Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

Director: William Shatner

In which the Trek creative team managed to pretty much squander the goodwill the series had managed to build up so far. What went wrong? Well, the Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha offers a number of possibilities, including the mediocre response to the Next Generation TV series (which had started in between films) and various behind the scenes issues including a threat of legal action from Gene Roddenberry—the series creator who’d been increasingly sidelined by the studio since the initial film and had been unhappy with all the others made after it—plus studio interference (Shatner wanted a fairly dark film, Paramount wanted it kept light like the previous film) and inadequate budget (which harmed FX and pre-production). And, frankly, the fact that the crew were getting visibly older (Kelley & Doohan both pushing 70 by then) probably didn’t help much. However you break down the blame, in any case it’s hard to argue that this film is a marked step down in overall quality from the films that came before it, though I would argue it’s still not as bad as the first one (I’d much rather rewatch this over the first film). Basically, the primary issue is that it’s just kind of flat overall, and the attempts at humour are particularly weak; the basic story (Enterprise is hijacked by Spock’s religious fanatic brother to go in search of God) actually isn’t bad—though the similarity between it and a never-made Roddenberry script seems to have been what triggered the putative lawsuit—but the execution leaves something to be desired. The end result has been somewhat written out of Trek history after Roddenberry huffily declared it “apocryphal”; it apparently went straight to video in some countries and earned a few Razzies as well. I’m… not 100% convinced it’s that terrible—Sybok’s confrontation with Kirk, Spock & McCoy and their “pain” is, I think, really well done, much the best thing about the film—and, like I said, I still think it’s better than the first film, not least because it’s half an hour shorter…

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