Netflix just uploaded Star Trek The Motion Picture and Star Trek The Wrath of Khan for view today and I found myself drawn to watch the first proper Star Trek movie for the sake of nostalgia. Confession; I watched this movie a few times on VHS as a kid but it was never one of my favorites. Maybe that was why I decided to give it another shot now that it was so easily and instantly available this morning. Upon finishing it my now adult brain couldn’t help but wonder how this mostly ignored Star Trek film could have completely thrown the Star Trek universe into a different path if the creative staff had chosen to do so.
*SPOILERS* (I feel obligated to say so despite the film being 37 years old, you were warned)
So the original Star Trek television show was a lightning rod for social and societal progress, we can all agree on that hopefully but I want to dig in on the canon implications of the decisions made in this film and how it could have EASILY derailed the resurrection of the series in the ‘90s. Lets take a look at where we stand when the movie begins.
The original Enterprise NCC-1701 has returned from it’s 5 year mission of exploration and undergoes an extensive retrofit to become the NCC-1701A seen at far right below, clearly superior to the Nu Trek version in my opinion (nerd smug opinion).
Captain Kirk is an Admiral, Bones retired, and Spock is on sabbatical basically to purge all his remaining emotions. Captain Decker is supposed to be the commander of the new Enterprise, the rest of the crew is pretty much intact. Now, enter stage left, a mysterious energy cloud obliterates some silly Klingons (because of course, Klingons are dumb) and is on a direct course with Earth. In the film Kirk bullies his way back to command and drags Bones and Spock back after some pretty horrific transporter accidents and generally seems like a pretty ham-fisted way to get the crew back together. That’s not what I want to talk about though, I’d like to explore what would happen if Decker remained the Captain and how he would have addressed the crisis.
So this guy is supposed to be the Commander of the Enterprise. Kirk taps him to be his XO and he basically goes to war with Jim over command at the beginning of their interactions. I don’t blame him, Kirk was being a major league dick in this film. He didn’t know any of the systems and damn near gets the crew killed almost immediately and Decker saves the ship and the crew because he know’s the Enterprise NOW better than Kirk does. He proceeds to argue and bicker with Jimbo for much of the movie. So what would have happened if Decker was in charge the whole time?
The short answer is that Vger would have destroyed Earth by wiping out all organic life on the planet. Decker fights Kirk’s decisions almost all the way through this film. I suspect he would have prioritized protecting the ship and it’s crew over ever establishing contact with Vger and ultimately everyone on Earth would have been killed and Vger may have continued to go on a temper tantrum rampage through the galaxy trying to find the answers it sought from it’s creator. I know there are fan theories about Vger having been programmed by the Borg but I prefer to believe that it came from a different system in the end because Vger seems to not even understand what the hell an organic life form is for the most part. So where would that conclusion leave us?
Well, Kirk and Bones would have been killed because they would still be on Earth in this scenario. Decker is still in command of the Enterprise but I would imagine that Starfleet would basically be completely fractured and mostly scattered. Spock could theoretically have linked up with the Enterprise at some point because Decker shows that he respects him but I doubt he would have given him the same latitude that Kirk does in the movie. If you think about it we wouldn’t have had any ground to stand on for a TNG or DS9 television series and if a new Star Trek television show was to come along it would probably resemble Voyager more than any other version of the series in my opinion.
My thoughts after watching this movie is that the entire next 20 years really teetered on a brink and it could have been significantly different. I have to say that I wouldn’t want to trade TNG for anything but this movie could have changed everything if it really wanted to.