Star Trek: The Motion Picture is something which feels like throwing a hand grenade amongst the fans, just by the very mention of its name. Very few of the other Star Trek movies generate such a Marmite reaction, even almost 45 years on from its original release.
Yes, it has lots of nicknames. ‘The Slow Motion Picture’. ‘The Motionless Picture’. ‘The Motion Sickness’. The relative lack of pew-pew action in the film is probably what pushes this to the bottom end of most fans’ rankings of the Trek flicks. Yet there is a lot to enjoy in The Motion Picture, and the release of the remastered 4K The Director’s Edition has helped with breathing some new life into this unfairly maligned entry in the big screen outings of the original Enterprise crew, giving people a chance to see it in a new light.
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Even after arguing about its relative merits or otherwise, you have to admit that if it had failed to deliver at the box office, there would not only have been no sequel made, but also no Trek franchise today. So much hinged on The Motion Picture performing, particularly after there had been so many years of a back-and-forth tussle about whether the series should be revived for television, or as a feature film. The loss of Star Trek II (also dubbed Star Trek: Phase II) as a programme on the small screen was the future franchise’s gain, so credit is due.
However, the period in the show’s fictional chronology that falls between TMP and The Wrath Of Khan seems to largely be unexplored. There is certainly plenty of scope to examine what took place during those ‘missing’ years, and this is just where we find IDW’s new comic book, Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Echoes, set not long after the V’Ger incident, with Admiral Kirk still in command of the refitted USS Enterprise, and taking the ship on an extended ‘shakedown cruise’ with his original shipmates along for the ride.
Writer Marc Guggenheim’s story sees the Enterprise come across a ship with a surprising occupant: a doppelgänger of one of the crew. It turns out that they have slipped through from a parallel universe, in pursuit of a criminal who has a weapon of mass destruction. Yet another twist is that the quarry is somebody who also resembles one of the trusted members of the ship’s complement. Kirk find himself in the midst of not only an interdimensional incident, but also one which threatens galactic stability and could lead to war with one of the Federation’s rivals.
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Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Echoes so far feels a little disappointing for a number of reasons. Guggenheim’s take on some of the characters feels a little off, particularly in the depiction of Kirk, whose persona seems to be written more in line with the Chris Pine version at points than Shatner’s. The likenesses are also spectacularly variable throughout, as the art by Oleg Chudakov goes remarkably off piste. Not only is Kirk’s resemblance to Shatner virtually non-existent, it also varies wildly between different panels.
At least some members of the bridge crew are given a chance to have their moment in the spotlight, unlike their time on the series or films (such as in the case of Uhura in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, shamefully written out for most of the running time). Guggenheim has certainly set up quite an interesting premise, but it feels as though his writing lapses into cliches at times, especially in his depiction of the other-dimensional alternate versions. Hopefully, things will start to bed in soon, otherwise this could be boldly going nowhere.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Echoes #2 is out now from IDW Publishing.