Trek V: The Final Frontier is a 1989 American science fiction film
released by Paramount Pictures. It is the fifth feature in the
franchise and the penultimate to star the cast of the original Star
Trek science fiction television series. Taking place shortly after
the events of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the plot follows the
crew of the USS Enterprise-A as they confront a renegade Vulcan,
Sybok, who is searching for God at the center of the galaxy. Laurence
Luckinbill plays Sybok. 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 film was directed by
cast member William Shatner, following two films directed by his
co-star, Leonard Nimoy. Shatner also developed the initial storyline
in which Sybok searches for God but instead finds Satan. Series
creator Gene Roddenberry disliked the original script, while Nimoy
and DeForest Kelley objected to the premise that their characters,
Spock and Leonard McCoy, would betray Shatner's James T. Kirk. The
script went through multiple revisions to please the cast and studio,
including cuts in the effects-laden climax of the film. Despite a
writers' guild strike cutting into the film's pre-production,
Paramount commenced filming in October 1988.
Many Star Trek veterans
assisted in the production; art director Nilo Rodis developed the
designs for many of the film's locales, shots and characters, while
Herman Zimmerman served as production designer. Production problems
plagued the film on set and during location shooting in Yosemite
National Park and the Mojave Desert. As effects house Industrial
Light & Magic's best crews were busy and too expensive, the
production used Bran Ferren's company for the film's effects, which
had to be revised several times to keep down costs. The film's ending
was reworked because of poor test audience reaction and the failure
of planned special effects. Jerry Goldsmith, composer for Star Trek:
The Motion Picture, returned to score The Final Frontier.
The Final Frontier was
released in North America on June 9th, 1989, amidst a summer box
office crowded with sequels and blockbuster films. It had the highest
opening gross of any film in the series at that point and was number
one its first week at the box office, but its grosses quickly dropped
in subsequent weeks. The film received generally mixed or poor
reviews by critics on release, and according to its producer, it
nearly killed the franchise. The next entry in the series, Star Trek
VI: The Undiscovered Country, received a more positive reception.
the 19661969 Star Trek television series, Shatner and Nimoy's
lawyers drafted what Shatner termed a "favored nations
clause", with the result that whatever Shatner received - e.g.,
a pay raise or script control - Nimoy also got and vice versa. Nimoy
had directed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV:
The Voyage Home. Shatner had previously directed plays and television
episodes; when he signed on for The Voyage Home following a pay
dispute, Shatner was promised he could direct the next film.
Shatner conceived his idea
for the film's story before he was officially given the director's
job. His inspiration was televangelists; "They [the
televangelists] were repulsive, strangely horrifying, and yet I
became absolutely fascinated," he recalled. Shatner was
intrigued that not only did these personalities convince others God
was speaking directly to them, but they became wealthy by what
Shatner considered false messages. The televangelists formed the
basis for the character "Zar", later "Sybok".
Shatner's first outline was titled "An Act of Love", and
many of its elements, the Yosemite vacation, the abduction of
Klingon, human and Romulan hostages on the failed paradise planet,
survived to the final film. In Shatner's early draft, Kirk is
overwhelmed by Zar's superior numbers of followers and Spock, McCoy
and the rest of the Enterprise crew come to believe in Zar's
divinity. Kirk feigns acceptance of Zar's beliefs to travel with him
to the God planet, which to Shatner would be a desolate, fiery waste.
When Kirk confronts "God", the image of the being
transforms into that of Satan, and Kirk, Spock, and McCoy split up in
their escape. Kirk eludes capture but goes back to save his friends
from being carried away to Hell.
Shatner had presented his
idea to studio head Frank Mancuso while filming The Voyage Home.
Mancuso liked Shatner's idea and agreed to hire a writer to draft a
film treatment. Shatner wanted novelist Eric Van Lustbader, but
negotiations between Lustbader and Paramount failed over the author's
requested $1 million salary. Shatner dictated the story himself and
gave it to Paramount's production president Ned Tanen for input.
Harve Bennett was exhausted by his work on the previous three Star
Trek films and wanted to move on, feeling that he was not part of the
"Star Trek" family and that he had been mistreated by
Nimoy. When Shatner tried to convince Bennett to reconsider, the
producer insisted on a meeting at his home. After several hours of
discussion Bennett agreed to return. Bennett disagreed with several
elements of Shatner's story, feeling that because no one could
assuredly answer the question of God's existence, the ending of the
film would never be satisfying. Bennett also told Shatner that the
film had the feeling of a tone poem rather than an adventure story.
The studio agreed with Bennett, reasoning that the subject matter
could be too weighty or offensive to theatergoers.
Shatner and Bennett began
reworking the story. Concerned that knowing the renegade Sybok's
motivation from the beginning of the story was anticlimactic, the
team moved the revelation to later in the story. Shatner said that
Bennett also suggested turning the God entity into an "evil
alien pretending to be God for his own gain". Having satisfied
themselves and Paramount with the adjustments, Shatner and Bennett
approached Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan writer and director
Nicholas Meyer to pen the script, but he was unavailable. Bennett
found a script by David Loughery and showed his work to Shatner, who
agreed that he would be a good fit for the task of scripting Star Trek.
Not everyone was happy with
the story. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry objected to the
characters' search for God in general, and more particularly, the
idea of a God as portrayed by Western religion. One of Roddenberry's
employees suggested some of his employer's animosity towards the
story stemmed back to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Roddenberry had
wanted to approach that film with similar ideas that investigated the
nature of God but was rejected by Paramount. Roddenberry, Nimoy and
Kelley all disagreed that Spock and McCoy would betray Kirk, which
Loughery explained was done to give a conflict in which "one man
stands alone" from the rest.
Loughery stopped work on
the script when the Writers Guild of America went on strike, and the
production was further delayed when Nimoy began working on another
project. During this time, Shatner reconsidered elements of the Star
Trek V story; he made Sybok's character softer and more sympathetic.
When the writers' strike ended Loughery returned to work on the
script while Shatner flew to the Himalayas for a job. When he
returned, he felt betrayed by Loughery's revisions, which he felt
transformed the search for God into the search for the mythical
paradise Sha Ka Ree (a word play on "Sean Connery", whom
they wanted for Sybok's role). Though Shatner convinced Bennett and
Loughery to revise much of the script, Sha Ka Ree remained; it was
changed to a place of ultimate knowledge of which Sybok had received
visions. The script was also rewritten to address Nimoy and Kelley's concerns.
Roddenberry, Kelley and Nimoy gave their approval to the revised
script, Paramount was concerned that the film would go over-budget as
written and ordered cuts. Shatner's envisioned angels and demons at
the film's climax were converted to rock monsters that the false god
would animate from the earth. Shatner wanted six of the creatures,
but was forced to accept just one. Concerned that the franchise's
momentum following The Voyage Home had disappeared, Paramount rushed
the film into production in late 1988 despite the writers' strike
cutting into pre-production.
Nilo Rodis, who had worked
on several Star Trek features, was appointed the role of art
director, and worked with Shatner to establish the film's visual
design. Shatner sought a grittier and more realistic feel to the Star
Trek universe, and so the two worked together to visualize the film
from start to finish. After Shatner explained the entire story in a
day-long session, Rodis went home and sketched out each scene from
the script. Shatner was pleased with the results, especially with
Rodis' designs for Shatner's most expansive or dramatic shots.
Rodis's input in developing
the early character and costume designs was significant. Shatner
praised his costume designs as being futuristic but plausible and in
keeping with the continuity established in previous Star Trek films.
After being disappointed by the costume designers approached to
realize Rodis' ideas, Shatner suggested that Rodis become the costume
designer as well. Bennett hired Dodie Shepard as the costume
supervisor; Shepard's role was to oversee the costume fabrication and
keep track of the clothes during filming. To save on costs, Shepard
clothed extras with existing items from Western Costume's warehouses.
The constrained budget meant Shatner could not completely redesign
the Starfleet uniforms, but Rodis created new brown field uniforms
for the film's location scenes as well as the leisure clothes the
crew wears during shore leave.
and Shatner also drew up sketches of what the various aliens seen in
the film would look like. Shatner picked Kenny Myers as the
special-effects makeup artist. Myers discussed the sketches with
Shatner and made casts of actors' faces using dental alginate. These
casts were used for close-up, high-quality "A" makeups, as
well as less complicated masks for far-away and background
characters. Shatner hired Richard Snell as makeup supervisor,
advising him to make each Klingon forehead distinct.
Shatner hired Herman
Zimmerman as production designer. His decision was based on
Zimmerman's work on the sets for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and
he felt that the designer could convey Shatner's futuristic yet
grounded aesthetic. Zimmerman was immediately put in charge of
designing all-new sets for the Klingon Bird of Prey bridge, the
Enterprise's bridge, elevator shafts and bowels, and Nimbus III
interiors. At one point, he was building five sets at once. Art
department head Michael Okuda created LCARS backlit controls on the
Klingon ship and Enterprise. The corridors for the Enterprise were
the same as those used in the Next Generation television series. The
bridge set alone cost $250,000. The Nimbus III city of Paradise was
one of the last locations to be designed and created, because its
design relied on what exterior location and terrain was used.
Zimmerman created a sketch of the town's layout over three days,
drawing inspiration from a circular Moroccan fortress. Creation of
the city cost $500,000 and took five weeks of construction in 100
°F (38 °C) heat.
Tim Downs scouted possible
areas for location filming. He looked for a location that could stand
in for three different venues without the production having to move
or change hotels: the film's opening scene; the God planet's
establishing shots; and the Nimbus III Paradise City. Downs was
familiar with the Mojave desert and thought that locations near
Ridgecrest, California, would serve the production's needs, so he
took photos based on sketches Rodis had provided of what the
locations might look like. Downs also shot photos with filters and
tried to accomplish dust effects with his car to replicate ideas for
how some of the film sequences would be shot. When Downs returned
with the photos, Shatner felt that the locations the scout found
would be perfect for the film.
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 III 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 28th. Shatner returned to Paramount Studios a few days
after principal photography had wrapped to organize the film's
postproduction 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 previous three Star Trek
films, and Winter wanted them to work on The Final Frontier. However,
the effects house's best technicians were 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 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.
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 of
the suit's 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.
the 1999 film Galaxy Quest, a group of TV actors who once starred in
the titular sci-fi series are shanghaied from the convention circuit
by a group of fans. These fans happen to be Thermians from outer
space, who believe the crew's exploits in the series to be historical
documents and recruit them to help negotiate a real conflict with an
alien warlord. Tim Allen stars, lampooning William Shatner's renowned
hubris, in the form of the jaded Jason Nesmith. His co-stars resent
him deeply for being the most instantly recognisable actor on the
show, and the most sought-after booking for the conventions they now
have to make a living from. Galaxy Quest pays tribute to the sequence
Shatner had to cut from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, by including
a battle with a giant rock monster called Gorignak. With tongue
presumably in cheek, Shatner reacted by saying ,"I don't know
what Tim Allen was doing. He seemed to be the head of a group of
actors and, for the life of me, I was trying to understand who he was imitating."
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 disappointed with the
low quality. Bennett and Shatner attempted to get money to reshoot
the ending of the film, but Paramount turned them down.
ILM delivered the main
Enterprise model, which was built by Magicam in 1978 for the first
movie, 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.
Days after filming was
completed, Shatner returned to Paramount to supervise the film's
edit, soundscape creation and score, and integration of optical
effects. Editor Peter E. Berger had already assembled rough cuts of
various sequences, and with only weeks before the film's scheduled
completion, the production team set about the task of salvaging the
film's ending through editing. The false god's screen time was
reduced, and Ferren's "god blob" effect was replaced with a
closeup of the actor's face, along with shots of lightning and smoke.
At the time, Shatner felt that the edits "pulled a rabbit out of
a hat", solving many of the film's problems.
Shatner's cut ran slightly
over two hours (not including end credits or the opticals), which
Paramount thought was too long. Their target runtime was one hour
forty-five minutes, which would guarantee twice-nightly theatrical
screenings. Bennett was handed the task of shortening the film's
running time, despite Shatner's view that nothing could possibly be
removed. Shatner was horrified by Bennett's edit, and the two haggled
over what parts to restore or pare.
In early test screenings,
the film received negative reviews. Of the first test audience, only
a small portion considered the film "excellent", a rating
that most other Star Trek films had enjoyed. Segments of the film
were re-edited for the theatrical release. Five minutes of footage
was excised to improve the film's pacing, and an additional scene was
included on the Bird-of-Prey to make the circumstances of Kirk's
rescue clearer. The second screening, with the final effects and
sound in place, received much better reviews.
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 Generation fans, as
they were unfamiliar with the music's origins and believed that
Goldsmith was stealing the theme to The Next Generation, which was
itself The Motion Picture march. 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.
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. 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 30th, 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. At the beginning of the story when Kirk, Spock and McCoy
are camping at Yosemite National Park, they sing the nursery rhyme
Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
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 Enterprise engines 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.
The original Pod Radar ping
from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey can be heard while Kirk
is saying "Scotty on my mark, open bay doors" and again
during the shuttle landing on Sha Ka Ree.
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 appeared
amidst several other films that grappled with quests for God and
spiritual meaning; author Peter Hansenberg regarded the film as part
of an "almost fashionable" trend of 1980s science fiction
movies with religious motifs. Regent's Park College professor and
Baptist minister Larry Kreitzer argues the film was "deliberately
constructed" to raise the issues of God and the Biblical
concept of paradise, Eden. Dixie State College professor Ace
Pilkington went further, saying that after the "theological
preoccupations" of the television series and previous films,
"where else can the Enterprise go [...] but in quest of
God?" Pilkington notes that The Final Frontier has roots in many
plots from the series including "The Way to Eden" (which
also deals with a brilliant man hijacking the Enterprise to find the
place of creation), "The Apple", and "Shore
Leave"; a common thread between the paradises described is that
they are always "too good to be true". John S. Schultes
agrees, pointing out that the idea of paradise has been seen many
times in the series, but almost always illusory or deadened.
many Star Trek episodes dealt with false deities, The Final Frontier
is one of the few that, in the words of religious scholar Ross
Shepard Kraemer, "intentionally confronted and explored
theological questions, including the existence of God."
Theologist Larry Kreitzer dubbed it the film most preoccupied with
religious ideas. According to the film, centuries in the future,
beliefs in Eden persist, even among other alien races such as the
Klingons and Romulans. Moreoever, the view of God is homogenized, no
one disputes Sybok's references to God as a "he". Kreitzer
finds that the film's theological interpretation is offered by Kirk's
words: "Maybe He [God] is not out there, Bones. Maybe He's right
here, in the human heart."
The Final Frontier was
expected to be one of the summer's biggest movies and a sure hit,
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 thus far.
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; its third week it grossed only $3.7
million. It had a wide release of ten weeks, shorter than 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.
Early in the morning
following opening night, Nimoy woke Shatner to report that the Los
Angeles Times had given The Final Frontier a positive review. Soon
after a local television reporter also gave the film a good review,
and Shatner recalled that he incorrectly "began sensing a
[positive] trend". Critics generally gave The Final Frontier
mixed or poor reviews. Rob Lowing of The Sun Herald called the film
"likeable but average". The Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert
and The Washington Post's Rita Kempley gave the film negative
reviews, calling the film "a mess" and "a
The New York Times's Caryn
James considered the film to be disappointing to fans and non-fans
alike, while Chris Hicks of the Deseret News disagreed, feeling that
the film approached issues in the same vein as the television series
and that fans would enjoy it. Some critics considered Shatner's
direction during action sequences weak, and that the second half of
the film felt directionless, but Shatner's direction is at its best
during comedic moments. Chris Dafoe of The Globe and Mail called the
film "the most intentionally funny" episode of the film series.
The special effects were
generally considered poor. Critics felt that the film fell apart
after the arrival at Sha Ka Ree, where the "great special
effects that graced parts I through IV are nowhere to be seen".
Ebert's review agreed, saying that the visuals managed to inspire awe
ever so briefly before dissolving into "an anticlimatic special
effects show with a touch of The Wizard of Oz thrown in for good measure".
blamed part of The Final Frontier's failure on the change from a
traditional Thanksgiving-season Star Trek opening, to the
sequel-stuffed summer release period, and the diffusion of Star Trek
fan viewership following the premiere of The Next Generation. Critics
felt they should have recognized the film's plot was too reminiscent
of V'ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture and that the search for
God was a mistake. Looking back, Shatner called it a "failed but
glorious attempt" at a thought-provoking film that did not come
together, and agreed with critics that the film nearly ended the
series. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry considered elements of
this film to be "apocryphal at best", and particularly
disliked the idea that Sarek had fathered a child (Sybok) with a
Vulcan before Amanda. Nevertheless the film is considered canon.
Considered a critical and
commercial failure, the poor performance of The Final Frontier
jeopardized the production of further Star Trek features. Bennett was
given the go-ahead to begin work on his own prequel concept that
would have cast new actors to play the main cast at Starfleet
Academy. Loughery worked with Bennett on a story inspired by Santa Fe
Trail. When Paramount president Ned Tanen resigned, support for
Bennett's prequel idea evaporated. Paramount instead wanted another
film with the original cast, and Bennett decided to leave the
franchise. Producer Ralph Winter remained with the production and The
Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer returned to direct the original
cast's final movie, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.