Star Trek V:
The Final Frontier

directed by William Shatner
(Paramount, 1989)

After an iffy beginning to the movie series, Star Trek boasted an excellent run on films II, III and IV. Unfortunately, The Final Frontier marked a return to mediocrity -- a failure which can be blamed largely on director William Shatner as well as the story's co-writers, producer Harve Bennett and David Loughery.

Let's face it, the story is dumb. After all these years, we suddenly learn that Spock has a maverick half-brother, Sybock (Laurence Luckenbill), a full-blooded Vulcan who shows more human emotion than the half-human Spock. With ridiculous ease, Sybock conquers a planet, defeats a crack squad of Star Fleet personnel and captures the Enterprise. With it, he sets off to find God at the center of the galaxy.


The film begins with the Enterprise command crew on shore leave on Earth. Kirk, Spock and McCoy are camping in Yosemite, where Kirk is climbing mountains, McCoy is creating flatulence-inducing recipes and Spock is performing superhuman feats and organizing campfire sing-alongs. Sulu and Chekov are lost in the wilderness. And Scotty is trying to make the Enterprise run properly -- apparently, the new ship is a lemon.

The crew is recalled to their ship to rescue Sybok's hostages. For once, Star Fleet doesn't say the Enterprise is the only ship in the quadrant. Instead, they say they need Captain Kirk's experience leading the mission -- but they send them out on a non-functional, understaffed ship anyway. The attempt by Kirk's team to rescue the hostages is an embarrassing failure and, given the superiority of Federation resources, makes little sense. The effortless capture of the Enterprise is even harder to believe.

Worse yet, these beloved characters are given poor roles to play.

Scotty, the "miracle worker," is treated like a buffoon who knocks himself out on a corridor beam. Uhura becomes a lovesick puppy, and her nude dance to distract Sybok's scouting party is more awkward than enticing. McCoy gets some of his worst dialogue ever. Spock is somewhat pathetic throughout, misunderstanding simple statements and generally acting like a wimp.

Of the command crew, only Sulu and Chekov fare well, but that's because they don't get much screen time.

Kirk comes out better than most -- of course, Shatner is also the director, so that's to be expected -- but even his pomposity and wit are weak.

By the end, the performance has devolved into rank sentimentality and melodramatic mush. Although I was loath to see the original cast nearing the end of their Star Trek tenure, this is a bad way to remember them.

Fortunately, the sixth and final film with Kirk and crew made up for the blunder.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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