Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) (part 4 of 13)
Meanwhile, Bad Teeth Guy is leading a herd of a few dozen drooling morons as they march, in a manner of speaking, toward Paradise City. Not-Connery gallops alongside them. I’m thinking this might be bad news for our noble ambassadors. Unfortunately for them, they’re about to be taken by surprise, since Mr. Shatner has them too busy explaining their backstories to notice there’s a rebellion under way.
Romulan Star Search Chick earnestly explains to the other ambassadors—because they might not already know—that 20 years ago their three governments agreed, despite their mutual hostility, to develop this planet together, signaling a “new age”. And there’s a serious problem with this scenario, in terms of the elsewhere-established continuity of Romulan/Federation contact. Which I’m not even getting into, just because I love you, reader, and wish to spare you pain, and because the latest Star Trek movie has wiped all that out anyway, giving future movies the freedom to make all-new mistakes.
But Talbot counter-infodumps that the settlers they “conned” into coming to Nimbus III were the dregs of the galaxy, and immediately began fighting with each other. And I can’t help but imagine the Federation Council spamming everyone in the galaxy with offers of free vacations on Nimbus III in exchange for just a brief, five-hour timeshare pitch.
Talbot continues glumly: When the commissioners prohibited weapons, the settlers made their own. So what are the rules for this Dueling Infodumps game, anyway? Is this like Trivial Pursuit? Do you win pies? Big, indigestible, incompetently baked pies?
And speaking of the settlers’ weapons, guess what, Romulan Star Search Chick? You’re about to see them first hand, and from the wrong end! Not-Connery’s pathetic little army storms the city, throwing down the gates and surrounding the main buildings.
And in an extra-meaningful touch, Mr. Shatner shows us the word PARADISE inscribed in the entranceway arch, where someone has painted the word LOST. Wow, that’s really extra-meaningful. It’s almost as if they’re saying that calling something “paradise” doesn’t actually make it so—in fact, it might even become the very opposite of that! What rich irony, indeed.
Not-Connery enters the cantina, and I can’t help but notice that his hair is now swept down over his ears, so that just like our other new friend Romulan Star Search Chick, Laurence Luckinbill is spared having to wear the Spock-ear appliances for many of his scenes going forward.
Not-Connery informs the ambassadors that they’re his prisoners. Talbot snarks that they’re already prisoners on this forsaken planet, but Romulan Star Search Chick haughtily warns Not-Connery that their three governments are certain to come to their rescue. Not-Connery says he’s counting on it. Ooh, I think Not-Connery has some sort of plan.
Elsewhere in the universe, shuttlecraft buzz around the huge mushroom-shaped Federation Spacedock orbiting Earth. Why do they need shuttlecraft in Spacedock, again? They have transporters! The whole melting-someone-into-goo transporter mishap thing only happened that one time in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (And no one even remembers that movie, thank God.) Inside Spacedock, there’s a shot of the new ship introduced at the end of the previous film, the U.S.S. Enterprise, registry number NCC-1701-A.
(Aside to newcomers: So, yeah, the original Enterprise, NCC-1701, was destroyed in Star Trek III, and Enterprise-A is the replacement.)
(Aside to Trekkers: Obviously, the shot of Spacedock is the same shot from Star Trek III that was subsequently reused a dozen times in the movies and TV shows. And the shot of the Enterprise-A is a blatant reuse of the first big reveal of the ship from the previous movie.)
The Enterprise-A is fresh out of the box, and in a voiceover “shakedown cruise report”, Scotty is grousing that the ship is a disaster: half the doors won’t open, etc. “I think this new ship was put together by monkeys!” Space monkeys! I knew they were real. Now tell them to stop stealing my pencils!
This techno-regressive Enterprise is part of Shatner’s revisionist concept of an imperfect future under the Federation. Up until now, Federation technology has been rock-solid reliable. But here, all of a sudden, are reports of shoddy workmanship and ships being put into action that are barely space-worthy. (Those problems in Star Trek I were integration issues, not the result of inferior labor.) While I understand that the pie-in-the-sky optimism normally found in Roddenberry-era Trek can occasionally be grating, not to mention naive, that doesn’t make an alternative future populated with layabouts and slackers grinding out shoddy starships any more palatable.
On the bridge, Uhura shows up in the middle of Scotty’s bitching. She walks halfway around the bridge with her right fist firmly planted on her waist, right elbow akimbo [?]. She whines to Scotty about how they were supposed to go on shore leave together. Okay, what’s with the elbow? Does she think she’s Marlene Dietrich or something? Maybe she’s auditioning to be a Freakazoid villain.
Scotty, of course, “can’t leave her now”, meaning the ship. And Uhura reaches up with her free hand and she—urg—she touches him, on the cheek, in the first of several not-very-subtle suggestions that Scotty and Uhura are (ulp) romantically involved.
Now—um. How to put this? I have nothing against Scotty. And I have nothing against Uhura. But I do have a problem with Scotty, um, against Uhura, if you follow me. First of all, I really don’t want to know. Second of all, I don’t believe it for a second. There hasn’t been a single hint in the preceding 22 years of Star Trek that there was anything between these two, and now they’re suddenly pawing at each other? Not. Buying it. Uhura/Spock was more plausible. Hell, Chakotay/Seven was more plausible. And that’s saying a lot.
Ensuing dialogue is lost while my brain attempts to flee this scene, but the two lovebirds are interrupted by a stammering “red alert” announcement that sounds like Max Headroom with a chest cold. It turns out that even though the ship is “in pieces” and they have “less than a skeleton crew”, Starfleet is ordering the Enterprise to respond to the hostage crisis on Nimbus III. Seriously? The Federation is so shorthanded, there’s no one else they can send? Geez, no wonder the previous movie showed Earth’s defenses being ripped to shreds by a giant roll of quarters.
Uhura calls down to Sulu and Chekov, who are hiking in the woods somewhere, and tells them shore leave is canceled. And hey, there’s no need to get all smarmy about Sulu and Chekov spending quality time together in the woods before they return to their campsite on Rainbow Ridge. It’s not their fault there are hardly any women in Starfleet! And Scotty has evidently grabbed the last one. So what’s a guy to do? It’s totally a situational thing. You know, like prison.
And in the interest of thoroughness, I should reveal that Sulu and Chekov are supposed to be hiking near Mount Rushmore. There’s even a deleted scene where, in typical Star Trek ham-handed fashion, the camera pans up to show a fifth face added to the mountain, that is both female and African-American.
So it seems Sulu and Chekov are lost and can’t find the prearranged coordinates, so they pretend to be in a blizzard. Only, Uhura can see the weather where they are, and it’s just fine, ha ha. In fact, she says she sees “clear skies and 70 degrees.” Aren’t they on the metric system? And isn’t 70 degrees Celsius like the melting point of potassium or something?
Meanwhile, back at Yosemite, the Big Three are sitting around a campfire. McCoy is serving up dinner, which turns out to be a big kettle of beans made according to an old family recipe. To insult these beans, McCoy warns, is to insult generations of McCoys. And the best part is, you can also kill weeds with it!
It turns out the recipe has a secret ingredient, leading to this deathless exchange:
McCoy: [handing Kirk a hip flask] Be my guest.
Spock: Am I to understand that your secret ingredient is alcohol?
McCoy: Whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, Spock. Care for a little snort?
Kirk: Bourbon and beans, an explosive combination.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that was a fart joke. In Star Trek. I’d make a remark about the franchise hitting bottom here, but I’m afraid it would be taken the wrong way. Well, Shatner wanted a grittier Star Trek universe, and that’s what he got. Of course, for all we know, perhaps in the 23rd century such emissions are harnessed for the greater good. For instance, maybe that’s how Spock’s rocket boots are powered.
McCoy mutters something about how both of them are irritating enough that they’re driving him to drink, as if he were such a ray of sunshine himself. Kirk acts all innocent, but McCoy complains that “human life is far too precious for crazy stunts” and that Kirk should have died falling off that mountain. But Kirk explains he knew he wouldn’t die, because “I’ve always known I’ll die alone.” Wow! Burn on you, Picard!
McCoy is still in over-analytic mode, grousing that it’s strange they should spend all their time together, even on vacation. Which is, yeah, kinda true. “Other people have families,” he muses.
“Other people, Bones,” Kirk replies, “not us.” Of course, two movies from now we find out that Sulu not only has a family, but a 22 year old daughter. But then again, Sulu’s always been a little weird.
Get ready for more hijinks! Spock now operates some sort of device which extrudes a long, white object. Spock calls it a “marshmelon”, and McCoy visibly has to keep himself from laughing at him for being such an idiot. Spock blandly explains that he researched Earth camping customs and determined that the relevant compulsory rituals included the toasting of “marshmelons” and sing-alongs. Good grief. This “marshmelon” thing is so stupid, and so contrary to Spock’s firmly established perspicacity, that a backstory actually had to be invented later by Trekkers, something involving McCoy anticipating Spock’s desire to research camping customs, and screwing around with the Enterprise database so that Spock would think there really was such a thing as a “marshmelon”.
I know they’re going for “comedy” here, but frankly, the only thing that’s remotely funny about this scene is the idea that we’ll have dedicated, handheld marshmallow extruders in the 23rd century. Now there’s a useful device that should be in every home. You know what this means, though—somebody finally brought back the Sharper Image!
(Actually, I just learned that Kraft really did sell a marshmallow dispenser as a tie-in to this movie. I bet they sold a million of those.)
Kirk, already a little toasted himself, is enthused by the idea of a sing-along (oh, God). He and McCoy bat around some possible titles (“Camptown Races”? “Moon Over Rigel VII”?) before settling on the classic nursery rhyme “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” (please, Lord, kill me now).
They teach Spock the words and instruct him to “jump in” when they give the signal. And then—brace yourselves—McCoy and Kirk start “singing” in rounds, caterwauling like drunken alley cats and frightening all the small children in the audience. But Spock, bless him, does not jump in.
When Kirk and McCoy ask why, Spock explains he was trying to figure out the meaning of the lyrics. (And apparently, they do have meaning. Wow, I can honestly say I never expected to see phrases like “nihilist sentiments on the meaninglessness of man’s actions” in connection with “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. Internet writers definitely have too much time on their hands.)
McCoy explains that the words don’t matter; what matters is that you have a good time singing them. Spock deftly skewers this by replying, “I am sorry, Doctor. Were we having a good time?” Ha ha, God love you, Spock. And no. The answer is no.
Kirk gives up and suggests they go to bed, but once they’re in their sleeping bags, Mr. Pedantic feels obliged to correct the songwriter of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”: He tells Kirk that “Life is not a dream.” No, but I’m sure hoping this movie is.
What is Spock’s deal here, anyway? I never understood the whole Star Trek thing where “extremely smart” + “alien” = “taking everything literally”. Why would smart people be unable to grasp idiom and connotation, anyway? Between Data the walking thesaurus and Spock being confused by the deeper meaning of nursery rhymes, I’m starting to think that humans went out into the galaxy mainly to grin smugly at all the alien stiffs they could meet who don’t get their jokes. Suddenly, Kirk seems like the prototypical human, after all.
To close out the scene by making it as unwatchably corny as humanly (or Vulcanly) possible, they all say “Good night” to each other, individually, à la The Waltons. Aieeee!! Are there any real people that talk and act like this? I’ve heard more natural dialogue on Gossip Girl. These campfire scenes are so unpleasant, they’re actually making me nostalgic for the Crusher-Troi ”perky boobs” conversation. Because as cringe-inducing as that was, at least it went by quickly enough that I could pretend it hadn’t happened.
And can I just mention that we’re 23 minutes into the movie, and so far, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy have done bugger-all in terms of anything that has any connection whatsoever to the plot? But then again, why should the heroes have any real involvement in the story? Most of us just go to the movies to see the three leads dicking around, am I right?