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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Special Collector's Edition - 1989 (2003) - Paramount

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Strange things are afoot on Nimbus III, the so-called Planet of Galactic Peace. A mysterious "prophet" has taken the Federation, Klingon and Romulan ambassadors hostage, and so the Starship Enterprise is called into action. Unfortunately, this newly commissioned Enterprise is a bit of a lemon - nothing is working right. Upon arriving on Nimbus III, Kirk and company discover that this prophet is an emotionally outgoing Vulcan named Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill). Sybok wants nothing more than to hijack the Enterprise, use it to get to the center of the galaxy, and there find the mysterious planet Solaris (oops... I mean "Shaka-Ri"), where he expects to learn the true nature of God. Naturally, there's also a pesky Klingon out there in a Bird of Prey who wants to throw a wrench in the works. And you know Klingons... they don't like Kirk very much.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is... well, like the Enterprise in this film, it's also a lemon. This is easily the worst film in this series by far. Directed by William Shatner (Kirk himself), the film is so bad that event the very silliest of The Original Series episodes are great by comparison. It's a shame too, because there are some nice character moments here, and you can definitely see that there were flashes of something better in the script. There's a spirituality here that is refreshing, along with nice insights into what makes the classic Trek "trio" tick. Unfortunately, most of the actual dialogue is terrible, a lot of the acting is awful, and there's a painfully-forced attempt at humor here that works only about once in every five tries. Picture Kirk, Spock and McCoy sitting around a campfire singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." If you just went, "Huh?" then that's about the same reaction most Star Trek fans had. When I first saw this film in theaters, I was fearful of the scene degenerating into an infamous moment from Blazing Saddles. I had to get up and leave the theater a couple of times, I was so disgusted. Add to this some of the worst feature film special effects since the Buck Rodgers TV series in the 70s, and this is a cinematic clunker of galactic proportions. Coming right off the amazing success of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, it's amazing this film didn't kill the franchise.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

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When Paramount went to create a new "special collector's edition" of this film for DVD, Shatner reportedly wanted to go back and re-do some things. He wanted to fix the special effects and perhaps create the ending he'd originally intended for the film. At the time, I was all for it... but after having watched this film again, I think the studio made the right choice in denying Bill's request. Simply put, no amount of money, tweaks and changes could save this film. As such, it's better left for what it is - a cautionary tale to all those who work on this franchise in the future.

What Paramount did do for this DVD, was to create a new transfer of the film. So, bad though it is, the film looks great in full anamorphic widescreen video. This is a big improvement on the original DVD's letterbox-only transfer. The contrast is good (if not perfect), the colors are vibrant, the print is clean and free of blemishes, and overall detail is generally excellent.

Audio-wise, this seems to be the exact same Dolby Digital 5.1 track that was on the previous edition. The surrounds kick in from time to time, but there's a lack of atmospheric fill that other Trek feature film DVDs have really taken advantage of. There's also not much low frequency reinforcement. Still, dialogue is clear and the music is presented well. Overall, the audio is serviceable, if unimpressive.

The extras here are pretty typical of what Paramount's been doing for their Star Trek films on DVD. That is to say, they're very cookie-cutter, but interesting, with flashes of good stuff here and there. Disc One features an audio commentary with Shatner and his daughter, who assisted her father on set. It's interesting for its insights into Shatner's personality alone, and there are some nice moments. You can tell he really wanted this film to be good... what is it they say about the road to Hell? The track is a bit self-indulgent, but what involving Shatner isn't? Trek fans, at least, will be entertained. Disc One also features another good subtitle trivia track by the Okudas, which will also please fans.

The meat of the extras are on Disc Two, and they consist of a series of video featurettes, along with a few trailers and TV spots, and a video montage of production photos. The best of the bonus material begins with a nice tribute to the work of production designer Herman Zimmerman, who is largely responsible for the look of Star Trek, from The Next Generation to Enterprise, and including most of the recent feature films. I'm glad to see Paramount acknowledging his work. The Journey is the most interesting piece on Disc Two, taking you behind the scenes on the production. I wouldn't say there's full honesty here, but it's easy to see that most of those involved were pretty disappointed by this film. You can see it in their eyes and hear it in their comments. Everyone meant well and had a great time making the film, but in hindsight, it's clear they're all wondering what they must have been smoking. This is fascinating viewing. Also amusing is the Pre-Visualization Models featurette. Seriously, most of you reading this could do better feature film effects than this crew, and watching this footage makes it pretty clear why. My favorite of the extras, however, is a featurette called Rockman in the Raw. Shatner originally wanted the ending of the film to feature an attack by ten "rockmen". But the budget only allowed them to build one rockman costume... and it ultimately looked like something out of a Godzilla flick - the classic "man in a rubber suit" syndrome. The ironic thing is that if this had appeared in an episode of The Original Series, it would have kicked ass. Personally, I think they should have put it in the film. It would have been the perfectly cheesy ending to Star Trek V, and might actually redeemed it a little. Hell, I would've gotten a kick out of seeing Shatner wrestling around with that thing. Might even have put a dent in his bullet-proof hairdo.

Storyboards for three scenes from the film are also included here, as well as three deleted scenes (unfortunately, all in letterboxed-only widescreen). The deleted scenes don't add much, but they're worth a viewing. The filler material on Disc Two includes featurettes on the nature of the cosmos, Star Trek's link to nature and how Yosemitie allowed the crew to film in the park, a vintage interview with the director, Harve Bennett's rather embarrassing pitch video, and an equally embarrassing press conference with the cast and crew in costume. If I have to see these poor bastards doing the Vulcan salute once more... man, I just feel bad for them. Just FYI, there's also an Easter egg gag reel hidden in the menus of Disc Two.

I can't recommend this film, but the DVD is at least an interesting piece of work. It's nice to see these guys (sort-of) acknowledging that they're aware this film blows. You know a film is bad when the all-new animation created for the DVD menu screens is better than the actual film's effects. No kidding - the menus for Disc One feature a gorgeous shot of the Enterprise and the Bird of Prey orbiting "Solaris" that absolutely puts the footage in the film to shame. So there you have it.

Film Rating: D+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B-/C+

Bill Hunt
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