||The Motion Picture||
The film opens with a huge energy cloud travelling through space as three Klingon battlecruisers bear down on it. The Klingons begin firing photon torpedoes into the cloud, but are destroyed within moments by whatever lies inside. A Federation Starbase which is monitoring the battle calculates that the cloud is on a direct heading for Earth.
We switch to Vulcan where Spock, now retired from Starfleet, is undergoing the final rite in the Kolinahr discipline - the Vulcan ritual designed to purge any last traces of emotion. Spock refuses to accept Kholinahr at the last second - he is sensing incredibly powerful telepathic images from space, and they have triggered something within him. He leaves to pursue the images.
Meanwhile, Admiral Kirk arrives at Starfleet Headquarters for a meeting with Admiral Nogura. It's two and a half years after the end of the Enterprise's five year mission of exploration and Kirk is now an Admiral stuck in a desk job; the Enterprise is in the last stages of an eighteen month redesign and refit under her new Captain, Willard Decker. Kirk argues Nogura into giving him the Enterprise back, claiming that his familiarity with the Enterprise and its crew make him the only choice for the mission to intercept the cloud. Despite the objections of Decker, Kirk assumes command and heads out of orbit after the arrival of some final crew members. One is McCoy, drafted back into the service against his wishes, the other Lieutenant Ilea - a Deltan who was once romantically involved with Decker.
Unfortunately, Kirks bull-headedness quickly lands the ship in trouble. He orders Scotty to use the warp drive before it is ready, resulting in a wormhole that nearly destroys the ship - only quick thinking by Decker saves them. Kirk must face up to the fact that he may not be what he once was...
The arrival of Spock helps matters; he has been monitoring the ships transmissions and has solved the problems of the malfunctioning warp drive, allowing them to head out of the system and intercept the cloud in deep space.
As they reach the cloud it fires on the ship, nearly destroying it, but some quick thinking by Spock allows them to communicate their peaceful intent and they are allowed to proceed into the cloud. In the centre they find a colossal vessel, tens of kilometres long. A probe from the ship abducts Ilea, returning an almost perfect copy in her place which is designed to act as a probe to investigate the ship and its crew. The Ilea-probe announces that it was sent by V'Ger, which is heading to Earth in order to finds its creator.
As the vessel draws closer to Earth Spock takes matters into his own hands. He steals a space suit and heads into the vessels interior. He finds that the ship has been travelling through our galaxy for centuries, amassing colossal amounts of data by absorbing ships and even entire planets and storing perfect replicas within itself. Spock discovers an image of a planet of living machines - V'Gers home world. V'Ger is not a ship but a living machine. Its knowledge spans the universe, and it is desperate to know what else there might be to learn.
As V'Ger approaches Earth the Ilea-probe announces that the carbon based life on the planet is interfering with its creator and preventing contact. It announces its intention to wipe out all life on the planet. Kirk plays a bluff, announcing that he knows why the creator will not respond but that he will only reveal this information to V'Ger directly. V'Ger allows this, bringing the Enterprise deep within itself. Kirk, McCoy, Spock and Decker head out with the Ilea-probe to meet V'Ger.
They find an old Earth space probe - Voyager 6, which fell into a black hole centuries ago. Voyager emerged across the galaxy where it was found by the machine planet. They built the huge machine to allow Voyager to fulfil its functioning - learn everything which is learnable and return the information to the creator.
Kirk attempts to prove that Humans are V'Gers creator by transmitting a message ordering Voyager to transmit its information, but it burns out its radio circuit to prevent reception. V'Ger is determined that it will physically meld itself with a Human being in order to create a new life form which is capable of accessing higher levels of being.
Decker volunteers, and links himself directly to V'Gers computer brain. As Kirk and his officers retreat back to their ship Decker is transformed into a colossal pillar of light which rapidly consumes the entire bulk of V'Ger, leaving the Enterprise floating in orbit alone.
Kirk lists Ilea and Decker as "missing", and orders the ship to head out of orbit to look for new adventures.
Oft referred to as "the slow motion picture", this film has about enough of a story to fill a one hour episode - not surprising as in many respects it's a remake of the TOS episode "The Changeling". The remainder of the time is filled with apparently endless special effects shots. There are other problems - TOS was full of bright vibrant colours while this film is all dreary pastel shades. The uniforms look simply awful - many fans compare them to pyjamas, with good reason.
However, I think the film does have more going for it than most people claim. Many elements of post TOS Trek are established here - the opening music, the bumpy headed look of the Klingons, the refit Constitution and Klingon battlecruiser design, the Starfleet facilities in San Francisco, the orbital office structure, etc.. Although the effects are not a fitting substitute for plot, there is much to commend - photon torpedoes have never looked so fearsome as when the Klingons open up in the first couple of minutes of this film. Kirk and Scotty's flyby of the Enterprise is one of the most beautiful special effects scenes in cinema history, and V'Ger itself is awesome. And for the first and only time ever we get to see almost an entire ships crew assembled in one place, a scene which also makes it very clear that aliens are indeed not an unusual component of a Starfleet crew.
Ultimately, the film is disappointing. There are nuggets of gold in
there, but you have to wade through a lot to find them. Had they cut thirty
minutes or so out of it, it would have been a better film.