As the first movie made after The Next Generation began airing on TV, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier had a lot to live up to. With two polarizing fanbases arguing over which captain is better, William Shatner chose to take on directing duties this time around to ensure the true “Trekkies” would stand proud with the original crew, even if they all look like they’re approaching retirement age.
Newly-demoted Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) commands the rebuilt and barely-functional Enterprise-A on a rescue mission to the peaceful planet of Nimbus III. It turns out to be a trap set by an over-emotional Vulcan (<–yes) named Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill), who is actually Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy’s) half-brother. Sybok takes over Kirk’s ship, uses the Vulcan mind-meld to brainwash most of the crew to his cause, and leads the Enterprise to the center of their galaxy to a place called Sha Ka Ree, where Sybok believes they will literally find God.
Star Trek V is a prime example that bad direction can kill a movie. (Sorry, William Shatner.) Even when there’s high amounts of action onscreen, the whole thing comes off as dull and lifeless. Not that the script did much to help. This is the shallowest Star Trek story they’ve told so far, with events unfolding in monotonous point-form beats with nary a thought towards adding any substance. It’s more like a throwaway episode you’d prefer to forget, but they wasted it on the first movie to try to steal the spotlight back from The Next Generation. There’s no real reason for Sybok to be Spock’s brother other than to get people’s attention. Having an emotionally-charged character have the same one-sided conversation with his emotionless brother again and again really just makes Spock look like he doesn’t care about anything. So how can we? And why a Vulcan would want to find a deity worshipped by Earth-dwellers is beyond me.
Internet searches say this movie was inspired by the televangelist movement of the 80’s. For a movie that’s trying to focus attention away from that “other” show, it seems like the supernatural — which, to be fair, turns out wasn’t the case due to its abrupt and pointless ending (no spoilers) — is entirely the wrong direction to go in. But regardless, the entire story, which for some reason must also involve Klingons trying to track down and destroy the Enterprise, feels like the least Star Treky adventure thus far. It’s not that there’s no good in this movie. It’s always nice to see the original crew together again. A nice family dynamic is even brought to their attention. Uhura’s (Nichelle Nichols’) exotic dance in the desert is still hot, even at her age. And there are some humorous bits, especially one involving Scotty (James Doohan) walking by himself in the ship. But Star Trek IV was the light-hearted refresher that followed two simultaneous dark entries. If this was intended to continue that momentum, they did it in the most mind-boggling way possible.
“What does God need with a starship?” Boy, what a question. There are no permanent changes in this movie like in certain previous entries, so when the whole thing’s finished, you feel like you didn’t really watch anything. One could easily skip this entry and go right to Star Trek VI. But if you’re a purist, you’re going to have to put up with this entry for a couple of hours. Just don’t expect anything — and I mean anything — even remotely significant, memorable, or “spiritual”.
2 out of 5