Sunday, January 10, 2010

Latest Star Trek Magazine Celebrates 30 Years of The Motion Picture

The latest issue of Star Trek Magazine, just out in the US, celebrates the 30th anniversary of Star Trek The Motion Picture and features interviews with Star Trek actor Walter Koenig and TMP associate producer Jon Povill. Here are excerpts, courtesy of the publisher (note that the second cover is a Diamond exclusive cover and will not be available at newsstands, and only at comic stores.)


The first time Walter Koenig saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture was at a star studded premiere in Washington D.C. And as he recalled, everything leading up to the lights going down and the film flickering onto the screen was great.

"The preamble to it all was great," he recalled during a wide ranging interview in a North Hollywood restaurant to acknowledge the upcoming 30th anniversary of the film and his journal of the experience, Chekov's Enterprise. "The limos and the red carpet were extraordinary. The film started and I thought the first five minutes were terrific. The music was driving. It was almost like the beginning of Jaws."

You mentioned in your journal, Chekov's Enterprise, that it would be tough to go home again playing Chekov in The Motion Picture. As the Star Trek films progressed, did you change your mind about that statement?

"Yeah. I guess I did. I must have. I mean I did six more films. When we started working on that movie, I did feel like I was exhuming a ghost, and that I was so old that I could not play the character of Chekov properly. But as it turned out, it was also very stimulating to find myself in that place again."

Speaking of Chekov's Enterprise, did you already have a deal in place with Pocket Books before you started writing your journal?

"No. I just did it because I thought that coming back the way we did, making this film after being off the air for 10 years was unprecedented. I thought it was worth documenting, and that it would be an interesting historical document to look back at."

Would you take a role in the next Star Trek movie?

"If it was something as substantial as what Leonard did in this last movie, I would leap at it. If it was just standing there at the end of the movie being Chekov's grandfather, forget it."


Jon Povill's involvement with Gene Roddenberry began long before Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In 1972, when fresh out of UCLA film school, Povill wrote a feature adaptation of Robert Sheckley's short story "Ticket to Tranai." Although written for a young Ron Shusett (of Alien fame), Tranai became Povill's sample script, and being a Star Trek fan, he presented it to Gene Roddenberry.

Roddenberry was impressed enough to let the young writer submit a story idea for his proposed series, Questor. Although this project never got beyond the pilot, The Questor Tapes, Povill continued to work with Roddenberry in a variety of capacities, including as researcher, handyman, and gofer. He brainstormed with Roddenberry and did research for a novel which, while never finished, became incorporated into the Star Trek universe as the basis for The God Thing (the first of many unsuccessful attempts to revive Star Trek in live-action).

In the ensuing years, Povill recalls, "I was there for all the failed attempts to make a Star Trek movie. I wasn't in a place where I was in any way considered key personnel, I was just sort of a fly on the wall for all of it. I talked to Gene about it. [Prospective screenwriters] Chris Bryant and Allan Scott were very receptive to me, and I hung out with them quite a bit when they were working on it. They were extremely frustrated because, for the life of them, they couldn't figure out what anybody was trying to achieve with this thing."

During these years, Povill also "spent endless hours talking to Gene about Star Trek, about its philosophy and my own take on how we get to the 23rd Century versus where he was at on it." Povill's outlook, which was vastly more optimistic than Roddenberry's, would eventually become incorporated into both the planned Star Trek revival TV series Phase II and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

His personal experiences with Roddenberry and knowledge of Star Trek also made him a valuable asset for the Phase II series when it went into development in 1977 and eventually, at the behest of writer-producer Harold Livingston, Povill became the show's story editor. When Paramount decided not to proceed with Phase II, replacing it with what became Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Povill stayed on as associate producer.

Read the full interview in issue 23 of The Official Star Trek Magazine ­on newsstands now.