9 Things That Don't Make Sense in Screenrant's 10 Things That Make No Sense About Star Trek: The Motion Picture (and one that does)

A few years back Derek Dravin wrote an article for Screenrant about how there are ten logic issues with Star Trek: The Motion Picture (cue random Kolinahr jokes here).

Except there aren't. With a single exception, all nine items on his list aren't logic holes at all (or at the very least very different logic holes than he thinks there are). Let's go through them.

#10: "Long, Agonizing Shots"

This is what we in the modern world would refer to as fanservice. As I wrote in the YouTube comments to the Pensky Podcast's review of the film:

The thing to remember about this movie more than anything else is that this is the earliest known example of fanservice known to man. Fans of the original series waited a decade of writing letters and watching reruns before the movie came out. Huge amounts of the movie are thank yous to the fans who made it possible. The most obvious, of course, is the meeting on the rec deck where Bjo Trimble and numerous other Trekkies who were responsible for the movie existing got a chance to show up on screen and interact with the crew of the Enterprise.

Similarly the slow Scotty/Kirk visually inspect the redesigned ship is entirely a chance for the fans, used to seeing a plastic ship on a string be shaken by a hand with a green filter, to watch their favourite ship slowly re-revealed to them on the big screen with a big impressive musical sting to go with it. As for the slow reveal through the dock, Wes you're a Boston guy, you've surely gone to the USS Constitution. At first you're walking down that street and just getting peeks of the ship through the fence, and then you finally get to the dock and the entire ship is revealed to it in all its glory. It's exciting and frankly it and the departure scene gets me every single time.

By contrast, Dravin says:

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.

Again, remember that fans had been waiting a decade to see their favourite ship: getting to see the starship Enterprise filling the big screen with Jerry Goldsmith's incredible score similarly filling your ears wasn't considered a con at the time of release. Some of the longer shots of V'Ger later in the movie seem unnecessarily long, but Dravin only talks about the early Enterprise reveals which absolutely are what fans wanted. As I noted, it's one of my favourite parts of the film: quite often I shut it off once Spock arrives and the ship successfully goes to warp.

#9: "The "Only Ship In Range" Cliché"

Congratulations Derek Dravin, you got one. So far you're one for two on the logic hole. The Enterprise being the only ship in range makes absolutely no sense. For one thing, the initial attack on the Klingon cruisers (by the way, another amazing display of technical wizardry and astounding music to please the fans in the opening of the film) took place in Klingon territory as dialogue on Epsilon Station during the attack confirmed. So at the start of the film, V'Ger is in Klingon space on the way to earth. Let's pretend then that no giant space cloud is involved, let's Star Trek Into Darkness this and pretend that the I.K.S. Amar and it's two sister ships decided to fly to earth and bomb it into the stone age. Presumably they fly along the same path as V'Ger, which was 3 days away. Are you telling me that Starfleet doesn't have any ships guarding the border? After all, Epsilon Station is messaging USS Columbia telling it to rendezvous with the USS Revere, implying both ships are in the general vicinity of Epsilon Station. Yet the closest ship in range to the Klingon border is not only all the way at Earth but also stuck in spacedock with a minimum of 12 hours of repair required? Where the hell is the rest of Starfleet? Again this is bad enough if V'Ger was in a random vector 3 hours from Earth, but the flightpath takes its way through a highly militarized area of space and still no ships are hanging around.

#8: "Uncouth Starfleet"

I'll let Dravin kick off the conversation this time:

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.

Two things need to be parsed out here: first, has Dravin never worked a real job in his life? All sorts of times you have assignments taken away from you (often because of personal connections your replacement exploited, like Kirk does here with Fleet Admiral Nogura) without consulting you first. "Mr. Griffin, with their new government contract the Pensky File has become our most important contract and you're brand new to our Account Facilitator role, so we're taking it away from you and giving it to our Senior Facilitator since it needs his full attention. Actually wait, hold on...did you want us to take away a high visibility assignment from you?"

Secondly, what's odd about giving Kirk command of his old starship? In the aftermath of the Original Series this organization adopted his ship emblem as their fleetwide emblem so it's not like they're giving it to this Griffin guy. Also I'm not entirely sure Decker got the job of overseeing the Enterprise refit with the intention of actually becoming captain. I'm reminded of my head cannon regarding the much-maligned Captain Harriman from Star Trek Generations who is criticized for being "over his head" during the rescue mission (to the point that one Trek novelist decided to pretend his father was an Admiral who got him the job through nepotism): his job was to oversee the shakedown of the ship, not to command it in actual missions. Like Decker, he was probably a subject-matter-expert in the technical requirements of the new ship and was simply keeping the seat warm until the real captain was assigned. Picard didn't take over the Enterprise-D during its shakedown as we found out in "All Good Things". It was probably arrogant on Decker's part to think he would be the one sitting in the centre seat during the biggest crisis Earth had probably seen since the Xindi attack a century earlier.

#7: The Transporter Conundrum"

After an acceptable start he's now 1/4.

For a ship in such disarray as the Enterprise was at the beginning of the movie, it seemed incomprehensible that it should be sent out to deal with a mega-galactic threat like V'ger.

This is just the interception range problem expressed another way. If the Enterprise was really the only ship in range then a technical problem like buggy transporters shouldn't be the issue. After all, after the ship leaves Earth the transporter is literally never required. In fairness they don't actually know that at the point of departure, but that's why shuttles exist plus Scotty has been known to fix transporters in the field. He does note that McCoy getting beamed up is irresponsible, but misses the crazy part: everybody treats McCoy objecting to the transporter as being the quirk of a lovable old kook despite the fact that same transporter was deadly mere hours earlier.

Now if you want an actual plot hole, Kirk beams from Earth to the Orbital Office Complex before taking the shuttle to the Enterprise. Kirk even complains that the Enterprise transporter isn't working, but during the shuttle ride to spacedock we see that you can see each facility from each other, meaning they are closer than Earth is. So why can't the Orbital Office Complex beam people up from Earth and then beam them to the Enterprise? Sonak didn't have to die, there was a perfectly acceptable way to transport him (and later McCoy) over without incurring any risk.

#8: "The Planet Flyby Shot"

This has to be the most laughable one on the list. First, the picture:

And now the complaint:

While the 70s was an interesting time for sci-fi movies, especially in terms of visuals, it's difficult to hold back the laughter when particular shots throw common sense and fact right out the window. This occurs during a brief shot shortly after the Enterprise leaves space dock, and makes its way through our solar system.

During this scene, all the planets of the Milky Way can be seen in one single shot, in close proximity to one another. It's completely devoid of logic and rationale, but it does make for one amusing and head-scratching Trek moment.

First off, all the planet of the Milky Way? Presumably he means the solar system, not the galaxy. That's worth at least half of the chuckles. Where do the rest come from? Because this isn't Star Wars: The Force Awakens nor is it Star Trek 2009 (or TMNT). This isn't ignorance of space, showing all these planets inches away from each other because those aren't planets. What the Enterprise is flying past is Jupiter, and one of the most important things to remember about Jupiter is it has lots of moons. We're seeing Jupiter and three of its moons in this photo, and the only head-scratcher is why they look so blue: the one on the right sort of looks like Calipso and the small one on the left might be Europa. No idea which moon the big one on the left is supposed to be. But they also don't look like any planets in our solar system either.

#5: "The Wormhole"

Let's hear the part he doesn't get (a characterization of these items I think is more accurate):

According to subsequent Star Trek lore, wormholes are something of a rare phenomenon, and therefore quite extraordinary once located. Several wormholes are mentioned throughout the franchise, the most notable being the stable wormhole near Deep Space Nine, which leads into the Gamma Quadrant.

In this film, the Enterprise flies straight into a wormhole due to an imbalance in the warp engines. It happens with such ease that it's a wonder why they're considered so rare in the first place. Granted, no one would consciously want to enter such a wormhole of their own accord, but it doesn't add up.

Wormholes aren't necessarily rare or interesting. Stable wormholes are, like the ones at Barzan and Bajor. The wormhole caused by the engine imbalance doesn't make the list. Also, remember the black star the Enterprise flew too close to in "Tomorrow Is Yesterday"? How about Sulu referring to a "quadrant" as being a subsection of "sector" in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? Whatever happened to the Star Service or UESPA, both of which employed Captain Kirk at some point during TOS? So maybe this wormhole isn't what we would later classify as a wormhole. Call it a subspace distortion field or something. Indeed Voyager VI falls "through a black hole" in this movie, which behaves much more as what Sisko or Janeway would consider a wormhole.

#4: "McCoy's Bridge Visits"

In two scenes during the film when the Enterprise proceeds into V'ger's interior structure, the ever-dashing Doctor Leonard McCoy can be seen visiting the bridge section to gaze along at what's happening, along with the rest of the crew. He offers no lines, then turns and promptly exits the bridge via the turbolift.

Did he even watch the original Star Trek series?

Now in fairness his complaint does morph into "why doesn't McCoy say anything".

It's not known why the character even bothers to show up, since he has no lines or anything of value to offer, aside from simply making a character appearance.

But this just means that McCoy, who went up to the bridge for some reason, didn't have a pithy line to say. He didn't know when he left that nothing that exciting was happening up on the command level either. Would we rather he took a turbolift trip every time he wanted to say a cutting remark?

#3: "The Mind Meld"

One of the most memorable scenes of the film shows fan-favorite TOS character Spock leaving the Enterprise in a spacesuit to engage in a mind-meld with V'ger. While it is a rather powerful scene, it's completely pointless given the situation. While Vulcans can engage in mind melds without direct physical contact (hence his ability to meld through his gloves), it seems incomprehensible that he'd need to.

After all, Spock sensed V'ger's incredible presence from light-years away on his home planet of Vulcan. When the Enterprise is drawn into V'ger's core, Spock should have had no reason whatsoever to mind-meld, given the strength of a telepathic connection that would have undoubtedly been amplified by the close proximity.

Except Spock didn't leave the ship to meld with V'Ger, it was a meld of opportunity. Spock told us explicitly what his spacewalk was for:

SPOCK: Computer. Commence recording. Captain Kirk, these messages will detail my attempt to contact the aliens. ...I intend to calculate thruster ignition and acceleration rates to coincide with the opening of the V'Ger orifice. This should facilitate a better view of the interior of the alien spacecraft.

And then later...

SPOCK: I have successfully penetrated the next chamber of the alien's Interior, and I am witnessing some sort of dimensional image which I believe to be a representation of V'Ger's home planet. I am passing through a connecting tunnel. Apparently a kind of plasma-energy conduit. Possibly a field coil for gigantic imaging systems. Curious. I am seeing images of planets, moons, stars, whole galaxies all stored in here, recorded. It could be a record of V'Ger's entire journey. But who, or what, are we dealing with? The Epsilon Nine station, stored here with every detail. Captain, I am now quite convinced that all of this is V'Ger. That we are inside a living machine. Ilia. The sensor ...must contain some special meaning. I must try to mind-meld with it. 

He specifically chose to mind-meld with the Ilia sensor as he decided it was some special link (why? that's the big question that isn't answered). But why did he go on a spacewalk to do it? Simple: he didn't.

#2: "Mixed Signals"

Kirk determines that V'ger is attempting to transmit information back to its "creator" on Earth, but the signal technology is far too primitive for modern humans to recognize. This stands in direct contradiction to an earlier scene in the movie when Spock discovers that V'ger is communicating using a linguistic form of communication so advanced, he'd have to recalibrate his instruments to properly catch up.

Except two different systems will communicate with two different styles. When V'Ger wants to communicate with the creator it uses the primitive system on the original Earth spacecraft. However, when encountering the Enterprise with it's souped up AU-sized cloud producing technology, it's not trying to communicate with the Creator so it's talking to them as just some weird alien ship it comes across. V'Ger thinks that carbon units infested the Enterprise remember.

#1: "Merging With The Creator"

Uh, what?

The antagonistic A.I. known as V'ger makes it quite clear that it does not view carbon-based humans as "true life forms," which is why it's ready to purge Earth of all humanity. Stopping this threat means communicating with V'ger and helping it to understand who and what its Creator actually is. At no point is that established, however.

No, seriously, what? Yes this isn't established because the the Enterprise launched with a mission of intercepting the cloud, finding out what can be done to neutralize or dissuade it from attacking. The plot twist wasn't known at the time because go Google what a "twist" is for crying out loud. It turns out that stopping the threat (exterminating humans turns out to be V'Ger's original plan, again unknown to Starfleet as the movie opens) requires humans to convince V'Ger that humans are the Creator. Kirk discovers that partway through, outright lies to V'Ger by claiming humans are the Creator, and by dumb luck turns out to have been telling the truth all along. It's being at school and telling the teacher that the dog ate your homework while your unfinished homework is simultaneously being eaten by your dog.

In essence, V'ger takes a chance by suddenly changing its mind, wanting to merge with its Creator. This just happens to be, according to Doctor McCoy, a human being. Will Decker confirms it, which is both a contradiction and a massive plot hole. V'ger ends up evolving by incorporating a human quality into its matrix, which it had spent most of the film downplaying as irrelevant.

According to Doctor McCoy? No, it was according to the movie. Humanity is exposed as being the Creator the moment Kirk wipes away some dust and identifies Voyager VI. That's the final shocking reveal: we were the Creators all along. It could have been that there was some other race on Earth before humanity that sent V'Ger on its way, or perhaps V'Ger had it in its head The Preservers were on Earth or something. It would have been bad news for humanity if either scenario were true, since V'Ger wouldn't have allowed humans to exist on Earth without it. So it's neither a contradiction nor a massive plot hole but rather a pivot point for the V'Ger character: the pathetic carbon units it was downplaying as irrelevant were the gods it was after this whole time. V'Ger learns its prejudice wasn't justified, and (literally) evolves as a result. Matt Drayton and John Prentice Sr. change their minds at the end of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner as well, so I guess that movie ends with a giant contradiction and plot hole too, rather than being the entire point of the story we just watched unfold.

#0: Things That Make No Sense that Screenrant Missed

In no particular order...

  • How did Nurse Chapel remember how "Ilia once mentioning that she wore this"? Ilia boarded the ship for the first time after the Enterprise transporters were repaired, so when would Chapel have even met her (excepting curing Checkov on the bridge) let alone spent so much time together to have a vague recollection about Ilia mentioning wearing something once? Later, Decker refers to one of the games in the Rec Room as being one of Ilia's favourites but I'll let that pass since that same game could easily be on Delta IV or any other previous location Decker and Ilia spent together.
  • When Spock's shuttle approaches Chekov says "non-belligerency confirmed". How the hell do you confirm that? If instead of Spock that shuttle had a violent thug like George Floyd on-board, even unarmed you couldn't confirm "non-belligerency". Was it because the only person on board was Vulcan? If so, why not mention that instead?
  • I understand how it was caused by the limited special effects technology at the time, but why do the Klingon cruisers all make the exact same maneuvers when the Amar captain calls for "evasive"?