Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) (part 8 of 13)
Inside the shuttle, everyone’s sprawled all over each other, like the aftermath of a drunken orgy. Sybok and Kirk wake up at the same time with a gun between them, but Sybok grabs it first and orders Kirk to take him to the bridge to change course. But once they’re outside the shuttle, Kirk turns around and attacks, and in the ensuing brawl the gun slides across the floor right to Spock’s feet.
Spock picks it up and orders Sybok to surrender, but Sybok marches up to Spock until the gun barrel is pressed up against his chest. He says pleasantly, “No. You must kill me.” How much would you pay to see Spock say, “You got it, sucker!” and start blasting away? Damn, I’ll bet Zachary Quinto’s Spock would’ve done it. Well, maybe not. But Sylar would’ve done it! Okay, he’d probably toy with him and not kill him. Damn it, Sybok just won’t die!
Kirk has a KHHAAAAAN-like acting moment where he screams “Shoot him!!” But Sybok snatches the gun away, and proceeds to offer a smug, “For a moment, I thought you might actually do it.” Spock stares at him, appalled at what he’s done, while Kirk looks on, confused and angry. Spock is humiliated, but he again refuses to join Sybok, and Bad Teeth Guy shows up just in time to hustle Kirk, Spock, and McCoy off to the brig.
This is probably the best scene in the movie, because it’s all about the emotional undertows between Kirk, Spock, and Sybok, and it’s handled pretty well by the three actors. That said, though, there is something really dumb about this scene, which is that there’s not another soul around on the Lemonprise shuttle deck to intervene and take control of the situation.
Think about it: this means neither Chekov nor Scotty even suspected that (a) Sybok might have gotten the upper hand on the away party, or (b) that after a high-speed crash into the shuttle barricade, the people inside might need medical attention. Nope! We got the shuttle back, off to warp, everything’s hunky-dory! La la la, hey, who’s the laughing Vulcan?
The shuttle disgorges more of Sybok’s followers, dragging Uhura and Sulu along with them. Sybok decides they’ll be useful, and asks to be left alone with them. We hear the same “heartbeat” throb from his earlier encounter with Bad Teeth Guy, and I suddenly realize I’d actually rather be watching a Don Johnson video.
Cut to Scotty looking down from the glassed-in shuttle control mezzanine. He sees his crewmates being led away, and strangers pouring out of the shuttle like clowns from a clown-car, and shrewdly comes to the conclusion that something may be wrong. So either (a) Scotty was watching this whole time, and did nothing at all to prevent Kirk and the others from being captured, or (b) he just now decided to wander on down to the shuttle bay and see if everything was copasetic. Either way, I’m really annoyed at how this movie is making me question the competence of every single human being in the universe.
Even before they’re secured in the brig, Kirk starts laying into Spock for betraying everyone on the ship. “Worse, I have betrayed you,” Spock replies soberly. Kirk demands to know why Spock didn’t pull the trigger; Spock explains that Kirk ordered him to kill his brother.
This leads to the following exchange, which is painful on multiple levels. And I assure you, all of this dialogue is transcribed verbatim.
Spock: No no, Captain, you do not understand. Sybok also is a son of Sarek.
Kirk: You mean, he’s your brother brother?
Spock: [meaningful look]
Kirk: You made that up.
Spock: I did not.
Kirk: [petulantly] You did, too. Sybok couldn’t possibly be your brother, because I happen to know for a fact you don’t have a brother!
Spock: Technically, you are correct. I do not have a brother.
Kirk: There, you see! You see!
Spock: I have a half-brother.
Kirk: I gotta sit down.
Yikes. This scene is totally, completely wrong—not because it violates Spock’s backstory, but because for reasons beyond my comprehension, it’s played for laughs. After the intensity of the shuttlebay scenes, the shift in tone is pretty jarring, but more importantly, none of it is actually funny.
Spock is telling Kirk that he ordered him to kill his brother, and Kirk—his best and closest friend in the universe—responds with a snippy “You made that up”! Seriously? Yes, that’s what Star Trek needs: fratricide banter! Of course, this is just another attempt to imitate the lighthearted tone of the previous film: the way Spock delivers “I did not” most closely recalls the scene from Star Trek IV where Spock denies he likes Italian food.
Now, if you want to go all geeky and go back to the original series, it does indeed get worse. Kirk “happens to know for a fact” Spock doesn’t have a brother, because it was firmly established in ”Journey to Babel” (The One with the Pig-Snout Alien) when we met Spock’s dad Sarek for the first time. From the first moment Spock and Sarek are on screen together, their relationship carries a deep undercurrent of tension, all because Sarek was personally affronted that his only son had rejected the Vulcan path and enlisted in Starfleet instead. (This relationship was taken in a very different direction in the 2009 Star Trek film.)
So Kirk’s remark about knowing Spock is an only child shows the filmmakers remembered the TOS episode, but Kirk’s flippant tone makes it clear they didn’t really care. It’s like, Hey, Trekkers! Not only are we walking all over established continuity—we’re dancing a little jig while we’re at it!
But you don’t have to be geeky to recoil at this scene, because it contains some of William Shatner’s worst acting in this movie (though not, of course, of all time). Oh, and for extra added benefit, McCoy is also in the scene, but he has nothing to do. So he spends the whole time just looking back and forth between Spock and Kirk with his patented bug-eyed stare, which really just flags his general extraneousness. That’s great, Bones. Why are you here again?
Spock, explaining things to McCoy, says that Sybok’s mother was a hitherto—and subsequently—unmentioned “Vulcan princess” who died young. Spock says he was born later to Sarek and his human wife, Amanda, and he and Sybok were then raised together as brothers. Wait, isn’t “Hey, you’ve known me for decades, meet the brother I suddenly have that you knew nothing about!” something like Door #3 in the Jump the Shark Sweepstakes? Yeah, I think it is.
And even the most scarily obsessive, locked-in-the-basement Trek site, the one that has 16 pages on the sexual backstory of Teri Hatcher’s one Star Trek bit role, will tell you nothing about this “Vulcan princess”. Absolutely nothing.
But the craziness goes even deeper, because a Next Generation episode (“Sarek”) even contains a line saying that Sarek’s “first wife is from Earth” (i.e., Spock’s mom). So to force the continuity of Star Trek V to match up with everything else in Trek, there’s really only one possible scenario: Sarek knocked up a Vulcan princess when they were both too young to get married. (Hey, you try teaching abstinence to teenagers who experience pon farr.)
Or, you can just say this whole movie is utter rubbish and never happened. Hmmm, that’s probably simpler. Let’s go with that.
Back on the bridge, Uhura and Sulu come out of the turbolift, and Chekov remarks that he was starting to get “vorried”. C’mon, Chekov, there’s nothing to worry about. I mean, a shuttle full of senior officers just crash-landed onto the ship, and no one aboard checked in with the bridge or anything. I’m sure they all just headed straight to the pub for happy hour. Nothing to be concerned about at all! La la la.
Oh, and get a load of the hidden nugget of awesome from this scene: Apparently, when Scotty noticed the ship was being infiltrated, he didn’t bother to inform the officer in command. I’m sure that’s got nothing to do with Scotty having utter contempt for Chekov’s command abilities. Nope, not at all.
Grinning Sulu grinningly goes to his station and lays in a happy funtime new course, and Chekov sputters that Sulu doesn’t have the authority to do this. Just then, Sybok is suddenly looming over him, ready to lay his mindzonk mojo on our favorite hapless Russian. I dunno how tall Laurence Luckinbill is, but so far the whole supporting cast on the Lemonprise only comes up to his chest. So, another great way to highlight the heroic dynamism of your regulars is to make sure your guest star is a foot taller than everyone else.
More time is wasted in the brig. Kirk is actually standing on Spock’s shoulders, trying to break out through access panels in the ceiling, and he fails spectacularly. A shower of sparks explodes above his head, and Kirk tumbles to the floor. Good thing Sybok didn’t post a guard or anything to watch over them. Or maybe he did post a guard, just one who’s extremely hard of hearing.
Spock tells Kirk that this is the new, escape-proof brig. That must be why it looks like a bunch of hastily knocked together flats thrown up in the soundstage custodial closet, complete with regular, 20th Century fluorescent lighting tubes across the entrance audaciously pretending to be force-field generators. Spock adds that he tested the room himself, which in this movie suggests that they can get out in five minutes using two paper clips and a hock of phlegm.