"Star Trek The Motion Picture" : Behind the Scenes Information

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During the sequence where Spock is drifting through V'Ger's interior chamber, at the same point as he states "The Epsilon 9 Station stored here with every detail", the viewer is seemingly treated to a likeness of Star Wars' Darth Vader (ominous black triangle in the centre of the shot) and Miss Piggy from The Muppet Show (highlighted).
   
It took almost 3 weeks to get the shot where the camera moves over the top of the Klingon ship and ends up behind the ship (at the beginning of the movie).
   
The model of the Enterprise was about 8 feet long.
   
It looked like the Vulcan's lip synch matched the English too closely, so Gene Roddenberry and Robert Wise changed the sentences somewhat to make it look right.
   
(Director's Edition) In the wide shot of the tram station, an Original Series shuttle can be seen taking off in the right corner.
   
The transporter effect was made by refracting a laser through crystal. The crystal came from broken candy dishes and the little crystal pieces were melted on a motion control mover. The laser went through the crystal pieces and they re-photographed the patterns they presented on the wall. This was combined with a "slot gag" (bright spots), which was an effect created by moving one light pattern against another and re-photographing that. It was two dimensional, but looked 3 dimensional.
   
The shots of Kirk and Scotty inside the shuttle were simply made using a rear projected movie inside the shuttle's model. [Screencap]
   
Initially it was planned to make the floors of the Enterprise transparent, but it was too difficult to make work.
   
The extras in the recreation deck during the briefing were Star Trek fans from a convention; included Robert Wise's Wife, Grace Lee Whitney's son (Vulcan), Bjo Trimble, David Gerrold, and Gene's secretary.
   
Acid etched brass was used to build the 6 foot long Epsilon 9 station model.
   
The V'Ger cloud was made using 2D layers that were moved against each other to give a 3D effect.
   
Some of the lights on the Enterprise were achieved by shining on large light on 50 or so little dental mirrors, which would give small specks of light on the ship.
   
The wormhole sequence took 9 months to complete; 3 weeks to shoot because they had to do regular and slow motion shoots on 35mm and 65mm cameras.
   
The wormhole was accomplished with a scanning laser beam on a rear projection screen accumulating over several minutes per frame while the camera moved in and out of the screen to create a tunnel effect.
   
A 20W Argon Laser was used for the photon torpedoes. Also used for Klingon and V'Ger effects.
   
The electrical discharge from V'Ger weapon was created by photographing a Tesla Coil (~ million and a half volts - throws a 6 foot arc in a Helium environment). The crew was filming the Tesla Coil near an airport, and the airport staff complained it was interrupting their radio. As a result, the crew had to build a wire cage around the Tesla coil. Legend was that if you worked around the Tesla coil for more than 2 weeks, it would affect your mind.
   
The "probe" send by V'Ger (light beam) was actually an electrician wearing sunglasses holding a light source. The SFX team used a variation on the Mylar distortion effect to remove the electrician and the light source. They then added the bright light back in using a pattern photographed as a 2D object on an animation stand. Finally they added in the electrical discharges filmed from the Tesla Coil.
   
Security guards were filmed being attacked by the "probe", but this was cut.
   
The new navigator that comes to replace Ilia when she is taken was Shatner's wife at the time.
   
The transceiver light on Ilia's neck was connected to a battery pack behind her.
   
Initially, the script called for Kirk to follow Spock into V'Ger. Inside they come upon the memory wall and find out V'Ger is a living machine. It was a long segment and most of it was shot, but it didn't look good enough, so it was cut. The rest of the scene was shot in a long set that looked like a canyon with Kirk and Spock floating around poking into various sections of the memory walls. At one point Kirk becomes covered with tiny probes and Spock saves him. This was all cut.
   
The V'Ger set was elevated, and sometimes crew members fell through the floor.
   
The original ending called for V'Ger to upload all the ships and other objects it had "digitized" on the course of its journey, including the three Klingon ships from the opening of the film. The Klingons were supposed to fire on the Enterprise and attempt to flee, only to fail; their engines being cold. Kirk was supposed to order the Enterprise saucer to separate with the stardrive section returning to drydock and the saucer module giving chase to the Klingons. This would have been the first (and only) actual saucer separation performed by the original Enterprise. The manuever had originally been mentioned in TOS: "The Apple."
   
In the V'Ger set at the end of the movie, they rigged a large disk and used a bulb from a drive in movie projector to get the bright light; it was so hot that they had to have huge fans blowing to keep the actors cool and prevent sunburn.
   
For a previous unproduced TV series of his called "Genesis II", Gene Roddenberry had created a story he called "Robot's Return". This was now rewritten for "Star Trek" by Alan Dean Foster under the title "In Thy Image", and proposed as the two-hour premiere episode of "Star Trek Phase II". However, Paramount executive 'Michael Eisner' responded, "We've been looking for the feature for five years and this is it", and made the final decision to forget the new series and produce the story as a movie.
   
The decision 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 TV series was still going to happen, even soliciting scripts for episodes that would never be made. Sets built for the TV series were used in the movie, but model work had to be redone after the changeover was made public, due to the need for finer detailing in a movie.
   
Director Robert E. 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.
   
Gene Roddenberry wanted Alan Dean Fosterto 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 wasn't interested; and Bill L. Norton, who initially accepted but found it beyond his capabilities. In the end Livingston did the job himself. He disagreed repeatedly with Roddenberry over rewrites and other matters, and quit and returned several times.
   
The TV 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 13 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.
   
Leonard Nimoy declined to return as Spock for the series, so a new Vulcan character "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 part 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 part of Commander Branch.
   
The character of Lieutenant Ilia, played by Persis Khambatta, was also intended as a continuing role in the TV series.
   
The V'ger prop was so large and involved so much work that one end of it was being used in scenes while the other end was still being built.
   
It was understood in the script, but not in the movie, that Commander Will Decker was the son of Commodore Matthew Decker, the half-crazed starship captain who committed suicide in the Star Trek television episode "The Doomsday Machine."
   
Jerry Goldsmith's Academy Award-nominated score featured a special musical instrument called "The Blaster Beam", an instrument 15 feet long, incorporating artillery shell casings and motorized magnets. It was used as part of any scene featuring V'ger. Said instrument was invented by former child star turned New Age musician Craig Hundley who, in his youth, had portrayed Captain Kirk's nephew in an episode of the original "Star Trek" television series.
   
Because of the need to re-build 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. Director Robert Wise repeatedly considered quitting the production, and at one point even suggested that Paramount cancel the project altogether.
   
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.
   
James Doohan's twin sons, Montgomery Doohan and Christopher Doohan, appear as extras in the movie.
   
Uhura's communications earpieces are the only original props from the original TV 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 ship's captain were actually invented by actor James Doohan (Scotty). Later, linguist Marc Okrand devised grammar and syntax rules for the language, along with more vocabulary words, and wrote a Klingon dictionary.
   
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. Rewrites 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"). The logistics of the very end of the film - Decker merging with V'Ger - was devised more or less on the spot.
   
Gene Roddenberry had asked Majel Barrett if she would don fur and a tail to "reprise" the role of Lieutenant M'Ress from the animated "Star Trek" (1973). Barrett refused.
   
Many story ides were considered during the early planning stages, including the Enterprise meeting God, preventing Kennedy's assassination, becoming the Greek Titans, and trying to prevent a black hole from swallowing the galaxy.
   
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 "Enterprise") 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 onscreen). 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 the episode "First Flight").
   
Leonard Nimoy agreed to appear in the film only after Paramount agreed to a settlement of his lawsuit against them for allowing his TV series likeness to be used by advertisers.
   
The producers and the cast were very worried about their appearance after being away from "Star Trek" (1966) for over 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.
   
Jerry Goldsmith's famous theme for the movie almost didn't 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 didn't 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.
   
Orson Welles narrated trailers for the film.
   
After the original "Star Trek" (1966) TV series proved a success in syndication, Paramount became interested in making a "Star Trek" movie. Writers who contributed ideas or draft scripts in 1975-77 included Gene Roddenberry, Jon Povill, Robert Silverberg, John D.F. Black, Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, and Ray Bradbury. A story called "Star Trek: Planet of Titans" was selected; Chris Bryant and Allan Scott wrote a script, which was then rewritten by Philip Kaufman. At this point Star Wars (1977) burst upon the world, and Paramount reacted by canceling "Star Trek: Planet of Titans" before pre-production started. Allegedly they thought there wasn't a sufficient market for another big science-fiction film.
   
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 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 visual effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull had seen during the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
   
At one time, according to the Guinness Book of Records, this was the most expensive film ever made with a total production cost of US$46 million
   
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 ST:TMP, 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 got his own as captain of the Andromeda Ascendant in Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda.
   
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.
   
Chekov 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 Ilia uses her telepathic/empathic ability to stop the pain in his burned hand.
   
James Doohan wrote all of the Klingon and Vulcan dialogue lines for the film. The Vulcan dialogue was originally given in English, but Gene Roddenberry eventually decided the scene would play better in native Vulcan. Unfortunately, the scene had already been shot and would have proven to be too expensive to reshoot it. The solution was to "invent" Vulcan words that would closely match the English words being spoken by the actors. The subtitles were also significantly reworded as to not make the similarities obvious.
   
Visual effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull had previously created the models for "2001: A Space Odyssey."
   
There are many parallels or "homages" to "2001: A Space Odyssey" during the course of the film, including:
  • A musical overture playing over a black screen (which was replaced by a CGI starfield in the Director's Edition)
  • The long introduction of the new Enterprise is similar to the long introduction of the Earth orbit satellites in "2001."
  • The visualizations on the Enterprise viewscreen are similar to the visualizations seen by Dave Bowman during the "stargate sequence."
  • Camera angles on Mr. Spock during his V'Ger entry are similar to that of Dave Bowman during the aforementioned "stargate sequence."
  • Mr. Spock floating back to the Enterprise after being injured by V'Ger is similar to Frank Poole's murder where he floats away from the Discovery.
In the original "television pilot" script for "Star Trek: Phase II", V'Ger was called "N'sa."