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Film: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Scotty: The crew hasn't had near enough transition time with all the new equipment. And the engines, they're not even tested at warp power. And an untried captain...
Kirk: Two and a half years as Chief of Starfleet Operations may have made me a little stale, but I wouldn't consider myself untried... They gave her back to me, Scotty.
Scotty: Gave her back, sir? I doubt it was that easy with Nogura.
Kirk: (in Scottish accent) You're right.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the first movie in the Star Trek film series, released in 1979.

Ten years after the Cancellation of the original Star Trek series, it had been Vindicated By Reruns and so Paramount decided to make The Movie with none other than Robert Wise (director of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), West Side Story and The Sound of Music) at the helm. As a side note, the general story is nearly identical to the Original Series episode "The Changeling", with elements from "Obsession" and the Animated Series episode "One Of Our Planets Is Missing" — and in fact the movie's story was intended to be the pilot of the abandoned TV series Star Trek: Phase II.

The plot sounds simple enough. An unstoppable entity calling itself V'Ger is heading towards Earth, destroying all in its path, and the Enterprise is sent out to investigate. The story was originally written to be an hour and a half pilot to Phase II (two hours with commercials), stretched to 2 hours, most of which involved the bridge crew staring at special effects in awe. This lead to the film to receiving several Fan Nicknames based on its quite slow pacing, such as "The Slow Motion Picture". Wise's declared intent at the time was to create a 2001: A Space Odyssey for that era. This film's criticized slow pacing was partly the reason towards making an Actionized, Surprisingly Improved Sequel.

The novelization of the film is noteworthy for two reasons: it is the only prose Star Trek fiction ever written by series creator Gene Roddenberry, and it contains a footnote explicitly addressing rumors that Kirk and Spock were lovers (it may or may not have cleared that up)

In (funnily enough) 2001, a Director's Cut was released. It is faster paced and actually includes a shot that shows the entirety of V'Ger. It also revealed that the original film was more of a workprint and Wise was not allowed to trim it to a more reasonable length because the suits feared such information would ruin the reputation ahead of time, and Wise was so comically slow at filming the movie that when the prints were delievered for the movie's premiere, they were still wet from last-minute editing.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Advertising Campaigns: No less than Orson Welles narrated the original trailers and ads for the film.
  • The Aesthetics of Technology: The pastel aesthetics of the Enterprise`s interior and the crew uniforms were criticised both at the time and for many years later. But now, what with Everything Is An I Pod In The Future, they seem ahead of their time.
  • All There in the Manual: The production diary has elaborate backstories for many of the bizarre aliens shown at the Federation headquarters. As an interesting subject of what constitutes Canon, almost none of this backstory has featured in later Star Trek productions. One species was even stated as being expert cloners and that the Federation relies on them for cloning soldiers in times of war.
    • Most of these aliens get fleshed out in the novel Ex Machina, which is set immediately after the movie, incorporating bits of their original descriptions from the production diary. The Saurians, meanwhile, at least get mentioned every time someone pulls out a bottle of "Saurian brandy,'' which was around in the Original Series.
  • And the Adventure Continues: It ends with "The Human Adventure is Just Beginning".
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence
  • As You Know: Kind of a variant: Decker explains that Voyager 6 disappeared into "what we used to call a black hole." If they don't call them that any more, why bother using the obsolete terminology?
  • Author Appeal: Robert E. Wise is familiar with intellectual sci-fi flicks with overt religious overtones.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: The 2001 special edition.
  • Back in the Saddle: Deconstructed. Kirk has been captaining a desk for several years, in which time he's spent very little time in space, meaning his instincts are rusty. In addition, Enterprise has just completed a massive refit in which she's effectively been entirely rebuilt, meaning she's not the ship he knew before. Commander Decker, who was in command of Enterprise through her refit period, is much more familiar with the ship and, in Kirk's own words, "nursemaids" him through the mission, helping them narrowly avoid destruction due to Kirk's unfamiliarity with the ship's new design and associated teething problems.
  • Big "NO!": Decker during the wormhole scene, though this is partially due to the wormhole slowing down time for the ship.
  • Body Horror: Not clearly seen, but the transporter malfunction apparently results in this.
    Transporter Operator: What we got back didn't live long... fortunately.
    • The novelization suggests that Sonak and the other crewmember (Vice Admiral Lori Ciana) were rematerialized with their internal organs outside their bodies. Good God, that's enough to make anyone resign from Starfleet. Still, at least they didn't explode.
    • Bizarrely enough, McCoy's famous distaste for transporters is played for laughs shortly afterward. Hopefully he wasn't beamed from the same transporter room, as they were probably still washing away the last travellers with a mop and bucket.
  • Celebrity Paradox: A rare nonhuman example is Played With in that the real life Space Shuttle Enterprise was named after the starship Enterprise as a work of fiction, but is shown in-universe as a precursor and namesake to the starship.
  • Comic Book Adaptation: Marvel Comics published a mini-series adaptation of the film, which was followed by short-lived series chronicling what happened after the movie. Meanwhile, Mc Donald's featured a serialized comic strip adaptation of the film on the boxes of its first-ever Happy Meals, released as promotional tie-ins with the film.
  • Commander Contrarian: Decker. Justified early on; Decker did know the refit Enterprise better than Kirk at that point. Overriding an order from Kirk even saved the ship from being destroyed by an asteroid. Later on, however, he continues to advocate actions which are obstructive or downright contrary to their mission, even recommending firing on V'Ger to escape its tractor beam.
    • Decker justifies this with his claim that giving the captain alternatives is the duty of an executive officer, a point which Kirk reluctantly agrees is true. This does nothing to alleviate the hostility between the two.
  • Continuity Nod: Various supporting characters from the original series turn up, with various promotions. Janice Rand has a brief scene attempting to resolve the Teleporter Malfunction, and Nurse Chapel is now an MD serving aboard Enterprise.
  • Deleted Scene: Character scenes cut in favor of Leave the Camera Running scenes. This makes the special edition favored by fans.
  • Dull Surprise: Two crew members suffer a hideous death at the hands of a malfunctioning transporter. Kirk's response is a flat, affectless 'Oh my God.' without a change of expression. Particularly startling when it comes from William Shatner.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Persis Khambatta, who played Ilia, was very reluctant to shave her hair, as it was a huge part of her image. She even asked for insurance on her hair in case it didn't grow back. Thankfully, it did.
  • Earth All Along: kind of - V'Ger turns out to be the (fictional) NASA probe Voyager 6
  • Edited For Television: For once this was a good thing! ABC helped in financing the movie in exchange for the first Network airings of the film. To get the most for their money, ABC added many scenes to pad out the three hour (with commercials) time slot. When viewers tuned in that Sunday Night, they saw for the first time Uhura defending Kirk's taking over command, the Ensign who beamed up before McCoy, the tear on Spock's cheek as he cried for his 'brother' other words all the bits that made it seem like a Star Trek story. we also got the Kirk space walk scene with the studio rafters in the background (and in a different spacesuit than in the final version), but hey, nothing's perfect. This version was later released on VHS as a "Special Longer Version".
  • Enhanced on DVD: Twenty years after the movie debuted, Robert Wise came back and massively overhauled and Re Cut everything for the DVD release. That included fixing some unfinished special effects, removing some useless scenes and adding some others, sweetening the audio, and most importantly, chopping down the waaaay too long special effects shots. Many fans point to the DVD edition as being far superior to the theatrical release.
    • Unfortunately, the only Blu-Ray release to date has the original theatrical version.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Actual deaths in this movie consist of the crews of three Klingon ships getting vaporized for shooting torpedoes at the approaching V'Ger; Commander Sonak, who dies horribly on his commute in to work; the crew of the Federation's Epsilon 9 station, who were only in V'Ger's way; and Ilia, who is vaporized by a scan. Earth is nearly destroyed by a probe they themselves had sent out centuries ago that was looking for its mommy.
  • Foreshadowing: Spock describes V'Ger's homeworld as "a planet populated by living machines with unbelievable technology." 10 years later, came the Borg... (see also Leitmotif for a possible connection between V'Ger and that race)
  • Four Star Bad Ass: Kirk. To quote Uhura: "[Their chances] of coming home from this mission in one piece may have just doubled."
  • Future Spandex: The movie has this in spades. The main cast threatened to quit if they didn't get rid of them seeing how not everyone looked good in them. Plus, the spandex costumes were hard to get into and out of, requiring the help of assistants every time the actors needed to use the bathroom, hence the uniform change in the rest of the Star Trek movies.
  • Grow Beyond Their Programming: V'ger.
  • High-Tech Hexagons: The tactical displays on the Klingon cruiser's bridge were hexagon-heavy.
  • In Space Everyone Can See Your Face: Spock has an (untethered!) spacewalk scene using thrusters, and Kirk has a much shorter spacewalk to catch Spock when he comes flying back. You can see both their faces, though slightly obscured.
  • Instant A.I., Just Add Water: Kirk surmised that V'ger "amassed so much data it achieved ... consciousness itself!"
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Decker isn't really a jerk at all, in fact he has a very good reason to be pissed at Kirk, but a lot of his arguments as to why Kirk is unfit to command the Enterprise is justified and in the best interest of the ship, not due to personal resentment. McCoy even realizes this and tells Kirk so.
  • Jetpack: Sort of. To get a closer look at V'Ger's nerve center, Spock steals a "thruster suit" — a space suit with a rather impressive thruster pack attached.
    • This is implied to be an emergency escape system, and during the destruction of Epsilon 9 someone can briefly be seen attempting to use one in this manner. What else you could plausibly do with a rocket booster that has only a single, fixed duration burn in it attached to your spacesuit is somewhat difficult to imagine.
  • The Juggernaut: V'Ger
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Admiral Kirk is back on the Enterprise, but he occasionally finds himself at odds with the ship's commander, Captain Decker. At one point, Decker countermands one of Kirk's orders during a crisis, and ends up saving the ship from destruction as a result.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Admiral Kirk, before the movie begins. Ironically, Gene Roddenberry infamously got kicked upstairs as well because of the film's disappointing critical reception.
  • Lampshade Hanging: McCoy remarks that he expects the entire sickbay has been redesigned, because engineers just love making changes, in reference to the Movie!Enterprise being substantially redesigned compared to the Series!Enterprise.
  • Leave the Camera Running / Padding: Its Fan Nickname isn't The Motionless Picturenote  for nothing.
  • Leitmotif: The Klingon theme that would echo in later movies and tv shows, and a love theme that plays during Decker/Ilia and Kirk/Enterprise scenes.
  • Machine Monotone: Probe!Ilia.
  • Magical Security Cam: When the Klingon ships are discombobulated by V'Ger, a Starfleet observatory is watching through a sensor probe, which is reasonable enough. Later on, said observatory sends a direct broadcast to the Enterprise, and the live feed continues well after it gets zapped.
  • Mandatory Unretirement: McCoy.
    Kirk: Well, for a man who swore he'd never return to Starfleet-
    Bones: Just a moment, Captain, sir. I'll explain what happened. Your revered Admiral Nogura invoked a little-known, seldom-used reserve activation clause. In simpler language, Captain, they drafted me!
  • Manly Tears: Spock weeps for V'Ger.
  • Mechanistic Alien Culture: The Ilia Probe struggles to comprehend carbon-based life (the probe is a humanoid android created by a society of Mechanical Lifeforms to interact with the Enterprise crew), so it uses extremely mechanistic language, like "Carbon Units," "Kirk Unit," - not "Decker Unit". as it still retains enough of Ilia to recognise her former lover - etc., to describe humanoid(oid) society and individual "carbon units." The Ilia Probe created by the machine entity V'Ger, being an android, is not an example, but its perception of humanoid society is, as it is colored by the machine belief (as it is on the machines' homeworld) that "carbon units" exist to "serve the creator" (which, according to the machine logic, must be a living machine as well, like V'Ger, its creation; similar V'Ger and the Ilia Probe perceive the USS Enterprise as a Mechanical Lifeform serviced by "Carbon Units"). Interestingly, this implies that "Carbon Units" (carbon-based life) on the machines' homeworld are considered "artificial" by the living machines, which raises some very interesting questions about their evolution and technology.
  • Mega-Maw Maneuver: The V'Ger has a giant maw, which the Enterprise flew through in order to reach its main processing center. It then closed, trapping the Enterprise inside.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: This film is about as "hard" as Star Trek has ever gotten (Isaac Asimov was credited as a "special science consultant"! There were plenty of other consultants, too). This doesn't really say too much, but this is certainly the Star Trek production which made the most effort to be realistic.
    • At least, it tries until the scenes where all the "The Creator mus join with V'Ger" business takes a turn into ultra-mystical wackiness.
      • Bill Shatner has claimed to have come up with that ending. In large part because between the writer, director, producers, and any and all other people who should have made sure they had at least all the required components of a completed story line before starting the movie didn't actually have one. And they needed to start filming it. This afternoon.
    • Par for the course for Robert E. Wise.
  • The Movie: Or rather, The Motion Picture, because we're classy, dammit.
  • The Only One: The Enterprise is the only starship available to confront V'ger.
    "This seems to happen a lot. One almost wonders if other starships stay away when the Enterprise is in town, knowing that danger must be near."
    — Michael Okuda's text commentary for the Director's Edition, when Kirk tells Scotty that "the only starship in interception range is the Enterprise."
    • One might correlate though that EVERY Starfleet ship enjoys similar adventures. Because why is the Enterprise always the only ship in reach? All the others are out fighting Klingons, stopping some disasters, or getting lost in time and space somewhere...
    • There's also the sheer size factor of space - since Starfleet is supposed to be primarily an exploratory and research organization, and only Mildly Military, it makes sense that their ships are spread all across known space (and slightly beyond), and rarely in a position to immediately come to another ship or planet's assistance.
  • No Seat Belts: Averted—the fact that seat belts were a subject of public discussion in the late 1970s and that the bridge crew kept thrashing around falling out of their seats in TOS probably helped. This bridge has chairs with armrests that fold down over the legs. They do look kind of awkward, though.
  • Oh Crap: A fairly subdued one from a Starfleet officer after observing the results of the engagement between V'Ger and the Klingon cruisers:
    Lieutenant: We've plotted a course on that cloud, Commander. It will pass into Federation space fairly close to us.
    Commander Branch: Heading?
    Lieutenant: Sir, it's on a precise heading for Earth.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different
  • Permission to Speak Freely: Decker is outright hostile towards Kirk in plain view of their subordinates, and even more so in private. Kirk looks as though he wants to punch him in the face numerous times, but lets it go as he needs him to guide his command of a ship he no longer recognizes.
  • Pilot Episode: As mentioned above, the script was written as the pilot episode to a new television series, and was hastily being rewritten after filming had already started (hence the addition of Spectacle). In fact, if you watch it with this in mind, you might spot that the finished product still hits many of the beats required of most television pilots, such as introducing the characters, and relaunching the ship, elements which weren't strictly necessary for the story that's being told here, but which make perfect sense in context of setting up the format for a new television show.
    • It also is the explanation for the main flaw of this film: It's a 2+ hour theatrical movie with only about 45 minutes worth of story in it.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: The transporter accident that kills Commander Sonak creates a competence gap in the science crew that Spock can then fill.
  • The Power of Love: It causes Decker, Probe!Ilia, and V'Ger to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Putting the Band Back Together
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: They chose Voyager as the design of what became V'Ger because it was a current event—Voyager 1 and 2 were launched in 1977, and by the time the film was released, both had already visited Jupiter. Mixes with a bit of Hilarious in Hindsight as there were only two Voyager probes... no matter that only two were ever planned.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The usual Kirk/Spock dynamic is handily pointed out by the film's poster.
    • A richly-colored rainbow was a very popular motif in the late 70s-early 80s. It was used for everything from children's cartoons to a Presidential campaign. New Age devotees adopted the symbol of the rainbow about this time.
  • Red Shirt: Completely averted. No one's even wearing one!
    • Originally, they planned to kill Chekov. Thankfully for the sake of the sequels they didn't know they would be making, it was decided that it would be more dramatic if Kirk listed Decker and Ilia as the only casualties at the end.
      • Actually, it was a security man who gets zapped and "absorbed" by the probe just before Ilia does. They cut his death to give Ilia's more dramatic weight.
    • Not wearing red shirts didn't seem help the two crew members horribly mangled by the transporters, or the crew of Epsilon IX.
  • Replacement Goldfish: In the beginning of the film, Kirk is quite insistent upon getting a Vulcan science officer, obviously trying to replace the now-absent Spock.
  • The Resenter: Captain Decker is not at all happy that Kirk's hijacking his command after he just spent the last year and a half overseeing the Enterprise's refit. However when Kirk chews Decker out over it McCoy sides with Decker, saying that Kirk is the resentful one because Decker has the one thing Kirk wants - permanent command of the Enterprise.
  • Robot Girl: Probe!Ilia. And intentionally or not, she strongly resembles the machine-man from Metropolis.
  • Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: V'Ger (or rather, the cloud surrounding it) is originally classified as being over 82 AUs in diameter, which would make it comically large (the size of the entire solar system). It's brought down to 2 AUs in the DVD release, which would make the cloud the entire size of Earth's orbit around the sun, which is still quite massive but far more reasonable to hide a ship which, at best, can't be much larger than a planet.
    • This story takes place a few hundred years after the voyager probes were launched. Voyager 6 fell into a black hole to emerge at the planet of the machine intelligences. At the speeds that the voyager probes left the solar system, it would take thousands of years to reach the nearest celestial body (Alpha Centauri), so presumably much longer to rendezvous with a black hole somewhere in space.
  • Scenery Porn: The effects budget was huge, and they waste no time in showing it. Sometimes, even too much. (as Linkara said: "Yes, I understand you spent a lot of money in this!")
    • Although the five minute trip around the Enterprise could be seen as a Fandom Nod thank you to those original Trekkies in 1979 who had to put up with the plastic model Enterprise effects of the series for 10 years before finally seeing her on the big screen.
  • Sex Goddess: Ilia, although she'd never take advantage of a sexually immature race, as Commander Decker can tell you.
    • Hilariously, one of the first thing Ilia tells Kirk after reporting for duty is that her oath of celibacy is on record. Apparently she'd heard about Kirk's reputation, and felt she needed to cut him off at the pass.
  • Shoot the Money: Since much of the $40 million (in 1979 dollars) budget went into pre-production work for the Star Trek Phase II TV series, every Enterprise interior set that would have appeared in a series is used in this film. The officer's lounge and recreation deck sets would never again be seen in any other Star Trek movie.
  • Space Clothes: And man, did the cast hate them. See the Tropes for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for more.
  • Space Opera: Heavily influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey, the first movie is very different in tone from the rest.
  • Spiritual Successor: To 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Take That: A number of early promotion materials released to the press during production contained the tag line "There is no Comparison", an answer to those who speculated Paramount was just going to make a Star Wars rip-off.
    • Younger fans may not be aware of how important it not being a Star Wars ripoff was. Everyone was doing them at this time, and most of them were really bad. Not only was this not a Star Wars ripoff, it's actually rather good (for a given value of good).
  • Technology Marches On: According to Dr. McCoy the new Sickbay is like "...working in a damned computer center.".
  • Technology Porn
  • Teleporter Accident: The science officer and one other are mangled by a malfunctioning transporter as the Enterprise is preparing to leave. And yet McCoy is still treated as irrational for not liking them mere minutes later.
  • Typeset in the Future: During the Original Series, the exterior markings on Federation spacecraft were set in the standard typeface used by the U.S. Air Force. Beginning with this movie, the typeface was changed to Eurostile Bold Extended.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Sonak, Spock's Replacement Goldfish.
  • We Want Our Kirk Back: No one at the end seems terribly upset at the departure of Captain Decker.
  • You Look Familiar: Spock's father is a Klingon Captain! (Although admittedly you wouldn't recognize him unless you knew it was the same actor under the heavy make-up.)
    • He also looks suspiciously like the Romulan commander in the episode Balance of Terror, making Mark Lenard notable for being the only actor to have played all three of the major recurring non-human races in the Original Series' canon.

Tropes seen in the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture include:

  • All There in the Manual: It's stated in the novelization that Commander Willard Decker is the son of Commodore Matt Decker from the TOS episode "The Doomsday Machine", and the Enterprise was his big chance to prove he wasn't crazy like his dad. That explains why he's none too pleased with Kirk casually commandeering the Enterprise (or some of his crew grousing about it).
    • The novelization also reveals the identity of the female transporter accident victim, as well as why Chekov and Sulu suddenly get goofy around the bald chick (females of her species can emit pheromones that make males want to mate with them).
  • Amicably Divorced: Kirk and Lori Ciana, which makes Kirk's reaction to her death in the movie all the more weird.
    • Given Shatner's usual tendency to over-emote, dull surprise might actually be a sign that he's profoundly affected by the deaths.
  • Artifact Title: It's a book, not a movie.
  • Bi the Way: Part of the footnote of Kirk's denial that he and Spock are lovers can be read this way.
  • Fandom Nod: To the Kirk/Spock shippers. See Ship Tease below.
  • Framing Device: The novel directly refers to the events of the original TV series as dramatizations based on the voyages of the Enterprise. So that means Star Trek is seen by its creator as a Show Within a Show. Justifiable since Roddenberry got fed up with being asked why the Klingons looked different from the ones seen in TOS. His answer remained that he always intended for everything, including the Klingons, to look more elaborate and detailed than they did on TV. They just didn't have the money or the technology to realize it. Making the original series an "in universe" dramatization takes care of that question. In terms of the productions looks, we might assume that what is low budget and zeerust to us in the real world is simply a stylistic choice on the part of the "in universe" shows creators.
  • Mindlink Mates: Spock hears Kirk's thoughts from light years away, and later on it's mentioned that, "It was common knowledge that telepathic rapport between Vulcan and human was possible only in cases of extraordinarily close friendship."
  • Ship Tease: The word t'hy'la, as mentioned above, along with the famous footnote in response that seems, on the surface, to debunk Kirk/Spock but could just as easily be used as evidence for it.

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alternative title(s): Star Trek The Motion Picture; Ptitlebz03k14u
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