James Doohan also devised the Vulcan words heard during the Kolinahr sequence. The scenes were originally shot in English, and when it was decided to change the dialogue to Vulcan, Doohan wrote lines that fit the existing lip movements. Some of the subtitles were rearranged to make this less obvious.
When Kirk addresses the crew prior to launching, much of the crew were extras who were noted Star Trek fans, including Bjo Trimble, co-organizer of the letter-writing campaign that kept the original Star Trek (1966) series alive for a third season.
Uhura's communications earpieces are the only original props from the original Star Trek (1966) series. They were dug out of storage when it was realized someone had forgotten to make new ones for the movie.
The Klingon words spoken by the Klingon captain were actually invented by James Doohan (Commander Scott). Linguist Marc Okrand later devised grammar and syntax rules for the language, along with more vocabulary words in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), and wrote a Klingon dictionary. He based all his work on those few Klingon lines in this movie, so that they even made sense retrospectively.
The producers and the cast were very worried about their appearances after being away from Star Trek (1966) for ten years. Special lighting and camera tricks were used to hide the cast's aging, and William Shatner went on a near-starvation diet prior to filming. However, in all subsequent Star Trek movies, it was decided to make the aging of the crew part of the story.
William Shatner, who saw the completed movie for the first time at the world premiere, was struck by the overall sluggishness of the movie, and was convinced that the Star Trek franchise died there and then. He reminisced, "Well, that's it. We gave it our best shot, it wasn't good, and it will never happen again." But, having recalled his reaction fifteen years later, he has added, "Shows you what I know."
Persis Khambatta became very emotional about having her head shaved for her role. She kept her shorn hair in a box for a time and asked Gene Roddenberry to take out insurance in case her hair did not grow back. It did.
The first time in the Star Trek canon that Yeoman Rand and Chekov have appeared together. In the original Star Trek (1966) series, Rand only appeared in season one, and Chekov only appeared in seasons two and three.
The rec-deck briefing was filmed to finally show the entire crew complement of the Enterprise, something that had always been impossible during the television series due to the low budget. All of the extras in the rec-deck briefing sequence were Star Trek fans called upon to appear in the film. Most of their checks were not cashed; Harve Bennett said that they were probably framed as souvenirs by the fans.
Just before the Epsilon IX station is destroyed by V'Ger, Commander Branch (David Gautreaux) mentions that the size of the V'Ger cloud is "My God, over 82 AUs in diameter." For comparative purposes, the distance between Earth and the Sun is 1 AU (short for "Astronomical Unit") and the distance between the Sun and Pluto ranges between 30-40 AUs, which would mean the V'Ger cloud could theoretically encompass the entire Solar System! In the Director's Cut, the line is altered by skillful sound editing, making the size of the cloud only "over 2 AU's in diameter" - Wise (wisely) decided 82 AUs was just too much. 1 AU has an equivalent to 150 million kilometers or 93 million miles. (In the Australian DVD, there is still a reference to 82 AUs in the film, but to only 2 AUs in 'Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 001: Mystery behind V'Ger', a featurette in the 'Extras'.)
Almost all of the dialogue in the Enterprise bridge scenes had to be overdubbed by the actors in post-production. This was due to the fact that the animation/graphics seen on the bridge station display monitors was projected from behind the bridge set walls by dozens of 16 mm projectors (one for each display screen), as computer technology was not advanced enough at the time to use real computer monitors on a practical basis. As a result, the clattering sound of the noisy projectors nearly drowned out the voices of the actors, and their dialogue had to be dubbed over later at considerable added time and expense.
Robert Wise was convinced to accept the position as director by his wife, who was a huge fan of the original Star Trek (1966) television series. His wife was also instrumental in convincing Wise to campaign for Leonard Nimoy's return to the project.
Visual Effects Supervisor Douglas Trumbull claims that although the models built for the film were quite large, they were in fact not large enough to facilitate shooting many of the desired camera angles. The production had to commission a special periscope lens system from Panavision, which allowed the shots to be accomplished. To achieve maximum depth-of-field, many of the shots also required very long exposure times of up to several minutes per frame.
The amazing popularity of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) had a definite impact on the storyline, pacing and even marketing of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). Many hardcore sci-fi fans (including prominent sci-fi writers) viewed Star Wars as mere fantasy, an updating of Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon level matinee fluff. Gene Roddenberry always saw Star Trek as a more serious endeavor, and did not want Star Trek: The Motion Picture to be seen as "cashing in". So the story for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was pushed toward more sophisticated and complex ideas, the decision was made to have no battle scenes of any type. In fact, the earliest Presskit promotional material for newspaper ads had as the main line, "There is no comparison.".
The uniforms that appear in this movie never again appear in any other Star Trek episode or movie. What appears to be a buckle on the uniform was intended to be a device that relays medical readings to the medical bay computer.
Jerry Goldsmith's famous theme for the movie almost did not happen. One of the first scenes Goldsmith scored was the scene when Kirk and Scotty do a flyover of the refit Enterprise. Robert Wise liked the music that Goldsmith composed, but in the end, he rejected it, saying it did not fit the movie because it lacked a theme/motif. Goldsmith went back to the drawing board and composed the famous theme that has become a staple of the Star Trek universe. That theme would be reused in four more films, and would also become the opening theme for "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
Leonard Nimoy agreed to appear in the film only after Paramount agreed to a settlement of his lawsuit against them for allowing his television series likeness to be used by advertisers. The lawsuit began when Nimoy saw the now famous Heineken beer advertisement that features Patrick Phillips.
Another theory put forth on the Star Trek (1966) convention circuit as to the new look of the Klingons, was that any Klingon personnel that were expected to have any contact with human or other human-like races (such as any posting near the neutral zone or for diplomatic missions), were surgically altered to more easily blend in. That is why all the original series Klingons were ridgeless. Supposedly, according to the Star Trek rumor mill, by the time the motion picture came out, the storyline says that the Klingons had abandoned this practice because they realized that their physical alterations made little difference with regards to how they were perceived. This explanation is given in the reference book "Star Trek: The Worlds of the Federation" (1989) by Shane Johnson which states that the true nature of "Imperial Klingons" was unknown to the Federation until the "V'Ger incident".
Chekov's burns sustained in V'Ger's attack were difficult to film. Though the incident took only a few minutes on film, Alex Weldon spent hours preparing the effect. A piece of aluminium foil was placed around Walter Koenig's arm, covered by a protective pad and then hidden by the uniform sleeve. Weldon prepared an ammonia and acetic acid solution that was touched to Koenig's sleeve, causing it to smoke. Difficulties resulted in the scene being shot ten times. It was especially uncomfortable for the actor, whose arm was slightly burned when some of the solution leaked through to his arm.
The original script for the movie was written by Gene Roddenberry and was titled "The God Thing" though it was overwhelmingly rejected by Paramount executives because of the storyline in which the Enterprise crew meet God. Many other story ideas were considered during the early planning stages, preventing John F. Kennedy's assassination, becoming the Greek Titans, and trying to prevent a black hole from swallowing the galaxy. The Enterprise meeting God was used for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989); preventing the Kennedy assassination was briefly reconsidered for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) before it was rejected again, and black holes swallowing entire planets resurfaced in Star Trek (2009).
The images of the interior of the V'Ger cloud were created using airbrush paintings. Led by Animation Supervisor Alison Yerxa, a team of animators created thousands of air-brushings using white paint on black paper. These were then photographed, made into transparencies, and used as positive and negative masks on a special multi-plane animation camera. Color tints were then added using filters during the optical composting process. The sequence was inspired by a Canadian documentary called Universe (1960), which Douglas Trumbull had seen during the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
At a lecture at Virginia Tech in 1980, James Doohan told of a deleted scene between him and Ilia. In the scene, Scotty was showing Ilia-probe the engine room, and she stated, "It is not logical that carbon units run Enterprise." Scotty's response was, "Lassie, if I were being logical right now I'd be showing you the inside of a scrap metal compactor."
During the re-write of the final scenes, the studio executives clashed with Gene Roddenberry about the script's ending, believing that the concept of a living machine was too far-fetched. The executives consulted Asimov: if the writer decided a sentient machine was plausible, the ending could stay. Asimov loved the ending, but made one small suggestion; he felt that the use of the word "wormhole" was incorrect, and that the anomaly that the Enterprise found itself in would be more accurately called a "temporal tunnel".
In this movie, Mark Lenard plays the Klingon Captain. This is the third alien species in the Star Trek franchise that the actor played - the first was the Romulan commander in Star Trek: Balance of Terror (1966), then Spock's father, Vulcan Ambassador Sarek in Star Trek: Journey to Babel (1967), a role which he would reprise several times between 1973 and 1991.
Persis Khambatta was temporarily blinded during the scene in which in her character, Lieutenant Ilia, is taken by V'Ger, a scene which required her to keep her eyes wide open while being bombarded by intense light. This resulted in a form of flash blindness from which she soon recovered.
Jerry Goldsmith's Academy Award-nominated score featured a special musical instrument called the 'Blaster Beam', an instrument fifteen feet long, incorporating artillery shell casings and motorized magnets. It was used as part of any scene featuring V'ger. The instrument was invented by former child star turned New Age musician Craig Huxley who, in his youth, had portrayed Captain Kirk's nephew, Peter Kirk, in Star Trek: Operation - Annihilate! (1967), and Tommy Starnes in Star Trek: And the Children Shall Lead (1968).
Because of the need to rebuild sets and models when the production switched from a television series to a big-budget feature film, the production was already ten weeks behind schedule before a single frame was shot. Robert Wise repeatedly considered quitting the production, and at one point, even suggested that Paramount cancel the project altogether.
The hardest part for the crew was the scene where the Enterprise descends into V'Ger's layers of clouds. Because the visual effects would only be edited in after filming, they were required to gaze in awe at blank screens for numerous takes.
Edna Glover's scene as the Vulcan Kolinahr Master was filmed with her speaking English. Only later were Vulcan words (invented by James Doohan) recorded over the original dialogue. The phonetics of the Vulcan words were chosen to closely follow the original English script so that her lips would seem to move correctly, and English subtitles were inserted with the phrasing reworded so the change would not be obvious. For example, when the subtitles say "Our ancestors cast out their animal passions on these very sands" her lips are clearly saying "Spock, on these sands our ancestors cast out their animal passions." Other examples are "Your thoughts... give them to me" [subtitle] versus "Spock... give me your thoughts" [actual] and "Your human blood is touched by it, Spock" [subtitle] versus "It stirs your human half, Spock" [actual].
The "Klingon Theme" music is introduced for the first time in this movie when the Klingons encounter V'Ger. This theme is used throughout subsequent television episodes and movies. Jerry Goldsmith drew inspiration from Russian classical music for the theme.
The television series was to have three new regular characters. Paramount was concerned that William Shatner might ask for too much money to continue playing Kirk if the run of the series was extended beyond the initial order of thirteen episodes. The character of Decker was created, so that if Kirk had to be written out, Decker could become the series' new lead role. Decker was played in the movie by Stephen Collins.
For the Director's Cut, Robert Wise received permission, and a budget to complete the film as he had originally intended. Several visual effects scenes, that could not be finished in 1979, due to time and budget constraints, were redone, sometimes with the use of the original models. A completely original model of V'Ger as it appears when the surrounding clouds have dissipated (an elongated fuselage with six pointed projections in the middle) was created for the new shot where V'Ger approaches Earth. Its look was based on the cross-sectional reading of the ship that appears on-screen in the very next shot (looking like a six-pointed star). A computerized "model" of the Enterprise was created, using the original physical model as reference, to create new CGI shots. These new effects shots became problematic with the advent of Blu-Ray disc. Paramount had not produced the new effects in high-definition, and thus the "Director's Edition," as of 2017, has not seen release on Blu-Ray, despite repeated pleas from fans. The studio cites cost as a major factor, as all the effects shots would have to be reproduced from scratch for a high-def release. However, new evidence that has recently surfaced states that all of the CGI assets are still intact and ready to be rerendered in HD. Paramount, unfortunately has yet to give the effects artists the green light.
In the DVD making of documentary, William Shatner says that at the time they were filming, there was no clear end to the film and that the writers were constantly rewriting the ending. He recalls that at one point, he came up with what he considered a good ending and pitched it to co-star Leonard Nimoy who thought it was a good idea. They then went together to Robert Wise to pitch the idea to him. Wise also liked the idea. Now Shatner had to pitch it to Gene Roddenberry. Shatner claims that by the time he pitched the ending to Roddenberry that he was so exhausted from mustering up the energy to pitch the idea (in addition to the energy he use to work on the film) that his pitch did not go over so well and Gene Roddenberry rejected it. In his book "Star Trek Movie Memories" (1994), Shatner recalls the story differently: the scene in question is the one in which the Enterprise crew starts to leave the bridge in order to show the Ilia probe it is acting like a little child. When Roddenberry rejected it, Robert Wise got Harold Livingston to write the scene instead.
The original Star Trek (1966) series' theme by Alexander Courage can be heard briefly during Kirk's log entry after Spock rejoins the crew, rearranged by Courage himself. It can also be heard during two more "Captain's Log" dictations. Except for the opening fanfare which became a regular part of later Trek films and a small excerpt heard at the end of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), and a significant reference toward the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), it took 23 years before the tune was heard again in its entirety, during the ending credits of Star Trek (2009).
Walter M. Jefferies, who had been the production designer on Star Trek (1966), and therefore responsible for the sleek Navy-esque design of the television series' Enterprise, claimed that the Enterprise used in the movies looked like "the lobby of the Hilton". He fell asleep during the first movie and never watched any subsequent incarnations of Star Trek.
Marvel Comics did a three-issue adaptation of this movie to kick-off their new Star Trek comic series. In that adaptation, there was a sequence using location called the Memory Wall that differed from Spock's trip outside the ship in the film. It appears Marvel was using the original script as the basis for their adaptation and did not know the Memory Wall scene had been scrapped from the film. It first appeared in its entirety as the Marvel Super Special for December 1979.
Stephen Collins has said he was never a huge fan of the original Star Trek (1966) series, and viewed his work in the film as just a role. As a result, he felt no intimidation in taking the role, which helped him play the role of Decker easily.
Uhura warns Kirk and the bridge crew that their new navigator (Ilia) is a Deltan because the Deltans are highly, sexually-advanced beings. Ilia later states that her oath of celibacy is on record because no human could survive a sexual encounter with a Deltan (with the exception of Decker, who had a past intimate relation with Ilia). Deltans produce extremely strong pheromones which cause sexual arousal in those around them. According to the novel based on the movie, the reason Sulu stands up so awkwardly is because he has an erection. (This scene is featured in the Extended Version, also called "Special Longer Version" on VHS only.)
Walter Koenig noted that the expected sense of camaraderie and euphoria at being assembled for screen tests at the start of the picture was non-existent. "This may be Star Trek," he wrote, "but it isn't the old Star Trek." The actor was hopeful for the film, but admitted he was disappointed by his character's small role.
In his 1983 special Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek Memories (1983), Leonard Nimoy spoke briefly about the film saying: "It was a very finely crafted film, and it did well. But from the actor's point of view frankly, it was frustrating. We didn't feel that we were getting to play the characters that we enjoyed playing in the way that we knew how to play them, and it was frustrating for Gene Roddenberry too. It wasn't the story or script he had wanted, and the gaps seemed filled with too much emphasis on special effects." Years later, in a 2012 Los Angeles Times video interview, Nimoy added that he too had felt that the movie had left the franchise stranded like a "beached whale" at the time, clarifying, "I think (Robert Wise) and Gene Roddenberry were looking for a (2001: A) Space Odyssey kind of thing, like (Stanley) Kubrick had done. A cold, cool "we're out here in space and it's kind of quiet and things move very slowly." (laughs) There was a lot of that and a lot of cerebral stuff. There wasn't enough drama. It just wasn't a Star Trek movie. We had the Star Trek people, but it didn't use us as Star Trek characters very well."
According to Walter Koenig, several production personnel and visitors to the set, often confused his first name with that of George Takei, resulting in both actors being mistakenly addressed with each other's names. This also lead to the mistake, that Sulu's first name, at the time yet to be officially revealed to be Hikaru, was Walter.
DeForest Kelley had reservations with the script, feeling that the characters and relationships from the series were not in place. Along with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, Kelley lobbied for greater characterization, but their opinions were largely ignored.
The film was one of only a few Hollywood productions, and also one of the last along with The Black Hole (1979), that introduces the film with an overture - a practice commonly used for "epic" movies. For that purpose, Jerry Goldsmith chose to present the auditory "Ilia's Theme", which he also referred to as a "love theme". The overture runs for approximately three minutes, and is then taken over by the film's concise main theme.
A clear front runner for the best original score Oscar of 1979, the reason for its failure to win is composer Jerry Goldsmith's very vocal dispute with the music branch over his other eligible score that year for Alien (1979). He had as good as disowned his score for Alien and let it be known that he is no way wanted his work to be considered for a nomination. The theory is that the Oscar voters "punished" Goldsmith for being so ungracious - and his signature score for Star Trek suffered by not winning.
Leonard Nimoy declined to return as Spock for the series, so a new Vulcan character called Lieutenant Xon was created to be the new science officer. An employee of an agent was dating a young actor, David Gautreaux, who had no agent of his own; she suggested him for the role and he got it, then was told that it was actually for a movie. When Nimoy finally agreed to do the movie, Spock replaced Xon in the script and Gautreaux was given the smaller role of Commander Branch.
For the civilians of San Francisco, Robert Fletcher decided on a greater freedom in dress. Much of the materials for these casual clothes were found in the old storerooms at Paramount, where a large amount of unused or forgotten silks, crepes, and leathers lay in storage. One bolt of material had been handpicked by Cecil B. DeMille in 1939, and was in perfect condition. The red, black, and gold brocade was woven with real gold and silver wrapped around silk thread; the resulting costume was used for a Betelgeusean ambassador and, at a price of 10,000 dollars for the fabric alone, was the most expensive costume ever worn by a Hollywood extra.
The original version of the "Space Walk" sequence had both Spock and Captain Kirk travelling through V'Ger. Because it complicated the flow of the film, the scene was reshot with Spock alone, and that's what's seen in the final cut. However, a fraction of this alternate scene remains in the longer version, where Kirk says, "I have him in sight.".
For the DVD release, the producers toyed with the idea of digitally inserting a shot of the NX-01 Enterprise (Jonathan Archer's ship from the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise (2001)) into the rec-room scene where Decker shows Ilia a display of previous ships named Enterprise. The idea was eventually dropped, possibly since the shot would not be able to be seen clearly anyway (the pictures were not easily legible on-screen). The NX-01 would have replaced the shot of the 'ringed' S.S. Enterprise - which eventually appeared on "Enterprise" anyway (in the bar scene in Star Trek: Enterprise: First Flight (2003)). Included among the Enterprises originally depicted is the space shuttle pro-type (OV-101) which was paradoxically named after the Star Trek (1966) starship Enterprise.
Gene Roddenberry wanted Alan Dean Foster to write the final script for the film, but Harold Livingston thought him too inexperienced and tried to hire Steven Bochco, who was unavailable; Michael Cimino, who was not interested; and Bill Norton, who initially accepted but found it beyond his capabilities. In the end, Livingston did the job himself. He disagreed repeatedly with Roddenberry over re-writes and other matters, and quit and returned several times.
One of Gene Roddenberry's initial ideas was a time travel story relating to the assassination of President Kennedy. Harlan Ellison also pitched a story idea in which the crew traveled back in time to the era of prehistoric man. The time travel plot would be successfully revisited for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), and Star Trek (2009).
According to David Gerrold's "The World of Star Trek", a blooper occurred in the scene where Kirk and Spock leave to investigate the intruder alert, William Shatner, as Kirk, tells Stephen Collins as Decker, that he has the bridge and Collins jumped down to the floor, grabbed the command chair and yelled like Daffy Duck, "It's mine! It's mine! At last it's mine! All mine!" which led Shatner to turn around and yell "I take it back!"
Gene Roddenberry had first proposed a Star Trek feature at the 1968 World Science Fiction Convention. The movie was to have been set before the television series, showing how the crew of the Enterprise met. This was later used in Star Trek (2009).
During the scene on Vulcan, when Spock's thoughts are shared with the Kohlinahr Master, we see him mouth the word, "Jim." This leads us to suggest that it wasn't just V'Ger that brought Spock back on to the Enterprise, but also the subconscious of his former Captain. This theory is confirmed in the novel "Strangers from the Sky," which partially takes place between this movie and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). This would explain why the Kohlinahr Master says that Spock's thoughts touch his human half.
The decision to abandon the new television series in favor of a theatrical film was made in August 1977, but in order to keep the team together during the necessary renegotiation of contracts, Paramount kept it secret until March 1978; when Rona Barrett broke the secret in December 1977, they denied it. Meanwhile, they pretended that the television series was still going to happen, even soliciting scripts for episodes that would never be made. Sets built for the television series were used in the movie, but modelwork had to be redone after the changeover was made public, due to the need for finer detailing in a movie.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, at the time of its release, this was the most expensive film ever made at a total production cost of 46 million dollars. However, following the release of Superman II (1980), total production costs of 109 million dollars were attributed to the first two Superman films, which were shot simultaneously as a single production. The producers of the Superman films then retroactively attributed a cost of 55 million dollars for Superman (1978), and 54 million dollars for Superman II (1980), therefore claiming that Superman was the most expensive film made at that time.
In the DVD "making-of" documentary, there is archival behind the scenes footage of tests for make-up, costumes and sets. Among the footage shown is an early screen test for Persis Khambatta as Lieutenant Ilia. In the test, she is wearing a female uniform from the original Star Trek (1966) series: A gold one-piece miniskirt dress with a Lieutenant stripe, black pantyhose and black boots. This is due to the fact that it was her screen test for the aborted series "Star Trek: Phase II", which was going to reuse the original series costume designs.
The voice of actress Majel Barrett, who plays Dr. Christine Chapel (as well as other roles including Lwaxana Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)) and was Gene Roddenberry's wife, was used for Starfleet computers such as that of the Enterprise throughout the Star Trek franchise, from the original Star Trek (1966) series through to Star Trek (2009). Her voice in this picture is very recognizable though she does not have a great deal of lines.
According to urban legend, images of Darth Vader and Miss Piggy can be seen when Spock travels through V'Ger, right after his line "Who or what are we dealing with?". In reality, these are not Darth Vader and Miss Piggy - they are actually an overhead perspective of the Epsilon IX station. The "Darth Vader" mask is the antenna relays and the "Miss Piggy" snout is most likely the command tower. There are no actual photos of either of the characters.
One of the film's central plot points and dynamics was the relationship between Kirk and Decker after Kirk used his influence to usurp command of the Enterprise from Decker and demote him to Executive Officer. The same plotline and dynamic was portrayed by the Captain and Executive Officer in the movie Run Silent Run Deep (1958) which was also directed by Robert Wise. The same movie has also been cited as an influence for Star Trek: Balance of Terror (1966).
The film received technical consultation from NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as individuals such as a former astronaut and the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.
The interior of the V'Ger entity (after the exterior cloud cover) was conceived and designed by Syd Mead, noted for his futuristic designs of vehicles, spacecraft, robots and entire cities. Mead's credits include 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) (the spaceship 'Leonov' and all of its interiors and attendant craft), Short Circuit (1986) (the robot Johnny 5), Blade Runner (1982) (the Spinner police car, the dingy cityscapes, and Deckard's apartment), Timecop (1994) (the headquarters of the Temporal Police, and Van Damme's car), TRON (1982), (Light cycles and light ships) and most recently Elysium (2013).
Fred B. Phillips, the original designer of Spock's Vulcan ears, produced his 2000th Spock ear during production. Each ear was made of latex and other ingredients blended together in a kitchen mixer, then baked for six hours. Though Phillips had saved the original television series casts used for making the appliances, Leonard Nimoy's ears had grown in the decade since and new molds had to be fabricated. While on the small screen, the ears could be used up to four times, since nicks and tears did not show up on television, Phillips had to create around three pairs a day for Nimoy during filming.
Paramount announced that they would be creating a new television network (which was considered as the ancestor of the fourth television network later associated with the Fox Broadcasting Company when it launched in 1986), initially operating one night a week showing Paramount television movies and a new Star Trek series about the Enterprise's second five-year mission, with most of the original Star Trek (1966) cast and the title "Star Trek: Phase II". It soon became clear that they could not make a go of the new network, but Paramount continued work on the new series in the hope of selling it to one of the existing networks. Paramount revisited the television network in the early 1990s when its Paramount Stations Group business assets (as part of the Viacom purchase in 1993) evolved into a joint venture with Chris-Craft Industries where UPN (United Paramount Network) was launched in 1995 - when the network was launched, a new Star Trek series (Star Trek: Voyager) was included in the program lineup. UPN ended its run in September 2006, where the CW network has became its replacement (a joint venture with CBS, former assets of UPN, and Warner Bros.).
According to Walter Koenig in an interview for the film's DVD, the movie finally came about when Paramount wanted to develop a science fiction movie franchise akin to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), and it was pointed out that they had one in Star Trek.
The actors had found working on the film frustrating, as they felt they were going to play the characters that they had enjoyed playing, in the way they knew how to play them. Gene Roddenberry was also frustrated, because the film did not have the story or the script that he had wanted.
Leonard Nimoy had been dissatisfied with unpaid royalties from Star Trek (1966) and did not intend to reprise the role, so Spock was left out of the screenplay. Robert Wise, having been informed by his daughter and son-in-law that the film "would not be Star Trek" without Nimoy, sent Jeffrey Katzenberg to New York City to meet with Nimoy. Katzenberg gave Nimoy a check to make up for his lost royalties, and the actor attended the March 1978 press conference with the rest of the returning cast. Nimoy was dissatisfied with the script, and his meeting with Katzenberg led to an agreement that the final script would need Nimoy's approval. Despite the financial issues, Nimoy said he was comfortable with being identified as Mr. Spock because it had a positive impact on his fame.
The main Enterprise model was eight feet long, to a scale of 1/120th scale size, or 1 inch (2.5 cm) to 10 feet (3.0 m). It took 14 months and $150,000 to build. Instead of standard fiberglass used for older models, the new Enterprise was constructed with lightweight plastics, weighing 85 pounds (39 kg). The biggest design issue was making sure that the connective dorsal neck and twin warp nacelle struts were strong enough so that no part of the ship model would sag, bend, or quiver when the model was being moved, which was accomplished via an arc-welded aluminum skeleton. The completed model could be supported at one of five possible points as each photographic angle required. A second, 20-inch (50.8 cm) model of the ship was used for long shots. While the hull surface was kept smooth, it was treated with a special paint finish that made its surface appear iridescent in certain light.
Persis Khambatta's conservative Indian upbringing meant she would not appear nude as called for in the script during the Ilia probe's appearance. The producers got her to agree to wear a thin skin-coloured body stocking, but she caught a cold as a result of the shower mist, created by dropping dry ice into warm water and funneling the vapors into the shower by a hidden tube. Khambatta had to leave the location repeatedly to avoid hypercapnia.
To inform actors and series writers, Lee Cole prepared a U.S.S. Enterprise Flight Manual as a continuity guide to control functions. It was necessary for all the main cast to be familiar with control sequences at their stations as each panel was activated by touch via heat-sensitive plates.
The recreation deck occupied an entire soundstage, dwarfing the small room built for the planned television series; this was the largest interior in the film. The set was 24 feet (7.3 meters) high, decorated with 107 pieces of custom-designed furniture, and packed with three hundred people for filming. Below a large viewing screen on one end of the set was a series of art panels containing illustrations of previous ships bearing the name Enterprise. One of the ships was NASA's own Enterprise, added per Gene Roddenberry's request.
When Robert Wise signed on to direct, Paramount asked him if he had any objection to using Jerry Goldsmith. Wise, who had worked with the composer for The Sand Pebbles (1966), replied "Hell, no. He's great!" Wise later considered his work with Goldsmith one of the best relationships he ever had with a composer.
Jerry Goldsmith scored the film over a period of three to four months, a relatively relaxed schedule compared to typical production, but time pressures resulted in Goldsmith bringing on colleagues to assist in the work. Alexander Courage, composer of the original Star Trek (1966) theme, provided arrangements to accompany Kirk's log entries, while Fred Steiner wrote eleven cues of additional music, notably the music to accompany the Enterprise achieving warp speed and first meeting V'Ger.
Director Robert L. Collins, whose background was mostly in television, was hired to direct the two-hour premiere, but after the change to a movie, Paramount wanted a more experienced director, and replaced him with Robert Wise.
On the last day of shooting, one scene was left to be filmed - the climactic fusing of Decker and V'Ger. The script prescribed a heavy emphasis on lighting, with spiralling and blinding white lights. Stephen Collins was covered in tiny dabs of cotton glued to his jacket; these highlights were designed to create a body halo. Helicopter lights, 4000-watt lamps and wind machines were used to create the effect of Decker's fusion with the living machine. The first attempts at filming the scene became a nightmare for the crew. The extreme lighting caused normally invisible dust particles in the air to be illuminated, creating the appearance that the actors were caught in a blizzard. During the retakes throughout the week the crew mopped and dusted the set constantly, and it required later technical work to completely eliminate the dust in the final print.
Aside from control interfaces, the bridge set was populated with monitors looping animations. Each oval monitor was a rear-projection screen on which super 8 mm and 16 mm film sequences looped for each special effect. The production acquired 42 films for this purpose from an Arlington, Virginia-based company, Stowmar Enterprises. Stowmar's footage was exhausted only a few weeks into filming, and it became clear that new monitor films would be needed faster than an outside supplier could deliver them. Lee Cole, Michael Minor, and Rick Sternbach, worked together with Povill to devise faster ways of shooting new footage. Cole and Povill rented an oscilloscope for a day and filmed its distortions. Other loops came from Long Beach Hospital, the University of California at San Diego, and experimental computer labs in New Mexico. In all, over two hundred pieces of monitor footage were created and catalogued into a seven-page listing.
The Enterprise engine room was redesigned while keeping consistent with the theory that the interior appearance had to match the corresponding area visible in exterior views of the starship. Harold Michelson wanted the engine room to seem vast, a difficult effect to achieve on a small sound stage. To create the illusion of depth and long visible distances, the art department staff worked on designs that would utilize forced perspective; set designer Lewis Splittgerber considered the engine room the most difficult set to realize. On film, the engine room appeared hundreds of feet long, but the set was actually only forty feet (twelve meters) in length. To achieve the proper look, the floor slanted upward and narrowed, while small actors of three, four, and five feet in height were used as extras to give the appearance of being far from the camera. For "down shots" of the engineering complex, floor paintings extended the length of the warp core several stories. J.C. Backings Company created these paintings; similar backings were used to extend the length of ship hallways, and the recreation room set.
Much of the recording equipment used to create the movie's intricately complicated sound effects was, at the time, extremely cutting edge. Among these pieces of equipment was the ADS (Advanced Digital Synthesizer) 11, manufactured by Pasadena, California custom synthesizer manufacturer Con Brio, Inc. The movie provided major publicity and was used to advertise the synthesizer, though no price was given.
When Lieutenant Ilia comes aboard the bridge and states, "My oath of celibacy is on record, Captain," the novelization describes that Deltans release intensely high levels of pheromones. A scene cut from the movie, but is in the novelization, follows that Commander Sulu does not fully stand, in order to not make his arousal obvious.
The new phaser was entirely self-contained, with its own circuitry, batteries, and four blinking lights. The prop came with a hefty 4,000 dollar price tag. To save money, the lights were dropped, reducing the size of the phaser by a third. A total of fifteen of the devices were made for the film.
According to William Shatner, the script was constantly being re-written, to the extent that the cast were getting new revisions every two hours. More often than not, the actors had no idea what was going to happen in a scene, and were forced to improvise.
Jerry Goldsmith was influenced by the style of the romantic, sweeping music of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). "When you stop and think about it, space is a very romantic thought. It is, to me, like the Old West, we're up in the universe. It's about discovery and new life. It's really the basic premise of Star Trek," he said.
Persis Khambatta, who plays the role of Ilia, is from India and a former beauty pageant winner. She was crowned as Miss India in the year 1965 and also entered that year's Miss Universe contest held at Miami Beach, Florida. She was not as lucky at Miss Universe as she failed to be in top 15, and it was won by 18-year-old Apasra Hongsakula of Thailand.
When Kirk's air shuttle is flying along the Golden Gate Bridge heading for Starfleet Headquarters, while the white tower on the peninsula appears to be the Transamerica building, it is a matte painting with Redwoods and the Coit Tower.
The transporter had originally been developed for the television series as a matter of convenience; it would have been prohibitively expensive to show the Enterprise land on every new planet. For the redesign Harold Michelson felt that the transporter should look and feel more powerful. He added a sealed control room that would protect operators from the powerful forces at work. The space between the transporter platform and the operators was filled with complex machinery, and Cinematographer Richard Kline added eerie lighting to the set to create atmosphere.
On the first day of shooting, a few ad-libbed ceremonies were performed, before the cameras rolled. Gene Roddenberry gave Robert Wise his baseball cap, emblazoned with "Enterprise" in gold lettering (the cap was a gift from the Captain of the nuclear carrier Enterprise.) Wise and Roddenberry then cracked a special breakaway bottle of champagne on the bridge set (there was no liquid inside, as flying champagne would have damaged the readied set.) The scene planned was the chaotic mess aboard the Enterprise bridge as the crew readies the ship for space travel. Wise directed fifteen takes into the late afternoon before he was content with the scene.
The scenes of Kirk and Scott approaching the Enterprise in drydock, spanned two pages of script, but took forty-five different shots, averaging one shot a day, for the travel pod containing Kirk to make its flight from the space office complex to the docking ring. Double shifts around the clock were required to finish the effect on time.
Only after the wrap did Robert Wise check on the visual effects, of which he hadn't even seen a demo shot (which concerned him). It soon became apparent that the first special effects house couldn't get the job done. Douglas Trumbull and his former assistant John Dykstra had been the original choices, and as their previous commitments had since been completed they were brought onboard with only months to go. They had to work around the clock to get the job done. By now, the film was so over-budget, that Paramount executives were keeping a running tab each day of how much it was such.
As all the sound elements such as dubbed lines or background noise came together, they were classified into three divisions: A Effects, B Effects, and C Effects. A Effects were synthesized or acoustic sounds that were important and integral to the picture-the sound of V'Ger's weapon (partly done with the Blaster Beam instrument) for example, or Spock's mind meld, as well as transporters, explosions, and the warp speed sound effect. B Effects consisted of minor sounds such as the clicks of switches, beeps or chimes. C Effects were subliminal sounds that set moods-crowd chatter and ambient noise. All the elements were mixed as "predubs" to speed integration into the final sound mix.
Originally, Captain Kirk was supposed to receive the V'Ger mission assignment in Admiral Nogura's office in Starfleet Headquarters, but that scene was scrapped from the shooting order and never filmed.
As times had changed, the Starfleet uniforms, with their bright reds, blues, greens, and golds, had to be revised: the miniskirts worn by females on the show seemed exciting in the 1960s, but would now be considered sexist. Robert Wise deemed the original multi-colored uniforms too garish, and Robert Fletcher believed that the brightness of these old designs would work against believability when seen on the wide screen. The designer's first task was to create new, less conspicuous uniforms.
Dick Rubin's philosophy as property master was that nearly every actor or extra ought to have something in their hands. As such, Rubin devised and fabricated about 350 props for the film, 55 of which were used in the San Francisco tram scene alone.
While the bridge scenes were shot early, trouble with filming the transporter room scene delayed further work. Crew working on the transporter platform found their footwear melting on the lighted grid while shooting tests. Issues with the wormhole sequences caused further delays. The footage for the scene was filmed two ways; first, at the standard 24 frames per second, and then at the faster 48 frames; the normal footage was a back-up if the slow-motion effect produced by the faster frame speed did not turned out as planned. The shoot dragged on so long that it became a running joke for cast members to try and top each other with wormhole-related puns.
The torpedo effects were simulated by shooting a laser through a piece of crystal mounted on a rotating rod after experiments with Tesla coils proved insufficient. The same effect was recolored and used for the Klingons and the Enterprise; the aliens' torpedoes glowed red while the "good guys" had blue-colored weaponry. V'Ger's destruction of the ships was created using scanning lasers, with the multiple laser passes composited onto the moving model to create the final effect.
The film's soundtrack provided a debut for the Blaster Beam, an electronic instrument twelve to fifteen feet (3.7 to 4.6 meters) long. It was created by musician Craig Huxley, who played a small role in an episode of the original television series. The Blaster had steel wires connected to amplifiers fitted to the main piece of aluminum; the device was played with an artillery shell. Jerry Goldsmith heard it and immediately decided to use it for V'Ger's cues. Several state-of-the-art synthesizers were used as musical instruments, notably the Yamaha CS-80, ARP 2600, Oberheim OB-X, and Serge synthesizer.
According to Robert Wise and Jon Povill, the Associate Producer, the released film was essentially a rough cut that no one had seen in its entirety before shipping. Wise completed the final cut a day before the premiere.
While there had been past movies spun off from various television series, this would be the first high level, big budget feature film adapted from a television series. The movie is generally credited with establishing the trend of reviving or remaking television series as theatrical feature films.
When asked during a March 1978 press conference about what it would be like to reprise his role, William Shatner said, "An actor brings to a role not only the concept of a character but his own basic personality, things that he is, and both Leonard Nimoy and myself have changed over the years, to a degree at any rate, and we will bring that degree of change inadvertently to the role we recreate."
The production was, for most of the filming, a closed set, with great measures taken to maintain the secrecy of the plot. Scripts were numbered, and lists kept, of who received each copy. The press was told nothing about the story, and only a few production stills were allowed to be published. During construction, one young visitor to a soundstage stole a copy of blueprints for the bridge set, and sold duplicates of them to any fan who would pay him 75 dollars. Paramount reported the matter to the FBI, who turned the case over to the Los Angeles Police Department. The police arrested, convicted, and fined the culprit 750 dollars. It was later discovered that the stolen plans were not the final copies. Visitor's badges were created to keep track of guests, and due to the limited number, were constantly checked out. Among the visitors, included friends of the cast and crew, the press, fan leaders, and actors such as Clint Eastwood, Tony Curtis, Robin Williams, and Mel Brooks. Security swept cars leaving the lots for stolen items. Even the principal actors were not spared from this inconvenience.
Many of the props were updated designs of items previously seen in the television series, such as phasers and handheld communicators. The only prop that remained from the original television series was Uhura's wireless earpiece, which Nichelle Nichols specifically requested on the first day of shooting (and all the production crew save those who had worked on the television show had forgotten about).
The communicators were radically altered, as by the 1970s, the micro-miniaturization of electronics convinced Roddenberry that the bulky handheld devices of the television series were no longer believable. A wrist-based design was decided upon, with the provision that it look far different from the watch Dick Tracy had been using for decades previous.
Yellowstone was selected for Vulcan after filming in Turkish ruins proved to be too expensive. Securing permission for filming the scenes was difficult in the middle of the summer tourist season, but the Parks Department acquiesced so long as the crew remained on the boardwalks to prevent damage to geological formations.
One scene required the Ilia probe to slice through a steel door in the sickbay; doors made out of paper, corrugated cardboard covered in aluminium foil, and cork were tested before the proper effect was reached. The illuminated button in the hollow of the probe's throat was a 12-volt light bulb that Khambatta could turn on and off via hidden wires; the bulb's heat eventually caused a slight burn.
When film was announced, many synthesizer artists submitted demo tapes to Paramount. Todd Ramsay and Robert Wise consulted and decided that the film should have a unique audio style; they were particularly concerned with avoiding sounds that had become pervasive and clichéd due to repetitious use in other science fiction movies. Events such as Enterprise bridge viewscreen activation were kept silent to provide a more comfortable atmosphere. In contrast, almost every action on the Klingon bridge made noise to reflect the aliens' harsh aesthetic. While much of the effects were created using digital synthesizers, acoustic recordings were used as well. The wormhole's sucking sounds were created by slowing down and reversing old Paramount stock footage of a cowboy fight, while the warp acceleration "stretch" sound was built on a slowed-down cymbal crash. The crew encountered difficulty in transferring the .25 inches (0.64 cm) tapes used for creating the sounds to the 35 mm film used for the final prints; while the film was to be released with Dolby sound, Frank Serafine found it was easier to mix the sounds without regard to format and add the specific format after, during the later transfer to 35 mm.
Various canisters and cargo containers appear to be suspended by Anti-gravity throughout the film. These effects were executed by several of Alex Weldon's assistants. The crew built a circular track that had the same shape as the corridor and suspended the antigravity prop on four small wires that connected to the track. The wires were treated with a special acid which oxidized the metal; the reaction tarnished the wires to a dull gray that would not show up in the deep blue corridor lighting. Cargo boxes were made out of light balsa wood so that fine wires could be used as support.
Measuring four feet x ten feet x six feet (1.22 meters x 3.05 meters x 1.83 meters), the Enterprise's 56 neon panels required 168,000 volts of electricity to operate, with a separate table to support the transformers. The final price for the dock setup was 200,000 dollars.
While the cast departed to work on other projects, the post-production team was tasked with finalizing the film in time for a Christmas release. The resulting work would take twice as long as the filming process had taken. Editor Todd Ramsay and assistants spent principal photography syncing film and audio tracks. The resulting rough cuts were used to formulate plans for sound effects, music, and optical effects that would be added later.
Jerry Goldsmith's initial bombastic main theme reminded Todd Ramsay and Robert Wise of sailing ships. Unable to articulate what he felt was wrong with the piece, Wise recommended writing an entirely different piece. Although irked by the rejection, Goldsmith consented to re-work his initial ideas. The re-writing of the theme required changes to several sequences Goldsmith had scored without writing a main title piece. The approach of Kirk and Scott to the drydocked Enterprise by shuttle lasted a ponderous five minutes, due to the effect shots coming in late and unedited, requiring Goldsmith to maintain interest with a revised and developed cue.
Gene Roddenberry desperately wanted screenplay credit for himself on this film. He'd written an early draft of the script which Paramount rejected, considering it uncinematic and more of a television script. During production, Roddenberry then used his power as producer to demand script rewrites from Harold Livingston, often completing them himself which led to the animus between the two men. Roddenberry became so myopically focused on getting screenplay credit that he actually began neglecting his producer duties, leaving Robert Wise and Paramount executive Jeffrey Katzenberg to oversee production and post production. The producer also became known for copious use of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine during filming. Roddenberry ultimately received no screenplay credit, but the Writer's Guild did determine he was eligible for story credit, which he rejected. Though the film proved a box office success, the out-of-control production and Roddenberry's behind the scenes maneuverings destroyed his Hollywood career. Paramount removed him from all subsequent "Star Trek" film productions, which made Roddenberry extremely bitter. Only after Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) moved into production did Roddenberry return to work in Hollywood, and the early seasons of that series were plagued by similar problems resulting from Roddenberry's constant rewriting of scripts to gain credit, and from his drug and alcohol abuse.
Harold Michelson based the bridge ceiling on a jet engine fan. Michael Minor built a central bubble for the ceiling to give the bridge a human touch. Ostensibly, the bubble functioned as a piece of sophisticated equipment designed to inform the captain of the ship's attitude.
Originally, the Enterprise corridors were of straight plywood construction reminiscent of the original series, which Gene Roddenberry referred to as "Des Moines Holiday Inn Style". To move away from this hotel look, Harold Michelson created a new bent and angular design. Roddenberry and Robert Wise agreed with Michelson that in three hundred years, lighting did not need to be overhead, so they had the lighting radiate upward from the floor. Different lighting schemes were used to simulate different decks of the ship with the same length of corridor. Aluminium panels on the walls outside Kirk's and Ilia's quarters were covered with an orange ultrasuede to represent the living area of the ship.
William Ware Theiss, the designer who created the original television series costumes, was too busy to work on the film. Instead Robert Fletcher, considered one of American theater's most successful costume and scenic designers, was selected to design the new uniforms, suits, and robes for the production. Fletcher eschewed man-made synthetics for natural materials, finding that these fabrics sewed better and lasted longer.
The first day's shots used 1,650 feet (500 meters) of film; 420 feet (130 meters) were considered "good", 1,070 feet (330 meters) were judged "no good", and 160 feet (49 meters) were wasted. Only one and one-eighth pages had been shot.
The computer console explosion that causes the transporter malfunction was simulated using brillo pads. Alex Weldon hid steel wool inside the console and attached an arc welder to operate by remote control when the actor pulled a wire. The welder was designed to create a spark instead of actually welding, causing the steel wool to burn and make sparks; so effective was the setup that the cast members were continually startled by the flare-ups, resulting in additional takes.
The theme from the TV series is heard three times in the film. Each time it is used, it is for a "captain's log" dictation. The first one is heard just before Kirk engages the Enterprise's first warp test. The second time is when Spock is making his repairs to the warp drive, and the third time is when Kirk and McCoy are watching Decker and the Ilia-probe from Kirk's quarters.
Sound Designer Frank Serafine, a longtime Star Trek (1966) fan, was invited to create the sound effects for the picture. Given access to state-of-the-art audio equipment, Serafine saw the picture as the chance to modernize outdated motion picture sound techniques with digital technology. Owing to background noise such as camera operation, much of the ambient noise or dialogue captured on set was unusable; it was Serafine's job to create or recreate sounds to mix back into the scenes.
The recorder-tranceiver jewel on the Ilia mechanism always glows red except when she remembers more about who she is. That starts when she talks to Dr. Chapel, and continues when she talks to Decker in that scene. It is dark then, but it can be seen to glow once more as she finishes talking to Decker. Presumably, the dimming means she is accessing Ilia's emotions and memories instead of being controlled by V'Ger.
For the science station, two consoles were rigged for hydraulic operation so that they could be rolled into the walls when not in use, but the system was disconnected when the crew discovered it would be easier to move them by hand.
The V'ger set was referred to by the production staff as "the Coliseum" or "the microwave wok". The set was designed and fabricated in four and a half weeks, and was filmable from all angles; parts of the set were designed to pull away for better camera access at the center.
An Italian shoemaker decorated by the Italian government for making Gucci shoes was tasked with creating the futuristic footwear. Combining the shoes and trousers was difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, as each shoe had to be sewn by hand after being fitted to each principal actor. There were difficulties in communication, as the shoemaker spoke limited English and occasionally confused shoe orders due to similar-sounding names.
According to an article written by Harlan Ellison, and published in Starlog magazine in 1980, Gene Roddenberry took Harold Livingston to arbitration with the Writer's Guild of America five times, seeking a screen credit for the film's screenplay. The Writer's Guild apparently sided with Livingston, as Roddenberry never received any credit for the script. However, Alan Dean Foster did successfully arbitrate with the Writer's Guild, as he had initially received no story credit at all, even though he had written an early draft of the "In Thy Image" script which was rewritten into the TMP script.
Special Effects Supervisor Alex Weldon was planning on retiring after 42 years of effects work, but his wife urged him to take on the job because she thought he did not have enough to do. When Weldon was hired, many of the effects had already been started or completed by Rugg; it was up to Weldon to complete more complex and higher-budgeted effects for the motion picture. The first step of preparation involved analysing the script in the number, duration, and type of effects. Before costs could be determined and Weldon could shop for necessary items, he and the other members of the special effects team worked out all possibilities for pulling off the effects in a convincing manner.
The creation of V'Ger caused problems for the entire production. The crew was dissatisfied with the original four-foot clay model created by the Abel group, which looked like a modernized Nemo's Nautilus submarine. Industrial Designer Syd Mead was hired to visualize a new version of the mammoth craft. Mead created a machine that contained organic elements based on input from Robert Wise, Gene Roddenberry, and the effects leads. The final model was 68 feet (21 meters) long, built from the rear forward, so that the camera crews could shoot footage while the next sections were still being fabricated. The model was built out of a plethora of materials-wood, foam, macramé, Styrofoam cups, incandescent, neon, and strobe lights.
A variety of field jackets, leisure wear, and spacesuits were created for the film. As these parts had to be designed and completed, before most of the actors' parts had been cast, many roles were filled by considering how well the actors would fit into existing costumes.
With the approval of Gene Roddenberry, Robert Fletcher fashioned complete backgrounds for the alien races seen in the Earth and recreation deck sequences, describing their appearances and the composition of their costumes.
Two weeks after filming wrapped, the entire cast and crew joined with studio executives for a traditional wrap party. Four hundred people attended the gathering, which spilled over into two restaurants in Beverly Hills. While much of the crew readied for post-production, Robert Wise and Gene Roddenberry were grateful for the opportunity to take a short vacation from the motion picture before returning to work.
The script received constant, input from the producers and from William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. The discussions led to multiple re-writes, right up to the day the pages were to be shot. At one point, scenes were being re-written so often, it became necessary to note on script pages the hour of the revision.
Douglas Trumbull wanted the V'ger cloud to have a specific shape to it-"it couldn't just be a blob of cotton," he said, "it had to have some shape that you could get camera angles on." A special camera support track was built that could pan and focus over a forty by eighty feet (12 by 24 meters) piece of art, with the light strobed to provide depth. While the team planned on compositing multiple passes to provide physical movement to the cloud shots, Trumbull felt that it detracted from the sense of scale, and so small animations were subtly introduced in the final product.
John Dykstra and Apogee created three models to stand in for the Epsilon 9 station. A 6 by 3.5 foot (1.8 by 1.1 meters) model was used for distance shots, while an isolated 5 by 6 foot (1.5 by 1.8 meters) panel was used for closer shots. The station control tower was replicated with rear-projection screens to add the people inside. A two feet model spaceman created for the shot was used in the drydock sequence and Spock's spacewalk. Unique destruction effects for the station had to be discarded due to time constraints. V'Ger itself was filmed in a hazy, smoky room, in part to convey depth and also to hide the parts of the ship still under construction. The multiple passes were largely based on guesswork, as every single available camera was in use and the effects had to be generated without the aid of a bluescreen.
Three years before the film's release, Gene Roddenberry had come up with an idea for a new science fiction series called "Andromeda". But, the series did not hit television screens until 2000, after Majel Barrett Roddenberry dug up her husband's notes on the series in his archive. Sadly, Gene Roddenberry never lived to see the series, due to his death in 1991.
Writer's Guild rules specified that Jon Povill could have received a "story by" credit for his contributions to the script. Povil elected not to proceed with the crediting, as he and Gene Roddenberry had a terrible falling out during filming when Povil sided with Harold Livingston on certain script matters. Roddenberry had wanted script credit himself, but the WGA ruled against his claim. In order to repair their friendship, Povil opted to not take story credit. Povil came to regret his decision, as it meant he forfeited hundreds of thousands of dollars in residual payments.
Gene Roddenberry provided a large amount of input, sending memos to Todd Ramsay via Robert Wise with ideas for editing. Ramsay tried to cut as much unnecessary footage as he could as long as the film's character and story development were not damaged.
It was Gene Roddenberry's idea to have the Vulcans speak their own language. Because the original Vulcan scenes had been photographed with actors speaking English, the "language" needed to lip-sync with the actor's lines.
The scenes of Kirk and Scott approaching the Enterprise in drydock spanned two pages of script but took forty-five different shots-averaging one shot a day-for the travel pod containing Kirk to make its flight from the space office complex to the docking ring. Double shifts around the clock were required to finish the effect on time. For close shots of the pod travelling to the Enterprise, close-ups of William Shatner and James Doohan were composited into the model, while in long shots lookalike puppets were used.
The Bally/Midway arcade game GORF (1980) was originally intended to be a tie-in with Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). These plans were changed, when the game creators saw the film, and realized that the story was too slow-paced and cerebral, to be suitable for a video game. However, there are a few vestigial signs of the original game intentions. The player's spaceship resembles the Enterprise. There is a warp stage reminiscent of the warp speed effect, and lastly, the enemy ship in the boss flagship stage somewhat resembles a Klingon battle-cruiser. An arcade game based on Star Trek was eventually made in 1982 by Sega (Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator) and was released around the same time that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) was released. However, this game also wasn't a direct tie-in with the events of that film either, and was a more generic Enterprise versus Klingons scenario.
The Ilia-probe refers to humans as "carbon-based units". Although nearly all human biochemistry is carbon-based (proteins, lipids, DNA/RNA backbones), humans are mostly composed of water, not carbon. The carbon-based biochemistry could not happen if it weren't for the water composition.
Paramount was originally going to reboot Star Trek as a TV series called Star Trek Phase II on their own network. Leonard Nimoy refused to return as Spock as he was doing live theater, had legal disputes with Paramount, and wanted to distance himself from the character. David Gautreaux was cast as a new Vulcan character, Xon, to replace Nimoy. Paramount then scrapped the TV series and planned a movie, given the success of Star Wars. When Nimoy signed on again as Spock, Gautreaux was given the role of Commander Branch on the Epsilon 9 station.
The scenes at Starfleet Command in San Francisco mark the first time in the Star Trek franchise that 23rd century Earth appears on screen. While the crew of the Enterprise did visit Earth in the original series episodes Tomorrow is Yesterday and Assignment: Earth, those were both time travel stories set in the 20th century.
Marc Lenard played a Romulan in the Original Series "Balance of Power" and later began his role as Sarek, Spock's father in "Journey to Babel". By playing the Klingon commander in TMP, he became the first actor to play all three major aliens in the Star Trek franchise.
When the Enterprise first encounters the wormhole and starts shaking, there is a subtle close-up of Kirk securing a restraint on his chair. This is in response to the fan complaint of the original Star Trek (1966) that since it was common for the bridge crew to get thrown around when the Enterprise is shaken up, Starfleet should add seat belts to the chairs.
The model of the space dock office complex (where Kirk got on the pod with Scotty) was later flipped upside-down and modified to become space station Regula One in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
The round opening at the front of the original Klingon ships from Star Trek (1966) was originally a deflector dish (similar to that on the Enterprise secondary hull) and not a torpedo launcher. Their weapons were originally on each of the warp pods beneath the ship. The aft-facing launcher was also another addition.
Three types of uniforms were fabricated: dress uniforms used for special occasions, Class A uniforms for regular duty, and Class B uniforms as an alternative. The Class A designs were double-stitched in gabardine and featured gold braid designating rank. It was felt that the traditional four gold sleeve stripes for the Captain's rank was too blatantly militaristic. Jon Povill had to send out a memo to Robert Fletcher with the modified stripe rank system, as the designer continued to get the 20th and 23rd centuries confused. Fletcher designed the Class B uniform as similar to evolved t-shirts, with shoulder boards used to indicate rank and service divisions. Each costume had the shoes built into the pant leg, to further the futuristic look.
Grace Lee Whitney recounted in her autobiography that, following a practical joke (which Gene Roddenberry was somewhat notorious for) on Robert Wise that she took part in, Wise forbade the makeup department from providing its services to her. She noted that this is why it often takes a while for viewers to recognize the transporter chief as Rand.
Although the 'pajama' style uniforms were never worn by the main actors, they were reused for the subsequent films for background characters, with subtle changes. The engineering suits were used in all of the films, up to Star Trek VI. Some of the different costumes were also reused during the filming of The Next Generation television series. A majority of the set pieces were used for decades after this film. The Klingon bridge set was turned into the transporter room of the Regula 1 space station, and a majority of the set became the photon torpedo bay area for Star Trek II, and III. That particular set would have sections used in most of the remaining films and television series.
According to Jon Povill, each night after filming Robert Wise would drink a glass of straight vodka to cope with the pressures of the production. Povil said Wise never drank in excess or to get drunk; he simply needed a way to relieve the stress of the out-of-control film.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Spock was originally not in the movie because Leonard Nimoy was pursuing stage work and other roles to distance himself from the series and his character. Nimoy had become bitter over perceived mistreatment by Gene Roddenberry while making the original Star Trek (1966) series, as well as not receiving more residuals or licensing royalties for his image as Spock. They originally thought about introducing a new character named Xon, who, unlike Spock, was a full-blooded Vulcan. But Xon would never appear on screen thanks to Nimoy's return as Spock.
The line spoken by Commander Spock: "Any show of resistance would be futile, Captain." is a precursor to the repeated line used by another logically-driven race, the Borg Collective who first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), and fueled fan speculation that this mission directly (albeit inadvertently) led to the creation of the Borg. William Shatner would later fully realize this concept in his Star Trek novels featuring a Borg-resurrected James T. Kirk. Along with Spock, Picard, and the Next Generation crew, they discover the modern Borg were born from the merger of Captain Decker, Lieutenant Ilia, and V'Ger, as depicted in this film. Although not considered canon, it is an enjoyable resolution to a question that had remained previously unanswered. It would imply that the planet where Voyager VI arrived after crossing a black hole to land on the planet (and where a race of living machines turned Voyager VI in V'Ger) would be the Borg's homeworld.
Although V'Ger turns out to be the sixth probe of the Voyager series, in reality only two were created. Voyagers 1 and 2 were launched on September 5, 1977 and August 20, 1977 respectively and are now the two most distant human-made objects from Earth. On August 25, 2012, Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft to leave the Solar System and enter interstellar space.
This film marked the first appearance of the ridged-forehead Klingons. In the original Star Trek (1966) series, Gene Roddenberry wanted the Klingons to look alien, but budget constraints prevented this from being done beyond giving the actors dark makeup and fake eyebrows. The change in the Klingons' appearance was partially addressed in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Trials and Tribble-ations (1996), establishing the existence of smooth-forehead Klingons. However, ridged-forehead Klingons appeared in the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise (2001) prompting a satisfactory explanation to the brief existence of smooth-forehead Klingons. The episodes Star Trek: Enterprise: Affliction (2005) and Star Trek: Enterprise: Divergence (2005) showed their existence resulted from a viral mutation caused by Klingon experimentation with enhanced human DNA. The character of Worf, when asked about this change, simply said, "They are Klingons. And it is a long story."
The film's plot about the NASA probe Voyager (V'Ger) returning to Earth to look for its creator was very similar to Star Trek: The Changeling (1967) in which a NASA space probe ("Nomad") was found in space by the Enterprise crew. The probe had been made vastly more powerful by an encounter with an alien probe and the two merged into one, enabling it to fire incredibly powerful energy bolts at targets in its path as it attempted to sterilize "imperfect biological infestations" (i.e. all living creatures, including people), but had difficulty accepting that humans were its "creator". The story was adapted again in the 1970s by Gene Roddenberry for an unproduced television series of his called Genesis II (1973), in an episode called "Robot's Return". This was then re-written as a Star Trek script by Alan Dean Foster under the title "In Thy Image", and proposed as the two-hour premiere episode of "Star Trek: Phase II" (a planned Star Trek television series that actually started production in 1977). However, Paramount decided to abandon the idea for another television series and make a Star Trek film instead, and the story was adapted for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).
Post-production went on right up until the day before the film's world premiere. Because time was so short, all the prints of the film were shipped "wet" - fresh from the duplication lab - and were airlifted directly out from a warehouse on the Paramount lot as they were assembled. Re-writes took place daily during filming, most of them on the order of William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy dropping lines that were superfluous ("My character wouldn't say that", etc.). The logistics of the very end of the film - Decker merging with V'Ger - was devised more or less on the spot.
Lieutenant Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) was originally going to be killed by an exploding console during V'Ger's attack on the Enterprise. It was later changed so that he was just injured, and Lieutenant Ilia uses her telepathic/empathic ability to stop the pain in his burned hand.
In the original version of this story, "In Thy Image", Captain Dylan Hunt goes up into space to confront a probe that has been enhanced by an alien civilization. When the probe realizes that Dylan is a member of NASA, the group that created it, it shuts down, having received its answers. This basic premise was retained for the finished film, with the exception that in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Commander Decker merges with V'Ger, when he gives the probe the signal, and V'Ger transforms into a higher state, rather than shuts down. Dylan Hunt never became part of the Star Trek universe, but later appeared in his own series as Captain of the Andromeda Ascendant in Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda (2000).
In this movie, V'Ger is actually NASA's Voyager VI that got sucked into a black hole and ended up on the other side of the galaxy and was trying to get home to its creator. In Star Trek: Voyager (1995), the ship and crew are swept to the other side of the galaxy by an entity known as "the Caretaker" and, throughout the run of the series, are trying to get home.
Decker recalls that "Voyager 6 disappeared into what they used to call a black hole. It must have emerged on the other side of the galaxy". At the time of this movie, black holes in science fiction (such as the 1979 "The Black Hole") were often given the properties of what are know hypothetically known as "wormholes". Black holes are now understood to be singularities; not literally holes in space, but very dense masses from which light cannot escape. Black holes, however, due to their hypothesized gravitmetric properties, still continue to be used as plot devices for super-luminal travel. In such cases, time dilation and other Einsteinian concepts are generally still adhered to. Wormholes (also known as Einstein-Rosen bridges) providing instantaneous long distance space travel remain hypothetical. A proper wormhole would eventually become a plot device in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993).
At the end of the movie is revealed and V'Ger is in fact Voyager VI, a space probe launched by NASA at the end of the 20th century. In real life, NASA only launched two Voyager's space probes: Voyager I on September 5, 1977, and Voyager II on August 20, 1977 (they weren't launched following them numbers). Both remain as the only one human constructions to surpass the limits of the solar system to enter in the interstellar space.
The accident of the transporter kills Lt. Cmdr. Sonak and an unnamed female crewmember. In the novelization of the movie and the DVD audio commentary for the Director's Cut is revealed that the female crewmember is Rear Admiral Lori Ciana, Admiral Kirk's love interest after her promotion to rear admiral and destined in the Enterprise in the charge of officer navigator. Her death causes the last-minute replacement of Lt. Ilia. It justifies the surprise of Cmdr. Decker at Lt. Ilia's arrival announced by Uhura.
In a scene from the 2001 Director's Edition, Ilia-probe comments that carbon units (in this case, humans) are not true life forms. In other words, if V'Ger is a living machine, its creator should be too a living machine. The same idea about the concept of God would be reused in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), where "God" (played by George Murdock), disguises himself to accomplish the expectations that Kirk, McCoy, Spock and Sybok have about him.
V'Ger (Revealed as the deep space probe Voyager) foreshadows Star Trek: Voyager (1995) which premiered 16 years after the film's release. The series followed the voyages of the Voyager crew commanded by Captain Kathryn Janeway Kate Mulgrew. The series ran from 1995 - 2001.