Long after the original Star Trek television series went off the air during the 1960s, fan devotion kept the spirit of Gene Roddenberry’s franchise alive and well, straight into the 1970s. Eventually, Roddenberry thought it was time to revisit a follow-up series that would be called Star Trek: Phase II, with a pilot scheduled to shoot.
Eventually, the idea was scrapped in favor of a feature film that brought back the crew of the fabled starship Enterprise for a big-screen treatment. It remains as controversial today as it did back then, and is notable for how many weird plot holes and nonsensical story devices used to bring it to life. While a visual and technical masterpiece, Star Trek: The Motion Picture deserves scrutiny for a laundry list of things that just don’t make sense.
While Star Trek: The Motion Picture was largely panned by critics and fans, there’s an argument to be made that there’s quite a good movie in there, buried underneath the fluff. Part of the problem involves succumbing to the trappings of 1970s sci-fi cinema clichés, which usually involve a hefty dose of artsy pretentiousness.
This film is no different, and it plays out in all the wrong ways, beginning with an agonizingly slow first act that spends more time gawking at the exterior of the Enterprise in space dock than it does setting up the story. In fact, the Enterprise doesn’t even get underway until 36 minutes after the film begins.
The Motion Picture kicked off a rather hilarious plot device that would end up getting recycled countless times throughout subsequent sequels. Whenever a catastrophe looms on the horizon, the Enterprise seems to be the only ship in range capable of intercepting and dealing with it. By the time Star Trek V rolled around, this plot device had worn itself out, and then some.
It’s ironic that for an organization comprised of hundreds of starships deployed all over the mapped galaxy that only one would end up being in range during a major threat. Even if that were so, there should be at least several others who could provide backup by jumping to maximum warp, even if they arrived a little late.
While the V’ger threat did appear out of nowhere, giving Starfleet little time to react, it seems odd that they would have given Kirk command of the Enterprise over the authority of its current Captain, without even consulting him first. Kirk arrives, approaches Captain Will Decker, and gives him the news in blunt fashion.
Understandably, Decker is rather upset. Anyone would be, especially given that Starfleet saw fit to dismiss going through proper channels and delivering the orders to Decker, prior to Kirk’s arrival. It could be argued that Kirk’s rank of Admiral would kill two birds with one stone, but the suddenness seems rather odd, especially given that Kirk himself lobbied hard for the assignment.