It’s generally accepted among Star Trek fans that Star Trek V is the worst of the film series.
It’s subtitled The Final Frontier.
I suppose it’s because it was supposed to close the franchise. But apparently it was so bad they had to make a Star Trek VI.
With lots of quotes from Shakespeare.
Really, there are Shakespeare quotes and references all over that movie.
I’m not excluding myself from the general consensus regarding the cinematic quality of Star Trek V, but I don’t think it’s really that bad of a film. It’s really not even the worst Star Trek film (I put my money on Star Trek: Insurrection).
The movie had a good idea, something happened in the execution.
Some people blame the movie’s badness on William Shatner’s direction. I don’t. There are worse actor-directed movies out there.
The Brown Bunny comes to mind.
Damn Vincent Gallo.
The movie’s subtitle, The Final Frontier, suggests a pretty deep idea. When you’ve explored everywhere where no man has gone before, what else is there? Is there anything else?
What is the final frontier?
THE ANSWER: GOD
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier isn’t the first film to ask the God question.
How God gives our lives meaning. How the power of God vanquishes Pazuzu. How God will switch places with an average guy to let him see what God’s life is like. How you shouldn’t open up boxes filled with the power of God – especially if you’re a Nazi.
Sometimes God is sought out. Sometimes The Almighty kind of pops up.
Most of the time in the movies, people are just trying to figure out what God’s plan is for us and the universe. Sometimes the question is about God himself. And sometimes, somebody asks, “what does God want with a starship?”
Ok. Now it’s time to explain the plot.
You see, the USS Enterprise’s first officer, Mr. Spock (that’s the pointy-eared, Vulcan dude with no emotions) has an older brother named Sybok.
Nobody knew of this guy until now.
The never-once-mentioned-before-even-in-episodes-that-take-place-on-Vulcan-like-“Amok Time”– Sybok was banished from the planet Vulcan because he refused to get rid of his emotions (or something like that).
The movie was pretty bad. I didn’t pay exact attention to the never-existed-until-the-would-be-last-Star-Trek-film Sybok’s back story.
Come to think of it, I guess it worked out pretty good for Sybok to be banished since it probably saves his butt in the J.J. Abrams universe, too. Unless he was banished in time line Roddenberry after the time when Vulcan was destroyed in time line Abrams.
Ok. Now I’m off track.
Oh, yeah. Ok… so Sybok was banished from Vulcan because he refused to ditch his emotions and he had this crazy notion of this place called Sha Ka Ree.
According to whatever legend Sybok was in to, Sha Ka Ree is where God lives.
Could they rip off a word that sounds ANY closer to Shangri la?
Sybok, through some Vulcan mind trickery, manages to wrangle control of the Enterprise from Captain Kirk (of course!) and heads straight towards the edge of the universe.
Because of all the possible places in the universe where God could be, that’s where God would be.
Didn’t you know that?
So…. long story short (too late), when Kirk, Spock, Sybok, and Dr. McCoy arrive at Sha Ka Ree they find that the “God” Sybok has been amped up over enough to heist a Federation starship is a disembodied, big-headed, blue-faced dude, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Sir Laurence Oliver in the original Clash of the Titans.
Sybok discovers that “God” isn’t terribly interested in Sybok, God’s own status as the Almighty, or answering any of life’s big questions. Instead, “God” presents Sybok, et al. with a strange, if not ungodly request:
God wants the Enterprise.
Naturally, this is a problem… For God.
You see, apparently God has never met Captain James Tiberius Kirk.
Captain Kirk, unwilling to give up his ship to anyone – including God – demands to know why an all-powerful God would want a starship.
Captain Kirk’s failure to immediately acquiesce to God’s demands angers the Almighty. God not only refuses to tell Kirk’s why he wants a starship, He punishes Kirk for his insolence by promptly striking Kirk in the chest with a lightning bolt.
Wait a minute. Maybe they’d found Emperor Palpatine.
Here’s the thing, though. Sybok might as well have found a Sith lord.
‘Cause he sure didn’t find God.
He would have had better luck finding God if he’d climbed Mt. Olympus.
Sybok didn’t find God at the edge of the universe, but Kirk’s question, “what does God want with a starship?” is a question that man has asked about God for centuries. Namely, if God is an all– powerful, all– knowing, all– seeing, perfectly good being, why would God need anything from not-powerful people?
Why does God need our praise and worship? Why does He need blood sacrifices and monuments?
Why would God need $8 million from Oral Roberts under threat of taking Roberts “home” to Heaven if he failed to deliver the money?
We can’t do anything near what the power of God can do. Men cannot create planets or life from dust. We can’t will anything into existence. God can create anything.* God has the power to be in all places at one time.
Which is exactly why Captain Kirk asks the “God” of Sha Ka Ree why he needs a starship.
Of course, we know that Kirk isn’t looking from an answer from “God”. What Kirk is doing is challenging the claim that the blue-faced, Sith lightning bolt-throwing, creature of Sha Ka Ree is God at all. You see, Captain James Tiberius Kirk does not believe that God exists.
You don’t have to watch all five television incarnations and all 12 feature-length Star Trek films to figure out that Gene Roddenberry’s “Wagon Train in space” is a godless universe. Captain Kirk’s universe operates more by the dictates of Darwin than by Deuteronomy.
Philosophically speaking, the Star Trek universe is grounded on the principles of humanism.
Humanism is the 14th-15th century philosophical movement that emphasized the capacity of human rationality and the inherent worth of individuals without reliance on Christian teachings.
Roddenberry’s vision of the future is a universe where testable science and reason is preferred to superstition and religious faith. Throughout the Star Trek franchise science triumphs over religion. In Roddenberry’s future, science answers all of life’s big questions. Hunger, war, sexism, racism, even the common cold, have been done away with through reason and science.
The Star Trek universe is a place where sectarian-driven conflicts have been replaced by a secular peace. Where star dates have replaced our traditional Christian-based B.C./A.D. calendar.
God is no longer necessary as either the cause of cure for human progress or suffering.
In the Star Trek (TOS) episode “Who Mourns For Adonias?”, the crew of the Enterprise dispatch with a “God” by refusing to believe in him. The god simply fades away. Just as God has faded away from Roddenberry’s vision of the future.
Check out what Enterprise-D captain, Jean-Luc Picard, has to say about religion:
The fight against irrational religious belief and superstition plays a part in more than a few episodes of Star Trek: “The Apple”, “Catspaw”, “Plato’s Stepchildren”, “The Paradise Syndrome”, “Who Watches the Watchers?”, “The Chase”, and “Who Mourns For Adonias?”, to name a few.
The Star Trek preference of the secular over religion is best articulated by Bertrand Russell in his essay, “Why I Am Not A Christian”. Russell writes that religion:
… inflicts all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and of improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in he world… Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown, and partly as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all of your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing – fear of the mysteries, fear of defeat, fear of death.
Fear is exactly what the “God” of Sha Ka Ree wants Kirk, Sybok, etc. to feel.
And this is how Kirk knows that “God” is a complete fraud.
He knows this god, let alone any god, isn’t a real deity.
As a secular humanist, Kirk doesn’t (won’t) grant the “God” of Sha Ka Ree an ounce of legitimacy; especially legitimacy to any creature that issues senseless demands enforced with fear and lightning bolts. So Kirk refuses to believe “God” is God.
Any real God wouldn’t punishment someone for asking a simple question.
Science and reason don’t punish people for being curious.
Obsolete gods do.
So, the “God” of Sha Ka Ree loses his power.
That’s not really all that bad though. God isn’t really what the movie was about, anyway.
What Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is about is what every Star Trek show, novel, comic book, cartoon or movie is about: us. It’s not God or even the universe that is the final frontier. The final frontier is people. It’s man himself that is the universe’s greatest mystery. Sha Ka Ree did not reveal God to Sybok.
However, what Sha Ka Ree did reveal was Sybok.
Sybok was arrogant, sinister, and dangerous. His intent wasn’t to find God but to accumulate more power for himself; more like Jim Jones than John the Baptist.
Sybok may have thought, or rather, fooled himself into thinking that he was going to solve the mystery of God. But as things in the Star Trek universe go, Sybok was nothing more than a standard sci-fi villain.
Unfortunately, even Gene Roddenberry couldn’t figure out how to get rid of them.
* I know this statement is quite controversial. It seems that it’s not entirely true that God can create or do “anything”. God is unable to create any universe that he does not exist, grossly violate the laws of nature, interfere with human free will, or manifest contradictions (such as a round square) or create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it.
Bertrand Russell. “Why I’m Not A Christian”. The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell. 1961. Eds. Robert E. Egner and Lester E. Dennon. NY: Touchstone. p 596.