1999 DVD - Image B Sound A-
SCE DVD - Image A Sound A Extras A
starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, James Doohan, Laurence Luckinbill
screenplay by David Loughery
directed by William Shatner
by Vincent Suarez On the heels of the wildly successful (and equally overrated) Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the Trek franchise seemed poised to become, of all things, a crossover phenomenon. That changed with the release of the financially disappointing and generally reviled (by critics and Trek fans alike) fifth installment, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which nearly killed the film series. Wisely, Paramount and producer Harve Bennett asked Nicholas Meyer, director of the magnificent Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, to helm Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, putting the series back on warp drive.
To be fair, any reviewer of a Trek film should acknowledge his/her degree of fondness for all things Trek. While I am a longtime fan of "Classic Trek "--the original series, depicting the adventures of Captain Kirk and crew--and of the films, I am not sufficiently immersed in Trekdom to know whether I qualify as a "Trekker" or a "Trekkie"; the nuances of the terminology, to which the truest fans are quite sensitive, evade me. Yet, while the nuances of filmmaking similarly evade Shatner (here making his directorial debut), I must admit that I find Star Trek V much more enjoyable and, dare I say, weighty, than do the majority of Trek fans. So, add a half-star to the above rating if you're a forgiving Trekker (or is it Trekkie?), and subtract a full star if you're among the many Shatner-bashers.
Star Trek V begins well enough, with a terrific pre-credits sequence (oddly, the only one in the film series) which effectively introduces Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill), a most interesting character. Sybok appears on the dusty horizon of Nimbus III and promptly enables an impoverished farmer to tap into his deepest feelings and face his particular brand of pain; in the sharing, the psychological wounds are healed. In an effort to repay Sybok for his services, the farmer agrees to join him on his quest, a journey in which the ultimate questions of sentient beings promise to be answered, and for which Sybok must hijack a starship. As he roars with laughter, Sybok lowers his hood and reveals his pointed ears, curiously identifying this emotional-healer as a Vulcan, the most dispassionate of beings.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film only occasionally lives up to the promise of this prologue. Star Trek V is riddled with what are easily the most embarrassing moments in the film series, and the opening camping sequence is no exception: Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelly) spend their shore leave in slapstick fashion, singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" around a campfire, commenting on the "explosiveness" of beans, and saying things like "mind if we drop in for dinner," after falling from a mountaintop. Later, we are treated to such inanities as a half-naked Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) singing while serving as a decoy to a group of villainous guards, and a truly pathetic moment in which Scotty (James Doohan, the strains of whose real-life relationship with Shatner are most evident in his treatment by the director) knocks himself unconscious on a structural beam just seconds after commenting on his remarkable knowledge of the Enterprise. While Star Trek IV was indeed a warmly humorous adventure, its comedy often arose organically from the fish-out-of-of-water situations in which the time-travelling crew found themselves. Here, these lame attempts at humour seem painfully forced, and are so poorly written and clumsily directed as to be groan-inducing.
Yet despite these numerous shortcomings, the main narrative thread of the plot is engaging. (A less interesting thread involves a renegade Klingon warrior who pursues the Enterprise in an effort to gain fame by defeating Kirk, only to unwittingly end up saving him.) Sybok, who has been banished from Vulcan for abandoning the logical ways of his people, lures the Enterprise to Nimbus III by kidnapping diplomatic representatives from the Federation and the Klingon and Romulan empires. Sybok uses his 'gift' of healing to sway the key members of Enterprise's crew to support him in navigating the ship to the centre of the universe, beyond the "Great Barrier" (presumably, the title's "final frontier"), where he hopes to meet God and learn the answers to the timeless questions of existence.
While the climax of the film (in which Sybok and company happen upon a malevolent creature who is certainly less than a God) is a rather pedestrian example of science-fiction, the true import of the film is in its exploration of the talent Sybok possesses. Sure, each of us has a secret pain, but what would it mean to confront it? Would doing so actually make us stronger? Would divorcing oneself of this pain be enlightening or, to paraphrase Kirk (who resists Sybok's healing), do we need our pain? Is it more than simple irony to suggest that one among a coldly logical race could master and, indeed, heal these complex emotions? These questions may not be the stuff of rich sci-fi, but they are interesting concepts nonetheless, and Star Trek V is to be credited for raising them, especially after the lightweight Star Trek IV.
Paramount's recently issued Star Trek V DVD is, like the film, a mixed bag. As with previous Trek DVDs, the disc features a newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack while employing the same transfer as that used for the earlier widescreen laserdiscs. The 5.1 track is, indeed, wonderful, nicely rendering Jerry Goldsmith's score (although the usually masterful Goldsmith makes an underwhelming return to the series--he scored the first Trek film--with passages that freely borrow from his compositions for Poltergeist, Alien, Total Recall, and even Planet of the Apes), and effectively reproducing sound effects and dialogue.
When, however, will studios like Paramount learn that, first and foremost, viewers are engaged by the image? (After all, while many home-theatre enthusiasts do not own 5.1 sound systems, we all have televisions, right?) I'm all for enhancing soundtracks with 5.1 remixes, but it's frustrating when image quality is left unenhanced, especially when the result is similar to that within this disc. While the benefits of DVD contribute to the improvement of some aspects of the old LaserDisc image (e.g., reds are more stable and details are frequently more evident), the non-anamorphic widescreen image of this DVD is often soft and occasionally overly grainy. What's more, this film's special effects are serviceable but generally unimpressive, and the transfer does nothing to make them more palatable.
Rounding out the disc is a typically (for Paramount) static menu, plus two uninspired trailers, with the teaser trailer containing more footage from the finished film than most films' theatrical trailers. All in all, not a bad effort for a not-bad film, but let's hope those rumoured remastered transfers come to fruition for the remaining Trek DVDs. Originally published: May 20, 1999
THE SPECIAL COLLECTOR'S EDITION DVD
by Bill Chambers Uhura's dance of seduction is riotously clear on Paramount's Special Collector's Edition DVD of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which contains a new, sparkling, anamorphic widescreen presentation of the film as well as a generous supply of extras. Though its colours skew a little closer to earth tones than previous Trek transfers, the image represents the finest an old-school Trek feature has yet looked on the format. (The unnecessary grain that plagued the unenhanced disc is a distant memory.) Audio (in Dolby Digital 5.1 again) remains scorchingly clear and occasionally thunderous, and it might even have been encoded with a bit more aplomb this time around. As far as the first platter's extras go, William Shatner and daughter Liz (co-author of Captain's Log: William Shatner's Personal Account of the Making of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) get so caught up in the on-screen action as to leave a disappointing amount of dead air in their yakker, though we do have another of Michael and Denise Okuda's enormously entertaining fact-tracks to shepherd us through the Spartan commentary terrain.
Disc 2's bonus material is organized by its peripheral or direct relation to the film. The Star Trek Universe is a swell assortment of featurettes that begins with "Herman Zimmerman: A Tribute" (19 mins.). Though the chronology gets a little confused (Star Trek V and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" are alternately credited as the production designer's first Trek assignment), this is a motivational doc about Zimmerman's work ethic and contributions to the franchise in which the titular subject volunteers his inspiring credo "There's always room at the top." Equally lofty but more likely to provoke laughter than thought, "Original Interview: William Shatner" (15 mins.) finds the erstwhile Kirk sitting on a Yosemite peak just prior to the start of principal photography drawing unsolicited comparisons between free-climbing and filmmaking; I don't know why, but I cracked up when the film ran out on him mid-sentence.
"Cosmic Thoughts" (13 mins.) is a valuable but disorganized compilation of interviews with noted members of the scientific community (including Ray Bradbury) on theology's place in the field of physics, its highlight being an analysis of the '60s "Star Trek" episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?" courtesy Ted Peters of the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. "That Klingon Couple" (13 mins.) zeroes in on actors Todd Bryant and Spice Williams, who played Trek V's flirtatious Klingon antagonists; funny as much for Bryant and Williams's zeal as for its utter superfluousness, the piece incorporates an omitted scene that, interestingly enough, is not repeated elsewhere in a section devoted to deleted footage. Lastly, "A Green Future?" (9 mins.) celebrates Yosemite, a location that granted access to the production of Star Trek V because, Zimmerman says, officials were tickled by the idea that the park would still be around 400 years from now.
The Production branch kicks off with producer Harve Bennett's 2-minute "pitch" to Paramount's marketing department wherein he tries to persuade them (and himself, probably) that Trek V is the Second Coming of Trekdom. The winning and bittersweet "The Journey" (29 mins.) contradicts Shatner's book Star Trek: Movie Memories in portraying Bennett's relationship with Shatner on Trek V as an amicable one, but this retrospective making-of does not gloss over the perceived failure of the film, for which F/X supervisor Mike Edmonson is ultimately (and rightly, sayeth this fan of the film's ambitions) held responsible. (The film's Ed Wood-level effects were the result of Edmonson biting off more than he could chew--some shots involving spacecraft are missing up to eighteen textural layers!) Shatner, whose tongue has otherwise finally deserted his cheek (he's in his element talking Trek V, at least outside the commentary), delivers a hilarious account of the misbegotten "Rock-Man" sequence, numerous tests for which we can see for ourselves in the wry "Rock-Man in the Raw" (6 mins.). The montages that comprise "Make-Up Tests" (9 mins.) and "Pre-Visualization Models" (2 mins.) might be more compelling were they not accompanied on the soundtrack by total silence, while the "Star Trek V Press Conference" (13 mins.) from 1988 is a squirm-inducing affair that finds the cast in their full Trek regalia fielding questions from apathetic reporters. Archives contains a 4-minute animated "Production Gallery" plus storyboards for the Shakari (sic), Face of God, and Escape passages, Deleted Scenes houses four rationally-decided elisions (a Mt. Rushmore gag here is not only painful, but also amateurishly executed), and Advertising provides a venue for two trailers (with sound cues obviously lifted from Star Wars) and seven TV spots. In terms of supplements, I think this is the best Trek set to date. Originally published: October 14, 2003.
1999 DVD - 105 minutes; PG; 2.35:1; English DD 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround; CC; DVD-9; Region One; Paramount
SCE DVD - 105 minutes; PG; 2.35:1 (16x9-enhanced); English DD 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround; CC; English subtitles; 2 DVD-9s; Region One; Paramount