The Motionless Picture

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Since it first came out, the first Star Trek film has had a reputation. It’s very shiny with incredible visual effects for its time, back when all effects were still practical. But it drags, and drags, and drags. Behind schedule and over budget, the first draft of the film was the one that made it to theatres, with several effects shots never finished. The plot wouldn’t really even be enough for a 2-part episode in the series, so you end up with lots of visual padding that does nothing to move the plot forward. After discovering fan edits, I thought for sure someone had cut The Motionless Picture down to size, but no dice. I would have to do it myself.

For the DVD release a special Director’s Edition of the film was constructed, finally completing the film after 20 years. Many slight tweaks were made as incomplete shots were realized as they had been envisioned but overall the film was barely changed. However since these changes were made at DVD resolution, they weren’t used for the Blu Ray. For the most part, these were minor changes, and it was worth it not to include them at the poorer resolution. However two of them I felt were rather essential, and upscaled them from the DVD release. After that, it was time to start editing.

One of the first things changed in the Director’s Edition was the opening credits, as the titles are instantly replaced with the next in sequence with no transitions. Instead they had a more conventional fade in and out (slightly stylized), as well as both changing the credits from white to a more orange color and putting a star field behind it. I did the best I could to restore these changes, and went one further; while the original film listed most of the original series actors at once, I changed the speed of the entire sequence to give them all their names standing alone. It made no sense to me that actors from the original show got smaller credits than characters added for this film.

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With this complete, my goal was to improve the pacing as much as possible without completely modernizing it; cutting shots that served no real purpose and reducing many of the absurdly long effects shots to a few seconds in length. Most notably, I cut two of the three passes Kirk and Scotty make around the Enterprise. We’re going to see it again in a few minutes anyway, and the faster I could get the Enterprise into V’Ger the better. Throughout the first part of the film I cut extra time between dialogue to make things feel more like real conversations. With JUST these cuts I removed HALF AN HOUR of the film. I lost maybe three or four words of dialogue, and each instance it was Shatner repeating himself at least once.

With the pacing changes complete, I focused on the upscaled Director’s Edition shots I was putting in. These shots were so important because they were the ONLY actual shots of V’Ger’s ship, which they had run out of time and money to build properly the first time around. And seeing this for the first time blew my mind, as did seeing this ship again in Star Trek Online.

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While there were a handful of other VFX tweaks it would’ve been nice to include, I’m happy with saving these two. I’m still amazed that cutting next to no dialogue let me remove an entire half hour of the film. The edit is available to view on my Plex server.

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