doubt big screen adaptations of 'Sixties televisions shows are in vogue right
now. Besides familiarity with the show's name, Lost in Space (1998)'s studio
is hoping on cashing in on the current sci-fi craze. After all, one of last year's
biggest hits was the sci-fi comedy, Men in Black (1997). To be honest, if
you're living outside the States there would probably be little chance that you
would ever have seen an episode of the original "Lost In Space" - never
mind remembering it fondly! I, for example, only know the show from some comic
books I read as a kid. Most of my fellow South Africans are clueless - and I don't
blame them: the show never aired here.
Back in 1977, Paramount Pictures were hoping for something similar that the
Lost in Space (1998) producers are hoping for now. However, they needed have
worried (although they probably did!). The film they were planning was also based
on a 1960s television show, but it was one which enjoyed universal recognition,
namely Star Trek. Even here in South Africa almost everybody knew who Captain
Kirk, Spock and Scotty were!
has been said about how the memory of Star Trek was kept alive by fandom after
its final first-run show of the third season on June 3, 1969 without having to
retread familiar ground here. Also, about how Paramount wanted to do a big-screen
version of Star Trek throughout the early and mid-1970s but then changed its plans
to do a Star Trek II television series featuring the original crew (with the exception
of Mr. Spock, since Leonard Nimoy didn't agree to return).
However, plans fell through and two weeks before photography on the new series
was due to start, Paramount announced that it was going to expand the new series'
planned first episode into a full-length movie directed by Robert Wise
(The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), West Side Story (1961)). One of the
reasons for this? The unexpected commercial success of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)...
Star Trek I
saw release in December 1979. Although it opened to mixed reaction from critics
and fans, the film has been perceived since then to have been a failure - both
commercially and artistically. Besides, the common wisdom since then was that
odd numbered Star Trek movies were rubbish: the first Star Trek movie, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984),
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and Star Trek: Generations (1994).
And while there's some truth in that - Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989),
directed by William Shatner, remains the weakest Trek movie to date
- it's time to reclaim Star Trek I as one of the
best films in the series...
- The movie is good to simply look at. After all, the first special-effects
team on Star Trek I was fired, and the movie's release
was delayed a year while new effects were devised and photographed. The effects
are brilliant. Eye-candy as critics pointed out, sure. However, in the process
the Enterprise was updated to look like other spaceships we've already seen in
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Silent Running (1971), Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Alien (1979).
Especially the alien spaceship which seems to stretch out into infinity is excellent.
- The plot is only predictable in so far as it is prime Star Trek stuff: the
crew of the starship Enterprise confronts some kind of alien entity. At the end
basic human values are affirmed. But the basic idea behind the picture - of the
alien entity asking very much the same questions we humans are - is actually interesting
stuff. When I first saw the film, it reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke's
Rendezvous with Rama novel.
- There are enough in-jokes and references to keep any self-confessed trekkie
for one, was just glad back in 1979 to see the faces of the familiar Enterprise
crew again. Little did I know that the film's commercial success would ensure
nine big screen outings, several spin-off television shows, you name it. Enough
to keep any Star Trek fan happy...
Star Trek I turns 20 next year. So how about
it, Paramount? Bring this unacknowledged sci-fi classic back to the big screen
- where it belongs!
Review by James O'Ehley from The
Sci-Fi Movie Page.