Star Trek: The Final Frontier is a movie you should never, ever watch

Star Trek The Final Frontier 01The rule of thumb on Trek films is said to be that even numbered films are good, odd numbered films are not. I’m of the view that The Motion Picture is a fine and enjoyable (albeit slow) bit of filmmaking, but if I concede that my view on that movie is an outlier, then I also have to concede that the even/odd theory works pretty well, because The Final Frontier is kind of a terrible.

From the groan-worthy Kirk rock climbing sequence to the vague nature of what the crew are facing to the Klingons inserted into the movie solely to give Kirk a deus ex machina rescue in the end, very little about this movie works. Even the humor feels forced and out of place, especially next to the bright and shiny fun of The Voyage Home.

Kirk and crew are tasked with flying out to a distant planet and rescuing some hostages, but there are a few problems. First, the hostages are being held by Spock’s half-brother, and second, ooops, turns out they weren’t hostages after all. It’s a trap!

It’s hard to find a decent movie hidden among this film’s faults because even the basics are mediocre at best. For example, Sybok, the crazy Vulcan cult leader who doesn’t act like a Vulcan, is a poor choice for an antagonist. The actor puts on a fine performance, sure — and good performances are needed to balance out some of the worst Shatner ham in the series, thanks to Shatner directing himself (who thought that was a good idea?) — but isn’t half the idea of Spock that he is a Vulcan with human tendencies? It’s what makes him unusual. It’s what makes him unique. Sybok is Ultra Spock. It doesn’t work, and it also takes away from Spock’s unique role in this universe. It’s like making Batman’s main villain Batbat, a bat who dresses like a bat.

Star Trek The Final Frontier 03Sure, there are some Klingon villains wedged into the story, too, but they really serve no purpose in the story. Their every scene feels like an interruption. Some Klingon captain is obsessed with beating Kirk to prove his warrior status, so every 15 minutes or so we get an insert scene where he scowls a bit. That’s it. Why is this in the movie, save for the abovementioned deus ex machina?

Back to Sybok and the poor writing choices surrounding him. The other poor choice, and one that has a significantly negative impact on the movie, is that the writers keep his goals secret. First he has hostages for some vague political reasons. Then he wants to go to a mythical Vulcan planet for similarly vague reasons. It’s not until the last 20 minutes of the movie that we learn he’s searching for God.

Why keep this close to the vest? The fact that we never have a clear idea of what our heroes are up against, what our villain wants to accomplish, or what the stakes are is a detriment to the whole movie, making it feel like a series of scenes rather than a focused story. Worse still, the idea of flying out to some hard to reach planet to find God is actually pretty intriguing. They should have laid that out on the table from the very start!

Star Trek The Final Frontier 05Nevermind that they build up the impossibility of flying through the Great Barrier only to breach it in seconds (totally anticlimactic), or that Sybok somehow manages to brainwash the entire Enterprise by means that are never quite clear (in every brainwashing scene we actually see, he does it in person, one-on-one), or that the alien-who-pretends-to-be-god is an English-speaking dude with a beard (if no ship has ever breached the barrier, how …), or that not only is the humor far too slapstick (“Look at these wacky hijinks, Spock’s jet boots aren’t working!”), or that that humor actually impacts the story in stupid ways (Scotty “hilariously” knocks himself out cold and gets captured as a result; some writer thought that was a good idea?), or that the crew has a damn horse-rustling scene (seriously?). Nevermind all that.

It’s just not a very interesting story as presented, especially because the most compelling concept of the entire movie is held secret until the very end.

Poor choice atop poor choice atop poor choice makes for a poor picture.

It would have been easy to forgive other gripes had the story worked. Uhura’s dance scene would not seem as silly in a better picture. The incongruity of the gritty, rural nature of Paradise in the otherwise pristine Trek universe might have actually been interesting in a better picture. Shatner’s overacting could be taken in stride in a better picture.

Star Trek The Final Frontier 02But this is not a better picture. It’s a damn poor one. At least The Search For Spock made a valiant effort at being warm, thematically rich, and compelling. It may have failed, but it was a noble failure. I didn’t much like it, but I can’t knock the effort.

This just feels cobbled together by committee, a slapdash affair with absolutely nothing to recommend it. And that’s not hyperbole. There is no reason to watch this movie. Not ever. When your film’s most memorable scene is a nearly 60-year-old lady writhing around on a hilltop with a cringey soundtrack behind her, and the only other scene you’ll remember features a giant glowing God cliche shooting lasers from its eyes, you’ve done something very, very wrong.

Star Trek: The Final Frontier. Never again.

39 Comments

  1. Stephen Segal

    Yes. Whereas Search for Spock hits more deeply for hardcore fans than it does for casual viewers, Final Frontier is just a lousy goddamn movie.

  2. Stephen Segal

    Yes. Whereas Search for Spock hits more deeply for hardcore fans than it does for casual viewers, Final Frontier is just a lousy goddamn movie.

  3. John Miętus

    Stephen whispers words of wisdom.

  4. John Miętus

    Stephen whispers words of wisdom.

    1. Stephen Segal

      This was the Star Trek movie I spent high school waiting for. Its arrival was, shall we say, a bit of an anticlimax.

    2. Stephen Segal

      This was the Star Trek movie I spent high school waiting for. Its arrival was, shall we say, a bit of an anticlimax.

  5. Eric San Juan

    I feel like I took one for the team with this one. Of all 10 I watched for this marathon — yes, I did the Next Gen movies, and yes, they’re all written up — this is the only one I think is just outright BAD (though one other is close).

    1. Stephen Segal

      I dunno… I think both the last two Next Gen movies are also uniquely awful.

    2. Stephen Segal

      I look forward to your perspectives. 🙂

    3. John Miętus

      I find all the TNG movies to be dreadful. But this one… this one is indeed an abomination.

    4. Eric San Juan

      Well, I won’t spill the beans on my Next Gen views just yet. I’ll just say that i am generally with the consensus on one, and go against the grain on another.

  6. Eric San Juan

    I feel like I took one for the team with this one. Of all 10 I watched for this marathon — yes, I did the Next Gen movies, and yes, they’re all written up — this is the only one I think is just outright BAD (though one other is close).

    1. Stephen Segal

      I dunno… I think both the last two Next Gen movies are also uniquely awful.

    2. Stephen Segal

      I look forward to your perspectives. 🙂

    3. John Miętus

      I find all the TNG movies to be dreadful. But this one… this one is indeed an abomination.

    4. Eric San Juan

      Well, I won’t spill the beans on my Next Gen views just yet. I’ll just say that i am generally with the consensus on one, and go against the grain on another.

    5. Ed Sanders

      But everyone loves row row row your boat!

  7. Robert Knaus

    Great Jerry Goldsmith score, but the rest is HORRENDOUS.

    1. Stephen Segal

      It *is* a great score.

  8. Robert Knaus

    Great Jerry Goldsmith score, but the rest is HORRENDOUS.

    1. Stephen Segal

      It *is* a great score.

  9. Keith Howell

    I remember standing in line on opening night at the Lincoln 3 theater in Austin for STV. As the audience in front of us was leaving the theater they walked by our line waving their arms and saying in unison “GO HOME! GO HOME!”. :D. They were right. 😀

  10. Keith Howell

    I remember standing in line on opening night at the Lincoln 3 theater in Austin for STV. As the audience in front of us was leaving the theater they walked by our line waving their arms and saying in unison “GO HOME! GO HOME!”. :D. They were right. 😀

  11. Chris Knight

    This movie has many, MANY, problems, but I love Kirk, Bones, and Spock in every scene. “What does God need with a starship?” is part of my regular lexicon as well. Given that, I prefer it to the utterly boring undiscovered country, and all of the forgettable next gen movies.

  12. Keith Howell

    The row row row your boat sequence is unbearable

  13. Chris Knight

    Still better than “only nixon could go to China” in the next part. My point is that the worst interactions between these characters in part V, is better than the best interactions in part 6.

  14. Keith Howell

    Ew. No way. :D. I can watch Quest for Peace repeatedly. I rewatched Final Frontier a couple years ago and wanted to turn it off. But I was showing my kid the whole run in order so we were stuck. 😉

  15. Keith Howell

    Ew. No way. :D. I can watch Quest for Peace repeatedly. I rewatched Final Frontier a couple years ago and wanted to turn it off. But I was showing my kid the whole run in order so we were stuck. 😉

  16. Keith Howell

    Oops. Not Quest for Peace. Lololol. Undiscovered Country. 😀 #freudianslip

  17. Keith Howell

    Oops. Not Quest for Peace. Lololol. Undiscovered Country. 😀 #freudianslip

  18. Angel CAngel C

    Seems a bit harsh… 😉 I mean there’s always Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Street Fighter if you want *really* bad.

  19. Frank Saxon

    I like “V” better than “III” or “I”.

    1. Brian Talley

      I liked V too…..those lizard things were cool.

    2. Chris Karam

      V is better than I, but not better than any of the other original Trek films.

    3. Eric San Juan

      Madness. The Motion Picture blows the doors off this mess

  20. Andrew Hess

    Too late! I finally saw it a couple of years ago, when my completist son insisted on seeing it since we had gone thru all of the rest of them, in order. I should have called in sick…

  21. Julio Lopez

    Wrong. Star Trek V is the best of the series. Within the magical 107 minutes you get a touch of the relationship between these three brothers who despite the time they have served with each other do not really *know* each other.

    Uhura mesmerizes with her fan dance. Spock intimidates a Klingon General. Plan b for barricade. Kirk’s endlessly smoking uniform. They found a damn cure!

    Movie magic. And we are all better people for it.

    1. Eric San Juan

      I feel like the things you are eating are impacting your judgment in ways that concern your friends and family

  22. Kevin HulitKevin Hulit

    @ASpaceStory01 Worst of the bunch, no doubt, but I’ll admit I’ve watched it more than once.

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