ACT II: In which the episode begins, the plot begins, and I make up a bunch of words and correct even more typos.
The Enterprise meets up with the cloud, and Kirk is very adamant about not performing any tactical actions whatsoever. This is a correct action for Kirk to take: they know there’s literally nothing their shields or weapons could do against the thing, but Spock can sense it, because he has a telepathic mind with a human connection. Which at least explains why none of the other Vulcans sensed it. Spock detects not only that it’s trying to communicate with them but also how to properly do so, and just in the nick of time.
I have to ask – what exactly is being represented by this iTunes visualization/acid trip? They’re going through an energy cloud for several minutes, which puts them at about warp 3, or 27C. It takes them about five minutes to get to The Machine. Kirk decides to pull up alongside it and skim the thing. Lots of really cool visuals here in this enormous, clearly alien artifact. Plasma effects, Geiger-esque surface knobblies, even the curves look nonhuman. The movie is a contemporary of Alien, and this definitely has something of that look about it.
Suddenly, the intruder alert alarm goes off a full five seconds before a solid beam of light appears on the bridge and starts playing over all the consoles. They try not to interfere with it until it starts reading their databanks, and then Spock smashes the console so it lightnings him and disintegrates the hot Deltan chick. You’d think Decker would be more broken up about that since they were, at the very least, fuckbuddies back when he was stationed there. We could be charitable and say that he’s got bigger things to worry about, or we could assume that captains of the Enterprise are just not destined to keep a girlfriend.
Spock gets arrested mid-sentence by some new activity from the probe – it materialized Ilya in Kirk’s shower, naked and with a light bulb in her neck. She/it says it’s sent by V’ger. It mentions that it was given the form of Ilya to “facilitate interaction with ‘the carbon-based units infesting Enterprise.” Which gives us a clue, that the entity considers Enterprise the primary unit in the partnership. What’s important, however, is that it was constructed to be a perfect mechanical duplicate of Ilya, down to eye moisture. Given how she looks at Decker (and how Decker looks at her) it looks like they’re going to try to test other forms of moisture as well.
So, to try to stop it from vaporizing everybody and everything in the world, they attempt to resurrect the memories of being Ilya. Meanwhile, Spock steals and goes EVA in the worst-designed thruster pack ever. He shoots through at emergency speeds, flies through a hologram of everything V’ger has ever seen. He tries to mind meld and goes into overload, but at least he learns the important things needed to advance the plot.
V’ger is from a planet populated by living machines, but it doesn’t know what friendship is. Psh, More organist propaganda. What’s really compelling is that V’ger is asking the fundamental questions of life. “Who am I? What is my purpose? Is this all there is?”
V’ger is attempting to find its creator on Earth. Hey, remember “The Changeling” where the Earth probe Nomad was augmented by an alien robot and then tried to find its way home and sterilized anything that got in its way? Well, V’ger is searching and when it doesn’t find an answer, it gets ready to wipe out all the carbon units on Earth. Kirk, in his inimitable fashion, manages to talk it down and negotiate an audience with the central core of V’ger. It creates a habitable environment so the away team – Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Decker, and Ilya, can wear their suede windbreakers and walk up to the one piece of tech that looks nothing like the pseudo-organic surroundings – a big satellite dish with a power source and a plaque that’s rusted over. Voyager 6.
So, the Voyager 6 was launched 3 centuries ago, which means that it absolutely had to have fallen into a wormhole, because otherwise, at speeds not even approaching relativistic ones, Voyager could not possibly have met anyone aside from Earth’s nearest neighbors. Apparently, Voyager fell into a black hole and appeared on the machine planet, where they took pity on it and gave it a ship about a hundred kilometers long to o home with.
Kirk figures everything out and transmits the acceptance codes, but apparently those circuits are burned out and rotted away. Voyager did it intentionally so that its creator would have to come to it. Ilya is actually doing a fairly good job of putting a human expression on the motivations of a hyper-advanced machine intelligence. It demands integration with humanity. It’s fortunate that its currently wearing the body of Decker’s girlfriend. He disappears in a cloud of sparkles. Astute viewers may recognize that this may not be fundamentally different from how a transporter works. Of course, it still disassembles a metric megafuckton of mass and just vanishes, with an energy output that must reach the septillions of joules. Still, it does so in an orderly fashion, so as not to kook alive every living thing beneath.
That was honestly a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Star Trek: The Motion Picture has some pacing problems but it is, ultimately, a watershed in visual and engineering design for the Star Trek you know and, presumably, love.
Special thanks once again to my whisky sommelier Jeremy, as well as his wife Victoria for an excellent night of Star Trek, booze, and Indian food. May the Great Bird of the Galaxy light your way.