Review for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
An enigmatic Vulcan has taken the representatives of the three major powers hostage on a barren world in the Neutral Zone. This untimely crisis interrupts the hard earned vacation time of the Enterprise crew, although Scotty has foregone his leave to repair the new Enterprise, a ship with more than a few teething troubles. The rescue mission goes badly wrong when the crazed Sybok captures the landing party. He reveals his intention to steal the Enterprise and take it to the centre of the galaxy, where lies the fabled planet of Sha-ka-ree and an encounter with divinity itself. Sybok has a mental power that converts people to his cause, and Kirk finds his own crew turned against him. Meanwhile the Klingons aren’t far behind.
Star Trek V gets a 2.40:1 widescreen transfer, and if you’re looking for a step up over the old DVD, particularly the letterbox format barebones release that initially got the ‘Collector’s Edition’ treatment here, then you’ll be very pleased with this high definition transfer, that offers all the detail, the clarity, the colour fidelity that was missing. Unfortunately, Paramount have given the film the DNR post-processing treatment that has completely degrained the film, offering waxy skin-tones verging on the plastic, and with occasional ghosting over fast motion, so detail levels are consequently not as good as they could have been. While black crush isn’t too evident, whites are blown, especially during the film’s climax. What also becomes clear is that the effects work in this film isn’t up to the standards of the other movies, as ILM wasn’t available for this one. It all is inconsistent and at times incoherent, an overabundance of blue lights on screen.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround English, and DD 5.1 German, Spanish, Italian, and French, with subtitles in these languages as well as Arabic, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Portuguese and Croatian. It’s a nice surround track, rich and enveloping, putting you in the middle of the action without overcooking the sound design (this would have been a stereo film in theatres back in 1989). The dialogue is clear, but Jerry Goldsmith’s score seems smaller than in previous films, especially the epic Motion Picture, almost televisual in scale.
The usual animated menu screen appears after you select your language. Once again, most of the extras are taken from the two-disc DVD re-release, with a few created anew for this HD presentation.
There are two commentaries on this disc, with the first from father and daughter, director/star William Shatner, and movie biographer Liz Shatner, and is a proper retrospective on the film. The second is a little more critical and perhaps objective, from Michael and Denise Okuda, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and Daren Ochterman.
The Library Computer is that fancy pop-up trivia track.
There are six vintage featurettes in Production, all presented in SD. These run to a total of 64 minutes.
The Star Trek Universe offers 8 more featurettes, two in HD running to a total of 13 minutes. The six in SD run to 72½ minutes.
There are 4 deleted scenes on this disc presented in SD and running to 4:17.
The two theatrical trailers are presented in HD, while the 7 TV spots are in SD. There is also the BD-Live content.
I like Star Trek V for most of the character moments. It’s not a great movie, I have no illusions about that, and ultimately it fails in what it’s trying to achieve. But it is a movie that aims high and falls flat, as opposed to the TNG films and particularly the Abrams reboots that keep aiming for the low hanging Khan fruit. But no other Star Trek film has so perfectly recaptured the feeling of the original series, particularly when it comes to the three main characters, Kirk, Spock and McCoy. It also doesn’t do too badly with the other characters, although Mr Scott is hard done by with a poorly judged moment of slapstick.
The story isn’t too bad either. No, don’t look at me like that. I am serious! The premise behind the film is a good one, and on top of that, Star Trek V gains added relevance in our age with its look at brain-washing religious fanaticism, which wasn’t as much of an issue in 1989. But the search for God or godlike beings has been a staple of Trek right from the original pilot, when Pike encountered the perception altering telepathic Talosians. Through the years we’ve had the Next Generation crew meet Q, Kirk encountered the Platonians, Trelane, even the ancient Greek god Apollo. It’s also a matter of record that Gene Roddenberry’s first attempt at a Star Trek movie was a script called The God Thing. It’s just that studios get a little wary when sci-fi and religion collide (justifiably so given Battlefield Earth, you might think).
William Shatner had to face a multitude of problems when it came to Star Trek V, beginning with a writer’s strike. Add to that a studio that lacked faith in the film, to the point where they slashed the budget, and reduced the schedule, and it all makes the low quality effects seem like an afterthought than a major problem. It’s a miracle that we got the film at all, let alone with some coherent narrative. The location shooting is fantastic, some of the sets are lush, while others are obviously pinched from The Next Generation.
The film starts off well, its first act is entertaining, it establishes the character dynamics, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s just that as the film progresses, it begins to lose focus. Is it about faith versus reason? Is it about the dead-end of mindless fanaticism? Is it about killing god? Is it about the falsity of institutionalised and structured deity versus the internal and personal spirituality of the self? For most of the film, Star Trek V feels as if it is in search of a message.
Star Trek V has grown on me over the years. While I don’t enjoy the story, I do appreciate it for what it attempts, and while it does that, I can enjoy the character portrayals. Even if Sybok vs. God Sybok at the end gives me Lazarus vs. Lazarus flashbacks from The Alternative Factor, there is much to like about The Final Frontier. Besides, I have a soft spot for films that aim high and fall flat, and you can’t argue that Star Trek V doesn’t aim high.