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William Shatner explains why the worst Star Trek movie failed

Star Trek legend William Shatner explains why the worst movie in the series never quite took off. If we trust anyone's opinion, it's Captain James T. Kirk's.

William Shatner as Admiral Kirk in The Wrath of Khan

William Shatner is a Star Trek legend. As iconic Star Trek captain James T. Kirk, he led the first Star Trek series with charm and confidence. That continued on into the first six Star Trek movies, in which William Shatner‘s Kirk continued his adventures with Spock and Bones almost always by his side.

The TOS-era Star Trek films are undoubtedly the best movies in the series, better on average than the TNG movies, or the Kelvin timeline reboots. In particular, The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, and The Undiscovered Country, are all good-to-great, leaving only The Motion Picture and The Final Frontier as the more controversial entries in the franchise.

Sadly, it’s still The Motion Picture which holds the reputation as the worst Star Trek movie. The visual effects, score, and performances (including from Shatner) are all brilliant, but The Motion Picture is looked down upon for its slow pace, drawn-out sequences, and intangible plot. And, William Shatner himself has an explanation for why the movie never quite worked out.

“Robert Wise [the director] had just come off of working on West Side Story. He was renowned, he was the popular director,” said Shatner, speaking with Collider. “As his ability as a director, he must have been great; he had all these expensive movies to his credit, and I had seen West Side story… it was brilliant. He was a good director, a really good director.”

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However, Shatner also revealed how Wise encountered trouble. “The problem with that was he was essentially an editor. He was editing the film in his mind. He never got to really edit it and his primarily talent was as and editor I think, and he never got a chance to exercise that [talent] because the movie had run into delays caused by strikes that happened during the filming… he ran out of time to edit.”

Shatner concluded, “So the movie was shown without the slickness of his editing, and it wasn’t as polished at it could have been. It suffered as  result of that.”

Shatner’s explanation is revealing, and certainly helps to make sense of some of the science fiction movie’s big issues. Specifically, the editing of a movie is one of the primary ways in which a director can help to change the pace of the film. The fact the Wise didn’t have as much time to edit as he wanted undoubtedly was a factor in its ponderous pacing.

William Shatner as Kirk in Star Trek The Motion Picture

Still, warts and all, we can’t help but love The Motion Picture (also called The Motion-less Picture by its detractors). Shatner anchors the movie as the frustrated Admiral Kirk, who’s just itching to get back into the saddle with his old friends. That dynamic alone makes it all worth it, even if its slow pace means it can’t quite keep up with later entries.

For more on William Shatner, check out the one question Stephen Hawking asked him. Or, if you want to read more about The Motion Picture you can learn why Leonard Nimoy thought it derailed the franchise. Alternatively, keep up to date with modern Star Trek by reading our Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 2 review, or see what our hopes are for a Star Trek Legacy release date.

If that isn’t enough, you can also check out which Star Trek captain would win in a zombie apocalypse, and see what the new Kirk actor has to say about the biggest misconception about the character.