Indelibly mixed in my memory with blasting rocks in Atari’s Asteroids and shooting Space Invaders at the local arcade, as well as seeing video games coming home with the Atari VCS and the then newly-minted Mattel Intellivision, is Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was released to theatres in North America on Dec. 7 1979, 33 years ago today.
Detailing the return of “Admiral” James T. Kirk to the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, as a giant cloud menacingly approaches Earth with unknown intent, the film was savaged by critics at the time, calling it over-long, glacially-paced and too full of itself. The film series righted itself commercially in the next iteration, the rollicking Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, but I’ve been swayed over the years that TMP is a more pure Star Trek movie. Later films narrowed plots to episodic TV dimensions, but the original movie seems more true to the idea of exploring the unknown, grandiose nature of the universe. The effects by visual master Douglas Trumbull also seemed barely constrained by even theatre-sized screens.
Star Trek was my pop-culture obsession before video games beamed in, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a milestone on that journey.