//\\ 15-Minute Federation //\\ presents . . . Star Trek: The Motion Picture — Chapter 5: An Over-Abundance of Reaction Shots is an Unwarranted Gamble (Or: We Get Probed by Aliens!)


01:00:01 – 01:15:00

Lionel Smith was made Chief Engineer on our crew because Captain James “Claudius” Firewater insists that “Smith” is a proper Scottish name, and we just had to have a Scot as Chief Engineer because that was the template created by Montgomery Scott.

Never mind the fact that Lionel insists that 95.6% of his genetic makeup (according to 23andme) is West African, or that Lionel looks more like a nerdy, shorter and slightly underweight LeBron James than James Doohan. The captain can be quite stubborn when his mind is made up.

As the duty roster was initially being prepared, someone had suggested O’Hara for the engineering post, since Ireland is geographically pretty close to Scotland. But, once the O’Hara/Uhura connection had been made, the job went to Lionel. The warp reactor of our ship looks a lot like a Keurig coffee maker, and our dilithium crystals like K-cups. If the captain is within earshot, just play along, all right?

Welcome to Chapter 5 of The Motion Picture Edition of the 15-Minute Federation.

We have passed the one-hour mark and are within minutes of the actual halfway point of the movie itself.

As we left the intrepid crew of the refurbished USS Enterprise, newly out of space dock, the recently reinstated Science Officer Spock was attempting to communicate with the entity at the heart of the solar-system-sized Seeing Eye cloud that is threatening the Earth. Keep in mind, however, that Spock’s motives aren’t entirely altruistic. They may not even be slightly altruistic. Spock failed to achieve the purely logical state of Kolinahr back on Vulcan, and he senses a powerful being of pure logic in the cloud. We suspect he plans to steal its mojo, somehow.

At any rate, Spock has been a dick to all of his former friends and crewmates since he returned. We probably don’t want to see him become even more logical and unemotional than he already is.

Spock continues to try to communicate with the cloud even as it appears the ship is about to be destroyed by it. This leads to a rare and beautiful bit of Shatner overacting in which he says, “Spock! Spock! Spock!” in a manner that would make a great cellphone ringtone.

At the last possible moment, which dramatic convention requires, the cloud holds off on its attack. Spock has managed to get through to it somehow.

Spock detects no emotion from the entity (or “entities,” maybe, since we can’t know there aren’t many lifeforms inside yet). He senses only “pure logic.” And we know how Spock feels about pure logic.

Kirk’s intentions are to continue on into the cloud itself. Decker continues to fulfill his role as Chief Naysayer by telling the captain that moving into the cloud at this time is an “unwarranted gamble.”

When our own Captain Firewater came back from the tobacco store on the corner with a fistful of scratch-offs, our science officer, Commander Spork (who earned his nickname when he worked at KFC), quipped that our fearless leader was making an unwarranted gamble. Everyone laughed, including Spork, who is contractually obligated to show no emotion beyond an occasionally raised eyebrow. Captain Firewater had him confined to quarters for the remainder of his shift.

Kirk’s angry retort to Decker, however, is, “How do you define unwarranted, mister?”

These two still do not get along.

As the ship is going into the cloud, we get a lot more stuff that could have been edited out without losing one iota of story. Sure, the special effects were amazing for the time, but they are much less impressive now. We get lots of bridge crew reaction shots, but the images we’re seeing from inside the cloud are essentially the visual equivalent of ambient music.

Deeper inside, we seem to be inside some sort of tube comprised of flashing lights. More crew reaction shots. Finally, we break through to what may be the center of the cloud. There’s less gas and energy clouds, more of what appear to be physical structures. And, back in 1979, this would have been mostly model work, not digital effects. That makes it a bit more impressive.

In some of these reaction shots, Spock and Dr. McCoy look a lot older than Kirk. Our crack computer library researcher, Lt. Toby “Redshirt” Farrell, looked into this. Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner were the same age, but DeForest Kelley was 11 years older. Farrell suggests that perhaps Shatner has been bathing in the blood of virgins for decades.

We are treated to an interminably slow flyover of the model itself, to demonstrate its immense size. It begins to remind some of us of the opening to MST3K.

Spock reports that the vessel inside the cloud is generating a forcefield greater than the radiation of Earth’s sun. Uhura tries to transmit images to Starfleet, but they are unable to communicate through the cloud. They are effectively cut off.

Still more reaction shots.

Okay, we’ll stop writing “more reaction shots.” Just know that there are a lot of reaction shots in this movie. We’re not convinced that some of them weren’t reused during editing. Either that, or the bridge crew spent a full week filming their reactions to things they couldn’t see until the special effects were in place. With all due respect (and we honestly do have some respect for this movie), we still maintain that this film could have been edited down to a 43-minute running time without losing much.

Finally, something happens. A glowing shaft of light appears on the bridge. This is a probe sent by the cloud entity who is not Galactus. It’s checking out the ship.

Kirk and Decker finally agree on one thing: no one should interfere with the probe, which is some sort of plasma-energy combination. The probe takes over the ship’s computers, which inspires Spock to smash his own computer console with his brute Vulcan strength. He gets zapped by energy cloud lightning for his actions.

As the chapter is drawing to a close, the beam of light begins zapping Ilia. You remember, Ilia. She’s the bald Deltan lady who was foreshadowed as an important character in this story. She’s had almost zero character development so far, but we suspect that she’s about to get something to do. Since we know she has a romantic history with our pseudo-Riker, Commander Decker, he’ll probably figure into this plot development as well, don’t you think?

According to the Memory Alpha website, we’re about to begin Act Three of the movie. We’re not sure that we agree with this assessment 100% This feels more like the midpoint of Act Two to most of us on the bridge. Stay tuned and we’ll tell you where we think the final act of this movie really begins.

Until next time . . . Dammit, Jim! I’m a Doctor, Not the 15-Minute Federation . . .Live Long and Prosper.

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