William Shatner takes the directorial reigns from Leonard Nimoy and follows one of the most popular Star Trek films with one of the most loathed. I’m not going to try to pretend the film doesn’t have some major problems. A deeply slashed budget is obvious on screen. The effects and costumes are or a noticeably lower quality. And there are a couple groaners from Shatner (the whole ‘I’ll die alone’ bit). But I’d argue that this film has enough heart to make it worth a another look.
The ostensible plot is about a religious leader taking hostages in order to commandeer a ship, the Enterprise and crew getting wrapped up in it, and a journey to the center of the galaxy. I still think the reveal that Sybok is Spock’s brother is unfortunate. It muddies the water in unnecessary ways and requires some awkward ret-conning.
The real story of this film, however, is about aging, becoming irrelevant, and the meaning of friendship and family. Characters must come to terms with their mortality, with the universe moving on, with their legacy. Even the supposed villain of the film, Sybok, is trying to make a mark on the universe, trying to give his life (and others’) meaning. He’s not trying to conquer or destroy. He’s trying to bring enlightenment to the greater universe.
I like that Sybok doesn’t throw away his philosophy and become a mustache twirling villain, just so that Kirk and the audience can feel good about punching him into submission (see: “Star Trek Into Darkness”). He remains true to his heart, even when he sees that his goal was misguided. He’s shaken and remorseful, and ultimately takes responsibility for his actions. How often does that happen?
The climax of the movie is pretty lackluster, though very reminiscent of an episode of classic Star Trek. But this film isn’t about its fragile framework of a plot. It’s about the characters and the emotions. Maybe it had no place being a cinematically released film. But I think the Kirk, Spock, and McCoy triumvirate is at its best here. Frankly, I think they might have been better off not including the rest of the original cast, and maybe the Enterprise, and just had it be about the three, Sybok and the journey.
Again, the film is rife with problems. Many of them are production issues, but some are script and acting problems (that Romulan…Oh, man, she’s not good). But I think the movie has more to offer than it’s been given credit for. You’ve just got to check your cynicism at the door for this one. The film wears its heart on its sleeve.
Check out my In the Mouth of Dorkness co-founder Brad’s article on TrekNews.Net (http://www.treknews.net/2016/04/01/star-trek-v-screening-alamo-drafthouse-report/) about the screening of “Star Trek V” that he helped make happen. I was there, and I can attest that magic happened. A lot of people went in poo-pooing the film, and a lot of folks came out with a new take on it.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter, where I do like to gab about Star Trek, at @TheOmegaDork.
And you can help me write my first novel and build a tabletop roleplaying game over on my Patreon page, too.