Producer Gene Roddenberry and director Robert Wise have corralled an enormous technical crew, and the result is state-of-the-art screen magic. Screenplay [based on a screen story by Alan Dean Foster] makes the most of its audience’s familiarity with the long-running TV series [1966-69, 78 episodes] in this tale of people and gadgetry.
The Enterprise has been completely reconditioned during a two-year drydock, but must be prematurely dispatched to intercept an Earth-bound attacker destroying everything in its wake. William Shatner’s Kirk is told to lead the mission along with other show regulars.
Upshot is a search-and-destroy thriller that includes all of the ingredients the TV show’s fans thrive on: the philosophical dilemma wrapped in a scenario of mind control, troubles with the space ship, the dependable and understanding Kirk, the ever-logical Spock, and suspenseful take with twist ending. Touches of romance and corn also dot this voyage, natch.
But the expensive effects (under supervision of Douglas Trumbull) are the secret of this film, and the amazing wizardry throughout would appear to justify the whopping budget. Jerry Goldsmith’s brassy score is the other necessary plus.
[An extended TV and homevideo version runs 143 mins.]
1979: Nominations: Best Art Direction, Original Score, Visual Effects