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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Spock: "I am well versed in the classics, doctor."
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:

-- Stardate: 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."
Spock: "Yes."

One out of four absolutely pointless ship wheels,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. This was the only TOS movie I hadn't watched with my kids because I refused to buy it.

    However, we got Netflix and there it was for free... so I figured 'what the heck, let's watch it'.

    The kids couldn't make it past the crew getting recalled from shore leave. Nothing I say can get them to finish watching it.

  2. You know, I got to be honest here--Star Trek V makes me laugh. Maybe because I grew up watching MST3K, so I do appreciate so-dumb-they're-hilarious movies.

    But, for all its incompetence, TFF does have one scene that I think is absolutely moving and is extremely well-acted: when Sybok reveals McCoy's and Spock's hidden pains. While there are logic problems in that scene (it's obvious that everyone can see these memories, but are they in McCoy's and Spock's minds? Are the images projections, like a Holodeck?) but, I do think that's an awesome scene.

    I also think Kirk's steadfast belief that he'll die alone (burn on you, Picard!) is surprisingly deep for this movie.

    And, I kind of like the "Coming in Hot" scene.

    Everything else is junk. But, absolutely hilarious junk.

    Then again, I'm the person who finds "Spock's Brain" a guilty pleasure.


  3. Right from the first viewing in theatres, I was baffled by the whole "we need Jim Kirk" thing.

    When that line was uttered by the admiral, I thought it made sense... hostages... madman... only Kirk can solve this!

    However, when the Enterprise arrives the first thing Kirk asks is if the hostages can be beamed out. The answer was "no, because the transporters aren't working". Meaning, if the they were working the hostages could have been beamed out and movie over.

    My 16 year old self [internally] screamed, if the hostages could just simply be beamed out, then why did they @%$@#$% "need Jim Kirk"? Why didn't they just send some random transport to do a fly by?

  4. Star Trek V has one, I repeat ONE, redeeming feature and that is Jerry Goldsmith's music. Only smart decision Shatner made was bringing him back as composer.

  5. I just re-watched The Motionless Picture, and apart from the awesome musical score, the only good thing I could say about it was that it's not as bad as this one...

  6. I was such a Trekie/Treker by the time that this movie came out that I actually waited in line for the noon showing on the first day of release for this movie.... sad.

  7. I really hate this movie. Bill Shatner has been trying to convince us that he gets Star Trek, but all one has to do is look at the movie HE made (this one) vs. the one Leonard Nimoy made (TVH), and it's clear to me which of the stars actually understood Star Trek.

    He makes the helmsman and navigator get lost. He makes Scotty walk into a bulkhead. He makes Spock mispronounce a common word. It's as if Shatner wants to tear down all of the other characters in order to make Kirk look better. Not only is that mean-spirited, but it also doesn't work. Kirk looks better the grander the other characters are, because if he's in command of wonderful people, he must be even more wonderful.

    Shatner was an excellent Kirk in TOS, but he should never be allowed off leash. :-)

  8. I must say that maybe I'm the only one beyond the barrier but I quite like this movie. It is by no means a masterpiece but it's also not the awful garbage everyone says.

    I think I’m the only one (beyond the barrier) who gets the massage right: This movie is about friendship, and nothing else – just about friendship. I can’t imagine why nobody gets it.

    Every scene with Kirk, Spock and Bones is about their friendship, literally! There is not one scene in which Kirk, Spock and Bones are separated – they are always together – in every freakin’ scene!!!

    And not only does every scene demonstrate their friendship, no they also talk about their friendship in every single scene! Hello? How can anybody not see this?

    And it’s not only about the friendship of our three heroes, but also about the friendship of Chekov and Sulu and of course Scotty and Uhura.

    Even the Villain is not evil, no Sybok is likable and always nice and friendly. Even at the end on the planet when the false God shoots at Kirk and Spock he shouts: Why do you hurt my friends. Even the supervillain calls our heroes friends!!!

    And not even the Klingons are really this bad – at the end Spock shoots the false God from the Bird of Prey and they all have a nice party with the Klingons. Now this is what I call a happy ending!

    Mr. Shatner wanted to make a movie about friendship – is this such a terrible thing?
    I think not – this is a most sympathetic movie with the heart on the right spot and in times of war and hate I must say I appreciate that even more!

    Nowadays when every movie has to be cynical, dark and violent, this movie shines like a spark and this is a good thing – at least in my book!

  9. This one is terrible on many levels, so many that it'd be hard to know where to start if those things hadn't been covered here in detail! My main character in FF14 was/is a Miqo'te so I admit I generally like cat girls, but that stripper here did not help at all!

    It's not even in the 'so bad it's funny' category for me, it's just bad.

  10. Warning emotional Teen crying her heart out!!
    First off, I know everyone hates this movie. I don't. It's one of my All time favourites.... WAIT let me explain.
    Maybe it's simply Becuase of Emotional value or because I'm a sensitive 17 year old (basically) child, but star trek is something that affects my whole life for the better. And it often Hits me emotionally, ESPECIALLY in the TOS Series. These three old men sitting at a campfire, standing together through everything and standing with each other constantly does something to me, so much that I have tears in my eyes just writing this.
    Now again, I Sound increadiy cheese right now but this Film makes me sob my eyes out every time. This bond between Kirk, McCoy and Spock is all I need to see to make my trekkie heart feel okay again. This is a movie about friendship. By All means not a greatly Produced movie and yes I still cringe at many scenes but that doesn't matter! Because all I want to see is these three old guys be happy together and go on adventures like they used to. I can hardly come to terms with the fact that the only one still with us today is William Shatner. It hurts and I cant even explain it because I dont know These people. I never will. But the fact that they played together, made this hell of a movie and loved each other makes my heart hurt.
    And I will PROUDLY sob for hours every time I watch this movie for William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley. My heroes.

    1. Lizzy McCoy, I liked your comment. And it never hurts to have opposing viewpoints. :)


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