Study Guide

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Technology and Modernization

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Technology and Modernization

ILIA: I've been programmed by V'Ger to observe and record normal functioning of the carbon-based units infesting U.S.S. Enterprise.

Note Robo-Ilia's word choice here: the crew is "infesting" the Enterprise. That's the way we talk about bugs or diseases. Ew. Right of the bat, it's clear that V'Ger is not a fan of biology.

DECKER: What does that mean?

ILIA: When my examination is complete, all carbon units will be reduced to data patterns.

Do you think the lives of you and everyone you've ever known could be squeezed into "data patterns"? We don't think so. Regardless, V'Ger is only able to think in terms of data.

SPOCK: I am seeing images of planets, moons, stars, whole galaxies all stored in here. It could be a record of V'Ger's entire journey.

When Spock goes solo into the deepest recesses of V'Ger, he's taken on a holographic tour of its long journey across the universe. In many ways, this is the identity that it has constructed for itself, which isn't all that different from the way that we humans do it. It's all about your experiences.

KIRK: Were you right? About V'Ger?

SPOCK: A lifeform of its own. A conscious, living entity.

During his descent, Spock realizes that V'Ger is as much of a conscious being as any of them. The big question that remains is how it got that way. Any guesses?

SPOCK: I saw V'Ger's planet, a planet populated by living machines. Unbelievable technology. V'Ger has knowledge that spans this universe.

As we later learn, this is not V'Ger's home but its second home. Either way, the thought of a whole planet filled with conscious machines like V'Ger seriously melts our brains. Like what do they eat, for starters? And what's robo romance like?

ILIA: V'Ger signals the Creator.

KIRK: Spock?

SPOCK: A simple binary code transmitted by carrier-wave signal. Radio.

This shocks the crew because radio is hundreds of years out-of-date by now. Why would such an insane technological marvel employ such basic technology?

ILIA: The Creator has not answered. The carbon-unit infestation is to be removed from the Creator's planet.

KIRK: Why?

ILIA: You infest Enterprise. You interfere with the Creator in the same manner.

In its quest to complete its mission, V'Ger makes a big assumption: the Creator must be like V'Ger. It must be a machine. This, as Kirk & Co. learn in a few moments, is patently false: humanity is its creator. Based on that, this passage takes on a decidedly ironic bent.

KIRK: Voyager series—designed to collect data and transmit it back to Earth.

DECKER: Voyager VI disappeared into what they used to call a black hole.

And then boom—all of the puzzle pieces fall into place. Although there were only two Voyager probes launched in real life, these unmanned crafts are indeed still exploring the depths of the universe. Placed in that context, V'Ger's desire to reunite with the Creator becomes almost...beautiful.

SPOCK: The machine inhabitants found it to be one of their own kind, primitive yet kindred. They discovered its simple twentieth-century programming.

Here, we flesh out V'Ger's story, learning that its "homeworld" is in fact its second home. Think of it as college: a place of immense personal growth spurred on by likeminded peers. Also: robo-kegstands. We're pretty sure that's part of Star Trek canon.

KIRK: What V'Ger needs in order to evolve is a human quality. Our capacity to leap beyond logic.

DECKER: And joining with its Creator might accomplish that.

In the end, V'Ger can only reach the next stage of its evolution by becoming less mechanical and more human. How's that for irony? Likewise, it's implied that it works the other way around too, with humans needing to gain a technological aspect to reach our next evolution. Fancy-pants call this merging "the singularity."

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