Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (PG)
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This is the fifth film based on the TV series Star Trek. It came out in 1989, and I remember seeing it in a theater with a friend. I'm not sure if I ever saw it again after that until 2023, when I watched it as part of my summer of Star Trek. It was directed by William Shatner (who of course also plays Kirk in the movie). It's the first movie to come out after the TV series "Star Trek: The Next Generation" began airing, and uses that show's theme music, which was first the theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but hadn't been used in a Star Trek movie since then. Um... I'm pretty sure I remember reading at the time that Star Trek's creator, Gene Roddenberry, considered the movie apocryphal, and I'm perfectly content to consider it non-canonical. (In fact, that kind of inspired me to pick and choose things from throughout the Star Trek franchise to personally consider apocryphal.) But I think that's up to each individual to decide for themselves; I think most people consider the movie to be canon, whether they like it or not. And a lot of people, both fans and critics, don't like it. (Much more recently, I've developed this theory that because the fourth movie was so popular largely due to its comedy aspects, the writers of this movie decided to lean into that and add as much humor as they could, which just didn't go over as well with viewers this time. It reminds me of the situation with Thor: Ragnarok and Thor: Love & Thunder, though it's not a straight comparison, because I think this movie is much better than "Love & Thunder".) I guess I didn't love everything about this movie, so I can sort of understand some people not liking it, but I think it's highly underrated. For the most part I do enjoy the humor as well as the more dramatic aspects. In fact, one thing I remember about seeing it in a theater is saying afterwards that the movie seemed short to me, and my friend saying that meant I liked it. It didn't seem as short to me this time around, but I still liked it. Mostly.
It begins on the desolate planet Nimbus III, aka "The Planet of Galactic Peace", where we see a man digging holes for some reason, who is approached by a man on horseback. The latter talks to the former, who ends up joining the latter man's... well, I'll call it a cult. The cult leader turns out to be a Vulcan who is prone to laughter, named Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill). Meanwhile, on Earth, some of the crew of the new Enterprise are enjoying shore leave in Yosemite National Park (and I daresay it's nice to know there are still well-preserved national parks in the future). Kirk is climbing El Capitan ("because it's there"), which I think is apt, for one of the most famous captains in TV & movie history. In what I consider one of the more memorable parts of the movie, he is visited by Spock, who is wearing rocket boots. McCoy is on the ground, watching Kirk with binoculars and completely stressing about how dangerous the climb is for Kirk. On the Enterprise, Scotty is stressing out about all the repairs the ship needs, and Uhura receives a message from Starfleet calling the ship into service for a special mission. So she calls Sulu and Chekov, who are also in Yosemite, and have gotten lost. It's a bit weird that she doesn't manage to contact Kirk, Spock, and McCoy until what's obviously hours later, at night. (The time discrepancy could be because they were harder to reach since Kirk left his communicator behind, though I don't know why Spock or McCoy wouldn't have had theirs. Still, watching it now, I find it prescient. I mean, how many people these days leave their cell phones behind when they want to be "off the grid" while on vacation? That's something that I think wouldn't have been much of an issue, in 1989.) The transporters still aren't working, so Uhura takes a shuttlecraft to get them, but before she arrives we see the three friends enjoying a campfire. Spock has brought "marshmelons" to roast, and they're in an electronic dispenser. (Kraft sold plastic replicas of the marshmallow dispenser, and I still have mine. It never worked nearly as well as Spock's, though.) Kirk and McCoy try to get Spock to join them in a round of "Row Your Boat", which doesn't go so well. But I like how they do it again at the end of the movie.
There I go, getting ahead of myself. In fact I think I should have mentioned something else already, I just have trouble remembering the order of various scenes. The reason the Enterprise has been called into service is to deal with a hostage situation on Nimbus III. Sybok and his people have taken prisoner the consuls of the Federation, Klingon Empire, and Romulan Star Empire; respectively, St. John Talbot (David Warner), General Korrd, and Caithlin Dar. (I kind of hoped the three of them would be more important to the movie than they were. Talbot and Dar are ultimately of no importance whatsoever, which is especially disappointing in the case of an actor as good as Warner, though he'll have a more important, different role in the next film. But Korrd does play an important role later in this movie.) I also want to mention it's weird to me that all three galactic superpowers would agree to choose a planet as barren as Nimbus III for what seems like it should be an incredibly important diplomatic posting, but apparently it's more of a punishment than an honor. Another scene I don't remember the order of is the introduction of a Klingon ship commanded by Captain Klaa, who we see blowing up one of the "Voyager" space probes. This is a pretty minor thing, but it's always been one of my favorite parts of the film. I just find it amusing because it seems to take a pot shot at the whole plot of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". Anyway, when Klaa finds out the Enterprise is being sent to Nimbus III, he decides to go there, too, not to rescue the kidnapped Klingon consul, but to defeat Kirk in battle, which would greatly increase his status in the Empire. (The Romulans, apparently, don't send anyone for their own consul, and I doubt they even knew about the situation.)
Watching the message sent by Sybok to Starfleet, Spock recognizes the renegade Vulcan as someone he knew in his childhood, and tells Kirk and McCoy some things about him, but leaves out one important detail we don't learn until later in the film. I'm not going to spoil what that is, but I will say Sybok's very existence is one of the most apocryphal things about the movie. Anyway, the Enterprise sends a team to attack the cult's stronghold, but first they steal some horses after Uhura distracts their owners in what I consider another of the movie's most memorable and enjoyable scenes. Unfortunately, the strike team ultimately fail in their mission, and our heroes are taken captive. Sybok takes their shuttlecraft back to the Enterprise with some of his own people, as well as the captured Starfleet crew (at least the important ones). In yet another of the film's memorable scenes, we get to see Sybok's power to convince people to join him, when he uses it on McCoy and then Spock. (I'll always consider McCoy's conversion one of the most dramatic film scenes I've ever seen.) But it doesn't work quite as well on them as it has on everyone else Sybok has encountered so far. But the important thing is that he takes control of the starship, and takes it to a mythical planet called Sha Ka Ree, at the center of the galaxy. (This is probably my biggest gripe with the film: the center of the galaxy should simply be too far away for a starship to reach that quickly. As fast as the Enterprise might be, it should still probably take decades to get there, judging by the standards later set in the tv series Star Trek: Voyager.) It seems Sybok has received a vision from "God", who wants him to come to Sha Ka Ree, for a reason that doesn't become clear until it's too late. (But it does lead to Kirk having one of my favorite lines in any movie, and I don't just mean Star Trek.)
Whew, I've said a lot. What else should I tell you? Klaa's ship follows Enterprise past the Great Barrier at the center of the galaxy, to Sha Ka Ree, where he intends to kill Kirk. But things don't go as he planned, because of intervention from General Korrd. In fact, the Klingons end up helping out against an unexpected enemy Sybok, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy discovered on the planet. After that, there's a party attended by both Klingons and Starfleet crew, in another of my biggest gripes about the film. That is, Sulu and Chekov sort of lustily following the Klingon lieutenant, Vixis, and I find it hard to believe they'd behave in such a creepy way. But they veer off when she stops walking to stand next to Klaa. I've always thought not only were they acting likes creeps, but it was also weird that they'd be more afraid of Klaa than Vixis, because I'm pretty sure she could have easily kicked their asses herself if she wanted to. (What's also weird is that I clearly remember all this taking place very much in the foreground of the scene, but watching it now, it takes place more in the background. I don't know if that's a problem with my memory or if the Blu-ray has a different shot of the scene than I saw in the theater.) And later, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy return to their shore leave.
Well, that's it. I definitely think I've spoiled too much, but there's just so much I wanted to say about how I remembered the film, and how I felt about it now (which is mostly the same). Anyway, the film has its flaws, but I generally don't think they're as bad as people make them out to be. I'm not even going to say anything about the religious aspects of the film, though I will say that I sort of remember the entity found on Sha Ka Ree being in a Star Trek novel I read once. I think Q said it was that entity that "invented monotheism", which I thought was a good line. (But of course novels are non-canonical.) And... yeah, now I think I've said everything I wanted to say.
Followed by Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country