Review: The Final Frontier certainly isn’t the worst sci-fi franchise movie ever made, maybe not even of its own time period, but it pales in comparison to the two movies that are sandwiched around it. William Shatner directs the most forgettable film in the series.
The Final Frontier, for lack of a better word, sure is odd. William Shatner’s directorial entry into the Star Trek canon has a handful of highs along the way, but gets way too uneven and digressive for its own good. I had heard beforehand that The Final Frontier was considered the worst among these original movies, but I was still curious to see where the crew would take it considering the unmatched and virtually unplaceable The Voyage Home. Especially with Shatner becoming the second cast member to take a crack at directing one of these after Leonard Nimoy helmed The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home.
And I want to start positive before working through the kinks of this one (for which there are many). The Final Frontier starts relatively strong. It’s occasionally beautiful to look at, and the connection between Admiral Kirk (Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is about as strong as it’s been in any of these movies. That’s mostly because Spock is essentially dead for a whole film already in the franchise, and these two don’t spend as much time together on screen as you’d think.
Now it isn’t nearly as outrageous or consistently funny as The Voyage Home is, but The Final Frontier has its few moments of kinetic energy that usually helps elevate this franchise to its highest moments. Its slapstick humor ultimately works the best in this movie, and it seems William Shatner is most comfortable in the director’s chair during these moments – I’d assume because he’s most familiar with these scenes during his time as an actor. They’re much easier to pull off than a story trying to match that humor with existential anxiety about a God-like being.
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Which is where The Final Frontier eventually falls apart as a successful and moderately enjoyable popcorn movie. The beautiful landscapes and neatly designed shots are quickly traded in for tacky and occasionally indescribable ones when in outer space. It’s as if the budget was so drastically cut for this entry that they had to piecemeal it together from fragments of past movies.
And the plot of The Final Frontier feels too similar the The Motion Pictures’ to be a mistake. There’s this quest to find a supreme being that the movie largely involves itself with in the third act, and you feel the déjà vu as they come face-to-face with it. It’s an ill-conceived, cheaply reenacted story that I’d just much rather watch in the original than this.
The Final Frontier certainly isn’t the worst sci-fi franchise movie ever made, maybe not even of its own time period, but it pales in comparison to the two movies that are sandwiched around it. The Voyage Home is such a shot in the arm for the franchise, placing them in (then) modern day San Francisco, and The Undiscovered Country is a smart combination of many different subgenres and plot structures. The Final Frontier just moves along, making sure to hit every plot point without much style or unique flare. I wouldn’t be upset to watch it again, but William Shatner is much more suited to be in front of the camera than behind it.
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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Cast and Credits
William Shatner as Admiral James T. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Captain Spock
DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard McCoy
James Doohan as Montgomery Scott
George Takei as Lt. Commander Hikaru Sulu
Walter Koenig as Commander Chekov
Nichelle Nichols as Commander Uhura
Laurence Luckinbill as Sybok
Director: William Shatner
Cinematography: Andrew Laszlo
Editor: Peter E. Berger
Composer: Jerry Goldsmith