Saturday, August 20, 2005

Saturday Comic-Book Flashback # 5: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (A Marvel Super Special Magazine)

On December 7, 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered in theatres around America and the response was decidedly mixed. Some critics (including Roger Ebert) liked the film a lot; many others found it boring or somehow tepid. I had just turned ten (on December 3rd) when I saw the first film in the long-running movie franchise at Essex Green in suburban New and...I was immediately taken with it. In many ways, Star Trek: The Motion Picture remains the only film in the 10-strong canon that actually looks and feels cinematic, rather than the unholy offshoot of a TV production. I believe that much of the film's look comes from director Robert Wise - master-storyteller of such films as The Andromeda Strain, Audrey Rose, The Day The Earth Stood Still and West Side Story . In particular, I remember the glorious and spectacular opening sequence, one involving the destruction of three Klingon cruisers pursuing a space cloud of unknown origin and intent. Another fantastic scene (though often criticized for its lengthy duration...) saw Scotty and Kirk circle the refurbished U.S.S. Enterprise in drydock. At that time, I had never seen a space movie that felt more real.

As an intrepid fourth grader weaned on Space:1999, Star Trek and Star Wars, I was fascinated with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and I quickly went about collecting every bit of merchandise from the film that I could get my pre-adolescent hands on. This included Mego's 3 inch action figures, the Gene Roddenberry "novelization" from Pocket books and - of course - the Marvel comic books.

I'll never forget the day I brought home the Marvel "super special magazine" and got to relive the grand big-screen adventure through comic-form. Marv Wolfman was the story adapter, and Dave Cockrum and Klaus Janson were responsible for the art. Like the Star Wars # 1 issue that I featured in my last flashback, this Star Trek adaptation was cool because it featured scenes that didn't make it into the actual feature film.

For instance, late in the film, Mr. Spock takes a spacewalk through the interior of the cloud ship and mind-melds with V'ger to determine that it is a living machine. The comic adaptation reflects an earlier draft (and a scene actually shot...) in which Captain Kirk joins Spock for that mission and is attacked by a swarm of antibody-like crystals. After Spock phasers the crystals attempting to crush the good captain, the duo heads out into V'ger's vast memory core and sees the destroyed Klingon ships stored there, another visual not featured in the film. The space walk is surely one of Star Trek: The Motion Picture's most inspiring and visually appealing moments, but this alternate version seems to capture the essence of Star Trek pretty well- particularly in the give-and-take between Kirk and Spock as they solve a mystery together.

But what really makes the Star Trek: The Motion Picture magazine from Marvel such a total and delightful immersion in Star Trek lore is that following the adaptation of the film are pages and pages of articles about Star Trek. There's Tom Rogers' "Star Trek - The Phenomenon," which looks at the history of the series from inception to cancellation, to big screen re-birth. There's "Touching Base with Reality: An Interview with Jesco von Puttkamer" by Marian Stensgard, a Q&A that gazes at the science behind the motion picture and also probes the NASA scientist about the future shuttle program! Finally, Tom Rogers offers a "Star Trek - The Motion Picture Glossary," a three page concordance of people, technology and vehicles featured in the film. There are useful entries on everything from "Air Tram," to "Wormhole distortion."

For a kid Trekker living only with repeats and one new film, this stuff was just fantastic. I devoured every bit of this special magazine. And Star Trek: The Motion Picture - flaws and all - still holds a special place in my heart from that magic movie year of 1979. (The year of The Black Hole, Alien, Moonraker, and ST: TMP).

1 comment:

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