Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, November 30, 2015

"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (Part II)

"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (Part II)
Original Theatrical Release Date: December 7, 1979
Rating: G
Stardate: 7410.2

Recap from last week:

It's two and a half years after the ending of the original five-year mission, and Kirk is now an admiral. Bones retired, Spock went off to Vulcan to study kolinahr. And everybody else is doing their own thing in Starfleet. Several have gotten promotions, like Christine, who is now Dr Chapel. (Seriously: thank you for that, Star Trek.)

So a couple of Klingon cruisers get themselves blown to bits while exploring some blue cloud thing out in space, and when a human space station nearby gets sight of said cloud-thing, they call Earth, as that's where it's headed. Kirk is given command of the newly-refitted and commissioned Enterprise, where he quickly and dickishly demotes Captain Decker to his first officer. Bones is called out of retirement. There's a new girl at the helm, a Deltan called Ilia, and she and Decker used to knock boots, but don't anymore. That'll come up later. The crew tries to chase the cloud-thing down. Meanwhile, Spock is told that the answers he is looking for are not on Vulcan, but out in space, and that he needs to go there to find himself. This is good, as Vulcans are apparently just as racist as humans. He tracks the ship down and reinstates himself as science officer. It's only my love for Spock as a character that keeps me from pointing out what a dick move that is.
No, never mind. That was still a dick move.

So they track the thing down. Spock admits that he can communicate with it. They fly inside. Terrible late-seventies CGI shows us every freaking layer of the cloud thing. In the middle is the world's largest model of... something. It's mechanical, as the ship flies over a never-ending landscape of machinery, and we finally reach some place where the machine-thing sort of swallows them. The machine scans the bridge. It kills Ilia.
And that's where I left off. The original film was like three hours long, and they kindly cut it down to two hours and fifteen minutes, which is fortunate for me, because it takes me eight hours to slog through one of this crap.


So here we are, inside the gaping maw of this thing, and they're trapped like space rats. Ilia is gone, but Decker seems angry about that for only a few minutes. I get that he's supposed to be professional and crap, but I've seen him vent his spleen on Kirk a few times now, so continuing to be upset with him would not be out of line here.
Spock says that all of their scanners are bouncing back at the the ship. They're not getting any info from the alien machine thing.

Then he stares off into space, and the intruder alert goes off. Kirk and Spock rush to deck five, calling for Security Re... whatever color they wear now. They burst into some quarters, and Kirk opens what I guess is the sonic shower, and hey - Ilia's back.
She addresses Kirk as the "Kirk Unit" and says she was programmed by V'ger (Veejur) to observe the Enterprise. Her voice has a weird, remixed quality to it which simultaneously sounds like terrible early eighties technology, but is also kind of cool. He turns off the shower, and she somehow gains a pair of heels and a tiny dress with a sci-fi bad guy collar attached. Bones rushes in, and Kirk asks him to scan her with a tricorder.
Bones says she's a machine, and Spock corrects him with the term "probe."

Between these new jammy-like uniforms and her bathrobe-esque dress, it appears
to be bedtime at the Starfleet dorms.

She tells them that Ilia no longer exists in her regular form, and that V'ger gave her this form to communicate with "the carbon-based units."
Oh, my holy hell.
Look at the new security uniforms.

Kirk asks Ilia what V'ger wants from Earth, and she gives him a tautology: V'ger is going to Earth to join with the Creator. The Creator is the one who created V'ger. So we still don't know who V'ger or the Creator are. Thanks, Ilia.
They convince her to go with them to sick bay, so they can checked her out. Dr Chapel tells them that the probe has recreated Ilia in every way possible, while still remaining a machine. Decker comes in to stare at her, all doe-eyed.
"Dec-ker," she says when he steps up to the table.
Spock points out that she did not call him "the Decker unit."
Kirk grabs Decker by the arm, and they leave sick bay.
A brief discussion occurs in the hallway between Decker, Kirk and Spock. Decker is squeamish that the probe copied Ilia and took her form, but Kirk points out that the Ilia probe is their best bet to fixing the situation, and that, as a guy who banged Ilia, Decker is the right dude for the job.
Ilia bursts through the sick bay door like the motherfucking Kool-Aid man. "I'm done, son." She points at Kirk. "You're gonna help me."
"You should be helped by Decker," suggests Kirk. "He's waaaay more efficient than I am."

Ten years after TOS, and they're still making the female guest stars were those
Lucite high heels. Did they dig them out of storage for old times' sake?

Kirk's Log 7414.1: "We're like, four hours out from Earth. Meanwhile, Bones and I are watching Decker and Ilia on closed circuit television in my quarters. The first officer and a hot android are walking around the ship, talking about which other vessels were named Enterprise. This is the worst porno ever."

Decker and Ilia go to the rec area, and Decker shows the probe girl Ilia's favorite game. He asks what kinds of recreational activities the people on her ship enjoy, and she says she doesn't recognize those words. Ilia starts to play the game with Decker, and they share a moment, but then it's gone. Bones and Kirk are disappointed because they were hoping that Decker could draw out the memories  of being humanoid that Ilia probably has buried somewhere in her programming.

There's a weird creepy/hopeful moment here. Ilia tells Decker that when she has finished studying the humans, they'll all be converted into data patterns, like herself. Decker briefly freaks out about this, but then tells Ilia that if he draws out her humanoid memories, she might be able to understand the carbon-based units better. This is actually a really nice bit of acting here. Decker (played by Stephan Collins) doesn't have a line after Ilia says everyone is about to become alien androids, but you can see his face transition from "OMFG, we're doomed" to "Shit, I just had the best idea!"
Ilia agrees to his proposal.

Now we get a brief scene where Spock approaches a crew member from behind and pinches him. This whole scene unintentionally has a skeevy vibe about it. Firstly, when Spock enters the room, the crewman is wearing a uniform in an unfortunate color. He looks freaking naked. And Spock is creeping, so he looks hella skeevy too. Toss in "something bad is quietly happening" music. 

When the dude is getting pinched, he doesn't just drop to the ground. He turns his head slowly to look at Spock, revealing a big ol' pornstache and a horrified look, like he's pretty sure Spock wants to use him to reenact some scenes from "Plato's Stepchildren". Then they both sink below camera-level, which looks even more skeevy. What the hell kind of intergalactic after school special is this? It's creepy enough that I don't really give a shit if Spock is up to something.

I guess Decker and Ilia are in her quarters with Chapel and Bones, and Chapel puts this headpiece on Ilia's head and says that she used to wear it on Delta. Ilia slips back into her old personality, and she touches Decker's face and calls him Will. He looks about ready to slide his hand up under her tiny bathrobe, but then Bones cockblocks him by reminding Decker that Ilia is an android, and that he probably shouldn't screw her. That's kind of rich, Bones. You've been all over the galaxy and you've seen nothing but fuckable androids.
Decker resigns himself to asking Ilia what the creator is. She replies that V'ger doesn't know.

Now we find out what Spock was up to. He's doing a space walk in a stolen suit, and I guess that Pornstache's job was to guard the spacesuits. The sphincter thing in front of the E keeps opening and closing a little bit, and he intends to fly the rockets strapped to his butt straight through there. He's recording audio to be sent back to the ship. Also, I can't help but think that the people making this movie thought they were being clever by making the spacesuit red.

On the bridge, Uhura says that reports are starting to come through from Starfleet, and it says the V'ger cloud is getting closer to Earth. Chekov reports that a thruster suit is missing, and I guess they assign those to people, because when he says it's number four, Kirk is all "It's Spock!" I guess he also memorized the suit numbers. He starts to tell Chekov to bring Spock back in, but instead has him get a fix on the science officer's location. 
Meanwhile, Spock fires the thrusters, goes through the sphincter, and ends up in what looks like more empty space with some kind of Death Star in it. He thinks this is what V'ger's home system looks like.

He goes through that crackly-box thing (which he describes as some kind of tunnel full of plasma-based energy), and on the other side are more planets and what I can only describe as Georgia O'Keefe's brief foray into sci-fi painting.

He flies through the space vaj as well, noting that he is convinced that all of this is V'ger, and that they are in a living machine. No shit, Spock. Are you just now arriving at the party? Then we get to this, and I thought at first that it was some huge Buddha statue, but when we get closer, it turns out to be Ilia's body.

I have no idea how or why it became so huge, but Spock decides that the red sensor button on her neck is important, and he tries to mind-meld with it. Both of his hands fit easily on the red button, which tells you approximately how large her body is, or how small his miraculously became. This mind-melding thing is a dumb move, as a series of images flash through his mind while he screams.

Kirk puts on a spacesuit and ventures out, presumably to find his friend, but it's unnecessary, as the Vulcan comes floating out of the sphincter, unconscious.
Later, in sick bay, Chapel scans his brain and says he has neural trauma from connecting with V'ger. He seems to awake but unresponsive. Bones and Kirk are looking at brain scans on a monitor and talking about the sheer power of V'ger on a humanoid brain. Then Spock chuckles very quietly, and they go to his side. Now he's perfectly lucid.
He says he saw V'ger's planet, and everything was a living machine. And that even though V'ger has all the knowledge in the universe, it lacks knowledge of interpersonal relationships.
"This," he says, grabbing Kirk's hand in a bro-clasp.

Then he says that V'ger is having an existential crisis, asking why it cannot seem to be more. This should cheer up Kirk. All that guy ever does when he encounters an out of control conscious machine is give it an existential crisis. The job has already been done for him! Hooray!
Uhura calls Kirk to let him know that Starfleet has sent them info on V'ger. The cloud is gone, and it is sending signals to Earth. Our boys rush to the bridge, followed by Decker and the Ilia probe.
Spock says the signal is binary and being sent by radio. Right now, people of Earth are tapping their music players and cursing Pandora for switching their stations from Queen to V'ger.
Ilia says the message is being sent to the Creator.

When the Creator doesn't answer V'ger's signal, V'ger gets pissed and fires off some thing that knocks out global defense systems. Then it fires more of those lightning bolt things that it used to fry the Klingons, only this time, they split into smaller parts and surround the planet.
Ilia tells Kirk that the carbon-based units are infestations of the Creator's planet, and are interfering with the Creator, just as the carbon-based units infest the Enterprise and interfere with it.
Bones gets it. "Hey, Jim. V'ger's creator is a machine."
Spock calls Kirk over, and Bones and Decker step forward as well.
"V'ger is a little kid," says Spock. "It's growing and learning, and it knows it needs stuff, but not what it needs. I think we should treat it like a kid."
Okay, shades of "The Squire of Gothos."
Bones sarcastically suggests spanking V'ger.

Who invited you to this BroTP, Decker?

Without actually telling anyone his plan, Kirk turns and tells Ilia that he knows why the Creator has not answered. When she demands to know why, he responds by holding the information hostage... information that he probably doesn't have. He wants V'ger to get rid of the lightning bolt satellites. She refuses and repeats her request. He responds by telling everyone to secure their stations and get the hell off the bridge. The V'ger sphincter shoots lightning at the E, and Bones tells Spock that his child is throwing a tantrum.

Ilia and Kirk go twelve rounds about removing the orbiting bomb things and killing all the carbon units and disclosing information about why the Creator doesn't answer. She finally agrees to remove the bombs if Kirk will give her the info she wants. 
Oh, damn. She called your bluff, Kirk. Now you have to make something up. 
Bones quietly tells Kirk that he thinks V'ger probably has a centralized brain location, and Kirk informs Ilia that he'll only tell V'ger the answer, not her.
She turns to the viewscreen, and the sphincter opens up and tractors them in.
Once again, everyone is dependent on Kirk pulling something out of his ass at the last minute.

So the only ones left on deck and in the lift are the OG bridge crew, new main
character Decker... and some tall drink of NPC.

Kirk calls the bridge crew back in, then he calls Scotty and tells him to execute order 2005 on his command. When Scotty shuts off the comm link, a chick in Engineering is used for exposition.
"Why has the captain ordered self-destruction?"
"He thinks that when we go, the V'ger thing will go, too."

On the bridge, Kirk and Bones approach Spock, who is being still and quiet. When he swivels around in his chair, he's got a single tear running down his cheek. he is crying for V'ger, because V'ger is similar to himself when he came on board. He tells them that V'ger is searching for more... basically, God. V'ger wants to ask the Creator that same question that everyone has: "Why am I here?"
Spock has found his own answer, but V'ger has not.

They egt to what is supposedly the big V itself, and Chekov reports that a pocket of gravity and oxygen has formed around the E. Kirk takes his usual compliment of Spock and Bones, but also Ilia and Decker as well. They take some kind of lift up onto the saucer section, then V'ger builds a path from itself to the ship.

So they follow the V'ger brick road to the center of everything, and this is what's in the middle:

They scramble down to the centerpiece, and Kirk finds a nameplate on the side that says V (black crud) GER. He rubs at the black crud until he can see that it actually says "Voyager 6." Our boys string together some exposition based on what they guess to be the whole story: NASA launched the Voyager series 300 years earlier, and it fell into a black hole. It got spit out the other side, where it encountered the planet with the living machines. They built it a ship so that it could continue its mission of collecting data and learning, and sent it back on its merry way. In the meantime, it amassed so much data, it gained consciousness.

Ilia re minds Kirk that V'ger still needs an answer, and he in turn calls Uhura and asks her to look up info about Voyager 6. Bones says that V'ger just wants to transmit back to NASA all the information it has gathered.
Oh, hey. Looks like everyone dies in 300 years because the numbnuts government killed NASA in the early twenty-first century. Way to go government. You've doomed us all.
"So hey," Kirk tells V'ger. "Looks like we are the Creators."
"NO, that's bullshit," Ilia protests. "Carbon-based units aren't true life-forms."
You know, that's the third or fourth time you've said that, Ilia. Apparently, you're just as racist as Vulcans.
Uhura transmits the sequence for V'ger to transmit the info back to Earth, but nothing happens.  Spock jimmies open a panel and sees that V'ger has fried its own antenna relay. It wanted the Creator to show up in person with the final sequence.
"It wants to touch God?" Bones asks. "V'ger is gonna be in for one hell of a disappointment."

Okay, are you paying attention, Star Trek? Because you just had Bones say something important that you should take to heart: You Cannot. Have Your Characters. Meet God. 
It Will. Go. Badly. 
I know Gene Rod really has a boner for this idea, but audiences are never going to buy whatever you come up with. They're gonna walk out of that theater either being let down by what you translated onto the screen, or they're going to scream blasphemy. Leave it alone. Battle some Klingons or something. Talk about how war is bad. Hell, you can even convince me that historical figures are actually aliens. But no more God talk, okay?

So Will Decker has this goofy smile on his face because he's pretty sure that V'ger wanting to join with the Creator means that he gets to bang Ilia again. They have a BroTP meeting, and Spock says that V'ger has gathered all the logical information that it can, and now it needs something more than logic. It needs human qualities. Decker is practically fishing in his pocket for condoms.
He runs to the open panel. Kirk tries to follow, but Ilia pushes him the fuck away, and he flies back like a rag doll.

He fixes the fried wires and keys in the final sequence for the information transmission. Kirk tries to talk him out of it, but Decker says he really, really wants this. Ilia looks like she's going to eat him off-camera.
Wait, did we switch franchises? Am I watching Star Trek, or X-Men?

This cage of light surrounds Decker, and Ilia steps into it.

Then they vanish into a blinding light, and the whole Voyager mechanism lights up while the music swells.
"Let's GTFO!" yells Bones, who is wisely vacating the premises. 
Spock turns to follow, but Kirk pauses like he's watching a staticky VHS tape of a guy delivering a pizza to a sorority full of lingerie-clad girls. Spock has to yank him away by the arm.

"But -- fuckable android!"

They run up the side of the enclosure and down the brick road. Kirk keeps pausing to look back, because if he's not getting laid, he at least wants to watch.
Everything starts to light up, and throb and explode and stuff. I guess it was good for V'ger, too.

When the light clears, the E is left in orbit over Earth.

Back on the bridge, Kirk asks Spock if they just witnessed the birth of a new life-form.
Spock replies that they did, which is interesting, because nothing remains of said life-form.
They discuss how V'ger will now have to deal with being part-machine and part-human, and how to deal with the pitfalls that come with being human... if V'ger actually exists on some plane.

Uhura says that Starfleet wants to know the stats - casualties and vessel reports. Kirk starts to tell her to report the casualties of Captain Decker and Lieutenant Ilia, but then he backtracks and tells her to list them as missing. Okay, that's a kind of a shitty thing to do to their families. You're just going to list them as MIA? Really? How about neither? Just report to Starfleet that they became part of a new life-form, and mark it with an asterisk giving the story.

Because it's the end of the film and we want all hands on deck, the lift opens, and Scotty and Dr Chapel enter the bridge. Scotty says he can have Spock back on Vulcan in a few days, but Spock replies that this is not necessary, as he is not going back to Vulcan.

Kirk orders Sulu to take the ship away at warp speed, and the navigator asks for a direction. He waves his hand.
And we get another series of "loveletter" shots of the ship before she warps away into the distance.

So this is one of those "middle of the road" productions for Star Trek - not great, but not terrible, either. The story was pretty good, but far too long. Before some serious editing was done, the whole thing clocked around three hours in length. This finished version is just over two hours. But when it all came down to the bottom line, the cast, audience and critics were in agreement: the film was too slow. It's great that we see some scenes of the ship, which fans had not seen on-screen for ten years or so. And it's fabulous to catch up with what some of the crew were doing in the meantime. And I actually really liked the model-work done here. But some scenes just ran too long. Namely, the scenes were the camera explores parts of V'ger were absolutely dragging. I loved that they really wanted us to see the mechanism and the details that the model crew put in, but one can only take so many back and forth actions between "here's more of V'ger" and "here is the crew watching the screen with shots of V'ger." I feel like they easily could have edited out another 30 minutes and still had a good film. A bit of V'ger trivia for you: the model was so big that they were still building one end of it while filming the other.

The ending was pretty good, with Decker and Ilia getting back together to create new life (bow-chicka-bow-wow), but in truth, that was a last-minute write-up. They kept re-writing the ending because nothing ever worked. At one point, The Shat and Leonard Nimoy approached the writers and suggested that V'ger was a child, so the E crew should treat it like one, and that that should comprise the ending. that part was written into the script, but did not make a strong enough ending on its own, so they continued writing. Frankly, what they ended up with was not too shabby. 
So, how does it measure up?
Science-fiction: some good sci-fi here. Real-life Voyager probes were launched in 1977 (though there were only ever two) for the sake of collecting information and transmitting it back to Earth. The addition to the story of "what if there were more, and one was lost, found, and returned a beefier unit much later?" is actually pretty interesting. And the actual science didn't suck. They never did or said anything that made me frown at the screen and declare it to be crap.
Interpersonal relationships: A tiny bit lacking here. The difference between films and television series is that, in a series, far more time is available to build those relationships. In terms of simple math, they got one hour each week, and seventy-nine over the course of the original live series. Here, they get just over two hours, but must devote quite a bit of time to the story. We don't get to see much of our OG bridge crew interacting, especially as they're now joined by a bunch of other NPC crew members. And Spock was absent for at least the first part of the film, so we don't get the time for a whole lot of Spockoy banter, either. There will be time in later films for that, but it wasn't something they could bank on, as there was no assurance that they get a "next" film.

Camp: very little, actually. A few campy moments, but the film was more serious than that most of the time.
Costumes: I find it interesting that costume designers ditched the old tunics for the women, deeming them to be "sexist"... and then they elected to clad the Ilia-probe in less. Speaking of costumes, that belt-thing in the middle of the shirt? It's supposed to be taking medical measurements of the wearer. And so many costume changes occurred (light blue, white, short-sleeve, long-sleeve) because they figured that, in the future, everyone would wear disposable clothing. That's not terribly green of you, Star Trek. 

Recycling: there were quite a few themes that got recycled from TOS. Sharp viewers pointed out the comparisons between this film and the episode "The Changeling". Actually, my favorite nickname for this film is "Where Nomad Has Gone Before." This makes me laugh and want to high-five whoever came up with that. Also, Uhura's earpiece is the same one from TOS. They forgot to make a new one, so someone went back to the old props department and dug it out of a box. Perhaps the biggest recycling of all were the characters of Will Decker and Ilia. The writers were so taken with their cut-short off-world romance that they became Will Riker (seriously? They couldn't put more effort into that?) and Deanna Troi on TNG.

Other interesting trivia:
-This film marked the first time that McDonald's featured a movie-based Happy Meal.
-Star Wars came out shortly before this film, and people began comparing the two franchises (for a more recent example of such a thing, please see Harry Potter vs Twilight). Producers were disgusted, and insisted that Star Wars was fluff, and that they were going to make a "serious sci-fi" film. They even created some anti-Star Wars movie posters. (Though I'm fucked if I can find it now. Let that be a lesson to you, kids: if you see something, bookmark that shit, cuz you won't find it later.)
-This is the only Star Trek film to get a G rating.
-This is the first time in Star Trek history that 23rd-century Earth is depicted. We see a backdrop of Christopher Pike's hometown in the background of a scene from "The Cage," but that background city was created by the aliens who were keeping him captive, and was not actually the city.

A Klingon peddled the Star Trek Happy Meals.


I've tried chocolate teas before, and found them to be a tad lacking. This isn't to say that the makers were lacking - they had clearly tried their best - but transferring the taste of chocolate over to non-chocolate things (like soda) never seems to end well.
"Do you want hot chocolate tea?" my sister asked this week.
I hesitated. "Okay?" and was presented with a mug in the shape of what I'm told is a World of Warcraft fish.
And here's the thing: I was pleasantly wrong.
The Teavana White Chocolate Peppermint tea is delicious.
The peppermint is not overpowering (always a plus in my book), and the creaminess makes me think that actual pieces of white chocolate were tossed in (I can't find an actual list of ingredients to confirm this or not). It really and truly tastes like an cup of  hot chocolate with peppermint added, only a bit lighter.
I asked for, and received, a second cup. Then I felt like an a-hole because I had consumed the last of my sister's pricey-ass tea.
This is good stuff. They appear to be sold out online, but she got it in-store, so they may have more there.

Monday, November 23, 2015

"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (Part 1)

"Star Trek: The Motion Picture"
Original Theatrical Release Date: December 7, 1979
Rating: G
Stardate: 7410.2

Okay, bear with me, cuz it gets complicated fast here.
So in 1976, it was proposed that they do a film called Star Trek: Planet of the Titans. Basically, the TOS characters get into it with the Klingons, and there's some stuff about an extinct mythical race called the Titans. They end up going back in time to an Earth thousands of years in the past, and after the crew teaches primitive Terrans about fire, they figure out that they happen to be the mythical Titans. The project got the axe in '77.
That same year, an idea was floated to turn "Titans" into a reboot of TOS. They called it "Star Trek: Phase II," and they were going to reuse a bunch of the same costumes and stuff from TOS. Paramount was aiming to start a new television network (which much later ended up becoming Fox), and they wanted to do another Star Trek, because why the hell not? That series had a built-in fandom that did not show signs of fading. They brought most of the principle players back, with the exception of Leonard Nimoy, who felt he got the shaft on royalties and was not interested in playing with CBS or Paramount anymore.

David Gatreaux as Xon

They also brought three new crew members aboard, including William Decker, son of Commodore Decker, the dude from the TOS windsock episode. Also included: Ilia, a Deltan; and Xon, the young, Vulcan first officer who would replace Spock. These characters were cast, and scripts drawn up, the first of which was called "In Thy Image" and which was to be a feature-length pilot. But near the end of 1977, they again gave the project the axe, and decided to do "In Thy Image" as a film. Two scripts that had been written for Phase II were recycled and used in TNG instead ("The Child" and "Devil's Due"). The remainder of the Phase II scripts were later used to make a fan series originally called Star Trek: New Voyages but the name was later changed to Star Trek: Phase II. So now, when you look up Star Trek: Phase II, the search engine asks if you want the defunct series that never aired in the late seventies, which came from the ideas of one movie proposal, and ended up becoming the idea for another film; or if you're looking for the fan-made series from the early 2000's that was made with scripts from the aforementioned scrapped late-seventies show.
Confused yet? I did warn you.

Early poster for TMP, utilizing Phase II concept art

The director of this new film, Robert Wise, was told by his wife that Star Trek is not Star Trek sans Spock, so Wise went to Nimoy with a check in hand for the amount of the lost royalties. Nimoy joined the cast, which meant that they no longer needed Xon the younger Vulcan, and actor David Gatreaux received the part of Commander Branch instead. Xon's fascination with humans was then recycled into a character trait for TNG's Data.
Let's check back in with Gene Rod, shall we?
From early on, our boy was kind of obsessed with his characters meeting God, and we know by now that the network was not down with that idea at all. Meeting God was blasphemous, but meeting the Devil was perfectly fine, which is how two Enterprise crews meet the Horned One (TAS: "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" and TNG: "Devil's Due"). Because Star Trek is nothing if not green, Gene kept recycling this "meeting God" idea until several films and episodes had shades of the idea, and we finally got the most literal version of the story in the unfortunate-as-hell fifth film "The Final Frontier." Oh, Gene. The idea of meeting God is not going to work well, now matter how you write it.

In the meantime, dude kept getting shunted sideways out of his own projects. The networks found him difficult to work with because he wanted to retain a lot of control over his characters, and so they would give him bullshit titles like "Executive Consultant in Charge of Hanging Out in that Office Upstairs, And No You Don't Have to Take His Advice or Input Seriously."

tl:dr: film, not film. Show, not Spock. Not show, Spock. Film, not Gene. Maybe God? Definitely Chekov.


So we start out with a receding shot of space, passing stars on either side, and a selection of music known as "Ilia's Theme." Star trek was one of the few Hollywood productions, and one of the last, to include the practice of playing a minute or so of music before an "epic" film. It's a lovely selection, but I wonder what audiences were doing during that time? Were they wondering when the movie was going to start? Whispering to one another? If this was playing today, phones would be popping out.
Then we get the Paramount screen and finally the title screen, and the music switches over to what became the TNG theme.

After the rousing romp we enjoyed with the cheery TNG music, the movie then sets the mood to be a little darker and more mysterious. Then - 
fuck yeah, Klingons!

That's some iffy green-screen, but I'm shrugging it off because it's 1979, and those models are hella sweet. We get some close-up shots, which is what happens when the studio has money to spend on your production. Then we see them flying into some blue cloud thing.

We go inside one of the cruisers, where it's dark and dingy, and actually kind of the sort of ship you'd expect to see flying around in space. And these Klingons, man. I lurves me some Klingons, and we jumped light-years ahead in design with these guys. 
Gene Rod always wanted the Klingons to look more "alien" but with his crappy little budget, it wasn't possible to do anything but... well, brownface. Here, we got cranial ridges, sharpened teeth, and full-on armored uniforms. These new Klingons are awesome as hell.

I know it's not the case, but with everyone on board this ship having the same
 cranial ridges, my brains wants to declare them all clones. This film, of course,
falls before the time when they decided that cranial ridges are like Klingon

Okay, so if you go way back and read these reviews from the beginning, you'll note how baffled I was at those first Klingons. I'm pretty much a straight TNG girl, and being used to TNG-era Klingons, I could not figure out how we had gotten from TOS Klingons to TNG Klingons, because as it turned out, this was my missing link. I imagine I sounded like a full-on noob back then. Oops. Really, all I knew of it was Worf muttering "We do not discuss it with outsiders" once, which I took to be a huge cop-out and a missed opportunity for some cool backstory. There again, I had not watched any of the TOS-based shows or films, so I had no idea that a backstory actually existed, and only I was not in on the joke. Womp-womp. The backstory goes like this: Klingons posted in places very near humans, who might be coming into contact with said humans, were surgically altered to appear to be more like humans so that it might ease relations with them. The practice was later dropped when it was discovered that human would treat Klingons the same either way. Another backstory says that an illness ripped through the Klingon Empire, one that left victims deformed and ridgeless. This second backstory comes from several episodes of Enterprise. So, backstory one or backstory two, that shit gets explained either way.
Also, notice the subtitles? They're speaking Klingonese! Gene was over the idea that Klingons should speak English all the time, so he hired a linguist to invent a Klingon language. He was dissatisfied with the outcome, and Jimmy Doohan actually created the Klingonese used for this movie, coaching the actors on how to pronounce their lines just before the scene was shot.

Anyway, back to the film: our Klingons have fired torpedoes into the blue cloud thing, but were not met with success.
We switch over to some kind of station, where humans pick up what appears to be a distress call from the Klingon ships. It seems that firing weapons into the blue cloud thing was fucking dumb, as the cloud is now taking down the cruisers with lightning bolts. The commander of the remaining cruiser attempts to fire another torpedo at the approaching lightning bolt thing, but too late. The lightning bolt eats torpedoes for breakfast, and the Klingons fry.

The humans in the space station watch the cruiser disappear.
"Well, fuck."
"Um," says one girl at the control panel, "went ahead and plotted the course of that cloud. It's headed for Earth."
Weird-ass dramatic music!

Guess where we're going next? Yes, yes, yes! Vulcan!

Ack! God! Spock with long hair! No, no, no, no!

Spock is supposed to be at some monastery or something, practicing kolinahr. He approaches what I guess is a sacred area or something, and a woman in white tells him that he done good with the kolinahr. She tries to put a necklace on him, which is probably the Vulcan gold star or something, but he stops her. He looks weirded out, and she melds with him to find out what's wrong. Turns out he hasn't actually achieved kolinahr, and that the answers he needs to find are out in space. She says his human half is calling him back out there. She sort of smirks when she says it, too. Bitch. So humans are racist against Vulcans, and Vulcans are racist against humans. Spock just came out to achieve some peace, and honestly, I think he's being so attacked right now.

Also, didja notice that we got more subtitles? Yup, they're speaking Vulcan. The scene was filmed in English, but apparently it felt weird, so remember that guy they hired to create a Klingon language? He also created a Vulcan language. This time, though, the language he made worked well, and then they reordered the wording so that what they were saying in Vulcan sort of synced up to the scene as filmed in English. It's standard procedure for dubbing a lot of foreign films these days.
"Later, gator," she tells him, and she and her two boy toys take off.

We cut over to San Francisco, and the integration of flying vehicles and futuristic buildings is actually pretty fabulous.

 It's about two and half years since the end of the five-year mission, and Kirk has been promoted to admiral. He gets off a shuttle and starts a convo with another Vulcan science officer, but there's clearly some kind of stick lodged up his butt, because he's being all "I outrank you, pleb," like all admirals on this show tend to be. God, are all admirals like that IRL? Is "insertion of stick" the procedure that follows your promotion ceremony to admiral in Starfleet?

Clearly, the science officer feels the same way, because when Kirk walks off, the man cocks an eyebrow at him, which we all know is the Vulcan version of giving someone the finger.

We go up to a space station in orbit around Earth. This film clearly spent a mint on their model shops, and it shows. They obviously want to get their money's worth, so each time a model is involved, we get a slow close-up shot of it. These scenes are a little slow, but the models are really awesome, so let's check out the station:

This is where Kirk beams to. He hops off the pad and is met by a mustachioed Scotty. That 'stache is not my favorite, but that seems to be Scotty's look going forward, so I guess I don't get a vote. Let's talk about these uniforms for a sec: Kirk's is not bad. It has some accent color to it, and it's pretty straight-forward. But Scotty's is the color of muddy clay, and the uniforms for this movie were difficult to get in and out of because the shoes were attached to the pants. They seriously hired a cobbler from Gucci to come in and make the shoe-pants by hand. One stipulation that each of the cast members made when agreeing to do the second was, "Please get rid of those fucking uniforms!" 
So how did we get these, anyway? The powers that be decided that the red, gold and blue were too garish for the big screen, and that the ladies' tunics were sexist. (Really? I'm shocked.) So they switched to drab, form-fitting uniforms with "futuristic" pants-shoes. No, thank you.

As soon as Kirk sets foot in the space station, he starts bitching at Scotty, who bitches back. Seems that the E was redesigned and refitted, and they still have another 20 hours worth of work, but Kirk wants it done in twelve. Also, he's pissy because he has to be shuttled over, because the E's transporters are down.  He reveals to Scotty that they have to get the E up and running in twelve because the blue cloud thing is going to reach Earth in three days, they need to be ready. Then he tells Scotty that he managed to be reinstalled as the guy in the captain's chair. Scotty's congratulatory arm touch is so sweet that I found myself saying, "Just kiss already!" Hmmm, never really considered a Kirk-Scotty ship before now.

We get a lovely action shot next where the shuttle pod comes up on the Enterprise, still in it's docking bay, and there are multiple angles and music that I can only describe as being a "Star Trek Suite." It's slower and more nostalgic than the regular TOS theme. I think it was meant as a love letter to both Kirk and to the audience of Trek fans who had probably spent ten years waiting to see that ship again. For those who watched the animated series, the wait was closer to five, but either way, the wait is unfun. I know. I've been waiting 19 years for the third book in a trilogy to be released. After a while, you just stop hoping. As near as I can tell, the time spent between the end of TOS and the animated series is the longest between old and new Trek content that has ever occurred. People absolutely were ready to see that ship again.

While it's funny to note that here, Kirk is only being shuttled to the ship because the transporters are down, the decision was made that captains of new ships should approach them for the first time via shuttle. I think that decision was actually a good one. Not only could you get in some awesome establishing shots of the ship, but in-universe, the captain is allowed to view the ship in all its wonder before boarding. Simply beaming over means that you don't really get a look at the bigger picture.

Kirk and Scotty, dock, and Scotty is called down to Engineering right away. Kirk takes the fancy-pants lift to the bridge, which is in chaos, because they now have eight fewer hours to complete work on the thing before it goes live. He's greeted by Uhura, who is already sitting at communications.

Nichelle Nichols hated these uniforms especially, saying they "weren't Uhura."
While I agree with her, the uniform does look pretty good on her. But let's be
real: Nichelle could rock a burlap sack.
The dude in the chair behind her gets up and -


Kirk asks where Captain Decker is, and Sulu says he's in Engineering, and oh, BTW, he doesn't know that Kirk is now in charge. Sucks to be Decker. Kirk tells them to gather on deck at four am, because he's gonna tell them about the blue cloud. Ugh, I know they're running on twenty-four time-tables, but shit. I'm going nowhere at four am, unless it's to the bathroom.
Kirk climbs in the fancy lift again to go give Decker the crappy news that his command has been... commandeered.

Decker does not take the news well. He was all happy to see Kirk at first, but then Kirk is all, "You're being temporarily demoted for this mission because I have five years' experience with this ship."
"Um, it's a brand new ship?" points out Decker.
"Yeah, that's why you're the first officer," says Kirk. "Sorry," he adds.
"Lying motherfucker," says Decker. "When I got this post, you said you were jealous and wanted another commission for yourself. Well, good job, you got it."
Damn. Tell it like it is, Decker.
Kirk pulls rank and tells him to report to the bridge.

Scotty gives Kirk a sad look, but then a panel behind him explodes. Someone is trying to beam over, but there are still problems with the equipment. Scotty and Kirk run to the transporter room.
Y'all... it's Rand.
And she's not wearing that fucking wig! Yes!

A quick thing about Rand: it's no secret that she was not my favorite TOS character. But I liked Grace Lee Whitney, who seemed like a nice lady. She was well-liked by the cast and crew, and when she was let go in season one, people were never told why. Rumors surfaced about substance abuse later on. Either way, I'm actually kind of glad to see her back. As long as she doesn't fall back into her old habit of hitting on Kirk, we're good.

Kirk and Scotty try to help Rand boost the signal, but only part of the pattern gets through and Rand whispers, "Oh no, they're forming." She turns around so she doesn't have to watch. We are not so lucky. The two people beaming over become these human-shaped blobs shielded by the sparkle of the transporter, at which point they start screaming and vanish. Kirk calls Starfleet and asks if they re-materialized.
"Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long... fortunately."

So one of the people who died on the transporter pad was that Vulcan science officer that Kirk was rude to in that earlier scene at Starfleet headquarters. Kirk encounters Decker in the corridor and tells him that because no one else is available, he's going to have to double as first officer and science officer instead. Decker seems thrilled.

At four am, Kirk shows the assembled crew the footage of the Klingons getting fried by the blue cloud. He says their mission is to intercept it, and possibly take it down. At the end of the video, Epsilon 9, the station that got the footage originally, calls to tell Kirk that the cloud is some kind of energy field. and it's huge. They're under attack. The transmission starts cutting out, and when Kirk asks for an external view, it shows the cloud, the lightning effect, and someone doing a space walk who most likely got fried just after the camera shut down.

Good Lord. We're not quite a quarter of the way through this film, and we've already killed a buttload of people. Where is Bones? I need a really terrible Bones joke to get through this already-downer film.

On the bridge, Kirk has changed into the grey jumpsuit thing, which is not as nice as his admiral uniform. Uhura reports that the transporters are functioning normally again, and that replacement crew are coming onboard.
"Whoa," she says. "We're getting a Deltan navigator named Ilia."
Ilia enters the bridge, and both Sulu and Chekov look up because Persis Khambatta, the girl playing Ilia, was an Indian model and she's stunning, even with her head shaved bald.

(Fun fact: even though Khambatta was hired to play Ilia for Phase II, and knew well in advance that she would have to shave her head for the part, she was still paranoid that it would not grow back, and kept her hair in a box, insuring it "just in case." Surprise, it grew back.)

Ilia and Decker know each other, as Decker was stationed on her home planet years back. They are friendly, but then she asks why he is a commander. Kirk says he has the utmost respect for Decker, and that he feels that they will both do a good job and be professional. She takes this as a slight, and tells him sharply that her oath of celibacy is on file with Starfleet. Why? Because Deltans have sex constantly. Like, with everyone. And humans can't handle their appetites. So Deltans in Starfleet have to agree to not fuck the crew. This isn't actually discussed in the film, so maybe you're supposed to guess?
Uhura reports that the last of the crew is ready to beam up, but one of them is refusing to do so. She has the tiniest smile on her face, because we all freaking know who it is.
"Cool," says Kirk. "I'll take care of it."
He goes down to the transporter room, where four people are hopping off the pads. The last one tells him that the remaining crew member wanted to see everyone else's molecules scattered in the machine before he went. Kirk calls Starfleet to say that they're ready for the last guy to beam up.
This is what appears there.

I'm sorry, Bones. Did you fuse with a tribble in the transporter? That shit needs to go.
Seems Bones was retired or something, and got called back on reserve duty, so he's not exactly happy about being here.
"I got drafted!"
"No..." says Kirk. He admits that he requested the doctor. "Dammit, Bones! I need you! Badly!" And he extends his hand. Bones takes it, and they share a look.
Wow, all of the slash ships are out in full force with this film.
Now installed as the new doctor, he gets right back to good-naturedly bitching about everything.
"I heard Chapel is a full-fledged doctor, so I need a top-notch nurse, and I bet they changed up my whole sick bay, because engineers love to do change shit!"
And that is exactly what I needed after all that freaking death.

Annnnd, we leave.

Kirk's Log 7412.6: "In order to get to the cloud thing in good time, we have to risk warp drive before leaving the solar system."

Um... has that always been a problem? Because I feel like they've gone to warp in plenty of solar systems.
Bones enters the bridge, sans furry chin, and bitches briefly about his new sick bay. Kirk gets into it with Decker about needing warp drive now, without doing more simulations. Scotty complains that they need more simulations, too. Kirk goes a bit Veruca Salt, because he wants it now. Bones wisely tells him to STFU and let people do their jobs. But Kirk insists, and Sulu takes the ship to warp one. They go to plaid.

But then something goes wrong, and they go to... I dunno, rosette? It's actually a pretty cool effect.

So this hilarious thing happens: on the show, when something would happen, and the crew would get a rough ride, all of the actors on the bridge would shake. And they would shake the camera so it was obvious why people might be falling out of their chairs. Here, all of the actors shake and bounce in their chairs, but the camera is not shaken. It's funny to watch. It doesn't so much look like they're in for a rough ride as it looks like they're just shaking themselves.
Anyway, Kirk is looking around while his bridge crew tries to compensate for their fuck-up. It's hard to hear what they're saying because their voices are distorted and Ilia has a really thick accent, but time is apparently slowing down, and Kirk asks "Tiiiiime to impaaaaact?"
Ohhh, Kirk. You really have fucked up all the shit, haven't you?"

Okay, so I guess there's an asteroid or a potato in their stream, or something? Kirk wants to phaser it, but Decker yells, "Nooooooo, torrrrrpeeeedoes!"
They drop out of the rosette thing just before the torpedo goes off and destroys the asteroid. Everything goes back to normal. No damages, but Scotty reports that they entered a wormhole because there was an imbalance in the warp engine. Implying that Scotty and Decker were right about not going to warp without running more simulations.
Kirk asks Decker to his quarters, and Bones decides to tag along. That has to be the most awkward lift ride ever.

Kirk tries to ream Decker about counter-manding his phaser order, but Decker explains that the E was redesigned in such a way that phasers would not have worked, or could have possibly fucked up more shit.
"Oh, so you actually saved our asses..." murmurs Kirk.
"Yeah, I'm aware," Decker replies.
Kirk barks at Decker about not competing with him. Decker asks to speak freely, then points out that Kirk has not been in space for more than two years, and has no idea how this ship works. Basically, just because a ship is named "Enterprise," that doesn't mean Kirk actually knows anything about it. Kirk realizes this too, and asks quietly if Decker will subtly help him with this mission. Decker agrees, and is dismissed.
"Dude is right," says Bones.

Decker runs into Ilia in the corridor. It's obvious that there's some kind of unfinished romance between them, and he apologizes. She kind of brushes him off, cuz it's clear that she's still sore about it.

Back in Kirk's quarters, Bones accuses Kirk of getting this command assigned to him in order to avoid doing other stuff. The good doctor also thinks that Kirk will try to keep the Enterprise. Uhura calls in to say that a little shuttle wants to dock with them. Chekov thinks it's a courier. Kirk agrees to let the shuttle dock with them.
Bones says he's got his eye on Kirk.

The little shuttle docks with the E and Chekov goes to the docking doors. The computer announces that the shuttle holds one occupant, "Starfleet, inactive."
Aw, yeah! Time to get our Spock on!

What follows is hella awkward. Spock appears on the bridge and Kirk reacts in a similar fashion to that kid Peter at the end of "Homeward Bound" - hooray! His stoic retriever has returned! Unreactive, Spock says he has been monitoring their communications with Starfleet, and he knows of their engine troubles, and offers his services as science officer.
"Fuck yeah!" says Decker, because you know he never really wanted that job, anyway.
Doctors McCoy and Chapel burst onto the bridge, all smiles, and Bones exclaims, "I'm actually glad to see you!"
He just stares at them, then announces that he's going to talk to the engineer before disappearing in the lift.

And Chapel is brunette again, thank Zod.

Kirk's Log 7413.4: "Spock is helping Scotty repair the engines, so now we can get to the cloud thing while it's still more than a day away from Earth."

This time when they go to plaid, they make it all the way to warp seven without issue or without having to shake in their seats. Kirk winks at someone, I think Chekov. (Should I be shipping that, too?) Half of the bridge crew are wearing Casual Friday uniforms.

Kirk and Bones invite Spock into the captain's lounge for a bro-chat.
"So what's the deal?" asks Kirk. "You went to Vulcan to stay permanently, and to practice kolinahr, where you're supposed to learn how to remove all of your remaining emotions. But you stopped doing that to hang out with us. Why?"
Spock drops his "I'm so emotionless that I don't have to talk to anyone" schtick (which is nice, cuz that was getting old fast), and he tells them that he sensed an intelligence with perfect thought patterns out in space. He thinks the being might be the blue cloud, and that it might have the answers that he was seeking with kolinahr.
"How convenient that you were able to hitch a ride with us out to this thing," says Bones cheerfully. 
"Hey, you know, if you sense these thought patterns again, could you let me know?" asks Kirk.
Spock agrees, and leaves.
"How do you know dude won't put his own needs ahead of the ship's needs when we encounter this thing?" asks Bones. "What about any of us?"
"I don't think any of us would do that," says Kirk.

Dude, I love that ship has windows, and I love that the captain's lounge is located
close enough to the warp nacelle that you can see it out the window like that.

Uhura calls to say the cloud is three minutes away, so everyone hustles back to the bridge. She broadcasts friendship messages on all frequencies in all languages. Spock reports that they are being scanned, but Kirk says not to scan the cloud-thing back, or it might think they're being hostile. Spock says the energy is coming from the very center of the cloud, and is some kind that's unknown. Decker wants to raise shields, but Kirk thinks that might be misinterpreted as well. Spock says he thinks there's an object at the center of the cloud. Kirk decides to fly into the cloud and check out the object.
Dramatic music! Will they get fried?

Spock pauses, then says he senses the intelligence in the cloud thing.
"It's contacted us, but wants to know why we haven't answered back," he relays.
The cloud-thing fires its weapon, which Spock reports is plasma-based. Kirk orders shields up. The lightning hits the E, this time green instead of blue.

Scotty reports engine systems are overloading, and shields are hella down. Chekov's station electrifies, and he burns the crap out of his hand. The lightning stops. Chapel rushes on the bridge to treat Chekov, but Ilia says she can stop the pain.
She puts her hands on his shoulder and concentrates, and he says it feels better. It's probably because all of the blood rushed to his other head, but whatever. Christine treats his burn.

Going back over the recorded info from the encounter, Spock figures out that the message from the cloud was actually broadcast at one million megahertz, and at a rate too fast to comprehend. He is working on a way to send a message at the same speed. The cloud sends another lightning bolt. Spock manages to send a message just before it's due to hit. The lightning dissipates.
Kirk has a convo with Decker and Spock about the fact that they're going to fly into the cloud. Decker wants to use caution and not go in, Spock recommends they keep moving forward. After a few minutes' discussion, Kirk decides to keep pushing through to the middle.
They hit the perimeter and keep going.

Hey, cloud. Were you designed by the same guys who animated "The Magicks of Megas-Tu"? Cuz I'm pretty sure that the answer to that is "yes."
Then - what the hell is that?

Kirk asks Uhura to transmit pics of the "alien" back to Starfleet, but she tells him that anything she sends out is reflected back at them. He tells Sulu to take them in closer.

So then we fly over looks like random machinery for about ten minutes, in this never-ending fashion. Remember how, in Spaceballs, we fly over Spaceballs I for a million years at the start of the film, and it just keeps going on and on, and you're like, are we ever going to reach the end? This was my question for this part of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Are we ever going to reach the center or brain, or whatever we're trying to reach?

That blue light in the back is not the light at the end of the alien tunnel, just like those yellow lights in the foreground were not, either. It's just some lighted part that they'll fly over, and another light will appear on the horizon. tar Trek wants you know that the cloud-alien thingy is really big, so they'll spend ten minutes flying through computer-generated fractal patterns and call it clouds. Then they'll spend another twenty flying over random machinery. Then we hit some kind of space sphincter.

Now there's one of those annoying as hell fountain fireworks on the bridge that's too fucking bright to look at. No really, I think that might actually be the base of it on the floor in front of the viewscreen.

"Um, is that one of their crew?" asks Chekov.
"No, it's a probe," says Spock, who is scanning it.
Kirk tells the bridge crew to just let it scan the ship, and he's cool with the situation until it links itself into the computer and starts scanning through files. Then he assumes the worst and says that the alien is learning about Earth's defenses and Starfleet's secret crapola, and he wants the computer turned off. Decker tries to do it, but Spock pushes him out of the way, and does this two-handed club move to break the console. The scanner gets its revenge by attacking Spock.
Ilia stands in front of Spock. It attacks her. It attacks Spock again when he tries to protect Ilia. It attacks Decker for trying to move toward Ilia. Then it zaps her completely, and she disappears.

The scanner is gone, and so is Ilia.
"And that, you stupid asshole, is why I didn't want to come in here," Decker barks at Kirk.
Oops, now they're being pulled into the space sphincter by a tractor beam. There's no way to break free.
Once inside, the sphincter closes behind them, and now they're trapped.
What is the alien-cloud-thing? Is there a center part to it? How many licks will it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center? Can the Enterprise crew find a wise old owl in time to tell them?

Find out next week, when I watch the second half of this slow-ass movie.


I was pretty sure I had tried all of Snapple's tea selections when I came across their Peach Green Snap Tea this week. It's in one of those cans that's not quite as large as the Arizona teas, but the suggested retail price is still blatantly printed on the can as part of the design, so it'll probably fall into the same quality categories. For proof, take note of the fact that tea is listed fifth in the ingredient section. I also failed to notice that, while this tea is primarily sweetened by corn syrup, it also lists sucralose, something I steadfastly avoid because it has a weird, fakey sugar taste.
Bottom line: is it any good?
Well... it's sweet. Like, really sweet. Like sweet tea sweet, but apparently, they also make a sweet tea flavor, so I have to wonder if the sweet tea flavor just tastes like this minus the peach, or if it's actually sweeter.
Does it tastes like tea? Nope. tastes like peach. Not the gross earthy peach that I've had in some teas, but like a ripe peach. It's like peach nectar. 
If you don't like sweet, and you really just want some freaking tea, this is not your can. If you like peach flavor, this might be your thing. I'm not sure I'd buy it again, but I wouldn't say no if you offered me some like at a party.
Actually, I bet this would make a good mixer.

Animal eye doctor: "Bratty isn't going blind. He
just has eyesight similar to humans who need
Me: "I want to see Bratty in bifocals."
Everyone else: "Me too!"