Let’s be real for one second: save for a monumental failure in a future installment, Star Trek’s fifth movie outing will always and forever be the worst movie in the series.
But just like any other hardcore fan, there are plenty of us Trekkies who still love Shatner’s disaster of a movie. It’s kind of like having a really ugly baby – you still gotta love it all the same.
Similar to the other lesser Trek movies, The Final Frontier still features plenty of things to love and enjoy. Let’s celebrate some of them!
A Golden Score
Great music has always been a constant across the series, and The Final Frontier was no exception. Quite the opposite actually. Returning after strong efforts from James Horner and Leonard Rosenman, legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith took back the reigns, reinstating the themes from The Motion Picture.
But this wasn’t just a copy and paste job. Goldsmith, in the midst of a resurgence thanks to the rise of synthesized music, added new layers to the old favourites, whilst also creating a sound that, while new, still sounded unmistakenly Trek.
The Final Frontier may be the worst Trek movie overall, but Goldsmith’s fine contribution is actually one of the finest scores in the series.
Go Climb A Rock
The Final Frontier was peak William Shatner. Literally.
Assuming the director’s chair after co-star/friend/rival Leonard Nimoy’s two movies, Shatner wanted his turn to be as bombastic as possible. How did he open his space movie? With an epic free solo ascent of the gigantic El Capitan at Yosemite Park.
But you know what? It was actually awesome. Beautifully filmed and accompanied by Goldsmith’s wonderful score, Shatner’s ego created a fitting reintroduction for the famous risk-taking starship captain.
Sure, the revelation of Spock’s secret sibling was an eye-roller (we’re used to it now though), but Laurence Luckinbill’s Sybok was actually a real highlight.
A zealot who had rejected the Vulcan pursuit of logic, Sybok was a very different kind of adversary for Kirk and crew, bought to life by Luckinbill’s charismatic (and actually rather likeable) performance.
The best original villains were always the ones who challenged the central trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and while not ultimately a baddie, Sybok was definitely a fun on-screen presence that acted as a great foil for our heroes.
Special Effects With Character
Right, I could be pushing things a bit here.
Of all the things wrong with The Final Frontier the movie’s shoddy special effects right at the top of the list. After Industrial Light and Magic we were simply spoiled with visual effects, but thanks to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade they were unavailable for another sequel.
Plan B was so bad they should have just waited.
But, as we’re looking at things through an optimistic lens, were they really that bad*? The effects did add a unique kind of character to the visuals. This was a low-tech vision of Trek, similar to what we saw in the original show, and that made it fun in a quaint kinda way.
“I Know This Ship Like The Back Of My Hand”
After the success of The Voyage Home it wasn’t really a surprise to see The Final Frontier doubling down on the comedy. For the most part it worked quite well here too with a number of humorous moments sprinkled throughout.
Most of the cast enjoyed a couple of fun moments, but it was Scotty who got all the best lines and moments, this famous moment arguably the pick of the bunch.
Journey To The Center of the Galaxy
At its heart Star Trek has always been an adventure show, so what’s more adventurous than, yknow, a trip to the centre of our galaxy?
Of course what we ultimately got was disappointing, but the premise of a potentially dangerous journey to one of the most mysterious parts of the cosmos was something we’d not seen before. Of course we were up for this adventure!
The journey through the barrier and arrival at Sha-Ka-Ree also made for some of the movie’s best visuals too. Win-win.
Shooting The Final Frontier
While not blessed with the strongest of special effects, The Final Frontier did benefit from a wealth of behind the camera talent. Looking to make his Trek the most epic to date, Shatner scored big by bringing Andrew Laszlo on board as the movie’s principle cinematographer.
Known for dark, gritty visuals, but also sweeping location shots, Laszlo’s skill and experience is apparent almost from the first frame in the form of the vast and barren desert of Nimbus III. Laszlo’s work is an underappreciated highlight of The Final Frontier.
The Power of Three
The Final Frontier failed with a lot of things, but inarguably its strongest aspect win was its unfaltering attention to the heart of Trek at the time: The core team of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. The holy trinity of the original series.
The Final Frontier makes the best use of this heart, with the iconic trio together for almost all of the movie’s 106-minute runtime. When they weren’t kicking intergalactic butt or escaping captivity, they were roasting a marshmallow or two and singing camping songs together in the woods.
Just what we want from our heroes.
The Magical Fruit
I didn’t know it at the time but it wasn’t the toasted marshmallows I’d grow to love; it was actually McCoy’s whiskey-infused camping beans.
What do you mean you haven’t tried them? You’re missing out big time.