Study Guide

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Life, Consciousness, and Existence

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

FEMALE VULCAN: Our ancestors cast out their animal passions here on these sands. Our race was saved by the attainment of Kolinahr.

The most important aspect of Vulcan culture is that they were once a passionate and violent race, but decided to actively shed their emotions in favor of "pure logic." In order to reach this state, every Vulcan must go through an emotion-destroying ritual known as "Kolinahr."

FEMALE VULCAN: The consciousness calling to you from space, it touches your human blood. You have not achieved Kolinahr.

Here's a big thing to note about Spock: he's half-Vulcan and half-human. This creates a great deal of inner tension between his logical Vulcan side and emotional human side, which is a concept explored in great detail throughout the film.

ILIA: V'Ger and the Creator will become one.

SPOCK: And who is the Creator?

ILIA: The Creator is that which created V'Ger.

KIRK: Who is V'Ger?

ILIA: V'Ger is that which seeks the Creator.

This is the silliest variation of the "Who's on First" routine we've ever seen. Jokes aside, it's clear that V'Ger—our alien cloud extraordinaire—is on some sort of religious pilgrimage to reunite with its Creator. But what will happen when that meeting occurs? Only time will tell.

SPOCK: And yet with all this pure logic, V'Ger is barren, cold—no mystery, no beauty. I should have known.

Interestingly, Spock feels repulsed by "pure logic" when he feels it reflected back at him by V'Ger. This represents a big shift for his character, as he is embracing his human emotionality more than ever before.

SPOCK: This simple feeling is beyond V'Ger's comprehension. No meaning, no hope, and—Jim—no answers. It's asking questions. "Is this all I am? Is there nothing more?"

Spock is shaken to the core by his encounter with V'Ger. There he sees nothing but logic, which should be comforting to him as a Vulcan, but ends up leaving him cold and scared. Logic is great and all, but it has no purpose without those intangible emotions that go along with it—those silly things that make life worth living.

KIRK: The carbon-units are not an infestation. They are a natural function of the Creator's planet. They are living things.

ILIA: They are not true lifeforms. Only the Creator and other similar lifeforms are true.

Here, Ilia reverses our preconceptions by arguing that machines are the only "true" life in the universe, and that biological creatures are the artificial ones. It might sound odd, but it makes sense that a self-aware machine would reach that conclusion.

DECKER: Learn all that is learnable. Return that information to its Creator.

SPOCK: Precisely, Mister Decker. The machines interpreted it literally. They built this entire vessel so that Voyager could fulfill its programming.

After discovering that "V'Ger" is in fact the super-evolved form of NASA's unmanned Voyager VI probe, the crew is left with more questions than answers. Why did the living machines help this silly little probe? How did they become self-aware in the first place? And what is V'Ger trying to achieve with all of this wanton destruction?

SPOCK: What it requires of its God, Doctor, is the answer to its question, Is there nothing more?

In an interesting reversal, it's Spock who ignores logic and focuses instead on the emotional side of things. Looks like Spock and V'Ger are going through the same thing.

McCOY: What more is there than the universe, Spock?

In contrast to Spock, McCoy is a total realist, providing yet another viewpoint to bounce off the crazy philosophical Rorschach test that is V'Ger.

KIRK: I think we gave it the ability to create its own sense of purpose out of our own human weaknesses and the drive that compels us to overcome them.

Through V'Ger's desperate attempt to reunite with its Creator, Star Trek shows us that logic and emotion are not mutually exclusive. A full life requires an ample portion of both. What's more, the weakness associated with emotions only drives us to become better versions of ourselves.

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