Stardate 8454.1. James Tiberius Kirk and the crew are on shore leave and the Enterprise is undergoing a refit under the canny eye of Scotty and a skeleton crew. Meanwhile, a strange, cloaked figure arrives on the planet Nimbus III, a desolate dry rock of a planet, unique in only one respect, it is co-governed by a fraught alliance between the Federation, the Romulans, and the Klingons. Who is this stranger? What does he need with an arid outpost in the middle of nowhere? And how does his fate coincide with the Enterprise and its crew.
So begins the next, nay the ultimate journey into the unknown, as the venerable old veterans, tuck in their paunches and glue on their wigs on a voyage to discover the secrets of the Universe, and life itself.
If I've made the next “odd” numbered entry into the star log journals seem intriguing, then I'm sorry to deceive you, and I promise not to do it again throughout this review. I've long since forgotten whether it's the odd or the even Treks that are supposed to be better, because most of the plotlines have always seemed pretty thin to me. The Final Frontier of the title is the search for God, but don't expect the answer to life's mysteries, or deep and meaningful philosophical questions to be tackled, because they aren't.
William Shatner stars in, directs, and co-writes Star Trek V (STV), and outside of maybe Woody Allen, I have never seen this 3 trick pony work. The story is designed to revolve around the friendship of the three primary characters of Kirk, Spock and Dr McCoy and the search for a spiritual “frontier”. The threat is provided by Sybock - a sort of new age Vulcan, hippy, counsellor - who gains control of your mind by insisting you “share your pain”, doesn't sound too threatening does it? Oh a renegade Klingon with a penchant for shoot-em ups provides a minor threat.
Shatner takes a slightly mocking tone with his character, which develops into self-parody. This is particularly apparent in his scenes with Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Bones (Deforest Kelly). This important three-way friendship has always been at the heart of the best of the Trek stories and Shatner tries to make it the focus of STV, but is only partly successful. Scenes that require gravitas, for example the escape from confinement of the trio, almost end up as slap stick farce. This means the audience fails to feel any tension, or concern for the crew. Its so light hearted... therefore there is no threat... therefore there is no emotional investment in the outcome. Contrast this with, for example, the Lord of the Rings, where small moments of black humour, particularly with Gimli, give a feeling of depth to the character while heightening the tension.
The film is the weakest of the Trek franchise in terms of story and I found it slightly saddening to watch the characters, actors and series slowly decline into the movie equivalent of senile dementia.
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