Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (United States, 1989)

A movie review by James Berardinelli
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Poster

Every long-running movie series is likely to have a bad entry. Star Trek V is Star Trek's. Arriving in theaters when the phenomena was at an all-time high in popularity (TV's Next Generation, having just finished its second season, was an unqualified success), William Shatner's movie did its best to end the original crew's adventures once-and-for-all. However, despite a silly script, bad acting, and a somnambulant pace, The Final Frontier still couldn't manage it. Star Trek VI was still to come.

After Leonard Nimoy was given a chance behind the cameras with Treks III and IV, William Shatner got his opportunity with film number five. In retrospect, this proved to be a colossal mistake, with the director's feature debut metamorphosing out of a collage of mismanagement, poor planning, and limited creativity. There's very little worth lauding in Star Trek V, a product which became anathema to fans and was hardly more warmly received by the general public.

The film opens on Nimbus III, the "Planet of Galactic Peace," where the renegade Vulcan Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill) is gathering followers for an invasion of the planet's only city. It's a promising way to start. Alas, The Final Frontier has its best moments before the opening credits roll. Next, we move to Earth, where the crew of the Enterprise is on shore leave. Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) are camping out in Yosemite, where they sit around a fire philosophizing and singing "Row Row Row Your Boat." While some of the dialogue during these scenes is quite good, there are too many failed attempts to recapture Star Trek IV's light tone. These generally result in having one or more of the trio act out-of-character for the sake of a laugh. The song is a big mistake. Eventually, after what seems an interminable amount of time, the crew reassembles aboard a half-working Enterprise. After receiving orders from Starfleet, they're off to rescue a group of hostages taken by Sybok -- one human, one Klingon, and one Romulan. The Klingons have also dispatched a ship, commanded by a egotistical captain named Klaa (who would look more at home as the lead singer of a rock group).

What follows is hardly worth watching, and definitely doesn't warrant a lengthy description. The whole point of the movie has something to do with the search for God and Eden, but the theme is presented in the most mundane fashion imaginable. There's no excitement, nor is there any reason to suspect that things might not turn out all right in the end. Plus, when it comes to the climactic meeting with the All Mighty, we're in for a major letdown. His planet looks like a desert in the United States' southwest, not Paradise.

Attempts at comedy fail more often than they work, primarily because the jokes are designed so we laugh at the characters instead of with them (Scotty walking into a bulkhead is an example). There are no surprises and the action is so routine that it's dull. The special effects are at an all-time low for the movie series, with the passage through the "Great Barrier" looking especially cheesy. This is the only Star Trek movie not handled by ILM (Bran Ferren did the visuals), and it shows.

On the whole, Star Trek V is a highly forgettable motion picture, regardless of whether you're looking at it from the perspective of a Trek lover or a movie-goer. Aside from some nicely-barbed quips traded by Kirk, McCoy, and Spock, and an effective musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, the film is ignoble.

The early poster campaign for this film asked the question: "Why are they putting seat belts in theaters this summer?" After seeing Trek V, the answer should be obvious: to keep people from leaving before the movie is over.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (United States, 1989)

Run Time: 1:47
U.S. Release Date: 1989-06-09
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1