“Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and Finding Epicness in the Mundane

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Oh yes, the epic movie noise! You may think 2010’s Inception is to blame for its popularity, but rest assured, the signature deep synth base movie “sting” has been around far longer. Star Trek: The Motion Picture from 1979 has so many of them, and it came at a time when the noise wasn’t quite as generic as it is today. I’m all about hearing some suitably epic soundtracks by the late Jerry Goldsmith – and this one could be his best work ever – but the sound effect, for good reason, is very noticeable.


As it should be, because I’d like to discuss finding epicness in everyday life. The biggest criticism for The Motion Picture is also its biggest strength. It’s slow, monotonous, and plodding, just like real life. It takes forever to get anything done, but at least you have time to stop and examine things. There is literally less plot in this film than any of the 50-minute episodes of The Original Series that came about ten years before.

In short, if I seem like I’m a little light on discussing plot and a little heavy on extrapolating the film’s themes, it’s because I really don’t have a lot to go on. It’s a below average movie with a superb soundtrack and great atmosphere, wrapped in some amazing themes.

Oh dear… I’m being overly critical. It’s quite easy to look back and see the flaws of The Motion Picture, but I really do like the film quite a bit. It plays itself so straight, with each little individual moment full of epicness, that I can’t help but admire the thing. This, I suppose, is how we should be treating everyday life: not with the doldrums dragging us down into a menial grind, but every moment punctuated with a burst of energy.

So what does it look like to turn typically unremarkable moments into something memorable? Well, for one, it’s how you spend your time. Life is often counter-intuitive because the more strength you expend, the more energy you will typically have. This is opposite from the conservation of energy principle we tend to see in things like physics. It’s why people who exercise daily are more prone to having higher mental and physical acuity levels. Simply put, humans are not designed to laze around all day because, for most of history, only the richest were given the opportunity. Now, as we advance towards a hopefully optimistic future, it will become perfectly plausible for people to have more disposable time than they know what to do with.

This, therefore, requires a choice: explore or stagnate, learn or tread water, develop skills or languish. Soon society isn’t going to force you to choose. We’ve moved into a post-natural selection culture. So while you’re on your voluntary path towards epicness, don’t forget to do something cool, educational, or helpful towards others everyday.

t,p2This directly ties into another theme of the film, aging. Kirk, who’s been promoted to admiral and away from his Enterprise, desperately wants to keep control of his old ship. He only has so much time left, and he intends to make the most of it. This will be a recurring motif throughout the film franchise all the way to Generations.

Criticism of how he’s an absolute jerk to Captain Decker aside, this is how we should be looking at our own existentialism. Not as a man fighting against the higher-ups for relevancy, but as people swimming upstream against time, always making the most of what you’re given.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are ten-years-old. To you, a year is one-tenth of your lifetime. You’re forced to live in the moment. No wonder it takes summer break so long to get here: because that’s an eternity when even a single week seems like a long time.

I’m 26 now. I have 2.6 times as much experience as that ten-year-old, so I must re-learn to perceive time like a child. The alternative is letting the rest of my life flash by in the blink of an eye, exponentially faster. Zenosyne: “life is long, and life is short, but not in that order.” Because when I live my last year, I want to have an epic trail of breadcrumbs to come back to.

Braaaaam! Hit a home-run in little league.
Braaaaam! Went to prom with my new girlfriend.
Braaaaam! Picked up a new skill.
Braaaaam! Got my master’s degree.
Braaaaam! Married the woman of my dreams!
Braaaaam! Moved to a new city.

Jar yourself awake with the bass synth of your life. Make each day count. Force yourself to live in the moment even in the inevitable minutia of your daily life. Star Trek: The Motion Picture reminds us that, even when life is boring, life should be lived in the moment. It’s always time to take in all of the sights, sounds, and emotions as much as possible. Because this moment, this one right here at the end of this sentence, will never come again.

What’s your go-to contemplation movie? The one where you just sit and marvel at the atmosphere and imagery. Also, what did you think of The Motion Picture if you’ve seen it? Let me know in the comments. I’ll be back next week with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn! Spoiler: it’s my favorite.

< | Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Keeping On When All Goes Wrong >

  1. I will date myself by saying this, but I saw “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” in the THEATER when it was released in 1979. And I’ve seen every single movie from the franchise since too…save the ‘new’ ones, and as a hard core Trekkie of the old school, I resisted watching those. It seemed to betray the originals somehow. But recently I corrected my error and admit they are good too.

    Now some context. “Star Trek Alpha (the first movie)” has been criticized down the decades for all the things you listed. BUT you have to remember that it was also the first to bring a TV series to the big screen (I think. History and trivia aren’t my strongest gifts). Nobody had ever tried to bring characters from TV to movies in quite that way before. So those writers, producers and directors were literally “going where no man had gone before.” I think, in the circumstances, they did a helluva job. Also you must remember that personal computers were still a decade or more away, and graphic design was a pretty obscure concept. One couldn’t manipulate the images of the Enterprise, the aliens or space the way they can now.

    Maybe I missed the point of your post. But to me? Star Trek Alpha will always be the gold standard by which all Star Trek efforts are measured.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s amazing! No doubt it would have been wonderful seeing it on the big screen for the first time! I wish I could transport myself back in time, sit myself down, and watch in awe. I completely agree! It’s a visual effects masterpiece. Not even just for its time, but even now. I am amazed by everything they managed to accomplish.

      I like a little tighter story, personally. Each of the other films, except maybe some of the TNG films, had that. But, no, I think that by enjoying TMP in the ways that you did, you got the point of my post quite nicely. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow!! To see this on the big screen would be so cool. I have always been more of a Star Wars person (I know, I know) but I enjoy Star Trek as well. I used to watch the TV show with my grandfather when I was a young girl so it has a special place in my heart. Always will.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t seen any of the Star Trek movies! To be honest the only Star Trek I’ve seen is the series The Next Generation. What movie would you recommend to person like me who hasn’t seen any of them to watch first?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was a really interesting post, and interesting source material to pull from. I have seen the Motion Picture perhaps twice in my life. Once as a toddler and once as a teenager half a lifetime ago. I didn’t enjoy it at all, but in my youth I was l didn’t tend to look for clever ideas or themes. I looked for explosions and other shallow things. Perhaps I would enjoy it a thir time around. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

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