If you hate Star Trek, stick around! I’m going to rip this movie to shreds! And if you love Star Trek, stick around! You probably hate this movie as much as I do – the only question that remains is, do we hate it for the same reasons?
The movie starts with the theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which became the theme to Stark Trek: The Next Generation, which had already been on TV for a few seasons at this point, so it seems like an odd choice. It’s like they can’t decide if this is the theme to Star Trek or what… because, you know, they’d made three movies without this theme… not to mention that the theme to Star Trek IV kinda sounds like Christmas music once it gets going… I don’t see why they want to be deliberately confusing with something as simple as the music that plays over the opening credits… OK, let’s move on. They were probably just low on money.
The first scene in the film is this guy digging holes in a barren wasteland for no reason that is ever explained. I guess he’s… farming? Mining? What the hell is he doing out there? He’s totally alone; no shelter or transport is visible. I don’t know what he’s doing out there… Oh wait, I do know: he’s there because the script says so. That’s why. He’s there to meet Sybok and so we, the audience can learn that Sybok can take away people’s emotional pain. Even if they don’t tell him what the problem is. Sometimes. Other times they dramatize the moment, other times they talk about it… blah.
Meanwhile, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are on shore leave together. In the woods. By themselves.
Oh, and later, it’s revealed the Sulu and Chekov are also spending shore leave together in the woods. Alone.
You watch as much of this as you think you need to. I think you get my point.
Back on the planet Sybok is on, people are hanging out in a bar where a weird cat-woman is dancing on a table. And she has three boobs.
I know what you’re thinking – Total Recall came out in 1990, one year after Star Trek V, but I’m sure the scripts were circulating around Hollywood at the same time, so you draw your own conclusions about Tinsel Town:
This planet is supposed to be developed collaboratively between the Federation (Democrats), the Romulans (asshole versions of Spock) and the Klingons (space monster-warriors) and all of their representatives meet at this three breasted cat stripper bar to talk about nothing because the planet is a shit hole and if you were picked to be one of the three representatives, you’re a loser. This ‘develop this planet together’ thing is never mentioned again, so you can forget this paragraph.
Sybok shows up and takes them all captive. The Romulan says, “Our governments will stop at nothing to ensure our safety.” I asked the television, “Wait, I thought you just said you were all losers and this planet blows. Why the hell would your governments give a shit?” The lady in the TV didn’t answer, so on we roll.
Meanwhile, back at Camp Man-On-Man, McCoy has cooked up some beans laced with bourbon, which they are also drinking straight out of the bottle. Kirk observes: “Beans and bourbon – an explosive combination.”
Again, I asked the TV: “Bro, did you just make a fart joke?” See, you can make a fart joke on Star Trek, but you have to do better than that. So they’re in the woods and they’re drinking and Kirk explains that he’s always known that when he dies, he’ll die alone.
That’s about the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard a drunk person say, and I’ve seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Twice. And how the hell does he know that? And so otherwise, he believes himself to be invincible? That is, in a word, strange.
I guess Spock decides he needs to break the tension – they are on vacation, after all – and starts toasting a marshmallow. I think they could have left it at that, but they ask him what they should do after that, and he says he looked up earth camping on the 23rd century internet and the next thing they should do is have a sing along.
Strangely, Kirk and McCoy – two grizzled, military veterans, mind you – do not respond, “Are you fucking kidding me, Spock? Just Vulcan nerve pinch me right now so I can at least get some sleep,” but instead, Kirk and McCoy bust out into a round of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” but Spock doesn’t join in. When they ask him why not, he is far too polite to say, “Because it is fucking stupid,” but instead says, “I was trying to comprehend the words.” He goes on to remark, “Life is not a dream.”
I guess he’s got ‘em there.
Then they take 45 minutes saying goodnight to each other, just like on The Waltons. Again, weird.
Since the movie is in need of a true antagonist (because a Vulcan who helps people separate themselves from emotional pain just doesn’t get it done in an action movie), there’s also this Klingon captain of some random ship who is bored off his ass and wants to get into a battle with a Federation ship for no reason other than he’s “always wanted to.” Now that is good motivation for your antagonist. Also, his first officer appears to be a post-op transvestite. Interesting choice. I guess it helps balance out the three boobed cat-woman-stripper.
The Enterprise and her crew are recalled from leave to go rescue the hostages you probably forgot about by now (between the bourbon, beans, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and Klingons), but there’s just one problem – the ship, which is brand new, is not ready. The Enterprise A is so fucked up, the doors don’t even always open. Jesus Space Waking Christ! It’s the 23rd Century! We’ve mastered travel faster than light but we can’t build a door? Fuuuck. Also, they don’t have a full crew… but they’re the only ship available.
“The only ship available” is a plot device that gets more use in the Star Trek universe than a copy of Playgirl from a bunch of senior military officials hanging out in the woods together, but when done right, it’s fine. However, the Enterprise is in orbit above Earth. Earth is the heart of the Federation, where Star Fleet headquarters is located. This is where they build the ships (I thought they built them in Mars orbit, but whatever) – how can there not be even one other ship in better shape than the Enterprise in the area? That’d be like going to Fort Hood to see the 1st Cavalry Division and have them tell you they only have 1 helicopter available, but it’s an untested prototype. See, that would be strange because Fort Hood is one of the biggest military installations on earth and all the 1st Cavalry Division does is fly around in helicopters! (Note: I would be remiss if I did not mention that besides flying around in helicopters, the 1st Cavalry Division also gets out of the helicopters and kicks ass – that is, when they’re not kicking your ass from inside the helicopter.) Also, this ”the Enterprise doesn’t work so well” subplot is very similar to the Enterprise’s subplot in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, so it seems kinda shocking that they’re recycling that… along with the main theme from that movie ant the TNG series. Anyway, they come aboard via shuttle craft because the transporters don’t work (also just like ST: TMP), and then in the turbo lift (fancy talk for elevator) on the way to the bridge, Kirk remarks, “I could use a shower,” which Spock considers, and then answers, “Yes.”
I guess the whole “only ship in the quadrant” thing was tumbling around in the proverbial dryer that is this movie’s brain and they decided to clarify and say that while there are other ships available, they aren’t captained by experienced commanders. Being a captain in an intergalactic navy isn’t the sort of job they just hand out to any asshole who is willing, so even a new captain should have a good idea of how to handle this sort of assignment…. meh. Yeah, they could also transfer the Enterprise’s senior officers to a ship that works…. forget it, I’m done trying to untangle this broken Enterprise thing.
So away we go in the ship that doesn’t work so well to save the hostages we don’t really know, care about or remember at this point.
Nichelle Nichols was born in 1932 and is mostly known for playing Uhura on Star Trek. Also, I refer to anyone I see wearing a Bluetooth headset as Uhura because, well, that’s what you look like.
I mention this because since the Enterprise is a piece of shit and as the transporter doesn’t work, they have to fly down to the planet via shuttle and park it far away from the bar with the 3 boobed cat-woman-stripper to avoid detection and therefore must steal space horses (they have a weird tusk looking thing sticking out of their foreheads – but it is not a unicorn – also, this movie has horses in it because William Shatner loves horses, horse riding, directed this movie and was involved in the writing process) to get to their goal. To steal the space horses, they need a distraction, and, since it’s 1989, making Nichelle Nichols 57 years old, she does a fan dance to lore the guards into a trap.
I kid you not.
I’m not saying older women can’ t be sexy, but this is kinda… you know… sorta… not a good idea, and in a movie full of bad ideas, this one sticks out, and that’s saying something.
They ride the horses (space horses) to the 3 boobed cat-woman-stripper bar and once they arrive, Kirk is ready to leap into action – he is impatient.
SPOCK: Hold your horse, captain.
Wow. Did Spock just use a ‘hold your horses’ joke on Kirk? Then Kirk goes in the bar and he actually fights the 3 boobed cat-woman-stripper! Now that is awesome! They find the hostages, but apparently, Sybok’s ability to heal mental pain has given the hostages Stockholm Syndrome, because they pull weapons on Kirk and his party, so they all head back to the ship via the shuttle, now under Sybok’s command, which is all he was after in the first place. Sybok and Spock confirm that they do know each other from back in the day, which Spock had mentioned earlier. Spock refuses Sybok’s proposal to join him.
Got all that?
They fly the shuttle back to the Enterprise with the three hostages (Federation Guy, Romulan Woman, Klingon General Guy) and just narrowly miss getting an ass kicking from the Bored Klingon Captain Guy with the Post-Op Transvestite First Officer (I’m serious – none of these characters seem to have names, or the characters are so flat that you forget their names instantly), despite the fact that the Klingon General Guy is a GENERAL and probably could probably order the Klingon captain to relax. Or at least try to order him not to be a butt hole. Instead, the shuttle does a desperate, fast, free-wheeling manual flight back into the Enterprise’s docking bay (which really looks like a set from Star Trek: The Next Generation) just in the nick of time.
Once they get out of the shuttle, Spock has a chance to kill Sybok, but he does not fire his weapon. Kirk, McCoy and Spock are all taken to the brig, where Kirk yells at Spock for not following orders and shooting Sybok and here, my friends, comes the big reveal.
KIRK: I ordered you to defend your ship!
SPOCK: You ordered me to kill my brother.
Kirk is so shocked by this revelation he says, “I need to sit down,” and he sits on the toilet, which bares the warning “Do not use while in space dock.”
WHAT IN THE FUCK! It’s a fucking space ship! Why can’t you use the toilet in space dock?!? It’s a space ship, not some used RV! It’s the 23rd Century! And why is Shatner sitting on the shitter in the first place? What a poor attempt at humor.
Sybok reveals what this is all building too – he knows where God lives. And heaven is only reachable by starship.
This is what I’m hearing inside of my head right now.
Off we go to fly through a great barrier and reach the center of the galaxy, where we’ll find God and the quest for ultimate knowledge will end! Yeah, a great barrier – it’s a bunch of colored shit in space they fly through – when they fly through it, nothing happens… so it’s not much of a barrier.
Scotty is not under Sybok’s influence, so he breaks them out of their cell and gives them directions to some place they can call for help using maintenance tunnels and elevator shafts. Then he says, “I know this ship like the back of my hand” and promptly knocks himself unconscious on a low bulk head.
Finally, they have to climb up a long elevator shaft, but Spock whips out his handy rocket boots, and, with McCoy and Kirk clinging to him, they are ready to fly up the shaft… but they start sinking.
SPOCK: It appears we are too heavy.
KIRK: Must be all those marshmallows…
I totally need a button on my cell phone that plays The Price is Right losing horn!
Spock fires some rocket boosters on the rocket boots and they go flying up the elevator shaft (sorry, Star Trek fans – I know, it’s a turbo lift shaft – I’m sorry) very fast. So fast, that the order of the decks they pass is not in any order I understand. They fly passed deck 52, 64, then 63… then 52 again… then deck 77, then 78, then 78 again…
I’m doing it again. I’m sorry if you’re sick of it.
No Showcase Showdown for you, Kirk.
They send a message for help, which they think has been received by Starfleet, but it’s really the Bored Klingon Captain Guy with the Post-Op Transvestite First Officer that hears their distress call, and the Klingon ship heads off in pursuit. Sybok finds our heroes and he offers to help free them of their emotional pain.
McCoy is riddled in guilt. As a doctor, he could find now way to save his dying father, who was in terrible pain, and finally, he agreed to grant his father’s wish that he Jack Kevorkian him. Some time later, a cure was found, and McCoy is crushed, trying to decide if the worst thing he did was break his oath as a doctor, kill his father even though his father asked him to… or… who the hell knows what. This is probably the best question the movie asks. Like… fuck. What do you do? I don’t know. Hardcore. Deforest Kelley is awesome in the scene; it’s the best part of the movie by far.
For Spock, we get to witness his birth, which apparently took place in a… cave? His father is really important, right? He’s like the Vulcan Ambassador to… everybody. Surely the Vulcans don’t live in caves. So when Spock is born, he cries for the briefest of moments between his first breaths and before he is presented to his father. The crying clearly vexes the father and as he looks down at his half Vulcan/half human child, he remarks, in disgust, “So human.”
I guess Shatner and the other screen writers didn’t see Star Trek III, during which Sarek, Spock and Sybok’s father, spent a lot of time making it clear how much he loves his Spock, so it’s hard to take this seriously as the two men have worked out their relationship at this point. Also, this is not nearly as interesting as McCoy’s conflict. Probably should have done the Spock one first, because it’s always better to start small and build UP, not down.
Sybok offers to do Kirk next – no, not Deliverance style – but Kirk tells Sybok to go fuck himself.
I like this bit very much. However, Sybok made his followers leave the room before he did McCoy and Spock’s healing thingy, so why don’t they just jump him? I’m not going to give them the Price is Right horn on this one, but this seems like an opportunity a veteran military man (men) would not miss.
Also, Sybok didn’t make anyone else group hallucinate like Kirk, McCoy and Spock did (at least that we see), and I’m just thinking that if I was Sybok and could do this, I would break that trick out all the time – at parties, at work, at Starbucks…
The opportunity to kick Sybok’s ass wasted, they head to the great barrier – the thing in space that has been built up as that which no one in their right mind would try to fly through – and they fly through it and reach the center of the galaxy without the slightest bit of problem. The ship doesn’t shudder, the camera doesn’t shake, no body falls on the deck, nothing. Inside the great barrier is some weird, bright blue pulsing energy planet.
That’s one crazy looking planet. And I don’t see any star anywhere, so I guess all that intense blue light is coming from the planet itself… oh, they’re going to take a shuttle down there? Crazy. I can’t wait to see what the surface of that planet looks like.
Then they talk to this guy:
And he says, “The journey to reach me could not have been an easy one.” Sybok says it was hard, but the actual journey part on the star ship was easy as far as I recall. The ship went through the so called Great Barrier like that guy in Deliverance went into – OK, I’ll stop there.
ENTERPRISE: Squeal like a pig!
GREAT BARRIER: WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
“God” is curious to know how they got there; how did they get through the great barrier? “With a starship,” Sybok tells him. God wants to know if this ‘starship’ can be used to spread his wisdom throughout the galaxy, and Sybok says it can, so “God” asks them to bring it closer.
I’m putting “God” in quotes – I’m being clever!
Kirk is baffled. “What does God need with a starship?” he asks. “God” wants to know who Kirk is, but Kirk retorts, “Don’t you know? Aren’t you God?” and then “God” laser beams Kirk in the chest. It doesn’t kill him, but it knocks him on his ass. Seeing this, Spock asks him again, “What does God need with a starship?” and also gets knocked on his ass, even though he just saw the same thing happen to Kirk a few seconds ago. Imagine you saw someone try to pick up a cupcake, but when he touched the cupcake, he received an electric shock so powerful that he feel on his ass. Ask yourself: would you try to pick up the cupcake? I bet not.
Then “God” starts saying something about how he must have the ship and he’s been imprisoned in this place for a really long time. So… probably not God. Sybok asks him to reveal himself to him… and then it turns into him. It tuns into Sybok.
Yeah. No idea what the hell that is. Kirk tells the Enterprise to fire a torpedo and he, McCoy and Spock run while Sybok volunteers to fight it via his power to heal it’s pain. No idea what the hell is going on. The torpedo apparently kills Sybok, but the God monster thingy is still there, still pissed. Also, apparently, the Enterprise’s transporters work now, but can only beam up two people, so Kirk tells Scotty to beam up McCoy and Kirk. That’s called plot convenience – it’s tense if Kirk is down there alone, and he said he knew that when he died, he’d be alone…
Then the monster God thing comes out again and this, this is what happens:
So a torpedo didn’t work, but a few laser blasts from some Klingon ship will do the job? Fine. No, you know what? NOT FINE. Take this!
Remember (like an hour ago) when I said the Klingon General Guy should talk to the Bored Klingon Captain Guy? They finally got around to that. Yeah, so Bored Klingon Captain Guy helped save Kirk after all. And, since the movie is almost over, they get around to the moral.
“Maybe God is right here – the human heart.”
Uhm, hey Kirk – there are other folks around who aren’t human. Spock is standing right fucking there and he’s only half human, you insensitive son of a bitch!
So that’s the movie, but we have time for just one more scene. So guess how the movie ends. Guess. Just guess.
No, not like that.
They sing a round of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
I hate singing in the round, and I hate that fucking song!
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