Decker is the final primary character to be cast. (The Making of, p. 6)
- 7 August 1978: Principal photography begins with Scene 64 featuring Sulu and Chekov and taking place on the bridge set on Stage 9, where the camera pans the set, right before Admiral Kirk's arrival, is the first scene filmed. William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols are on hand to shoot their respective Kirk and Uhura scenes later that day. The cast find their new Starfleet uniforms, newly designed by Robert Fletcher, uncomfortable to wear and generally dislike them. Heeding the performers' complaints, Fletcher will completely redesign the uniforms for the subsequent movie outings. Due to fatigue, a close-up on Shatner's face is postponed to the following day, constituting already the very first shooting schedule delay. Photography is started without the benefit of a completed script, which is still lacking an ending. Writing and re-writing of script drafts will continue unabated over the course of the subsequent months. (The Making of, pp. 1-7, 57; Movie Memories, pp. 102, 104)
- 8 August 1978: The second-unit film crew moves to Yellowstone Park and starts filming the planet Vulcan sequence. Director Wise joins them shortly, and the sequence takes three days to film. RA&A liaison Joe Viskocil is onsite as visual effects coordinator in order to ascertain the nature and extent of the effects RA&A is to add in post-production. Not present is performer Nimoy, who will shoot his Spock sequences in October. (The Making of, p. 173)
- Early October 1978: Production hits another brick wall with Act Three, scene 335-336, in which the crew cajoles the Ilia-probe into letting them meet V'ger in person. An exhausted Roddenberry, who believes himself free from Livingston (as the latter had shortly before resigned for a third time), experiences a severe case of writer's block, as his scene rewrites grow from bad to worse. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy come up with a solution: the "child treatment" of the Ilia-probe, as a way out of the gridlock, and present it to director Wise, who endorses the solution. The three men subsequently present it to Roddenberry, who erupts in a full-blown rage over the perceived infringement on his script rights.
However, unbeknownst to Roddenberry, Wise, by now thoroughly fed up with Roddenberry, has solicited the help of Jeffrey Katzenberg. A few days earlier, Katzenberg had rehired Livingston, who on that occasion had demanded and secured a substantial raise, and is awaiting Wise's cue. During the (by now) very charged meeting, Wise arranges to get Katzenberg on the phone and the latter informs Roddenberry that Livingston has now executive creative powers. Roddenberry is essentially released from the production and his presence is from here on end only required for public relations events, and is ordered to begin writing the novelization of the movie, which he is contractually obligated to do. For the latter he is to attend subsequent script meetings until its completion, but now only as an observer, not as a participant. (Movie Memories, 1995, pp. 105-111)
- 16 October 1978: The crew gathering sequence for Kirk's mission briefing on the just completed recreation deck set on Stage 8 is shot. Assembled are three hundred extras of which one hundred males and twenty-five females are notable Star Trek fans, like Bjo Trimble and Denise Tathwell; the others are Screen Extras Guild performers, with an additional number of production staff affiliates like Susan Sackett and Millicent Wise. The shooting concludes the following day and the extras are released with a few exceptions for an additional shot on the overhead catwalk. (Starlog, issue 32, pp. 57-58)
- 24 October 1978: Second unit filming of still outstanding segments of the wormhole sequence; first unit filming of outstanding Vulcan segments with Nimoy on the Vulcan set in the B Tank. A late afternoon meeting is held between Wise, Livingston, Nimoy, and Shatner in which the latter two formally gain script approval rights. (Starlog, issue 32, p. 58)
- 7 November 1978: Walter Koenig reports that he is informed that the budget is now no longer fixed and that it currently stands at a reportedly US$24 million, but that it is a "departure point, not a final reckoning". (Starlog, issue 32, p. 58)
- 8 November 1978: Yet another script meeting for the still unscripted Act Three ending is held between Livingston, Wise, Nimoy, and Shatner, with Roddenberry attending, and filming is suspended that day. Recently famed by his role on Mork and Mindy, comedian Robin Williams tours the sound stage on his bicycle, explaining to the cast that he is a big fan of the show and is invited in onto the bridge of the Enterprise. According to Walter Koenig, "his wide-eyed admiration not withstanding, his squeaky-voiced reaction to all the buttons and panels is, "Hmmmm, microwave!"" (Starlog, issue 32, p. 60) The role of Berlinghoff Rasmussen on the Next Generation will later be explicitly written for him, though Williams will be unable to do the part.
- 24 November 1978: Walter Koenig finishes his Chekov sequences and is released from the production. His subsequent presence will only be required for promotional and public relations purposes. Koenig has kept a detailed journal during his involvement during the production, and immediately starts transforming it into his book, Chekov's Enterprise, released shortly after the premiere of the movie in February 1980. (Starlog, issue 32, p. 61)
- 29 November 1978: The completed and final script draft is distributed at last, with only a mere two months left on principal photography. (The Making of, p. 57) This is the version as published at Star Trek Minutiae, but it, like previous versions, is antedated to 19 July 1978, the date of the first script draft distribution, for copyright legality reasons.
- Late November 1978: Magicam delivers the hero "Enterprise" studio model to Astra's Seward St. filming facility. Model painter Olsen followed suit to finish up upon his work. (Return to Tomorrow, p. 276)
- Late December 1978: By Christmas, the situation with RA&A is spiraling out of control and creative and financial conflicts between the company and the studio intensify to the breaking point. Douglas Trumbull, who only one year earlier had turned down the visual effects assignment, is brought in as an unpaid technical consultant. Trumbull, who by then has a very strained relationship with the studio, only agreed to do so as a courtesy to his old friend Bob Wise, who personally requested his input. (The Making of, p. 203) A particular bone of contention on that specific occasion is the perceived lack of acceptable studio model photography, resulting in RA&A/Astra, completely denied access to them from here on end, being entirely pulled from the studio model photography. The model photography is for the time being reverted to Paramount's own cinematographer Bill Millar, a former Trumbull-associate through FGC, even though he has at that point in time nowhere near the facilities necessary to provide studio model effects photography in any format whatsoever. (New West magazine, 26 March 1979, p. 62)
- 26 January 1979: Principal photography ends, with scene 391, the "V'ger fusion" scene between Decker and the Ilia-probe, the very last scene shot. Originally scheduled to finish on 31 October 1978 (shortly thereafter revised to 22 December), principal photography as initially budgeted is three months overdue. At US$4,000 a day for stage time, this means an additional over budget cost of roughly US$250,000 for principal photography alone. Three second unit scenes though, for which the principal cast was not needed, the San Fransisco air tram station, the Klingon bridge, and the Epsilon IX bridge sequences still remain outstanding, as are the visual effects sequences. These sequences will be shot throughout the spring and summer, the visual effect ones extending well into the autumn of 1979. (The Making of, pp. 7, 188, 191-193)
- 10 February 1979: The traditional "wrap party" celebrating the end of principal photography is held at Liu's Chinese Restaurant and Chez Moi Disco on 140 South Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, and is open to everyone involved with the Motion Picture and their retinue. (The Making of, p. 195)
- Mid-February 1979: Behind-the-scenes information is leaked. The head of a local fan club alerts the studio that he is offered stolen set construction blueprints and the studio calls in the FBI. The FBI is able to arrest the culprit, who is thereafter convicted on 24 August, given two years' probation, and fined US$750 for selling stolen trade secrets. Studio security is tightened considerably due to the incident. (New West magazine, 26 March 1979, p. 60; Return to Tomorrow, p. 175)
- 20 February 1979: Studio executives and producers come calling to size up the visual effects situation at Robert Abel & Associates. The company reportedly had only a single completed effects shot to show for all the time and money spent, already four million dollars over budget at sixteen million dollars by December 1978, and of which US$11 million was actually already spent. (The Keys to the Kingdom, Chapter 6; New West magazine, 26 March 1979, pp. 62-63)
- 22 February 1979: In an acrimonious atmosphere, Abel is fired and his company released, effective immediately, starting a frantic search for a replacement, as the studio now unexpectedly finds itself extremely pressured for time since the release date for the movie is immutable, due to the fact that the studio is financially committed by having accepted the $35 million payment guarantees from exhibitors planning for the 7 December 1979 release. This becomes critical, as rumors are already spreading that the production is in trouble, and theater owners start to back down on their commitments. (The Special Effects of Trek, pp. 29, 31; The Making of, pp. 204-205) Realizing that effects production has to virtually start over from scratch, the now-strapped for cash studio initiates Dawn Steel's merchandising fund drive to cover a new visual effects budget set at US$10 million. (The Making of, p. 204).
- Early March 1979: Douglas Trumbull's visual effects company, Future General Corporation (FGC), is signed for the visual effects. Both his and co-founder Richard Yuricich's participation in the production now becomes formal. Having initially been forced to surrender his equipment to RA&A, Trumbull now returns the favor, aside from getting back the equipment, by usurping several of Abel's key staffers, among others Robert Swarthe, Scott Farrar, and Tom Barron, not few of them, ironically, hired by RA&A in the first place when the studio started to close down FGC earlier, but now rejoining the latter. Yuricich, now credited as "Producer of Effects", is tasked with re-initializing FGC by reassembling the team and finding new, suitable filming facilities. Barron acquires on this occasion several pieces of equipment which are not to be used anymore. Acting upon a hunch, he stores them away for a few years, and they will become the foundation of later regular Star Trek motion control photography supplier Image G. (Return to Tomorrow, p. 374; Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 1, p. 60) Trumbull also establishes on this occasion a subsidiary company of FGC, the Entertainment Effects Group (EEG) which replaces ASTRA as art department. Andrew Probert is one of the very few ex-ASTRA employees retained by Trumbull, who has him work on the interior re-design of the Klingon battle cruiser bridge, discarding the one previously done by Jennings. Concurrently, EEG will serve as the legal entity, responsible for the handling of the studio models during filming. To this end, several Magicam model makers transfer to the new company to insure the proper handling of the models. Unlike FGC, EEG will survive the production of the Motion Picture to become the renowned 1980s-1990s visual effects company Boss Film Studios. Trumbull also subcontracts John Dykstra's Apogee, Inc. in order to divide the workload. (see above)
- March 1979: While devising the visual effects shots, Trumbull brings in Robert McCall, with whom he had already worked before on 2001: A Space Odyssey and where the two men became close friends, as production illustrator in order to help out with visualizing the various V'ger scenes. Much of what McCall, who had been passed over for Mike Minor nearly two years earlier, will conceive is indeed translated onto the screen by Trumbull. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 8, pp. 70-73) Another noticeable new addition to EEG is artist Matthew Yuricich, brother of Richard and whose work Trumbull is already acquainted with, when both men were working together two years earlier on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Yuricich will create all the matte paintings for the movie. During this month, the San Fransisco air tram station sequence is filmed on the combined stages 12 and 14. William Shatner has to return for this sequence. Shatner is the only principal cast member who has to return to the production after principal photography had wrapped. (The Making of, p. 193) The tram station sets are subsequently struck to make room for the other two remaining scenes, yet to be filmed, which however suffer yet another round of delays. This is due to the fact that the Klingon bridge set is still in the process of being redesigned by Trumbull and Probert, and for whose construction Trumbull has brought in Art Director John Vallone. (Return to Tomorrow, p. 346)
- 19 March 1979: Paramount Pictures' design patent application for Andrew Probert's re-design of the Constitution-class studio model is filed.
- 26 March 1979: Due to the information leak the previous month, reporter Jeffrey Kaye is able to publicly divulge the big reveal that V'ger is actually a Voyager probe in the 26 March issue of New West magazine. (p. 60) Not only that, but Kaye's "Abel Neglex Trex Effex" article also provides a detailed, and largely correct, account of the circumstances under which RA&A is released from the production, serving for the next quarter of a century as the only verifiable and available source of said circumstances.
- Early April 1979: Renowned monthly Life magazine runs its "The New Hollywood Hotshot Baby Moguls are taking over the Dream Factory" feature article (pp. 34-45) in its April issue. In it, a photograph is featured of Don Simpson and Michael Eisner striking a laidback pose on the Enterprise bridge set with the caption that they are "confident that their $20 million movie epic based on the TV series will be the next Star Wars". Seemingly contradicting the rumor mill, stirred up by Kaye's article in New West the previous month, the upbeat caption belies the panic that is actually felt at the studio at the time of the article's publication.
- 10 April 1979: Paramount Pictures' design patent applications for Robert Fletcher's designs of the Starfleet uniforms, belt buckle, and Starfleet breast-worn insignia, as well as Richard Rubin's designs for the redesigned phaser, wrist communicator, and tricorder are filed.
- 13 April 1979: Paramount Pictures' design patent application for Andrew Probert's designs of the long range shuttle model is filed.
- May 1979: The refit-Enterprise model is just about finished and ready for delivery for filming when a studio staffer, wanting to impress his female guest during an illegal visit, turns on the lighting of the model incorrectly and destroys the circuitry in the saucer section. The subsequent repairs by Magicam delays delivery of the model by nearly two months. (Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise, 1st ed, p. 55)
- 7 May 1979: Paramount Pictures' design patent applications for Andrew Probert's designs of the long range shuttle model, shuttle portion, and the Klingon K't'inga-class are filed.
- June 1979: the re-initialization of FGC is completed and effects photography is started by the company with only six months remaining before the premiere. (Return to Tomorrow, p. 411)
- 18 June 1979: With the Klingon bridge set completed, shooting starts this day for the Klingon scenes (Scenes 3-21, 23-25) with Mark Lenard playing the Klingon captain, joined by eight or nine stuntmen playing the other Klingons on the bridge. Robert Wise takes on the directorial chores himself and brings back the former Phase II Director of Photography Bruce Logan, as Richard Kline has already left the production for another project. Filming takes a little over a week, after which the set is immediately struck to make room for the last outstanding live-action scene, the Epsilon IX monitor room scene (Scenes 24-27, 91). Having been around since Phase II, David Gautreaux finally gets to shoot his screen time in his consolation role as Commander Branch. Joining him on the set as an Epsilon IX crew member is Harold Livingston's secretary, Michele Ameen Billy, who has three lines. Filmed back-to-back, this scene, shot in little under a week, finally wraps up live-action shooting. (Return to Tomorrow, pp. 375-378)
- Early July 1979: Greg Jein returns to the Star Trek production when Trumbull, as EEG, tasks him with the construction of several detail miniatures for Spock's spacewalk inside V'ger. (Cinefex, issue 2, pp. 42-45)
- 4 July 1979: Mishap continues to bedevil the Enterprise model. The filming of the model has just started, when during one of the very rare days off during this period, the fourth of July holiday on Wednesday, an air conditioning unit on the set springs a leak, and drips water on the model, severely damaging the bridge module of the model. EEG model makers Mark Stetson, Kris Gregg, and Ron Gress (the former two ex-Magicam employees) have to pull all-nighters for four days to repair the damage, straining the visual effects production schedule even further. (Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise, 1st ed, pp. 55-56)
- Late July 1979: Jein receives an additional commission, as Trumbull is struck with the realization that no work has been done yet on the interior studio models of V'ger. With interior shots photography by FGC slated to commence in three to four weeks time, Jein shanghais a veritable "army" of twenty to thirty friends and acquaintances, many of whom are aspiring studio model makers he had met over the previous years in the movie memorabilia and science fiction convention circuit. Among them are Lisa Morton, Don Pennington, and, most notably, Bill George of future ILM fame. These three staffers will later be reacquainted with the franchise. (Cinefex, issue 2, pp. 42-45)
- 31 July 1979: In order to cover legal liabilities for the staff he brings along, Jein needs to form his own company, Gregory Jein, Inc.  The new company is also formally subordinated to EEG.
- 1 August 1979: Pocket Books Star Trek: The Motion Picture Stardate Calendar 1980
- 1 November 1979: Wanderer Books Star Trek: The Motion Picture The USS Enterprise Bridge Punch-Out Book
- 29 November 1979: Last visual effects shot is completed. (Cinefex, issue 1, p. 4)
- 30 November 1979: Wanderer Books Star Trek: The Motion Picture Peel-Off Graphics Book
- 1 December 1979: A first completed rough cut is screened at the studio. Present at the screening are Director Wise, producers, studio executives, and several invited Star Trek alumni, old and new, which include Original Series veterans Matt Jefferies and John Dwyer. Gene Roddenberry is not invited. Over the next couple of days, Wise trims a further ten minutes from the cut. (Movie Memories, p. 123; )
- Early December 1979: Douglas Trumbull is hospitalized for ten days due to nervous exhaustion, diagnosed with ulcers and a hiatal hernia. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition (DVD); audio commentary; )
- December 1979:
- Pocket Books: novelization.
- The documentary The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a specialty promotional tool, is shown nationwide at public venues, such as train stations.
- Marvel Comics Super Special #15 (comic adaptation).
- Soundtrack LP record release.
- Pocket Books Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology release.
- Wallaby Books Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Official USS Enterprise Officer's Date Book (1980) desk calendar release.
- View-Master adaptation.
- Topps: Star Trek: The Motion Picture trading card set.
- Fast-food corporation McDonald's: start of its The Motion Picture-themed "Happy Meal" campaign.
- South Bend Electronics: electronic USS Enterprise
- 5 December 1979: Post-production work is finally finished and the final master print of the movie is delivered for the reproduction of distribution prints. (Cinefex, issue 1, p. 4)
- 6 December 1979: Washington, DC world premiere. Regretting he has not been able to hold a screening before test audiences, Robert Wise himself rushes the fresh print by plane to the K-B MacArthur Theater for its premiere, where it is loaded into the projector one minute before its announced screening. Guests were, for the occasion, presented with a twenty-page movie program. (Variety, 24 December 2001, p. 21; The Keys to the Kingdom, Chapter 6)
- 7 December 1979: US theatrical premiere. For the timely distribution of the 2,000 prints, the studio has to charter a fleet of private planes. (The Keys to the Kingdom, Chapter 6; Movie Memories, p. 123)
- 13 December 1979: Sydney, Australia, theatrical premiere at the Paramount Theatre.
- 15 December 1979: UK theatrical premiere at the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square in London.
- 21 December 1979: Melbourne, Australia, and Ireland theatrical premieres. Sydney, Australia, general release.
1980s releases and merchandising
- 1 January 1980: Australia theatrical general release.
- 17 January 1980: Argentina (as Viaje a las estrellas: La película) theatrical premiere.
- February 1980: Pocket Books Chekov's Enterprise (book).
- March 1980: Wallaby Books The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The writing completed before the movie premiered, author Susan Sackett has added a provisionary end credit roll for the movie in her book (pp. 217-221), which differed from that as ultimately featured (See: below). While cast and primary production staff were featured as projected, there were some noticeable differences; several title descriptions were changed and especially amongst production staffers there were inclusions that were previously not considered whereas others that were initially, were now excluded. A very noticeable example of the latter, was future Star Trek alumnus Rick Sternbach, who now missed out on an official credit for the Motion Picture as a consequence.
- 3 March 1980: Paramount Pictures' patent application tender for Richard Foy's designs of the typeface fonts for the movie are filed.
- 18 March 1980: Spain (as Star Trek – La película) and Brazil (as Jornada nas Estrelas: O Filme) theatrical premieres.
- 19 March 1980: France (as Star Trek, le film) theatrical premiere.
- 21 March 1980: Portugal (as O Caminho das Estrelas) theatrical premiere.
- 27 March 1980: West Germany (as Star Trek: Der Film) theatrical premiere.
- 28 March 1980: Finland (as Star Trek: Avaruusmatka) theatrical premiere.
- 2 April 1980: Sweden theatrical premiere.
- 7 April 1980: Norway and Denmark premieres.
- 17 April 1980: Brazil (as Jornada nas Estrelas: O Filme) theatrical premiere.
- April 1980: Marvel TOS #1 (comic reprint 1 of 3).
- May 1980: Marvel TOS #2 "V'ger" (comic reprint 2 of 3).
- June 1980: Marvel TOS #3 "Evolutions" (comic reprint 3 of 3).
- 19 June 1980: Netherlands theatrical premiere.
- Summer 1980: Work is started at the studio to transfer the theatrical master onto masters for commercial home media market releases as well as for television broadcasts. A contemporary studio editor stated in 2016, "I mastered the "director's cut" for Paramount in 1980, and it was never commercially released. Wise cut the film down to 110 minutes, and the assistant editor on the picture told me he was livid when the studio overruled him and cut 12 minutes of the V'Ger VFX sequence back into the film. Wise was smart enough to know it dragged the film down, and he was right. But because the film had gone so grossly over budget, the studio was determined to see "all their money up on the screen," so it went out at 132 minutes."  The 132 minutes version this staffer referred to was the one intended for ABC Television Network. While this staffer has preferred to remain anonymous, he has credited a contemporary studio co-worker for doing the home media format masters of the television version, "95% of the work was done by my old pal Pat Kennedy (who did the lion's share of that transfer), though I did correct quite a few of the additional bits for the expanded version shown on NBC. At the time (around 1982), I asked the Paramount exec why they wouldn't finish the obviously-incomplete VFX, but he kind of shrugged and said nobody wanted to spend the money. Eventually, they did fix them [for the 2001 Director's Edition]." 
- 5 July 1980: Japan theatrical premiere.
- October 1980: US video tape releases (VHS and Betamax formats), with a Super 8 release following suit.
- 25 October 1980: Taiwan theatrical premiere.
- 25 November 1980: Paramount Pictures' patent application for Robert Fletcher's Starfleet uniforms is confirmed as patent number D257546.
- US LaserDisc.
- UK LaserDisc.
- 22 March 1981: Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED).
- 31 March 1981: Paramount Pictures' patent application for Robert Fletcher's belt buckle is confirmed as patent number D258700.
- May 1981: UK video release (VHS and Betamax formats).
- 2 May 1981: Pay TV premiere on SelecTV in Marina Del Rey, California, USA.
- 14 July 1981: Paramount Pictures' patent application for Andrew Probert's designs of the long range shuttle model is confirmed as patent number D259889.
- 21 July 1981: Paramount Pictures' patent application for Dick Rubin's redesign of the phaser, called a "toy weapon" on the application, is confirmed as patent number D259939.
- 25 August 1981: Paramount Pictures' patent application for Dick Rubin's design of the wrist communicator, called a "toy communicator" on the application, is confirmed as patent number D260411.
- 1 September 1981: Paramount Pictures' patent application for Dick Rubin's redesign of the tricorder, called a "toy console" on the application, is confirmed as patent number D260539.
- 4 September 1981: Iceland theatrical premiere.
- 15 September 1981: Paramount Pictures' patent application for Andrew Probert's redesign of the Constitution-class, called a "toy spaceship" on the application, is confirmed as patent number D260539.
- 26 October 1981: Turkey (as Uzay Macerasi) theatrical premiere.
- 17 November 1981: Paramount Pictures' patent application for Robert Fletcher's breast-worn Starfleet insignia is confirmed as patent number D261872.
- 24 November 1981: Paramount Pictures' patent application for Richard Foy's designs of the typeface fonts for the movie is confirmed as patent number D277297.
- 6 April 1982: Paramount Pictures' patent application for Andrew Probert's designs of the long range shuttle model, shuttle portion, is confirmed as patent number D263727.
- 20 February 1983: US Network Television Premiere on ABC Television Network as the first public showing of what came to be called the "Special Longer Version". The added footage, running for twelve minutes, was largely unfinished and cobbled together for the network premiere and is met with skepticism by Director Robert Wise, who had never wanted the footage to be included in the final cut of the film in the first place, as already stated by the above-quoted studio editor. ("Trek director Waxes Wise on new DVD", Bruce Kirkland, Toronto Sun, 6 November 2001, p. 46)
- 13 April 1982: Paramount Pictures' patent application for Andrew Probert's redesign of the K't'inga-class, called a "toy spaceship" on the application, is confirmed as patent number D263856.
- 1983: US LaserDisc (special longer version).
- 1983: US Betamax (special longer version).
- 3 September 1984: UK television premiere on ITV.
- 1985: Japan VHD.
- 7 July 1985: Japan LaserDisc.
- 1986: Soundtrack CD 1st release.
- 25 April 1986: East Germany theatrical premiere.
- March 1987: Second airing by ABC of the "Special Longer Version".
- Summer 1989: Third and final airing by ABC of the "Special Longer Version".
- 25 October 1990: Soundtrack CD 2nd release.
- 1991: France LaserDisc.
- 1991: Germany LaserDisc.
- 1991: Netherlands LaserDisc.
- 7 December 1992: VHS.
- 10 March 1994: Japan LaserDisc.
- 1994: US and Europe VideoCD.
- 1995: TNT airs the "Special Longer Version" introduced by William Shatner.
- 2 April 1997: VHS Widescreen.
- 26 January 1999: Soundtrack CD 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition.
2000s and beyond merchandising
- 6 November 2001: Director's Edition world premiere
- 9 November 2001: Director's Edition Region 1 DVD.
- 13 May 2002: Director's Edition Region 2 DVD.
- 12 May 2009: Original theatrical release Blu-ray.
- 22 March 2010: Remastered original theatrical release Region 2 DVD.
- 5 June 2012: Soundtrack release, La-La Land Records.
- December 2012: Olsenart.com Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise
- 30 April 2013: Star Trek I: The Motion Picture Blu-ray Directors Edition release announcement. The announced release date proves to be premature though, as it turns out that Paramount Pictures had failed to maintain ownership over the CGI elements that were added to the Director's Edition. Former employee Adam Lebowitz of Foundation Imaging, the visual effects company responsible for the newly-conceived elements, confirms that all these elements were left on the company servers when they were auctioned off after the company went out of business, which would mean that the studio has to painstakingly recreate all these elements.  Still, his former Foundation colleague, Robert Bonchune, strongly indicates that these elements are still in existence, as some ex-employees had made backups, including Bonchune, of all the Star Trek files on their own computers, and they could be made available to the studio if they are so inclined. 
By 2018, the status of a Blu-ray release remained yet unknown, though one of the co-producers of the Director's Edition, David C. Fein, has confirmed Bonchune's assessment by stating in 2017 that it was he who still had all the original digital effects elements available for remastering to Blu-ray standards. "We have all that we need. Would I like a few more pieces... sure. But we have everything we need," stated Fein, "All of the shots in the film were created with HD in mind so the quality of the models and elements were much higher than the SD renderings. We have everything, and when the time is right, we'll use them. Again, there is no truth that anything is missing." Fein also confirmed that a Blu-ray release was put on the backburner as "Paramount has yet to green light the project. We've had some discussions," adding that "it'll happen, the only question is when are we going to go ahead with it".  Nonetheless, preliminary talks were reported by both Trekcore and TrekMovie.com to have resumed in July 2019 for a remastered release, albeit for a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray one.
- 10 September 2013: Remastered original theatrical release Region 1 DVD.
- December 2014: Creature Feature Publishing Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- 15 & 18 September 2019 – For the occasion of the film's 40th anniversary, NCM Fathom Events organizes a to over 500 screens limited theatrical re-release of The Motion Picture. Accompanying the screening is the documentary The Longest Trek: Writing the Motion Picture, originally a special feature produced for, and included on the 2009 Blu-ray disc release and its various reissues.    The limited two-day USA only event manages to add an additional US$346,243 gros to the boxoffice total. 
- October 2019: McFarland & Company The First Star Trek Movie
- September 2020: Titan Books Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Art and Visual Effects
- 5 April 2022: 4K version with new higher resolution visual effects to be released on Paramount+.
- September 2022: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release with exclusive new bonus content.
- The highly anticipated movie received copious contemporary coverage, both prior as well as after its premiere, in period magazines, most notably in movie and genre periodicals, Starlog magazine in particular. Yet, there was one very remarkable exception: the usually very Star Trek-friendly genre magazine Cinefantastique did cover the movie hardly at all, save for a short editorial article in Volume 9 #3/4, 1979 after the movie had premiered. As it turned out however, extensive copy was written by freelance writer Preston Neal Jones for a planned The Motion Picture themed double-issue. Due to editorial problems because of the volume of text, that issue, despite advertisements in the magazine to the contrary, never came to fruition, save for some preliminary excerpts of Jones' work, published in the avant-premiere Vol. 9 #2 issue of the magazine. However, 35 years after the movie's release, the text was announced as voluminous reference book for an October 2014 release as Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was eventually released two months later.
- How eagerly awaited the movie was before its premiere was witnessed by Decker performer Stephen Collins when he visited a movie theater before its release, "I was in a movie theater when one of the Trek trailers played. It was astounding. Everybody cheered." (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 502)
- When Paramount CEO Barry Diller saw a complete first version of the movie for the first time at the studio screening of 1 December 1979, he was horrified. "The movie was horrible and we were scared to death.", Diller recalled. (The Keys to the Kingdom, 2000, Chapter 6) Director/Writer Nicholas Meyer, responsible for three subsequent, highly successful Star Trek films, recalled upon being hired by Diller, "Barry Diller said to me that one of his most wrenching moments as head of Paramount, was seeing lines around the block for Star Trek The Motion Picture and knowing that in his opinion the movie didn’t deliver." 
- William Shatner, who saw the completed movie for the first time on the world premiere, was struck by the overall sluggishness of the movie, and was convinced that the Star Trek franchise died there and then, having reminisced, "Well, that's it. We gave it our best shot, it wasn't good, and it will never happen again." But having recalled his reaction fifteen years later, he has added, "Shows you what I know." (Star Trek Movie Memories, 1995, p. 124)
- The film review website Rotten Tomatoes calculated a 45% overall approval rate for The Motion Picture, as of 2014 the third lowest of all Star Trek films. 
- In his 1983 special Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek Memories, Leonard Nimoy spoke briefly about the film saying: "It was a very finely crafted film, and it did well. But from the actor's point of view frankly, it was frustrating. We didn't feel that we were getting to play the characters that we enjoyed playing in the way that we knew how to play them. And it was frustrating for Gene Roddenberry too. It wasn't the story or script he had wanted, and the gaps seemed filled with too much emphasis on special effects." Years later, in a 2012 LA Times video interview, mirroring Shatner's perception, Nimoy has added that he too had felt that the movie had left the franchise stranded like a "beached whale" at the time, clarifying, "I think [Robert Wise] and Gene Roddenberry were looking for a [2001: A] Space Odyssey kind of thing, like [Stanley] Kubrick had done. A cold, cool "we're out here in space and it's kind of quiet and things move very slowly." [laughs] There was a lot of that and a lot of cerebral stuff. There wasn’t enough drama. It just wasn't a Star Trek movie. We had the Star Trek people, but it didn't use us as Star Trek characters very well." 
- Though eagerly awaited, Star Trek fans were by and large in agreement with Nimoy's assessment at the time, especially where the lumbering pace of the movie was concerned, and endowed the movie with humorous, if unflattering, sobriquets such as "Star Trek: The Motion Sickness", "Star Trek: The Motionless Picture", or "Star Trek: The Slow-Motion Picture". (The World of Star Trek) As if to underscore the validity of their denominations, Matt Jefferies, who had done design work for the predecessor Phase II, related when he was invited to the 1 December studio screening, "I went to the first movie. I was invited to the screening. I fell asleep. John Dwyer noticed it from across the screening room and said, "Matt, wake up." Fortunately nobody else in there knew me."
- Another sobriquet given to the movie was "Where Nomad Has Gone Before", which reflected the criticism that the story was too reminiscent of several Original Series episodes, first and foremost the second season episode "The Changeling", in which the sentient robot Nomad was featured. 
- Of such negative opinions were professional critics at the time, that they started to accuse the studio of purposely withholding the movie for press pre-screening as, according to them, the studio was well aware that the movie was a dud. The withholding itself of course was not the actual case, as the movie was not completed until the very last moment. (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 606)
- As related above and its bad (press) reception notwithstanding, The Motion Picture became one of the most successful outings of the entire film franchise in financial terms. This seemingly contradiction can only be explained by the fact that fans were so desperate to see an on-screen Star Trek live-action return, that they went anyway, often even several times – inconceivable for 21st century cinema goers in the age of digital social media. Michael Matessino for example, has related that he went to see the film twice, even though he had disliked the film the first time around, having stated in a letter he had sent to the genre magazine Starlog that "It stunk!" (Starlog, issue 33, April 1980, p. 8) Nonetheless, Matessino went on to become instrumental for the production of The Director's Edition.
Awards and honors
The mixed reactions to the movie notwithstanding, did not prevent Star Trek: The Motion Picture to receive several award nominations, including three Academy Awards. The special and visual effects in particular were in general well received. The movie was nominated for the following awards and honors:
|1980||Academy Awards||Art Direction||Art Direction: Harold Michelson, Joe Jennings, Leon Harris, John Vallone; Set Decoration: Linda DeScenna||Nominated|
|Music (Original Score)||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Visual Effects||Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, Richard Yuricich, Robert Swarthe, Dave Stewart, Grant McCune|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Original Score – Motion Picture||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Hugo Awards||Best Dramatic Presentation||Screenplay by Harold Livingston, Story by Alan Dean Foster and Gene Roddenberry, Directed by Robert Wise|
|Saturn Awards||Best Make-Up||Fred B. Phillips, Janna Phillips, Ve Neill|
|Best Costumes||Robert Fletcher|
|Best Music||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Best Supporting Actress||Nichelle Nichols|
|Best Supporting Actor||Leonard Nimoy|
|Best Actress||Persis Khambatta|
|Best Actor||William Shatner|
|Best Director||Robert Wise|
|Best Science Fiction Film||-|
|Best Special Effects||Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich, John Dykstra||Won|
|2001||DVD Exclusive Awards||Best Audio Commentary||Robert Wise, Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, Jerry Goldsmith, Stephen Collins||Nominated|
|Best Overall New Extra Features, Library Title||-|
|Best DVD Menu Design||1K Studios|
|Best New, Enhanced or Reconstructed Movie Scenes||Producer: David C. Fein, Restoration Supervisor: Michael Matessino, Visual Effects Supervisor: Daren Dochterman||Won|
|2002||Saturn Awards||Best DVD Classic Film Release||-||Nominated|
|2012||IFMCA Awards||Best Archival Release of an Existing Score||Music by Jerry Goldsmith, Album Produced by Didier C. Deutsch, Mike Matessino, Bruce Botnick, MV Gerhard, Matt Verboys, and David C. Fein, Liner Notes by Jeff Bond and Mike Matessino, Album Art Direction by Jim Titus (La-La Land)||Won|
- In Gene Roddenberry's novelization of the film, the female lead Vulcan elder is given the name T'Sai.
- The novelization of TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint" establishes that Captain Picard first boarded the Enterprise-D via shuttlecraft, a process later canonized in TNG: "All Good Things...". According to the novel, Picard recalled how the then-Admiral Kirk had unwittingly begun a tradition of captains coming to their ship for the first time via shuttle instead of transporting aboard including the irony that no one really thought of the fact that Kirk traveled to Enterprise in a travel pod because of a serious transporter malfunction.
- The novel The Return, written by William Shatner, states that the "Living Machines" that Voyager 6 encountered on its journey were the Borg.
- The novel Ex Machina establishes that of all the original crew, only Scott and Uhura were long-term members of then-Captain Decker's crew. Chekov and Sulu had only been assigned back to Enterprise only hours before Kirk transferred aboard, as Admiral Nogura wanted as many of the original command crew back on the ship as was possible for the emergency mission. According to the film, Scott had been working on the refit and according to the novel, Decker had personally recruited the entire crew, making it the most diverse of species ever seen aboard a starship up until that point. Decker had even recruited Uhura to help recruit many of the nonhuman crewmembers. During a conversation between Sulu and Uhura, Sulu mentions that Decker was considering making Uhura his executive officer, thus adding new subtext to her first line spoken while on the bridge during prelaunch: "my people are all tied up here!".
Links and references
- And Starring
- Music by
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- Production Designer
- Director of Photography
- Richard H. Kline, ASC
- Based on Star Trek Created by
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- Deena Burkett
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- Cast of Characters
- Captain Kirk – William Shatner
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TM & Copyright © 1979 by Paramount Pictures Film Corporation, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.
- Computer Motion Control System for Miniatures
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- Uncredited co-stars
- Richard Arnold as Enterprise crewmember
- Rosanna Attias as Enterprise crewmember
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- Fred Bronson as Enterprise crewmember
- Bob Bryan as Enterprise crewmember
- Bobby Butz as Enterprise crewmember
- Gordon Cardoza as Enterprise crewmember
- Celeste Cartier as Enterprise crewmember
- JoAnn Christy as [USS Enterprise sciences rec deck crewmembers|Vulcan science division crewmember]]
- Price Coetzee as Enterprise crewmember
- Armando Diaz as Enterprise crewmember (uncredited)
- Vern Dietsche as Enterprise crewmember
- Christopher Doohan as engineering crewmember
- Montgomery Doohan as science division crewmember
- Walt Doty as Enterprise crewmember
- John Dresden as Starfleet security officer (slated for credit as "Security Officer")
- Scott Dweck as Vulcan medic
- Don Fanning as Zaranite Enterprise crewmember
- Dennis Fischer as engineering crewmember
- Cassandra Foster as Enterprise crewmember
- Barnetta Fowler as Enterprise crewmember
- Gayle Frank as sciences crewmember
- Ryan Frazier as Starfleet command officer
- David Gerrold as command division crewmember
- Brenda Gooch as Enterprise crewmember
- William Guest as Enterprise crewmember
- Doug Hale as Computer Voice
- John Hayes as Enterprise crewmember
- Sharon Hesky as Federation civilian
- Bill Hickey as science division crewmember
- Betty Kennedy as Federation civilian
- James T. Kirk as Enterprise crewmember
- Victor Koman as Zaranite Enterprise crewmember
- Katherine Kurtz as Enterprise crewmember
- Art Lake as Enterprise crewmember
- Steven Lance as Rhaandarite Enterprise crewmember
- Randall Larson as Enterprise crewmember
- Don J. Long as Enterprise crew member
- Leah Livingston as Enterprise crew member (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 38)
- Greg Mace as Enterprise crewmember 
- Joel Marston as
- Winnie McCarthy as Epsilon IX technician
- John Hugh McKnight as medical technician
- Michelle as Enterprise crewmember
- Barbara Minster as Enterprise crewmember
- Beth Moberly as Enterprise crewmember
- Ve Neill as Enterprise crewmember
- Bernadette Pelletier as Air tram Starfleet officer
- Rod Perry as security guard
- Gene Poe as Enterprise crewmember
- Todd Ramsay as Starfleet Transporter Chief (voice; uncredited)
- Zack Richardson as Enterprise crewmember
- Linda Robertson as Enterprise crewmember
- Susan Sackett as science division crewmember
- Eileen Salamas as Enterprise crewmember
- Frank Salsedo as Enterprise crewmember
- Keith Shiozaki as Starfleet Headquarters crewman
- Kathleen Sky as Enterprise crewmember
- Jay Smith as Enterprise crewmember
- Louise Stange-Wahl as science division crewmember
- Leigh Strother-Vien as Enterprise crewmember
- Cedric Taporco as Saurian Enterprise crewmember
- Denise Tathwell as Enterprise Vulcan crewmember
- H. Teague as Epsilon IX technician 
- Arthur Tovey as Vulcan civilian
- Roger Trantham as Enterprise crewmember
- Bjo Trimble as science division crewmember
- Vincent as Saurian Enterprise crewmember
- John Watts as Andorian Enterprise crewmember
- Green Whitaker as Federation civilian
- Marlene Willauer as civilian crewmember
- Millicent Wise as engineering crewmember
- C. Adam Young as USS Enterprise crew member
- Unknown actors as
- Aaamazzarite visitors
- Andorian crewmember
- Betelgeusian assistant ambassador 1
- Betelgeusian assistant ambassador 2
- Betelgeusian chief ambassador
- Betelgeusian Enterprise crewmember
- Female Native American crewmember
- Female Natvie American crewmember
- Female Native American Enterprise officer
- Orbital office complex crew 1
- Orbital office complex crew 2
- Orbital office complex crew 3
- Orbital office complex crew 4
- Orbital office complex crew 5
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- Sickbay patient
- Two Rhaandarites
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- Enterprise engineer
- Enterprise engineer
- Enterprise engineer
- Enterprise assistant engineer
- Enterprise sciences crewman
- Uncredited stunt performers
- Lightning Bear
- Tom Morga as
- Kim Washington as stunt double for Nichelle Nichols
- Uncredited production staff
- Robert Abel – Robert Abel & Associates: Special Effects Director
- Bernie Abramson – Second Unit Director of Photography
- Howard A. Anderson, Jr. – Howard Anderson Company: Additional Graphics and Animation
- Philo Barnhart – Apogee, Inc.: Effects Animation Artist
- John L. Black – Key Grip
- Susan Cabral – Makeup Artist: Background performers
- Michael Chavez – Set Costumer
- Jim Chirco – Craft Serviceman
- Leslie Ekker – Animation and Graphics
- Michael Edward Gentry – Lead Scenic Painter
- Bill George – Gregory Jein, Inc.: Model Maker
- Ron Gress – Entertainment Effects Group: Model Painter
- John Grower – Astra Image Corporation
- William Guest – Special Effects: Special Props and Miniatures
- "Hersey" – Production Illustrator (The Art of Star Trek, pp. 162-163; Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, color inset/otherwise unknown)
- Pierre Jalbert – Editor/Dialogue Editor
- Dennis Jones – Sound-Boom Man
- David A. Kimble – Astra Image Corporation: Production Illustrator
- Alexander Lepak – Percussionist
- Michael Lynn – Costumer
- Dan Maltese – Set Designer (slated for credit as "Set Designer")
- Bruce MacRae – Brick Price Movie Miniatures: Prop Maker
- Joel Marston – Dialogue Coach for William Shatner
- William Mass – Costumer
- Lisa Morton – Gregory Jein, Inc.: Model Maker
- Steve Neill – Makeup Artist
- Debbi Nikkel – Apogee, Inc.: Production Accountant
- Don Pennington – Gregory Jein, Inc.: Model Maker
- Kevin Pike – Custom Props Special Effects Artist
- Brick Price – Brick Price Movie Miniatures: Prop Maker
- Hartmut Scharfe – Linguist/Vulcan master voice-over
- Charlie Schram – Makeup Artist
- Michelle Small – Robert Abel & Associates: Effects Production Coordinator/Entertainment Effects Group: Storyboard Artist
- Rick Sternbach – Production Illustrator (slated for credit as "Illustrator")
- Rick Stratton – Lab Technician: Makeup Department
- William Sully – Illustrator
- Joe Viskocil – SFX Coordinator: Astra Image Corporation
- Carlos Yeaggy – Makeup Artist
- Uncredited production companies
- Astra Image Corporation – Visual Effects company (subsidiary Robert Abel & Associates)
- Howard Anderson Company – Visual Effects company
- Brick Price Movie Miniatures – Prop making company, originally subcontracted by Robert Abel & Associates
- Future General Corporation – Visual Effects company
20th century; 2270s; "a bit"; Aaamazzarite; ability; acceleration; acceleration rate; aircraft carrier; airlock four; air tram station; alien; all-decks read-out; "all right"; alternative; analysis; ancestor; Andorians; animal; antenna lead; answer; antimatter; antimatter imbalance; aperture; appointment; Arcturian; area; arrival; "as soon as possible"; assignment; assumption; asteroid; astronomical unit (au); "at your discretion"; attack; attention; audio-video association; auxiliary computer circuit; auxiliary power; auxiliary power test; baby; backup sensor; battle stations; beauty; Betelgeusian; binary code; biofunction monitor; birth; black hole; blood; bluff; body; body function; "Bones"; brother; burn duration; "burn up"; "by all means"; calculation; captain; captor; carbon-based unit; carbon unit; cargo bay; cargo six (dock six); carrier wave; casualty; cc; "center seat"; central brain complex; chamber; Chief of Starfleet Operations; child; circuit; cloud; cloud boundary; code signal; comm station; channel; commission; compassion; composition; computation; computer; computer center; computer library; condolence; confidence; conic section; connecting tunnel; consciousness; Constitution-class; Constitution-class decks; contact; control arm; countdown; courier; course (heading); course projection; Creator; crew status; cruiser; curiosity; dalaphaline; damage; damage report; data; data pattern; data storage; day; deck; deflector; deflector power; degree; Deltans; Delta IV; demonstration; departure order; design (redesign); destination; device; diagnosis; diameter; dilithium crystal; dimension; dimensional image; directional control; disappointment; discipline; distance; division; dock control; docking port; doctor; Doctor of Medicine (MD); drafting; dreadnought; drydock; duty station; Earth; Earth Defense Network; efficiency; embarrassment; emergency; emergency alert; emergency evacuation thruster pack; emergency power; emergency shut-down trip; emotion; energy; engineer; engine navigation relay; Enterprise (frigate); Enterprise, USS (CV-6); entity; Epsilon IX station; estimate; evolution; examination; executive officer (aka exec); existence; exocrine system; experience; explanation; eye; father; Federation; Federation space; feeling; field coil; flight deck; flight path; flow sensors; force field; force field circuit E10; force field circuit E14; forebearer; French language; friendship; "frighten out of my wits"; fuel equation; gain; galaxy; "go ahead"; goal; God; Golden Gate Bridge; grade 1 priority; gravitational field; ground test computer; guidance system; heart; hope; hostility; hour; Human; Human quality; idea; igniter; impact; image; imaging system; Imperial Klingon Cruiser; impulse power; inertial lag; "in fact"; information; injury report; "in my opinion"; "in one piece"; "in order to": "in person"; insight; "in strength"; intention; interference; intermix chamber; interrogative; intersection course; "in the first place"; "in the name of"; intruder; intruder alert; IP; job; "just a moment"; Jupiter; Kazarite; key; kilometer; Klingon; Klingon language; Klingon Fight with V'ger; K'normian; knowledge; kolinahr; launch crew; learning; light cube table; lifeform; linguacode friendship message; living machine; logic; loyalty; lunar beacon; machine; machine planet; magnification (mag); main drive system; main elevator; main power system; Main stage flux chiller; "make your point"; malfunction; maneuvering thruster; manual override; manual shutoff; mass; matter; meaning; mechanism; medic; medical facility; meeting; megabit; megahertz; Megarite; memory; memory pattern; message; meter; micro-miniature hydraulics; Milky Way Galaxy; million; millisecond; mind; minute; missing in action; mission; mistaking; module; moisture; molecule; momentum; monitor; month; moon; multi-processor chip; mutual advantage; "my god"; name; nano synch rate; National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); navigator; navigational deflectors; neurological trauma; Nogura; "no more"; nurse; oath of celibacy; obedience; object; objection; observation; obsession; "of course"; "of course not"; Officer's lounge; officers' quarters; "oh my god"; "on record"; "on schedule"; "on time"; "on the double"; opinion; orbit; orbiting device; orbital office complex; order; orderliness; orifice; osmotic micro-pump; oxygen gravity envelope; pain; orbit; parallel course; passion; pattern; pattern degradation; "pep talk"; percent; permission; phaser; phaser power; photic sonar; photon torpedo; photon torpedo load status; planet; planetary defense system; plasma energy; plasma energy conduit; plasti-skin; pneumonic pulse pattern; pons area; power field; power loss; power surge; pre-launch countdown; Pre stage flux chiller; pressure; priority signal; probe; Probert; problem; program; programming; progress; purge; Quad L-14; quarters; Quasar 7; question; radiation level; radio; radio messaging; radio signal; rate of speed; record; recording; recreation; recreation deck; recreation deck games; red alert (status red); red line; refit; relationship; relative position; remote communications drone; rendezvous; repair time; report; reserve activation clause; Rhaandarite; Rigellian; sand; San Francisco; San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; Saurian; science briefing; science officer; Scots language; scout; search; season; second; security scan; security team; self-destruct; sensor drone; sensor scan; sensor-transceiver combination device; sequence; shakedown; Shamin; sickbay; signal; simulation study; simulator; "so help me"; Sol; Sol system; Sonak's family; sonic shower; space; space matrix restoration coil; spanking; spinal nerve; spray applicator; standard light; "stand by"; star; stardate; Starfleet; Starfleet Command; Starfleet Headquarters; Starfleet Operations; Starfleet Order 2005; star hour; station keeping; status report; sublight speed; subspace frequency; surface; tactical plot; "tag along"; tantrum; technology; temperature; temporary grade reduction; thing; thought; thought pattern; thousand; throat; thruster ignition; thruster suit; "top brass"; tractor beam; Transamerica Pyramid; transfer-of-command order; transmission; transmitter; transporter; transporter accident; transporter accident victim's family; transporter chamber; transporter personnel; transporter platform; transporter room; transporter sensor; transporter system; tricorder; turboshaft; twelfth power; universe; velocity; vessel status; V'Ger's planet; viewer; visual contact; VS; Vulcan; Vulcan; Vulcan embassy; Vulcan language; Vulcan master; Vulcan salute; mind meld; Vulcan nerve pinch; Vulcan ritual; Vulcan symbol; warp capacity; warp drive (main engine); warp power; warp simulation; weapon; "wee"; weep; "what the hell"; "with all due respect"; "with our bare hands"; word; wormhole; wormhole distortion; wormhole effect; Yard Command; year; Yerba Buena Island; Zaranite
air tram; Air tram 3; Air tram 14; Amar, IKS, cargo management unit (workbees); Class F shuttlecraft; Columbia, USS; Entente, USS; Enterprise (space shuttle orbiter); Enterprise, USS (NCC-1701); Enterprise, USS (XCV-330); K't'inga-class (Amar's sister ships); Laika; life boat; long range shuttle; Merrimac, USS; Revere, USS; shuttlecraft; starship; Surak; travel pod (unnamed 1, 2); Travel pod 5; V'ger; Voyager 6; Voyager series
aurora borealis; command cruiser; Dante; engine pylon; Grayson, Amanda; heavy cruiser; hydrogen cloud; integrator; lunar monitor relay; nebula; Sarek; Saturn; scrap metal compactor; solar system; Starfleet archives; supernova; transceiver; United States Subdivision; yellow alert
- Contemporary, non-review, magazine articles,
- "Abel Neglex Trex Effex", Jeffrey Kaye, New West magazine, 26 March 1979, pp. 58-63
- "Red alert on the Starship Enterprise", Peter H. Brown, Reader magazine, 23 November 1979, pp. 7, 20
- "STAR TREK The Motion Picture", Kay Anderson, Cinefantastique, Vol. 9 #3/4, December 1979, pp. 64-67
- "Star Trek's Enterprising Return", Gretchen McNeese, Playboy magazine, January 1980, pp. 138-144, 172, 308-310
- American Cinematographer, February 1980 – The Motion Picture theme issue
- "Into the V'Ger Maw with Douglas Trumbull", Don Shay, Cinefex, issue 1, March 1980, pp. 4-33
- Cinefex, issue 2, August 1980
- "Greg Jein-Miniature Giant", Brad Munson, pp. 24-49
- "Star Trekking at Apogee with John Dykstra", Don Shay, pp. 50-72
- See also: Starlog magazine
- Chekov's Enterprise, February 1980
- The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, March 1980
- "Star Trek: The Emotional Picture", Chapter 4, Star Trek Movie Memories, August 1995, pp. 81-124
- "The Dream Fulfilled: STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE", Part Two-Chapter One, The Art of Star Trek, November 1995, pp. 153-200
- Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, March 1997
- Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 8, December 2001 – The Motion Picture theme issue
- Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise, December 2012
- Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, December 2014
- The First Star Trek Movie, October 2019
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Art and Visual Effects, September 2020
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture at Wikipedia
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture script at Star Trek Minutiae
- Faces in the crowd – exhaustive list of fan extras compiled by Ian McLean
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
- "The Troubled Production of Star Trek: The Motion Picture" at Den Of Geek!
- "A troubled enterprise: How Star Trek: The Motion Picture flirted with disaster only to become a surprise smash" at The Independent
- Simon & Schuster and 40 Years of Star Trek Publishing at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website – 2019 article on The Motion Picture print publications by Dayton Ward for StarTrek.com
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