Star Trek V: The Final Frontier suffers, in the main, from fielding concepts and ideas far grander than either first-time director William Shatner or his shortened production cycle is capable of completely tidying away. Despite a larger budget than the previous instalment - Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home coming in at an estimated $26 million to this film's $33 million - Final Frontier struggles to make the most of these increased funds. So, the world conquering mujahideen led by Laurence Luckinbill's Vulcan prophet Sybock amounts to little more than a dozen or so knackered looking extras while the Enterprise sets themselves visibly strain around our ageing actors. Shatner's onscreen bullheadedness - the actor cranking out Kirk at full volume here - is abetted by Andrew Laszlo's more obviously mobile photography style. The cinematographer brings a Steadicam glide to Star Trek, one that constantly pokes away at an unappreciative cast. Leonard Nimoy, in particular, looks exhausted throughout. The actor retreating into quiet murmurs when essaying this Spock.
That is not to say Final Frontier is as awful as its Golden Raspberry award-winning reputation would suggest. On occasion the mismanaged money actually ends up working for the piece. A finale meeting with a malevolent alien posing as an Abrahamic God cannot afford the scripted host of rioting rock monsters, so the film settles for the wonderfully ludicrous sight of a disembodied energy head dragging its jaw through purple sands, chasing Kirk up the kind of rock formation familiar to anyone who watched the original Star Trek television series. Sybock isn't simply an alien madman either. Unlike the small screen televangelists that quite apparently inspired the character, this Vulcan emir does genuinely seem to believe that he's on a righteous quest to enlighten the galaxy. His methods though are alarming and deliberately overwhelming. Sybock uses his mastery of the mind meld to conjure up all-consuming vignettes that trap prospective disciples inside their worst moments as a way to then leverage a certain amount of control over that person. It's a beautifully blunt excoriation of any organised religion that uses human suffering as a bartering chip. Spock and Kirk's reaction to these attempts at recruitment are even better again. Spock shrugs off a scene in which his father refuses to hold him as a newborn baby; Kirk doesn't even entertain Sybock's proposition, refusing to open himself up to examination then shrieking that he needs his pain and refuses to let go of it.