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The Enterprise enters the cloud.
Nature: Vessel enclosed in energy cloud.
Power: Twelfth Power.
Origin: Earth and Unknown.
Diameter: Two astronomical units.

The massive entity that called itself V'Ger was one of the most extraordinary lifeforms encountered by the Federation. It generated enormous levels of power and threatened the destruction of Earth until it found a way to evolve.

Approaching Federation space

Initial contact

V'Ger was first detected entering Klingon space in 2273. It was unlike anything that Starfleet had ever encountered. At first sight, it appeared to be a massive cloud that was far larger than a planet and generated an enormous amount of energy. When V'Ger entered Klingon space, the Klingons dispatched three K't'inga class cruisers, led by the I.K.S. Amar, to investigate. The Klingons fired photon torpedoes at V'Ger to no effect. They continued their assault but had begun to retreat when they were destroyed by powerful balls of energy emerging from within the cloud.

Not long after, the cloud encountered the Epsilon IX monitoring station, which was able to perform limited scans on it, although most of its sensor sweeps were reflected back. The crew of the Starfleet station were, however, able to determine that it measured more than two astronomical units, or more than twelve billion kilometers, in diameter, and that there was a null reading at the heart of the entity, indicating a solid form or vessel of some kind. Unfortunately, V'Ger interpreted Epsilon IX's scans as a hostile act, and destroyed the station in much the same way as it had the Klingon vessels.

Threatening Earth

With the cloud just 54 hours away from Earth, Starfleet sent the newly refitted USS Enterprise to intercept it in an effort to discover what it was and how to stop it. When the Enterprise arrived at the cloud's coordinates, it determined that the entity had the energy output equivalent to thousands of starships.

By assuming a non-threatening posture, the Enterprise was able penetrate deep into the cloud around V'Ger where it was able to gather some information. During this critical time, however, the starship was cut off from all communication with Starfleet. As V'Ger entered the Sol system energy balls similar to those that had destroyed the Klingons and the Epsilon IX station, only immensely more powerful, were launched by the entity. The energy spheres proceeded on a course to Earth that would put them at equidistant points above the planet, at which point Earth itself would be destroyed.

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 and at such a high rate of speed that 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 high-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 amazing detail, at least down to the cellular level. It then constructed an extremely accurate biomechanical replica of her, which acted as a probe. This device was such a good copy of the original that it even had her memory patterns, although these were surpressed. But the Ilia probe had only rudimentary knowledge of humanoid behavior, presumably reflecting V'Ger's own level of experience; it required considerable education to act as liaison between V'Ger and the crew of the Enterprise.

Physical aspects and organization

Structure and layout

Surrounded by layer upon layer of cloud formations, the vessel part of V'Ger was huge; even the largest starship seemed microscopic in comparison. The construction of the interior of the vessel was mostly symmetrical, but with little indication of its purpose of nature. It appeared organic, even though it harbored no biological life forms. It was also multi-chambered, with circular apertures that could be closed to prevent passage from one section to the next.

In one area of the vessel there was a 3D data storage facility. This stored life-size 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. 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. When Spock attempted to access the data through a Vulcan mind meld, he was overwhelmed by the amount of information and lost consciousness.

V'Ger was able to control atmospheric conditions within its circumference, and could even create a Class M environment. At the heart of the vessel there was a large circular amphitheater with data conduits running into the center.

The heart of the V'Ger

File:Vger.jpg

The center contained the oldest part of V'GerVoyager VI, the NASA probe launched in the late-1990s. The entire vessel surrounding the Voyager probe was built by an unknown race of machine entities in order to help it complete its programming: learn, and return that knowledge to its creator. During its journey, the probe, which came to think of itself as V'Ger, amassed so much knowledge that it achieved consciousness.

Evolution of V'Ger

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 a black hole shortly after leaving Earth's solar system.

Voyager VI emerged from the black hole on the far side of the galaxy, and fell into the gravitational field of a planet populated by living machines. These begins found Voyager VI 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 renamed the probe V'Ger.

These entities found V'Ger to be primitive, but one of their own kind. They discovered the probe's simple, 20th century programming; "learn all that is learnable and return that knowledge to the creator", and interpreted these instruction literally.

Reprogramming

Voyager6

At the heart of V'Ger, the crew of the Enterprise found the ancient Voyager VI probe.

Using highly advanced technologies, the inhabitants of the Machine Planet gave V'Ger the ability to fulfil its programming far more completely than the scientists who built and launched the probe could ever have imagined. They constructed a giant space-faring machine, with V'Ger at its heart and mind, and gave it the ability to collect and store data in 3D form. They also provided V'Ger with effective defensive and sensory capabilities to carry out its mission.

While traversing the vast distance back to Earth, V'Ger collected data via its 3D imaging system, but it 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 newfound sentience V'Ger began to question its own existence. It asked the philosophical questions faced by so many life forms: "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

File:Vger evolving.jpg

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 life forms 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 was created by the very organic life forms 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, Commander Will Decker, who was deeply affected by the loss of Ilia, his former lover, sacrificed himself to become one with the machine life form. Decker rewired the relay connection and keyed in the final sequence of the transmission manually. This prompted V'Ger to begin transmitting its data effecitively 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 Captain James T. Kirk, Commander Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy of the Enterprise to discuss the possibility that they had just created a new life form made of V'Ger's logic and of humanity's ability to feel and to believe. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

Background information

  • Gene Roddenberry jokingly stated that it was not a black hole that consumed Voyager VI, but a Borg transwarp conduit, and that the planet seen by Spock was infact, the Borg homeworld. Gene stated that the Borg assimilated the probe, yet the assimilation went "afoul", and changed Voyager VI into a more sentient being.

Concept and effects development

Star Trek: The Motion Picture's first visual effects house, Robert Abel & Associates, developed concepts for V'Ger that were radically different than anything that had ever appeared on screen. Robert Abel's art director Richard Taylor and his team worked on a design that was totally different than the version that was ultimately created for the film. Taylor brought in artist Tony Smith to help with the conceptual design, and it was Smith who did the original drawings of the exterior of V'Ger. Taylor designed V'Ger with the idea that the entire object would never be seen. "It was to be a dark object not some light covered mothership from Close Encounters. It's always more mysterious to show less and leave it to the imagination," explained Taylor. "There's a part of V'Ger toward the tail section where there is a huge sphere that rotates and in the center of that sphere is the old Voyager VI probe. Our V'Ger design is much more complex and much more mysterious. For one thing, it would have been a lot more interactive with the Enterprise."

File:Vger concept art (1).jpg

Taylor's philosophy was to make V'Ger a living machine. " It would have 'morphed' and on the inside the walls would have been iridescent and changed as the Enterprise moved past them. You would have seen images of the Enterprise along the walls because it was being analyzed by V'Ger and there would have been parts of walls that would break apart like a flock of birds or a swarm of insects," explained Taylor. "The swarms would go from one place to another and reassemble. You could think of the particles as digital energy or digital information. I wanted it to be a very metamorphical and very mysterious place. For the exterior of the thing one of the design concepts I had was to photo-etch thin metal plates so that the outside surface would have multiple levels which would continually move creating different patterns. We found a material that you could apply like paint that when heated with warm air from a blower would change colour. It had an iridescent colour quality that I was looking for like a beetles' back or butterflies wings. I wanted V'Ger's skin or surface to change color near the Enterprise as it moved over the surface. I wanted the image of the Enterprise to be left like glowing phosphor images along the walls of V'Ger."

The director's edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, released in 2002, featured a somewhat different transformation scene at the end of the film than what was released in 1979. Richard Taylor explained what the original plans were for the evolution of V'Ger into a higher lifeform: "What we had storyboarded was that the whole V'Ger craft unfolds and turns into this incredible object in space. That effect would have started where Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the Voyager VI was and would have radiated outward from there through the ship. There would have been this change that goes through V'Ger's interior and then to the outside, unfolding into a big flower kind of thing with all these radiating colours and such."

Brick Price, whose company, Brick Price Movie Miniatures, was brought in by Robert April on The Motion Picture, worked on the V'Ger model, at least some of the early stages of it when Richard Taylor was designer. The model they started in August of 1978 looked like a cigar with a maw that opened up. They disliked that design because it was too much like "The Doomsday Machine" and there was already enough trouble with the script being so similar to that episode and "The Changeling". "But we did a lot of tests working with the textures like paint, colour and light, things of that sort," explained Price, "and it wound up with a very organic art-deco look to it. Taylor was an avid deco fan. That one might have been interesting had they gone with it. It would have had a bubble on it and the Voyager craft would have been on an island underneath one of those. The whole skin surface was sort of iridescent. But then Paramount decided to have miles and miles of white and not let people know what it looked like exactly. Ours was really bizarre and all convoluted with things hanging off it. So every time it changed hands it changed completely. Taylor's original interior concept of V'Ger was extremely complex. You can see all sorts of actual light functions and all sorts of spheres representing the V'Ger concept of life."

File:Vger concept art (2).jpg

"I think V'Ger more than anything was incredibly compromised because the effects had changed hands and they had to come up with their own solutions in a very short period of time," said Richard Taylor. "Doug[las Trumbull] was not going to use my solution because that model had not been built. We had built test pieces and had done extensive tests of processes we were going to use when we finally began construction. I was told Douglas Trumbull described the exterior as a "weird fish" (Cinefex Magazine, issue 1). That's a pretty subjective description. I don't think many would agree. [...] My point was that one would never really see the entire shape of V'Ger because the ship was so big – it really wasn't that important. Just show glimpses of the exterior and let the audience's imagination do the rest."

Robert Abel & Associations, however, had overstretched themselves and Paramount lost confidence in their ability to deliver the movie's visual effects in time for its release. The studio thus handed control to Douglas Trumbull, who divided work on V'Ger between two teams: his would deal with the interior, while John Dykstra's people would work on V'Ger's exterior. In this area all the work that the Abel studios had done was abandoned and the two teams et about developing entirely new concepts. The highly-respected artist Syd Mead was brought in, who worked with Dykstra to design an entirely new version of the giant craft.

The model of V'Ger that they built was never seen in its entirety, but it was an incredible beast. It was sixty feet long and Dykstra remembered that even constructing it in time posed logistical problems. "We were building the model on one end of the stage and photographing it on the other with a black curtain between the two -- that was the unique approach to doing the work. We had three crews working eight-hour shifts in order to get that work done." The situation was complicated because the camera had to record several passes over the model at very slow speeds. Some of the passes took as long as 18 hours, and if the motors failed (which they often did) they had to be recorded again from scratch.

Trumbull's team, handling the interior of V'Ger, considered several different approaches – possibly using matte paintings or some kind of laser scanning effect – before settling on a conventional model. Most of the design work was done by Syd Mead, who by now had finished his work on the V'Ger exterior. His designs followed Trumbull's brief, which called for six-sided summetry. When it was filmed, the model was filled with smoke to give it the right sense of scale. The walls were originally illuminated with miniature light bulbs, which were built into the model. However, when it came to the filming they were too big to be convincing. Greg Jein, who had built the model, suggested the solution to the problem: drill hundreds of holes in the model and run figer optic lights behind them.

The major reason Trumbull took on the shots inside V'Ger was that he was also filming a new sequence in which Spock explored the inside of the vast machine. His Spock spacewalk replaced the 'memory wall' sequence that the Abel studios had originally planned, and had been filmed during first-unit photography. Trumbull did not feel he could make the sequence work with what had been shot without spending an insane amount of money.

File:Vger concept art (3).jpg

The wire work that had been filmed on the stage as awkward and unwieldy; there were even problems with reflections in the spacesuit faceplates. Instead Trumbull pursued director Robert Wise to let him shoot a new sequence, which he designed himself. The storyboards were worked up by Tom Cranham, with several artists including David Negrón Sr. and Robert T. McCall developing concepts for the things that Spock would see. The spacesuits were completely redesigned, and then built at Apogee.

The final effect – when V'Ger disappears leaving the Enterprise in orbit around Earth – was specially designed so that it only expanded horizontally, insuring that it could not be mistaken for a conventional explosion. Incredibly, all these shots were completed in time for the movie's premiere, and the world was so impressed with what it saw that the Trumbull/Dykstra team was jointly nominated for an Academy Award.

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