So Epix Drive Thru Channel was showing a marathon of TOS* Star Trek movies today.
*(The Original Series - Garrulous Greg)
Watching The Motion Picture reminded me have much I loved the original Star Trek series. And watching The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock made me realize how different the old guard films were from the current versions.
Yes, yes, go ahead and laugh at the old special effects. And I know even old school Trekkers pan the length and plot of The Motion Picture. But that movie and others in the series were 'bad' for one reason only -- they tried to take a classic Trek episode style plot and somehow meld it with the sensibilities of blockbuster sci-fi movies.
The first series wasn't about gadgets and space battles. The tech served as set dressing, a way to show viewers this is the future, and occasional plot device. (transporter, Mirror Universe, any questions?) The battles, and tension leading up to them, served the story. Blockbuster movies serve these things up as visual eye candy, whether there is purpose or not. Star Trek in it's original conception is a philosophical series, defined by commentary on what are the best of qualities of humanity. It's idealistic, thinky sci-fi. A true to form TOS movie would be the science fiction equivalent of the historical period piece movies that tend to suck at the box office by take home critical acclaim. The Motion Picture tried to be both, and did neither well.
As for new series vs old, look no further than the last parts of the second movies of each. In both The Wrath of Khan and Into Darkness a main cast member dies saving the ship. But in Khan this death holds resonance because of the relationship of Shatner-Kirk and Nimoy-Spock. A relationship seen across 100 hours of Star Trek. The funeral and final scenes are schlocky to those without this emotional connection. Into Darkness doesn't carry the same weight for simple reason that Pine-Kirk and Quinto-Spock have known each other for only 4 hours of screen time, and for much of that time despised one another. The relationship between Spock and his brother suffers the same problem in the TOS movie The Final Frontier.
No doubt the current Star Trek films will be better at the box office. Their conceptualization is built as a blockbuster action movie franchise rather than a sci-fi exploration of the human condition. And there's no shame in that. But at this point in the relaunch, there is not sufficient underpinning for moments like the destruction of the Enterprise in The Search for Spock, which for this old Trekker was every bit at poignant as the death of Spock.
I leave you with a few quotes that even today, 30 years later in some cases, strike an emotional chord with me:
Well, Bones, do the new medical facilities meet with your approval.--They do not. i'ts like working in a damn computer center.
Mister Sulu, you may indulge yourself.
I have been, and always shall be, your friend.
What have I done. -- What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance.
Of all the souls I've encountered in my journeys, his was the most...human.