Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is a 1989 American science fiction film directed by William Shatner and based on the television series Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry.
It is the fifth instalment in the Star Trek film series, and takes place shortly after the events of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986).
Its plot follows the crew of the USS Enterprise-A as they confront the renegade Vulcan Sybok, who is searching for God at the centre of the galaxy.
The crew of the newly-commissioned USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A) are enjoying shore leave after the starship’s shakedown cruise goes poorly.
At Yosemite National Park, James T. Kirk, recently demoted back to Captain after the events of the previous two films, is camping with First Officer Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy.
Their leave is interrupted when Enterprise is ordered by Starfleet Command to rescue human, Klingon, and Romulan diplomats taken hostage on Nimbus III, a planet set aside as a neutral location to advance dialogue between the Federation, Klingon Empire, and Romulan Star Empire.
Learning of Enterprise’s mission, the ambitious Klingon captain Klaa decides to pursue Kirk for personal glory.
On Nimbus III, the crew of Enterprise discovers that renegade Vulcan Sybok, Spock’s half-brother, is behind the hostage crisis. Sybok reveals that the hostage situation was a ruse to lure a starship to Nimbus III, which he intends to use to reach the mythical planet Sha Ka Ree, the place where creation began; the planet lies behind a seemingly impenetrable barrier near the center of the galaxy.
Sybok uses his unique ability to reveal and heal the innermost pain of a person through the mind meld to subvert the hostages’ and crew members’ wills.
Only Spock and Kirk prove resistant to Sybok; Spock is unmoved by the experience and Kirk refuses the Vulcan’s offer, telling him that his pain is necessary to make him human.
Sybok reluctantly declares a truce with Kirk, realising that he needs his leadership experience to navigate Enterprise to Sha Ka Ree.
The ship successfully breaches the barrier, pursued by Klaa’s warship, and discovers a lone, uninhabited planet.
Sybok, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy take a shuttlecraft to the surface, where Sybok calls out to his perceived vision of the creator.
An entity appears, represented as a large human face, and when told of how Sybok breached the barrier, demands that the starship be brought closer to the planet.
When a skeptical Kirk asks, “What does God need with a starship?”, the entity attacks him in retribution.
The others realise that the “creator” has deceived them and that the barrier is, in fact, intended to keep it from escaping Sha Ka Ree.
Horrified by his naiveté, Sybok sacrifices himself in an effort to combat the creature and allow the others to escape.
Intent on stopping the entity, Kirk orders Enterprise to fire a photon torpedo at their location, to little effect.
Spock and McCoy are beamed back to the ship, but Klaa attacks Enterprise before Kirk can be transported aboard.
The vengeful entity reappears and tries to kill Kirk before the Klingons destroy it in a hail of laser fire. Kirk is beamed aboard the Klingon ship, where Spock and the Klingon General Korrd force Klaa to stand down.
After the crews of Enterprise and the Klingon ship celebrate a new détente, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are permitted to resume their shore leave at Yosemite.
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- The film was directed by cast member William Shatner, following two films directed by his co-star Leonard Nimoy.
- Shatner also developed the initial storyline, in which Sybok searches for God but instead finds an alien being; his primary inspiration was the phenomenon of televangelism and the high potential for fraud among its practitioners.
- Many involved objected to the script and plot.
- Series creator Gene Roddenberry disliked the original script, while Nimoy and DeForest Kelley objected to the premise that their characters, Spock and Leonard McCoy, would betray Shatner’s James T. Kirk.
- The script went through multiple revisions to please the cast and Paramount Pictures, including cuts in the effects-laden climax of the film.
- Despite a Writers Guild strike cutting into the film’s pre-production, Paramount commenced filming in October 1988.
- Many Star Trek veterans assisted in the film’s production; art director Nilo Rodis developed the designs for many of the film’s locales, shots, and characters, while Herman Zimmerman served as its production designer.
- Production problems plagued the film on set and during location shooting in Yosemite National Park and the Mojave Desert.
- As effects house Industrial Light & Magic’s best crews were busy and would be too expensive, the production used Bran Ferren’s company for the film’s effects, which had to be revised several times in order to lower production costs.
- The film’s ending was reworked because of poor test-audience reaction and the failure of planned special effects.
- Jerry Goldsmith, composer for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, returned to score The Final Frontier.
- The Final Frontier was released in North America on 09 June 1989.
- It had the highest opening gross of any Star Trek film at that point and was number one in its first week at the box office; however, its grosses quickly dropped in subsequent weeks.
- The film received generally mixed to poor reviews by critics on release, and, according to its producer, “nearly killed the franchise”.
- The next entry in the series, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), received a much more positive reception.
You can read interesting trivia and background details about the Star Trek franchise here.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): William Shatner.
- Producer(s): Harve Bennett.
- Writer(s): William Shatner, Harve Bennett, and David Loughrey.
- Music: Jerry Goldsmith.
- Cinematography: Andrew Laszlo.
- Editor(s): Peter E. Berger.
- Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures.
- Release Date: 09 June 1989.
- Running Time: 106 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.