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.
As I was toiling away on the aforementioned latest article on the site, about three video game movies that mattered, towards the end of work on it, I started to be remiss on editing it. I had taken a months-long break from gaming on my PS3 while putting the page together, and suddenly I was turning on the console again to play.
What was dragging me away? The marvellous Mass Effect 2, that’s what, by the RPG wizards at Bioware. Yes, the game mechanics are top notch, the RPG elements simple yet incredibly effective, combat is endless joy, all these are true. But what really startles me the most when playing are the production values of the game. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that looked and felt so good, not just with the graphics but with how the whole thing is put together, from ship design to character models to the voice acting to even the diverse and brilliantly designed wardrobe.
It’s like you’re watching a new Star Trek episode, one that has miraculously brought the series back from the smoking pit that it has been thrown into with the last few incarnations of the show, and doing it with great style and practiced storytelling. But this is no Star Trek. It is an intricate and stunning universe that keeps you guessing and constantly pushing forward. And it’s not to be missed by any gamer worth his salt. Or Iridium, either.