Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is a 1989 sci-fi film and the fifth entry in the Star Trek film series. It was directed and co-written by William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk. Originally, the film was supposed to be about a Vulcan anmed Sybok searching for God with his followers, but instead finds a devil creature. However, Paramount wanted the script to be more light-hearted, resulting in the final film. The film released to mixed-to-negative reviews and eventually won a Razzie award for Worst Picture.
Spock's seemingly mad half-brother, Sybok, stages a rebellion on the backwater planet of Nimbus III, also known as the Planet of Galactic Peace, and takes the Federation, Klingon and Romulan ambassadors hostage. The new USS Enterprise-A is hastily pressed into action to deal with the crisis, and the crew discover that Sybok's real goal is to find God, who he claims is living on the planet Sha Ka Ree at the center of the galaxy.
Why It Can't Find Sha Ka Ree
- The main problem with the film is that it tries to balance the tone between being serious and light-hearted at the same time. However, it strays to much into a more lighter territory and in the end ruins the entire film as a result.
- Executive meddling: Related to the above, the final film is much different from Shatner's intended vision for it. While the film kept the Sybok plot of him wanting to find God and paradise it would have had a much more darker and serious tone, and in the end of the film it turned out that this "God" being was actually a devil like creature disguising itself as what people would have idealized as God. This version would even have had a cool scene where Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are getting chased by demon-like creatures and are hiding in the landing shuttle craft while the demons pummel the craft. However, Paramount found that the concept of God really being a devil in the end would be offensive to some audiences and wanted a complete re-write of the film to fit a more light-hearted tone.
- The plot is a bit of a mess and a huge disappointment compared to previous films in the franchise, lacking of story-telling, has some plot holes, and overall doesn't feel very finished. As well as that, some scenes are unintentionally hilarious due to the film's budgetary problems.
- Suddenly, we learn that Spock has a half-brother in this film. Apparently, Sarek had a child with another Vulcan before he married Amanda. The problem with this, while somewhat of a decent plot twist, is that something as important as this would have already been established in the television series. After all, the viewer already knew a lot about Spock's parents from episodes like "Amok Time" and "Journey to Babel". Therefore, it is quite confusing on the viewer because something as important as that should have already been known. A better twist would have been for Sybok to be a former friend of Spock's rather than deciding to screw up his family history.
- The entire Klaa subplot in the film is pretty unnecessary and the film would have been fine without it. The only thing it adds to the plot is that know Kirk has a target on his back and the subplot is anti-climactic unresolved anyway (See below) so it was pointless to include it anyway. Sure, Spock manning that ship's guns saved Kirk from "God", but if this subplot was gone, than Kirk would have been saved anyway due to the transporter not being damaged if Klaa wasn't there.
- We learn at the beginning of the film that the new Enterprise (Now with a "- A" at the end to designate that it's the second to bear the name) isn't really up for usage and nothing really works on it at the moment. Because of this, it' not really a good idea to end the Enterprise out to resolve the conflict when it can barely function. On a side note, the Excelsior is right there in space dock and sending the crew of that ship to stop the conflict would have been a better idea. And even if the crew was unavailable at the time, they could just have sent Kirk's crew over to the ship, complete the mission, and bring the Excelsior back, which by them repairs on the Enterprise should make it a lot more functional.
- The fact that the Excelsior is there also contradicts the fact that Starfleet Command said that the Enterprise is the only ship within range to intercept. Or maybe the Excelsior is not working? Last we heard, all that happened to it was Scotty removing the transwarp drive.
- Why can't the crew of the Enterprise just beam up the captured ambassadors using the transporter instead of sending down a shuttlecraft with an infiltration team to take the hostages away in an obviously less stealthy manner? It's not like Sybok took the ambassadors underground. They are just inside a building, which won't interfere with the transporters.
- The whole Enterprise crew ends up betraying Kirk for Sybok, save for Spock, McCoy, and Scott (Only for a while for the latter though). This isn't that right, as Kirk has been with these people much longer than Sybok has and has made friendships with his crew, so it doesn't really make much sense for them to turn him away in favor of a guy they only knew for a short time.
- Right before the Enterprise reaches the Great Barrier, Sybok releases the pain of McCoy in a very well done sequence, but when he releases Spock's pain, it was something that everyone already knew about (That Spock was half-human), thus making this part of the scene incredibly disappointing and not very notable.
- Upon reaching the God planet after crossing the Great Barrier, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Sybok take a shuttlecraft down to the surface to find out what is on the planet. The crew back aboard the Enterprise are able to see what the Kirk and company are seeing on the planet and are in awe about how beautiful the planet is. The problem with this scene is that the God planet looks exactly like where they filmed the Nimbus III scenes. This makes the part where the characters find the planet so beautiful unintentionally hilarious, because it looks exactly the same as where they were.
- How did the "God" creature get imprisoned and who imprisoned it?
- The final encounter between Kirk and and the Klingon Captain Klaa is incredibly disappointing, as instead of having an epic fight against each other similar to the fights against Khan or Kruge from the second and third films, Klaa is instead told off by the Klingon ambassador and apologizes to Kirk for hunting him down, which is incredibly anti-climactic. The problem with this is that there was a lot of build-up from the Klaa scenes that made the viewer feel like something was going to happen against the two characters in the end, and instead all of the build-up is wasted.
- Near the end of the film, Spock and McCoy forget that Kirk had a brother in the scene where they look out toward the God planet. This is a problem because in the original series episode "Operation: Annihilate", Kirk's brother lived on the colony in the episode and was killed. It doesn't seem right for McCoy or even Spock of all people to forget something like that.
- Many of the concepts in the film, while great and have a lot of good physiological aspects to them, are not at all fully realized, making the film feel more disappointing a result.
- The most unrealized concept in the film is the quest for God and paradise, which is something that humankind has been wanting to do for as long as they have existed, and wanting to prove its existence. This film brings up that topic and even does a few good touches on it such as the fact that maybe humans don't need paradise. However, this aspect feels quite rushed at the end of the film, and the short encounter with "God" and on Sha Ka Ree feel way to short to seriously tackle this topic.
- Spock and Sybok's acquaintances with each other and their relationship and history is also very underused and feels like a missed opportunity. The film could have used this twist to have many moments of tension or interaction with the two characters, but instead a'll we get is how Spock knows Sybok and only a few lines of dialogue to each other, making the twist that Sybok and Spock are related more pointless than it already is.
- The attempts at humor in the film are not that great, instead it's all campy, just like Batman & Robin. For example:
- The scene where Chekov and Sulu get lost in the woods on shore leave and Chekov blows into the communicator to simulate a snow storm when Uhura checks on how they are doing.
- Near the beginning of the film, the Romulan ambassador comes into the room with the human and Klingon ambassadors and the Klingon burps after drinking. The Romulan ambassador responds with "I expect that's Klingon for hello."
- Spock mistakes a marshmallow and calls it a "marshmelon" (See "Trivia").
- After he helps Kirk, Spock, and McCoy escape from the brig after Sybok takes control of the ship, he tells them that he knows the ship like the back of his hand, and immediately knocks himself out by hitting his head.
- There are quite a number of continuity errors in the film. While some are nitpicky, others can be quite bothersome and are related to the film's production problems.
- An obvious wire hangs out of Kirk's side when he is being held just above the ground after Spock catches him.
- During the production of the film, the creators tried to get the bridge set used for the end of the fourth film, but it got damaged due to the moisture where that set was kept, so they couldn't reuse that set. Instead, they had to remake the set. Because of this, the bridge of the Enterprise in the film looks very different from what it looked like in the previous film.
- Aesthetically, the interiors of the Enterprise look a little to advanced for the time period. The transporters, hallways, and some of the doors in the film look like the ones from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The problem with this is that that show takes place almost eighty years after this film. Either technology hasn't changed much in eighty years or they were the best the creators could get to use in the film.
- When Kirk, Spock, and McCoy rocket up the Enterprise's decks, the deck numbers are quite confusing. They read in this order, 35, 36, 52, 64, 63 and 64 again (To blurry to see in motion, but found when pausing the film), 52, 77, 78, and 78 again. This is quite confusing to the viewer, making them think if they were from different times or different shots of the same moment.
- The aforementioned problems with the Sha Ka Ree scenes.
- Awful special effects that haven't aged well, quite surprising for a Trek film, although understandable due to the lower budget of this film compared to past Trek films.
- At the beginning of the film, Kirk falls off of a mountain in Yosemite National Park. When he is falling, the green screen behind Shatner and Nimoy (Kirk and Spock's actors) is incredibly obvious even when you take into account the limitations of what could be done at the time.
- When Klaa fires at the old Pioneer X probe in space, when the disruptor fire hits the probe, the probe spins around multiple times before he finishes it off. The problem here is that all the creators did was rotate the camera around the model for a little bit, and rotate the footage multiple times and slap it onto the film, making the effect itself look unconvincing.
- Speaking of unconvincing effects, on bad effect in the film is when the Copernicus goes for a suicide run to the Enterprise in an attempt to land on the ship manually to save time from Klaa's attacking Bird of Prey. The problem with this scene is that the shuttle craft hits the shuttle bay doors hard and goes skidding across the landing bay for a good while. The problem is that there are multiple shots of it skidding on the bay before getting stopped by a safety net. The scene goes on for way to long, making the viewer feel like the shuttle bay is longer than it actually is.
- On the subject of the damaged shuttle craft, when the scene ends, we see a view of it and the craft itself doesn't really look that damaged despite losing part of its nacelles that are attached to it.
- The scene where the Enterprise crosses the Great Barrier also doesn't look that great at all, and looks more like a weird, animated tie-dye shirt than something truly spectacular.
- The film uses star field footage from the first two films.
- Many of the scenes in the film are quite boring and don't keep the viewer interested for long. There is quite a lot of talking in the film and when something does happen, it doesn't last for too long. Due to this, the viewer may get lost on what is going on.
- The pacing can be very inconsistent at times and it makes the film feel a little disjointed to watch. For example, there are some scenes that go by a little to quickly and don't really give you enough time to process what is happening, such as the fight scenes on Sha Ka Ree. There are also some moments that drag on for much longer than they should, such as the "Stand Back!" scene, while good, would have had the same impact on the viewer if it was shortened.
- The fight scenes are also incredibly disappointing. The direction for these scenes is not very clear and they mostly consist of Kirk fighting Sybok's followers with his fists and the occasional phaser fire.
- Due to the problems with the script, some of the characters in the film are not fully fleshed out. For example:
- By far the most disappointing of all the characters is Captain Klaa. In the beginning of the film, we see that he wants to be recognized by his peers for killing the legendary Captain Kirk. We get quite a lot of build-up as we see him get pursue the Enterprise after it warps away, we get a moment of tension as we see his ship appear on the Enterprise's scanner, and a climax when the Enterprise gets a direct torpedo hit from Klaa. However, all of his potential as a good villain is wasted at the end of the film when he apologizes to Kirk for doing an unauthorized attack on his ship.
- "God" is also an incredibly disappointing character, as all he does in the entire film is shot lightning bolts at Kirk and company for doubting him.
- Also similar to the first film, the color pallete is very dull. Most of the colors in the film consist of browns, blues, and greys which isn't that appealing to the eyes. Any other colors such as the red on the Starfleet uniforms and the greens of Yosemite National Park get a little overshadowed occasionally due to the abundance of these colors.
- Disappointing direction by William Shatner.
- Sybok is a great character, and one of the best antagonists in all of the Trek films. However, he is not so much of a villain as he is a light antagonist who wants something that many people would want: to find paradise. Even better is that we works well as a Vulcan character too, as he decided to throw away the Vulcan aspects of living in favor of freely expressing his emotions. Because of these great character traits, it makes him quite relatable and makes the viewer actually want to root for him and adds to the impact of feeling bad for him when they realize the the God planet isn't really paradise and that "God" isn't really God.
- Despite the many problems related to the film's script and tone balance, there are some great scenes in the film that really show the potential of what the film could have been.
- The opening of the film sets up a good mystery for both fans and non-fans alike.
- Almost all of the scenes involving Kirk, Spock, and McCoy together are very charming, with the best examples being the campfire scenes near the beginning and ending of the film, as well as the "Stand Back" scene.
- The scene where McCoy re-experiences the death of his father is quite emotional.
- The scene where Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Sybok meet "God" is also well done.
- As always, Jerry Goldsmith's score for the films is very excellent, including the memorable opening theme as well as the quieter, emotional tracks that give the film a really great score.
- The costume, set, and model designs in the film are very well done and perfectly capture the vibe the film was going for. These include the simple but new field uniforms and the Nimbus III attire for clothing, the impressive exterior Paradise City set (One of the largest exterior sets filmed for any Star Trek media) and the Enterprise interior for sets, and of course, the impressive Klingon Bird of Prey model.
- In fact, many of the concepts in this film were very great ideas for a Star Trek film and have some good philosophical aspects to them.
- The cinematography is excellent, thanks to Shatner's direction with different shots.
- For example, when the crew take a shuttlecraft to the Enterprise in some scenes, we can see a reflection of the Enterprise off the window.
- In addition, there is a great touch in the scene where Sybok talks to Kirk, Spock, and McCoy about releasing their pain. As it goes on, the edge of the Great Barrier gets more prominent, indicating that they are getting closer to it. The shots in the Yosemite National Park scenes are also very well done.
- The actors do an alright job with the scripts that they were given and genuinely seem to care putting as much effort into their roles as possible, especially Sybok's actor.
Upon release, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics, audiences, and Star Trek fans. On review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an aggregated score of 22% based on 49 reviews. The site's consensus reads "Filled with dull action sequences and an underdeveloped storyline, this fifth Trek movie is probably the worst of the series." On Metacritic, the film has an aggregated critic score of 43/100 and a user score of 5.7/10. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film a negative review, giving it two stars out of four and calling it "a mess". In his review, he found the film confusing and finally stated "Star Trek V is pretty much of a mess - a movie that betrays all the signs of having gone into production at a point where the script doctoring should have begun in earnest. There is no clear line from the beginning of the movie to the end, not much danger, no characters to really care about, little suspense, uninteresting or incomprehensible villains, and a great deal of small talk and pointless dead ends. Of all of the Star Trek movies, this is the worst.". Stan James of The Advertiser stated the David Warner's talents in the film were wasted and that almost all of the characetrs lacked motivation for their roles. The cast and creators of the film have also expressed negative opinions on it. William Shatner stated that the film nearly ended the series and stated that the film just didn't come together in the end. Even the creator of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry called the film "apocryphal at best", and did not like the idea that Sarek had a child with another Vulcan before he married Amanda.
- In the novelization of the film, it actually explains why Spock mistakenly calls a marshmallow a "marshmelon". According to the novelization, McCoy knew that Spock was going to look up camping traditions on the Enterprise's computer, so as a cruel prank, he got an ensign on the ship to change every mention of "marshmallow" to "marshmelon".
- When the Klingon Bird of Prey fires on "God" near the end of the film, it uses sound effects from the Star Wars films.
- The producer of this film, Harve Bennett (Who also co-wrote Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, wrote and produced Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, and co-wrote and produced Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) plays the Starfleet admiral who gives the Kirk the details on his mission to Nimbus III.
- In the same scene, the background behind the admiral was a matte painting used in the film Logan's Run.
- "Star Trek V – The Final Frontier (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango.
- "Star Trek V – The Final Frontier". Metacritic.
- Ebert, Roger (June 9, 1989). "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier". Chicago Sun-Times.
- James, Stan (November 18, 1989). "This one's strictly for die-hard Trekkies". The Advertiser.
- Hughes, David (2008). The Greatest Science Fiction Movies Never Made. Titan Books. Pages 33 - 34.
- Shatner, William; Kris Kreski (1994). Star Trek Movie Memories (1st ed.). HarperCollins. Pages 267 - 268.
- Okuda, Michael; Denise Okuda (1996). Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future, revised edition. Pocket Books. vii.
- "Database article; Bennett, Harve". StarTrek.com. CBS Entertainment.