by Billie Doux
McCoy: "Then how come you don't know 'Row row row your boat'?"
When I rewatched Star Trek III: The Search for Spock recently in order to review it, I hadn't seen it in a long time and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. I was hoping for the same thing to happen with Star Trek V. Unfortunately, no. Big time.
This movie is awful on pretty much every level. In fact, it is so appallingly bad that we stopped watching half-way through, and I only went back and finished it alone a few days later so that I could write a complete review.
It's even hard to figure out what is the worst thing about it, because there is so much badness to choose from. Spock's messianic half brother whose existence had never been mentioned before? (Isn't a sibling coming out of nowhere a "jump the shark" moment?) The search for God, who turned out to be a cruel, petty alien? Mountain climbing as a numbingly obvious metaphor for religious seeking? Come on, people. Star Trek is so much better than this.
When something doesn't work for me, I usually list what was good about it, and try to figure out what might have made it better. I doubt that anything could have made this movie better. Instead, I kept coming up with more reasons why it sucked. In general, it was like poorly written fan fiction with juvenile humor. It ripped off Star Wars several times, with the new Enterprise falling apart like the Millennium Falcon, Nimbus III scenes that looked uncomfortably like Tatooine, and Paradise City again much like Mos Eisley. (A three-breasted cat as a stripper? Really?) Spock neck-pinching a horse was right out of Blazing Saddles, and his rocket shoes belonged in a bad episode of Flash Gordon.
Even the funnier moments didn't work and occasionally made me cringe. The camping scenes could have been cool, but were just too silly and went on too long. I especially hated the little shout-out to slash fandom when Kirk started to hug Spock and Spock said, "Please Captain, not in front of the Klingons." And Uhura's hoochie coochie moment had Dan saying, "That could very well be the stupidest moment in the entire series."
And the serious attempts at drama were just embarrassing. Sybok, the anti-Surak, rode into the city on a donkey (okay, a blue horse with horns) and wearing white, just so that we wouldn't miss the Christ symbolism. How Sybok managed to brainwash members of the crew was never satisfactorily explained. The flashback/hallucination of McCoy euthanizing his father just made me angry; you need to do some background in order to make a scene like that work. And then there was the discussion about the deeper meaning of "Row Row Row Your Boat." I can't believe I just wrote that sentence about my beloved Star Trek.
The only things I found interesting or forward-thinking were Kirk taking steps toward diplomatic ties with the Klingons, and saying that he had always believed he'd die alone. But these two little things weren't enough to make this movie palatable.
Star Trek V was William Shatner's baby; he directed and co-wrote. I'm not a fan of his, but he's a good actor, he wrote (or got credit for) an entire science fiction book series, and he was such a strong lead for the original series. His work in the previous movies was excellent, too. But given his prominent role behind the scenes, this movie did make me think. Is this how Shatner saw Star Trek, as action/adventure with fights and explosions, complemented by transparent and simplistic symbolism? Is this how Shatner saw the character of Kirk, as a stubborn super-athlete climbing a mountain alone without an anchor rope?
For me, this movie was the franchise equivalent of Superman 3, Alien 4, or Terminator Salvation. After the exceptional trilogy that preceded it, Star Trek V was an insult to the audience and a disappointment to the fans. And that's sad.
Bits and pieces:
-- Star date: 8454.1. Nimbus III, the Planet of Galactic Peace, in the Neutral Zone; Yosemite National Park, Shaka-Ri whatever on the other side of the "boundary."
-- The music was from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and was also used as the theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation.
-- Lawrence Luckinbill actually did a decent job as Sybok. Not his fault that the movie was so bad. The wonderful David Warner got very little to do; maybe that's why they gave him a slightly better part in Star Trek VI.
-- They didn't quite tell us what happened to Sybok, but the visuals reminded me of the terrible original series episode, "The Alternative Factor."
-- Scotty and Uhura as a couple. Noooooo. Please, no.
-- I remember many discussions about Roddenberry saying Star Trek V wasn't "canon." Apparently, though, he did that a lot. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek_canon
-- The lounge, sort of Ten Forward-like, had a decorative ship's wheel standing alone in front of the viewport. I'm assuming it was so that the actors had something to stand around while doing dialogue.
Spock: "Perhaps 'because it is there' is not sufficient reason for climbing a mountain."
Kirk: "Bourbon and beans. An explosive combination."
And I thought, thank god they didn't do the obvious Blazing Saddles scene.
Spock: "Were we having a good time?"
McCoy: "I liked him better before he died."
Kirk: "I could use a shower."
One out of four absolutely pointless ship wheels,
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.