Star Trek: The Motion Picture vs. The Next Generation

Persis Khambatta (“Ilia”) in a screen
test for Star Trek: Phase II

Have you ever noticed how similar Star Trek The Motion Picture is to Star Trek The Next Generation? Consider…

Decker / Riker: A hotshot first officer, young, impatient, sometimes at odds with the captain. Used to have a relationship with Ilia / Troi.

Ilia / Troi: An alien who used to have a relationship with the first officer. Possessed of special powers dealing with emotions (sexual in nature for Ilia, empathic in the case of Troi).

Spock / Data: Highly logical, dealing with emotions with which he is either uncomfortable or inexperienced, and giving us the view of humanity from the outsider’s point of view.

Kirk / Picard: Very experienced captain who has the complete confidence of his crew.

Music: Perhaps the most direct comparison; the theme music is the same for both.

There’s actually a reason for these similarities. Back in the mid to late 1970’s, Paramount was considering doing a new television series called Star Trek Phase II. At the last minute, after the enormous success of Star Wars, the would-be series was transformed into Star Trek The Motion Picture. They built sets, made costumes, wrote scripts, casted actors, and wrote a series bible. When ST:TNG came around, they recycled many of these elements again for the new show.

More on that would-be series in just a bit…

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

4 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Motion Picture vs. The Next Generation

  1. There's a certain element of common tropes for most science fiction shows, certainly elements tying all of the ST series together.

  2. I'm kind of glad they waited for a series. What would have been more interesting back then, ST:P2 or Battlestar Galactica? Of course, we could have had John Colicos back as Kor rather than Baltar!

    There were also a couple of Phase II scripts that were used for TNG.

  3. They didn't wait for a series — not exactly. A little film called Star Wars came out in 1977 and Paramount pulled the plug on Phase II, deciding to use the characters, sets, props, and whatnot (even one of the scripts) for The Motion Picture. It was only a little later that they decided to revisit the idea of a new TV series for TNG.

    My favorite bit of trivia concerning Phase II is that they originally wanted it to launch a new Paramount Television network, but this too fell through. However, this, too, would eventually come to pass, two decades later with Voyager.

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