Film review: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Published: Saturday, July 1 1989 12:00 a.m. MDT

"Star Trek IV" was considered a "breakout" picture, one that appealed to a much wider audience than merely "Star Trek" fans.

But "Star Trek V" is for fans. (By the way, fans are now "Trekkers" instead of "Trekkies." But then, I suppose a Trekker is a grown-up Trekkie.)

There are more inside jokes here and certainly more homages — or is it rip-offs — to other fantasies, from "Star Wars" to "The Wizard of Oz."

The story is in familiar "Trek" territory, as a renegade Vulcan (Laurence Luckinbill) kidnaps the new — but unfinished and untested — Enterprise to go on a search beyond the "Great Barrier," where no starship has ever gone, to directly contact God, without the bothersome task of dying first.

There is a certain charm to "Star Trek V" in its ability to tackle one of life's "big questions" in a pompous, yet superficial manner, because that's exactly what the old TV series did all the time. Unfortunately, the film's second half gets a bit too ponderous as it turns serious and boredom begins to set in. It does bounce back before that becomes terminal, however.

But the first half is a Trekker's delight as Kirk, Spock and Bones (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley repeating their roles, of course) are vacationing in Yosemite when shore leave is canceled and they are called back to duty.

Among the things to look for — a cantina scene right out of "Star Wars" and the inefficient Enterprise, which seems an awful lot like Han Solo's Millennial Falcon; Spock using the Vulcan neck pinch on a horse, which may remind you of Alex Karras punching out a horse in "Blazing Saddles"; a couple of effective dramatic flashbacks used to flesh out the Spock and Bones characters; a reference by Kirk toward the end to the final moments of "Star Trek II"; a fan-dance done by sexy Uhura (Nichelle Nichols); an intimation of romance between Uhura and Scotty (James Doohan); and much more.

Among the supporting newcomers, Luckinbill is good as the Vulcan who fancies himself a Messiah, but David Warner has literally nothing to do.

As a first-time director, Shatner hasn't really found his way yet. Technically the film is in great shape and the special effects work well, but the humor is a bit overly broad and the drama a bit overly melodramatic, making for an uneven tone that is at times slightly jarring. On the whole, it's not a bad job, however. And let's remember the vast improvement Nimoy made in directing "Star Trek IV" compared to his job on "Star Trek III." Can "Star Trek VI" be that far off, after all?

Suffice it to say, if you're a "Star Trek" fan, you won't be disappointed in this latest entry. If you're not, consider yourself warned.

"Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" is rated PG for violence and profanity — more profanity than usual for this series but still not a great deal.