Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989 Movies)
Director:- William Shatner
Producer:- Harve Bennett
Music by:- Jerry Goldsmith
June 9, 1989
Country:- United States
Budget:- $33 Million
Box office:- $63 Million
The crew of the newly commissioned USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A) are enjoying shore leave after the starship’s shakedown cruise goes poorly. At Yosemite National Park James T. Kirk, recently demoted back to Captain after the events of the previous two films, is camping with Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy. Their leave is interrupted when the Enterprise is ordered by Starfleet Command to rescue human, Klingon, and Romulan hostages on the planet Nimbus III. Learning of the Enterprise‘s mission, the Klingon Captain Klaa decides to pursue Kirk for personal glory.
On Nimbus III, the Enterprise crew discovers that renegade Vulcan Sybok, Spock’s half-brother, is behind the hostage crisis. Sybok reveals the hostage situation was a ruse to lure a starship to Nimbus III. Sybok wants to use a ship to reach the mythical planet Sha Ka Ree, the place where creation began; the planet lies behind a seemingly impenetrable barrier near the center of the galaxy. Sybok uses his unique ability to reveal and heal the innermost pain of a person through the mind meld to subvert the wills of the hostages and crew members. Only Spock and Kirk prove resistant to Sybok; Spock is unmoved by the experience and Kirk refuses the Vulcan’s offer, telling him that his pain is what makes him human. Sybok reluctantly declares a truce with Kirk, realizing he needs his leadership experience to navigate the Enterprise to Sha Ka Ree.
The Enterprise successfully breaches the barrier, pursued by Klaa’s vessel, and discovers a lone blue planet. Sybok, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy journey to the surface, where Sybok calls out to his perceived vision of God. An entity appears, and when told of how Sybok breached the barrier, demands that the starship be brought closer to the planet. When a skeptical Kirk inquires, “What does God need with a starship?”, the entity attacks him in retribution. The others doubt a god who would inflict harm on people for pleasure.
Realizing his foolishness, Sybok sacrifices himself in an effort to combat the creature and allow the others to escape. Intent on stopping the being, Kirk orders the Enterprise to fire a photon torpedo at their location, to little effect. Spock and McCoy are beamed back to the ship, but Klaa’s vessel attacks the Enterprise before Kirk can be transported aboard. The vengeful entity reappears and tries to kill Kirk when Klaa’s vessel destroys it in a hail of fire. Kirk is beamed aboard the Klingon ship, where Spock and the Klingon General Korrd force Klaa to stand down. The Enterprise and Klingon crews celebrate a new détente, and Kirk, Spock, and McCoy resume their vacation at Yosemite.
- William Shatner as James T. Kirk. Shatner practiced aerobics and strength training daily to prepare for the role. The physical activity and directing duties meant he woke at 4 a.m. every day during filming, no matter what time he fell asleep.
- Leonard Nimoy as Spock, the Enterprise‘s half-Vulcan, half human science officer. Nimoy noted The Final Frontier was the most physical film in the series, which reflected Shatner’s energetic sensibility and what he enjoyed doing most on the show — “running and jumping”. Nimoy recalled Shatner’s attempts to instruct him in riding a horse, although Nimoy had ridden many horses bareback when playing American Indian roles for Republic Pictures serials.
- DeForest Kelley as Leonard McCoy, chief medical officer. Kelley also noted the physicality required for the film and enjoyed doing things that he had not been asked to do in years. “I was very pleased to see that he [Shatner] brought it along in fine style,” he said. Kelley noted that his own ambition to direct had deserted him after seeing difficulties Nimoy faced directing the previous two Star Trek films.
- Laurence Luckinbill plays Sybok. Sean Connery was originally contacted to star in the role, but was busy with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Shatner discovered Luckinbill by chance; channel surfing late one night, he saw him perform as Lyndon Baines Johnson. When Shatner called to offer him the role, Luckinbill accepted immediately.
The other members of the USS Enterprise-A crew include chief engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan), helmsman Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), navigator Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), and communications officer Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). Takei said that despite studio pressure to complete the film on time, Shatner maintained a creative and enthusiastic atmosphere on set. “I have enormous admiration for his ability to block that kind of pressure from seeping on to the set.” Takei said that he found the biggest challenge of the film was learning to ride horses. Moreover, Takei acknowledged, “despite our sometimes strained personal history, I found working with Bill [Shatner] as a director to be surprisingly pleasant.”
Principal photography began in October 1988, in and around Los Angeles, California. Shortly before the beginning of location shooting, Hollywood union truck drivers or teamsters went on strike to protest pay cuts and overtime changes. With deadlines looming, the production searched for non-union drivers, aware that the Teamsters might retaliate by sabotaging equipment or flying airplanes above the filming to ruin audio recordings. After one of the production’s camera trucks exploded in the studio parking lot, the non-union drivers headed to Yosemite National Park under cover of darkness with a police escort.
The film’s Yosemite scenes were all shot on location. Long shots of Kirk scaling the mountain were filmed with stunt doubles, while Shatner’s closer shots had him on a fiberglass set positioned in front of the camera, with the real mountains visible in the background. Aided by two trainers, Shatner had spent weeks at the Paramount lot, learning to climb a wooden replica. Laszlo scouted out a tall peak on which the production created a rock face with safety net. The overhead shot gave the impression Kirk was climbing at a great height, while unnatural background features such as swimming pools were camouflaged. In the scene, Spock watches Kirk’s ascent, and saves him when he slips and falls using levitating boots. Most of the shots framed Nimoy from the waist up; in these scenes the actor was supported by a crane that gave the appropriate “float” to achieve the effect. Bluescreen footage of Shatner falling was shot later at Paramount and composited, while stuntman Ken Bates set a record for the highest American descender fall by plummeting off El Capitan — with a wire support rig — for long shots. In reviewing the dailies of the first two days of shooting, the production realized that a pine tree in the frame during Kirk and Spock’s mountain dialogue ruined the illusion of height, while a shot of Shatner clinging to the face of El Capitan appeared muddy due to clouds obscuring the sun and ruining the depth of field. The scenes had to be reshot later.
After the Yosemite shots, location shooting moved to desert locales. Nimbus II and its town, Paradise City, were recreated in the Mojave. The town was created as a haphazard collection of spaceship parts and futuristic scrap. Shatner “cracked” during the filming in 110 °F (43 °C) heat, insulting the head electrician and ignoring Laszlo’s request for additional setup time. When a driver failed to appear and stranded Shatner and a skeleton crew, a park ranger came to the rescue and the production managed to film scenes of Sybok’s followers before they lost daylight. Shatner called the resulting half-jogging pace of the dehydrated extras “the Sybok shuffle”. The production spent three more weeks filming the rest of the desert scenes, finishing the last night scene shortly before sunrise and the trip back to Los Angeles.
At Paramount, the crew filmed all the scenes that would take place on soundstages, including the Enterprise and Bird-of-Prey sets, the Paradise City interiors, and the campfire location. Production was smoother on set, and the crew shot scenes ahead of schedule. The crew fabricated a stand-in set for the God planet location, where additional scenes were filmed to combine with the location footage. Spock’s catching of Kirk as the captain falls off El Capitan was filmed against a set that replicated the forest floor and was rotated ninety degrees.
Shatner scheduled the campfire scenes to be the last ones shot, after which the cast and crew had a small celebration before a traditional wrap party later. The cast celebrated the end of filming in the last week of December 1988, and gave a press conference on the set of the Enterprise bridge on December 28. Shatner returned to Paramount Studios a few days after principal photography had wrapped to organize the film’s post-production schedule. This included showing a rough cut of the film — minus the special effects — to studio personnel. Shatner recalled that the film received praise and left the screening “reveling” in its reception; it turned out to be a “momentary victory” once he saw the special effects.
During the writers’ strike, producer Ralph Winter confronted what writer Paul Mandell termed an “unenviable” effects situation. Industrial Light & Magic had provided the effects for the three previous Star Trek films, and Winter wanted them to work on The Final Frontier. However, all of the effects house’s best technicians were busy working on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Ghostbusters II. With a stretched budget and short timeframe, Winter had to look elsewhere. To save time and money, he planned to create as many effects as he could either on stage, or through camera trickery. The producers solicited test footage from various effects houses to judge which was best able to create the film’s main effects, including the planet Sha Ka Ree and the godlike being which resided there. Bran Ferren‘s effects company Associates and Ferren was picked. Ferren had worked on films such as Altered States and Little Shop of Horrors; hiring the New York-based studio made The Final Frontier the first film in the Star Trek series produced on both the east and west coasts of the United States.
Associates and Ferren had three months to complete the effects work — around half the usual industry timeframe. Shatner insisted on viewing lots of test footage before he proceeded with each shot, requesting time-consuming changes if he did not like an effect. Ferren promoted a “low-tech” approach to realizing complicated effects, but his cost estimates were too expensive and interfered with the scope of other live-action sequences. Winter recalled that the production had budgeted $4 million for the film’s effects, slightly more than The Voyage Home. “The first pass”, he said, “with all the things [Shatner] wanted, was [$5 or $6] million”. Combined with Ferren’s figures, the film’s budget climbed to $33 million. The studio called a meeting with executives and began cutting out effects shots.
To reduce the optical effects workload, Ferren rejected bluescreen compositing, opting instead for rear projection. This cheaper process, he reasoned, would save time, and would make sense for elements such as the Enterprise‘s bridge viewer, where compositing would lack the softness of a real transmitted image. Designer Lynda Weinman used a Mac II to create the animatics cut into the film during production, which were eventually replaced by the film’s finished effects.
The rock monster climax of the film was ultimately dropped due to difficulties during filming. The monster, dubbed the Rockman, was a large latex rubber suit that breathed fire on command. Effects personnel smoked cigarettes and blew smoke into the suit’s tubing, loading it with smoke that it would slowly emit, obscuring some obvious rubber parts. On the last day of location shooting, the Rockman began suffering mechanical problems; the suit stopped breathing fire, and the desert wind dissipated the smoke. The result, Shatner wrote, was that “our guy in the silly rubber suit ultimately just looked like … well, a guy in a silly rubber suit.” With no time to return to the location, Shatner was forced to get wide shots and hope that the setting could be reproduced in the studio, but admitted that it was likely it was not going to work for the film.
Once back at the studio for non-location filming, Shatner and Ferren met to discuss how to replace the Rockman. The agreed-upon idea was an “amorphous blob of light and energy” that would rise up and chase after Kirk, shape-shifting while in pursuit. The visuals took weeks before they were ready to be shown after the completion of principal photography. When Shatner saw the effects, however, he was extremely disappointed with the low quality. Bennett and Shatner attempted to get money to reshoot the final scenes of the film, but Paramount turned them down.
ILM delivered the main Enterprise model, which was built by Magicam in 1978 for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, to Associates and Ferren. However, scenes which included the Enterprise in the Earth-orbiting Spacedock platform, as well as the Spacedock itself, were taken directly from ILM’s previous work in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The Enterprise model had been damaged when it was loaned out for touring purposes, meaning the 30,000 panels on the model had to be repainted by hand. While production wrapped, Ferren continued work on the miniatures and other optical effects at his New Jersey studio. The opticals were completed in Manhattan before being sent west; for example, bluescreen footage of the motion controlled miniatures was filmed in Hoboken, New Jersey. In New York, the blue screen was replaced by a moving starfield — a single finished shot of a ship moving through space required as many as fifty pieces of film. The Great Barrier effects were created using chemicals, which were dropped into a large water tank to create swirls and other reactions. The “God column”, in which the false god appeared, was created by a rapidly rotating cylinder through which light was shone; the result appeared on film as a column of light. Ferren used a beam splitter to project actor George Murdock’s head into the cylinder, giving the appearance that the false god resided within the column.
Music critic Jeff Bond wrote that Shatner made “at least two wise decisions” in making The Final Frontier; beyond choosing Luckinbill as Sybok, he hired Jerry Goldsmith to compose the film’s score. Goldsmith had written the Academy Award-nominated score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the new Trek film was an opportunity to craft music with a similar level of ambition while adding action and character — two elements largely missing from The Motion Picture. Goldsmith did not want to accentuate the film’s comedy with music, feeling it would “[take] drama to the point of silliness”. He focused on the God planet as his most difficult task.
Goldsmith’s main theme begins with the traditional opening notes from Alexander Courage‘s original television series theme; an ascending string and electronic bridge leads to a rendition of the march from The Motion Picture. According to Jeff Bond, Goldsmith’s use of The Motion Picture‘s march led to some confusion among Star Trek: The Next Generationfans, as they were unfamiliar with the music’s origins. Another theme from The Motion Picture to make a return appearance is the Klingon theme from the 1979 film’s opening scene. Here, the theme is treated in what Bond termed a “Prokofiev-like style as opposed to the avant-garde counterpoint” as seen in The Motion Picture. Goldsmith also added a crying ram’s horn.
The breadth of The Final Frontier‘s locations led Goldsmith to eschew the two-themed approach of The Motion Picture in favor of leitmotifs, recurring music used for locations and characters. Sybok is introduced with a synthesized motif in the opening scene of the film, while when Kirk and Spock discuss him en route to Nimbus III it is rendered in a more mysterious fashion. The motif also appears in the action cue as Kirk and company land on Nimbus III and try to free the hostages. When Sybok boards the Enterprise, a new four-note motif played by low brass highlights the character’s obsession. The Sybok theme from then on is used in either a benevolent sense or a more percussive, dark rendition. Arriving at Sha Ka Ree, the planet’s five-note theme bears resemblance to Goldsmith’s unicorn theme from Legend; “the two melodies represent very similar ideas: lost innocence and the tragic impossibility of recapturing paradise,” writes Bond. The music features cellos conveying a pious quality, while the appearance of “God” begins with string glissandos but turns to a dark rendition of Sybok’s theme as its true nature is exposed. As the creature attacks Kirk, Spock and McCoy, the more aggressive Sybok theme takes on an attacking rhythm. When Spock appeals to the Klingons for help, the theme takes on a sensitive character before returning to a powerful sequence as the ship destroys the god-creature.
The original soundtrack for the film was originally released by Epic Records, and included nine score tracks (mostly out of film order) and the song “The Moon Is a Window to Heaven” by Hiroshima. On Tuesday November 30, 2010, La-La Land Records reissued the soundtrack in a 2-CD edition featuring the film’s complete score on the first disc and the original soundtrack album and some alternate cues on the second disc.
Mark Mangini served as The Final Frontier‘s sound designer; he had previously worked on The Voyage Home. Because Mangini was concerned about creating continuity within Star Trek‘s sounds, he decided to reuse some effects rather than create new and different-sounding ones — as such, the Bird of Prey’s cloak effect, beaming sounds, and the Enterpriseengines sound similar to past movies. Mangini collaborated with Shatner to work out how the completely new effects would sound. For Sybok’s mind melds, Shatner wanted the sounds of beating hearts and breathing.
Mangini was also responsible for the film’s foley and dialogue replacement; foley editors created background audio in sync with actions on screen to enrich the soundscape. The sound of Klingons walking, for example, was conveyed with chains and leather for a “rough” sound.
The Final Frontier was expected to be one of the summer’s biggest movies and a sure hit, despite its appearing in a market crowded with other sequels and blockbusters such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II and Batman. Never before had so many sequels been released at the same time. Analysts expected The Final Frontier to make nearly $200 million.
Marketing included an MS-DOS computer game, part of an increasing trend of game tie-ins to movies. J.M. Dillard wrote the film’s novelization, which was on The New York Times Best Seller list for four weeks. Paramount sold Star Trek-branded apparel through catalogues, and Kraft made a Star Trek-branded marshmallow dispenser. While Star Trek had a built-in fan market, marketing tie-ins were risky at the time and even high-grossing films could not guarantee success of related merchandise. Unlike other summer blockbusters, Star Trek had no mass-market appeal and no major food or beverage promotions, but sold pins and posters in theaters, bypassing retailers.
In its first week, The Final Frontier was number one at the domestic box office. Its $17.4 million opening on 2,202 screens beat the $16.8 million total of The Voyage Home and made it the best Star Trek opening weekend to that point. The Voyage Home, however, had played in only 1,349 theaters at a time with lower ticket prices. In its second week The Final Frontier tumbled 58% to make $7.1 million; in its third week it grossed only $3.7 million. It had a wide release of ten weeks, shorter than that of any Star Trek film before it.
The Final Frontier grossed $49,566,330 in the domestic box office for a global total of $63 million. The season proved to be another record-breaker for the film industry, with domestic summer box-office revenues of $2.05 billion. The Final Frontier was the season’s tenth-best-grossing film, although it failed to make expected returns. It and Pink Cadillac were the early summer’s biggest box-office disappointments.