Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a 1979 American science fiction film directed by Robert Wise and based on the television series Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry, who also served as its producer. It is the first installment in the Star Trek film series and stars the cast of the original television series. In the film, set in the 2270s, a mysterious and immensely powerful alien cloud known as V’Ger approaches Earth, destroying everything in its path. Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) assumes command of the recently refitted Starship USS Enterprise, to lead it on a mission to save the planet and determine V’Ger’s origins.
When the original television series was canceled in 1969, Roddenberry lobbied Paramount Pictures to continue the franchise through a feature film. The success of the series in syndication convinced the studio to begin work on the film in 1975.
A series of writers attempted to craft a “suitably epic” script, but the attempts did not satisfy Paramount, who scrapped the project in 1977. Paramount instead planned on returning the franchise to its roots, with a new television series titled Star Trek: Phase II. The box office success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, however, convinced Paramount that science fiction films other than Star Wars could do well, so the studio canceled production of Phase II and resumed its attempts at making a Star Trek film.
In 1978, Paramount assembled the largest press conference held at the studio since the 1950s to announce that Wise would direct a $15 million film adaptation of the original television series. With the cancellation of Phase II, writers rushed to adapt its planned pilot episode, “In Thy Image”, into a film script. Constant revisions to the story and the shooting script continued to the extent of hourly script updates on shooting dates.
The Enterprise was modified inside and out, costume designer Robert Fletcher provided new uniforms, and production designer Harold Michelson fabricated new sets. Jerry Goldsmith composed the film’s score, beginning an association with Star Trek that would continue until 2002. When the original contractors for the optical effects proved unable to complete their tasks in time, effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull was given carte blanche to meet the film’s December 1979 release date. The film came together only days before the premiere; Wise took the just-completed film to its Washington, D.C., opening, but always felt that the final theatrical version was a rough cut of the film he wanted to make.
Released in North America on December 7, 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture received mixed reviews, many of which faulted it for a lack of action scenes and over-reliance on special effects. Its final production cost ballooned to approximately $46 million, and it earned $139 million worldwide, short of studio expectations but enough for Paramount to propose a less expensive sequel. Roddenberry was forced out of creative control for the sequel, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). In 2001, Wise oversaw a director’s cut for a special DVD release of the film, with remastered audio, tightened and added scenes, and new computer-generated effects.