Where millions of others have gone before, actually.
This is a long and picture heavy post.
As I mentioned in my February roundup, I’ve finally delved into the world of Star Trek, starting with The Original Series. Having finished that recently, I decided to jump right into the following movies.
When I started the show I was not at all prepared for how deeply attached I would become to these characters. I just don’t usually feel so invested in characters from older TV shows for some reason but I’m so in love with them. Especially Spock.
Sometimes I get frustrated with myself for not writing about movies more ‘intellectually’ or critically, but I respond to movies on an emotional, instinctual level above all else. I’ve voiced this concern to friends, before, who have assured me that there is more than enough room for a more emotional perspective on cinema and I honestly think that’s what I’m best at. What I’m saying is, be prepared for a lot of emotional rambling here and some sloppiness in my writing where I omit actor’s names and the like. I’m going to write about the first three movies together, and then there will be another post for the next three when I’ve watched those.
The Motion Picture dir. Robert Wise, 1979
“This… simple feeling is beyond V’ger’s comprehension.”
Given what I said above, it is not surprising that I spent half of this film crying. Only forty minutes in I’d already cried at least four times. (When Kirk meets Scotty, when he sees the Enterprise, when he meets the bridge crew, when he meets Bones again.) But I didn’t get properly emotional until Spock and Jim are reunited.
The film has some interesting things to say but the scene that will stick with me the most is Kirk grasping Spock’s hand, and Spock saying “This…simple feeling is beyond V’ger’s comprehension.” I actually had to pause the film because I was crying so hard. It’s such a beautiful moment between them and the end of Spock’s journey, started on Vulcan.
The parallels between V’Ger’s journey and Spock’s were fairly obvious, but I loved what the film said through them. It’s about the search for meaning and identity – the search for knowledge in general – that nearly all of us can relate to in some way, or another. Spock comes to realise he must embrace all of who he is, pesky emotions included, for a fulfilled life when he sees the emptiness of V’Ger, an actual machine devoid of feeling. One can experience emotion but still value logic. That struggle with emotion was particularly relevant and personal to me.
One of the most obvious themes to me seemed to be love. It’s clear that Ilia and Decker were romantically involved at some point prior to the film and, while the end – with Decker merging with the Ilia probe – could be seen as purely about evolution or creating new life, the way they look at each other shows that it’s done out of love, too. There is also the relationship between Kirk and Spock – ‘this simple feeling’ that Spock speaks of could be many things but whether it’s friendship or brotherhood, it all boils down to love.
Before I finish, let’s take a moment to appreciate the design of this film. The scene with Spock inside V’Ger is utterly beautiful. One shot reminded me of the dream sequence in Vertigo (pictured above) but a more obvious, and likely, comparison is to 2001: A Space Odyssey (pictured below).
Even when the Enterprise entered warp speed for the first time my eyes popped out of my head. And the lighting in that final V’Ger scene was beautiful.
Robert Wise clearly spent a lot of time showing off the special effects and design; I can’t be mad about that because they are so pretty.
It’s a fairly contemplative film and, as such, could be seen as slow but it honestly didn’t even feel like 2+ hours to me. on letterboxd called the pacing ‘graceful’ and I couldn’t have described it better myself. If you’re expecting a fun space romp like so much of TOS was, it would probably be disappointing, but a friend had prepared me so I knew what I was in for. The show wasn’t without seriousness but there’s more adventure than there is here. Some of the ideas that are in the film are definitely present in TOS and it obviously draws a lot from ‘The Changeling’, which has a similar premise, but it’s a huge tonal shift from the series.
I know there’s more to this film than what I’ve said but I can’t focus on everything from one viewing alone so I may read a bit about it and watch it again before I attempt any further writing.
Edited from letterboxd review, which you can read here.
The Wrath of Khan dir. Nicholas Meyer 1982
“Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…human.”
I may not have cried as many times as in TMP but I think the intensity of my crying at Spock sacrificing himself made up for it. The look on Kirk’s face was completely heartbreaking and then, later, his voice breaking just before he choked out ‘human’ in the eulogy. My heart!
This is a really solid, fun sci-fi flick and I can definitely see why it was better received by audiences than TMP (I think I liked TMP a bit better, or maybe just differently). It’s interesting that the conflict is conducted largely at a distance. I don’t think Kirk and Khan came face to face or, if they did, I missed it while I was checking twitter (a habit I’m trying to break). That just stuck out to me.
There’s a lot of interesting elements (themes and ideas – ageing, for one, comes to mind) to unpack but I spent most of my energy writing about The Motion Picture and I’m still feeling very emotional about the end of this film, so I need a little distance before I think about those. It’s not as though no one else has ever written about it, though.
Edited from letterboxd review, which you can read here.
The Search for Spock dir. Leonard Nimoy 1984
“If I hadn’t tried, the cost would have been my soul.”
I enjoyed this slightly less than the first two but it was still great. It’s a film about friendship and how far we’d go for the ones we love. What we’d risk. That sort of thing always appeals to me.
My favourite aspect, aside from Kirk et al risking everything for Spock, was Bones with Spock’s katra – sometimes Bones’s attitude toward Spock frustrates me but beneath it all, it’s obvious he cares deeply for him. Even before he said this to the unconscious Spock, it’s there:
“I’m gonna tell you something that I…never thought I’d ever hear myself say. But it seems I’ve… missed you. And I don’t know if I could stand to lose you again.”
It was also just fun to see DeForest Kelley acting like Spock but still being Bones at the same time. I can’t remember the exact quote but in the bar he says someone is ‘illogical’ and calls them an ‘idiot’ in the same sentence. That bar was very cool in general (the scene made me think of A New Hope, when Ben and Luke are looking for transport).
“My father says that you have been my friend. You came back for me.”
The main reason it was slightly less interesting than the first two is because I enjoy it best when Spock and Kirk are together (and Bones, too, of course), even though it’s still a story motivated by those relationships. They seem to be the heart of the series, for me. (And, I know, many others).
It was nice to see Sarek again and to see Vulcan, too. That shot of the ceremony area just before the fal-tor-pan was really beautiful.
I could easily sit through this again (and undoubtedly will) – I just found it a little harder to write about!
Oh, and just in case you were wondering: I cried.
Edited from my letterboxd review, which you can read here.
I just love these characters and I could spend all the time in the world with them. I am a little apprehensive about watching IV, though, as I’m rather terrified of whales.