Production: Paramount, 1989
Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
Though the new Enterprise is hardly ready to launch, Kirk and his crew are summoned when a fanatic recruits three alien ambassadors on his quest to find the home of God. Sybok, the Vulcan crusader, demonstrates to the Klingon, Romulan, and Federation consuls that he can heal their deepest wounds. When the Enterprise arrives, Kirk is horrified to see Sybok do the same for Dr. McCoy, but the Vulcan healer cannot persuade Spock to join him even though Spock identifies Sybok as his half-brother.
With a legion of followers, Sybok still manages to direct the Enterprise through the galactic barrier, to a planet he identifies as Sha Ka Ree - the Vulcan equivalent of Eden. There the group meets an entity with unbelievable powers, but Kirk is skeptical of a god who would seek the meager power of a starship. By the time Sybok realizes he has been misled, not even a photon torpedo can destroy the entity. Only the power of friendship saves Kirk.
Best For Ages:
6-8 - This is the most mature off the Trek films, dealing with complicated theological issues, but younger kids may enjoy the action sequences.
8-12 - Witty Klingons and confrontation with an authoritarian figure will make this movie popular with older children.
12 & up - Though rather offbeat, this Trek installment gives the three main characters a lot to do.
Educational Value: THE FINAL FRONTIER focuses less on the science of exploration, more on how individuals cope with limitations. Alien ambassadors heroically work for peace in terrible conditions. The main characters discourage accepting easy answers to difficult questions.
Entertainment Value: Some beautiful visual sequences, like Captain Kirk climbing El Capitan, can't quite compensate for the choppiness of the flashbacks. Still, Kirk, Spock and McCoy maintain their traditional witty banter.
Violence: Planet Nimbus 3 erupts in violence. Klingons attempt an assault on Federation citizens.A godlike entity attacks Kirk. The Enterprise destroys parts of a planet.
Frightening Situations: Kirk nearly dies in a mountaineering accident. Alien ambassadors are taken hostage. A Klingon vessel pursues the Enterprise. A being that claims to be God attacks Kirk. Sybok gives up his life to fight the entity.
Emotional Intensity: McCoy relives the decision to euthanize his father. Spock recalls his father's disappointment at having a half-human son.
Questionable Behavior: Sybok relieves people's pain in a messianic fashion. Chekov impersonates a starship captain.
Mature Themes: This film centers around the question of whether there is a God and what form a messiah might take. It is also a meditation on the importance of friendship even over family ties.
Widely considered apocryphal within the STAR TREK canon, THE FINAL FRONTIER contains all the humor and character quirks which made the series so successful. But as science fiction, it's pretty weak. In a nutshell, Kirk meets God, decides the universe isn't big enough for the two of them, and tries to destroy Eden. The saving grace of all this ego-boosting is that Kirk is right: any god that would resort to using his own tactics can't possibly be the real thing.
Sybok makes an odd yet compelling messiah, though it is difficult to imagine a logical Vulcan choosing the path of emotional joy. The scene in which McCoy relives his father's death is quite powerful. Yet Kirk upstages that moment by refusing to give up his own pain, because he believes his pain has forged his character. Spock choice to follow his captain's example offers a subtle critique of cult mentality and the lure of mind-numbing drugs.
A six-year-old viewer was confused by the theological conflict, yet enjoyed the space chases and the mountain-climbing. Viewers who appreciate the film's action but don't want to delve too deeply into the religious issues will enjoy RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Those who are more interested in the character interaction might prefer THE VOYAGE HOME, the most amusing of the Trek films.
Children's Star Trek Reviews
Adult Star Trek Reviews