Release Year: 1989
Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi
Director: William Shatner
There's nothing final about Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. In this fifth and penultimate entry in the original Star Trek film series, the crew of Enterprise is more than 20 years older than when we first met them—but they haven't lost a step.
The plot follows Sybok, a strange Vulcan cult leader, as he gathers followers on the desert planet Nimbus III. Meanwhile, the crew of Enterprise reunites to take on this strange new foe, though they have no idea of the bizarre things that lie ahead of them.
Bizarre things like, um, God.
Yeah, Sybok totally believes that he can locate the actual place where creation began, which presumably also holds the Big Man himself. Doesn't exactly sound like hard sci-fi, does it? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the conclusion to this spiritual pilgrimage completely upends Sybok's preconceptions, in the process making a pretty big statement about the nature of spirituality.
So, yeah. We're not gonna lie: The Final Frontier isn't exactly the best of the Star Trek movies. One reason for that is it was directed by Captain Kirk himself. You read that right: William Shatner got the job despite having no film directing experience. Set your phasers to noob.
How did he manage that? Leonard Nimoy, who plays Spock, directed the previous two films, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, the latter being the most profitable film of the series at the time. Envious, Shatner invoked a clause in his contract stating that he and Nimoy should receive identical compensation for their work.
Compensation like, say, a director's chair. Score.
Unfortunately for Shatner, The Final Frontier didn't set the world on fire. Although it beat the series record for an opening weekend with $17.4 million, those numbers rapidly dropped over the following weeks. The film was ultimately profitable, but far less so than money-eyed analysts expected from this prodigious film series.
But still, we think people who harshly criticize The Final Frontier are more cantankerous than a Klingon. It might not be perfect, but the film is totally unique in the Star Trek canon due to its focus on spiritual matters, and it has more than enough redeeming qualities to deserve your attention.
In fact, the movie is a lot like Captain Kirk himself: a little weird, kind of campy, the sort of thing you sometimes want to roll your eyes at—but great fun. We wouldn't want to be without our captain or his movie. Would you?
We can't lie: The Final Frontier isn't the masterpiece of the Star Trek movies. While some critiques of the film go overboard in their fanboy rage, it's true that The Final Frontier pales in comparison to the franchise's real gems, like The Wrath of Khan or The Voyage Home.
Even so, The Final Frontier is worth watching on its own. For one thing, the actual ideas in the movie are still pretty relevant. Putting aside Sybok's quest for God, his primary goal is to find people who are suffering from repressed emotional pain and free them from it. Sounds like therapy, right?
In the process, we learn how repressed emotions affect our lives in unexpected ways. Whether those emotions deal with family drama, personal insecurities, or anything in between, Star Trek reveals how the past shapes who we are today, though it's left up to us whether that becomes a positive or negative thing.
Finally, let's not forget that Star Trek is one of the most legendary film series of all time. That's reason enough to care. This science-fiction powerhouse has become an integral part of modern American culture both because of its characters and its potent ideas. No matter their individual quality, Star Trek films always teach us about the eras in which they were made.
So, why not pull a Taylor Swift and head back to 1989 with The Final Frontier?
In later years, William Shatner would claim that producers meddled with his portrayal of God for "political" reasons, preventing him from exploring the idea as he wanted. We love you, buddy, but we're pretty sure that wasn't the only issue with the movie. (Source)
Shatner would later apologize publicly for Star Trek V, though he blamed producers for not properly mentoring him as a first-time feature director. There might be some truth to that, but the main person we blame is whoever came up with Spock's rocket boots. Good grief. (Source)
George Takei (who plays Hikaru Sulu) and William Shatner have a long-standing beef, so Takei turned down the film when he found out his foe was directing. Takei eventually relented and found Shatner to be a "surprisingly pleasant" director, though he had some harsh words for the film's story. (Source)
The name Sha Ka Ree is the silliest inside joke of all time. Producers initially wanted Sean Connery for the role of Sybok, but when he was unable to sign on, they decided to honor him by making the object of Sybok's desire a near-homonym of his name. We use the word "honor" loosely, of course. (Source)
Star Trek Homepage
This site packs more information than a tricorder.
For a more, ahem, realistic view of space travel, turn to the fine folks at NASA.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
No Star Trek film would be complete without a novelization, are we right?
Why Star Trek V Deserves More Respect
This article is compelling because it goes against the critical consensus on The Final Frontier, arguing that the film is, in fact, a hidden gem.
William Shatner on 50 Years of Star Trek
In this 2016 interview, Shatner discusses his long history with Star Trek, along with a few specifics about his work on The Final Frontier.
Star Trek V Test Footage
This brief clip gives you an idea of the amazing way special effects were made before computers burst onto the scene and ruined everything.
Behind the Scenes With William Shatner
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Is Klingon a Living Language?
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Justin Lin on the Original Star Trek Series
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Star Trek V Theatrical Poster
Question: is Captain Kirk wearing mascara? That's our only explanation for this image.
Star Trek V Behind the Scenes
Shatner's look is on point right here. Hello, 1980s.