Ten years after the show was axed, the cast is re-assembled for a big-screen outing. A strange entity is heading for Earth, threatening the planet’s very existence, and with the newly-fitted Enterprise the only ship in the area, Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) must re-assume control of his old vessel and investigate.
This film was dubbed by critics at the time as Star Trek: The Motionless Picture due to its painstakingly slow plot and long sequences of nothing happening, and I’m not going to be able to improve on this description. It is unbelievably slow. It takes about twenty minutes for Kirk and Scotty (James Doohan) to board the ship as they fly around it in a shuttle craft admiring the exterior. Every sequence is stretched to breaking point, savouring every second, admiring every detail.
The threat to Earth is a decidedly un-menacing 53 hours away, giving our characters plenty of time to catch up with each other. This is the plot of a single episode stretched to more than two hours. This means it’s very high-quality science fiction, but that it there are vast stretches of the ship moving very slowly through space. It’s gone from light speed to late speed, from warp 8 to warp late, from proton torpedoes to proton torpeslows. It feels like the show’s makers have been freed from the budgetary and time constraints that plagued the original series, so made a film how they would have liked to make the show, but it really isn’t very exciting. While Star Trek and Star Wars are often seen as cousin franchises, this has more in common with 2001: A Space Odyssey with its slow, visual sequences set to a dramatic orchestral score.
The Enterprise’s cardboard-looking set from the sixties has upgraded to a very futuristic shade of beige, put down to a refitting of the ship in the film. And just as the ship has been pimped up, so has the film, with vastly improved production values and special effects. But it’s still the same old Star Trek. Shatner doesn’t just chew the scenery here, he swallows it and comes back for seconds. But as ever his unique approach to acting is enjoyable to watch, and it’s great to see the crew back together again.
The fact that this is a single episode stretched out is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. It keeps the uncompromisingly intelligent sci-fi that fans love, but doesn’t add any of the energy or excitement needed to hold our attention for 130 minutes. It boldly goes where no film has gone: to bore.