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a review of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier by Patricia Wright
first published in ANTARES 16, April 2007

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is Trek at its most classic and purest. Once again, the Enterprise captain and crew are called upon to deal with a sudden crisis which threatens the peace and very nature of the known galaxy’s civilization. In the ensuing conflict, they will be forced to confront the larger questions in life: "Is there nothing greater than ourselves out there?" and "What is it that makes us Human?" Neither crew nor ship are ready for such a vital mission, but Starfleet has given in to the fact that the fate of the galaxy is best left in the hands of Kirk and his Enterprise, even though the ship’s construction is still not finished and the crew is not complete.

The ability of our an ill-prepared captain and crew to outdo any other ship and the ensuing morality play is the basis of what made the original series’ episodes great. The Final Frontier could have easily been an episode during the first telecasts. In a story which involves a search for, and examination of, the nature of the Almighty; it is, in fact, an odd retelling of "Who Mourns For Adonis?" It is also dramatic proof that great television episodes simply do not work when translated onto the big screen. Star Trek films that work are adventure epics with dramatic action, nail-biting suspense, and adrenalin rushes that leave the audience breathless and cheering. The plot of The Final Frontier meanders along without high points, suspense or even a climax. It comes off as merely an aside–a segué from a story that we never see materialize. At its conclusion, it is the audience that is left with the question "Is there nothing more?" and the feeling of being cheated out of a story that it never really began at all.

This poorly constructed, choppy film does try to reward Star Trek fans with elements they’ve come to treasure. There are priceless glimpses into the personal relationships between the main characters: Kirk, Spock and McCoy camping together in Yosemite; Chekov and Sulu hiking at Mount Rushmore; and even Scotty absent-mindedly forgetting plans with Uhura. The audience is treated to what feels like a top-secret view of the back corridors and guts of the Enterprise. There is even an attempt to give the secondary characters more involvement than their usual ‘Aye, sir." roles—most notably Chekov’s brief turn as captain with decidedly Kirk mannerisms. The greatest reward to enduring this movie is clearly the assurance that despite all the advances we are destined to make in the future, there will always be idiots among us—even in the Klingon empire.

Many of the Classic Trek elements they try to infuse into this film are the ones that give the audience the deepest *wince* reaction in embarrassment for the crew and civilization they clearly know better than the filmmakers, however. In trying to illustrate that our complicated egos are what make us Human, the best starship crew in the fleet too easily falls victim to brainwashing. An attempt at light-hearted humor often leaves the legendary Captain Kirk coming off as a buffoon and Chekov’s turn as captain includes his impotent inability to command his friends. While Uhura’s resourcefulness as a Starfleet officer could be touted in her diversion of the all-male outpost guards with a beautiful fan dance, it ultimately ends up coming off as demeaning. After all, would Kirk’s plan to divert female guards ever result in his performance of a full-monty Chippendale’s number? A glimpse at an out-of-character Sarek and primitive birthing conditions on Vulcan are downright frightening. The most excruciating of these *wince* moments is the premise that sets the movie in action: the government of Vulcan has permanently banished one of their own for proposing a philosophy not in keeping with the currently accepted one. If The Final Frontier is to be believed, Vulcan outlawed free speech when they adopted Surak’s philosophy. This is not the place the Star Trek audience have come to know as home.

As seems to be the case with all the odd-numbered Star Trek movies, The Final Frontier would have worked best as a written notation rather than a full length motion picture. When the bad plot, uncharacteristic moments, and lack of action on a whole are ignored, it comes across as a classic Star Trek metaphor for Humans living in today’s world. Einstein once said "Science without religion is lame." Rather than a warning against religion, The Final Frontier puts forth that the reverse of Einstein’s proposal is even more true. Faith—in anything—without applying the reasoning powers given to Humans is indeed senseless. Like the best of Classic Trek, The Final Frontier is a warning that mankind must carefully examine the world that presents itself to us if we are to endure. As always, a wise word to those who wish to ensure the future we’ve seen.

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