STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER
Special Collector's Edition
Review by Michael Jacobson
William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter
Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, David Warner, Laurence Luckinbill
Director: William Shatner
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: October 14, 2003
you never cease to amaze me.”
bad news? Every film series, by
nature, has to have one that’s the least of the group, and in the case of the
popular and lucrative Star Trek films, for me, that film is Star Trek
V: The Final Frontier. The good
news? Even though it’s my least
favorite, it still isn’t really a bad movie by any stretch.
True, it may not mean a whole lot to folks who aren’t Trekkies, but you
can say that about most of the pictures in the franchise.
And I happen to be a Trekkie, so for me, so much the better.
is the only film in the series directed by William Shatner, who of course, still
sat in the captain’s chair as James T. Kirk. He faced the daunting task of following Star Trek IV: The
Voyage Home, which was a huge success and had also been directed by friend
and co-star Leonard Nimoy. V was
also the first venture into completely fresh territory after II, III and IV
worked together as a kind of trilogy unto itself.
There would be no direct story connection with what had preceded.
who also co-conceived the story, wanted to tell a tale about the Enterprise
going off in search of God but finding the devil instead.
It was an idea that not everyone involved in the Star Trek universe
was enthused about. Producer Harve Bennett, who had helped pilot the previous
three films into big box office numbers and a huge return to glory for the
franchise, actually wanted out of this picture because he didn’t think the
story would work. Creator Gene
Roddenberry even had doubts, informing Shatner that he himself had tried to pen
an “in search of God” episode and had abandoned it because it just didn’t
make for good Star Trek fiction.
Shatner’s passion won the day, though it could be argued that Harve and Gene
were right in the end. Though the
concept offered a wealth of truly dramatic possibilities, it was a hard one to
corral within the scope of Star Trek. That,
combined with Shatner’s extravagant imagination being limited by budget
concerns, led to the end result of a film certainly with some entertainment
value, but ultimately the most unsatisfying entry in the series.
the new Enterprise still getting her bugs worked out and with most of the crew
on shore leave, including Kirk, Spock (Nimoy) and Dr. McCoy (Kelley) enjoying a
stint in Yosimite National Park, a distress call from the Federation leads them
to the so-named “Planet of Intergalactic Peace” (really a ruined wasteland).
There, they meet up with a new nemesis, a renegade Vulcan named Sybok (Luckinbill).
Banished from his home world for his radical and emotional beliefs, he
has commandeered a following of people who share his vision.
Now, he plans to take the Enterprise into the very center of the galaxy,
across a barrier that has never been broken, in search of the answers to life,
death and creation…in short, no less than God Himself.
an intriguing storyline, but it gets marred in a few different ways.
Most notably, Shatner tried to keep up the level of humor that occurred
naturally in the fish-out-of-water scenario of IV.
Here, it’s mostly forced and sometimes inappropriate.
Spock, who made us all laugh out loud with his “colorful metaphors”
in the previous picture, now seems clownish as he sits bewildered by the lyrics
to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. The
constant going for the funny bone seems contrived, and while I did chuckle a few
times, I winced a lot more.
humor is also a bizarre counterpoint to the serious nature of the story, which
by rights, could have been the deepest and most involving of anything Star
Trek had ever attempted. It
takes some of the wind from the sails before the journey is complete.
Then, at the end of the story, the whole concept of God had to be
confronted in a way that would be plausible and final.
I think the writers opted for their best out, which wasn’t a
particularly satisfying way to conclude so bold a quest.
is also a lesser feeling of conflict in this film. Sybok is the antagonist, but you can’t really call him a
bad guy by any stretch of the imagination, especially once a secret about his
past has been revealed. There is
the standard bit of Kirk and crew trying to get their ship back, but there’s
nothing that makes you think life and death hangs in the balance.
are some good moments, though, including a terrific sequence in which Sybok
demonstrates his ability to help people reconcile with the pain of their pasts.
DeForest Kelley has a striking turn in his part as he faces an experience
with his father that left him scarred. We
even get a glimpse into Spock’s past, though we don’t get a feel for the
full scope the writers were going for (as referenced in the supplements).
These are scenes that bring us a little closer to a pair of our long time
favorite characters, and they add substance to a movie that mostly struggles to
I said, this isn’t a bad film by any stretch of the imagination; merely a fair
one. Many of the aspects I’ve
touched on didn’t help the movie’s status amongst the others in the
franchise, but possibly one the hardest ones to overcome was simply that it
ended up sandwiched between two of the best in the series. Star Trek IV is probably the most well-loved across
the board, while Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was the first
generation crew’s final hurrah, and my personal favorite.
I have no problem with settling in and watching Star Trek V every now and
then. The world of Star Trek is
such a vast and engrossing one that I find I can still get lost in it, even if
it happens to be the least best film of the bunch.
the now five Special Edition re-issues of the Star Trek films, this one
is the best looking so far. The
detail of Herman Zimmerman’s production design is striking from start to
finish, from the dusty, bleak desert scenes to the vast beauty of Yosimite to
the stellar out-of-this world space sequences that take our heroes where no man
has gone before. Colors are full
and natural looking throughout, and the only minorly noticeable grain occurs
during a couple of the darkest sequences. The
clarity and cleanness of the print is noteworthy; Paramount’s restoration
efforts with this franchise are definitely worthwhile.
this is the best audio offering to date for the re-issues.
The 5.1 soundtrack is bold and dynamic, using both front and rear stages
to great advantage during action scenes and depictions of space travel.
The .1 channel keeps the engines of the Enterprise humming along, and the
smooth crossovers and discretion make for a busy sounding bridge. Dialogue is clean and clear, and the big bangs, when they
come, are potent. Very nicely done.
Special Edition re-issues continue to be loaded. Disc One features audio commentary by William Shatner and his
daughter Liz Shatner, who also authored the book on her father’s experience
making the movie. It’s a mostly
good listen, with a few blank spots, but overall, I enjoyed hearing what they
had to say about the film. Even
better is the now common text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda, co-authors
of The Star Trek Encyclopedia. It’s
trivia, inside information and fun galore.
Two contains everything else. There
are five featurettes under the banner “The Star Trek Universe”, which
include a tribute to production designer Herman Zimmerman, an interview with
William Shatner on the set of the movie, “cosmic thoughts” with scientists
discussing the nature of the universe, an enjoyable retrospective interview with
the actors who played the “Klingon couple” in the movie, and a look at
Yosemite, one of the film’s locations, and the fact that it’s still a
beautiful unspoiled piece of nature in the 23rd century.
Production Featurettes start with “The
Journey”, a look back at the movie with cast and crew members including
Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Harve Bennett. Also
included is Harve Bennett’s original video pitch to the studio sales people,
makeup tests, pre-visualization models, the original movie press conference, and
the famous unused “rock man” footage that didn’t live up to Shatner’s
out are 4 deleted scenes, 2 trailers, 7 TV spots, galleries of storyboards and
photos, and some fairly cool animated menu screens with sound.