What is the point of this blog? It started as a joke, a way to explain the Star Trek film franchise to my friends who wanted to see the reboot but had never seen the films that led up to it. I tried to lay it out for them while applying a little humour so as not to bore them, but it grew beyond anything I had imagined. So in the interests of boring YOU people instead BETTERING SOCIETY, I have decided to post these ramblings here. Each post will follow a consistent format: the film's title and release year, its origins, followed by a satirical summary/review culminating in a VERDICT. Feel free to suggest improvements or harangue me about why I'm wrong. And now, let us begin at the beginning.
WARNING: Here be spoilers.
- With this sense of the splendour of our experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have time to make theories about the things we see and touch.
Everybody remembers StarTrek, right? Notable for its utopian vision of the future, its exploration of then-contemporary issues in a Science Fiction setting and its Power Trio of the hot-blooded Captain Kirk, the cool and calculating Half-Human Hybrid Mister Spock, and the curmudgeonly Doctor McCoy, it sadly became popular only after it was cancelled for the second time. There was a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon and then plans for a new TV series titled Star Trek: Phase II, but as The '70s wore on, big-budget sci-fi blockbusters like Star Wars and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind came into vogue, convincing Paramount Pictures to scrap the series and adapt the pilot episode for the silver screen. If Star Trek: The Motion Picture is any indication, scrapping the planned series was a great idea.
We begin with Klingons—at least, we're told they're Klingons. In appearance they resemble angry, half-finished Muppets. This was a drastic departure from the original series wherein they all looked like angry, half-finished Russians because the makeup department could barely afford one pair of Vulcan Ears per episode, let alone a bunch of Klingon Foreheads. These alleged Klingons encounter a big scary blue cloud IN SPACE, and they decide to shoot torpedoes at it because hey, they're Klingons. It's what they do. Unsurprisingly, they get vaporized and the Space Cloud continues unobstructed on its direct course for… Andoria? Betazed? No. Enormous, ominous Things only ever head towards Earth. I like to think that Earth is like the New York City of The Federation; it's the one place everybody knows and tends to think of whenever the Federation is mentioned.
On his homeworld, Spock senses the Space Cloud's approach and gets voted off Vulcan Idol or something.
Cue The Kirk * , now an Admiral and the biggest Jerk Ass in the galaxy, because his first act is to snatch the pimped-out Enterprise away from her rightful captain, Will "Decker? I 'Ardly Know 'Er!" Decker, a new addition to the cast who will he definitely be alive and well at the end of this film. The other bland new character that won’t survive is a sexy bald alien chick played by some supermodel I can’t be bothered to find on Wikipedia. Uhura (now with actual African hair), Scotty and Sulu are still around, not that anybody cares. Also everyone is wearing their pajamas for some reason.
James Tiberius Jerk is hellbent on Putting the Band Back Together, whether they want it or not. He forces his old friend McCoy, whom we can tell is retired by that fake beard, to get unretired. To explain, he bizarrely declares 'I wish I knew how to quit you!' No wait, he says, "I need you. Dammit, Bones, I need you." Well all right. That explains everything. He needs you.
Kirk's third brilliant executive decision buggers up the ship's warp drive, which creates a wormhole for some reason. Seeing Kirk experience actual consequences to disdaining regulations for once might be fresh and unusual, but everything else about this scene is laughable. Space/time distortion manifests as image-trail filters and all the dialogue running at ⅛ speed. They don’t even bother to simulate turbulence by shaking the camera; at one point you can see the extras wobbling to and fro like Chubby Checker on a crab boat in a typhoon. I don’t know, I sure felt time slow down. When is this scene going to end??
Kirk's inexperience regarding the ship's upgrades nearly dooms them all, but Decker saves their asses; so naturally, Kirk chews him out. Luckily Spock shows up to fix the warp drive, because the new Vulcan science officer died in a random transporter accident several scenes ago and only Vulcan science officers are capable of fixing warp drives. He isn’t here to reunite the Power Trio, although his timely arrival completes it; no, since the TV series ended, he's been on some kind of quest to find inner peace, like a pointy-eared hippie. Somehow this process involves meeting the Space Cloud. One wonders if Spock’s been hitting the bong a bit, because Space Cloud's favourite pastime seems to be destroying everything it meets. It eats a space station and attacks the Enterprise until Spock figures out that it can’t understand their transmissions because they’re talking too slow* . With the ship out of danger, Kirk just can't allow it to stay that way and invites further peril by flying right into the cloud. Decker protests, but nobody listens, because he's Decker.
One of the film’s biggest flaws is in the special effects: not that they’re bad, there’s just too darn much of them. Paramount put so much money into the FX budget they didn’t want to waste a minute. Enterprise turning its running lights on and Spock’s shuttle docking receive epic treatment, and now we get twenty minutes of the ship flying through a cosmic light show while the cast stares at the screen in awestruck silence as if they’ve taken a break from acting to watch the movie alongside us. I bet they sat there like morons for half an hour before realizing some joker switched the live feed with an IMAX documentary about Space Clouds. Lo and behold, they eventually find a starship the size of Prince Edward Island in there. Then they spend another twenty minutes gawking like tourists as they sail along its entire length. It’s like the opening of Spaceballs in reverse, but longer and not as funny.
Finally, something happens: a column of light* appears on the bridge and accesses the computer. Spock, ever the rational one, smashes the keyboard. Aw, come on, Spock, it just wanted to check Facebook! After tazering Spock and groping Sexy Bald Chick with lightning bolts, it disappears. She disappears too, but comes back as a Sexy Bald Android to study the Enterprise crew. She reveals the mysterious ship is named V’Ger (pronounced “veejur”), or controlled by someone named V’Ger, or maybe both. Her outfit reveals everything else. Since Decker used to date Sexy Bald Chick, Kirk devises a brilliant plan to have him seduce the android.* Mercifully, this plan fails, as V’Ger thinks humans are a kind of fungus.*
Meanwhile Spock, in his quest for ultimate logic, becomes a Rocket Man and flies up V’Ger’s giant metal anus. Inside he sees all kinds of trippy stuff and tries to mind-meld with a big glowing orb, because nothing bad could possibly come of that. The resultant brain-frying puts him in sickbay, where he concludes, based on his experience, that “V’Ger is a child.” Thanks for shedding some light on that issue, Spock. I think the painkillers have kicked in.
Soon V’Ger reaches Earth and tries to contact its “Creator”. When nobody responds, V’Ger blames the “carbon units” and launches bombs to Kill All Humans. Kirk bluffs his way into meeting V’Ger, which turns out to be just an old NASA probe (VOYAGER 6) trying to find its mommy. Here the cerebral plot descends into incomprehensibility: V’Ger is trying to evolve but it needs a human element, which is going to be a bit of a problem if it exterminates the human race. Once again it's up to Decker to save everyone. Jeebus, give the man a medal already. He fiddles with its equipment and starts glowing (!!!). Sexy Bald Android, who has been eyeing like a lovesick Justin Bieber fan for the past ten minutes, embraces him. Lots of pretty lights happen. V’Ger disappears in a big flash. With Decker conveniently "missing in action,"* Kirk takes his new ship out for a joyride. The End.
So what the hell just happened? Did Decker and Ilia have a Space Orgasm? Did V’Ger Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence? What happened to the bombs? Don’t they deserve a happy ending? The writers had an alternate ending planned wherein the three Klingon ships were ejected from V’Ger along with Enterprise, leading to a Battle Royale over Earth’s atmosphere. That would’ve been ten times more interesting. Instead, Spock tells us we’ve “witnessed the birth of a new life form.” Nothing new about it, Spock. It’s called an “Anti-Climax”.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture thinks too highly of itself. It isn’t a bad movie, just poorly executed; and it doesn't quite feel right. Spock is a dink, Kirk is an asshole, the Enterprise takes forever to get anywhere (I don't care if that's more realistic), and the movie is trying to be 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like a certain other movie, it made piles of money despite critics hating it, which made possible its finest attribute: the sequel.