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"The Enterprise is back. This time, have they gone too far?"
—The film's tagline.
With a brand-new Enterprise, Kirk and crew set out to resolve a hostage situation only to discover that they've been suckered as part of a grander scheme. Who's behind it? Why Spock's long-lost half-brother Sybok, of course! Sybok commandeers the Enterprise, winning over most of the crew by using his telepathic Epiphany Therapy on them. Failing to realize that there is No Such Thing as Space Jesus, Sybok makes them set a course for the center of the galaxy, where he believes God is waiting. With the bulk of his crew now working against him, Kirk must John McClane his way up the Enterprise armed with his wits, a pair of rocket boots... and Trek's very first fart joke.
Now it should be noted the movie's failings aren't all Shatner's fault. We can also thank Executive Meddling for all the forced "humor" and the 1988 WGA strike for short-circuiting the screenwriting, and the infamous Special Effect Failure was due to ILM being too busy with other projects to work on the film.
Still, the concept was Shatner's idea, and he knew about the studio's humor requirements before he even began work. Gene Roddenberry himself had expressed strong reservations about the pitch; He had good reason to be concerned, as he had previously written his own story about the crew meeting God and hated the result. But Shatner persisted with the idea of Kirk coming up against God and winning. Star Trek and religious topics have always been uneasy bedfellows; Deep Space Nine is the only series to pull it off, and Trekkies are divided on even that.
This movie isn't a total write-off, though: Star Trek V also features plenty of Character Development scenes between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (the Book Ends with the three camping are quite enjoyable), an absolutely brilliant backstory scene involving McCoy and his father, and has a collection of well imagined individual sequences such as Coming in Hot with a shuttlecraft.
Tropes seen in The Final Frontier include:
- The Alcatraz: That brig was, or so we were told.
- All There in the Manual: The Novelization by J.M. Dillard does a lot to redeem the movie's Idiot Plot, adding considerable backstory to Sybok and his mother, and explaining that "God" had telepathically sent Sybok a formula for configuring a starship's deflector shields to penetrate the Barrier. After Sybok orders Scotty to set up the Enterprise's shields in this way, Klaa's Bird-of-Prey copies the same shield configuration in order to follow the Enterprise.
- Agent Mulder & Agent Scully: Sybok and Kirk, respectively. McCoy goes from Scully to Mulder when they meet "God" and back to Scully when "God" starts being a dick.
- Amazonian Beauty: Vixis. As Chekov put it: "She has wonderful muscles" (by which he meant gluteus maximus).
- Armor-Piercing Question: 'What does God need with a starship?' Easily one of the most famous examples of this trope.
- Artists Are Not Architects: In one scene, the Enterprise is shown to have about twice as many decks as it could possibly contain, and they are numbered in reverse order for some reason.
- Ass in Ambassador: Inverted, unusually for Star Trek. St. John Talbot and Korrd are not unreasonable people (just incredibly jaded), and Caithlin Dar is downright nice (a rarity for Romulans, actually...).
- Attack Pattern Alpha: Played with.
- Behind the Black: Scotty, after claiming to know the ship like the back of his hand, concusses himself on a bit of bulkhead that sticks out from the wall. Whilst unseen by the audience before impact, Scotty was walking towards the bulkhead and, in fact, was looking right at it when he hit it.
- Big Damn Gunship: Spock, commanding a Klingon Bird of Prey, opens fire on "God" in order to rescue Kirk.
- Big Ego, Hidden Depths: Sybok. Cruelly invoked by "God", who takes the form of Sybok and mocks, "What's the matter? Don't you like this face? I have so many, but this one suits you best."
- Big No: SHOOT HIM!!!!
- Book Ends: Camping with the Power Trio.
- Call Back: Kirk states in the opening men like himself, Bones and Spock had no families. He later admits he was wrong.
- Can Not Tell a Lie: What Spock claims as proof that Kirk was not aboard the Enterprise. He was lying about not being able to lie, though he was telling the truth about where Kirk was at.
- Canon Dis Continuity: It's still technically part of the canon, but the events have never been directly referenced in another canonical Star Trek work again. Rumor has it the writers are specifically told not to as a matter of course. Gene Roddenberry said he considered some elements of the movie apocryphal, but he apparently never told anyone which ones.
- The novels, which are now vetted more thoroughly than they used to be, have featured Sybok exactly twice, both of them in the Myriad Universe novels, which take place entirely in alternate universes.
- The novels have also mentioned the God-like creature at the center of the Great Barrier; in the Q Continuum trilogy of novels, He referred to Himself as "The One", and was a contemporary of Big Bad, the Beta XIII-A entity, and Gorgon. The four of them were responsible for the destruction of the Tkon Empire. It is mentioned that pretending to be God and then using the resulting influence to drive civilizations to self-destruction is his entire schtick.
- Card-Carrying Villain: All of Klaa's actions are because...he's bored.
- Catch a Falling Star
- Catfolk/Catgirl: With three breasts. Defeated by Kirk when he throws her into a literal pool table.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The "comedy" disappears and the movie becomes much more serious once they begin their trip to the Great Barrier.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Both inverted and possibly played straight. While the obvious inversion is Sybok, who is revealed to be Spock's half-brother, we later have Kirk note he had a brother once, who he lost and was lucky enough to come back, referring to Spock's resurrection. However, the way Kirk says this sounds like he's forgotten he actually did have a brother who was lost, (George Kirk Jr), who was killed back in the classic series.
- Kirk most likely is referring to George, in that he's consoling Spock, who just lost a brother himself, and "how I got him back" isn't literal. This is hit home when McCoy pipes in.
McCoy: I thought men like us don't have families.
- Climb Slip Hang Climb: In the rock-climbing scene.
- Coming in Hot: "Plan B... as in Barricade"
- Creator Cameo: Harve Bennett sends Kirk off to investigate.
- Custom Uniform: Each of the Power Trio is given an alternative uniform, which looks not unlike a grey pullover/sweatshirt. Captain Kirk is also seen in a "Captain's Jacket" at one point, underneath which he wears a white t-shirt bearing the slogan "Go Climb A Rock".
- Darker and Edgier: Shatner wanted to depict an edgier future, so we got a desolate city named "Paradise", a barely functioning Enterprise, and the Star Trek Universe's one and only fart joke. Wow.
- Shatner was also (reportedly) never thrilled with Roddenberry's idea of a perfect future, so he had those elements to show a more "realistic" future.
- Death From Above: Kirk calls down some Close Air Support from the Enterprise in order to try and cover his escape from "God". While a photon torpedo should have been quite a bit more powerful than shown, it was still cool.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Or, in this case, shoot God with a torpedo and then a disruptor cannon.
- Epiphany Therapy
- Everyone Knows Morse
- Executive Meddling: Paramount forced Shatner to up the film's comedy quotient due to the previous film's success in that area. This results in severe Mood Whiplash between a grand, epic story about the search for god and slapstick farce.
- Fake Static: Done twice, once for laughs when Chekov pretends that there is a blizzard to avoid admitting he's lost, and once for drama when the Enterprise broadcasts static to delay talking to Sybok.
- False Innocence Trick: The Enterprise passes through the barrier around the heart of the galaxy and finds the legendary planet Sha Ka Ree, believed to be the home of God. When the protagonists find God he's apparently imprisoned there, and tries to trick them into helping him escape. A subversion, because Kirk figures out there's something funny going on and manages to get "God" to reveal his true evil nature before he gets away.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Literally, and proving that the Enterprise DOES have toilets. Just before Scotty's jailbreak, look at the stencil on the "chair" Kirk is sitting on. "WARNING: DO NOT USE WHILE IN SPACEDOCK".
- Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: Sybok's telepathy, which makes everyone he "treats" euphoric and immediately ready to join his cause.
- A God Am I: "One voice, many faces."
- God Test
- Glowing Eyes of Doom
- Heroic Sacrifice: Sybok, when he tries to mind meld with "God" so the others can escape.
- Hollywood Tone Deaf: Of the three schlubs failing to sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in sync, Kelley's singing got him into acting, Nimoy recorded a few albums, and... oh. Well, okay, one of them has an excuse. At least Spock is in tune.
- Horse With A Plastic Horn Glued To Its Face
- Hurricane of Puns: "I do not believe you realize the gravity of your situation," "I've always wanted to play to a captive audience," etc.
- I Have Many Names: As the alien claims "One voice, many faces". The planet is supposedly a location common to all mythologies as well.
- Inventional Wisdom: The "System Failure" light on Kirk's logbook.
- Jet Boots
- Kick the Dog: Klaa shoots down Earth's first deep space satellite.
- Kill Him Already: Kirk pulls this on Spock with Sybok, until he finds out that the two are half-brothers.
- Long-Lost Relative: Sybok.
- More Than Mind Control: Anyone who is "helped" by Sybok tends to follow him around like a puppet.
- Multi Boobage: The Cat Dancer.
- Nobody Poops: Averted, at very least whenever the Enterprise is not in spacedock.
- No One Gets Left Behind: Kirk orders McCoy and Spock to beam out first when the transporter conveniently can only beam up two at a time.
- The Only One: A twofer. As well as Kirk being supposedly the best person to send in for hostage negotiations, the Enterprise is apparently the only ship available to take him to Paradise. That's despite Kirk starting on Earth, home of one of Star Fleet's largest bases, and Enterprise's construction not actually being finished.
- The Nose Knows: In the turbolift as Kirk and crew return from their camping trip.
Kirk: I could use a shower.
- No Such Thing as Space Jesus
- Not the Fall That Kills You: Kirk falls several thousand feet down El Capitan only to be caught by Spock about a foot away from the ground.
- Path of Inspiration: Sybok's offer of internal peace.
- Pillar of Light: How "God" first appears.
- Plot Induced Stupidity: Sending a barely functioning, untested ship into a hostage situation when it doesn't even have functioning transporters. A Hand Wave was attempted by saying there were other ships around, but only Kirk had the experience. By that logic, they could have just sent a working ship to meet Kirk. Even Kirk thinks the reasoning is bullshit. Then again, it's just a hostage negotiation.
- The Pollyanna: You just get that vibe from Caithlin Dar.
- The Power of Friendship: (or The Power of Love if you so desire) Refusing to desert Kirk is what keeps Spock and McCoy from being brainwashed by Sybok.
- Power Trio: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, obviously. Notable as, while an important part of all of the movies and the show, this movie focuses on them as a trio more than any of the other movies.
- Precision F-Strike:
Spock: General, I require your assistance.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: The three ambassadors on Nimbus III (the reasons are noted in the novelization).
- Redemption Equals Death: Sybok's remaining lifespan goes down to about 15 seconds once he realizes the error of his ways.
- Remember the New Guy?: Sybok
- Not really. Kirk is actually surprised that Spock even has a brother.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: At least they didn't go with Shatner's original idea of going to the center of the universe.
- Not necessarily an example of the trope. Ships were a lot faster in the original series and other movies set in the same time frame than they were in later material. They could travel to the edge of the galaxy and back in a very small amount of time or map every gas anomaly in the Beta Quadrant in a few months.
- Also, the Pioneer probe blown up by the Klingons had been traveling at only a tiny fraction of lightspeed from Earth for 300 years, meaning the Klingons would have to be pretty deep within Federation space to encounter it. Of course, these Klingons were explicitly looking for a fight, so it's not unreasonable that they were deep in Federation space.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: "God"
- Shout-Out: One of the names of the planet where they find "God", Sha Kaa Ree, comes from Sean Connery's name.
- Show Some Leg: Uhura doing a nude fan dance.
- Space Marine: A squad is seen on the shuttle. They do nothing and say nothing.
- Stock Footage: See above.
- Stuff Blowing Up: A real-life example, not just in the movie. Because they were filming during a union strike, one of the production's trucks "mysteriously" blew up.
- Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The being they meet on the other side of the barrier.
- That Was Not a Dream: "I dreamt that a madman had taken over the Enterprise!"
- "They Don't Make Them Like They Used To," Scotty says of Enterprise-A.
- Time for Plan B
- Understatement: "The Klingons will not be happy." Pointed out as such by Sybok.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Implied to be between Uhura and Scotty.
- Villainous Breakdown: After having been blasted with a photon torpedo, "God" come out of it as this rather goofy distorted face exclaiming "YOOOOOUUUUU! while floating after Kirk.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Probably the saddest thing about Sybok is that he's sincere. He honestly wants to help people, he honestly wants to do good, and he actually stands up to what he believes is God to demand to know why his "friends" are being hurt.
- Wretched Hive: Nimbus III is a godawful hellhole.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: The film's rather mundane opening scene.
- You're Insane!: Kirk tells this to Sybok, who replies "Am I?", apparently genuinely considering it.