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V'ger ship
The V'ger vessel
Nature: Vessel enclosed in energy cloud
Power: Twelfth power
Origin: Earth and Unknown
Diameter: Surrounding energy cloud diameter of two astronomical units
Armaments: Plasma weapons
"…On its journey back, it amassed so much knowledge, it achieved consciousness itself. It became a living thing."
– James T. Kirk, 2270s (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

V'ger was a massive entity and one of the most extraordinary lifeforms ever encountered by the United Federation of Planets. It generated enormous levels of power and threatened Earth with destruction until it found a way to evolve.

V'ger chose its own name. Before the name of the vessel was discovered, Starfleet personnel referred to the ship as "the intruder".

Approaching Federation space

Initial contact

First detected when passing through Klingon territory in the 2270s, V'ger was unlike anything that Starfleet had ever encountered. Its initial appearance – that of a vast, luminous cloud, capable of emitting enormous amounts of energy – was described as a "twelfth-power energy field", a scale beyond the energy-generation capacity of even "thousands of starships".

During a battle with a fleet of three Klingon K't'inga-class battle cruisers led by the IKS Amar, V'ger launched a series of powerful, spherically-shaped "bolts" of plasma energy that emerged from within the cloud and eliminated the Klingon assailants. The cloud and its encounter with the Klingons, while occurring within Klingon space, was detected and monitored by a sensor drone from Starfleet's Epsilon IX communications station, which was in close proximity to the then-disputed Federation-Klingon border.

Shortly after the elimination of the Klingon vessels, the cloud passed into Federation space near the Epsilon IX station, which was able to perform limited scans on it, although most of its sensor sweeps were reflected back. The relay station's crew was able, however, to determine that it measured a diameter in excess of two astronomical units, which, at almost three hundred million kilometers, would have made the cloud at least as large as Earth's entire orbit; they also detected a null reading at the heart of the entity, indicating a solid form or vessel of some kind. Unfortunately, V'ger appeared to interpret Epsilon IX's scans as a hostile act, and eliminated the space station in the same manner as it had the Klingon vessels.

Threatening Earth

"We've plotted a course on that cloud, commander. It'll pass into Federation space, fairly close to us."
"Heading?"
"Sir, it's on a precise heading for Earth.
"
– Epsilon IX crewmember and Branch, 2270s (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

With the cloud just fifty-four hours away from Earth, Starfleet dispatched the only starship within interception range, the newly refitted USS Enterprise, to determine both what the intruder was and how to stop it, if possible. When the Enterprise arrived at the cloud's coordinates, it determined that the entity had an energy output surpassing that of thousands of starships.

By assuming a non-threatening posture, the Enterprise was able to deeply penetrate the cloud surrounding V'ger and begin gathering information. During this critical time, however, the starship was cut off from all communication with Starfleet. As V'ger entered the Sol system, the cloud surrounding it began to rapidly dissipate, and spherical energy "bolts" similar to those that had destroyed the Klingons and the Epsilon IX station, only vastly more powerful, were launched by the entity. The energy spheres proceeded on courses that would place them into equidistant orbits around the planet, at which point it was predicted Earth's entire surface would be devastated.

Making contact

The Enterprise tried to make contact with V'ger, but all linguacode messages were ignored, and it became apparent that the object at the heart of the cloud was unable to comprehend the hailing signals. It was determined that the intruder communicated on a frequency of more than one million megahertz (over one terahertz) and that, at such a high rate of speed, an entire message lasted only a millisecond.

Aside from the plasma energy spheres, V'ger had other, less destructive means of gathering data. It scanned the Enterprise with a plasma-energy beam that gave some of the crew an electric shock, but otherwise left people unharmed. However, the same beam removed the Deltan navigator of the Enterprise, Lieutenant Ilia.

V'ger was able to analyze Ilia in extraordinary detail, at least down to the cellular level. It then constructed an extremely accurate bio-mechanical replica of her, which acted as a probe. This device was such a precise copy of the original that it even had her memory patterns. They were, however, suppressed, and the Ilia probe had only rudimentary knowledge of humanoid behavior, presumably reflecting V'ger's own level of experience; the probe required considerable education to act as liaison between V'ger and the crew of the Enterprise.

Physical aspects and organization

"It could hold a crew of... tens of thousands."
"Or a crew of a thousand, ten miles tall."
– Nyota Uhura observing V'ger with Leonard McCoy, 2270s (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

Structure and layout

USS Enterprise approaches V'ger's cloud

The USS Enterprise makes contact with the intruder

Surrounded by layer upon layer of cloud formations, the vessel aspect of V'ger was enormous, with even the largest starship seeming microscopic in comparison.

Roughly cylindrical in shape, the construction of the exterior and interior of the vessel was mostly of a "hexad", or six-sided axially symmetric nature, with the axis generally running from "bow" to "stern", but with few indications as to its nature or purposes. Portions of the outer hull seem to have been composed of energy rather than matter. Organic in appearance, despite harboring no biological lifeforms, the interior was multi-chambered, and contained circular apertures that could be closed or opened to prevent or allow passage from one section of the vessel to the next. The most prominent of these apertures, at the forward end of the interior chamber where the Enterprise was located before accessing the intruder's core, possessed a hexad of six symmetrical "petals" constantly oscillating in unison, appearing much like the mechanical iris of a camera shutter, but of enormous proportions, with the entire aperture's outer diameter measuring in excess of one kilometer wide.

In one area of the vessel, there was a three-dimensional data storage facility. This stored representations of all data collected by V'ger. The plasma energy weapon which the vessel used to defend itself not only had extreme destructive force, but also functioned as an unusual data-gathering system; as V'ger destroyed a vessel, it gathered an enormous amount of information, and created what appeared to be a holographic record of it, later referred to by the Ilia probe as a "data pattern". In essence, V'ger didn't so much destroy a target as "remember" it to death. When the science officer of the Enterprise, Commander Spock, entered the area, he could see images of everything that the powerful entity had encountered on its long journey, including planets, star systems, and entire galaxies, though the images remained indeterminable as to whether they had been destroyed or simply explored. When Spock came to an image of a gigantic Lieutenant Ilia, he noticed a glowing "node" at the base of the image's throat. He was being guided telepathically by V'ger, and attempted to access the data through a mind meld. He quickly suffered a sensory overload, losing consciousness, and was flung back through the spiral "orifice" toward the Enterprise.

V'ger was able to control atmospheric conditions within its chambers. In the area near where Spock encountered the image of Ilia, there was an "inner sanctum," a central nexus where V'ger could create an M-class environment. In this nexus was a large circular area, resembling an amphitheater, with data conduits running into the center. Lightning constantly lit the background, possibly the visible "nerve" transmissions of V'ger itself.

The heart of V'ger

V'ger

The heart of V'ger

Beyond the oscillating hexad of iris-like petals that Spock had to pass through during his EVA spacewalk to meld with the intruder, the center of the enormous vessel contained the oldest part of V'gerVoyager 6, an unmanned deep space probe launched by NASA in the late 20th century. The entire vessel surrounding the Voyager probe had been built by an unknown race of machine entities in order to help it complete what the latter interpreted to be its primary programming: "learn all that is learnable," and return that knowledge to its creator. During its journey, the probe had come to think of itself as V'ger after the only remaining legible letters from its original name (the "O", "Y", "A", and "6" on the nameplate having been obscured from encounters with previous spatial hazards), and amassed knowledge to such a degree as to become self-aware.

Evolution of V'ger

"V'ger must evolve. Its knowledge has reached the limits of this universe and it must evolve."

The machine planet

V'ger had an extraordinary ability to evolve. It was discovered that the evolution of this once-simple probe into a complex, powerful entity began after it was pulled into an anomaly once called a black hole, shortly after leaving Earth's solar system.

Voyager 6 emerged from the anomaly in what was believed to have been the far side of the galaxy, and fell into the gravitational field of a planet populated by living machines. These beings found Voyager 6 damaged by its travels, and the identifying plaque attached to the probe's exterior had been burned, leaving only the letters "V", "G", "E", and "R" legible; the inhabitants of the machine planet called the probe "V'ger".

These entities found V'ger to be primitive, but of a kindred spirit. They discovered the probe's simple, 20th century programming, "learn all that is learnable and return that knowledge to the creator," and interpreted these instructions literally.

Reprogramming

Reconstructed through highly advanced technologies as a vast space-faring artificial organism, V'ger was augmented with a three-dimensional data collection and storage apparatus, magnitudes beyond anything previously known to Federation science. The inhabitants of the machine planet likewise provided V'ger with effectively immeasurable defensive and sensory capabilities; these gave V'ger the ability to fulfill its programming in a far more complete fashion than the scientists who had originally built and launched the vessel at its core had ever imagined.

Sentience

Voyager6

At the heart of V'ger, the crew of the Enterprise finds the ancient Voyager 6 probe

While traversing the vast distance back to Earth, V'ger collected data via its 3D imaging system, but in doing so destroyed the objects that it encountered along the way. However, it accumulated so much knowledge that it eventually achieved consciousness and became, like its benefactors, a living machine. As a machine, it was only capable of pure, cold logic with no emotion, but with its new-found sentience, V'ger began to question its own existence. It asked the philosophical questions faced by so many lifeforms: "Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?" The answers, V'ger decided, could only be found with its creator on Earth.

Resolution

V'ger evolving

Upon merging with Humanity, V'ger evolves into a higher level of existence

Realizing it lacked the intuitive, irrational elements which allow Humans to deal with some complex, non-scientific concepts, it came to believe that only its Creator could help it to leap beyond logic. In order to obtain the answers it needed, V'ger wished to meet and become one with its Creator. To this end, it sought not only to receive the acknowledged signal from the Creator, but to merge with the Creator.

But V'ger had been reprogrammed to such an extent that it had come to think of biological lifeforms as an "infestation", and destroyed any that it encountered. When V'ger encountered the crew of the Enterprise, its confusion over its true nature was so great that it could not comprehend what it was told – that it had been created by the organic lifeforms it saw only as imperfections that must be cleansed.

In an effort to meet its Creator, V'ger refused to accept the pre-programmed transmission that would signal it to transmit its accumulated data. The probe burned out a relay connection, hoping to force the Creator to come to its heart, so that they could merge. Realizing that the only way V'ger would understand was to add Humanity to its experiences, Captain Will Decker, who was deeply affected by the loss of Ilia, his former lover, sacrificed himself to become one with the machine lifeform. Decker rewired the relay connection and keyed in the final sequence of the transmission manually. This prompted V'ger to begin transmitting its data, effectively merging with Decker and the Ilia probe, thus taking V'ger to a new level of existence. At last satisfied with its answers, V'ger disappeared in a blinding flash of white light, leaving Admiral James T. Kirk, Commander Spock, and Doctor Leonard McCoy of the Enterprise to discuss the possibility that they had just created a new lifeform made of V'ger's logic and of Humanity's ability to feel and to believe. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

Appendices

Background information

The concept of V'ger, an Earth-launched space probe that becomes a powerful, sentient being in its own right, is in many ways a revisiting of the Nomad probe featured in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Changeling".

According to the writers of the Star Trek Chronology (1st ed., p. 17), shortly after "Q Who" was produced, "Gene Roddenberry half jokingly speculated that the planet encountered by Voyager might have been the Borg homeworld."

When Spock attempts a mind meld with V'ger and is quickly overwhelmed, among the images visible on the screen multiple times, when in slow motion, amid the background of his face, can be seen the dedication plaque carried not by Voyager 1 and 2, but by Pioneer 10 and 11. Other images include a Klingon cruiser seen earlier, the bridge and two crewmembers of (presumably) the IKS Amar, Epsilon IX, the Epsilon IX lieutenant, and Ilia.

A picture tweeted by Ted Sullivan on 28 November 2017 of a star chart supposedly used for Star Trek: Discovery, largely taken from the Star Trek Star Charts, included a few anachronisms such as the "Route of V'ger."[1]

Concept and effects development

Spelling of the name

The spelling "V'ger" was used in the shooting script of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. [2] The alternative spelling "V'Ger", with a capital "G", was used in most other reference sources, including such works as Star Trek Encyclopedia (3rd ed., p. 539) and Star Trek Star Charts (p. 39) and at StarTrek.com. [3]

The label of the soundtrack LP record, and more significantly the text of the novelization of the film, itself written by Gene Roddenberry as the only Star Trek novel ever written by the series' creator, both use the alternative spelling "Vejur", which in the novel exists from its first mention on page 179 onwards in the novel's first paperback edition. This was to mislead the reader in case they had not yet seen the movie, as both the soundtrack and novelization were released before the film's premiere.

The size controversy

The physical size of V'ger has been the subject of speculation from the time Star Trek: The Motion Picture was first released, at the end of 1979. In the original theatrical release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the V'ger energy cloud is given a size measuring eighty-two au in diameter, in dialogue from the Epsilon IX commander, Branch. That measurement is equivalent to over 1.2271e10×1010 kilometers or 0.001 light years. Placing V'ger at the same central position as the sun would mean that the energy cloud would extend beyond the Kuiper belt, extending into the orbit of Eris, and essentially swallowing our entire solar system. For the later-released Directors' Edition DVD of the film, the cloud size was drastically scaled down to two au, which is the distance between Sol and a point between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. [4] This revision was achieved by editing the spoken dialogue to clip out the "eighty" and leaving just the "two". As one au is precisely the average distance between Sol and Earth, this more reasonable measurement reduces the size of the cloud to "merely" the diameter of Earth's orbit. More recent releases of the film, however, retain the original dimension and it is unclear which should be considered canonical. Additional dialogue established that the cloud dissipated rapidly as it slowed to enter the solar system, allowing V'ger ultimately to enter Earth's orbit without disrupting the entire system and destroying Earth, in essence making both size measurements "correct". In the Director's Edition, the dramatically decreasing cloud had disappeared entirely when V'ger entered Earth orbit.

The size of V'ger's vessel has also been a subject of debate. In dialogue cut from the theatrical version of the movie, Decker says the spacecraft was seventy-eight kilometers (forty-eight miles) in length. The novel adaptation of the film gives the same dimension for the ship and states it as displacing six million times the amount of space as Enterprise. One popular non-canon site for Star Trek technical details, the Daystrom Institute Technical Library, listed V'ger's overall length at a staggering ninety-seven kilometers, stated as being determined from apparently careful measurement of the image of the refitted NCC-1701 from the movie's scenes, as the Enterprise traveled closely (at only five hundred meters distance, from the movie's dialogue) over the various parts of V'ger's exterior structures, during the Federation starship's initial close examination of the "intruder" vessel. Another estimate places V'ger's colossal length at a much more conservative twenty kilometers instead, possibly based on the statement of replacement navigator DiFalco's "distance inside the intruder as seventeen kilometers," spoken just after Chekov reports that V'ger's "orbiting devices" were eighteen minutes from reaching their equidistant deployment points in Earth orbit, during the approach to Voyager 6's "island," in the most extreme part of V'ger's interior that the Enterprise was allowed access to. The latter estimate, however, would make V'ger impossibly smaller than the roughly seventy kilometer-long Whale Probe featured in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, given that the latter was passed by a Federation starship within minutes, rather than the near-hour it took to traverse even half of V'ger at a faster pace, much of which was carried out at only a half-kilometer distance from the "intruder's" hull.

Apocrypha

The idea that the Borg homeworld was the machine planet which V'ger had encountered was further developed in the William Shatner novel The Return, where Spock's mind meld with V'ger not only protected Spock from being assimilated (since the Borg Collective was already present in Spock's mind, the Borg assumed he was already one of them), but provided the Federation with the coordinates of the Borg homeworld for a final attack. It may also be significant that Spock, when referring to V'ger, says, "Resistance would be futile."

In the game Star Trek: Legacy, it is said that V'ger itself created the Borg to gain the knowledge by assimilation. The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Dragon's Teeth" seems to contradict the game's storyline, as the character of Gedrin states to Seven of Nine that his species, the Vaadwaur, had encountered the Borg over nine centuries prior to his revival, placing the Borg's genesis at least as far back as around the year 1400 AD. The story writers for Star Trek: Legacy, however, claimed on the official game forum that Voyager 6 was meant to have been thrown back in time as well as across the galaxy, an aspect mentioned in the "extras" cut-scenes of the game itself.

Star Trek Online also hints at a connection to the Borg, as vessels closely resembling V'ger are featured as Borg mini-bosses, even including the disintegrating plasma weapons and the V'ger-style low-pitched sound effects. [5]

V'ger and Narada

V'ger and the Narada

V'ger appears in the third issue of the comic book Star Trek: Nero. Set during 2009's Star Trek in the alternate reality caused by Nero's incursion, V'ger reactivates the Narada, itself an artificial intelligence due to having Borg-based modifications. After escaping twenty-five years of imprisonment on Rura Penthe in the alternate reality, Nero is taken to V'ger on the edge of the Delta Quadrant by the Narada and then uses the unmanned probe's intelligence to calculate where and when Spock will arrive. While Nero is able to do this, V'ger finds his hatred incompatible with itself.

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