Back in the summer, I was the loser of the Summer Movie League. The winner, Greg, got to select a punishment movie that I had to watch and keep a running diary of my viewing experience. He chose 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, to my knowledge, one of the first movies to bring a TV series to the big screen. So, without further ado, here is my running diary.
Events occur in real time…
00:00 – I have seen pieces of this movie, but have never seen it from beginning to end. The film is directed by Robert Wise, a two-time Oscar winner known for directing such classics as The Day the Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, The Haunting, and The Sound of Music. I know this movie was Star Trek thinking they could make something akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
00:20 – Wait, this film (am I allowed to call a punishment movie a film?) is opening with an overture!?!?!?! By the way, I’m watching this via Amazon Prime on my Kindle. The general trivia is telling me that the cast hated the uniforms. It goes on to say they “required assistance in order to be removed. In fact, one of the cast’s conditions for returning in a sequel was to have new uniforms.” I wonder which cast member we owe those spiffy red uniforms to?
02:00 – Oh wow, this is a much more orchestral opening than I was expecting based on all previous Star Trek experiences I’ve had. Feels like pure Wise. They’re really building up the grandeur of it all.
03:37 – Klingons to open the events! Or so I’m guessing. Near some blue nebula. The look of the Klingons underwent a significant overhaul between the TV series and the movies.
05:12 – Prime’s X-Ray feature is telling me that Mark Lenard is the Klingon Captain. That’s the dude that played Spock’s father, Sarek. Was the budget so limited they had to recycle actors?
05:35 – They’re firing into the nebula. And…nothing happened, yet they still are taking evasive action.
06:20 – Interesting, a space walk. For 1979, these special effects aren’t terrible.
08:27 – Those Klingon ships just got vaporized, electrically. Somehow that sentence made sense in relation to what I saw on screen.
09:41 – We’re now on planet Vulcan, and Spock, sporting some definite 70s-style hair, is undergoing some kind of ritual. Kolinahr. Total logic achievement about to be unlocked. And he stops! What is he doing? A consciousness is speaking to him from outer space. It “calls to his human blood.” He will not achieve Kolinahr. Not today, anyway.
12:39 – We’re in San Francisco now, and yikes, they’re not lying about these outfits. Incredibly muted colors. White and brown and awkward lengths. Kirk is talking to some Vulcan who is supposed to be his Spock replacement on this mission to intercept the blue nebula.
14:08 – That was a highly elaborate transporter beam effect. I wonder how much they spent on it?
15:08 – Already, I’m seeing the attempts to replicate the space effects of 2001. So far, meh.
16:00 – Admiral Kirk and Scotty just had a heart to heart about a woman named Nogura (?) and getting control of the Enterprise back. It was, awkward bro-bonding.
17:11 – And now we’re getting our first view of the new and improved Enterprise in dock. The way Kirk is looking at “her” I’m guessing it’s a good thing we can only see him from the waist down in this little pod ship they’re in.
18:22 – They are really laying it on thick with the orchestral arrangement here. This moment! Is! A! Big! Deal!
20:14 – And we are still circling the Enterprise…
20:43 – And finally, we have docking. That was a lot of pomp and circumstance.
22:15 – Wow. Who is that dude on Kirk’s right? He’s got a fivehead!
23:34 – Uh oh, about to be a Captain-off between Kirk and… Not-Kirk, played by a young Stephen Collins. IMDb says his name is Decker. I’m sticking with Not-Kirk. And given the nature of how Mr. Collins’ name was in the news a few years ago, he lucky that he’s getting that much. Also, it’s the only joke that feels safe to make with him.
24:12 – Not-Kirk is not taking news of being relieved of duty well.
25:34 – Uh oh. Something has gone wrong with the transporter! Malfunction! Malfunction! Malfunction! More signal!
26:36 – Sooooooo, the transporter made mush out of two people. “What we got back didn’t live long. Fortunately.” Sounds like one of them might have been Kirk’s Vulcan replacement from the San Fran scene.
29:00 – Kirk is addressing his crew. The Enterprise is all that stands between the this blue cloud (apparently not a nebula, sad) and its path to Earth.
30:06 – Looks like another ship is going to be vaporized by the entity at the center of the blue cloud.
32:04 – We just got introduced to a bald woman named Ilia. She’s Deltan. Is that supposed to mean something to us? Kirk tells her he has the utmost confidence in her. And her reply is that her “oath of celibacy is on record.” Wait, what??? Not-Kirk is still salty with Kirk.
33:14 – Bones McCoy! That’s a heckuva beard. Bones, apparently out of service, is not happy about being brought back in.
33:55 – “I need you… Damn it, Bones, I need you. Badly!” Kirk extends his hand. I’m guessing McCoy isn’t going to pull out the “I’m getting too old for this sh*t” line here, but it would be awesome if he did.
34:08 – “Permission to come aboard?” That was a letdown.
40:23 – After finally launching the ship, Kirk just got greedy and ordered warp drive engagement before the ship was ready and created a wormhole. Now everybody’s faces are blurry, because WORMHOOOOOLE!
41:37 – This is getting trippier by the second. Everyone’s speech is slowed down and slurred. I’d love to see how this was acted at full speed.
42:30 – Warp is down.
46:28 – Oh, Not-Kirk and Ilia have more of a shared history than they both implied on the deck. Maybe that’s why she threw out the chastity non-sequitor.
48:00 – It’s possible that Kirk’s ego is endangering this mission. My gut tells me that he will ultimately prevail though. Call it a hunch.
49:42 – Spock just arrived and Jim is a little too happy to see him. He literally can barely contain himself. Spock however, is not one for feel good moments. He gave literally everyone the cold shoulder.
52:00 – Warp is back.
53:00 – We’re getting a scene with just Kirk, Spock, and McCoy catching up. Shatner I wearing an unfortunately tight-fitting white shirt that has short sleeves that are too short. You shouldn’t wear a shirt like that unless you have tickets to the gun show. William Shatner most certainly does not.
54:15 – So Spock has sensed this entity moving toward Earth and that was the consciousness that disrupted his Kolinahr. Sensed it with what? The Vulcan Force? I don’t recall that being a thing.
55:53 – The Enterprise is face to face with the… blue cloud! *Dun dun dunnnn!* And Kirk’s decision based on the fates of other ships is literally to do nothing. He defers to Not-Kirk and they’re going into the cloud.
58:09 – Spock is using the Force. The ship is being his by the same plasma burst that vaporized all of the other ships and the Enterprise… ABSORBS the attack, and takes half damage because of their new and improved shields.
1:02:02 – Kirk just tried to get all philosophical when Not-Kirk said that entering the cloud was an “unwarranted gamble.” His response, “How you do define unwarranted?” in a mysterious way.
1:03:45 – Every major cast member is being given a reaction shot to what they are seeing as they enter the blue cloud. Some of these reaction faces are priceless. I love unintentional comedy. Sulu, BIG GULP!
1:06:25 – And at the center of this blue cloud seems to be some kind of… ship? Kirk just calls it the alien.
1:09:45 – They just did a tracking shot that was about a full minute long. Yeesh.
1:11:10 – More tracking shots. This movie has a lot of filler. And there is still an hour left. Hoo boy.
1:12:17 – Weird translucent balls with pulsating light in them.
1:13:11 – A light beam (The alien entity? Or it’s probe?) has appeared on the bridge.
1:15:19 – Ilia just got vaporized for no good reason by the light beam. This is how Not-Kirk defines “unwarranted.” Checkmate, Not-Kirk. Checkmate.
1:17:20 – So they’ve gone inside the blue cloud to a ship, now they’re going inside that ship? If they go inside something else next, then they are inside an Interstellar Nesting Doll.
1:20:22 – Shatner just struck the Peter Pan pose, with his fists at his waist, as he gives a command. But I can’t get past the fact that he needs about two more inches of sleeves on that shirt.
1:22:17 – Well, it looks like Ilia is back, but only in form and not in person. “You are the Kirk-unit, you will assist me.” She’s a representative and observer for “V’ger.” V’ger wants to join with the “Creator” and become one.
1:28:00 – They’re spending a lot of time just trying to job the memories of Ilia inside of this observer in Ilia form. Despite his protestations, since it killed Ilia, Not-Kirk is falling for her.
1:30:55 – Spock sneaking off to do something on his own. Going rogue.
1:32:50 – Spock has left the ship in a spacesuit trying to make contact with the alien V’Ger on his own. This seems unlikely to end well. I expect something slow and methodical. And Spock is going faster than anything in this movie outside of warp speed. Random.
1:35:35 – Spock is inside the next inner chamber. Interstellar Nesting Doll! And inside are… worlds, galaxies. V’Ger is a living machine. And this sequence really wants to be the star gate sequence in 2001. Not even close.
1:38:00 – Spock attempted a mind-meld with the living machine V’ger and it did not go well. He got spit out of the inner sanctum. Of course, Kirk was there to catch him.
1:40:29: “Jim… this simple feeling… is beyond V’Ger’s comprehension,” Spock says as he and Kirk hold hands.
1:41:48 – “A machine planet, sending a machine to Earth, looking for its Creator. It’s absolutely incredible.” This might be more compelling if I didn’t already know the ending and what V’Ger is.
1:47:50 – V’Ger is threatening to destroy Earth, but Kirk is having none of it. He outwits the Ilia probe and gets access to the next level of the Interstellar Nesting Doll.
1:53:00 – So now Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Not-Kirl and Ilia probe have to walk from the ship to the center of V’Ger across a field of hexagonal stones or something. In unfortunate brown overcoats.
155:20 – Kirk is at V’Ger. It’s a space probe. There’s a nameplate on it. V-G-E-R. But wait, there are more letters, covered in black soot or… something. V-O-Y-A-G-E-R. Voyager! V’Ger is the Voyager VI probe, launched “over 300 years ago.” So, it’s not the real Voyager, but a fictional future Voyager.
1:57:30 – Here’s where they really start to stretch it. Voyager was sent out to gain information, disappeared in a black hole, came out on the far side of the galaxy, where a world of sentient machines took it in as one of their own, and equipped it to return home, and in doing so, it amassed so much knowledge it achieved consciousness and became a living thing. See, why not just say that the sentient machines gave it consciousness?
1:59:10 – Kirk has cracked the code, but there is a problem. It’s not receiving proper radio response transmissions, and Ilia Probe is saying the Creator must join with V’Ger. Through all of this Ilia Probe and Not-Kirk are making googly eyes at one another. Are we sure she means the radio transmission?
2:01:20 – Spock is beginning to suspect that V’Ger needs more than logic and the universe and is ready to evolve. Kirk says V’Ger needs a human quality. It’s going to be love, isn’t it?
2:03:03 – Ok, so Not-Kirk is going to join with V’Ger. He’s “going to enter the final sequence manually.” I swear that’s not a euphemism. And now, 70s special effects are happening to him and I can only assume he is becoming a 2001 star child. Light is radiating off and around him, Ilia Probe joins the circle. I guess they joined.
2:06:00 – With some crummy special effects, V’Ger disappears over Earth, leaving only the Enterprise. Apparently Ilia Probe/V’Ger joining with Not-Kirk has created a new life form, even though nothing is here now but the Enterprise. It’s a new birth, a new step in our evolution. This is literally what I’ve heard people say in trying to explain the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Zero points for originality, Star Trek!
2:07:02 – Kirk makes the decision to list Lieutenant Ilia and Captain Not-Kirk not as casualties, but “missing.”
2:07:45 – So, after saving the Earth from being vaporized by a returning Voyager probe that has achieve sentience, Kirk just decides that instead of debriefing, to just take the Enterprise for a stroll, “out there. Thataway.” Because you can just do that on a whim, apparently.
2:08:32 – A placard comes up saying “The human adventure is just beginning.” Ha. The people making this movie thought of it far higher than they actually should have. And now the credits are rolling. Thankfully. This movie was just over two hours long, but between pauses to write and to catch some information, it took me nearly four hours to complete. I hate you, Greg. I’m glad this is over. It’s not the worst viewing experience of my life. But it was miles from being worthwhile. However, there were also some highlights, including the people being molecularly massacred by the transporters. Not-Kirk and Ilia’s constant googly eyes. The (probably unintentional) homo-erotic subtext between Kirk and Spock. The increasingly unfortunate late 70s influence on the “futuristic” uniforms. Above all, though, my favorite was V’Ger being an Interstellar Nesting Doll.
Overall though, what I read of this initially being intended to be a TV movie meant to re-launch the TV series makes sense. At times it did have a feel of the original TV series while simultaneously feeling a little too TV-ish and less feature film material in some places. I still maintain that despite this not being a good movie that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is the worst of the Star Trek franchise. But that’s just going from memory of seeing it as a kid. Also, I still don’t know what a Deltan is and can’t be bothered to look it up.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars