Star Trek movies weren’t high on Paramount’s list of priorities
After Star Trek: The Original Series ended in 1969, interest in the series began to grow, and Paramount was wise enough to put The Animated Series on the air in an effort to appeal to a younger fan base. Although that wasn’t a successful endeavor, this wasn’t a franchise that was going away.
In 1976, the idea of a Star Trek movie gained momentum, but David V. Picker who was president of Paramount Pictures at the time, had absolutely no interest in taking the franchise any further. It wasn’t anything against the series itself; Picker just didn’t like science-fiction. In fact, in a quote printed in The Fifty-Year Mission The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, Picker said that “Had George Lucas done American Graffiti for us at UA [United Artists], I believe I would have passed on Star Wars.”
With a new president, Paramount Pictures revisited Star Trek
After Picker left Paramount Pictures, Barry Diller took over and Jeffrey Katzenberg became his assistant. Picker told Diller that, as his parting gift, “Jeffrey would get Star Trek made.” And that resulted in the 1979 movie which, although not the best of the franchise films, certainly started the ball rolling for future movies and a continuation of the franchise with the introduction of The Next Generation that was followed by Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.
Picker, who passed away in April 2019, moved on from Paramount Pictures in 1979, and it makes one wonder if Star Trek: The Motion Picture would have happened had he remained in charge. Possibly, as he did go on to produce The Man with Two Brains, a science fiction comedy film with Steve Martin, and Journey to the Center of the Earth, a science fiction mini-series based on Jules Verne’s classic, 864 novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. Those were his only two forays into sci-fi so perhaps it’s best we didn’t have to find out whether or not he would have eventually given the green light for a Star Trek movie.