To celebrate the release of Star Trek Into Darkness, the Flickering Myth writing team look back at the classic sci-fi franchise. Next up for Star Trek Month is Anghus Houvouras reviewing Star Trek V: The Final Frontier…
Every Star Trek fan has to deal with the fact that every so often you will bear witness to something truly wretched. Its only natural for a property that has been around as long as the crew of the Starship Enterprise. The fourth film in the storied franchise, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, was a monumental success that propelled the property to new heights. Star Trek was not only cool again, it was a box office draw that had achieved mainstream success. It was, at the time, the highest level of success Star Trek had ever achieved. One film would take all that goodwill and blow it up like flaming, disintegrating hull of the Enterprise streaking across the atmosphere.
That photon torpedo was named Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
After the success of The Voyage Home, the producers wanted to replicate the success. The fourth installment had been directed deftly by Leonard Nimoy. The reigns of the fifth were handed to William Shatner. Someone had to know this was a bad idea.
The Final Frontier is a deeply flawed film that skirts disaster. A ridiculous mess that takes the aging and puffy original crew on an intergalactic quest to find God. There’s a heavy emphasis on action. Shatner seems intent on making something big and epic. Much like his performance style, his direction lacks subtlety and he feels like he’s trying to compete with big budget action films instead of delivering a more cerebral experience.
Star Trek V felt like a departure for the franchise. In the past the films seemed to mirror the television series favoring high minded themes and tense standoffs over hyperactive action and goofy thrills. The Final Frontier is all goofy thrills.
The story revolves around Spock’s half brother Sybok who believes the creator of the universe dwells inside a energy mass at the center of the universe and requires a starship to get him there. Sybok and a group of cult like followers hijack the Enterprise and take the painfully easy journey to the center of the universe where they discover that God may indeed exist, and he may not like them very much. It’s a very silly plot masquerading as something smart.
The film isn’t without its charms. There are some hilarious one liners delivered by DeForest Kelley who at one point declares “Jim, you don’t ask the almighty for an I.D.”. The entire final confrontation between Kirk, McCoy, and a giant disembodied ethereal head is pretty hilarious.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was a real tonal shift for the franchise which continued to try and make the feature films less like the show and more like traditional Hollywood spectacle. The Final Frontier is easily the worst Star Trek film featuring the original cast, though it is still light years better than The Next Generation debacles. In a summer that delivered excellent blockbusters like Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Lethal Weapon 2, the failings of the aging cast of Star Trek seemed even more obvious. “Past their prime” is putting it mildly.
Fortunately, The Undiscovered Country would give the cast a dignified exit, letting people forget all about this forgettable episode.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the graphic novel EXE: Executable File, is available from Lulu.com.
Star Trek Month continues tomorrow with David Bishop reviewing Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country…