Monday, September 16, 2013

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Alright, I fully admit that by doing a marathon on all of the Star Trek movies, I am stepping completely outside of our stated genre, but as a life long Trekkie, this simply had to happen. Given the success of this franchise, I'm betting that at least a few of our readers are also Star Trek fans. Of course, I will stick to the usual social justice perspective, as we work our way through the series.

The beginning of the movie actually appears to reference a biblical passage from Revelation 6:8  I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death. Instead of death, the man on the horse is Sybok and his mission is to help people confront their pain so that they may release it and move forward in peace.  Sybok has big dreams of leaving Nimbus III (the "Planet of Galactic Peace") and to do so, he must force a starship to visit the planet.  He accomplishes this by kidnapping the Klingon, Romulan and Federation council.

With the exception of Uhura and Scotty the rest of the crew are on shore leave.  Kirk is climbing a mountain named El Capit├ín in Yosemite National Park as McCoy grumbles in the background and Spock appears wearing jet powered boots. Spock is curious about why Kirk would choose to climb and risk himself and Kirk replies, "because it's there."  When Kirk does eventually fall, Spock races downwards and catches him before he can land. What follows is a touching scene wherein the three men then set up camp.  Kirk reveals he knew that he was not going to die on the mountain because he is destined to die alone.  This of course is foreshadowing of what is to come.

In the middle of the night, Uhura appears and tells them that they have been assigned a mission and quite grudgingly, Spock, Kirk and McCoy return to the Enterprise.  Kirk is informed about the kidnapping on Nimbus III and is ordered to deal with situation because while the Enterprise isn't the only ship in the area, it does have the only experienced Captain.  Am I the only one to pause at this? How is it that the Enterprise is always the only ship available to deal with a crises?

In the meantime commander Klaa of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey picks up the distress signal from Nimbus III and decides to intercept. They of course serve as one other complication for Kirk and crew to deal with throughout the movie.

Upon reviewing the available information, Spock recognizes Sybok but only shares that Sybok unlike other Vulcans believes in embracing emotion and casting aside logic.  When later placed into a situation of killing Sybok a Kirk as commands, Spock cannot do so and finally reveals that Sybok is his brother.  It's Sybok's goal to take the enterprise through the galaxy's Great Barrier to reach Sha Ka Ree. Apparently this location is what he believes each species has come to understand as paradise, for instance, humans would think of it as Eden. Of course, when they finally get there, what they find is most certainly not God and they judge this by his quick use of violence.  God it seems must be peaceful in nature.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier seeks to discover the untold mysteries of life and is actually quite philosophical in nature. What is the nature of God and what is the nature of life?  It is a universal question and one we all seek the answer to.  Just as Sybok suggests that every species has some sort of heaven mythos, every culture on Earth has one as well.  It is rather telling that Eden was chosen to represent human heaven, given the various human religions that could have been chosen.  It speaks of a strong Western bias. I also find it curious that these are questions always framed through a lens of masculinity after all, what is philosophy but the study of dead White men?

The other pertinent question explored is the nature of family.  It is a theme that runs throughout the movie. It's important to keep in mind that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is only the second movie since the death of David Kirk's son. We also have the loss of Sybok, Spock's half brother and view the death of McCoy' father. McCoy points out that they spend all of their time together on the ship and then when they get shore leave, the end up together.  In this case, the family you choose is of paramount importance.  The idea that McCoy, Spock and Kirk are family gives us a sense of hierarchy beyond their positions on the ship.  Though Scotty, Chekov, Sulu and Uhura have been with them from the very beginning, they are still not family.

Once again, Star Trek used humour to lighten the tone of the movie. I can't say that any of it was particularly memorable. I will always enjoy the dynamic between McCoy and Spock in particular. In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, there was even a hint of a potential romance between Scotty and Uhura. I don't think that this ever went anywhere but I suppose, I will find out for sure as I continue to work my way through the series. 

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is not one of my favorite movies in the franchise. It felt formulaic and drawn out. I did like finding out more of the back story of McCoy but I wish we had learned more about Sulu, Chekov, Scotty and Uhura.  If you think about it, we really don't know much about their backstories.  The only thing we are really aware of when it comes to these characters are their service on the Enterprise.  This would have been a great opportunity and it was lost to instead beat us over the head with philosophical questions about God and affirm that McCoy, Spock and Kirk constitute family, something fans of the series would already have surmised.