Synopsis: It’s Stardate 8451.3 and vacationing Captain Kirk faces two challenges: climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan and teaching campfire songs to Spock. But vacations are cut short when a renegade Vulcan hijacks the Enterprise, and pilots it on a journey to uncover the universe’s innermost secrets.
The Star Trek stars are back for one of their most astonishing voyages ever, with all the fun and excitement fans have come to love. So buckle up for a thrilling leap into the unknown that’s “as much a spiritual odyssey as a space adventure, and it’s all the richer for it”
eyelights: Leonard Nimoy. DeForest Kelley. Uhura. Jerry Goldsmith’s return.
eyesores: its overall cheap and cheesy vibe. its script. its shoddy direction. the production quality. its corny gags.
“What does God need with a starship?”
‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ is one bad movie. Not bad-@$$. Not so-bad-it’s-good, either. Just bad. I still remember seeing it at the drive-in, having eventually convinced my mom to go see it instead of some other movie, and regretting every moment of it – not just having recommended it, but the movie itself.
How does one put it succinctly? Oh, I got it: The Enterprise confronts God.
Yeah, that‘s what’s wrong with it.
But the biggest problem with ‘The Final Frontier’ cam be resumed in two words: William Shatner. Since Leonard Nimoy got to direct the two previous films, Shatner got assurances that he would direct the next one. But not only did he direct it, not only did he star in it, he also came up with the picture’s basic plot.
Then the script went through a number of rewrites because Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, and even Gene Roddenberry, objected to aspects of it. Then they couldn’t get the screenwriter they wanted. Then the one they hired got hit with a writer’s strike. And then even Shatner was unhappy with the script and had it changed.
Shatner may be quite a character, but he’s not exactly known for his class or good taste. As the film’s engine, he transformed it from a series of genuinely horrible ideas into a b-movie version ‘Star Trek’, complete with cheap special effects and tons of reused sets from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’.
And it nearly destroyed the franchise.
Let’s break it down (or apart if at all possible), shall we?
The Music: The only real upside of this film is that Jerry Goldsmith returns to score the music. And, naturally, the theme of ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture‘ (which had been buried since) is reused. Except that by 1989, it was now considered the theme to “Star Trek: The Next Generation’. So that‘s confusing. They probably should have gone back to the original show’s theme at this point. But welcome back, anyway, Jerry!
Prologue: The first scene alone was ominous, showing all of Shatner’s lack of directorial ability: Set on Nimbus III, we see a native working in a desert terrain when a horseback figure appears from a cloud of dust. Riding toward him, in slow-motion, the stranger tells the native to share his pain. Then he reveals himself to be either Vulcan or Romulan, to some sort of mystical music, they laugh (poorly!), and end scene. Why are they laughing, exactly? We don’t know. And there’s literally no drama, tension or mystery here. The scene just begins and ends.
Yosemite: Then we go to Yosemite National Park where Captain Kirk is rock climbing. He, Spock and Dr. McCoy are camping together. While Kirk’s climbing, McCoy is watching him with his binoculars, muttering to himself about the outing and the risks Kirk is taking. But where’s Spock? He pops up in jet-powered boots and startles Kirk, who soon thereafter loses his grip and plummets, only missing the ground by centimetres because Spock rockets down to save him. The whole scene is clunky and marred by: 1) the obvious fact that neither Kirk nor Spock are up Yosemite, 2) Spock’s ridiculous dive down, and 3) the clichéd close call. Lame all around.
Cantina: Back on Nimbus III, we go to a cantina, where a Romulan, a Klingon and a human envoy meet. Naturally, the Klingon is an oaf who burps. The cantina looks super cheap and features a catwoman dancer that looks made out of rat fur and has three boobs. Honestly, Shatner, could you be less subtle? It’s not even funny-bad!
Cantina attack: Out of nowhere, the cantina is attacked by a scattered cast of stand-ins. There is no tension, despite the dynamic music.
Spacedock: Man, did Paramount ever get lots of mileage out of the spacedock footage and reveal of the NC-1701 from ‘The Search for Spock‘. At least, it looks very much the same to me.
Uhura: I like that Uhura has silver-tinged hair; it actually makes her look sexy. And I like that she’s flirtatious, even if her scenes with Scotty seem out of character and are corny.
Sulu and Checkov’s deception: Sulu and Chekov are also at Yosemite, but for some reason are lost (forget the fact that he’s a navigator and that future technology should make this easy-peasy!). To avoid embarrassment, they pretend to Uhura that they’re caught in a storm – even though they know she knows that it’s BS, since her sensors can tell that the weather is fine. To make matters worse, Sulu pretends not to hear her and gets Chekov to make wind noises over the communicator. This forced attempt at humour fails spectacularly on so many levels it’s beyond words.
Campfire chat: Kirk, Spock and McCoy go through some trite dialogues before going into a singalong of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. Seriously. Not only do they have a singalong, but, yes, it’s that song. !@#$ and WTF. Dammit, this is not ‘Manos: Tha Hands of Fate’, for God’s sake! Okay… well, it sort of is.
Alright, goodnight. Time to pack it in.
The special effects: Seriously, the SFX on this picture of nearly-‘Superman IV: The Quest for Peace‘ calibre’. They’re ten times worse than those of ‘The Motion Picture’, which was made over a decade prior. Man, they’re awful. And this movie cost 33 million dollars! I’d love to say that most of it went to Kirk’s Shatner Turbo 2000 hairpiece, but even that looks more fake than usual. So where did all that money go to?
Enterprise bugs: Honestly, just because this is a new NC-1701, there’s no reason why it would be so full of bugs. It’s just a lame attempts at humour. Again. Doors won’t open, things short out. Haha.
Kirk’s shirt: To make our return to the NC-1701 worse, Kirk is wearing a t-shirt that says “Go climb a rock”. !@#$ Is that his response to the fan fury of the Saturday Night Live debacle? Well, if it is, it only makes things worse. Either way, what a douche-bag: This is mother f-ing Star Trek, for god’s sake! WTF? How about a little dignity?
Nimbus III vs Nc-1701: Oh, sure, of course the Enterprise is the closest ship to Nimbus III. What a coincidence! And, of course, it doesn’t matter that it’s not in working order. :e sigh…
Paradise City: Puke. ’nuff said.
The shuttle landing: The crew goes to Nimbus III by shuttle (Did I call it a shuttle? I meant to call it a box!), and we get to watch it land. Or does it? It sure looks to me like it’s just the camera moving around the shuttlecraft to give the illusion of motion. How inept. This has been done a gajillion times before by shows of much lower pedigree than this. WTF?
Uhura’s song and dance: As sexy as Nichelle Nichols is, watching her mesmerizing the locals with a song-and dance number is absolutely stupid. And corny. And why is she with the landing party anyway?
Kirk’s attack: So… Kirk and Spock, on horses, attack a base alone, and wind up in the middle of it surrounded by dozens of enemies with turret guns? Really? That‘s the best plan that Kirk could up with? And Spock didn’t veto it?
The catwoman dies: A subsequent fight breaks out in the cantina, and Kirk throws the catwoman into an aquarium. She instantly dies. Um… you know… because cats hate water, I guess?
Shatner: Shatner is absolutely horrendous here; it’s probably his worst performance in years. He obviously can’t direct, let alone himself.
The NC-1701’s shuttle bay: Given the dimensions of the ship, it makes absolutely no sense that the shuttle bay is the size of someone’s living room. What is up with that?
The Klingons: These Klingons are minor players in the picture, but the main dude and his female companion (second in command?) had a really wicked look to them: He reminded me of some characters I’ve seen in classic samurai pictures and she was a bad-@$$ muscular woman. And I love seeing women like that portrayed on screen – it helps break down the stereotype that all women are wimps waiting for men to rescue them. This one could tear your head off with her bare hands.
The Klingons vs the Shuttle craft: To avoid getting pecked off out of the sky by the Klingons, Kirk and co. crash land the shuttle on the NC-1701 – in a ridiculous sequence taken out of a low-grade action flick.
Kirk vs Sybok: Once on the Enterprise, in the shuttle bay, Kirk picks a fight with Sybok. Eventually Spock gets a gun and points it at Sybok, but hesitates. So Kirk shouts at him to shoot Sybok. Um… what? Since when is Kirk a cold-blooded killer? And, furthermore, Spock would have found another way to stop Sybok without killing him (he could have stunned him, for one!), or letting the villain take control of the situation. Bloody hell. Can you say “out of character”?
Sybok: On top of being a poor man’s Sean Connery (and I felt that way before even finding out that the part was actually written for the Scottish actor), he just doesn’t have any charisma – especially for someone who is entrancing as he is. Sybok is bland and uninteresting. Worst mock-villain ever. Plus it just doesn’t make any sense that Spock would have a half-brother who is a rebel. He is, after all, Sarek’s son, too. And it’s a cheap gimmick to give Spock a “secret” sibling anyway, much like having James Bond suddenly meet past friends and lovers, as they did during the Brosnan years.
Kirk’s reaction: Kirk’s reaction to the fact that Spock has a sibling was obviously milked for comedy gold. But it’s just one big stink nugget. Holy criminy!
Sybok takes command: So Sybok takes control of the Enterprise and makes a new agey speech to the whole crew. Jiminy cripsy! Could it possibly get any cheesier? Answer: Yes. Absolutely.
Cue dying a little bit inside.
Breaking out: Kirk, Spock and McCoy have been put in the brig. They are broken out by Scotty (after doing a cheesy morse code routine that was super obvious but which, for some reason, none of them could figure out until the last second).
Scotty’s bump: Yep, Scotty boasts about knowing the inside of the ship like the back of his hand, and then knocks himself out by bumping his head on a low ceiling. This is what it’s all devolved to, sadly, enough…
Rocket boots: So Spock puts on some rockets boots (Again! I guess there are only so many inventions this movie could afford!) and he takes Kirk and McCoy up an Enterprise shaft to escape their pursuers. Sigh. And they’re off, past deck 52, deck 64 and deck 52 again (wait… what?) before arriving at the top! Even the editor was obviously not up to snuff on this production!
McCoy and Spock’s pain: At one point, Sybok decides to show McCoy and then Spock their pain, so as to release them. McCoy was shown how his bedridden father wanted to end his own life, and struggled with the idea of euthanasia. Spock was shown how he was rejected by Sarek upon his birth, being only half-Vulcan. Meanwhile Kirk refused to participate because he said that he needs his pain. I like those ideas, and feel they make sense for the characters, but it was staged like theatre; it looked so cheap and awkward: a light would suddenly shine in a corner of the room, setting the stage for whatever they were revisiting. The scene is only salvaged by DeForest Kelley’s performance and Spock brilliant explanation for not giving in to Sybok, something to the effect that he’s no longer the boy who was rejected long ago. Nice.
Going to Sha Ka Ree: I mean, seriously, could the trip to see God be any more boring? I felt like a kid in the back seat of my parents’ car, hoping to hell that the daylong journey to grandma’s house would be over soon. I mean, I’m on a goddamn summer vacation! I should be outside playing with my friends, not sitting in this car, bored to death! Aaaaargh!
Sybok’s hair: Why is Sybok’s hair suddenly short when they get to Sha Ka Ree? I mean, I understand that there were reshoots, but couldn’t they just put a cheap wig on him, for crissakes? Can this film get any sloppier and/or lazier?
God’s place: Really? After all this, God’s place is a cheap set in the desert that’s supposed to look like a bunch of rock pillars growing out of the ground? That’s it? This is God’s kingdom? F-ing crap. I mean, I know it’s not really God, but any being able to fake it would have tried a little bit harder.
God’s many faces: God looks like Jor-el did when Kal-el went tot he Fortress of Solitude in ‘Superman: The Motion Picture‘. Is that good? Bad? Could be worse, I guess. But, eventually, he chooses to looks like a high-end department store Santa Claus – minus the hat. Heck, they probably just hired a Santa. They would. What’s annoying about this is that it’s a Christian take on God, but Sybok is Vulcan – so clearly, “God” should have chosen a more familiar persona for him. Duh.
Kirk’s intervention: Um, why is Kirk the only one who questions the being’s need for a ship? Spock, at the very least, should have questioned it. Heck, that was my first question, the moment the being says he needs it. Like, really? This is SO dumb. You’d think the being would at least keep up the pretense for a while, enough to convince them – not just flat out ask for the ship. I mean, obviously, Shatner wanted to be the smart one, the hero. But c’mon!
God loses his shit: After all of this, after having taken all this time to convince Sybok and getting him to come all the way there with a ship, why would the being lose his cool so damned quickly and jeopardize his escape? It just doesn’t make sense!
Sybok is left behind: Why doe Kirk, Spock and McCoy run without looking back, to check on Sybok? That seems out of character for all of them, even someone as impetuous as Kirk.
Kirk is left behind: Yeah, of course Kirk can’t be beamed up and then has to confront the God creature. And of course he dodges him over and over again, as though this powerful entity was also powerfully inept. F-ing stupid.
Spock and Kirk: When Kirk is transported aboard the Klingon ship, he’s about to embrace Spock, and the Vulcan refuses, telling him “Please, Captain, not in front of the Klingons.”. Nice. That was funny.
Campfire finale: Yes, our three friends end up in Yosemite National Park again, singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. !@#$. ‘Manos: The Hands of Fate’. ’nuff said.
Seriously, what… the… fuck? ‘The Final Frontier’ looks and feels like a crap science fiction television episode – at no point does it look and feel like a proper motion picture, let alone like a part of the ‘Star Trek’ film series. It’s as bad as worst episodes of the third season of the original series.
It’s such garbage that it sucked the air out of the franchise. I didn’t even see its follow-up because I was so dismayed by how bad this one was. Sometimes you just lose faith. But, thankfully, ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’ would actually wind up being one of the best of the whole series.
‘Star Trek’ would redeem itself.
Date of viewing: July 4, 2016