Go climb a rock.
Thus opens Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, with William Shatner, star and director of the film, donning the slogan and dashing, perhaps, the hopes of the fan base that so desperately wanted to have an equally thrilling and satisfying adventure as the one presented in The Voyage Home. But is this fair? Is STV as weak an addition to the franchise as many believe it to be? Are there redeeming qualities to the film and some pure, quality, Star Trek awesomeness that a fan can cling to? Or rather, is it true that Shatner’s ego and directorial inexperience caused this to be the most awful entry of them all?
The pretitle sequence: After the greatness of STIV, the expectations were very high for the fans of the series and the general public who were brought back into the Star Trek fold. The opening sequence of V, presents a very stylized introduction to the film and its villain. We are introduced to Sybok; a mystically powered, emotional, Vulcan who is on a quest to steal a starship. Oh, snap!!
Concept: In general, the film exemplifies a fairly poor execution of a high-concept script. The trials and tribulations regarding the script revisions and conflicts between producer, director, studio, cast and crew, are well-documented. The major issues the aforementioned had were basically with the concept of the villain, his quest and the religious connotations of the adventure. Nimoy and Kelley had major issues with Shatner’s original concept that had Bones and Spock betraying Kirk. Roddenberry reportedly had a problem with the religious aspects of the script. Shatner’s initial outline had the “God” character transform into the “Devil” and attempt to bring the crew down to “Hell.” Angels and demons were in the original draft which eventually turned into 6 rock monsters, which eventually turned into some Stonehenge-y type rock formations.
The search for Sha Ka Ree at the center of the galaxy and the “God” who is contained therein became the shift in focus of the story. So, instead of a search for religious enlightenment and becoming one with the creator-V’Ger style, Sybok’s quest became one for knowledge with some religious undertones. Harve Bennett, the recently deceased Star Trek producer, who once commented that STV almost ended the franchise, had these among his remarks at the top of the shooting script:
Because the galaxy is finite, however, it has a center. It is unlikely that by the time of this tale, this central area, distant and dangerous, will have been explored. Nor can anyone say for sure what we may find there.
The idea is very true to Star Trek’s spirit of exploration and the unknown, and as a matter of fact, the end revelation of the trapped malevolent entity has been done more than a few times in the series and films. Repetition is not necessarily a bad thing, but the truth is, it’s been done better.
Fuck this shit…
The story may have worked if executed properly, but the proper execution was the issue. In addition, Shatner’s inability to direct action made the camera generally static in most scenes; giving the film a look more akin to television than cinema. One gets the feeling of watching a long TV episode, rather than a film, as a result.
Of course Kirk would be involved in a sport like rock climbing!
…and of course, Bones and Spock don’t get it
Just about anything comedic involving Sulu and Chekov qualifies. The helmsman and navigator of flagship of the Federation get lost in the woods and try to fake their way out of it by blowing into a communicator. Later on, the two are shown trailing the female, Klingon, body-builder chick; apparently scoping out her ass. WTF?
“Plan B, for barricade…” Great, exciting moment involving a narrow escape from the Klingons with some nice chemistry and back-and-forth in the shuttle craft. Solid, cinematic, Trek moment.
Actually, this would be my first attempt…
KLINGONS: A JOKE AND NEVER REALLY A THREAT TO THE CREW OR ITS MISSION. COMPARE/CONTRAST TREKKIES: WHAT TYPE OF KLINGON DO WE LIKE IN OUR STAR TREK MOVIES?
HAIRBAND DOUCHEBAG KLINGON, WASHED UP, FAT, DRUNKEN KLINGON AND STARRY-EYED GROUPIE KLINGON?
SOPHISTICATED, BADASS, SHAKESPEARE SPEWING KLINGON?
…I WILL BLOW YOU OUT OF THE STARS
OR MOTHERFUCKING CHRISTOPHER LLOYD?
Nobody needs to see that…
Sybok: Laurence Luckinbill gives a committed, passionate, performance as Spock’s half-brother. He portrays the enigmatic fanatic as having equal parts purpose and madness to him. When Sybok is on-screen, he steals the show.
…fear cannot stop you
BONES KILLS HIS DAD: Some very nice character moments for McCoy during the insightful look into his past with his father. It makes the good doctor exist as more than snide window dressing and comic relief.
This is who they are, didn’t you know? No…no I didn’t.
Kirk’s rejection of Sybok’s con job:
I WANT MY PAIN, I NEED MY PAIN!!
An easy betrayal: After 30 years of the trials and tribulations suffered and hero-isms employed, the crew immediately decide to betray the Captain and their shipmates. Is it brainwashing? In the examples we see in the conference room with the Big Three, it doesn’t appear to be so. Bones CHOOSES to not join Sybok, even after his “pain” is relieved and Kirk just chooses not to participate. Conversely, it can be assumed that Sulu, Chekov and Uhura CHOOSE to follow Sybok when he does the same for them. Bullshit! They would never willingly betray the Captain.
OK, so a little slapstick goes a long way. Although many may disagree, I always laugh when Scotty cracks hid head against the support beam after breaking Kirk and company out of the brig. Maybe it’s the timing, coupled with Scotty’s line and a good sound effect.
Recycled music: We heard it in TMP and at the time, weekly, on The Next Generation. It smacked of poor effort, time, inspiration and judgement to use it in another classic Trek film.
SHOOT HIM!!! Kirk issues an order. Spock will not comply. Exciting, tense, dramatic and dense with conflict.
Kirk’s reaction to Spock’s defiance:
I aught to knock you on your damn ass
Maybe life is a dream…
Upon breaching The Great Barriers, we hear the Trek fanfare and the camera pans down from Kirk to the conference room plaque that has the immortal phrase: “To Boldly Go…” This moment captures some of the wonder of exploration and whimsy that is sorely lacking in most of the film.
Well, there we have it, a TIE! I never really know how these things are going to work out. As with previous editions, I re-watch the film and make a list of key scenes and their merits, or lack thereof. In the case of STV, it can be said to be equal parts awesome and awful.