This could have been good. Well, maybe ‘good’ is too strong a word; ‘better’ is probably more apt. Given the title – which is either one which was long-overdue for them to have used, or so painfully obvious that they ought to have avoided it altogether – it ought to be about the ultimate challenge between Good and Evil, or Life and Death, or Heaven and Hell, or… something. As it is, it ends up merely being “the one Shatner wrote and directed, with him climbing El Capitain at the start and the big talking cloud at the end”.
I admit to having seen this in the theatre, which meant I paid damned good money to gain access to it. I hope Mr. Shatner appreciates that. I expect a nice hug the next time we meet. Well, if we meet, really.
Part of the reason this wasn’t as grandiose it was originally intended is due to the budgetary restraints, as well as the fact that the boffins at Industrial Light and Magic were already busy crafting things for Ghostbusters II and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It was fairly substantial at one point, but that sequence had to be cut out as a result of awful-looking special effects. So, the extra scenes were replaced by more shots of a face in a big cloud, except the eyes of the face glowed. Thus the film’s ending was badly chopped down to one where Kirk is simply being chased by a huge fuzzy cloud with a face in it whose eyes glowed.
Originally, the big revelation of an ending was to be an homage to Dante Alighieri, with all the levels of Hell he invented represented in a massive pit into which Kirk stared. Now that would be an ending! To come face-to-face with Hell itself, that would truly be the Final Frontier!
The lead-up to the ending has all sorts of lengthy expostulation, back-story galore for Spock, and generally a great deal of time-consumption. We get to see people on their ‘shore leave’, which is cut short. Thus, there’s Kirk on a camping trip with McCoy and Spock, during which they drink Kentucky bourbon and discuss the effect beans have upon them as well as attempt to convince the Vulcan that the lyrics of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” are both logical and worthy of memorization. We see Sulu and Chekov hiking, and Uhura doing a little moonlighting on an out of the way security detail. This is about as exciting as it gets, folks.
After that we get some flying through space sequences, some ‘leaning back and forth in chairs on the bridge’ sequences, and some ‘running around on a planet surface’ sequences. Basically, this is a TV episode, only longer, and with a bigger budget. Again, had the ending been in tact, we might have had something worthwhile, but – as it’s a stand-alone story – you can miss this one out without a problem.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
Paramount Pictures (presents)
Gene Roddenberry (creator: based on Star Trek)
screenplay by David Loughery
from a story by William Shatner & Harve Bennett & David Loughery
This year, I’ve been watching DVDs from the library for a number of reasons, mostly to do with a combination of “filling in the gaps in my ‘pop culture’ knowledge”, as well as a concerted effort to better understand story editing by both watching a film and then re-watching listening to people who have studied that particular movie for years in order to better appreciate the themes, plot construction, symbolism, and so on.
The process would be nothing without the secondary audio tracks. Sometimes it’s like having actually been through the film-making process with the people involved.
Table of contents for the series “The Star Trek Trek Films: Which is the Least Goodest?”
- RE:VIEW ~ Star Trek I: The Motion Picture (1979)
- RE:VIEW ~ Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
- RE:VIEW ~ Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
- RE:VIEW ~ Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
- RE:VIEW ~ Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
- RE:VIEW ~ Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
- RE:VIEW ~ Star Trek VII: Generations (1994)
- RE:VIEW ~ Star Trek VIII: First Contact (1996)
- RE:VIEW ~ Star Trek IX: Insurrection (1998)
- RE:VIEW ~ Star Trek X: Nemesis (2002)
- RE:VIEW ~ Star Trek XI: Star Trek (2009)