Star Trek

Star Trek

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.
"Thataway."
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.









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