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Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier


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Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier


Published on June 15, 2017

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Written by William Shatner & Harve Bennett & David Loughery
Directed by William Shatner
Release date: June 9, 1989
Stardate: 8454.1 

Captain’s log. We open on Nimbus III, the so-called “planet of galactic peace,” located in the Neutral Zone. (Which NZ, it doesn’t say.) A man named J’onn is working hard in the desert when he’s approached by a man on a horse. J’onn grabs his crude, handmade weapon to defend himself. (Weapons are, strictly speaking, forbidden on Nimbus.) The rider approaches and stares intently at him, which manages to take his pain away telepathically. J’onn is eternally grateful, and the rider asks in return that J’onn join his quest. J’onn agrees, and then rider throws back his cloak to reveal tapered ears—he’s a Vulcan. He tells J’onn that they’ll need a starship. And then he laughs.

Cut to Yosemite National Park, where Kirk is climbing El Capitan. Spock flies up to meet him wearing gravity boots in order to have a rather stupid conversation. Below, McCoy is watching through binoculars, talking to himself, convinced that Kirk is going to die. Sure enough, Spock’s babbling at Kirk distracts him enough to cause him to fall, though Spock is able to use the gravity boots to accelerate faster than the 9.8 meters per second per second that Kirk is falling and catch him just before he goes splat.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

On Nimbus, the rider, whose name is Sybok, has gathered an impressive following. He, J’onn, and the rest of his forces storm Paradise City just as the new Romulan representative, Caithlin Dar, arrives. She’s barely met St. John Talbot of the Federation and Korrd of the Klingon Empire before Sybok’s forces take them prisoner.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

On Earth, we find out why Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are free to take leave in Yosemite together: the new Enterprise is a mess. Nothing works, and Scotty opines in his log that the ship was assembled by monkeys.

In mid-repair, Starfleet Command contacts them with a Priority 7 situation. Despite their condition, all personnel to be recalled. Uhura contacts Sulu and Chekov—who are relieved to be contacted, as they’re lost in whatever park they’re hiking through. Meanwhile, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are having dinner around the campfire—McCoy’s family recipe of beans cooked in Tennessee whiskey—and toasted “marsh melons,” the latter from Spock’s attempt at research of campfire traditions. In the spirit of that research, they attempt a singalong of “Row Row Row Your Boat,” which is something of a disaster, and then they go to sleep, Spock grumbling that life isn’t a dream…

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

They’re awakened by Uhura in a shuttlecraft—since they didn’t bring their communicators with them, she has to pick them up unannounced. (The transporters are still not working. And won’t until the plot needs them to, but right now the plot needs them not to.)

Klingon Captain Klaa, whose ship has been modified with a personal periscope-style gunnery control for the command chair, receives word of the hostage taking on Nimbus and changes course, hoping to engage a Federation ship.

Kirk reports to the bridge and is informed by Starfleet Command about what happened on Nimbus. There are other ships in the sector, but no experienced captains. They need Jim Kirk, the admiral says, to which both Kirk and the audience say, “Oh, please…” Concern is expressed about the Klingons also sending a ship; at no point does anyone discuss the possibility of the Romulans doing likewise.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The ship sets course for Nimbus III, though absolutely nothing works right. Uhura provides information on the hostages, as well as the recording made by Sybok demanding a Federation starship to parley for their release.

Spock recognizes Sybok, and he informs Kirk and McCoy that he knew him as a student. He was brilliant but also a revolutionary, who rejected logic and embraced emotionalism. He was banished from Vulcan.

They arrive at Nimbus. There’s a Klingon ship two hours out, and the transporter still isn’t working. (Hey, Starfleet! Maybe don’t send a ship to do a hostage retrieval that doesn’t have a working transporter!) Kirk, Spock, Sulu, McCoy, Uhura, and a security detail fly down in a shuttle. Meanwhile, Chekov is in command, and he stalls Sybok.

The shuttle lands a good hour’s walk from Paradise City to avoid detection, but there’s a lookout party nearby with horses. Uhura distracts them by singing and dancing naked with fans—yes, really—and then the landing party takes their horses.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Except for Uhura, who goes back to the shuttle, they ride into Paradise City. Unfortunately, when they rescue the hostages, they discover that the three consuls are also on Sybok’s side. The landing party is taken prisoner, and Sybok and Spock have a lovely reunion.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The landing party hops onto the shuttle as Sybok’s hostages, pretending to Chekov and Scotty that they’re coming back with the bad guys. Unfortunately, the Klingon ship cloaks, which means they’re going to attack. Chekov raises shields, and advises the shuttle to find safe harbor on the planet. Sybok refuses, but does allow Kirk to land the shuttle on the ship. He has Sulu fly in manually, with the shields lowered only for a few seconds. As soon as the shuttle’s on board, Chekov goes to warp, barely avoiding being struck by Klingon weapons fire.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Sybok instructs Kirk to take him to the bridge. Kirk tries to fight back, but Sybok tosses him around like a rag doll. Spock gets his hand on Sybok’s weapon, but cannot shoot Sybok because, it turns out, Sybok is Spock’s half brother. Sarek was his father, his mother was a Vulcan woman.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are placed in the brig, while Sulu and Uhura, and later Chekov, are converted to Sybok’s cause. Sybok then addresses the entire ship and announces that they are headed to what Vulcan mythology refers to as Sha Ka Ree, which he says is at the center of the galaxy. Kirk points out that no ship or probe has penetrated the great barrier around the center of the galaxy.

Scotty has managed to avoid the brainwashing, and he breaks Kirk, Spock, and McCoy out of the brig. (Previous attempts at a breakout from inside have failed. Spock points out that the brig is new and they tested it against the most intelligent, resourceful person they could find—Spock himself.) Scotty directs them to a turboshaft that’s down for maintenance that they can climb to the forward lounge, which has an emergency transmitter. Spock flies them up via his gravity boots, and they get a message out—however, it’s Klaa’s ship that receives it. His first officer, Vixis, claims to be from Starfleet Command and assures Kirk that they’ll send a ship right away. Klaa then sets course for the center of the galaxy.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

For his part, Scotty bumps his head on a pipe just after muttering that he knows the ship like the back of his hand. Sulu and J’onn find him and have him sent to sickbay, where Uhura greets him upon regaining consciousness.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Sybok enters the forward lounge and talks with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy about Sha Ka Ree—humans call it Eden or heaven, Klingons call it QI’tu, Romulans call it Vorta Vor. He also explains his brainwashing technique: he forces people to confront their pain and send it away, enabling them to also cast off fear (and, apparently, common sense and loyalty).

We finally get to see what it is Sybok does. McCoy sees himself at his father’s deathbed. McCoy confronts the fact that he committed euthanasia on his father—he was in tremendous pain, and McCoy did it to preserve his dignity and end the pain. But not long after that, they found a cure for what ailed him. Sybok claims that the pain of that decision has poisoned his soul.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

He then takes on Spock, who insists that he hides no pain, but Sybok knows better. Sybok shows them Amanda giving birth to Spock, and Sarek sees the child (whose ears are not yet tapered) and cluck-clucks, “So human.”

Kirk refuses to take his own journey, saying he needs his pain. As for Spock, the brainwashing doesn’t take because Spock knows who he is now—he’s not the outcast child Sybok left behind. McCoy sticks with his buddies, though he actually is grateful for the brainwashing, same as the rest of the crew.

The Enterprise approaches the great barrier. Sulu reminds Sybok that no ship can get through the barrier. Sybok says they’re wrong, that it’s just fear talking, and then the Enterprise—a barely-together ship that’s not functioning remotely correctly—gets through the impenetrable barrier with no explanation.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

There’s a world at the center, which Sulu puts the ship into orbit of. Chekov detects a power source like nothing he’s ever seen before. Sybok frees Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and lets Kirk have command of the ship again, to Kirk’s surprise. Sybok knows that, now that they’re here, Kirk won’t be able to resist exploring the world at the heart of the galaxy.

And he’s right. Leaving Chekov in command, Kirk takes Spock, McCoy, and Sybok down in a shuttlecraft—which another force takes control of as they approach. They land in an open field and disembark from the shuttlecraft. Sybok has apparently taken the time to get a haircut before boarding the shuttle. On the bridge, the crew, the consuls, and Sybok’s people are watching the feed from—well, I don’t know what it’s from, since we see the shuttle, so it can’t be from there. Everyone’s so enraptured by the sight of an incredibly boring desert planet that looks like half the other planets they’ve visited that nobody notices that Klaa’s ship has also somehow penetrated the barrier and is on approach.

After walking in a direction that appears to have been chosen at random, Sybok suddenly stops and screams, “WE HAVE TRAVELED FAR!” then quietly adds, “…by starship.”

Just when Sybok is thinking that maybe he came all this way for nothing, the sky grows dark, the ground shakes, and stalagmites start growing out of the ground, forming a sort of fence. The landing party walks in, and then a big giant head shows up in an explosion of light. The face is a white guy with a beard because that matches the landing party’s expectations—though I can only imagine it matches Kirk’s and McCoy’s.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The big giant head says that they’re his first visitors, and he asks how they penetrated the barrier, and when Sybok tells him, he asks if this starship can carry his essence, his power, his wisdom to the galaxy.

This prompts Kirk to ask a rather on-point question: what does God need with a starship? The big giant head refuses to answer the question, and when Kirk presses him, he gets himself zapped with ray beams from the big giant head’s eyes. When Spock points out that he hasn’t answered the question, he gets zapped, too. McCoy—who’s been willing to give the big giant head the benefit of the doubt (“Jim, you don’t ask the Almighty for his ID!”)—stands and declares that he doubts any god who inflicts pain for his own pleasure.

Sybok is aghast. The God of Sha Ka Ree would not behave this way. The big giant head has no idea what Sha Ka Ree is. He’s been imprisoned for an eternity, and he wants out via the starship. Sybok, realizing how badly he’s screwed up, approaches the big giant head and says that he can’t help but notice the creature’s pain…

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

As Sybok and the big giant head tussle, Kirk orders Sulu and Chekov to fire a photon torpedo at the big giant head. That doesn’t destroy the big giant head, but it gives Kirk, Spock, and McCoy time to run to the shuttle—which, apparently, is no longer working. Scotty has restored enough transporter power to beam two people aboard, so he takes Spock and McCoy—

—and then Klaa decloaks and fires on the Enterprise. His terms of surrender are that they give him “the renegade” Kirk and he doesn’t blow up the Enterprise. Spock counters that Kirk isn’t on board, and then he enlists Korrd to stomp all over him, since he’s Klaa’s superior officer. On Korrd’s order, Klaa beams Korrd and Spock over, takes the ship down to the surface, and fires on the big giant head, then beaming Kirk aboard. Klaa, reluctantly, apologizes, saying that firing on Kirk’s ship was not sanctioned by his government.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Kirk holds a party for the Klingons, his crew, and Sybok’s followers on the Enterprise. It’s unclear if or how Sybok’s brainwashing has worn off. Scotty and Korrd share some Scotch, Sulu and Chekov appreciate Vixis’s muscles, and Klaa salutes Kirk. Spock muses on how he lost a brother, prompting Kirk to say that he lost a brother once, but he was lucky and got him back.

Then we cut to Yosemite, where Kirk, Spock, and McCoy resume their camping trip. Spock has his Vulcan harp out, and he starts playing “Row Row Row Your Boat.”

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Enterprise and Klaa’s ship manage to penetrate the impenetrable barrier at the center of the galaxy because reasons. How they got to the center of the galaxy so fast is also left totally unexplained. Also, apparently they assembled the Enterprise-A in a hurry, because nothing on it works right—except for the get-us-through-the-impenetrable-barrier drive, that works great. 

Fascinating. We find out that Spock has a half-brother. Given that Sybok was exiled from Vulcan, and given how reluctant Vulcans in general and Spock in particular are with discussing their personal lives (cf. “Amok Time“), not to mention how revolting Spock finds rampant emotionalism, it’s not surprising that he never mentioned him before.

I’m a doctor not an escalator. As usual, McCoy gets the best lines, though they are fewer and farther between. Also, we learn that he killed his father.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Ahead warp one, aye. Not Sulu’s best day: he gets lost with Chekov (the pilot and the navigator get lost! Ha ha ha! That’s funny!), he gets knocked off his horse, he crashes the shuttle (to be fair, it was a damn difficult bit of piloting, and at least all his passengers survived), and he gets brainwashed. 

Hailing frequencies open. Uhura fares far worse, however. Not only is she brainwashed, prior to that she is conscripted to strip naked and do a fan dance and song to distract Sybok’s lookouts so they can steal their horses. Because the one thing that’s been missing from Star Trek all these years is a Russ Meyer moment.

I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty manages to fix the transporter in the nick of time, and also keeps the ship from falling completely apart. He also bangs his head on a pipe right after saying he knows the ship like the back of his hand. (He knows the ship like the back of his hand, but he bumps his head! Ha ha ha! That’s funny!)

It’s a Russian invention. Chekov gets to pretend to be captain to distract Sybok, and does rather a good job.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Go put on a red shirt. Kirk brings a security detail to Nimbus, and one of them gets shot. Nobody seems to notice or care.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. For some reason, Uhura and Scotty start acting like a couple. There’s been no hint of it before, and there will never be any hint of it again.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Channel open. “You really piss me off, Jim!”

McCoy, speaking for the entire audience.

Welcome aboard. The big guests are Laurence Luckinbill as Sybok and David Warner as Talbot. Warner will be back in the very next film as Chancellor Gorkon and again in TNG‘s “Chain of Commandtwo-parter as Gul Madred. Charles Cooper plays Korrd, the first of two high-ranking Klingons on his resumé, the next being Chancellor K’mpec on TNG‘s “Sins of the Father” and “Reunion.” (Amusingly, he’ll wear the same cloak as K’mpec that he wore as Korrd.)

Jonathan Simpson and Cynthia Blaise play the younger versions of Sarek and Amanda seen in Spock’s memories. Bill Quinn plays McCoy’s dying father; it was his last screen role before he died in 1994 at the age of 81.

Stunt folk Todd Bryant and Spice Williams play Klaa and Vixis, respectively. Bryant previously played a cadet in The Wrath of Khan, and will return as a Klingon translator in The Undiscovered Country. These days, he’s mostly a stunt coordinator, fight choreographer, and second unit director. Williams—known now as Spice Williams-Crosby after marrying George Crosby—is a well-regarded bodybuilder, and has continued to work in the stunt world as well. She’ll play a Klaestron kidnapper in DS9‘s “Dax.”

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Rex Holman plays J’onn; he was last seen as Morgan Earp in “Spectre of the Gun.” George Murdock plays the big giant head; he’ll return as Admiral Hansen in “The Best of Both Worldstwo-parter on TNG. Cynthia Gouw plays Dar.

Producer Harve Bennett plays the admiral who gives Kirk the assignment, and Melanie Shatner, daughter of the star/director, plays the yeoman who hands Kirk his jacket when he comes on board. With the latter appearance, all three of Shatner’s daughters have now appeared with him on Star Trek, with Lisabeth and Leslie having appeared as two of the kids in “Miri.”

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Finally, the usual suspects of James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and George Takei are present. Takei gets an “and” credit, which is a bigger credit than simply being listed, which he probably got as a way of getting him to do the film. Reportedly, Takei—who has never gotten along with Shatner—wasn’t interested in being directed by him, but he was talked into it.

Trivial matters: As with the third film, this was William Shatner’s first feature film directorial credit, though also as with Leonard Nimoy, he had directed television before, having helmed ten episodes of T.J. Hooker, the cop show he also starred in. Shatner asked to direct this film based on the “favored nation” clause in both his and Nimoy’s contract that basically said that whatever one got, so did the other.

This movie picks up from the end of the previous film, as Scotty references Kirk’s final line in the film asking, “Let’s see what she’s got,” and answering it poorly.

This is the second time the Enterprise has gone to the center of the galaxy. Last time, in “The Magicks of Megas-Tu,” they found magic and mythical creatures. This time, they find a big giant head pretending to be God. The barrier around the center is called “the great barrier,” which is also how the barrier around the outside of the galaxy—first seen in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and also traversed in “By Any Other Name” and “Is There in Truth No Beauty?“—is referred to.

The producers wanted Sean Connery to play Sybok, but he was already committed to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. They named Sha Ka Ree after him instead.

Each of the films from this one through to Nemesis are the only ones produced while a Star Trek TV show was on the air—this and The Undiscovered Country while TNG was airing, Generations while DS9 was airing, First Contact and Insurrection while DS9 and Voyager were airing, and Nemesis while Enterprise was airing.

Kirk really did lose his brother, in “Operation—Annihilate!” when George Samuel Kirk was found dead on Deneva. Kirk also says “men like us don’t have families,” even though all three of them do have families, as established in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Operation—Annihilate!” for Kirk, “Journey to Babel” for Spock, and “The Survivor” for McCoy.

While McCoy’s father is not named in this film, McCoy did provide “David” as his father’s name in The Search for Spock. In the novel The Sorrows of Empire, David Mack established that McCoy’s Mirror Universe counterpart (from “Mirror, Mirror“) tortured his father to death on orders from the Terran Empire.

The big giant head, identified as simply The One, will also be seen, and given an origin, in Greg Cox’s The Q-Continuum trilogy, which also features cosmic entities Q from “Encounter at Farpoint” and beyond, the swirly thing from “Day of the Dove,” and Gorgan from “And the Children Shall Lead.”

McCoy’s grumbling to himself that he’s worried about starting to talk to himself calls back to a similar line, also prompted by Kirk’s behavior, in the character’s first appearance in “The Corbomite Maneuver.”

The timeframe of Nimbus III’s establishment is problematic, as this movie can’t be more than a few months after The Wrath of Khan, which was fifteen years after “Space Seed,” which means it’s also fifteen years after “Balance of Terror“—which was the first contact between the Federation and the Romulans in almost a century. So how could the Romulans be involved in “the planet of galactic peace” twenty years prior to this episode?

Nimbus III is never mentioned again onscreen, but it does feature in the Decipher role-playing game, Star Trek Online, and the Vanguard novel series by David Mack, Dayton Ward, & Kevin Dilmore. It’s also seen in an alternate timeline in Geoff Trowbridge’s The Chimes at Midnight, in Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions.

Korrd also appears prior to this film in “Though Hell Should Bar the Way” by Greg Cox in Enterprise Logs and your humble rewatcher’s “The Unhappy Ones” in Seven Deadly Sins and after it in Sarek by A.C. Crispin, In the Name of Honor by Dayton Ward, “The Lights in the Sky” by Phaedra M. Weldon in Strange New Worlds, and J.M. Dillard’s novelization of The Undiscovered Country.

Klaa would continue to be a recurring antagonist for Kirk and the gang in DC’s second monthly Star Trek comic written by Peter David and Howard Weinstein. He also appeared in Weinstein’s novella The Blood-Dimmed Tide, part of the Mere Anarchy miniseries.

Sybok is mentioned briefly in your humble rewatcher’s The Brave and the Bold Book 2 during Spock and Worf’s mind-meld (Spock’s disagreements with Sybok paralleling Worf’s with Nikolai Rozhenko), and alternate timeline versions of him are seen or mentioned in Engines of Destiny by Gene DeWeese, The Tears of Eridanus by Steve Mollmann & Michael Schuster in Myriad Universes: Shattered Light, the comic book Star Trek Annual #6 written by Howard Weinstein & Michael Jan Friedman, and the aforementioned The Chimes at Midnight.

Harve Bennett’s admiral, simply identified as “Bob” in the film, is given the name Robert Bennett when he appears in the novels Forged in Fire by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin and the aforementioned In the Name of Honor.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The first episode of TNG to be produced after this movie’s release was “Evolution,” in which Data mentions that there has not been a total technological failure of a starship in seventy-nine years, a deliberate reference to the Enterprise-A’s balky shakedown in this movie.

This film was novelized by J.M. Dillard, who adapted all six of the remaining mainline universe films. Dillard reconciled Sulu being offered his own command with his being back to the helmsman here, explained how the Enterprise got the center of the galaxy so gosh-darned fast and was able to penetrate the barrier (Sybok modified the engines and shields so that they could get there fast and then get through, and Klaa acquired those new specs from scanning the Enterprise in order to follow), remembered things like the fact that Kirk actually had a brother, gave backgrounds for the three Nimbus III ambassadors, showed what Sybok did to brainwash Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov, and so on. In addition, as with the previous two, there was a comics adaptation from DC by the then-current creative team of the comic book, in this case Peter David, James W. Fry III, & Arne Starr

To boldly go. “What does God need with a starship?” What a godawful mess. Pun intended.

There is almost nothing to recommend this film. It’s bad Star Trek, it’s bad cinema, hell, it’d even be bad television. The humor is labored and forced, and very little of it elicits more than an occasional chuckle. (“I need a shower.” “Yes.” That works. It’s one of the few.)

Gene Roddenberry tried to declare this movie to be non-canonical, which many fans seized upon in order to dismiss the film. Of course, the reason why Roddenberry hated this movie isn’t because it’s bad, it’s because Shatner got to make his Enterprise-meets-God story and Roddenberry didn’t. The Great Bird’s original notion for what eventually became The Motion Picture, which Paramount rejected, involved meeting a version of God. Roddenberry even tried to make it into a novel, The God-Thing. (Here’s a very impressive chronicle of the tortured history of this never-to-be-published novel from the mighty Steve Roby.)

I suspect that Roddenberry’s story of the meeting with God would have been dire, though it couldn’t possibly be much worse than this misbegotten piece of crap.

The movie is not completely flawed. It has some good moments. For all that the dialogue is labored (a problem throughout the film), the campfire scenes are fun. The revelations of what Sybok focuses on for McCoy’s and Spock’s pain are very enlightening about both characters, especially McCoy. Knowing that McCoy, in a moment of weakness, performed euthanasia on his own father to preserve his dignity and relieve his endless pain pulls McCoy’s entire character into focus. His dedication to his work, his insistence on the sanctity of life (seen in this very film when he bitches out Kirk for risking his life for no good reason by climbing El Capitan), it all comes back to that one decision that he obviously regretted deeply and which has informed his entire life, making him into the superlative surgeon that we’ve been seeing regularly.

And this is the thing Sybok wants to take away. Kirk is the only person who seems to understand that. (Spock, to a lesser extent, does also.) All the people on Nimbus, all the rest of Kirk’s crew, they all just give in to the brainwashing.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Which, by the way, is never properly explained. Sybok stares at a person, talks about letting go of their pain, and then they blindly follow him anywhere, act out of character, commit acts of assault and theft, and so on. The leap from one thing—working through a past trauma—to the other—being a mindless moron—is too far to be in any way convincing.

The movie is one big character assassination of everyone who isn’t one of the Big Three. Besides the fact that Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and possibly Scotty (it’s not clear with him) have succumbed to Sybok’s brainwashing (so has McCoy, but he’s at least got the wherewithal to remember his Starfleet oath, unlike the others), we get Sulu and Chekov getting lost, Scotty bumping his head, and Uhura’s fucking fan dance.

I still recall seeing The Final Frontier in the theatre at age twenty. With each scene, my jaw is dropping further, aghast at just how awful it all is, and then we get to the motherfucking fan dance, and I just closed my eyes and muttered profanity to myself. (I wanted to scream, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, noooooo!” but I was in a crowded Manhattan theatre and was mindful of the rest of the audience.) Star Trek has always had a major dollop of sexism leavening its enlightened attitudes, but there’s no excuse, none, for that appalling, disgusting, ridiculous scene of Uhura distracting the lookouts by dancing naked for them, getting them to all abandon their posts as one. (Funny how Sybok’s brainwashing is enough to make Starfleet officers violate their oaths but not enough to keep his lookouts from acting like a wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon.) Good thing for Kirk’s despicable plan that they were all heterosexual males in the lookout party…

All of this is done to make the hero look better. It’s really hard to forget whose name is on the director credit when the movie goes to such great lengths to make Kirk out to be the bestest captain evar!!! He climbs El Cap! He’s the only one who can save the consuls! He leads the landing party and wrestles a three-breasted cat lady! (No, really!) He’s the only one who manfully resists Sybok’s brainwashing! He dares to ask the big giant head an important question! (Which is another of the few great lines in the film.)

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Sixteen years ago, I got into a discussion of this movie on a now-defunct Trek books board, and several people defended the movie as being thoughtful and it was actually about seeking out new life and new civilizations and that it was about something and that something was very much in Roddenberry’s spirit. Except, to me, all this movie had to say was that everyone (except for Kirk and Spock, anyhow) is a weak-willed moron who doesn’t have the ability to say, “Hey, maybe I shouldn’t mind-meld with this laughing Vulcan I’ve never met and let him give me hallucinations.” Also that Starfleet is so incompetently run that there’s only one captain who can handle a diplomatic crisis and they can’t even be arsed to give him a ship that works properly. (Seriously, I get that Kirk is the only one available with the experience, but in that case, give him a ship that actually functions, for crying out loud!)

As for seeking out new life and new civilizations, yup, the movie is about that—and it’s the villain of the piece who’s doing it, and our heroes are trying to stop him. That’s so very Star Trek. Sigh.

Naturally, there are no consequences for what happened. The next time we see the crew, they’re either in the same positions or have been promoted. Even though they disobeyed orders, endangered the ship, assaulted their fellow officers, and so on. Sure.

I was going to give this a zero rating, but watching it again I found myself drawn to McCoy’s flashback. It really does do a great deal to explicate one of the most compelling characters in the franchise, and DeForest Kelley does superbly with the scene.

But it’s the only rose in this pile of cowflop. Just an embarrassment to the entire franchise.

Though it did give us this…

Warp factor rating: 1 

Next week: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest release is the short story “Behind the Wheel,” the latest in his cycle of urban fantasy stories set in Key West, Florida starring Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet. The story is in TV Gods: Summer Programming, which also features stories by Trek scribes Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, and Aaron Rosenberg.

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Keith R.A. DeCandido


Keith R.A. DeCandido has been writing about popular culture for this site since 2011, primarily but not exclusively writing about Star Trek and screen adaptations of superhero comics. He is also the author of more than 60 novels, more than 100 short stories, and around 50 comic books, both in a variety of licensed universes from Alien to Zorro, as well as in worlds of his own creation. Read his blog, follow him on Facebook, The Site Formerly Known As Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and Blue Sky, and follow him on YouTube and Patreon.
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