-by Andy Dudas-
One of my fondest childhood memories was going to the Sidewalk Cinema(formerly the Tivoli) in Richmond, Indiana to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In 1979 me, my father and my two older brothers walked seventeen blocks to get to the theater that day. From a seven year old’s point of view that could feel like a lot..but we were going to see Star Trek, on the big screen no less. So no amount of walking was going to seem too long to me that day. Boldly, we went.
Not having any specific recollections, I remember the walk more than the movie itself. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry gave me and my father a reason to watch television together. But I was more impressed with the ships, transporters, and phasers than I was any storyline. The idea of space travel to a little American boy in the 70s was more important than any interplay between Captain Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy. The social commentaries on race were lost on me anytime the crew was fighting a big green alien. All I knew: it was fun. And I, unbeknownst at the time, was bonding with my father.
The Motion Picture by virtually all accounts is awful. As an adult, my Dad and I never really recounted the experience of going to the theater that day, to say nothing of how much we did or didn’t like the film. I remember we all enjoyed ourselves and the movie, at least at the time. Seeing one of our favorite shows brought to life on the big screen when all we were used to was a television from a pre-cable era was everything we wanted it to be.
Ultimately, as a kid I became much more interested in Star Wars. For the majority of my life, George Lucas’ space opera has dominated my interest in most things science fiction. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is one of the finest films ever produced. Breaking ground and box offices, Star Wars as it would forever be known, is a film I can recite alongside it. Having seen it hundreds of times, I never actually saw the original in the theater. When it was rereleased in 1997 as a ‘Special Edition’ I was quick to get in line. I wasn’t going to miss it again.
The cool Han Solo, the malevolent Darth Vader and the gigantic universe which all seemed normal and established to all of us provided me with a lot of fun as a kid. Action figures, toy blasters, and hours forging my friendship with Doug Maurer, the kid down the street, Star Wars was and will always be very important to me. Most of my formative years were spent dreaming of that galaxy far, far away…
Star Trek went away for a long time in my life. Not by design, it just happened. Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted when I was fifteen years old and held some of my interest for a while, but this new crew and new ship(while very cool) was not TOS(the original series). It just wasn’t. TOS cast would go on to make five more feature films, none of which would sell more tickets than The Motion Picture, throughout the 80s and into the 90s. But the follow up film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was such a wonderfully conceived film, it ultimately became the hit the franchise needed to perpetuate itself. Failing to deliver a movie with a decent plot a second time could very easily have killed the franchise altogether.
Although earning less money than the original, The Wrath of Khan brought the show back to its roots. It gave the audience something they had always loved: a villain. Getting back to what they did best, the interactions between themselves and that of a tangible opponent, made Khan a hit. The disembodied intelligence of V’Ger from The Motion Picture came across as exactly what it was: a rushed job that wasn’t properly vetted through all of Hollywood’s channels. We’ll come back to Khan and his Wrath.
Star Trek’s III through VI were fine films. Most think Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was not on par with the rest. But as it was, at the time figuring to be the last hurrah, I viewed it as our ‘goodbye’ to the cast and the ship. Goodbye to the show. Goodbye to an icon. I do not agree with the many who think poorly of The Final Frontier. Is it the weakest of the six films? Very possibly, perhaps only to be outdone by the original. But even in its weakest form, and I am going to play the fan card here, it was still Star Trek. And I loved it.
But Khan, or should I say, Khhhhhhhaaaaaaan!?
Ok, there are a few holes. It is by no means a perfect film, if in fact such a thing could exist, this is as close as Roddenberry’s creation would ever get. Ricardo Montalban(1920 – 2009) portrays Khan with all the revenge and malice needed to perfectly balance William Shatner’s Kirk in all his bravado and splendor. But it is Leonard Nimoy(1931 – 2015), who had all but written off the idea of ever playing Spock again prior even to The Motion Picture, who steals this show.
***SPOILER ALERT*** after 35 years I shouldn’t have to say that but I just did.
The script was written around the idea of having to convince Nimoy to come back again, with the promise of “the greatest death scene since Janet Leigh in Psycho.” Writer Jack B. Sowards and director Nicholas Meyer were not only successful in convincing Nimoy to take the role, Spock’s death scene was in fact the Everest of death scenes. The sacrifice. The selflessness. The void.
We did not see Star Trek II. We went to see The Motion Picture. For some reason we skipped II. We went to see Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Somehow we had heard of what had happened to Spock and they use the first few minutes of III to catch everyone up in case they missed it, but I missed my chance to see Khan on the big screen.
As I have grown older and hopefully wiser, Star Trek in one way or another has found its way into the fabric of my daily life. I doubt very seriously if there is a day that goes by that I have not at least thought about or actively sought out Star Trek in one form or another.
As we are currently trekking our way through TOS on Netflix, my appreciation for the characters is being cemented. Kirk’s machismo. Spock’s intelligence and even handed demeanor. Bones'(DeForest Kelley 1920 – 1999) ‘Jiminy Cricket’ to Kirk.
It’s easy to like Kirk. He’s the starting quarterback, Homecoming King, and James Bond all rolled into one. Cool under fire, tough as nails, and easy on the eyes. Shatner’s portrayal spoke to what a lot of people aspire.
The Vulcan half of Spock’s DNA showed us how impulsive humans can be, often to our detriment. Methodical and measured, his response to virtually all situations was that of a neutral third party. Having an emotional tie to nothing and holding little to no allegiance to anything but logic. We all know people in our lives like this and they, like Spock, are tough to be around. But in the end, you can always count on them, just like Spock.
Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy has become my favorite character in the cast. The compassion he shows for his patients and fellow shipmates, his squabbling with Spock over every little thing be it emotional or logical in nature, and his sage words to Kirk, whispering in his ear keeping him from at times from destroying himself.
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Three separate but equal parts of the same equation. Needing each other in order to succeed. Without all three the ship falls apart. Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley. Three completely different actors. Without all three, the show fails.
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of The Wrath of Khan it is being rereleased in theaters for just two days. This opportunity was not going to be missed. I will not be walking seventeen blocks to get to the theater on this day. Rather, I will be driving forty-five miles. To see a film I own in digital and DVD formats and have watched more times than any other with the exception of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.
Star Wars will always be special to me and I am eagerly looking forward to the next installment,
but Star Trek…I got that from my Dad.
and this magazine, from my Uncle Bob.
-Andy Dudas 9/6/2017
Andy Dudas has interests varying from painting and singing, to photography and prop making. Pretty much anything that has a creative element. Amateur status in all endeavors, he finds art everywhere he looks. Always seeking his next inspiration.