The Final Frontier

With William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Lawrence Luckinbill, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, David Warner, Charles Cooper, Cynthia Gouw, Todd Bryant
Directed by William Shatner
Reviewed by JB

     Oh, God!

Orson Welles in Touch Of Evil 2: A Space Odyssey     Take away the bad parts of STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER, and you have an underwhelming decent episode of the original series.  With the bad parts, you have an underwhelming bad episode.  For every good part, there are about three boring parts and one awful.  THE FINAL FRONTIER is universally considered (no pun intended) to be the worst of the Trek films featuring the cast of the original series.

     Back in the day, when it was first announced that William Shatner was going to direct the fifth Star Trek films, many fans had one initial thought: uh-oh!  Shatner, God love him, was always a bit full of himself and had a reputation as, shall we say, a ham.  Sure enough, when the news came that THE FINAL FRONTIER was going to be about Kirk finding God, we knew our uh-oh was well deserved.  Yet, although part of the film's failure can be blamed on Shatner's reach exceeding his grasp, he did make a fine-looking film with several outstanding sequences.  The biggest problems with THE FINAL FRONTIER are the inappropriate humor and the less than stellar (no pun intended) special effects.

     You want inappropriate humor?  How about Scotty accidentally knocking himself unconscious as if he were not the greatest engineer in Starfleet history but rather Oliver Hardy working at a lumber mill?  Or Spock using anti-gravity boots to surprise, and nearly kill, Kirk as the Captain is rock-climbing in Yosemite National Park?  Or a near-60 Nichelle Nichols creating a diversion on a hostile planet by fan dancing?  Or the movie's main secondary villain, a Klingon obsessed with defeating the great Captain Kirk, being forced to apologize to the Captain like a schoolboy caught stealing another student's lunch.  Never mind the "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" campfire sing along scenes which may have seemed interesting on paper but just come off as rock stupid on film.  Reportedly, the comedy was forced into the film by the Paramount executives, who wanted the lighter tone of the previous film, THE VOYAGE HOME.  As usual, executives proved themselves sorely lacking in any kind of creative insight, since comedy must naturally rise out of stories, as it did in THE VOYAGE HOME.  Gagging up a story that had little foundation for laughs was simply a laughably bad idea.

     Then there are the effects.  Industrial Light and Magic was not available, so a smaller special effects house was hired and, sure enough, came up with sub-quality special effects.  In a good Trek film, this would merely be a momentary distraction, but in a bad Trek film, bad effects just call more attention to themselves.

     Unfortunately, the good things about THE FINAL FRONTIER are often overlooked because of all the bad things.  Lawrence Luckinbill as Sybok, a Vulcan "holy man" who hijacks the enterprise in his quest to find God, really deserves to be in a better Trek film.  Most of the other good parts of this film revolve around the relationship among the core trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, a relationship which is explored in even more depth than usual and gives THE FINAL FRONTIER at least something of a solid foundation on which to build its far-reaching story.  The film also gives us one classic line that almost any fan will bring up immediately in any discussion about THE FINAL FRONTIER: "Excuse me... what does God need with a Starship?".

     THE FINAL FRONTIER didn't kill the franchise, but it did have the effect of forcing the makers into making a much smaller-scale Trek film for a followup, which urned out to be one of the best Trek films ever, THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY.  Proving, perhaps, that there is a God after all. 2½ - JB

Star Trek     The Secret Vortex


"Please, Captain... not in front of the Klingons."