May 13, 2020
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), a recap (part 9 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: Decker tried to put the moves on the Ilia-probe, while Spock stole a spacesuit and tried to put the mind-meld moves on V’Ger. Sadly, those living machines aren’t quite the easy lay that either man expected.
Spock wakes up in Sickbay. Dr. Chapel is scanning his brain, and McCoy tells Kirk that the “power pouring through that mind-meld” may have caused Spock neurological trauma. As if to affirm the diagnosis, Spock starts quietly chuckling. Kirk is stunned to see Spock LQTM and Spock address him as “Jim” and says he saw V’Ger’s planet, which was full of living machines, and V’Ger has knowledge that “spans this universe”, but despite its “pure logic”, V’Ger is “barren… cold” and has “no beauty”.
Spock starts to fall unconscious and Kirk shakes him and McCoy tries to stop Kirk, so Kirk jerks away and yells, “Bones!” and goes right back to shaking Spock. (The director’s cut edits out the shaking, which is probably for the best, from a character as well as a medical standpoint.) Spock comes around and clasps Kirk’s hand and says that “this simple feeling… is beyond V’Ger’s comprehension.” So V’Ger can’t understand a bromance? Or a slash-fic pairing? Kirk tenderly holds Spock’s hand and they nod to each other to show they both know what’s up.
Spock says that V’Ger is asking questions like “Is this all that I am?” and “Is there nothing more?” and getting no answers. This discussion is interrupted when Kirk gets hailed from the bridge, and Uhura and Sulu (the latter getting a rare opportunity to sit in the captain’s chair) tell him that Starfleet is making visual contact with V’Ger, and the cloud is dissipating, and the vessel is dropping to sub-warp speed, and they’re three minutes from Earth orbit. Kirk says he’ll be right there, then tells Chapel he needs Spock on the bridge, so she dopes him up with “Dalaphaline”. Can I get a hit of some of that too?
Then Kirk weirdly stands in Sickbay for a while, marveling at a “machine planet sending a machine to Earth, looking for its Creator!” Thanks for the plot recap, Jimbo, but I think we’re all up to speed here. Then Kirk calls back up to the bridge to ask where Decker is. He’s in Engineering with the Ilia-probe, which never becomes important, and now we get a shot of one of the psychedelic V’Ger exterior sets with Earth in the background.
And in the director’s cut, Kirk’s oddball plot recap and everything following has been removed, and in its place we get one of the more notable changes of this version, where we finally see the entirety of the V’Ger spacecraft as it enters Earth orbit. It’s all CGI and similar to concept art created at the time of the original production, though there’s some debate as to whether or not the filmmakers ever seriously considered including a shot like this in the movie. Apparently, some of them felt that not being able to see the entire ship would add to the sense of V’Ger’s unbelievably massive scale, but I’d say that with all the vagueness already present in the theatrical cut, anything that helps give a more concrete view of what’s going on is probably for the best.
Kirk and Spock and McCoy are on the bridge as Uhura announces that Starfleet is sending “tactical” on V’Ger’s position, and it’s… a wireframe illustration of a blinking light over Earth, and it’s yet another useless diagram that reveals nothing.
Uhura says V’Ger is sending out a signal, and then Decker and the Ilia-probe show up on the bridge. Ilia-probe helpfully intones that “V’Ger signals the Creator.” And everyone stares at the screen for a while. After a random shot of the Enterprise still hovering in front of the Great Sphincter, we cut to Spock trying to decipher the signal. He says it’s a “simple binary code” being transmitted by radio, and Kirk is taken aback at the mention of radio. Yeah, seriously, who even listens to terrestrial anymore?
Decker somehow knows that “V’Ger expects an answer.” Kirk replies, “I don’t know the question!” Ilia-probe says that the Creator hasn’t responded (after all of twenty seconds), and I guess V’Ger is none too happy about this, because it sends out a big destructive ball of plasma that heads into Earth orbit.