Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The novelization for the new movie (which I enjoyed a lot) isn't out yet. So until I get it, let's go back in time to 1979...

That's right, this book was written by Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. And unlike "George Lucas's" Star Wars novelization, this one was apparently actually written by the person it says it was written by! Incidentally, I think it's weird that the original story for the screenplay was from Alan Dean Foster. Not that Mr. Foster isn't a talented writer; it's just that he's written so many movie novelizations himself (including Star Wars, actually), it's weird to see him at the other end of the chain.

Now, the book opens with a preface from Admiral James T. Kirk:

My name is James Tiberius Kirk. Kirk because my father and his male forebears followed the old custon of passing along a family identity name. I received James because it was both the name of my father's beloved brother as well as that of my mother's first love instructor. Tiberius, as I am forever tired of explaining, was the Roman emperor whose life for some unfathomable reason fascinated my grandfather Samuel.

This is interesting for three reasons. First, I like that the first thing on Roddenberry's mind was to clarify exactly what Kirk's middle name was. Second, this directly contradicts the new movie, which is kind of neat. Third, "love instructor"? What's going on here?

After Kirk's preface, there's something labeled "Author's Preface", and it's pretty weird:

Considering Admiral James Kirk's comments is his own preface, it may seem strange that he chose me as the one to write this book. I was, after all, a key figure among those who chronicled his original five-year mission in a way which the admiral has criticized as inaccurately "larger than life."

So... this book's "author" is in the Star Trek world, and was responsible for a television show about the Enterprise at some point in the past. An in-character Gene Roddenberry, in other words. Later in the preface, he even says "Why STAR TREK again? I supposes the real truth is that I have always looked upon the Enterprise and its crew as my own private view of Earth and humanity in microcosm." It really is an author's message, but it's pretending to be from within the Star Trek universe. It's complicated.

There are other fascinating things about this book, both from a deleted-scene standpoint (the character "Decker" of the movie was supposed to be the son of the "Decker" from an episode of the series) and from a transliteration standpoint ("V'ger" is spelled "Vejur" everywhere in the book. Weird). There's also a little digression revealing that McCoy prefers homeopathic treatments. But the things which stands out is the spot where Gene Roddenberry decides to comment directly on the canonicity of Kirk/Spock Slashfic. On page 22, there's this line:

Jim! Good-bye my . . . my t'hy'la.* This is the last time I will permit myself to think of you or even your name again.

Those are Spock's thoughts, and they go to a legendary footnote:

* Editor's note: The human concept of friend is most nearly duplicated in Vulcan thought by the term t'hy'la, which can also mean brother and lover. Spock's recollection (from which this chapter has drawn) is that it was a most difficult moment for him since he did indeed consider Kirk to have become his brother. However, because t'hy'la can be used to mean love, and since Kirk's and Spock's friendship was unsually close, this has led to some speculation over whether they had actually indeed become lovers. At our request, Admiral Kirk supplied the following comment on this subject:

"I was never aware of this lovers rumor, although I have been told that Spock encountered it several time. Apparently he had always dismissed it with his characteristic lifting of his right eyebrow, which usually connoted some combination of surprise, disbelief, and/or annoyance. As for myself, although I have no moral or other objections to physical love in any of its many Earthly, alien, and mixed forms, I had always found my best gratification in that creature woman. Also, I would dislike being thought of as so foolish that I would select a love partner who came into sexual heat only once every seven years."

Ha! Although I can't help but notice that all this really says is that Kirk wasn't monogamous. And who ever said he was? Plus, if this section is to be taken as canon, it means that Kirk definitely has experimented with something other than "that creature woman."


Marty McKee said...

I actually read this before I saw the movie, which helped this 12-year-old understand better what the hell was happening at the end.

I always assumed either Foster or Harold Livingston actually wrote the novelization. Maybe Roddenberry did do it; I've never heard any different, but it seems as though he would have been too busy to pen a novel.

Deanna said...

That footnote business is, if you will forgive me, fascinating! I didn't realize there had ever been any "official" commentary on the slash fic.

Dennis said...

I expect that the "Vejur" spelling was intended to be phonetic - it's not like the Ilia probe in the movie ever stopped to spell it out, after all - and an attempt to confuse the fact that "V'ger" is hiding something rather obvious in its elision.

Anonymous said...

Old post but HA HA! On the slash comment. Hilarious.

I didn't realize that there was actually a subculture devoted to cheesy half-baked novelizations and now that I know, I feel less inclined to criticize them.

Stravsky said...

I have just finished another viewing of the first Star Trek film ever made, and I must say it was good seeing the old crew/biddies back in action again. However, this was probably the last time they truly were able to straddle the bridge of 'age' being merely a state of mind to more about being a state of body. Thumbs Up!

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