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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.

13 Comments

  1. Ross
    August 25, 2014 @ 1:09 am

    Among my Star Trek IV memories:
    * This is the first Star Trek movie which, so far as I know, was adapted as an audiobook, using the format of the time, which was George Takei (Or occasionally James Doohan) reading a pruning-shears abridgement of the novelization intercut with short monologues of Spock's personal reflections performed by Leonard Nemoy. The first line of the audiobook adaptation is "I fell into fire"
    * The VHS release of Star Trek IV contained the (as far as I know) first trailer for TNG. All I really remember of it today is that the announcer describes Geordi as "A man of unique vision."
    * I really love the title music for this movie, and was heartily disappointed that they never use it for anything else.

    Things which did not occur to me untill years later:
    * The basic plot of this movie is "Something humanity did thoughtlessly around the audience's time comes back to threaten 23rd century earth in the form of a giant omnipotent space probe, so the crew of the Enterprise, on a basically new ship, have to save the day by delivering a message to it. Also, one of the parents from Seventh Heaven ends up permanently transported to a new world, never to return to the world they came from." So technically, it's the same movie as The Motion Picture.
    * If Gillian's argument for coming to the future is that the future is presumably short of whale biologists, why does she immediately bugger off on a science vessel? Also, how is she remotely qualified for that?

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  2. Josh Marsfelder
    August 25, 2014 @ 8:29 am

    "The VHS release of Star Trek IV contained the (as far as I know) first trailer for TNG. All I really remember of it today is that the announcer describes Geordi as 'A man of unique vision.'"

    Is that the one with the wonderfully cheesy bombastic 80s voiceover guy who emphasizes the end of every sentence and says "The 24th Century Begins"? Because I remember that too: It and all the other TNG promos are on the recent Blu-ray releases, if you wanna feed your nostalgia.

    "If Gillian's argument for coming to the future is that the future is presumably short of whale biologists, why does she immediately bugger off on a science vessel? Also, how is she remotely qualified for that?"

    I always assumed it was part of her training to get her acclimated to her new life in the 23rd Century. FWIW, Chris Claremont says it's an ocean research vessel (an old sailing schooner she captains and uses as a houseboat), not a starship.

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  3. Ross
    August 25, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

    A bit of googling has found me the exact trailer in question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtmsI07AMsE

    I remember thinking it seemed like a cheat to use clips from Star Trek II.

    I'll buy ocean research vessel as a retcon, but I can't imagine they actually meant that when they wrote the line.

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  4. Josh Marsfelder
    August 25, 2014 @ 3:09 pm

    Ah, yes, I remember that one! Looks like it was filmed before they had enough footage from "Encounter at Farpoint" to make a trailer out of. Happened to DS9 too, and it was even more egregious there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLyGiShr3G0

    Well, the real answer is that Nicholas Mayer and Harve Bennett didn't actually communicate during pre-production, so the two halves of the movie don't actually line up with or follow each other.

    I dunno, maybe Gillian helps invent them a submersible starship. We know they exist as of Voyager and Star Trek Into Darkness

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  5. Ross
    August 25, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

    Wow. I do not think I saw that DS9 trailer. The only one I remember had every sentence begin with the breathy clause, "It waits…" I do like the logo though.

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  6. Josh Marsfelder
    August 25, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

    I LOVE the "It waits…" trailers!

    Yeah, for a temporary logo it's a good one. I've occasionally wondered if it wouldn't have been a better choice than the one they went with.

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  7. K. Jones
    August 26, 2014 @ 9:30 am

    This was a proper ensemble. As we only saw rarely in the Original Series, even the thinnest of plots was always elevated by the talent involved in this ensemble, and that'll hold true into the next series as well. By this point, the Kirk & Spock show at least no longer exists, because at least the McCoy & Scott show happening simultaneously is equally compelling. But the rest are excellent as well, and memorable.

    Plus it always felt to me like Sulu was flirting with that Huey-2 pilot, so there's that.

    I'm sure I'll have more to think about later – using sci-fi as a lens to look at the contemporary world is hardly a first for this film, but this was a very finely balanced example, with only a modicum too much in the way of expository set-trappings in the framing devices and continuity nods.

    I missed a chance to meet Bob Ballard at Colgate some years back. My biology teacher and he were mutual acquaintances. This was probably … oh, right around Cameron's Titanic.

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  8. T. Hartwell
    August 26, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

    So this (specifically, the last 15 minutes of this) was what introduced me to Star Trek.

    See, growing up I was always a Star Wars kid, and being the young impressionable thing I was I automatically assumed this meant I had to be 100% against this "Trek" thing. Mind you, I have no clue where that came from- my parents liked both franchises about equally, both having grown up on TOS and seeing Wars in high school/college- heck, my mom apparently much enjoyed TNG during its run. But somehow I gleaned the rivalry at a very early age and was firmly rooted on the Star Wars side of things.

    So then one day when I'm like 11 or 12 or something, I go into the back room where my Dad's watching this film, and I see this woman press up against something invisible- it turns out it's a spaceship. Intrigued, I ask my dad what we're watching. "Oh, it's Star Trek". "Wait, what? I thought Star Trek was this boring thing with some old bald guy!" "No, this is Star Trek". "Who's the guy with pointy ears?" "Oh, that's Spock. He's an alien".

    From that point on I was hooked. After that my mother checked out III and II (we ended up watching the 'trilogy' in reverse order, curiously enough), then we caught a TOS episode at my grandmother's house ("Savage Curtain"), then it was collections of old VHSs from book sales and DVDs of the original series from the library. But this was the start of it, and as a kid I absolutely loved it, and even now it's one of my favorite things about the franchise.

    Lovely article, btw. Totally agreed on Taylor- it's amazing just how well she works here, and a shame she didn't appear more on the show.

    incidentally, it's interesting I would've thought this (I think all my knowledge of Star Trek just came from the osmosis of posters and ads for I think what would've been Nemesis), given that in middle school I started watching some reruns of TNG with my sister, starting episode-by-episode somewhere around Season 3 (specifically "The Defector"), and that continued on for several years. When I started rewatching the show from the beginning a couple months ago, I realized I actually had way more fondness and nostalgia for this part of my experience of the show, and it was absolutely this captain and this crew that was nearest and dearest to my heart. "Old bald guy", indeed.

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  9. Josh Marsfelder
    August 27, 2014 @ 9:57 am

    This is a wonderful story, thanks so much for sharing it!

    Sounds like your experience with Star Trek was the complete inverse of mine (I even had the same situation IRT TNG: I remember asking my father why it was called "The Next Generation", because as far as I was concerned it was Star Trek, completely and totally). I'm really glad you weren't harangued by Star Trek fans the way I was by Star Wars fans though.

    Voyage Home remains one of my absolute favourite parts of Star Trek today too, in case I undersold it here. It's probably the best, most definitive Original Series story to me.

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  10. 5tephe
    September 11, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

    Thank you so much for this lovely reading of one of favorites of them all. While I had grown up watching Original Series with my dad as a10 year old, this was one of the earlier movies I saw in the cinema. I would have been 12 or 13.

    It's amazing – I can 'feel' in your reading a lot of the things I loved so much about this film, but didn't have the words or sophistication to express or understand at the time.

    So thanks for saying all that so well.

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  11. Daru
    October 20, 2014 @ 8:43 pm

    Great essay Josh. Been out of touch for ages but still reading. Been completing fours years of coursework and got it all handed in so yay!

    Love this movie probably more than the other Trek movies in some ways. The lightness of touch in the humour just pitches the characters to us perfectly, leaving me feel like they have always been this fun – revealing their true heart maybe. I have such good memories of going to see this with my father (who was an absolute Trekkie) when they came out in the cinema, along with my brother and sister. Good times.

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  12. Josh Marsfelder
    October 21, 2014 @ 12:13 pm

    Glad to have you back-You've been missed! Sound's like you've been pretty busy though. I'm happy to hear you share some of your own Star Trek memories.

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  13. Daru
    October 21, 2014 @ 9:41 pm

    Thanks Josh – real kind to hear I've been missed! Yeah it's been a massively busy time with work and finishing my studies. Yours and Phil's blogs are cornerstones in my reading, so good to be catching up with yours again. Really looking forwards to the TNG journey.

    Reply

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