Broken Base: A crashing bore that nearly buried the Trek franchise for good, or a worthy Trek Spiritual Successor to 2001: A Space Odyssey? Compare The Search for Spock, which tends to get much more muted reactions from just about everybody. Maybe the only Trek movie to get this treatment (at least until the J. J. Abrams films) especially after the Re-Cut DVD version, which many felt improved the movie.
Fridge Horror: V'Ger's "entire journey" becomes a lot scarier when one takes into consideration that V'Ger basically murdered countless innocent races as it absorbed them in its quest for knowledge.
Harsher in Hindsight: Decker's wanting to melding with V'Ger not ten minutes after the latter is described as a child might take on a whole different meaning in the wake of the underage sex crimes that actor Stephen Collins was revealed to have committed in 2014...
"This simple feeling..." is exactly what, now, Spock? Especially since they're holding hands? And Kirk's gazing at him with a look of unprecedented, almost aching tenderness?
Well worth noting: Hand touching is Vulcan kissing. Yeah.
"Dammit Bones, I need you!Badly!"
The page image for Ho Yay is from this movie. Just sayin'.
Watch the scene where Spock first shows up on the bridge. Now look at Kirk's face. Does he or does he not look like he's just had the love of his life returned to him from death? His entire face lights up in that moment. There's no ambiguity there whatsoever.
And V'Ger finally understands this 'simple feeling' once Decker and Ilia join with it... sorry, is this supposed to be subtext?
Been reading this, have we? "Apparently one of the reasons the film had to have a secret slash message was that without it, 'it is simply inconceivable that the creator of such an intelligent series would let its first foray onto the big screen be such a trite science fiction story.'"
Hypocritical Fandom: Some of the fans go so far as to dismiss the sequel as a "dumb action flick" compared to the more cerebral nature of this movie. This is despite the fact that it has only three action scenes (one of which is a few seconds long fight between Kirk and Doctor Marcus), all of which serve the story and is praised for its sophisticated writings and themes, while special effects of TMP are, while beautiful, notorious for staying long after they made their point and being there for their own sake.
Narm: The wormhole scene, where the distortion of time slows down all speech. Particularly Decker's.
A script for a one-hour pilot for a new Trek series that never came to be was made into a two-hour movie by the addition of a little extra chatter and lot of establishment shots of truly insane length, such as our first look at the new Enterprise, as well as when V'Ger is revealed. 2001: A Space Odyssey moves at light speed by comparison. Fortunately, Jerry Goldsmith was on hand.
The original VHS release was actually 12 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. Which, believe it or not, improved the movie somewhat, since much of the material that was added back in consisted of dialogue that actually advanced the plot and explained what the heck was going on while also giving the rest of the cast and extra more screen time, allowing for some quirky humor and philosophical musings that made them seem more alive and, well, human.
Editing wasn't actually finished when the movie premiered—in fact, the filmmakers were frantically editing to the very last few hours before the premiere, to the point where the film prints were still wet. Editing was completed properly for the director's cut, and this makes the movie a much better flick.
Also, bear in mind that this movie was a very big deal at the time—Trekkies had spent ten years clamouring to see a new live-action version of the show (and remember that this was before home video, so unless they caught some reruns it really had been ten years since they saw anything involved with the show). Some bits were left (when we first see the Enterprise, Kirk's arrival at Starfleet, McCoy beaming in, Spock first stepping on The Bridge, etc.) so the fans could cheer for their favorites returning.
Seinfeld Is Unfunny: The scene when Kirk and Scotty fly around the updated Enterprise is among the most widely-mocked scenes for lasting so long, but it was a huge deal for Trekkies at the time, who seeing it up-close and in live-action for the first time since TOS's cancellation in 1969.
As awesome as the effects in the theatrical cut generally are, there are a few cases where it's obvious that the effects were rushed in order to meet the release deadline. Notable examples are the horrible-looking asteroid explosion, and two occasions later in the film where V'Ger's energy bolts are rather clumsily matted in. Also happens literally. The first special effects company couldn't get the job done, so Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra had to be hired late in the production.
In the TV edit which aired several times on ABC in the 1980s, one notorious scene, in which Kirk spacewalks out of the Enterprise to join Spock at the meeting with V'Ger, features an unfinished wide shot of Kirk leaving the ship, with the studio rafters and scaffolding visible all the way around the edge of the "ship exterior". The scene had been cut during filming but was restored to pad the TV edit before anyone realised that it had not undergone any post-production. It also didn't help that the scene was part of the original space walk, in which Kirk joined Spock and encountered a "memory wall" together.
The astronaut who gets thrown away from V'Ger's attack on the station has comically thin and doll-like limbs.
The matte painting for Spock's homeworld in the Theatrical Cut are very unconvincing, looking very flat and obvious, especially compared to the other matte paintings in films at the time. It was completely replaced and much improved in the Director's Cut.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The machine race. We are talking about a species so advanced that they can take a Voyager-series probe from the twentieth century and turn it into a sapient weapon that makes a Borg cube look like a paddle steamer. And yet not only do we never see them again either in the movies or the series, but nothing whatsoever comes from Decker bonding with V'Ger.
Unless, as speculated by numerous people, up to and including Gene Roddenberry himself, the machine race is the Borg.
Powered by going way over budget. From the iridescent paint job on the Enterprise that made Chroma Key fail hard, to zillions of vehicles and costumes you only saw on screen once, to (of course!) the mind-bending V'Ger sequences, you should seriously consider giving your eyes a break every now and then.
Not to mention the awesome effect when the Enterprise warps out.
V'Ger has absorbed enough to knowledge to become basically sentient, yet it doesn't know its proper name is Voyager simply because of some mud on its exterior. Either that or the hyper-intelligent lifeforms that built it never invented the sponge.
Everyone's exploring the galaxy in their jammies...
Not to mention McCoy's Disco Unabomber look.
An exception could be made for Kirk's two-toned Admiral uniform, which looks so nice his action figure was in that uniform instead of the one he wears for 90% of the film.
Supposedly, Robert Wise had the uniforms designed so plain compared to the bright TOS uniforms (which were planned to be used again in the Phase II series), so that the audience would focus more on the actors' faces. Unfortunately, the actors don't get to show a whole lot of emotional range throughout most of the movie, so the ploy ended up backfiring spectacularly.
Word of God says that the cast and crew themselves hated the uniforms they wore for this film (the zippers were so long that actors needed help going to the bathroom), and that a condition for their return in a sequel was for them to be replaced, leading to the redesigns introduced in The Wrath of Khan.
Ho Yay: The movie is already fairly homoerotic, but the novelisation takes it Up to Eleven. For one thing, the novel introduces the Vulcan word t'hy'la, which Spock uses to describe Kirk, and which can mean friend, brother or lover. For another, it outright states that it was Kirk's mind that had called to Spock across the lightyears and ruined his Kolinahr (the film implies that it's V'Ger's arrival in Federation space, not Kirk's mind, which disturbs Spock during his Kolinahr ceremony, and Spock later says he sensed a powerful and perfectly ordered consciousness that might hold "his answers.").
For what it's worth, the novelization was written by Gene Roddenberry. Yes, that Gene Roddenberry—his only published Star Trek prose. (Roddenberry did this, in part, as an act of revenge against the film's screenwriter Harold Livingston—Roddenberry really wanted to get script credit but didn't (and turned down co-story credit), so he got his own back by novelizing the script, as was his legal right. It's worth noting that Livingston and Alan Dean Foster (who has story credit) aren't mentioned on the front cover.)
Foster repeatedly confirms that he had nothing to do with the novelization. If you know his work at all, you can tell by reading it isn't.