The Film Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier The Director William Shatner Charges: 1-Bad director 2-Bad Story/Script 3-Weak Villain 4-Not a character driven film 5-Bad Special Effects Evidence and Defense
1-Bad director - Sorry haters, Mr. Shatner is much more rounded in his skills than he generally gets credit for. He is an award winning actor that knows his way around a set and what the director’s duties are. This being the fifth installment in a franchise, plus the original TV series, the audience knows the characters and the actors portraying them bring the same level of performance that they have in previous installments. If that same level is there, which it is, what is really so bad about the direction?
3-Weak Villain -Sybok is quite frankly an underrated villain. Rather than the typical baddie that audiences seem to see in more recent films, he is actually a multifaceted character. He is a threat, but is still compassionate. He was based on real life cult leaders that primarily used words to sway their followers. Of course, a more sci-fi element was added, but it is obvious that the dialogue is equally important to this character and his quest. Sybok does not even seem realize he is controlling his followers. He firmly believes he is healing them and that they are willingly following him from then on.
4-Not a character driven film -Original series main characters were of course Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Each conveying various sides of an argument to the audience. Spock-logic, McCoy-Passionate, and Kirk- the balance of the two. Some of the best moments of the series were when we saw these characters separate from one another. It would severely impair them as they were not whole without each other. While the three are physically together throughout the film, we see some interesting parts where they are at odds with each other in unusual ways delivering a complex character conflict at a couple of crucial moments in the story.
5-Bad Special Effects -Perhaps the main catalyst for the weak points of the film. The special effects for most of the Star Trek films up until this time had been done by Industrial Light and Magic and were generally fantastic for each film’s respective era. However, ILM wasn’t available at the time and due to some extreme budget cuts from the studio, many effects shots for this film were not up to Trek’s usual standards. However, when compared to other films of the era, the effects are still not too bad. There was originally to be a big budget sequence at the end involving “rock warriors” attacking our heroes. This was to be achieved through practical effects which unfortunately were deemed too costly by the studio. Consequently, the final act had to be retooled. With the writers strike that happened at the time, the script was hastily rewritten at the last minute to allow some type of conclusion that would still be satisfying.
The budget cuts are probably more to blame than anything. Also the writers strike happening around this time. Had there been more time to rewrite and work in a new ending before the release date, it may have had a more positive impact on the film.
As far as lacking a villain, say what you will about the first film, but Star Trek 4 is still one of the fan favorites and low and behold, it doesn’t really have a villain. It did something different and that is the same thing that Star Trek 5 gives us: a complex villain that may not necessarily be wrong in his ultimate goal. Much different than say Khan who is merely out for revenge.
When viewed this way, it can be argued that Sybok is among the more interesting Trek villains. He is not evil. He is not even a bad guy. He just believes what he is doing is right. While he is given a somewhat shoehorned backstory in order to tie in with one of our main characters (this relationship was not the original intention when Shatner wrote the story), this was a plot device imposed by the studio to in their eyes make it more believable that certain members of Kirk’s crew may stand against him. All in all, Sybok makes a pretty compelling “villain” when looked at in this light. In conclusion, if one can take all of this into consideration and not be expecting this film to be as good as The Wrath of Khan, it is actually a pretty decent Trek adventure. Try to think of it as more of an old episode of the series rather than an action packed blockbuster and you may be surprised after giving it a rewatch.
Mike West, is a member of the Executive committee for the Tacoma Film Alliance, as well as running his own production company Gobbum Productions.
2-Bad Story/Script -This film had a lot of behind the scenes troubles that through little to no fault of itself, likely affected the outcome. A writers strike and severe budget cuts caused the original ending to be scrapped. While this changed the climax from the originally intended finale, the story still wraps itself up in a dramatic and action filled sequence. What is not often mentioned with this film is how the structure closely resembles an episode of the original series, thus keeping with the source material. We have the opening, title/credits, then the standard 4 act story structure of the original series. The main story is somewhat derivative of certain episodes of the old series. Our villain sets a trap in order to steal the Enterprise to carry out his objective. The crew eventually forms something of an partnership and work together against a common threat. We end with our heroes facing the threats of the film by extending not their weapons, but their hands in friendship. In the end, they have grown because of it. The villain’s quest ends up posing the question to the audience: what if? This is at the core of what Gene Roddenberry aimed for with Star Trek.