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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
William Shatner
William Shatner
Leonard Nimoy
DeForest Kelly
Laurence Luckinbill
Bottom Line: 

Let me begin by saying this:
Star Trek V does NOT suck, nor is it the worst of the Trek films (that dubious distinction belongs to the horrid STTNG-Insurrection). While many fans are determined to look at Star Trek V-The Final Frontier as one of the unfortunate recipients of the "odd-even curse" (the logic behind this being that the odd numbered Treks are rubbish while the even numbered entries are brilliant) I just don't see it that way. What I do see is a Star Trek film that dares to take the classic crew into territory just outside Sci-Fi and straight into the heart of theology. It was probably not the best idea, but, ya know what? It's still better than a good half of the Trek films, and I rather enjoyed it.
When a Vulcan distress call draws in the crew of the Enterprise, they discover a cultish society living in exile on a barren wasteland. Led by a decidedly different sort of Vulcan, we soon learn that he is Sybok (Luckinbill), disowned brother of Spock, and has learned to embrace his human side, thus developing a sense of humor, passion, and aggression, but all in the name of faith. Sybok, you see, believes he has found the way to the final frontier; God himself. Sybok's charisma (as well as a touch of telepathy) wins over much of the crew, who, even in a future where the notion that some all powerful deity looking over us all is as antiquated as Kirk's wire rimmed reading glasses, there remains that innate human desire to believe something, anything, is responsible for our existence. While Kirk and Spock are immune to Sybok's influence, the remainder of the crew help the renegade Vulcan take over Enterprise as they set a course for the center of the universe, and a rendezvous with the higher power.
Star Trek V-The Final Frontier marks the directorial debut of William Shatner, and, while there are many a moment in which the novice's weaknesses come to light, he does a fairly good job of it, especially given Shatner's reputation as a being a bit onanistic. He seems well aware of that pre-conception, and does his best to spread the wealth among his co-stars and focuses primarily on the relationship between Spock and Sybok. I love the interplay between the classic cast in their films, with Star Trek IV being the best example of their chemistry. However, The Final Frontier comes very close to following that film's fun, family reunion-like vibe. That is until the films climactic encounter with Sybok's "god", which has the production values of an episode of Lost in Space, and, in my mind, is what has probably ruined this film for so many Trek fans.
Take away the ill-advised conclusion, however, and it's a nice piece of Classic Trek, albeit a bit slow at times and lacking the bravura of, say, Wrath of Khan. However, one need only look at the actual series to see that some of the best Trek didn't rely on epic space battles or indestructible adversaries. I see The Final Frontier as an attempt to bring some of the "gee-whiz" back to the Trek films, and, while it doesn't necessarily succeed, it's not an outright failure either.
The Special Edition DVD from Paramount packs hours worth of extras into a very nice two disc set. While fans were hoping for the deluxe treatment that was applied to Star Trek: The Motion Picture (in which new sound effects and visual effects were applied, as well as some of the slower footage excised), we are presented with The Final Frontier just as it was released theatrically. The special effects are still on the dodgy side, and, sadly, the excellent transfer makes it that much more apparent, but, once again, I still don't think they're all that bad. Take out the final moments of the film, and the rest of the flick looks every bit as good as parts IV and VI. One of the things I DID notice about this film was just how dark it looked back when I first saw it years ago. The DVD handles it quite well, however, with nary a hint of grain, and is artifact free, for the most part. The audio, especially Jerry Goldsmith's booming score, is nothing short of superb.
Disc One features the widescreen anamorphic film, as well as a commentary by Shatner and daughter Liz, whose the author of Captain's Log. The two have a very nice and witty rapport, with Shatner hamming it up just enough to keep things rolling, but also showing his serious side when it comes down to aspects of the film he felt were important, even if they weren't so well received. It's a great commentary track, and one of the best of the in the Trek series thus far. There's also a text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda (co-authors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia) that's extremely informative and throws in a lot of nice trivia and points out some stuff that may have passed over my head otherwise.
Disc Two is loaded with featurettes focusing on the behind the scenes stuff, including make-up, models, special effects, and the score, as well as several others that, to be honest, I've still yet to get through. This is a very packed edition, probably as a result that this is the least popular entry in the series, even though, in my mind, undeservedly so.
Fans of Trek will undoubtedly pick up this DVD if only to complete their collections, but I implore you to give it another look, especially if you've not seen the film since its original release. It's not the best Trek film by any means, but it's certainly not as bad as some would have you think.

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