Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
The film opens on a desolate, arid landscape with cutting sand wind where Vulcan Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill) demonstrates his power to see the pain inside people’s heart. He’s on a mission to get his hands on a starship and he thinks he’s met the man to help.
After a brief opening credits, the stars in space dissolve to stars in night sky overlooking Yosemite National Forest where Capt. Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) are having some guy time.
Meanwhile, on Nimus III, Sybok and his army overtake Paradise City, a desert stop complete with nightclub featuring a dancing, three-boob cat lady, located on the Planet of Galactic Peace. Sybok kidnaps Klingon General Korrd ( Charles Cooper), Romulun Caithlin Dar (Cynthia Gouw), and St John Talbot (David Warner) as hostages to use for ransom against the Starfleet.
While Scotty (James Doohan) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) work on getting The Enterprise voyage-worthy, they get a call from Starfleet to recall the ship’s officers for an urgent situation in the neutral zone which calls for them to beam Sulu (George Takei) and Chekov (Walter Koenig) up from their hike.
Back in Yosemite, the three men enjoy some heavy conversation, beans and bourbon, and teaching Spock campfire traditions including a sing along. Their camp out is cut short when Uhura shows up to bring them home. Starfleet informs Capt. Kirk of the hostages and mission to rescue them. Spock recognizes Sybok as a banished Vulcan for his beliefs in harnessing emotions.
Capt. Kirk and the crew devise a plan to outwit Sybok’s army at Paradise City. A battle ensues within the walls of Paradise City and just when Capt. Kirk and Spock think they’ve succeeded, the tables turn, and they find themselves in a precarious situation. A cloaked Klingon ship arrives threatening The Enterprise with an attack while Capt. Kirk and crew are aboard the shuttle making their way back to the ship under orders from Sybok who has taken over the shuttle. When some quick thinking, the shuttle makes it aboard, The Enterprise is able to narrowly escape the Klingon attack; however, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy end up in the brig.
Sybok uses his mental powers to overtake the officers and crew of The Enterprise to complete his mission. Meanwhile, Scotty performs an old-school jail-break giving the trio a chance to escape. Sybok catches up to them and explains his quest and mental powers and helping people face their pain.
After forcing McCoy, Spock, and Capt. Kirk to “see” their pain, The Enterprise makes its way to the center of the Universe to meet Sybok’s all-loving God. Sybok, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy take the shuttle to the surface of the planet to investigate. They find a rocky terrain which leads them to a hilltop energy force which takes the form as the conventional image of God. As Sybok answers “God’s” questions, Kirk interrupts with a question of his own causing the “God” to react in a most unloving and angry way. “God’s” true nature is revealed leaving Sybok no other choice but to save Spock, Kirk, and McCoy.
The three manage to get back to the shuttle but the transport beam can only take two of them leaving Kirk behind. The rogue Klingon ship destroys the transport room and it becomes up to Spock and the Klingon General Korrd to rescue Kirk. The three reflect about family and where God resides.
The end takes Kirk, Spock, and McCoy back to the campfire with a song and all is well in the Universe.
What I Liked
The witty dialogue between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy never fails. Around the campfire, McCoy is trying to get Spock to loosen up and have a good time, Spock says, “Is that what we’re having?” to which McCoy responds by calling him a green-blooded Vulcan and saying, “I liked him better before he was dead.” The campfire scene is repeated at the end with a successful round of Row, row, row your boat…human and tender as it was meant to be.
The flirty relationship between Uhura and Scotty caught me off guard; however, I thought it was kinda cute and seemed like a natural progression between two people who’ve been traveling through space together for decades without partners. It wasn’t forced at all and they have great chemistry. Also, Uhura doing her sexy distraction dance at Paradise City is priceless.
The blue wavy blob the ship must travel through to reach the center orb. The awed look on everyone’s faces as if now they believe something greater exists and on Sybok’s face as in confirmation and relief of his existence. As Sybok goes all in, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy look at each other like they know something’s not right. In classic Kirk fashion, he interrupts to ask a basic question by lifting his finger most politely and saying, “Excuse me?” (You know how when something amazing happens but as it unfolds you start to figure out something is askew and that phrase pops into your head “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”? That’s this moment…)
When Kirk sees it was Spock who saved him, his eyes are teary from relief and as he goes in to hug Spock, Spock says, “Please, not in front of the Klingons.” These moments (in all the films) between Kirk and Spock bring tears to my eyes. Their friendship runs so deep, the love feels genuine and natural and honest.
What I Wished Was Better
Sybok’s power is in getting people to “see” their pain; however, there’s no love in that. Somehow, seeing your pain gives you relief and makes you want to follow him blindly? Not for me. I feel like for it to be plausible, he should’ve had them see the desire of their heart and promise to deliver it. The subplot with the rogue Klingon was a bit unnecessary– I mean, yeah, it comes in handy toward the end; however, he could’ve still been there to help without the earlier screen time and plot to destroy Kirk for the glory.
This film focuses on the ongoing relationships between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy as well as humanity’s connection to a higher power. Star Trek, in its sci-fi space glory, tackles complex relationships and humanity’s connection to the universe with grace, humor, action, and sorrow. Everything a person needs to understand, grow, and accept to be the best Human, Vulcan, or Klingon they can be. Plus, no other franchise could film a campfire sing along and get away with it. Available on Amazon Prime. Watch the trailer below:
Fun Facts: The original cut ran just over 2 hours which the studio felt was too long and needed the film to be closer to 1 hour 45 minutes so it could be shown twice a night in the theater. Harve Bennett was stuck with the final editing and he and William Shatner haggled over what was to be kept or deleted. The scene of Capt. Kirk falling off the cliff credits stuntman Kenny Bates as being the highest descender fall in the United States. While the scene with Shatner is filmed on a fiberglass wall, the real El Capitan mountain is seen in the background.