Study Guide

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Cast

  • Kirk (William Shatner)

    Here's an important thing to remember when watching The Final Frontier: William Shatner directed and co-wrote the movie. We're not trying to throw any shade, but we think that might go a long way toward explaining all of the rock climbing and general coolness displayed by Kirk in this film. Dude's just trying to make himself look good.

    But this is Captain Kirk, after all, so we don't mind the antics too much. In many ways, this film represents a renaissance for the ol' captain—a return to adventurous form after several boring years as an admiral.

    The Coolest Captain

    Rock climbing, it turns out, is associated with Kirk throughout the film (was it one of Shatner's personal hobbies?), which tells us a few things about his character. It shows his fearlessness. It shows his determination. And, most importantly, it shows his independent spirit. He likes getting his hands dirty.

    There's one notable wrinkle in all of this: the rugged individualist would have died at the beginning of the movie if it weren't for Spock, who had to come along and save his "independent" butt. Isn't this contradictory? Not according to Kirk. Here's what he says about that fall to McCoy:

    KIRK: And, even as I fell, I knew I wouldn't die.

    MCCOY: I thought [Spock] was the only one who's immortal.

    KIRK: Oh, no, it isn't that. I knew I wouldn't die because the two of you were with me.

    Kirk might be a lone wolf by nature, but he's only able to be one because of the support of his pals. This seeming contradiction is, in fact, a key aspect of his character.

    Legit Boss

    He might be older, but Captain James T. Kirk hasn't lost a step. Through his defiantly independent spirit, devotion to his crew, and skeptical nature, he guides Enterprise through what is assuredly one of their strangest adventures. It's not every day you meet God, after all.

    In another defining move, Kirk turns out to be the only crew member in the film who doesn't give in to Sybok's mystical tomfoolery. Notably, he spits out a classic monologue about how we need to embrace our pain, not make it disappear. Check it out:

    KIRK: You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain.

    Not only does Kirk reject the premise that he needs to be "freed" from his suffering by some outside power, he also once again reveals his fiercely individual spirit.

    A similar dynamic occurs when the crew meets God. Sybok, Spock, and McCoy instantly fall under the deity's spell, but Kirk has a few concerns. Take a look:

    KIRK: I said, what does God need with a starship?

    MCCOY: Jim, what are you doing?

    KIRK: I'm asking a question.

    GOD: Who is this creature?

    KIRK: Who am I? Don't you know? Aren't you God?

    Once again, Kirk refuses to fall in line and accept something simply because it feels good. This refusal ultimately saves the crew of Enterprise—and perhaps the entire universe, depending on how nasty this imposter would have turned out to be.

  • Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill)

    In another life, Sybok was a glitzy televangelist wearing a fancy suit and talking a mile a minute. But this is the sci-fi, future world of Star Trek, so what we get is a unique Vulcan who has shed the love of his species for logic in favor of pure emotion, in the process setting out on a massive spiritual quest.

    The Emo Vulcan

    Oh, yeah, did we mention that this dude is Spock's half-brother? Because he totally is.

    Before marrying Spock's human mother, his pops, Sarek, had a child with a "Vulcan princess," and that child was named Sybok. Not the best name, but we'll take it. According to Spock, Sybok's early potential was dashed when he ran afoul of Vulcan society:

    SPOCK: He believed the key to self-knowledge was emotion, not logic. When he encouraged others to follow him, he was banished from Vulcan, never to return.

    In other words, Sybok is too emo. Long ago, the Vulcan species made the active choice to abandon emotion in favor of logic, and since then, feelings have been strictly verboten in their society. In defiance of this, Sybok argued that emotions are the only true way to achieve "self-knowledge."

    Off the Deep End

    At some point, Sybok's beliefs took on religious implications. He gained the ability to identify individuals' "secret pain" and release them from it, thereby turning them into loyal followers. He also becomes obsessed with locating Sha Ka Ree, the Vulcan equivalent to heaven or Eden, which is located at the center of the galaxy.

    Still, he's no fundamentalist. He sees all religions as equal:

    SYBOK: Sha Ka Ree. The source. Heaven. Eden. Call it what you will. [...] Still every culture shares this common dream of a place from which creation sprang. 

    In other words, according to Sybok, all religions tell the truth, even if they might frame that truth differently. This is one of the more relatable aspects of his belief system.

    What he doesn't mention initially, though, is that he got this idea from a vision. Makes him seem a little more wackadoodle, huh? What's more, it's eventually revealed that the "god" who sent this vision is, in fact, a galactic prisoner who wants Sybok to break him out. What Sybok thought was a religious crusade was nothing more than a long con.

    In the end, however, Sybok proves his fundamental decency when he sacrifices his life in an attempt to take down the imposter. It's an important reminder that, though Sybok is as misguided as someone who prefers the Backstreet Boys to 'N Sync, he's driven by a sincere desire to do good and relieve others' suffering.

  • Spock (Leonard Nimoy)

    Get ready for some personal time with your favorite pointy-eared character not named Legolas. In The Final Frontier, we gain insight into Spock's past, revealing a rarely seen emotional side to this logic-driven square.

    The Spock-inator

    Let's start by talking about Spock's shame regarding his human heritage. Spock was born of a human mother and Vulcan father, and though he considers himself Vulcan due to the fact that he was raised in that culture, he still struggles with his humanness. In case you don't know, Vulcans are defined by their total adherence to logic and suppression of emotion. That's not exactly the human way.

    Spock's shame was especially pronounced during his childhood. The scene conjured up by his half-bro, Sybok, illustrates this well: Sarek, Spock's father, merely says that Spock is "so human" when he sees his newborn son for the first time. Serious shade. It's Sarek's way of distancing himself from his son instead of bringing him closer.

    Spock, You'll Be a Vulcan Soon

    As painful as this is for Spock, he seems to have managed to make peace with his feelings. How? By joining Enterprise, of course:

    SPOCK: Sybok, you are my brother, but you do not know me. I am not the outcast boy you left behind those many years ago. Since that time, I found myself and my place. I know who I am. 

    In many ways, the sudden appearance of Spock's half-brother brings all of this unpleasantness back to the forefront; it likely exacerbates the issue that Sybok is a pure Vulcan, as well.

    But Spock refuses to be pushed around. Take a look at the way he describes Enterprise. To him, it's a community—the only one where he feels he truly belongs. That's a powerful thing, and it gives him strength to be comfortable with himself. Though he cares for his brother and still feels pain when he revisits old memories, he gets enough personal fulfillment from Enterprise to outweigh the bad junk.

  • Bones (DeForest Kelley)

    In the Star Trek series, Leonard "Bones" McCoy usually serves as comic relief and as a contrast to the uptight Spock. Things are no different in The Final Frontier—but here we get some serious character revelations to flesh out the guy's inner life for us.

    Broken Bones

    Like everyone else in the film, McCoy is suffering from some secret emotional pain. McCoy's pain revolves around his father. As revealed during Sybok's telepathic therapy sesh, McCoy pulled the plug on his dad when he was deathly ill and begging his son to "release" him from his pain. And that's what McCoy did, though not without protest. That's obviously a controversial issue, but no matter where you stand, we can all agree that this memory weighs heavily on McCoy's conscience.

    We hate to say it, but that's just the start. Take a look:

    SYBOK: That wasn't the worst of it, was it?

    MCCOY: No.

    SYBOK: Was it? Share it.

    MCCOY: Not long after, they found a cure. A goddamn cure.

    Whoever wrote this bit is brutal. McCoy must reckon not only with the fact that he contributed to his father's death, but that he might have recovered if McCoy had simply stood his ground. How are you supposed to get over something like that?

    Apparently, the answer is "befriend a weird Vulcan cult leader." For as much as we can criticize Sybok, we have to give him credit where McCoy is concerned: he truly helps the guy release his "secret pain." This might explain why McCoy suddenly becomes so loyal to Sybok after their session is complete.

    In the end, of course, McCoy returns to the good team. Still, if there's one positive takeaway for him at the end of the film, it's that he's finally begun the healing process after his father's death.

  • God (George Murdock)

    Like the Wizard of Oz, the dude found at Sha Ka Ree is revealed at the end of the movie to be a complete fraud. At least there's a blissful absence of flying monkeys in this one.

    What our heroes learn when they get to Sha Ka Ree is that from the start, everything has been a giant con. God didn't contact Sybok in order to spread his knowledge throughout the galaxy; he was tricking him into breaking him out of his interstellar prison. And everyone would have bought into this lie if it wasn't for that meddling Captain Kirk:

    KIRK: What does God need with a starship?

    MCCOY: Jim, what are you doing?

    KIRK: I'm asking a question.

    GOD: Who is this creature?

    KIRK: Who am I? Don't you know? Aren't you God?

    God responds to these questions with multiple blasts of energy—he has nothing to say, so instead he just makes a big show to distract everyone. These actions immediately turn the crew against him: even if he is the Big Guy, our heroes don't have any respect for his reliance on fire and brimstone.

    And then, of course, they learn of his dastardly deception.

    Ultimately, the film suggests that it's perhaps impossible to find the "truth" behind religion, however you might define that. Instead, it seems that the subjective, personal nature of spirituality is more important than establishing its literal reality.