STTMP, Part 2–Synopsis
The first installment of my review of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is here.
Three Klingon battle cruisers, while on a mission in deep space, encounter a large, mysterious cloud-like structure. Deciding it is a threat, they fire photon torpedoes at it, to no effect. The cloud retaliates with huge balls of light which dissolve and absorb the Klingon ships. Meanwhile, a deep space Federation monitoring station receives images of this from an automated probe. Plotting the cloud’s course, they realize it is headed directly towards Earth.
Meanwhile, on Vulcan, Spock has completed rigorous training in the Vulcan discipline of Kolinahr, by which all emotion is finally expunged. About to receive a token of this from a priestess, he stops. The Vulcans assembled there have all telepathically felt a strong, alien mind. Spock is affected by it, and the priestess, telling him that the consciousness has stirred his human side, drops the token to the ground and says he has not, in fact, attained Kolinahr. She leaves him, saying, “His answer lies elsewhere.”
At Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, Earth, James T. Kirk, now an admiral, after strong-arming the Starfleet brass, has been re-assigned from the desk job he has held for the last two and a half years to the Enterprise. The cloud is three days from Earth, and the Enterprise is the only starship within intercept range, and Kirk has parlayed this into an opportunity to return to space. The transporter being offline, Commander Scott takes Kirk to the Enterprise by shuttle. Onboard, Kirk breaks the news to young Captain William Decker, who was to have been the commander of the Enterprise after her eighteen-month long refitting, but who now is relegated to First Officer status. Decker is angry, but agrees for the time being. Kirk goes to the Transporter room for the boarding of Commander Sonak, a Vulcan who has been assigned, at Kirk’s request, as Science Officer for the Enterprise. The transporter, thought to have been repaired, malfunctions, killing Sonak and a crewwoman who was coming aboard with him. The Enterprise is left with no science officer.
After the Transporter is fixed, Dr. Leonard McCoy is beamed up. He has left Starfleet, spending the last two years studying Fabrini medicine. Kirk has invoked an obscure re-activation of Starfleet commission to get McCoy on board. The doctor is reluctant at first, but Kirk pleads with him, saying he needs him on board, and McCoy finally agrees to return for the mission.
As the command crew gathers on the bridge, Decker comes across Lieutenant Ilia. Ilia is a Deltan–the Deltans are a race of humanoids who are telepathic and bald (including the women). She is also a former lover of Decker, who was once posted to her planet. Finally, the Enterprise leaves Earth orbit, only to produce a wormhole effect as a result of the unbalanced engines. Catastrophe is averted, but the ship must drop out of warp drive. Meanwhile, a long-range shuttlecraft requests permission to dock. Permission is granted, and Spock, the shuttle’s sole passenger, boards the Enterprise.
Spock–behaving stiffly and formally even by his standards–requests permission to resume his role as Science Officer, and Kirk enthusiastically accepts. Spock helps Scotty repair the warp drive, and the Enterprise is off towards the cloud. Meanwhile, McCoy is concerned that Spock’s motivation–to understand that cloud–may be affecting his judgment. Kirk brushes these concerns off. Finally, the ship arrives in the vicinity of the cloud.
Kirk orders friendship messages sent to the cloud, at which it reacts in a hostile manner, shooting out a sphere of light of the same type that destroyed the Klingon ship. At the last minute, Spock realizes that the cloud is trying to communicate with an old-fashioned binary code. Using this, he sends the friendship code again, and disaster is averted. The Enterprise moves closer, coming close to a huge, mysterious structure in the cloud. Suddenly, a pillar of lightning appears on the bridge–the alien whatever-it-is is scanning the ship and reading the computer banks. Spock tries unsuccessfully to stop it; then suddenly, a bolt strikes Lieutenant Ilia, and she disappears. As everyone recovers from their surprise, the Enterprise is caught in a tractor beam.
An intruder alert comes on, and Ilia is found in her quarters. She has a small, red jewel embedded in her neck, and she speaks in strange, affectless way. Scanning her, Dr. McCoy realizes that “she” is a probe. The entity at the heart of the cloud–which the Ilia probe refers to as “V’ger” (vee-jur)–has duplicated Ilia’s body to the molecular level, adding a communications link (the jewel), and sent “her” to communicate with the Enterprise crew, or as V’ger refers to them, the “carbon units”. According to the Ilia probe, V’Ger is returning to “meet the Creator”. Puzzled, but hoping that Ilia’s memories lie dormant in the probe, Kirk persuades Decker to try to reach her. At times flashes of her personality come through, but only briefly. The probe insists that once it has completed its mission, the “carbon units” will be patterened (destroyed and stored as data, as happened to Ilia, the space station, and the Klingon ships) so they won’t interfere with the functioning of the Enterprise.
As the probe continues its investigation and Kirk wonders what to do, Spock steals a thruster suit and flies into the heart of the alien vessel. He sees images of its journeys through space, including its origin on a planet of living machines. Seeing a giant image of Ilia with the communication jewel, he attempts to mind-meld with it, only to be thrust back in intense pain. Kirk (who has found out what Spock has done by now and come after him in a spacesuit) recovers him and returns him to the ship.
In Sickbay, recovering consciousness, Spock begins to laugh (!), saying, “I should have known!” He describes to the others how V’Ger is a living, sapient machine from a planet of such machines, holding knowledge spanning the universe, within thoughts of perfect logic. However, it is “Barren; cold.” V’Ger has reached its limit and no longer has a sense of purpose. Grasping Kirk’s hand, Spock says, “This simple feeling is beyond V’Ger’s comprehension.”
Meanwhile, V’Ger, dragging the Enterprise along with it, has entered Earth orbit. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy return to the bridge, where the Ilia probe announces that it must contact the Creator now. V’Ger begins broadcasting a code of some sort to Earth via old-fashioned radio signals. Receiving no answer, it shoots out a number of flaming spheres that begin to encircle the Earth at equidistant points. Within minutes, V’Ger intends to destroy all the “carbon units” on Earth, so that they will not interfere with the “Creator”.
Stalling for time, Kirk tells the Ilia probe that the carbon units can explain why the Creator is not responding, but that they must do so to V’Ger in person. The probe falls silent, and the Enterprise is drawn into the inmost chamber of the giant alien ship. An oxygen atmosphere and gravity form outside the ship, and Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Decker, and the Ilia probe leave the ship and walk to the central area, where the probe points to V’Ger. V’Ger is an old space probe. Looking carefully at it, Kirk realizes it is an old NASA probe, Voyager 6 (the “o”, “y”, and “a” have ablated from the probe’s surface, hence “V’Ger”), which had been thought lost after falling into a black hole. Kirk, Spock, and Decker piece together V’Ger’s history: the probe fell into the black hole and was flung across the galaxy to the machine world Spock saw in the mind meld. The living machines repaired and enhanced the probe, sending it back out. Its original program, to gather data and report to Earth, was now interpreted as gather all possible knowledge.
Over time, the probe amassed so much information that it became sapient, alive. As it reached the end of its mission and made the return to Earth, it began to doubt, to wonder about the meaning of its “life”, and now sought to find that meaning in the Creator. Kirk contacts Uhura via his communicator and tells her to broadcast the old NASA command code to V’Ger. This will cause V’Ger to broadcast its data and stop the assault on Earth. Uhura does so; but right before the final code sequence is received, V’Ger burns out a wire on its console. The Ilia probe announces that V’Ger must unite with the Creator. Spock explains that V’Ger must physically unite with a human. Only thus can it gain the sense of purpose that can jump beyond logic. At this, Decker runs to the V’Ger console and begins to key in the last sequence. Kirk attempts to stop him, but is knocked back by the Ilia probe. Decker says that this is what he’s always wanted.
As he finishes the code, light begins to surround him. The Ilia probe comes to stand with him, and they dissolve into a pillar of light. As the light spreads, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy run back to the ship. The V’Ger/Ilia/Decker union explodes into a burst of brilliant light and vanishes. The Enterprise emerges unscathed, and the weapons, on the point of firing on Earth, vanish, too. Uhura tells Kirk that Starfleet is requesting casualties. He says only Ilia and Decker, then amends it by ordering them listed as “missing”. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy muse on what has happened, Kirk asking if they’ve seen the birth of a new life-form. McCoy chuckles and says that it’s been a long time since he delivered a baby, and hopes it will go well. Mr. Scott arrives on the bridge and tells Mr. Spock that they can be back to Vulcan in a few days. Spock says that he does not need to return since his task on Vulcan is finished.
Kirk decides to give the ship a good shakedown cruise. When Sulu asks for a heading, Kirk gestures and says, “Thataway!” The ship goes into warp, headed for new adventures. The end scroll of the movie reads, “The human adventure is just beginning!”
The review is just beginning, too–more installments to come! The next one is here.
Posted on 21/01/2013, in Entertainment, movie reviews, movies and tagged Leonard Nimoy, movie reviews, movies, science fiction, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, William Shatner. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.