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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Great Moments in Star Trek History: The Movie Years

Well, we're less than one day away from one of the most significant artistic 40th anniversaries in recent memory. That's right, the American Conservatory Theatre in San Franscisco will be getting final rehearsals underway for their 40th Anniversary season. However, who cares about that pretentious artsy crap! Tomorrow, Star Trek, the Original Series will be 40 years old. That means that William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are both at least 90.

In keeping with this momentous, if culturally insignificant event, please allow me to present the second part of my installment of Great Moments in Star Trek History - Part 2: The Movie Years! Yes, Bill, you're in almost every item!

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February 12, 1974 - Gene Roddenberry pitches the idea for a Star Trek film to Paramount executives. They quickly reject the idea until Roddenberry shows them the grosses from Star Trek television syndication. The executives then sign Roddenberry to a huge contract to develop the film, in which he is paid a "gazillion dollars" and gets ownership of the executives' wives and firstborn children.

April 27, 1974 - The plans for the Star Trek movie are cancelled when executives realize how much a gazillion dollars actually is, and that the return on their investment would thus be nil. Roddenberry threatens to sue for breach of promise, but is dissuaded by the fact that the legal fees his soliciters would charge would be 40% of the gazillion dollars, or the projected Gross National Product of the United States from 1776 until 2272 AD, which just so happens to be the date in which the actual first film was set. The parties settle for ownership of the firstborn children and use of the wives on weekends by Roddenberry.

November 20, 1977 - The film idea is brought back to life, after a process similar to the one depicted in Frankenstein. Robert Wise is hired to direct, on the basis of his complete disemboweling of The Magnificent Ambersons. Roddenberry reportedly comments that, "Anyone who would slash a Welles film, should be able to handle Shatner." The original cast, all working in dinner theatre except for Leonard Nimoy, who is hard at work on his 27th album, are signed for the film. Shatner successfully holds out for 3 weeks until his demands for a private trailer, a hot tub, and a realistic hairpiece are met. Shatner then beats Robert Wise to a pulp, just to show who's really boss and what a prat Roddenberry is.

March 6, 1978 - Initial filming begins for Star Trek the Motion Picture. The first scene takes 20 hours and 472 takes to complete when William Shatner forgets his line, "Beam me up, Scotty!" and continually replaces it with humourous (and obscene) references to Majel Barrett Roddenberry's anatomy. Take number 255 is blown when James Doohan unsuccessfully tries to blow Shatner's head off with a bazooka and instead kills three extras in red uniforms. Their deaths are later recorded by the LAPD as "accidental, but predictable."

March 6, 1979 - Paramount hires Douglas Trumbull's effects company to redo the special effects for the film. The previous effects, in which the Starship Enterprise is depicted using a used pie plate and two matchsticks, frequently turn up in blooper reels at conventions, and several Roger Corman films.

December 25, 1979 - Star Trek the Motion Picture is released to great acclaim from unemployed dishwashers and real estate salespersons who like to walk around wearing fake pointed ears. Gene Shalit writes a review of the film that consists of a large picture of himself, yawning uncontrollably. Others note that the Klingons no longer look like villians from a Rudolph Valentino film and instead look as though they have all developed cases of forehead herpes.

April 9, 1980 - William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley are all nominated for Science Fiction Acting Awards. They lose to intense competition from Avery Schriber for his groundbreaking role as a ship captain and Doritos salesman in Galaxina. James Doohan unsuccessfully attempts to assassinate William Shatner with an anvil and a trampoline at the awards ceremony in Grand Rapids, but only succeeds in mussing Schreiber's moustache.

June 4, 1982 - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is released. William Shatner is infuriated when critics confirm that he was upstaged in all his scenes with Ricardo Montalban by Montalban's pectoral muscles. Kirstie Alley appears in the film as Lt. Saavik, but declines future appearances based on her devotion to Scientology, calling the film series, "too realistic." She also claims that the ghost of L. Ron Hubbard had commanded her to star in a really flaky NBC series.

June 1, 1984 - Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is released. Leonard Nimoy signed onto the film after being given the right to direct it and also getting Shatner's old hairpeices. Originally, the film was going to be called The Search for Saavik and would feature a 290 year old Tom Cruise, played by Abe Vigoda. The film does fairly well at the box office despite the fact that the "search for Spock" is relatively easy, given that they left his body on the Genesis planet. In a related story, the International Union of Astronomers declared in 2006 that Genesis was not a planet. When asked for reasons, they cited "boredom" and "alcohol." At the premiere of the film, James Doohan attempts to kill William Shatner with a sharpened loofta.

November 26, 1986 - Star Trek IV:The Voyage Home is released. The whales appearing in the film are nominated for Oscars, but the nominations are revoked when the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences realizes that the whales only appeared so complexly human next to the unnatural performances of the rest of the cast. The exception is William Shatner, who appears in dual roles in this film, as both Captain James T. Kirk and also as a small chair in the hospital scenes. He received a Golden Globe nomination for the latter role.

June 9, 1989 - Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is released, with William Shatner directing. Shatner explained that he sought a quiet, consistent use of mise-en-scene and integral style in the film, through steady, extended takes...which explains the repeated 60+ second close-ups of James T. Kirk. James Doohan attempts to run over Shatner with a Volvo at the advance screening, but is foiled when Shatner does a "T.J. Hooker" roll over the car and then shoots the tyres out with a .44 Magnum, shaped like a phaser.

December 6, 1991 - Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is released to immense fanfare from people who are tired of the whole damn thing. The working title of the film is The Last Paycheck. Christopher Plummer co-stars as a Klingon general who is trying to escape from the Nazis with his 8 children and wife, a former nun . The highlight of the film is where they sing "Goodbye, Farewell..." in the middle of a pitched battle between the Enterprise and a Klingon Bird of Prey with the ex-nun wife, played by Sally Field, flying in-between photon torpedos. Shatner later claimes to have "nailed her" during the premiere

November 18, 1994 - Star Trek VII is released to pretty much the sound of crickets and small Romulan birds. William Shatner bags one last paycheck and a famous death scene in which he loudly proclaims that he has always deeply loved Spock and sings "Everybody Pon Farr tonight!" to an old Wang Chung hit song. Kirk is killed by Captain Picard when he won't finish dying from mortal injuries received from trying to squeeze his ego into a shuttlecraft. The death scene lasts 45 minutes and includes two fistfights and a love scene with Marina Sirtis and Whoopi Goldberg, who both received danger pay (and penicillin) for their work. James Doohan almost succeeds in assassinating William Shatner with a tactical nuclear device, but after witnessing the extended death scene decides that a repeat would be too psychologically traumatic to witnesses and to Paramount grosses.

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