Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

star trek v the final frontier

“What does God need with a starship?”

The Scoop: 1989 PG, directed by William Shatner and starring Laurence Luckinbill, Nichelle Nichols, and James Doohan.

Tagline: Why Are They Putting Seatbelts In Theatres This Summer?

Summary Capsule: With a new (sucky) ship, Kirk and his Ego must save the galaxy from, gee, something or the other.

Justin’s rating: Mine eyes have seen the horror.. the horror…

Justin’s review: With many not-so-good movies, the average intelligent mind turns to wonder what could have been done to make it better. Perhaps a new actor, a different ending, or crystal-clear editing could’ve bumped it up a star or two in the ratings. Mayhaps even a more polished screenplay with overhauled dialogue would suffice for some of the runts of the litters. A bit of wishful thinking on our parts, the what-could-have-beens, but we accept and move on with our lives.

Not so with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. A film like this has no parallel universe where it turned out good with some minor or major changes and ended up being liked by many. No, with a cinematic Titanic on scale with Battlefield Earth, there’s only one thing left to do.

Burn it. Burn it and send it back to hell.

I’ve probably seen Star Trek V more times than about six of you put together, and mostly that was due to my feverish Star Trek loyalty of the early nineties. I knew it wasn’t that great, even then… but I had no idea that I’d look back as an adult and actually try to hold back my dinner at the mere mention of this film’s title. It’s not that it’s just bad, but it’s that it is so completely and irrevocably rotten that its only use is to chuck at a disliked principal’s house and watch it splatter.

As is well-known, Star Trek V isn’t exactly considered official Star Trek “canon” by anyone from Paramount on down. William Shatner’s ignorant glee aside, everyone tries their hardest to forget this movie was ever made, because it made absolutely no sense, start to end. If you want a good laugh, there’s a book on the making of Star Trek V, written by Shatner’s daughter (who appears in the film), and it bends over backwards to try to explain why this came up *ahem* a bit short, even though it’s still *cough* a well-made film. Worth your while.

As the legend goes, Shatner threw a hissy fit after Leonard Nimoy directed The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, and refused to play Kirk again unless he got to direct his own ego. I mean, film. Now, no disrespect intended to the mentally enfeebled, but Shatner only does one thing well, and that’s pause dramatically in the middle of any speech (“I’d like… combo number three, please, with… extra pickles”). He got less-than-adequate marks in any classes that dealt with screenplays, directing and sensible plots, so there you go. It’s The Perfect Storm of bad films, a number of horrific elements that converged to take a bad flick and transform it into a true stinker.

As I was driving at before, it’s not like you can justify The Final Frontier’s badness by any one element. It’s a Jenga-chain of plot nonsense that is impossible to correct without just starting over. The whole thing would crash.

There’s some sort of Babylon 5-ish planet in the Neutral Zone, where Klingons, Humans (which are the whole Federation, more or less), and Romulans-who-don’t-look-like-Romulans are living together as a political symbol. It doesn’t work, mostly because the planet is the rejected set for Tatooine and looks very dusty. Here comes a mysterious Vulcan, riding in on a horse, who “senses” people’s “pain”, and somehow cures them with a hug. He (Sybok) also laughs, to show you that he’s not your ordinary Vulcan. Sybok gathers together an army of rejects to take over the planet and somehow force someone to bring a starship to him. Because everyone loves to cater to the whims of madmen and terrorists, natch.

Of course, the movie never explains where Sybok came from, why he couldn’t just hire a ship or something, and why he needs to go through an elaborate and nonsensical ploy to get his way. Just accept it — this is actually the least painful plot point in the movie.

On the new Enterprise-A, Kirk and crew get the call from Starfleet to go solve the situation. Despite the fact that their ship isn’t working very well at all, yet. Despite the fact that they have only a skeleton crew. Despite the fact that they’ve shown other ships in the area. Despite the fact that this planet is obviously a failed social experiment that no one cares about. It’s a Plot Hole so big that Captain Ahab is still hunting it mercilessly.

You’d think this stupidity would end somewhere, but it doesn’t. It just gets worse, like a prom date where you discover that she is actually a serial killer suffering from armpit rot. Sybok turns out to be Spock’s brother (no, it’s not a spoiler, since this film isn’t “canon” and nobody acknowledges Spock’s sibling before or since). Scotty and Uhura have some sort of incredibly disturbing romantic subplot. Uhura — PoolMan save us all — does a naked fan dance (at her advanced age) to throw off some guards. Sybok makes Bones and Spock go through long and drawn-out flashback counseling sessions. There’s a lot of brainwashing. There’s a lot of lackluster special effects. There’s annoying Klingons (well, they’re annoying in every movie, but still).

And THEN the film gets worse.

You see, the whole point of the Sybok hijacking the Enterprise is to force it to cross the Great Barrier (in this film located in the center of the galaxy, in the rest of Star Trekdom it’s located at the EDGE of the galaxy) and find God within. Apparently, the center of the galaxy is God’s crib, or something. It’s just that nobody’s been a big enough idiot to cross the electric fence and pay him a call. You’d think this would be sufficiently interesting, but you know it won’t be. It’s not only boring, but it’s boringly dumb. No sitting on God’s lap asking for Christmas gifts. No angelic chorus. No God, really. But there ARE stones that jut out from the ground, all dramatic-like, so you’ve got a sliver of a reason to live, there.

I get a throbbing headache trying to even sum up this movie in a way that makes sense, because it really doesn’t. They had no excuse for putting out such a poor effort with the time and funds they were given, and I pretty much know where to point the finger of blame. Still, even irredeemable films have purpose, and The Final Frontier is the target of many a nitpicking, mocking, spit-at-the-TV session, whether you’re a Trekker or no.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


  • Heartbeat sound effects in films are way overrated
  • A gun that shoots rocks can’t be all that effective, ya think?
  • Sybok, Interstellar Psychiatrist
  • Desert Guy’s gums are REALLY distracting.
  • Technically, there are no starships ON any planet, since they can’t land and all…
  • Is a Vulcan laughing supposed to be disturbing? Cause, you know, it is… just not the way they want it to be
  • Why is Captain Kirk wearing a court jester’s socks for rock climbing?
  • Is Bones outfitted from a 1970s retro-boutique?
  • Why doesn’t Spock’s jet boots drive them head-first into the ground?
  • Somebody stole the set of Tatooine for Paradise City.
  • The Paradise City bar has Water Pool!  Neat!
  • I guess the three-breasted lady from Total Recall has a cousin on Nimbus 3.
  • Caitlin Dar… does NOT look like a Romulan in any way, shape or form
  • The city is under attack and the Klingon… immediately takes a drink! Good idea.
  • Okay, Sybok’s all happy cause he says Nimbus 3 is the only place in the GALAXY that has a human, Romulan and Klingon… Um, don’t most planets have EMBASSIES? I find this “the only place” excuse quite weak.
  • The Enterprise bridge crew with their feet up on the counters
  • What is it with the disturbing Uhura-Scotty storyline?
  • Checkov and Sulu lost… don’t they have compasses or maps in the 24th century?
  • Ah, fart jokes in a Star Trek flick
  • Kirk says he knows he’ll die alone, but he doesn’t — Picard is there
  • Kirk’s a little too excited about “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”
  • That’s some really bad singing.
  • The Klingons aren’t really scaring anybody with their cloaking devices and bad hairdos
  • Why do Klingon ships need periscopes to fire?
  • Enterprise is on a skeleton crew, but at least they have the two guys who carry the steps to deboard the shuttle
  • Kirk has a “Go Climb A Rock” shirt
  • The whole “Starfleet sending the broken-down Enterprise” scenario is so incredibly flimsy and frought with holes that it doesn’t even need dressing-down here (they just showed another ship in Starbase, for crying out loud!)
  • Shatner’s daughter (the yeoman) has some sort of massive brain tumor in the form of a beehive hairdo
  • The Naked Uhura Dance will scar me for life
  • Does anyone find it embarrassing that they bring down an entire assult squad and STILL lose to primitives with rock-guns?
  • All the phaser sound effects sound like they’re from Star Wars
  • “B as in Barricade” explains, what, exactly?
  • Vulcans have princesses?  Huh.
  • The entire crew of the Enterprise seems a bit calm for being on a hijacked ship.
  • How did Spock come down from ABOVE them in the turbolift?
  • When they rocket up the turbolift, the deck signs are completely out of sequence
  • Kirk really, really likes his pain.
  • No, Kirk, no phasers with God. Or god-like aliens. That’s a naughty Kirk.
  • The name “Shaka-Ri” is a play on words from the original actor asked to play the part of Sybok: Sean Connery.
  • Shots of the Enterprise-A in space dock and of space dock itself were originally produced by Industrial Light and Magic for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
  • The deck numbers in the turboshaft increase as Kirk, Spock and McCoy climb up, but in other Star Trek movies and series the deck numbers increase from the top down.
  • The deck numbers shown as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy move up the turbolift shaft go much higher than the number of decks that have been established to exist on any U.S.S. Enterprise. Even the Enterprise-E was established in Star Trek: First Contact to have at most 26 decks. (Justin B. writes in, “The Enterprise D has…I think 42. Enterprise E is longer but thinner.”)
  • This film virtually ignores Kirk’s utter hatred of the Klingons for the murder of his son, David Marcus (in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock), a storyline that is resurrected in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
  • After rescuing Kirk, Spock and McCoy from the brig, Scotty bangs his head on a bulkhead [thanks Robert H.]
  • Robert H. writes in again: “This is regarding Kirk’s and Spock’s singing. From a poll the Star TV, I think it was Star TV, but they recently did a top ten poll about ‘Singers Who Shouldn’t Act, and Actors Who Shouldn’t Sing.’ Guess what, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy tied for first place of, in this case, ‘Actors who shouldn’t sing.’ Madonna came in second, and Britney Spears came in tenth place. Just thought this might be interesting.”
  • Robert H.: “In the Turbo shaft where Kirk and McCoy were climbing up, the black vertical lines on the wall were used to conceal the track where Spock went up and down on his jet boots. Yet when Spock comes down from above, you can see the shadow of that arm that is holding up Leonard Nimoy, as well as see the arm’s reflection on the wall.”
  • The Star Trek novel “Probe,” which was at one point considered as the basis for this film’s story, was a sequel to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
  • The film’s special effects were not done by ILM because the members of ILM were already working on Ghostbusters 2 and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This hindered the film’s ending greatly because the ending was to be much longer than Kirk simply being chased by “God.” However, the sequence had to be cut out as a result of awful-looking special effects. The scenes were replaced by more shots of George Murdock’s face, except his eyes glowed.
  • Enterprise-D corridor sets from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” were used as Enterprise-A corridors in this film. Very few cosmetic alterations were made so as not to interfere with filming of the TV series, which was under way at the same time.
  • Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was on record prior to his death as saying he considered elements of this film to be apocryphal to the Star Trek universe, possibly referring to the character of Spock’s half-brother.
  • The soundtrack is notable for bringing back the Star Trek: The Motion Picture theme (also used as the theme to Star Trek: The Next Generation) to the silver screen.

Groovy Quotes

Desert Guy: It is as if a weight has been lifted from my heart!

Bones: God, I liked him better before he died!

“God”: You doubt me?
Kirk: I seek proof.
McCoy: Jim, you don’t ask the Almighty for His I.D.

Spock: Perhaps “because it is there” is not sufficient reason for climbing a mountain.

Kirk: I’ve always known I’ll die alone.

Scotty: I know this ship like the back of my hand. [Walks into a bulkhead.]

Kirk: What does God need with a starship?

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Star Trek: First Contact


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