It’s been more than a decade since I watched Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and I figured it was time for a re-watch. I’m going to live-blog about it below so you can follow as Captain Kirk climbs a mountain, Uhura fan dances and the entire Enterprise crew goes looking…for God.
Welcome to Nimbus III, “The Planet of Galactic Peace” and home to Burning Man for the years 2271 through 2283. Buddy is digging a hole when a shadowy figure approaches on horseback. He rushes for his gun.
Shadowy figure steps down off horse and stares at buddy until he starts crying.
Shadowy figure asks Buddy to join his quest for “ultimate knowledge.” And then he whips off his hood and he’s…a Vulcan. But he laughs, and we’re all supposed to be like, a laughing Vulcan? What is this madness?!
Opening Credits and then…
Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain! Why is he climbing a mountain? Why do we need to see him do it for several minutes?
More accurately, why is he climbing a mountain with next to zero safety equipment? Dang, that’s manly (read: stupid). And yet his shirt is still on. I expected more, Captain Kirk.
Ok, but Spock saving him with his rocket boots is pretty awesome.
Time to out-Star Wars Star Wars in a smuggler’s den featuring a dancing, three-breasted cat woman. This is one of my pet peeves (get it? pet peeves?) that animal-based humanoid women are totally weird and yet still have to be sexually titillating for the target audience of pre-teen boys. Wouldn’t it make more sense for Caitians (not to mention the Tauren in WoW and others) to have nipples on their lower torsos rather than breasts where a human’s would be?
I digress. Here is Caithlin Dar:
She’s a Romulan diplomat. The Federation diplomat keeps calling her “dear,” because this isn’t the 23rd century or anything… The Klingon just burps at her.
Shadowy Vulcan (okay, it’s Sybok. Gonna stop pretending I don’t know who he is) storms in with his new posse of followers and kidnaps the three diplomats.
Back to the Enterprise. D’awww. Scotty and Uhura are the cutest.
After Starfleet calls them to Nimbus III, Uhura has to bring all the guys back from shore leave. Turns out Kirk isn’t the only one out playing manly/dumb: Sulu and Chekov are lost out hiking, but Chekov is too embarrassed to ask for directions so tries to pretend they’re caught in a blizzard.
Uhura totally calls them on their silly but adorable cover-up, and promises she won’t tell anyone else.
Kirk, Bones and Spock around the campfire? I can’t decide whether this scene is the basis for the most amazing fanfic ever or a Grumpy Old Men movie set in space.
Cue sappy music as Kirk (total Debbie Downer) muses: “I’ve always known I’ll die alone.”
Thank God for Spock with his “marshmelons” and readiness for campfire songs. Head over to YouTube to watch the “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” scene.
Darn, I just want to watch the Enterprise crew have shore leave shenanigans (like we’ve been seeing, not like “Shore Leave” shenanigans) but I guess we gotta get back into space sooner or later.
Meet Klaa and his incredibly tough-looking officer Vixis. The actress who played Vixis, Spice Williams, put special effort into building up her upper body for this role.
Back on the Enterprise, the ship is not exactly ready to go. Doors don’t open with their characteristic *swoosh* sounds and consoles are exploding even more than usual. Luckily, Starfleet knew how to prioritize its crew assignments, making sure there is one woman available at all times to help Kirk change his shirt.
Kirk misses his old chair. Spock empathizes. Check out this Spock sad face!
The crew watches the hostage video demand (looks like Caithlin Dar is sort of keeping everything together on behalf of the diplomats) and Spock realizes he might know who Sybok is. He might just be this guy (we don’t know yet he’s his half-brother) who turned against Vulcan teachings of logic. Dun, dun dunnnnnnnn.
They arrive at Nimbus III and try to reach Paradise City. Evidently there were Guns N’ Roses fans on the writing staff (”Take me down to the Paradise City where the sand is hot and the cat girls have three boobs”).
Kirk needs a diversion. Forget setting off an explosive in the other direction or something. What would really get their attention is Uhura doing a fan dance:
Now Nichelle Nichols said she really liked this scene but I have mixed feelings. It’s gross to hear one of the rebels go, “Is she naked?” and have her role basically be the “honeypot” of this mission but I guess you could also read it as brave for Uhura to use her singing and dancing talents in service of the mission. And Nichelle Nichols was in her late 50s when this movie was filmed so it does show us something we very rarely see in Hollywood to this day – a woman over 30 being portrayed as sexy.
But I unequivocally hate the part when, while storming the city, Kirk is attacked by the three-breasted cat woman and ends up seemingly leaving her to drown after throwing her in a pool. Yes, she did leap on him, but it’s gross to see Kirk almost casually kill a sex worker and move on like it’s NBD.
The hostages come out and unexpectedly, they ask Kirk and Spock to turn over their weapons. They and McCoy are marched outside to where Sybok’s followers have emerged victorious over the Federation.
Sybok’s happy to see Spock and announces he’s stealing the Enterprise.
…Um, so I kind of tuned out for a bit, but basically Kirk tried to prevent Sybok from taking over the ship, but Spock foiled the plan in order to make sure Sybok didn’t die. Because the life of Spock’s half-brother, who engineered this whole situation, is worth way more than that of a three-breasted cat lady.
Anyway, Sybok is all converting people to his cult via his telepathic laughter yoga techniques. And he singles out Uhura and Sulu to help him.
Sybok finally outlines his goal – he wants to find Sha Ka Ree, an Eden-like place from Vulcan mythology.
But then Scotty busts Kirk, McCoy and Spock out of jail, and it’s great. Thank goodness Kirk knows morse code. He is a bucket of surprises.
OMG and then Kirk and McCoy hop a ride on rocket-propelled Spock. This is the cutest thing ever. Scotty gets knocked out though and brainwashed Sulu takes him to sickbay.
So they get out and they think they’re calling Starfleet but they’ve actually reached Vixis on the Klingon ship, who does a very convincing human American English accent.
Klaa orders her to follow the Enterprise into the Great Barrier, beyond which Sybok believes lies Sha Ka Ree.
Sybok catches Kirk, McCoy and Spock and lectures them for fearing the unknown. Kirk’s all like: “I’m afraid of nothing.”
Scotty wakes up in sickbay and brainwashed Uhura tries to convince him that Sybok isn’t a bad guy, just someone putting everyone in touch with their feelings.
Meanwhile, Sybok is trying to convince Kirk, McCoy and Spock to his point of view. He shows McCoy his dying father and offers to help him release his pain around his choice to take his father off life support.
So McCoy is converted to Sybok’s cult and Sybok moves on to probe Spock’s pain. He shows Spock’s birth, with Amanda being attended by a Vulcan midwife. The midwife brings baby Spock to Sarek and Sarek says “so human” with disdain.
Then Spock appears to be gone too, after being brought in touch with his pain. But Kirk protests and Sybok leaves him unbrainwashed. It’s kind of insulting that Uhura, Chekov and Sulu fall so easily to Sybok when Kirk – and then Spock – are able to resist. And then McCoy chooses to stay with his friends even though he thinks Sybok helped him.
Great Barrier time. Are they all gonna die?
Nope. They get through and find a planet with a super snazzy and unidentifiable power source. Sybok basically gives Kirk back the ship, trusting he will want to explore the planet as well.
Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Sybok take a shuttle down. Forget “Paradise City” – this planet is all “Purple Haze.” The group walks across the purple sand, down the purple hills, towards the giant purple rock formations as everyone on the ship watches their screens in awe.
Then Sybok yells to the skies but nothing happens, at first. Then the ground begins to shake and the sky goes dark. Giant stone pillars that appear similar to ribs jut out of the earth all around them.
And then light spews out from the middle of the stone circle and a loud, booming, male voice speaks.
“Is this the voice of god?” asks McCoy.
“One voice; many faces,” says the being, whom we now see as an old white man with a beard. He wants the starship to carry him, but Kirk interrupts to ask: “What does God need with a starship?”
“God” shoot lasers out of his eye and zaps Kirk and Spock. McCoy now changes his mind and says he “doubts any God who inflicts pain for his own pleasure.”
Then “God” threatens to kill them all horribly if Sybok doesn’t help them. Sybok does a dramatic 180 and uses his super pain-sharing powers on “God,” getting zapsorbed into the creature, which appears to be incapacitated.
But not for long.
It goes after the other three as they try to flee in the shuttle. Scotty manages to beam back Bones and Spock but the Klingons attack before they can beam up Kirk. They also go after Kirk on the surface.
They beam him up to Klaa’s ship but Kor, the burpy Klingon diplomat, forces Klaa to apologize for Kirk. Seriously. Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.
Touching Kirk/Spock moment!
Spock: Please Captain, not in front of the Klingons.
(K/S subtext: “I want to be alone with you.”)
Kirk says God’s probably in the human heart. Seriously – the human heart only? This really sets the tone for Star Trek VI’s racism. Spock’s all sad Sybok is dead and Kirk gets sad remembering how he almost lost Spock. Geez, Kirk, it’s not always about you.
But we end with more campfire time so it’s all good!
Overall this movie wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered. The adorable buddy moments are really good and there are a lot of them. Otherwise it’s slow in spots and the villains are kind of meh, and the fan dance is a little problematic, but the only part that really got me angry was the stuff with the three-breasted cat lady.
Bechdel Test: Unequivocal fail.