Dec 16, 2019
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), a recap (part 4 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: Kirk blindsided Decker by taking over the Enterprise, but Decker felt a lot better once his old flame Lt. Ilia came aboard. And then Kirk lost his science officer in a horrific transporter accident, but he felt a lot better once his old flame Dr. McCoy came aboard.
Above Earth, the Enterprise’s spacedock shuts down and all the docking clamps release, meaning it’s finally—finally—time for the Enterprise to launch. When Kirk said he wanted the ship to launch in 12 hours, I bet you didn’t think we’d be seeing all 12 hours in their entirety, did you?
On the bridge, everyone reports they’re ready for launch and Sulu (in another split-diopter shot with Kirk behind him) activates maneuvering thrusters. Outside the ship, lights come on illuminating the outside of the ship and Kirk orders Sulu to “take us out”, and we get more lengthy shots of the Enterprise leaving spacedock, which feels more than a little excessive after the whole extended fly-around sequence.
As the ship leaves spacedock, there’s even a quick shot of a guy outside the ship in an EV suit doing a celebratory somersault. But is it really possible to a do a somersault in zero gravity? Once he jumps off the pylon or whatever he’s standing on, he should just keep flying off into space until something stops him, but this is where I repeat to myself it’s just a show and/or movie and I should really just relax.
In the middle of the ship launching, we cut to Engineering, where there’s a random shot of a crewman running up to closing doors and squeezing through at the last second, which I don’t get the point of, and it makes no sense either. Shouldn’t the doors detect him approaching and automatically open back up?
And then it’s right back to external shots of the ship leaving Earth orbit, with the sun peeking out over the Earth. It’s a nice visual, but the sun “rising” over Earth makes no sense either, because what we’re seeing here is a fixed shot of the Earth, and as you may know, the sun doesn’t move in relation to the Earth. If the camera were “orbiting” the Earth, this shot would make sense, but there’s nothing to indicate this is the case. Down in Engineering, Scotty reports up to the bridge to say that impulse power is ready, and Kirk immediately orders impulse power at warp point-five, and this is sort of feeling too much like watching the sausage get made. On TOS, when Kirk wanted the ship to go fast, he told somebody to make it go fast, end of story.
So the ship goes to impulse, and for some reason Kirk wants the “departure angle” on the viewscreen, with the Earth receding in the distance. Then he calls for “viewer ahead”, and it’s just a starfield. Now the Enterprise is cruising past Jupiter, in a shot which seems to have been inspired by some of the images NASA’s Voyager 1 probe was sending back earlier in 1979. And, you know, the whole 2001 homage thing.
We hear a new, slower, more dissonant version of the TOS theme song as Kirk delivers a captain’s log that explains that they have to “risk engaging warp drive while still within the solar system” in order to intercept the evil cloud in time. There aren’t too many other instances in Trek where engaging warp drive inside of a solar system is considered especially dangerous (according to First Contact, the first warp flight took place entirely inside the solar system), but hey, that’s warp mechanics for you. It allows the ship to move at the speed of plot.