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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Director: William Shatner
Screenplay: David Loughery (story by William Shatner & Harve Bennett & David Loughery)
Stars: William Shatner (Capt. James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Capt. Spock), DeForest Kelley (Lt. Cmdr. Leonard H. “Bones” McCoy), James Doohan (Capt. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott), George Takei (Cmdr. Hikaru Sulu), Walter Koenig (Cmdr. Pavel Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Cmdr. Uhura), Laurence Luckinbill (Sybok)
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 1989
Country: U.S.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was William Shatner’s feature film directorial debut, and it shows in the film’s wildly inconsistent tone and meandering pace. The fundamental ideas behind Star Trek V, most of which can be credited to Shatner, are among the film series’ most profound and ambitious, so the film’s ultimate failure cannot be laid completely at Shatner’s feet, although many have wanted to do just that.

After a pre-credits sequence that depicts a mystical, renegade Vulcan named Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill) beginning to acquire a following on the desolate planet Nimbus III, the film opens with the crew of the Starship Enterprise on “shore leave.” The series’ central triumvirate—Captain James T. Kirk (Shatner), Capt. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Lt. Cmdr. “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley)—are vacationing in Yosemite National Park, and it is here that the films gets off on the wrong foot and never quite recovers.

The pre-credits sequence with Sybok is a visually impressive start with a tone of foreboding doom, and you can even forgive it for playing a little too heavily on a borrowed Mad Max aesthetic. The scene in Yosemite, by contrast, is so relentlessly goofy that it’s hard to take the rest of the film seriously. Kirk’s free-climbing Yosemite’s granite monolith El Capitan is an interesting idea, although it’s ruined by embarrassing dialogue between him and Spock, who floats nonchalantly next to him in hovering boots. The scene is then buried by awful blue-screen effects that depict Kirk falling and Spock catching him at the last second by his ankles, like something in a Tex Avery cartoon. And, just when you think it can’t get any worse, we get a chummy campfire scene in which Kirk and Bones decry the fact that Spock doesn’t know “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley had been acting together for so long at this point that they almost make the scene work by sheer willpower alone, but it’s simply not enough.

The major narrative thread in Star Trek V involves Sybok and his followers hijacking the Starship Enterprise and flying it beyond the Great Barrier to a planet at the center of the galaxy where he believes he will find God. Thus, Star Trek V is, at heart, about the oldest human yearning: to see the face of the Creator. There are symbolic and literal struggles throughout the film between science and spirituality, rationality and fundamentalism. It turns out that Sybok and Spock share a crucial relationship (albeit one that is not consistent with Star Trek history), and they represent the two opposing poles of thought, with Sybok giving in wholeheartedly to what may be delusions of grandeur that God is speaking to him, while Spock remains grounded and consistent in his devotion to the Enterprise and his crew.

Star Trek V followed on the heels of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), which was the most successful film in the series, drawing a large contingent of regular moviegoers in addition to the legions of devoted Star Trek fans. Star Trek IV, while not the best film in the series, achieved a delicate balancing act between comedy and maintaining the dignity of its cherished characters. Such is not the case with Star Trek V, and it’s hard not to assume that it was Shatner’s directorial inexperience that led to its comedy being so silly and its tone so uneven. For a film that was trying to get back to some of the original television series’ more profound impulses, it is riddled with inane scenes that are meant to be funny, but are really just distracting. Chief among these is a jaw-dropping moment in which Cmdr. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) gets naked and sings a song while doing a fan dance atop a sand dune in order to distract members of Sybok’s army. “I’ve always wanted to play to a captive audience,” she quips after the men are taken captive, and the sheer badness of the entire scene defies explanation.

This is not to say that Star Trek V doesn’t have its good moments. There is a moving scene near the end in which Sybok forces Bones and Spock to see moments in their lives that define their inner pain. For Bones, it is the (un)avoidable death of his father, and for Spock it is his having been born part-human and part-Vulcan. The scenes that take place on Nimbus III, a failed experiment by the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans to establish a “peaceful,” weapon-free society, are also well-done in their stark, dystopian desolation. And even the often decried final scenes in which Sybok and the crew of the Enterprise find themselves face to face with “God” work well, even though they were hampered by a dwindling budget and sometimes lousy special effects. Yet, even the good moments in Star Trek V are not nearly enough to outweigh the bad, and it will likely maintain its long-cemented reputation as the worst film in the series.

Star Trek V: The Final Fronter Special Collector’s Edition DVD

Aspect Ratio2.35:1
AnamorphicYes
Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
English Dolby 2.0 Surround
French Dolby 2.0 Surround
SubtitlesEnglish
Supplements Audio commentary by director/star William Shatner and Liz Shatner
Text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda
“Herman Zimmerman: A Tribute” featurette
“Cosmic Thoughts” featurette
“That Klingon Couple” featurette
“A Green Future” featurette
Original interview with William Shatner
“The Journey” production featurette
Harve Bennett’s pitch to the sales team
Makeup tests
Previsualization models
“Rock Man in the Raw” footage
Star Trek V press conference
Deleted scenes
Theatrical trailers
TV spots
Production gallery: Production photos and storyboards
DistributorParamount Home Video
SRP$24.99
Release DateOctober 14, 2003

VIDEO
The new anamorphic transfer is, to put it directly, light years ahead of Paramount’s previous nonanamorphic release. The image is noticeably sharper and smoother, with generally good detail, nice color saturation, and solid black levels. There is a bit of dirt during the opening credits sequence at Yosemite, but otherwise the image is clean and clear.

AUDIO
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is the same one that was available on the previous release, and it is a serviceable, although hardly mind-blowing, remix of the film’s original stereo soundtrack (which is also included). The surround effects draw a little too much attention to themselves at times, and the soundtrack doesn’t have a great deal of depth, but it sounds generally well-balanced and clear.

SUPPLEMENTS
As with the previous four Special Collector’s Editions of Star Trek films, this two-disc set is loaded with an array of supplements, some of which are better than others.

The first disc boasts two commentaries. The screen-specific audio commentary by director/star William Shatner and his daughter, Liz Shatner, author of the book Captain’s Log: William Shatner’s Personal Account of the Making of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is not surprisingly self-indulgent and blissfully oblivious to most of the complaints leveled against the film. For the most part, it is a snoozer, especially with all the long pauses. Should we be surprised that no one else associated with the film wanted to record on the commentary? The text commentary, as on the previous discs, was written by Michael and Denis Okuda, coauthors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia, and is chock full of all kinds of trivia on both the making of the movie and the Star Trek universe in general.

The second disc has a handful of featurettes, starting with a brief tribute featurette to production designer Herman Zimmerman, who appears in interviews throughout many of the others. “Cosmic Thoughts” features interviews with science fiction experts, theologians, and astrophysicists about the nature of the universe and God, while the pro-environmentalist “A Green Future?” focuses on the use of Yosemite National Park. One of the more amusing featurettes, “That Klingon Couple,” reunites Todd Bryant and Spice Williams, the two overenthusiastic actors who portrayed the main Klingons in the film. The most extensive featurette is the half-hour “The Journey,” which chronicles the making of the film and, unlike the other supplements, pays lip service to some of the problems faced by the production, especially the budgetary issues and the crisis of having to cut a major effects sequent from the climax.

There is also quite a bit of nostaligic-historical material, including a 1989 interview with William Shatner during the film’s production at Yosemite, a two-minute clip filmed by producer Harve Bennett to get the Paramount sales team excited about the film, and video footage of a press conference held on the last day of principal photography that needs to be seen just so you can get a look at executive producer Ralph Winter’s truly heinous sweater. Special effects fans will enjoy the video footage of make-up tests and the pre-visualization models, as well as a video montage of production stills and a trio of storyboard sequences. Best of all, though, is “Rock Man in the Raw,” which is the only surviving footage of the notorious Rock Man character that was ultimately cut from the big climax. The four deleted scenes included on the disc are vaguely interesting, but not terribly crucial. Also included are two theatrical trailers and seven TV spots.

Overall Rating: (2)


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