Todd Alcott

The great interpretive singer Leonard Nimoy exploded upon the popular-music scene with his first album, the curiously-titled Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space (1967). Still an unknown quantity, he nevertheless took a daring stance and adopted a distinct, recognizable "persona" for his performances, an alien space man named "Mr. Spock." This interpretive strategy, designed to create an air of mystique around the singer, was at the same time being adopted by The Beatles, who copied Nimoy for their groundbreaking work Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Much later, David Bowie would grab this idea and run with it all the way to the bank, but it should be noted that Nimoy did it first.

The song titles on Mr. Spock are intriguing and otherworldly: "Theme from Star Trek," "Music to Watch Space Girls By", "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Earth" and the immortal "Visit to a Sad Planet." The album caught the "space" craze of the mid-sixties, was a huge hit and Nimoy's label, Dot Records, was soon clamoring for more.

Todd Alcott
04 February 2007 @ 12:08 am

Bald Chick reacts -- or, more precisely, doesn't react, to the Enterprise entering a field of Cheap Special Effects.

A film of staggering, almost monumental tedium, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is practically an oxymoron.  Why title something The Motion Picture when motion is the thing most signally lacking?

In the future, everyone on Earth is required to wear a miniskirt.  In space, everyone is required to wear pajamas.

In the future, everything takes a very long time.  Especially in narrative terms.  A gigantic space-thing is heading for Earth, and it takes the movie a full 40 minutes to get the goddamned spaceship launched.

(I have learned from Wikipedia that I am actually watching the new, improved "Director's Cut" which reportedly flies like the wind.  It is my sad duty to inform the public it does not.)

But, oh boy!  Now that the ship is launched, I bet we'll come in contact with the gigantic space-thing, right?  Sadly, no.  First, the ship must encounter a wormhole, a terrifying outer-space danger that bears a striking resemblance to cheap 1970s special effects.

In fact, I would say that fully half of Star Trek: The Motion Picture consists of the ship encountering cheap 1970s special effects.  A typical sequence goes like this:

1. Someone looks at a screen.
2. On the screen is a cheap 1970s special effect.
3. Cut to: exterior of the ship, encountering the cheap 1970s special effect.
4. Cut to: group of people staring.
5. Cut to: another shot of the cheap 1970s special effect.
6. Cut to: someone else staring.  Perhaps a jaw falls open.
7. The principles gather to discuss and theorize about the nature of the cheap 1970s special effect.
8. Repeat every ten minutes.

After taking 40 minutes to get started, the movie marks time for another twenty minutes, until we finally make contact with the gigantic space thing.  Director Robert Wise brings to Star Trek: The Motion Picture the light, lyrical touch he brought to The Andromeda Strain and the stolid, grim determination he brought to The Sound of Music.

The theme of the movie is desire.  Kirk desires command of the Enterprise, Spock desires to be free of emotion, Stephen Collins desires a bald chick.  More to the point, everyone on the ship seems to want to have sex with everyone else.  There are more meaningful glances, knowing smiles, wistful exchanges and heartfelt handshakes in any given hour of Star Trek: The Motion Picture than in the totality of The Way We Were

So it is perhaps appropriate that the gigantic space thing has a gigantic space anus (or, as Spock calls it, "the orifice") through which one must pass in order to gain the thing one desires.  Spock, in a fit of passion, steals a spacesuit in order to pass through the space anus, and eventually Kirk pilots the whole spaceship through, sublimating, no doubt, his desire to pilot his spaceship through the anuses of his beloved crew members.

The gigantic space thing snatches a crew member off the ship, the Bald Chick.  Why she is snatched is unexplained.  Why she is returned, looking like the bald chick but transformed into a dull-witted robot, in a revealing mini-robe, is unexplained.  Why the crew spend a good hunk of time trying to awaken her inner Bald-Chick-ness is unexplained.

Eventually, the plot conspires to have the Bald Chick express the desires of the gigantic space thing, which is to "touch the creator," which in this case means covering Stephen Collins with sparkly blue lights and self-destructing.  If this is how machines have sex, I don't want to live in the future.

So the gigantic space thing disappears, taking the lives of Stephen Collins and Bald Chick, who get mentioned, and the lives of three ships of Klingons and a bunch of people on a space station, who don't.  Then Kirk, appropos of nothing, decides, on no authority whatsoever, to steal the spaceship and leave.  In the future, apparently, there is less accountability necessary than today.

Things pick up in the final half-hour or so, as a handful of acceptable, middle-brow sci-fi "ideas" take hold and the tedium momentarily transforms into viewer interest.  These ideas, I'm told, were adapted from earlier, cheaper episodes of the Star Trek TV show (which I have , regrettably, never watched) and would be later presented, in compact, exciting, character-driven, 22-minute form, as "The Return," a tremendous episode of Justice League Unlimited.