On the derelict planet of Nimbus III, a lone figure plants holes into the desert ground, but suddenly is alerted to the presence of a silhouette on horseback emerging from the dusty landscape. As the rider draws closer, he grabs his makeshift weapon and attempts to load it, but as the rider stops and dismounts, he realises there's no need for him to attack. This man is Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill) a highly individual Vulcan on a mission, attracting disciples as he goes about his work. He has developed the ability to take away the pain in every man and woman, and in doing so he plans to carry out his life's ambition - but first he needs a starship. Would the U.S.S. Enterprise do?
This, the fifth Star Trek film was much maligned when it was initially released, and continues to be considered as the least of the franchise's instalments, certainly of the ones starring the original crew. But funnily enough, if you're prepared to ignore the complaints of the more humourless fans, The Final Frontier emerges as something of a guilty pleasure and its comedy, both intentional and otherwise, is what truly dominates the mood. This means that it takes itself even less seriously than Star Trek IV, and the areas where you're supposed to be viewing it soberly are as amusing for the wrong reasons.
After Mr Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, had directed the previous two adventures, Captain James T. Kirk himself, William Shatner, decided he wanted to have go - why should Len have all the fun, after all? Therefore we first set eyes on Kirk in a classic item of Shatnerian self-aggrandisement: a lithe rock climber halfway up a cliff face is revealed in closeups to be the decidedly paunchy Shatner. Comedy gold, ladies and gentlemen. To lay yet more self indulgence on there (the director/star also came up with the story), the next scene has Kirk, Spock and Dr "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley) enjoying a camping trip, toasting marshmallows and enjoying a singalong (no Mr Tambourine Man, alas).
So far, so cosy slippers, but the plot then has to intervene when the new Enterprise, which is suffering a few teething problems, is called into action and ordered to head to Nimbus III where Sybok is apparently holding diplomats of various planets hostage. Off our intrepid crew go, reunited once more, discovering that when they arrive Sybok is Spock's hitherto unmentioned half brother. The transporter not working, a rescue party is sent down via shuttlecraft and what follows is proof that the Trek movies were going insane in their old age: the unmistakably middle-aged Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) offers us a fan dance, Spock uses his knockout neck pinch on a horse, and Kirk is attacked by a triple-breasted cat woman who yells like James Brown.
What's not to like? And the lunacy goes on, when Sybok uses his powers of persuasion to take over the Enterprise, winning new converts hither and yon with his self-actualisation talk. If there were any doubt that Star Trek was from Planet California, then this should dispel it, with its New Age hippy dippy speak operating as a kind of therapy for our heroes - though not Kirk, he's not one to mess about in his own mind. It eventually transpires that the big mission Sybok is on is one to travel to a 2001: A Space Odyssey on a budget-style centre of the galaxy to meet... well, let's just say that it's no match for the ego of Shatner. Star Trek V may be dismissed by most, but I think Shatner was onto something with this: it should be a fun (and funny) romp, with a little light philosophy to garnish, nothing too taxing. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.