Star Trek: TMP questions and observations

Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies I-X' started by Gotham Central, Oct 7, 2013.

  1. Gotham Central

    Gotham Central Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I've been watching the original cut of TMP recently and I've come to appreciate it more than I did when I was younger. That said, there are some oddities that I do have questions about...

    1) Is there dialogue missing that explains the weirdness regarding Lt. Ilia? The crew get all weird when it is announced that she is Deltan and then we get that "oath of celibacy" statement...yet it has no context. Even in expanded versions of the film where she talks about "sexually immature species" its not really explained what she means. Is this a hold over from the Phase II pilot that would have been expanded more in the series?

    2) Why is Decker (and Kirk for that matter) demoted for this mission? There is no reason why anyone needed to be demoted for this event. Indeed, its not totally out of the question for an admiral to take command in such a critical situation. In most instances the admiral would command the mission while the Captain would command the ship. We see this quite regualrly in other Treks and indeed this is exactly what happens in The Wrath of Kahn. No wonder Decker comes across as pissy for most of the film...there was no reason for Kirk to do what he did.

    3) Where was Starfleet in this movie? The "only starship in range" is an old trope, but it seems problematic in the context of this film. Lets remember that Starfleet first becomes aware of V'Ger after monitoring the incident in Klingon space. That means that V'ger traveled between the Klingon Empire and Federation. Yet it never seems to encounter any Federation ships. Are we to assume that there are NO Starfleet vessels ANYWHERE between Klingon space and Earth? Indeed one wonders why the Klingons didn't try to follow and attack.

    4) Why does V'ger fire torpodes on both the Klingons and the Enterprise, but seems to simply "eat" or disolve Epsilon IX?

    5) Given all of the rereleases of older material with new edits, do we know what is considered "canon" about these movies? For instance...was V'ger's cloud REALLY 82 AUs or was it a mere 3 (which is still enormous...Earth should have been engulfed in the cloud long before V'ger arrived in orbit).

    6) This is more of a trektech nitpick but it seems reasonable to point out....V'ger obviously has some form of FTL propulsion in order for it to cross the vastness of space. Indeed it arrives in Earth orbit from Klingon space in mere days. Yet oddly enough, both the Klingons and the Enterprise approach V'ger at impulse. How are they not getting "run over."
     
  2. WarpFactorZ

    WarpFactorZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    As I understood it, she was supposed to be "irresistible" to human males, or something along those lines. But I'm not sure there's a canon explanation.

    It's just as easy to assume they were digitized by V'Ger, just as it did the Klingons and Epsilon IX (the latter of which does show V'ger encountered other Federation entities).

    They're not torpedoes, but rather its method of storing. It also fires them at Epsilon IX -- you can see it approaching behind the station just before it is consumed.

    I believe there was some dialogue about the cloud dissipating as it approached Earth. Presumably, this includes the 82 AU's worth of structure.

    Warp has never been treated as it should be in ST. Ships really shouldn't be interacting while traveling faster than light. One of the most egregious examples is the Picard Maneuver. The ship is thrown into warp 9 for a small fraction of a second (enough to confuse sensors and visual), yet we see Picard saying "Warp nine. Hold it... Stand by to drop out of warp..... now."
     
  3. Basill

    Basill Captain Captain

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    I think WarpFactorZ touched on these quite well, but I thought I would add a little to the last 3 questions.

    It was certainly less dramatic, but I believe they were hit with the same methodology. Since the Enterprise crew was watching by broadcast on the Rec Deck, we missed the initial "pow," though the bright light and intense shadows of the "torpedo" are seen just as Kirk orders "External view!" and everyone is a aghast. Everything switches to the "real time" event at that point, but the station is already in plop-fizz mode. Epsilon IX station was probably a bit larger than the Klingons and thus took a little longer to reduce to data patterns as well, so it does appear to be a long dissolving process. (What gets me is that after both the Klingons and Epsilon IX are gone... the cloud it still visible in observing view screens. Must be that Quad L-14 sensor drone working overtime.

    Uhura was able to receive faint Starfleet signals as V-Ger closed in, and there is direct dialogue referring to the slowing and dissipation of the cloud (rapidly no less) as it approached Earth. While I don't like all the changes done to the Directors cut, (computer voices and other dialogue cuts; major scene editing for pacing) I personally am a fan of the reduction of the cloud diameter from 82 to 2 AUs.

    I've always seen this as the Enterprise circling around the behemoth cloud and approaching it from behind. Considering the Enterprise pierces the last of the cloud only to close in on V'Ger's aft section, this seems to be supported. Now this may have been intended or a direct result of the wormhole deviation, but they are under warp power at the very least until they've entered the cloud boundary. The cloud was unquestionably an energy field, and there is some nice dialogue available on only certain versions of the film that indicate the object at the heart of the cloud is generating more energy than Earth's sun. Possibly the kind of power necessary for all of V'Ger's functions and the propulsion of such an enormous vehicle at FTL speeds. The cloud itself may have just been trapped galactic riffraff energized and ionized by V'Ger's form of warp propulsion. Then again, it might have been far more complex and utilitarian. Still, after Enterprise broached the barrier, they might have be within the intruder's propulsive influence, perhaps even taken along for the ride before piercing the veil at the heart of the cloud.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It's spelled out in the novelization and in the character notes reprinted in The Making of ST:TMP. Deltans are supposed to be a highly sexual species with overpowering pheromones, but with a more rarefied, spiritual, mature approach to sexuality than we have. Mating with a Deltan is an intense union with a psionic/empathic component and can cause a human to lose oneself. That's why Decker had to leave before he gave in and consummated his relationship with Ilia, and why Deltans must take the celibacy oath before serving with other species. (I've explored these aspects of Deltans in my novel Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock.)

    The thing is, when Roddenberry developed the Deltans for Phase II, he was probably hoping to take advantage of the late '70s' more relaxed TV censorship and explore sexual themes more fully than he could in TOS, but then Paramount insisted that TMP had to have a G rating because ST was popular with children, so he had to tone down the sexuality quite severely.


    That's all true, in principle. But the idea of the story was that Kirk wasn't thinking solely about the mission, but was using the mission as an excuse to get his command back. Everyone else kept telling him that it was a mistake for him to kick Decker out of the center seat, and they were proved right when Decker needed to countermand Kirk's misguided phaser order during the wormhole incident. The arc of the story, at least its first half, is largely about Kirk coming to recognize how his obsession blinded him.


    In earlier drafts there were one or two other ships that tried to intercept before the Enterprise did, and they fared as badly as Epsilon 9 did in the final film.

    Basically the idea was that V'Ger moved far faster than any starship could, so that there wasn't enough time for other ships to intercept it. After all, space is huge and mostly empty. The later shows and movies have tended to ignore this, having ships casually traveling anywhere they need to be in a matter of hours or less (even seconds, apparently, in the new movies), but realistically space should be so humongous that even with a reasonably large fleet, it would be hard to get to any given place in less than a matter of days or weeks. And if something's coming through on an unanticipated trajectory through deep space at a velocity higher than any ship you have, it's quite possible that only one or two ships would be able to intercept it.

    Where that falls apart, though, is that its destination was Earth. It stands to reason that the capital of the Federation would have a whole fleet standing ready to defend it at any given time. To the film's credit, though, it did state that Earth had a planetary defense grid protecting it, but V'Ger got the access codes from the Enterprise computer and was able to shut the grid down (much as Nero was in the '09 film when he got the codes from Pike via torture). So maybe with the grid in place, a fleet defense was considered less essential. Still, it seems you'd want to have both available for redundancy's sake.


    Canon is about broad strokes, not details. Any long-running series or franchise has contradictory assertions about various details. Was Dr. Watson wounded in the leg or shoulder? Is Kirk's middle initial R or T? Does Saavik have green eyes or brown? Can Data use contractions or can't he? Does Princess Leia remember her mother or did her mother die in childbirth? The canon is the underlying conjectural "reality" that these stories portray, but the stories can differ in how they interpret that reality because they're told by different people or because their creators reconsider their ideas. Every story is always filtered through the teller's interpretation, so different stories about the same reality -- even when told by the same person at different times -- will always have inconsistencies among them.

    Generally, when a detail within a canon is reinterpreted, it's the later version that's assumed to take precedence. We accept that Data doesn't use contractions even though he used them routinely in the first half of TNG season 1. We accept that the Enterprise is a Federation ship rather than an Earth ship even though the Federation was never mentioned until the latter half of TOS season 1 (in "Arena"). We accept that Bruce Wayne's butler is named Alfred Pennyworth even though he was originally Alfred Beagle or possibly Alfred Jarvis.


    It's never stated that they approach at impulse. The special effects show a static starscape behind them, but keep in mind that the depiction of warp speed was still evolving. In the case of the V'Ger encounters, it may have been deemed too complicated to combine a warp-stars effect with the other effects of the sequence.
     
  5. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    Gene Roddenberry's novelization goes into detail about the speed thing (and the Deltan thing and everything else). The Enterprise is supposedly matching speed at warp 7 the entire time they're entering the cloud and seeing all the pretty patterns, and making their close flyby of V'Ger's surface.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Worth considering: 1 AU equals 499 light-seconds, or about 8.32 light-minutes. Now, the Enterprise didn't traverse the whole width of V'Ger's cloud -- judging from the graphic, it had an "apple-core" shape and the ship came in at the narrowest part at the equator, which looked from the schematic (sorry, can't find a good working link at the moment) to be about 1/5 of the total radius of the cloud. If the cloud were 82 AU in diameter, it would be 41 AU in radius, and thus the E would've had to traverse 8.2 AU = 4092 light-seconds = 68.2 light-minutes. It made the trip in about 5 minutes of screen time in the theatrical cut, so it would've had to be going nearly 14 times the speed of light relative to V'Ger -- i.e. it would've had to be going at warp inside another warp field. (V'Ger's warp field had to encompass the entire cloud -- or actually be the cloud -- in order to carry it along at superluminal speeds.) Unless you assume we just saw a cut-down version of a sequence where they actually spent over an hour staring at the cloud going by (cue the wisecrack about "as opposed to just feeling like they did").

    However, if the cloud was 2 AU in diameter, then the E only had to traverse 0.2 AU = 100 light-seconds = 1.67 light-minutes in about 4 minutes (since I think about a minute was trimmed from the cloud sequence in the director's cut), meaning it only had to be going at about 2/5 the speed of light. So it would've been at impulse relative to V'Ger, which makes more sense. Thus, I prefer the 2 AU interpretation. I see it as a correction of a math error in the original.
     
  7. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    That's right but it still doesn't explain why Decker's grade had to be reduced. Even if Kirk has to go back to the rank of captain (for some reason which apparently doesn't apply in TWOK), he would still be the commanding officer and senior to Captain Decker.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^The only rationale I know of is that Roddenberry saw Starfleet ranks as being not quite literal military ranks but more like job titles, because Starfleet was supposed to be more of a pseudomilitary organization. I'm not saying that's a good explanation, though -- I've made the same complaint myself, that it would've made more sense for Kirk to command the mission while Decker commanded the ship. I even addressed it in my first novel, Ex Machina, which was a direct followup to TMP.
     
  9. drt

    drt Captain Captain

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    In the novel, the "conic section flight path" Kirk orders in the film is explained exactly an intercept as you described. Enterprise approached the cloud, then flew around (always pointing her bow at the cloud) then came up from behind - as this would appear to be the least aggressive approach.


    I'm not sure how much we should think about the whole "warp field/bubble" thing, as it is largely a TNG invention. In TMP, what we do see is that the inboard regions of Enterprise's warp engines are lit up blue when she has the warp engines engaged. The engines are lit blue for the entire V'ger flyover sequence until they shut the engines down after being seized by V'ger's tractor beam, which would indicate she was under her own power flying "at warp". So pretty deft handling of the ship by Mr. Sulu to put her within 500 meters of another object while both are traveling at Warp Seven.
     
  10. Gotham Central

    Gotham Central Vice Admiral Admiral

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    One wonders though why Admiral Nogura (who is also a noticeably absent presence in the movie given how often he's mentioned in the first quarter of the film) would go along with demoting Kirk (and Decker) and giving him command of the ship instead of simply putting him in command of the mission?

    As a side note Christopher...I did appreciate the fact that in Ex Machina you explained that V'ger activated some sort of transporter device at the end as an explanation of what happened to it. It always seemed strange that a film that was leaning toward harder scifi seemed to have an almost mystical ending with the ship vanishing.



    Other anomalies/observations...

    1) Why weren't more of the aliens depicted in the RecDeck scene used in other places in the film? The Rec Deck scene gives the impression of a fairly diverse crew for the Enterprise, yet once she is underway, just about all of the aliens disappear

    2) Computers and telepathy would not seem to go together...yet Spock is sensing emotion from a machine. Now admittedly, spok was able to do that to Nomad back on the show (which...shocker...is the very story TMP seems to be modeled on)...but it does seem weird for a telepath to be able to sense a machine. Since telepathy falls into the realm of magic, I suppose that it does not have to be logical.

    3) Is there any rationale for the color of the deflector dish. It seems to alternate between blue and amber at random points in the film.
     
  11. drt

    drt Captain Captain

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    The dish changes color depending on the ship's speed.
     
  12. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    Given that TMP was the first Star Trek film, I wonder if the production team was taking the brand name approach. Movie-goers new to the franchise would be expecting Captain Kirk rather than Admiral Kirk to be commanding Enterprise. Kirk ends back in the admiralty on a full-time basis at some point before TWOK, but as he was only supposed to command Enterprise temporarily, there was no reason to defrock either him or Spock.

    --Sran
     
  13. drt

    drt Captain Captain

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    I'm sure that's the "real world" explanation - also, if Decker were in command of the ship, then I'd assume that he'd be in the center seat and Kirk would be standing around to direct the mission itself, which also isn't what audiences paid to see.
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Actually it's a TMP invention, just not onscreen. The Making of ST:TMP reprints a memo by the film's technical advisor, NASA rocket scientist Dr. Jesco von Puttkamer, in which he gives an explanation of how warp drive works by propelling a bubble of spacetime forward relative to the spacetime around it in accordance with General Relativity, essentially "surfing" on a wave of spacetime distortion and carrying the contents of the bubble along with it. (Although he referred to the bubble as "a subspace" and as "a new but small universe within the normal Universe".) Terminology aside, this April 1978 memo is the first appearance of the warp-bubble idea which was later adopted by TNG's technical staff -- and is remarkably similar to the "warp drive" spacetime metric proposed 16 years later by Dr. Miguel Alcubierre, which fired a generation of theoretical research and has now reached the point that NASA is actually doing a proof-of-concept experiment to determine its viability. In fact, Puttkamer's model is essentially identical to Alcubierre's, the difference being that Puttkamer didn't actually do the math to show how it could work -- or at least didn't publish it.

    Besides, there are two ways to look at it, in terms of the movie as a fictional construct and in terms of it as part of the putative Trek universe as we understand it today. In the latter context, if we're evaluating it in light of later "discoveries" about how the Trek universe works, we have to interpret V'Ger as employing a warp field/bubble that encompasses its cloud.

    Interesting. But if that was their intent, it creates a paradox, since if the cloud was outside the warp field or whatever effect V'Ger was supposed to be using, how did it move FTL?

    Hmm, unless it wasn't actually a physical phenomenon at all, but an effect arising within the surrounding spacetime itself in reaction to V'Ger's passage. Like how you can sweep a laser beam across the surface of the Moon and the illuminated spot can move faster than light because the spot is not an object, but a series of billions of distinct photons bouncing off the Lunar surface at different places. By the same token, maybe V'Ger's cloud was just a series of sequential excitations of particles in the interstellar medium that V'Ger was passing through.


    Maybe because the masks weren't flexible or detailed enough to hold up at close inspection, so it was deemed best to limit them to the background of crowd scenes.

    It's a fairly common technique in film to establish something just long enough to get the audience to acknowledge its presence, and then not show it again. This is often done with matte paintings -- you get one establishing shot of the cityscape and then everything else is up close against a wall or something. (I think The Time Tunnel only ever showed the matte paintings of the whole complex in the pilot episode and then never again, or maybe just once.) Once they establish the thing in the audience's minds, they let those minds do the rest of the work for them.


    Except everything in the Trek universe is supposed to be scientifically, physically grounded, not supernatural. Brains are electrochemical in operation, so maybe telepathy could have an EM component.


    That may well be so. And it would also explain the ending of the 2009 film (as well as its retconning of Chekov's age in order to include him).
     
  15. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    According to Fred Phillips, during a phone call I had with him in January 1984 (he had once promised meeting me for lunch, but was legally blind by the time I got to the USA), the original brief was for him to create lots of colourful aliens that could be used in a banquet/briefing scene that was reminiscent of "Journey to Babel". While he was experimenting with recent advances in slip latex, so different to the old methods, he designed both over-the-head masks (which wouldn't have permitted the extras wearing them to talk), and a few aliens (Rhaandarite, K'Normian and revised Andorians) who could deliver dialogue if required.

    Of course, no version of "In Thy Image" or TMP had such a scene, and both Billy Van Zandt (as a Rhaandarite) and Paula Crist (wearing a female version of a wolvish male alien she had once created at a convention) screentested as the scripted "alien ensign" who would be regularly seen on the bridge.

    Because the aliens in the rec deck scene represented one big day of filming, with an emergency team of extra SPFX makeup artists helping out. It would have been prohibitive to keep populating scenes with aliens, and most of the movie is set on the bridge. Poor Billy Van Zandt had 5.00am makeup calls over three months for (one line of dialogue that got cut from the theatrical version after all) as it was.

    There was also the point that, when the director was finally appointed, Robert Wise didn't find the over-the-head-masks convincing enough, and he relegated them to mainly-distant shots, especially in San Francisco.

    And, in the planning for "Phase II", they knew they only had a commitment from Shatner for 13 episodes. He was anxious to kickstart a career in motion pictures. The actor yet-to-be-cast as the Will Decker character was to be groomed to take over as lead actor if Shatner chose to step down and do only semi-regular appearances.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  16. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    That was a problem in TOS: Where is a senior officer supposed go? Real flagships usually have a separate bridge for the admiral, and that would seem to make sense for a starship, too, but obviously back-and-forth by intercom wouldn't be very good dramatically. With the captain sitting in the throne-like center seat, even a honcho like Fox or Ferris seemed kind of subordinate, standing around getting in everyone's way.
     
  17. drt

    drt Captain Captain

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    I'm OK with the retcon that the entire cloud is within a TNG-era warp field. However, I was thinking in terms of the former context to explain how things were perceived in 1979. I'd forgotten the Making of TMP memo you described (shoot, I don't think I've read it in at least 30 years), although, I do recall mention of the "surfing" part of it now. So maybe there was some idea in TMP that this is how it was working (although, I do like your idea of the cloud being some kind of a subspace effect), but it wasn't really conveyed to the special effects staff, who for the most part kept things surprisingly consistent with how they depicted Enterprise operating. Or perhaps they were going with the assumption that if Enterprise deactivated her warp drives she'd drop out of V'ger's warp bubble unless there was actual or tractor beam contact keeping them physically linked.
     
  18. xvicente

    xvicente Captain Captain

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    1) Roddenberry wanted to suggest everyone is open-minded and prejudice-free about sex in the future, but sometimes this point didn't come across. Other times it come as just weird.

    2) One word: Kirk

    3) Supposedly Vger was travelling too fast for the Klingons to pursue and for the other staships come back to Earth in time

    4) torpedoes offscreen, E-9 took more time to assimilate because it's much larger than spaceships

    5) Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale

    6) see 5 above, also applies
     
  19. Nebusj

    Nebusj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I seem to recall an article in Trek magazine speculating that the thinking might be: the unknown entities controlling this ship might take the Enterprise crew captive, and in that case, a captive Captain Kirk makes a less valuable bargaining chip than a captive Admiral Kirk. That kind of works as a rationale as long as you don't stare at it too hard. We do see other cases where Star Fleet folks are content to lie about the ranking officers in order to mess with the pests of the week.
     
  20. LMFAOschwarz

    LMFAOschwarz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The part of that scene that always confused me was when Kirk left the bridge, and Decker tells Ilia "I don't think the Captain meant anything personal." What is he talking about? All I remember Kirk saying to her more or less is that he had the utmost confidence in her. :shrug: