Classic Sci-Fi Review – Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Derrick Ferguson
Derrick Ferguson was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, which as most right thinking people know is The Center of The Known Universe. After a diverse and somewhat infamous career in the security field working for various employers such as the NY Board of Education and Home Depot he retired early to take care of his health and dedicate his life to the one overwhelming passion of his life: the telling of stories that he hopes entertain and excites those who read them. “I’ve been telling stories and writing them for as long as I can remember. Mostly retelling stories that I read in comic books, saw on TV or just heard from others verbally. My first crack at true creative innovation came from when I was seized with a inexplicable obsession with Mad magazine’s “Spy Vs. Spy.” I filled up whole spiral notebooks writing two and three page stories about those characters. From then on I just wrote whatever struck my fancy. I wrote stories about my favorite superheroes such as Thor, The Black Panther and Iron Man. You could say I was ahead of my time as I was writing fan fiction before I knew what fan fiction was. I would also write Edgar Rice Burroughs influenced stories about my classmates. When I was supposed to be doing my schoolwork I was making up stories with my classmates as the characters. I would write on both sides of a sheet of loose leaf notepaper and that was a chapter that ended on a cliffhanger. Once it made the rounds of the classroom, I’d start on the next chapter.” Derrick wrote mostly for his own enjoyment during the 1970s and 1980s. During this time he submitted manuscripts to various publishers who sent them back as fast as he sent them out. New opportunities came about with the advent of The Internet. Derrick quickly became involved in Star Trek fan fiction communities as well as Marvel and DC fan fiction. It wasn’t long before Derrick and a number of his fellow fan fiction writers joined together to create Frontier Publishing, a fiction website devoted to publishing serialized novels. At the site’s hey-day there were at least half a dozen serialized novels going strong at one time. Derrick’s first Dillon novel, Dillon and The Voice of Odin was presented first at Frontier. Unfortunately, Frontier Publishing had to close up shop after a couple of years, and that may have been the end for Derrick’s writing career and his now-beloved character Dillon if Derrick’s friend and fellow writer Russ Anderson hadn’t cajoled him into sending the completed serial off to a publishing house for one last shot at getting his writing into print. “If anybody has read and enjoyed my Dillon stories then they should go right now and send Russ a thank you email. If I’m Dillon’s daddy then Russ is his granddaddy,” Derrick said. “If it hadn’t been for Russ kicking me in the ass and throwing considerable support behind me to get that book published, you might not still be reading Dillon adventures today.” Thanks to Russ, Dillon and the Voice of Odin was finally published in 2003 in paperback—or “dead tree format” as Derrick facetiously calls it—, Derrick’s professional writing career began in earnest. Like many writers, Derrick is a voracious reader, and it was quite difficult for him to narrow down the list of writers who have influenced him over the years. “That would be a really long list if I had to name all the writers who have influenced me,” he said. “But I’ll just give you The Dirty Dozen of the writers I love the most and who I feel have influenced me the most: Robert E. Howard. Chester Himes. Roger Zelazny. Ishmael Reed. Mike Resnick. Jim Steranko. Ian Fleming. Larry McMurtry. Robert R. McCammon. Lester Dent. Charles Saunders. George C. Chesbro.” What drives Derrick in his career as a writer? “I like telling stories,” he said. “It is no deeper than that. For some reason God gave me the gift of making up outrageous stories and the ability to communicate them in an entertaining manner through prose . . . What do I hope to achieve? That my stories can entertain and maybe make somebody’s day a little easier and maybe make them forget their troubles for a couple of hours.
Derrick Ferguson

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1979

Paramount Pictures

Directed by Robert Wise

Produced by Gene Roddenberry

Screenplay by Harold Livingston

Based on STAR TREK by Gene Roddenberry

First of all, let me say five things before I begin this review:

#1: I come by my status as a Trekkie honestly. I remember begging my parents to let me stay up Friday nights to watch Star Trek (to be referred from now on as TOS=The Original Series) during its original run. And yes, I am that old. And like most folks during the 70’s and 80’s I stayed up late weeknights here in New York, as Channel 11 faithfully reran TOS Monday to Friday back to back with Honeymooners reruns.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

#2: I have seen every episode of TOS as well as STAR TREK: The Next Generation, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, STAR TREK: VOYAGERand  STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE multiple times. Do not even seek to dispute me on this.

#3: My favorite Star Trek is STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE. It’s my favorite because like Sean Connery’s James Bond, TOS is so iconic it should be put on a shelf by itself and not compared with the various series that followed.

#4: At a conservative estimate I would say I’ve read in the neighborhood of 100 Star Trek novels.

#5: STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE is the last movie I would give to somebody who knows nothing about Star Trek and wants to understand what it is that their Trekkie friends find so fantastic about Star Trek that they just don’t understand.

I know it’s hard for those of you Star Trek fans today to understand now that you have five Star Trek series, eleven movies and Sarek only knows how many comic book series and mini-series and novelizations and original novels and fan fiction, some of which I myself have written. But for us back in 1979 this is all we had. Word. I wouldn’t lie to you. Is STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE the best Star Trek movie? Absolutely not. That title has to go to “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” which even after 30 years is still the best Star Trekmovie made to date. But for those of us who had gone without any new Star Trek on television for 10 years, a feature film version of our beloved TV show was akin to an affirmation that a God did indeed exist. And maybe you don’t think we got the Star Trek movie we deserved back in 1979 but we thought we did and for a lot of us that’s all that matters, even today.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

An incredibly powerful alien entity is heading directly toward Earth. It’s already encountered the Klingons and kicked their asses back to Qo’nos without breaking a sweat. The entity calls itself V’ger and says it has one mission: “To learn all that is learnable and transmit that information to The Creator.” V’ger insists that The Creator is on Earth. But nobody on Earth has the intelligence or knowledge to have created something like V’ger. It’s a frighteningly huge bio-organic machine that has actually digitized whole star systems to contain within its cosmic data base to enhance its already universal knowledge. Nobody knows what it’s intentions are once it reaches Earth.

The only starship that can intercept V’ger before it reaches Earth is The Enterprise. Now, right here I could go into a whole 10K word dissertation about how Starfleet must be really low on starships since just about every plot of a Star Trek movie hinges on the Enterprise being the only starship within range of whatever threat is going to destroy Earth but I won’t. Just go with it.

Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) does some back door maneuvering to screw his protégé Captain William Deckard (Stephen Collins) out of command of The Enterprise. Kirk claims his expertise in handling alien intelligences during the five-year mission of The Enterprise qualifies him to deal with V’ger. It also helps that most of his former crew such as Chief of Engineering/ Commander Scott (James Doohan)  Commander Uhura ( Nichelle Nichols) Chief of Security/Operations Chevok (Walter Konig) Nurse and now Dr. Chapel (Majel Barrett) as well as Helmsman Sulu (George Takei) are still assigned to The Enterprise. But still Kirk can’t undertake this mission without his conscience Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and his spare brain Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) Along the way they all grapple with Existential  Issues such as what is the Nature of Existence? and Is This All That I Am, Is There Nothing More? And yeah, they have to figure out how this all relates to V’ger before it destroys Earth.

The whole movie boils down to a battle not between laser blasts and planet-destroying Death Stars but between Ideas. Ideas such as what it means to transcend the concepts of what we are what we can be. On the other hand, it’s a lot of what we watch the folks on the screen we’re watching telling us what the stuff they’re watching means.

To be bluntly honest, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE is the two-hour series finale to TOS that we never got on TV. But I like it a lot. In fact, I love it.  But I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody except long-term Star Trek fans. It is a ponderous movie that needs to have a knowledge of Star Trek history and a reverence for the time honored characters in order to enjoy it. And you’re not going to be able to do that unless you know the characters as well or as better as you know your beloved relatives. If you have any.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

When I talk about STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE I tend to talk about moments like when Kirk has to tell Starfleet Command he’s lost two crewmen in a transporter malfunction. Or when Kirk and Scotty share a laugh during the infamous fly-by scene. Or when a crewman slips between a pair of closing doors on his way to do whatever. Or when Dr. McCoy refuses to beam up. Or when after The Enterprise has successfully achieved warp drive Kirk give Chekov a secret wink. Or how amazing Nichelle Nichols looks even that terrible costume. When Dr. McCoy in a crucial moment refers to an Enterprise security officer by name and not his rank.

Bottom line: I like STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. It’s in my Home Movie Library and I watch it regularly. It gave me exactly what I wanted at the time I saw it. Which is to see all these characters I love back again in a brand new adventure in the medium in which I first saw them.

That’s not to say the movie has its flaws. Oh, yeah…it’s slow. It’s slow even by the standards of Star Trek fans. It’s become renowned by its nickname of “Star Trek: The Motionless Picture”

Know what? I don’t care. It’s STAR TREK and that’s good enough for me.

132 minutes

Rated G

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Derrick Ferguson

Derrick Ferguson

Derrick Ferguson was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, which as most right thinking people know is The Center of The Known Universe. After a diverse and somewhat infamous career in the security field working for various employers such as the NY Board of Education and Home Depot he retired early to take care of his health and dedicate his life to the one overwhelming passion of his life: the telling of stories that he hopes entertain and excites those who read them. “I’ve been telling stories and writing them for as long as I can remember. Mostly retelling stories that I read in comic books, saw on TV or just heard from others verbally. My first crack at true creative innovation came from when I was seized with a inexplicable obsession with Mad magazine’s “Spy Vs. Spy.” I filled up whole spiral notebooks writing two and three page stories about those characters. From then on I just wrote whatever struck my fancy. I wrote stories about my favorite superheroes such as Thor, The Black Panther and Iron Man. You could say I was ahead of my time as I was writing fan fiction before I knew what fan fiction was. I would also write Edgar Rice Burroughs influenced stories about my classmates. When I was supposed to be doing my schoolwork I was making up stories with my classmates as the characters. I would write on both sides of a sheet of loose leaf notepaper and that was a chapter that ended on a cliffhanger. Once it made the rounds of the classroom, I’d start on the next chapter.” Derrick wrote mostly for his own enjoyment during the 1970s and 1980s. During this time he submitted manuscripts to various publishers who sent them back as fast as he sent them out. New opportunities came about with the advent of The Internet. Derrick quickly became involved in Star Trek fan fiction communities as well as Marvel and DC fan fiction. It wasn’t long before Derrick and a number of his fellow fan fiction writers joined together to create Frontier Publishing, a fiction website devoted to publishing serialized novels. At the site’s hey-day there were at least half a dozen serialized novels going strong at one time. Derrick’s first Dillon novel, Dillon and The Voice of Odin was presented first at Frontier. Unfortunately, Frontier Publishing had to close up shop after a couple of years, and that may have been the end for Derrick’s writing career and his now-beloved character Dillon if Derrick’s friend and fellow writer Russ Anderson hadn’t cajoled him into sending the completed serial off to a publishing house for one last shot at getting his writing into print. “If anybody has read and enjoyed my Dillon stories then they should go right now and send Russ a thank you email. If I’m Dillon’s daddy then Russ is his granddaddy,” Derrick said. “If it hadn’t been for Russ kicking me in the ass and throwing considerable support behind me to get that book published, you might not still be reading Dillon adventures today.” Thanks to Russ, Dillon and the Voice of Odin was finally published in 2003 in paperback—or “dead tree format” as Derrick facetiously calls it—, Derrick’s professional writing career began in earnest. Like many writers, Derrick is a voracious reader, and it was quite difficult for him to narrow down the list of writers who have influenced him over the years. “That would be a really long list if I had to name all the writers who have influenced me,” he said. “But I’ll just give you The Dirty Dozen of the writers I love the most and who I feel have influenced me the most: Robert E. Howard. Chester Himes. Roger Zelazny. Ishmael Reed. Mike Resnick. Jim Steranko. Ian Fleming. Larry McMurtry. Robert R. McCammon. Lester Dent. Charles Saunders. George C. Chesbro.” What drives Derrick in his career as a writer? “I like telling stories,” he said. “It is no deeper than that. For some reason God gave me the gift of making up outrageous stories and the ability to communicate them in an entertaining manner through prose . . . What do I hope to achieve? That my stories can entertain and maybe make somebody’s day a little easier and maybe make them forget their troubles for a couple of hours.

Classic Sci-Fi Review …

by Derrick Ferguson time to read: 5 min
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