Sunday, August 5, 2018


Many moons ago, way back when there were only 79 episodes worth of Star Trek in existence, Paramount executives got an idea. "Hey, look at this Star Wars thing!" they said, their hands sweaty with anticipation. "It's making huge money! Don't we have something like that?" And so Star Trek was brought out of mothballs and relaunched as a movie backed by a huge budget, a big-time director and incredible fan enthusiasm.

As they say, two out of three ain't bad.

Even throwing all the money and the famous director into the mix, Star Trek: The Motion Picture debuted to lukewarm reviews and jokes calling it "The Motionless Picture" or "The Motion Sickness", pejoratives that were aimed at the film's particular lack of swashbuckling and action – the hallmarks of Star Trek.

But luckily there was that third thing I mentioned – the fans. Fans like me, for instance. I was one of those teens that missed out on Star Trek's original run because I was simply too young. "City on the Edge of Forever" is not riveting story-telling to a seven-year-old. But when it went into syndication in the 70's, I was on-board as it caught fire and became the single greatest syndication success story in history. So by December of 1979, fans like me were primed and ready for our first dose of Star Trek in ten years. Ten years!

And so it was that on a snowy December night, my friends (fellow fans!) and I piled into my car and drove to the Summit Mall theater in west Akron, Ohio. The slushy mix could not chill our hot anticipation of the miraculous resurrection of our favorite show.

For almost two-and-a-half hours we sat there, alternating between excitement ("It's McCoy  and he's got a beard!") and flat-out boredom ("Let's watch Sulu watch the screen for a few more minutes...").

Honestly, it was not the home run we had all hoped for. It plodded along as it told a story that turned out to be a LOT like one we were all familiar with. Any fan worth their salt left the theater thinking "did we just see a big-budget remake of 'The Changeling' episode?"

Yes. Yes, we had. After ten years of waiting we had been given an expensive, slow, boring remake of something we'd already seen. It wasn't so much that it was BAD, it just wasn't all that GOOD.


With that in mind, what I tell you next might sound nonsensical, but here goes:

I went back to see it three more times over the next several weeks. Wait, what?

Why? Because even mediocre Star Trek was better than no Star Trek at all. Story aside, the visuals were strikingly good, sometimes literally awe-inspiring (has a Klingon ship ever looked so AMAZING?!). Everywhere you looked there was something new to see. So, like a man lost in the desert, I drank the brackish water that was offered to me. It didn't quench my thirst to any great degree, but it beat having nothing.

But even in that sea of so-so-ness, there was one aspect of the film that stood out to me in a profound way and was one of the biggest single reasons that I kept going back.

It was the new Enterprise. It was was stunning. It was beautiful. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. And while most people now look at the reveal scene as a much too-long look at something that's no big deal, I will forever watch it through the filter of fascination that I had on that first look. For those who didn't experience their first viewing at the time of its original release, well, there's no way you'll ever understand what the hell I'm talking about. But for those of us who sat there in the dark and saw this new marvel for the first time in all her pearlescent glory, it was truly magical.

I loved the original Enterprise which I had drawn by hand dozens of times over the years. But this was, to me, the perfecting of that awesome design. The sweep of her nacelles, the glow of her deflector. The self-illumination system that literally made her glow like an exotic insect in space. The amazing scale of the thing! It all came together to sweep me into the moment.

Here is that reveal, in its entirety. Jump to 1:50 to get to the meat of the scene.

While I know many readers share my love for this moment, I can hear some of you now: "geez – – I've seen his before. Big whoop." "There's four minutes of my life I'll never get back".

I get it, really I do.  It's one of those things that is inherently of a time and place that will never come again. You were either there and got it or you weren't and CAN'T. And while I love many of the Star Trek incarnations that followed, for me, none had a ship that matched the refitted Enterprise as seen throughout the original series film run. The one I first saw on that cold, wnderous winter night.

The surviving Enterprise Refit model at Blue Origin HQ.
I feel fortunate enough to have been of that time and place wherein I could sit in a dark theater and, for a few brief moments, let the magic of Star Trek and film-making itself wash over me and put me in a place that is impossible to describe.

A place where no one had gone before. Or since.



FWIW: I realize that every Trek fan has their own idea of the best ship , the best Captain, the best show, etc. This isn't meant to insult anyone else's take on what Star Trek means to them. It is simply my take on my experience. To quote a certain Talosian Keeper, "May you find your way as pleasant.".


  1. Well said. This pretty much mirrors my own experience, although I was only able to afford to see it once in the theatre (on my 16th birthday). When it came on HBO at my friend's house, I photographed the TV screen with my Super8 camera to capture the Enterprise so vividly realized.

    1. Awesome! I love that you filmed the screen! Thanks for reading.

  2. Agreed this is the most beautiful space vehicle ever designed and brought to screen bar none. A couple things I love so much about it are the aztecing paint job, super advanced glowing deflector and the addition of self illuminating lights. Also it avoids the glowing red/blue nacelles that followed in later series(a personal pet peeve I admit). The only criticism I could make of the ship is that the interior is not iconic as the exterior.

  3. The best made model of the best redesign of the best looking ship ever. I can watch that scene endlessly.

  4. I was 11 when I saw TMP and the whole film was like a feast to someone who was starving. The fact that it was boring, and a re-tread of The Changeling went Whooosh! right over my head that day. To me, it was purely OMG IT'S KIRK!!! OMG IT'S SPOCK!!! Seeing them come to life again is still the greatest single thrill in all my years of fandom. And the Enterprise. Wow. I could have watched that reveal for the entire length of the movie.

    Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories!