Directed by William Shatner
Star Trek V takes place shortly after the events of Star Trek IV. After a brief shakedown cruise that showed some issues with the Enterprise A, the crew is back at Earth with most of them being on shore leave while work is done un the USS Enterprise-A. They are called to action when a distress signal comes in from Nimbus III, otherwise known as the Planet of Galactic Peace. The Enterprise being the only ship in the sector must answer the call and conduct a rescue. It is after the failed rescue attempt that they learn the leader of this revolt believes he has been contacted by God and plans on taking the Enterprise through the Great Galactic Barrier to the planet upon which God resides.
It is not a bad Star Trek film. It is just not a very good one. At one time Star Trek V was the weakest of all the Star Trek films until the second reboot came around. But discussing that turd is for another day. And I will discuss it.
Star Trek, when it is at its best, begins with a character driven story. And this story is definitely about the characters. But Star Trek is also about big ideas when it is good. Either big ideas about the individual or about life or other concepts presented in the story. And that is when this movie gets weak.
The topic of God for example. Rather than get into a discussion of that, God in this story turns out to be just another god-like alien that is looking to escape his prison. This plot is nothing too unusual for Star Trek. Using it in a movie feels a bit lazy and is perhaps one of the more egregious sins in this film. It was definitely a missed opportunity to discuss morality and what is good and bad religion. There was not even a moment of discussion on what makes God God.
They did get one thing right in connection to the idea of God in this movie. The question “What does God need with a starship?” is perhaps one of the more Kirk moments in all the films. Kirk regularly used his fists and regularly tried to seduce anything that moved but he was also intelligent and often questioned things. Quite honestly when I watch the movie (and even though it’s not a high-ranking Star Trek movie on my list, I do watch it often) it’s a thought each time that doesn’t occur to me until Kirk utters it. You get caught up in the razzle dazzle of the visuals and seeing your old favorites in action again and you just forget. It is rather obvious but with everything going on it slips your mind.
It is a story that mixes easy answer religion with failed political promises that were never really meant to come true anyway. And while it effectively addressed easy answer religion (but not effectively the topic of God) in the film, they kind of gloss over failed political promises as represented by Nimbus III. They mention how the promises of peace and understanding and a better life for those that choose to colonize the world never really happened, but they do nothing much beyond that. It is mentioned more to give an excuse for Sybok to hijack a starship. It was an ideal opportunity to do what Star Trek does which is speak about real world issues in a science-fiction setting and it was somewhat wasted.
And why didn’t they show what Kirk’s pain was? I think that would have been a great moment of character growth. I can think of a few moments in Kirk’s biography that could have amounted to serious emotional pain but none of them were even hinted at in the scene. Seeing his pain would have been a fantastic character moment for Kirk and I think it would have been a good moment in the story for him not only to see his pain but not get turned by Sybok. Kirk may have had emotional pain, but he was a character of duty and loyalty and it is not improbable to think that Sybok’s Vulcan abilities would not sway him because of those character traits.
However, Kirk’s insight into the necessity of emotional pain was spot on. It is a deep realization that we are made up of the good experiences as well as the bad. And Kirk had more than his share of painful experiences that formed him into who he was.
Spock having a previously unmentioned half-brother did not bother me too much. Depending on the whole situation between the two of them, Vulcan pride or deeply personal reasons may have prevented him from talking much if at all about Sybok. And from what occurred in the movie it appeared to be a combination of the two.
Sybok was an embarrassment in much the same way as a criminal relative is. You do not bring up your uncle who is in jail again with every friend you know. While Spock did break with Vulcan culture at points in his life, he did not entirely abandon it as Sybok had. Spock had a strained relationship with his father and with Vulcan culture, but he did not purposely spit on it like Sybok did. That explains the lack of discussion about him among the characters and in Star Trek up until that point.
One thing that really irks me is how they get the Galactic Barrier wrong. The Barrier is around the outside of the galaxy and not the interior core which they imply. That has been clearly stated at several points in the shows. It has even been a plot point. The Barrier prevents ships from leaving the galaxy. It has nothing to do with the galactic core. Nothing.
The Final Frontier looks the cheapest of all the movies. The effects were bad and that hampered the telling of the story. When you see Earth’s moon in the sky it looked really cheap. I’m willing to bet I could have created that at home for less than whatever the effects house they hired charged them and it would have looked much better.
This movie had all the production values of a well-produced season premiere of The Next Generation. It was not up to the look of a feature film. While Star Trek is not about high budgets, it should not look cheap and this film did. The hole in the brig wall exemplifies this. Nobody bothered to rough out the edges to make it look like an explosive had been used. The only way it could have looked worse was if they shaped it to look like a person. I’m thinking a Scotty shaped hole.
Even the most dramatic episodes and films in Star Trek contain light humor. It is what helps make Star Trek Star Trek. Unfortunately, here there is too much light humor. For example, when Sulu and Chekov got lost and Uhura had to send a shuttle for them or Scotty hitting his head while on the Enterprise and the whole camping bit with “marshmellons” and Row Row Row Your Boat and the unreliability of the new Enterprise. There were just too many jokes. It would have been a good move to cut some of them out.
The camping scene itself was not a bad idea. Nothing wrong with seeing the big three together and watching them interact. It did have some good character moments for Kirk and Spock and McCoy. When they are sitting around the fire and talking you see how much they value each other and how much of a family they are and get a sense of what they feel they’ve given up with the life they’ve chosen. In a flawed movie it is very nearly perfect.
Before JJ Abrams decided to put Spock and Uhura together, William Shatner decided to put Uhura and Scotty together. They did not appear to be in a full-fledged relationship in this movie but rather something a little casual or something even at the very beginning. I liked the idea though I recall fans of the time not being too thrilled with it. The crew of the Enterprise is a group of people that worked together for decades and of the two characters to put together I thought it was most logical that these two would hook up.
I am a big Star Trek fan and I will forgive a lot when it comes to this franchise and I will forgive a little bit more for the original crew than I will any group that comes after it. It was good to see the crew on another adventure. They may not tackle the big issues they touch on in this movie well, but they at least touch on them. It is a beginning.
Star Trek V is a very flawed movie but with a little judicious editing and better special effects, I think it could have been a truly wonderful Star Trek film. The actors as always are very good, and it does touch on some big ideas but in the end it does fail to follow through on them. It is not a disappointing Star Trek romp but it is not their best.