In which I tried so hard / to like this file / but in the end, it doesn’t even matter.
Ahh, Star Trek V: The Movie So Bad Netflix Doesn’t Have It For Streaming. I kid, I kid. I’ve found wonderful gems in even the movies regarded as not so great, so please don’t sue me, Paramount. Or CBS, but that really goes more for the TV series. Copyright law is complicated, and the point is I have no money. Anyway…
We have wrapped up the Genesis Cycle, and relations between the Federation and Klingon Empire have cooled. They can’t have been helped by the way Kirk was given a dishonorable demotion and then left to run free in a new, better-equipped ship, mere days after the Federation council promised to bring him home in complete disgrace. That’s how the Klingons see it, anyway. And now, on Nimbus III in the Neutral Zone,”The Planet of Galactic Peace,” something is happening on the dry, arid, sand-blasted hellhole of a surface.
Ever notice how when you have to call someplace an attractive place to live, it isn’t? Like Greenland, or the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea? Fortunately for the first living thing we see in this movie, the cloaked figure riding up to him is here to talk. Oh no wait, he’s here to stare creepily into his eyes and talk about pain. Like therapy, but way more non-consensual. Or like a cult leader. A vulcan cult leader with the telepathy that comes with the green blood.
His laughter fades us into the title sequence, which gives us something to think about. You may remember the Romulans from exactly two of the best episodes of TOS. Recall that they resemble Vulcans to the point where some dipshit crewman was spreading nasty rumors about Spock, and that Spock was the one who was able to seduce the Romulan commander in “The Enterprise Incident.” We also know that Vulcans claim not to joke and would be offended at the claim they even had emotions, except that they would also be offended at the notion they could take offense to things. We’ve seen Spock play the verbal sparring game with McCoy fairly well when he embraces the role of straight man, and we’ve seen him exhibit real emotion in the past as well. Vulcans have emotions, but their dogma prohibits them from expressing them, because hundreds of years ago they let their emotions run wild and nearly killed off their whole civilization. It may be too early to say, but here is a Vulcan who appears to be embracing his Romulan side.
This couldn’t possibly go poorly.
The titles, which use the Jerry Goldsmith TNG music, end, and we see Yosemite National Park. Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain. Why is he climbing a mountain? Because Kirk only ever feels at home in crisis. Recall from every episode ever that once the action starts and he has stress constraints, he suddenly becomes assured of himself. Apparently, as new captain of the Enterprise-A, his life isn’t challenging enough, so he’s climbing a mountain freehand without any safety equipment. Then again, who knows what kind of equipment exists in the Federation in the 23rd century? He probably got an emergency transporter beacon locked onto a beltloop. Spock shows up suddenly, balanced on rocket boots, while McCoy watches from the ground as Kirk tumbles to his death, end of movie.
Nah, Jay Kay Lol. Spock catches him moments before he splatters on the ground, with none of the realistic deceleration effects of, say, a Spider-Man comic. Wow, I’m hostile already.
You know, people mention the three-breasted prostitute in Total Recall, but they forget the three-breasted cat stripper on Nimbus III, dancing in a seedy bar as the new Romulan representative arrives just in time for the bar, and indeed the whole city, to be assaulted by cultists, desperate to help their new leader acquire a starship. Taking ambassadors of the Klingon, Romulan, and Federation hostage all at the same time seems an efficient, if stupid, way to accomplish that.
Scotty is trying to fix the Enterprise. Apparently, he doesn’t have underlings to repair the doors. And apparently, the half-broken skeleton crewed ship is the only one fit to fly, even though the entire command staff is on leave. While they’re all being called up, we get to see a series of rather touching vignettes about camaraderie. The crew have at this point all become closer than family, and Kirk points out that he’d never die if McCoy and Spock were with him. It would be a touching sentiment if he hadn’t phrased it as “I’ve always known I’ll die alone.” Ponder on that one.
Here is an establishing shot for the Klingon captain Klaa, who is all kinds of gothed out. He blows up Pioneer 10 because it’s small and hard to hit, and then complains about it being to easy. When they get the information about the hostages on Nimbus III, he’s more excited about the chance to engage a Federation ship than the chance to rescue a compatriot. When Kirk gets the news, he knows trouble is coming showing, if nothing else, good genre savvy. Apparently, Starfleet thinks so highly of him they’re willing to send him out in a broke-ass hoopty-ship because the recognize that as a protagonist he can’t possibly fail. Klaa hears Kirk is on the way and resolves to kill him because if you kill the Kirk, you become the Kirk.
The hostage tape comes through, and Spock appears more concerned than usual though he does not deign to explain that potentially mission-critical revelations he has on the bridge. Instead they go to an observation port that has a ships wheel in it, and Spock explains that the face reminds him of someone from his youth who, surprise, was interested in the emotional side of being a Vulcan and was banished after trying to recruit a cult.
With their transporters as out as the rest of the ship, a shuttle full of marines is dispatched. Which again begs the question: why would you need to count on an experienced captain as long as you have a ship with working frigging transporters. Either the fleet is buying into Kirk’s own brand of miracle worker flim-flam or they’re trying to get him killed before he causes an interstellar incident. And of course, Kirk has to go himself, rather than trusting things to Starfleet Security, so he leaves Chekov to bullshit the terrorists.
And look, Chekov is a great officer. He made it from not being in the first season of TOS to Commander by the movies. But this whole thing is just amazingly bad strategy. Including having Uhura do a striptease for a bunch of unicorn-horse-ranchers to lure them into complacency . Using the entire command staff to execute a rescue which, lest I put too fine a point on it, wouldn’t be necessary if transporters were available. And while you can’t blame Kirk for how terribly executed this rescue is, you can blame William Shatner. They manage to get to the hostages, only to find that those same hostages have been brainwashed to joining the Galactic Army of Light. Sybok, the leader, appears to know Spock very well as he takes control of the ground forces, and the Klingons approach and cloak.
This, of course, gets very dicey for the Enterprise, which would have to lower the shields to get the shuttlecraft aboard. In order to close the window of vulnerability, they forgo all the safety protocols and basically collide with the emergency netting in the shuttlebay, in a maneuver worthy of Hoban Washbourne. And once Kirk and Sybok regain consciousness, they grapple for the gun. Sybok wins the melee, Kirk slides the gun to Spock, and Sybok call’s Spock’s bluff. And in a moment which feels uncharactaristic, Kirk screams for Spock to fire. Let me explain why that feels like bullshit.
Kirk is aboard his own ship, his place of power. If he trusts is crew, they’ll have dozens upon dozens of armed guards waiting on the other side of the door, ready to stun everyone and let them wake up in the brig. Or better yet, flood the corridors with that gas they were going to use in that one episode… and let everyone wake up in the brig. Or literally anything but have Scotty watching from a window and turning away sadly. Come on.
Sybok brainwashes Uhura and Sulu and takes over the ship, pointing it toward a new heading, announcing his intentions to the crew. The crew appear not to care that some terrorists have taken over the ship, and just look up quizzically at the intercom. Scotty does wind up breaking them out (and then knocking himself unconscious in one of the worst-designed maintenance hallways ever, while we finally get to see where all the flashing lights in a turbolift window come from.
So, you’ll recall that the opening that Kirk was climbing a mountan (why is he climbing a mountain) and Spock rescued him with rocket boots. Rather than repeating themes of camaraderie and mutual reliance, the theme that gets repeated is ‘Spock wears rocket boots.’
“But that’s not a theme,” I hear you cry.
“Shut up, I’m drinking bourbon,” I say in reply.
It’s also worth noting that the Enterprise is in rough shape in more ways than just mechanical failure. The Bridge is generally referred to as Deck 1, with lower decks being numbered higher numerically. And the Enterprise-A is not an enormous ship. Main engineering, near the middle of the secondary hull, is deck 15. So why is it that when Spock rockets up the shaft, they speed past Decks 30, 56, and 78? Assuming 3 meters per deck (they look to be approximately equivalent to modern building stories, including space for equipment) this would make the Enterprise something like 234 meters high with a perfectly vertical shaft. Neither of these things are consistent with the entire rest of Star Trek canon. I am forced, therefore, to declare this movie non-canon and move on with my day.
To be continued…