9/1/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "The Motion Picture"

Vital Information
Series: The Original Series
Episode: MovieI
Release Date: December 7, 1979
Written by: Harold Livingston & Alan Dean Foster
Directed by: Robert Wise

Premise
An enormous killer cloud is passing through space on a direct course toward Earth and the Enterprise is the only ship close enough to stop it.

Review
We start the movie off traveling at warp speed through a field of stars. Though "warp speed" may be a little misleading. Sure, in order to see stars pass at such a rate, we would have to be at warp speed. But after a while, there's nothing speedy about it. After about a minute of watching stars pass under an orchestral fanfare, one begins to wonder if this isn't a movie, but rather a concert. A little while longer and one falls asleep. And then SUDDENLY KLINGONS.

You have to remember that The Motion Picture is the first time anyone has ever seen ridged Klingons. So, after a couple minutes of watching the exterior of Klingon ships floating in space along the edge of this mysterious cloud, the vessel configuration is the only indication we have that these are, in fact, Klingons. Indeed, I'm sure many a Trekkie walked out of the theater in 1979 wondering what these ridged-head aliens were doing piloting Klingon ships. But since no special attention is given to these guys apart from their death at the hands of an angry cloud, it was safe to assume that we were simply meant to suspend our disbelief.
When the augment virus wore off it must have been like Wolfman.
In any case, the nobel Klingon warriors lose a fight with the cloud and that brings the cloud to the attention of the Alpha Quadrant. Later, a science station measures that its heading is straight for Earth, so that catches the attention of the Federation. The Enterprise is undergoing a refit and is the only ship in dry dock, so that catches the attention of Starfleet. The movie's pace is catching up to a slug; the audience is still not paying attention.

Fast-forward to Spock on his home planet, Vulcan. He's just about to undergo kolinahr when the Vulcan elder that is overseeing the emotion-purging ceremony recognizes that Spock has not achieved kolinahr because some alien intelligence in space has troubled his human half. On Earth, Admiral Kirk is making his way to the new, refit Enterprise in order to take it over by order of Starfleet Command. The present captain, Captain Decker, has not yet been informed of this.
Awkward...
Decker's not pleased, but Kirk keeps the guy on board 'cause he knows the refit better than Kirk does. Decker takes over as the science officer and is slightly appeased by his old girlfriend Ilia coming on board as navigator. Ilia is a hot bald chick from Delta IV. That's really all you need to know about her. After that, the ship goes underway and immediately gets caught in a wormhole. After spending way too much time trying to figure out how to get out of it, Decker eventually explains that it's Kirk's fault because he didn't know the refit made it dangerous to do whatever it was he wanted to do. Yadda yadda yadda some technical mumbo jumbo. The point is that Decker knows things and Kirk's a little rusty.

Well, now they have to sit back and repair for a while. In the meantime, a shuttle comes along and drops off Spock. Turns out that intelligence that was troubling him was coming from the cloud. So with him taking over as science officer, Decker is now pretty much completely useless. But, hey! The band is back together! Yay!
Spock is still not impressed.
So, off they go toward the cloud. They try to make contact, but all the cloud does is invade the ship with an energy pulse and take Ilia away. Ilia comes back later, but as an android. She's basically a probe for the cloud. As the probe, she explains that V'Ger is her master and he's looking for his creator who he assumes is a mechanical being just like he is. Apparently his creator is on Earth, where all these carbon based lifeforms are, so now he's gotta figure out what to do with them all. Learn about them, and report back.

Thoroughly confused, the crew goes deeper into the cloud and finds a whole lot of unnecessary junk. They finally come upon an impasse, so Spock randomly decides to go out in a space suit and look around for himself inside the cloud. In it, he finds images of planets from all over the place. He deduces that V'Ger has collected information from all over the galaxy including a planet full of mechanical life that fixed it up to send it back on its way to finish its mission: to report back to its creator.
He also finds the Death Star.
Some other stuff happens and eventually the Enterprise gets invited into V'Ger's inner chambers. Inside, they find a pocket of breathable air, so they walk out onto the saucer section and on into a sort of crater in which sits V'Ger. Kirk wipes away the rust from V'Ger's nameplate and find it to actually be the Voyager VI space probe launched from Earth over 300 years ago. It learned all it could, including more than ever thought possible after a stop on a mechanised planet and now is completing its mission using old standards that no one could possibly answer.

V'Ger's mission is to learn. It has learned everything, gained sentience and wants to know if that is all there is to know. Of course, there are concepts like heaven and other dimensions and other abstract thoughts that humans can think of, but cannot be arrived at logically. V'Ger is missing a piece: a human element. In order to gain that element, he needs to contact his creator. He needs to merge with a human. Luckily we have just such a worthless human over here who has nothing to live for since Kirk took over his ship and his girlfriend died. Welcome, Captain Decker, to V'Ger!
And then Sam leapt into the body of Captain Archer.
Well, all this has been enlightening to Spock. V'Ger, a completely logical being, was left empty when he realized there was nothing left without human emotion and creativity. Perhaps, Spock thinks, one does not need to undergo kolinahr after all. When they get back to the ship, Kirk offers to drop Spock off at Vulcan, but Spock declines. Decker/V'Ger has exploded into a ball of light and created a new transdimensional lifeform, and Spock has realized his place in the universe. All that's left is go... out there... thataway.

Overall Thoughts
Everything that happens in this movie could have been boiled down into an hour-long episode. And, in fact, it was originally supposed to be the pilot episode of Star Trek: Phase II, a series that never got off the ground. Instead, they dragged it out into a two hour long movie. And when I say "dragged" I mean... DRAAAAAAGGGED." The theatrical release was bad enough with the pacing. The director's cut was a little better, but also added in some scenes that only evened out the dragging. The Motion Picture will probably always be known as the worst Star Trek movie with the original cast, but it did introduce a few things such as ridged Klingons, kolinahr, the idea of a redesigned Enterprise, a theme song to be used in The Next Generation, etc. It's a slow start, but a start nonetheless. Next is The Wrath of Kahn, and the crimes of The Motion Picture shall be wiped out and remembered no more!