Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Novelization) by Gene Roddenberry


This is a repost from my main blog, @flourish, originally written in 2013. It’s part of a project to read every official Star Trek book in existence. You can follow my progress on my Tumblr or take a look at my spreadsheet of books read and to-read.


Memory Alpha • Powell’s

The preface to this book is one of the best things I’ve read in ages. First, a preface from Admiral James T. Kirk; then a preface from Gene Roddenberry; then—throughout the novel—footnotes, where occasionally Roddenberry has “asked Kirk” to clarify questions! It doesn’t pull any punches either. What does Kirk think about slash, you might ask?

I was never aware of this [Spock and I being] lovers rumor, although I have been told that Spock encountered it several times. 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 have 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.


Seriously though, that is one classy way to say “yo, fans! Love ya, not gonna go there, keep doing your crazy thing.” It helps that, being Gene Roddenberry, it sounds completely and totally like Kirk. Nobody can say that is even the least little bit out of character.

Oh, the entire novel isn’t that good. Roddenberry has been writing for the screen too long, but it comes out in different ways than some of the other novels I’ve read before—as if he’s writing something that is going to be interpreted by a sfx team. For example:

Lori touched a control console in San Francisco. The images picked up by the outpost’s drones and relayed to Earth were clean and nearly perfect. They were also frightening. Kirk’s holocom console now seemed to be hurtling through space in the midst of the Klingon cruiser formation. Unlike the senceiver alert, command level holocom images have no “daydream” quality—they appear in full dimension with a reality which seems actually to surround whoever sits at the receiving holocom console.

First of all, woo-hoo, the holodeck! Second of all, dude, check your tenses, because that is actually what’s making me think that you’re giving direction to a sfx team. I don’t have the mental strength to pick this apart further, but suffice to say, this isn’t me being a grammar nazi; it really does change the meaning of what’s being said to use the incorrect tense here, it’s not just snobbery.

Despite the occasional awkwardness of the prose, lots of things come out here that don’t in the movie. As I understand it, Alan Dean Foster wrote a story which was turned into a screenplay by Harold Livingston, and now Gene Roddenberry is adding his own gloss to it. So, in a certain sense, it is fan fiction, just fan fiction written by the creator. But there’s another aspect too: scenes that were cut from the final release of the film may appear in the novelization, and I have no way of finding out which is which (unless I do a lot more research which I am frankly too lazy to do). So one might also think of it as a Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Extended Edition. It adds in more scenes, and it clarifies characters’ thoughts and emotions, getting into their heads in ways that the movie couldn’t.

The first example is from when we meet V’jur’s Ilia-probe for the first time:

It took the young security officer a moment to force his eyes away from the Deltan nakedness. Kirk knew how difficult it was. He had just realized that the pointing of those two breasts toward himself had simply meant that she was turning to look toward them. The eyes! They seemed devoid of living warmth! Was this, somehow, Ilia’s dead body? A corpse, reanimated and controlled by the aliens?

Star Trek: the Motion Picture’s theatrical release was rated G. No Ilia-boobs in it; you can’t show that on television, and you can’t show it in a G-rated film either. No Kirk-thoughts in it, either, generally speaking: it’s kind of charming to get a window into his thought process, and it’s done very literally here, telling us each thing he thinks step by step, not giving us a greater overview of what Ilia is doing because Kirk is just so distracted by naked chixx0rz. Nevertheless, you can see the screenwriting habits coming through—the italicized nouns, the short sentences capped with exclamation points.

The second example is from the famously extended sequence where we see the rebuilt Enterprise for the first time:

She hung there inside the lacy filigree of the orbital dry dock. Enterprise!

Montgomery Scott, with some unexpected flair for drama, had maneuvered to keep the starship from Kirk’s sight until the last possible moment. Then, he had used the lateral thruster to nudge their travel pod into a sweeping turn, bringing Enterprise into glorious full view.

…The dramatic impact was heightened by the light which flooded her from every angle within the huge orbital dock … Kirk had, of course, seen some of her new lines before, but only in a mid-point in the renovation. She was complete now, gracefully whole—Kirk searched for some phrase, some description that expressed what he was feeling. Was she like a lovely woman? No; at this moment she was more than that to him. A fable? A myth come alive? Yes, that was it! She was as Aphrodite must have been when Zeus first raised her up from the sea, naked and shockingly beautiful.

…Scott steered their pod along the length of her and breadth of her, allowing Kirk to savor every view—and the chief engineer was tactful enough to point out enough design changes and details to maintain the fiction of this being merely an inspection look.

This sequence is one of the most-derided of the film, with its 2001: A Space Odyssey-inspired visual effects and its total willingness to stop the action in order to let us stare at them for several minutes. (In reality, the effects deserve that long of a look: rewatch it on a large, hi-def screen instead of that crappy VCR you probably used for years, and you’ll see what I mean.) This passage gives it a new context, reminding us of Kirk’s own character, illustrating his relationship with Scott, and showcasing his relationship with the Enterprise as well. The ship is as much a character as any other, and while it’s hard to remember that when you’re seeing a massive visual effects sequence, this passage brings that sequence down to a human level.

Gene Roddenberry’s novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is close to the ideal. Its prose may sometimes need a little work, but it captures the characters, provides insights, and takes advantage of the written word to tell parts of the story that are impossible to communicate on screen. I’m glad that this is the first real novelization I read for my project [note from 2016: I originally read this book as a project to read a lot of novelizations; obviously that’s not the current all-Star Trek project], and I’m looking forward to seeing if others are as good.

Flourish is doing V’ger’s work here

I finally read The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet after you botched the story in the show. I’ll admit it was better than I expected, but for fucks’ sake, STOP TRYING TO HUMANIZE ABUSERS. WE DON’T CARE. THEY’RE HORRIBLE PEOPLE AND SO ARE YOU.



They are horrible people! I completely agree. And it doesn’t matter what got them to that place. 

I assume you’re referring to the one chapter with Wickham? (It’s been awhile, so if there was more in the book than that chapter that would fit this, please feel free to let me know.) The reason he’s in any way “humanized,” whether it be in the book or in the series itself, isn’t because of some ploy to make people woobify him and idolize him as the villain with a tough past a golden heart. That’s not who he is and I’m really frustrated with stories/fandoms that do that to similar characters. 

But personally I find fiction that portrays terrible people fully as monsters somewhat dangerous. There are people in real life who are just blatantly bad through and through, I’m sure, and there are sociopaths with no rhyme or reason for hurting people, but far more often than not, it’s all a lot more insidious than that. The reason people like this are so dangerous and able to get so close and get people coming back to them over and over is because there are good things about them, because they use sob stories to manipulate, because there maybe was an AU where they could have not been shit. The monster hiding in the closet is rarely covered in scales, gnashing its teeth at you when you open the door. And if we portray them that way, it makes it harder to identify them when they stroll out of that closet with a winning smile and a shoulder to cry on, waiting to eat you alive one piece at a time before you’ve even noticed you’re bleeding.

Anyway, that was my intent, personally, when approaching anything with Wickham. I can’t speak for anyone else.

Did I do the parts under my control completely right? Obviously not. There are things I know I would do differently now, and there are things I would probably still do that people would be dissatisfied with.

Did I do it totally wrong? I’d argue probably not, since there are people who got that from what we presented.

Now, if you’re interpreting things from the screen/page based on your opinion of me, and the fact that I can be a horrible person and say dumb and shitty things, I’m sorry for that. That’s on me. You live, you learn, you shut up next time.

But I’m glad some things were better than you expected. That was most likely due to Kate.

absolutely 100% exactly right, Rachel (except for that last sentence). The world is a complex place and the bad guys rarely announce their evil-ness on their t-shirt slogans.

I would say more, but Rachel said it all perfectly.


Hey, look! It’s Hamlet and Horatio arriving for the Act V battle with Laertes!

After I graduated from film school and moved home to New York in the late 90s,  I spent several years working temp gigs, mostly on Wall Street. I don’t know if they still do this, but back then, every investment bank had a rotating crew of temps that staffed their document processing centers 24/7. I landed in the belly of the beast, and for almost two years I worked at Goldman Sachs. 

On every floor of the building, there was one room devoted to the temping crew. And while the rest of the floor was filled with industrious little wannabe bankers working 20 hour days and killing themselves to get ahead, this room was filled with artists, actors, dancers, writers, musician and other assorted misfits. It was like being a jolly pirate crew. 

I met so many talented, funny, friendly folks in my time at Goldman Sachs. I’m sorry to say I’ve lost touch with most of them, but every so often I see a member of the pirate crew somewhere. The unbelievably funny John T. Reynolds wrote for Craig Ferguson for years, and once I ran into him at CBS TV City. George Sheffey played a key part in the first play I ever wrote. Every so often I see him in something on TV and it makes me very happy. 

Another member of the crew was a young playwright writing angry, polemic monologue plays, often performing them himself.  These super-left-wing, anti-capitalistic stories being crafted in the heart of Wall Street.

And tonight, J.T. Rogers won the Tony for Best Play for Oslo.

Shiver me timbers and congrats, matey!


Lord Buckethead: Strong, not entirely stable, leadership

My name is Lord Buckethead. I am a space lord, and I am running to be the independent Member of Parliament for Maidenhead in the 2017 UK General Election. I enjoy planet-conquering, dominating inferior species, and Lovejoy.

I am the only candidate standing at this election who has personally stood against two Conservative Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher in Finchley (1987) and John Major in Huntingdon (1992). News has reached me that your country is crying out for effective opposition. And so, 25 years after my last visit I have returned to take on Theresa May in Maidenhead and thus complete a historic hat-trick. If Mrs May cannot even defend her own social care policies just days after they are launched, how can she possibly cope against a Space Lord?

My manifesto is an ambitious and progressive programme not only for the good Earthlings of a certain Berkshire conurbation but for the entirety of your nation. It is a suite of policies that have been fully costed and which marries fiscal responsibility with an interest in lasers.

I call upon my Maidenhead rival Theresa May, and that funny Islington chap with the beard, to debate me in public. Failure to do so will be treated as cowardice and a tacit endorsement of my superiority.

America needs its own Lord Buckethead

Fairy Tales, Old and New


 A few months back, PBS hired me and the No Mimes Media team to make three short, modern adaptations of fairy tales as a teaching tool for elementary school students. 


PBS launched the videos this week on their Learning Media portal. I’m told they’ll be on their YouTube channel at some point.

Little Red Riding Hood


with Mary Kate Wiles as Red
and Joseph Hendrickson as The Wolf



with Ashleigh Hairston as The Miller’s Daughter

The Emperor’s New Clothes


with Jason Lawrence Boggs as The Emperor
Julia Cho as The Tailor
and Antoine Perry as Mister Broccoli




Daily sketch 5 June 2017

As you wish

@ladyshinga, relevant to your Princess Battlecup post. 😆



La La Land (2016)