May 7, 2020
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), a recap (part 10 of 10)
Welcome back to my latest patron-only recap! The full recap is available to those who pledge just $1/month on the Agony Booth’s Patreon page.
Previously: V’Ger threatened to destroy all life on Earth, leading both Kirk and the screenwriters to completely wing it, coming up with a plan on the fly that sees the Enterprise get drawn even deeper into the alien vessel for a personal meeting with V’Ger itself.
After Spock keenly notes that the brightly glowing set in front of them is “our destination”, the ship slows down and Chekov detects an “oxygen-gravity envelope” forming around the Enterprise. The ship stops and Ilia-probe points at the viewscreen and says, “V’Ger.” Uhura chimes in to say she knows where that radio signal is coming from, and it’s from “directly ahead”. You don’t say. Ilia-probe says the carbon units will now provide information about the Creator directly to V’Ger, and everyone turns to look at Kirk like, “whatcha gonna do now, smart guy?”
So it seems Kirk is going outside the ship to meet V’Ger, and he wants Spock and Bones to come with him. He’s about to leave Decker in command, when Decker suddenly says he wants to go too. This is just fine with Kirk and they all head out.
The next thing we see is a pretty lousy matte painting of the Enterprise’s saucer. The perspective is completely out of whack and it looks like a giant lopsided mushroom cap. It’s no surprise this was one of the more notable fixes in the director’s cut. A trap door opens up on the surface of the saucer, and Ilia and the Starfleet guys rise up on a platform and look out at V’Ger-Henge. They climb across rows and rows of hexagonal stones, and thank god they don’t show every moment of this walk. And the Starfleet guys are wearing jackets now, but not poor Ilia; she’s still in her miniskirt and high heels, the ideal outfit for hiking in the dead of space.
In the director’s cut, V’Ger-Henge is instead surrounded by swarms of CGI rocks that slowly form a path to the Enterprise’s saucer. Some of the CGI seems a bit dodgy here, but at least they got the shape of the saucer right.
In both versions, they all follow the V’Ger Brick Road and finally arrive at the big reveal: There in the center of lots of machinery is a very familiar-looking space probe. Ilia points at it and says, “V’Ger,” and then makes her way down.
The guys slowly climb down to join her while Ilia-probe stands in front of the space probe, staring at Decker. Kirk finds a panel that’s all covered in grime, and he starts wiping at it, and reads the letters “V-G-E-R”. There’s a big bwaammm from the Blaster Beam as Kirk wipes away more grime, and he figures out that V’Ger is actually “Voyager 6”. Decker announces that, yes, this was a NASA probe launched over 300 years ago. That’s right, V’Ger = Voyager. Now imagine sitting through two hours of tedium for this “twist” that could have been seen a mile away by anyone already familiar with the TOS episode “The Changeling”.
Kirk says the Voyager series was designed to collect data and transmit it back to Earth. Then some weird wobbly metal noises start up and Kirk looks like he’s totally tripping balls. The whole place gets bathed in a bright glow.
The Ilia-probe stares at Decker then slowly (very slowly) turns away. Good to see the pace is picking up as we hurtle toward this movie’s fast-paced conclusion. Decker says that Voyager 6 disappeared into “what they used to call a black hole”. And… what do they call it now? Also, I’m pretty sure we’ve heard the phrase “black hole” said numerous times in the Star Trek franchise after this. Also also, are there really black holes just sitting outside our solar system for space probes to fall into?
In another split-field diopter shot with Ilia-probe in the foreground, Kirk concludes Voyager 6 must have emerged from the black hole on the “far side of the galaxy” and then fell into the “machine planet’s gravitational field.” They figure out that the machine planet’s inhabitants bonded with Voyager 6, and learned of its mission to collect information and return it to its “creator”, so they built this huge vessel for Voyager to complete its mission. And on its way back, Voyager 6 gathered so much knowledge it achieved consciousness. Hey, it happens. And I like how V’Ger supposedly accumulated all the knowledge in the galaxy, but yet when deciding what to call itself, it couldn’t figure out that there was just some dirt on its nameplate.