Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
For years in the Star Trek fandom, there is a debate which is worse. Star Trek the Motion Picture of this film.
Even Sheldon and Raj in Big Bang Theory argue this when Raj states "Star Trek V, worse than I"
Then Sheldon retorts "Star Trek I is orders of magnitude worse than Star Trek V"
Raj states "Are you joking, Star Trek V is the standard against which all badness is measured."
And Sheldon says, "No no no, Star Trek V has specific failures in writing and direction, while Star Trek I fails across the board, art direction, costuming, music, sound editing."
Well, I used to agree with Sheldon. Classically, I thought Star Trek I was the worst with Star Trek V as second worst. I used to think Star Trek I was practically unwatchable, whereas, I thought Star Trek V was stupid but entertaining.
However, after watching these films back to back during this retrospective, I've had a change of heart, and I may have to side with Raj now. I'm going to have to give Star Trek the Motion Picture a little bump for its sophistication and attempt to tell a grand story, while Final Frontier is going to have to drop.
While Motion Picture is simply NOT good, it isn't bad. There aren't really any cringe-worthy moments. Final Frontier IS bad.
And I found myself cringing multiple times while watching it. Cringing is always a bad sign, and I cringed multiple times.
- I cringed when Sulu and Chekov try to convince Uhura that they're stuck in a blizzard.
- I cringed at Spock, McCoy, and Jim saying goodnight to each other.
- I cringed at the weird new and AWKWARD romantic relationship between Scotty and Uhura.
- And right from the opening camping scene, I specifically remembered thinking, why in heaven's name is Bones McCoy dressed like Ralph Furley from Three's Company, with that crazy silk scarf. Unexplainable.
- And at the end, when they land on Sha Ka Ree, and they're marveling how beautiful it is, and it looks a like a local desert shot. I'm thinking, "Really? This is supposed to be beautiful?"
Although it IS still a close debate between Star Trek I and V. After all, Star Trek the Motion Picture is bland. While there aren't a lot of bad moments, there aren't a lot of fun moments either. Star Trek I breaks Entertainment's cardinal rule of not being BORING.
However, Star Trek V isn't boring, it's just stupid. But is fun.
- I liked the scene where Chekov is piloting the Enterprise and they escape the Vulcans..."Warp speed now!"
- I liked jail breakout scene.
- I liked the moments where Spock turns down Sybok and decides to stay with Kirk.
- And I thought the scene where Kirk asks the alien God why he needs a starship was cool. "Uh Excuse me...Why does God need a starship." And I thought Spock adding, "Why DOES God need a Starship" was also effective.
- And I liked the scene where Kirk is going to hug Spock, and he says, Please Captain, not in front of the Klingons.
I guess it IS a more complicated a decision which is better and which is worse.
Well, the debate continues.
I was a sophomore in college when this movie came out. It was a great year of movies. Tim Burton’s Batman came out, Ghostbusters II came out, Lethal Weapons II came out, James Bond Licence to Kill Came Out, When Harry Met Sally Came out. As I said it was a huge year for movies.
I remember seeing this movie with my friend Rick Tange on opening weekend. We both had pretty high expectations for the movie, which it obviously did NOT meet. However, we did have a fairly good time watching it. It was obviously a weaker entry into the series, but I didn't realize at the time, how bad it was.
Whenever I think of this film, I think of an ironic situation that happened with my college girlfriend. When we started dating, she hated Star Trek. She told me that her previous boyfriend tried to introduce her to the Star Trek series but the alien creatures, including Spock, grossed her out. I decided to use Star Trek V: The Final Frontier to introduce her to the series. It seemed like a light, fun film to introduce her to the characters of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. It worked. She loved the film, and she started to give Star Trek a chance. Her favorite character at the time… Bones McCoy.
Next was Star Trek II Wrath of Kahn, Star Trek III: Search for Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. She was slowly turning into a Star Trek fan. She even started to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and developed a huge crush on Will Riker. Years later, as a fan, she watched Star Trek V again. How would she react to the film that introduced her to the franchise? SHE HATED IT! I remember her saying, “This is so stupid! I can’t believe I used to like this.” And that was it! The cycle was complete. It had come full circle, like the legendary Ouroboros, paradoxically chasing and devouring its own tail. She was an official Trekkie!
So, these days, my wife is watching these movies with me, I was curious how she would react to this film. Remember, she was a fan of Star Trek the Next Generation, and the new JJ Abrahms Star Treks. She had never seen, nor ever wanted to see the Original Star Trek TV series nor any of the movies.
And during the movie, when Kirk and SPock take the shuttle down to the Paradise Planet to rescue the hostages, she said, "That makes no sense."
I asked her what made no sense, and she says, "Why would the two highest ranking members of the ship go on a dangerous suicide mission." haha.
She did laugh at a lot of the jokes, but when the ship approached Sha-Ka-ree, and Jim, Spock, and Sybok go to the surface, my wife said, and “Apparently Heaven looks exactly like Nevada."
After the movie, I asked her what she thought, and she said, "It was stupid, but watchable."
I asked her to give it a grade, and she gave it "a C".
I asked her what she thought of Star Trek IV The Voyage Home, solid A.
I asked her what she thought of Star Trek the Motion Picture, and before I could finish the question she yelled, "F"!!!! SO, I guess she clearly sides with Sheldon.
Let's talk about how this film got made.
According to the contract which William Shatner signed, in order to agree to star in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; Paramount HAD to agree to allow Shatner the right to direct Star Trek V.? Which he chose to exercise.
Shatner's first draft was called "Star Trek V: The Act of Love." Yeah, that's for real. Shatner got his inspiration from watching televangelists. Shatner said, "These televangelists were repulsive, strangely horrifying, and yet I became absolutely fascinating." In the first story, a televangelist character named Zar would kidnap a Klingon, a human, and a Romulan ambassadors who were on a failed Paradise planet. Kirk and the Enterprise would go to help but be overwhelmed by Zar's superior forces. Spock, McCoy and the rest of the crew would come to bevies that Zar is Divine. Kirk would pretend to follow Zar and travel with him to the God Planet which would be a fiery wasteland. When Kirk confronts God, God would turn into Satan. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy would split up to escape, and Kirk would escape but go back to rescue Spock and McCoy from Hell. ... Okay. This sounds even worse than the crap that ended up on screen.
Eventually, the character of Zar was changed to Sybok. When the screenwriters wrote him, they wanted him to be played by one actor... Sean Connery. Now THAT would have been super cool! It may have even saved this movie.
They pursued Sean Connery, but they apparently didn't even get close.
In fact, the planet “Sha Ka Ree" was a pun on Sean Connery.
The producers then considered Max Von Sydow.
Then one day, Shatner was at home watching TV, and he saw a PBS viewing of a play Lyndon starring Lawrence Luckingbill, and said, "That's my guy for Sybok."
Lawrence Luckinbill was a professional stage actor. He is very well respected in Hollywood. He is also a fellow Razorback. And interestingly, he is the uncle of Lana and Andy Wachowski of the Matrix fame. He is also the husband of Lucy Arnaz, the daughter of legendary couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. And after 35 years of marriage, they have 3 kids and they are still happily married.
And while I think Lawrence Luckinbill was very good in this, I think it hurt the film that he was an unknown. I wonder if it would have worked if they used an actor with more stage presence, like Connery or Max Von Sydow. In retrospect, I don't think it would have worked. After all, Luckinbill is one of the strongest things in this movie, and he couldn't save it, so that implies that there were too many other weaknesses in this movie.
In order to save money, Shatner and crew used much of the sets of Star Trek the next Generation. The corridors, the sick bay, were all from The Next Generation, unchanged. The only thing that was built from scratch was the new Enterprise-A bridge, which would only be used one more time in Star Trek VI.
In an interesting bit of trivia, at the beginning of the film, when Kirk is climbing the Mountain on Yosemite, in the original concept, it was supposed to be Mount Rushmore. And in the future, Mount Rushmore would have a fifth president, who would have been an African American woman. However, due to budget constraints, the idea was scrapped.
As usual, Shatner wanted Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) to do the special effects. They had done the special effects for Star Trek II, Star Trek III, and Star Trek IV.
Unfortunately, they were busy doing Indiana Jones and Last Crusade and Ghostbusters II, and were simply NOT available. SO Shatner went to Associates and Ferren to do the special effects. Associates and Ferrren had done the special effects for Little Shop of Horrors, and was considered an up and coming Special Effects Company. However, Star Trek V would be one of the last films they would do. I wonder if their work on this film destroyed their company.
Shatner had wanted the final scene to be an all-out battle where the crew of the Enterprise would fight and army of angels and demons. However, Paramount determined that the scene he envisioned was unfillable. Shatner then changed it to several rock-monsters.
Shatner wanted to have ten rock monsters, but Paramount said he could only have one. He went back and asked for six. Paramount said ONE. So... he settled on ONE.
The rock man outfit cost $350,000 and looked kind of like a deformed version of Ben Grimm the Thing in Marvel's Fantastic Four. You can see some of the test footage on the internet, and I think it looked pretty good. It had an animatronic face where the facial muscles, eyebrows, made of Styrofoam rock, would move and looked pretty sinister, although I thought its eyes looked kind of funny. Techs had to blow cigarette smoke inside the outfit, which would cause smoke to leak out of the suit, creating a cool smoking effect while also concealing the latex foam. Well,
It looked a lot better than what managed to get on screen.
Shatner was not pleased with the footage they had, and did not have enough money to reshoot the scenes, so...
In the end, they had to ditch the idea of a rock man and settled for a floating cartoon head.
After filming the final amorphous blob scene, Shatner and Ferren looked at the footage and were NOT pleased. They approached Paramount for more money to refilm the scene, and Paramount was obviously in "cut our losses" mode, and they turned Shatner down. The footage you see in the film, was the footage Shatner wanted to reshoot.
In fact, the scene in Galaxy quest, where Jason Nisbett fights a Rock Monster is an homage to this concept.
Sybok was not Spock’s half-brother.
Let’s talk about how this movie did.
The movie still had a budget of $33 million dollars, which was 50% MORE than the $21 million of the last movie.
Many analysts thought this movie would break $200 million. After all, Voyage Home had made $133 million, and they thought that the success of the Star Trek Next Generation TV series would give this film a box office bump.
It had a high opening weekend, and actually beat the Voyage Home's opening weekend, but alas, like all critically panned movies, it had a sharp drop-off in its second week; and went on the have the shortest wide release of any previous Star Trek film. In the end, it only made $49 million in the US, barely recouping its $33 million budget and only $63 million dollars worldwide. It was considered the biggest box office disappointment of the year.
Critically, the negative reviews poured it. Critics generally vacillated between this film being BAD and this film being mediocre, with very few people claiming that it was good. It holds a sad 21% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Gene Roddenberry HATED this movie, and refused to accept that Sarek had another wife before Amanda, much less another son.
This movie is also the only Star Trek movie to be nominated for a Golden Raspberry award for Worst Picture; which is actually won. Pretty sad.
This film was labeled a commercial and critical failure.
Remember during Star Trek IV, when Shatner looked like he would NOT sign on Executive Producer Harve Bennet wanted to do a Star Trek prequel about the original characters during their time at Starfleet Academy; using a new younger cast. (Not a bad idea, right?) This also produced a rift between Harve bennet and Leonard Nimoy (understandably); and there were apparently strong tension on the set of this film
After this film, the original Star Trek cast was considered OVER. And producers decided it was time to put the original cast out to pasture. Paramount approached Harve Bennett and gave him the green-light on his Star Fleet Academy idea.
Fortunately for the original cast, or unfortunately for Harve Bennett (depending on your point of view) the 25th Anniversary of Star Trek was approaching, and Paramount thought they could squeeze out one more successful film from the Original Series franchise.
Paramount cancelled Harve Bennett's project and green-lit a sixth Starfleet movie with the original cast. Harve Beentt was out, and he would eventually leave the whole franchise.
Apparently, in 2012, William Shatner went to Paramount and asked if he could do a Special Edition Director's Cut of this film, and include omitted scenes, and include new improved CGI special effects, like George Lucas did for his Star Wars films; and Shatner said that the executives basically laughed him out of their office. SO, probably will never happen.