"Ilia's Theme" is one of the most stunningly beautiful pieces of music in all of Star Trek.
The Klingon battle theme towards the beginning, which would also be used as Worf's leitmotif in the TNG films.
The La-La Land three-disc expansion is a must.
"The Enterprise," the stunning cue that plays during the "Kirk looks at the Enterprise for a thousand years" scene, is a Moment Of Awesome for both Jerry Goldsmith and the orchestra itself - scoring sessions generally require multiple performances of a track, but they nailed it on the first take.
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...
Spock on a member of a machine race: "Resistance would be futile."
The newly redesigned Enterprise is rushed out into service, resulting in numerous problems. Much like the film itself.
Kirk kicking Decker out of his hard-won job would be repeated in real life a few years later, when Stephen Collins' series Tales of the Gold Monkey was cancelled in favor of Shatner's TJ Hooker.
Ho Yay: "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?
Love It or Hate It: While it remains a crashing bore for some, many others love the film's visuals, epic feel and more cerebral story, with some even ranking it as the best movie in the series. 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.
Narm: The wormhole scene, where the distortion of time slows down all speech. Particularly Decker's.
Padding: 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. Two Thousand One 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 Star Fleet, McCoy beaming in, Spock first stepping on The Bridge, etc.) so the fans could cheer for their favorites returning.
Recycled Script: The nickname of the movie is "Where Nomad Has Gone Before", as like the episode "The Changeling", it tells the story of a human probe tampered by aliens (V'Ger\Nomad) which starts destroying everything in its path en route to its creator (mankind/Dr. Jackson Roykirk). In other words, it's not an episode stretched to two hours by filler, it's a rerun stretched to two hours by filler.
Then again, the actual re-written script comes from "In Thy Image", the commissioned but unfilmed pilot for Star Trek: New Voyages. The only major differences are the introduction of new character Xon (emphatically not a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Spock, and more in line with the character we know as Data) and the writing of Decker and Ilia as regulars (again, their history together and general story functions were written into the characters of Riker and Troi). Also, the pilot would have had a faster pace for TV.
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.
Tearjerker: After nearly getting everyone killed in the wormhole, Kirk is completely lost on the Enterprise.
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.
Visual Effects of Awesome: 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.
What an Idiot: Kirk for thinking he could just waltz onto an almost entirely new Enterprise and expect everything to go back to the way it was in his glory days.
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.
An exception could be made for Kirk's two toned Admiral uniform, which looked 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 didn'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.
Freud Was Right: Everything has sexual subtext. EVERYTHING. Enterprise has make-out alcoves, V'Ger's giant orifice is likened to... another kind of orifice, Kirk gets a boner while talking to an old flame, a pretty intimate description of Probe!Ilia's first appearance, V'Ger wondering why Decker and its probe are having sex (Decker suggested it as a way to break through to Ilia's mind and Kirk agreed to it), and on and on and on.
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, though doesn't outright state, that it's V'Ger's arrival in Federation space which disturbs Spock during his Kolinahr).
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.)