Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Behind The Scenes

At Nimoy's suggestion, William Shatner asked to direct the next Star Trek film after his co-star's second outing as director. Paramount agreed and Shatner was named the director of Star Trek V soon after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home achieved blockbuster status. Given the extraordinary challenge of following what many considered the best movie in the series, one of Shatner's goals for his film was "...Gritty realism. You know, with hand-held cameras, dirt under the fingernails, and real steel clanging doors."

Shatner wanted Harve Bennett (who produced Treks 2, 3 and 4). Harve Bennett was initially reluctant to return as producer because of the harsh treatment that he felt he received from Nimoy during Star Trek IV.

Harve Bennett: "There was just no way . . . I was going to allow myself to get into another situation where I would find myself getting de-balled by Gene Roddenberry's memos and knocked around by a star/director at the same time. After my experience on IV, I really felt like I wasn't a family member after all, that maybe the stars had all the power, that everybody knew that, and that no one would accept any other situation. I felt like a tin soldier, a dog without teeth, and I felt I had earned the command authority, and I didn't want to be used."

Harve Bennett: "(Shatner and I) ultimately spent the better part of an afternoon, at least four or five hours, holed up together at my bar, talking about my feelings, and about the stuff that happened between Leonard and me on IV, and my fears that the same sh-t could happen again on V. I wanted to make it very clear that if I found myself having a bad time, I'd quit. . . .We shook hands, and I came into Star Trek V with a lot of excitement."

Harve Bennett: "With Star Trek V, we have now come to the space imperative and we have some very, very difficult appetites: planetary and construction appetites, things you have to show and places you have to go, and an alien here and there. All these things make the cost and complexity of the film more difficult."

One storyline idea was scrapped.  This storyline was later integrated into William Shatner's first novel: "The Ashes Of Eden."

The movie was originally to be an extension of an episode of the original television series. In the movie, they would be searching for the villain.  This was also later changed to a different storyline.

Finally a storyline was decided upon.  Actually, the earlier drafts of this final storyline were a lot better. Bill Shatner did know his Trek. Unfortunately the sub-par special effects (due to ILM not being available) and the cheesy humor (shoehorned in at Paramount's request) hurt the film. Originally it was supposed to have a MUCH darker tone to it. The studio heads were concerned that the story would be far too dark and controversial after the lighter tone of Star Trek IV, so they asked him "could you lighten the story?" The humor parts were far too out of place with the rest of the film.

In Shatner's first outline for Star Trek V a rogue Vulcan named Zar (later renamed Sybok) commandeers the Enterprise to seek out God. The mountain-climbing at Yosemite, the campfire scene, Zar's abduction of Klingon, Romulan, and human hostages in the failed desert boomtown of Paradise City ultimately survived into the finished film (you'll have to imagine these scenes without the silly parts, and with a darker tone, Zar was much more sinister than the Sybok we wound up with. Originally, he was a very messianic, possessed kind of figure who was willing to trample anyone who got in his way). However, from midpoint to finish, the original storyline bears almost no relation to that of the actual theatrical release.

In Shatner's early versions, Zar (Sybok) is not related to Spock but instead is only a former acquaintance on Vulcan. After a long and intensive ground battle at Paradise City, the huge number of soldiers under Zar's command finally overwhelms the Federation troops (for an example of how much darker this was going to be, Zar would have been riding on a horned equine, which would have skewered a few troops with its horn). Facing defeat, Kirk manages to set a fatal trap but Spock ruins the ploy by warning off Zar. Spock's explanation for his actions is that he feels Zar is so brilliant that it is possible he really could be the Messiah, which does not soothe Kirk's anger at his friend. As seen in the final film, Zar uses images of their past to convert McCoy and Spock to his cause. They become believers and, unlike the filmed version, Zar then uses the same technique on Kirk.

Zar immediately speaks to Kirk's lack of family, and dredges up Kirk's self-imposed feelings of responsibility and guilt over the death of his son, David. Promising that a meeting with God will cure even such deeply embedded pain, Zar implores Kirk to believe in him as well. Kirk joins Spock and Bones on the surface of God's planet.

An awesome Godlike image appears, surrounded by angels, and demands that the Enterprise transport him back toward more populated sections of the universe. Kirk then challenges 'God,' and an argument ensues. As it escalates, 'God' begins showing his true colors and his image begins to transform, ultimately becoming unmistakably Satanic. The angels simultaneously change into hordes of gargoyles, the Furies of Hell. At that point, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, still suffering from the effects of their first real adversarial relationship, split up, with each man running in a separate direction. McCoy falls, breaking his leg, and is surround by the Furies, as is Spock. At the same time, however, Kirk has broken free, but even with a clear path toward escape, a last look back at the fates of his friends convinces Kirk to go back, risking his life in an effort to save them. Spock is first, and when he's been successfully freed, the pair immediately joins forces in an attempt to save McCoy, who's already been carried away by the minions into Hell. Descending together into the river Styx, Spock and Kirk fight off their hideous attackers and save their injured friend, with Kirk carrying McCoy on his shoulders as they flee.

The trio find that the shuttlecraft has been damaged by the Furies. Scott is forced to beam them aboard the Enterprise one at a time, due to low power. Once Spock and McCoy are aboard, Scott beams a Fury, who grabbed Kirk's communicator, onto the ship. Scott grabs a hand phaser and kills the Fury, damaging the only working transporter in the process. Trapped on the planet, Kirk is pursued once more by the Furies of Hell. After free climbing a small mountain, Kirk turns around and begins killing as many of the Furies as possible, armed with a phaser in each hand. Running out of phaser ammunition and horribly outnumbered, Kirk appears to be in a hopeless situation until the Klingon Bird of Prey decloaks and begins blowing many of the Furies apart, the rest scurrying away. Kirk screams, "You want me, you Klingon bastards? Come and get me!" and begins firing the two hand phasers at the vessel. As in the final film, he is beamed aboard to find that Spock is actually the gunner.

Shatner wanted acclaimed novelist Eric Von Lustbader to write the screenplay, but Lustbader and Paramount were unable to work out a financial agreement. Nicholas Meyer, writer/director of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan and writer of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, was then offered the writing job. He had to turn down the offer because he was busy directing another film at the time, leaving fans only to wonder what would have come of a Meyer-penned Star Trek V.

David Loughery: "Paramount liked Bill's outline, but they thought that it was a little too dark. After the success of Star Trek IV, they wanted to make sure that we retained as much humor and fun as possible, because they felt that was one of the reasons for the big success of that film. They wanted us to inject a spirit of fun and adventure into the story. I think they just wanted a balance between the darker elements and some of the lighter stuff."

David Loughery: "One particular change was in the character of Sybok. Originally, he was a very messianic, possessed kind of figure who was willing to trample anyone who got in his way, but we had to take him in a different direction."

David Loughery: "The idea of God and the Devil was reflected in the script's earlier drafts. Those drafts were much cleaner and more comprehensible in terms of the idea that you think you're going to Heaven, but you turn out to have found Hell."

William Shatner: "With Harve and the studio suits both worrying that my story, featuring appearances by both God and Satan, would more than likely offend a lot of moviegoers, Harve came up with the idea that perhaps we should alter the story and turn God and Satan into an evil alien pretending to be God for his own gain. This was a huge change, lightening the script considerably, and as I look at it now I can clearly see my acceptance of this most basic revision as my first mistake."

Some people argue that the storyline of "The Enterprise Crew looking for God" was not a good idea for a movie.  What people seem to forget was that this was not even revealed until toward the final act of the film!  Early in the movie, Sybok states he is looking for "The Ultimate Knowledge", not God.  Later, he states he is looking for Sha-Ka-Ree, where these questions of The Ultimate Knowledge may be answered.  Again, God is not mentioned.

David Loughery: "To me, God was never the most important part of the final script. Yes, it was part of the story, but my focus and concentration was on the relationships. The whole God idea was almost like a subplot. We had to
tread a fine line, because we could really become very pretentious and pretend that we're saying something infinitely important."

David Loughery: "In terms of the Kirk, Spock, and McCoy relationship, one of the things that occurred to me is that if you look at Star Trek, you see these three men who are in middle age, and their lives have been spent in space. They're not married, they don't have families, so their relationship is with each other. They represent a family to each other, maybe without always acknowledging it."

David Loughery: "One of the smart things we did early on was bring (Nimoy) and (Kelley) in to go over the script, because we wanted their input. These guys have lived with characters for more than 20 years, and have very strong opinions on what their characters would and wouldn't do. There were problems with this, too, however. ...When you start doing that kind of stuff, bit by bit, you remove and dilute the real strength of the original vision and finally you end up with a bit of a mish-mash."

David Loughery: "It would have been great for Kirk to have squared off against Spock  [and McCoy] in some way. But you find the script beginning to accommodate the needs of the actors."

William Shatner: "I had David rewrite the [script to accomodate the actors so there was no conflicts between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy]. Right? Wrong? Better? Worse? I still don't know, although I would have loved to have seen the original scenario on-screen."

William Shatner: "I'd slowly but surely allowed my original story to become significantly diminished. God and the Devil were gone, replaced by a mere cosmic pretender to the throne, and much of the inherent dramatic tension that would have crackled between our main characters throughout the second half of our film was now similarly diluted. No longer would there be any dissension among the ranks, and instead, the three of us would ultimately join hands, venturing down to Sha Ka Ree at film's end mostly out of curiosity. In retrospect, and twenty-twenty hindsight, that story solution weakened the dramatic tension of the film's climactic moments while flattening the buildup of tension throughout our story."

William Shatner wanted Sean Connery for the role of Sybok, Spock's half-brother. Connery proved to be unavailable because he was filming Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. Instead, Laurence Luckinbill received the role. However, the planet being sought by Sybok kept the name of "Sha Ka Ree", a play on the name "Sean Connery."

Leonard Nimoy: "I felt the idea of having Kirk, Spock, and McCoy sitting down and being with each other with no adventure involved and nothing to deal with was wonderful. It put the whole Star Trek experience on a very human scale and, in a very positive way, recognized the validity of the relationship these three have had over the years."

Leonard Nimoy: "Bill's such a physical guy to begin with and I immediately found that was going to spill over into this film. There was much more running and jumping than I normally like to do. I was constantly going up the elevator, down the stairs, across the cliff, down the rocks. We shot in the heat of the day and the cold of the night. It was a fun film to do, but it was also a very difficult one."

William Shatner: "I didn't want (the new phasers) to be squirtguns (like the old phasers.) I wanted them to be .45s. We load them on camera and you can run out of power. . . .I wanted the phasers to sound differently, too. Instead of tinkling, I wanted them to crackle."

Shatner's new phasers would also be used in the next film, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, during the assassination scene.

The shuttlebay in Star Trek V is the repainted royal throne room from Eddie Murphy's "Coming To America."

Despite the blockbuster success of its predecessor, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier suffered from major budget crunches courtesy of Paramount. Unfortunately, the special effects were the first to suffer from the lack of funds. To pull off a story as ambitious as Shatner's, incredible special effects would have been needed. George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) had delivered outstanding work on Star Trek II, III, and IV. When another effects house offered to deliver the effects for Star Trek V in a shorter time and for less money than ILM, Bennett and producer Ralph Winter elected not to use ILM. Instead, Associates and Ferren (AF) was chosen for the effects on Star Trek V. ILM has been used in all subsequent films.

AF's Bran Ferren: "My general dislike of blue screen results in a lot of process projection wherever possible. There were many scenes where blue screen, computer generated mattes or rotoscoping were appropriate and useful, but whenever we had people walking in front of effects or wild camera movements, I felt we did ourselves a favor by avoiding blue screen."

William Shatner: I had planned these beautiful shots but I was forced to shoot close-ups not too close, and the master shots because of the demands of the (process projection), I mean, you couldn't breathe or you'd end up with matte lines. It was frustrating because I had imagined this film and planned it as a series of flowing images and I ended up with some very choppy scenes instead."

William Shatner: "I wanted this picture to have a real epic stature, large and impressive, and I had planned on visualizing that through a series of unusually broad, sweeping camera shots. For example, in the first scene of the film, I wanted viewers to find Sybok laughing, at which point we'd tilt up into the sun, widening out, continuing to stretch our perspective almost exponentially, until the sun was far off in the galaxy. At that point, I wanted the camera to turn slowly toward a small planet in the distance and begin magnifying its focus, each time by a power of ten, until the planet became recognizable as Earth. As the zoom continued, we'd have seen America, then California, then a giant mountain with a small speck of a being on it, then a hand grasping the side of that mountain, which of course would have ultimately revealed itself as Kirk's. I had planned similarly grand visuals in several other spots throughout the film."

Bran Ferren: "The model had been borrowed and someone had spray painted one entire side of the Enterprise model gray, destroying the meticulous original paint job. We had to go in and fix it before we could shoot it, which took two painters and an assistant about six weeks to do."

To save additional money, several shots of the Enterprise-A from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home were reused in this movie, thus resulting in ILM's credit at the film's conclusion. The gargoyle-like Furies, which would have appeared in the film's climax, were revamped to be less expensive and eventually dropped all together because of the tight effects budget and time restraints. A new, less-expensive, ending was quickly designed at the last moment.

Bran Ferren: "It's not exactly like Star Trek is a new concept. We knew what it was supposed to look like, so our job was really to be faithful to that look rather than try to reinvent the wheel. Star Trek usually means models with soft light. I wouldn't light them that way if I were going from scratch, though there's nothing wrong with it. I would've preferred a stark, cutting, contrasty, less filled look. Unfortunately, we couldn't just randomly introduce that, since the look of the Enterprise and of the other models is something that has been created and maintained for four films. We just accepted the fact that most of our model shots had to match what had been done before."

Bran Ferren: "We weren't trying for a 'Can you top this?' approach to the visuals. Instead it was a matter of what was appropriate, tasteful and fit within the Star Trek genre. I'm not interested in effects calling attention to themselves."

Click Here For Rock Creature/Gargoyle Concept Art

Click Here For A Photo Of The Rock Creature From Footage Not Used In The Final Cut

The battle involving demons and such was changed to six rock creatures springing from the ground. However, each rock monster would cost $300,000 each to build, the studio balked, and thus only one rock creature was built. The rock creature sequence was short, but Willian Shatner was so unhappy about the final result, that sequence was dropped fron the final cut of the film.

William Shatner: "I sat there, dumbfounded, staring at a series of effects that were decidedly less than special. In particular, my God effect looked cheesy. . . .Harve and I tried to scrape up the funds to re-shoot the ending, but found the studio purse strings knotted tightly."

William Shatner: "Wanting desperately for this film to succeed, I simply did not perceive its final ten minutes to be bad. Only much later, well after the film had come and gone from theaters, was I clearheaded enough to realize that they were horrendous. . . .We ultimately spent our first one hundred minutes seeking God, and then, when we'd finally found him, he looked not unlike a big one-hundred-watt floodlight with a face. That really hurt us, and to simultaneously muddle through a hastily thrown together ending left us dead in the water. It was the ruination of that film."

The minatures of the shuttle Galileo and the Shuttlecraft were, in actual size, quite big, with the shuttle being 5 feet long and the shuttle bay model was 20 feet wide. To achieve the effect of the shuttle crashing, two giant garage door springs were used, pulled back by a 3-1/2 ton winch -- essentially a giant slingshot. When it was released, the shuttle model traveled at around 300 mph.

While shooting the desert scenes in full uniform were uncomfortable to the actors, the extras at Paradise City had it worse with Burlap being used as the material.

The surface of Sha-Ka-Ree as viewed during reconnaissance by Captain Kirk was generated from an electron microscope image of a lobster's claw.

One of William Shatner's daughters appears as the yeoman that holds Kirk's jacket when he first arrives on the Bridge.

The campfire sequence was shot on the final day of shooting. They spent 10 hours laughing and enjoying each other's company.

One change they made to the ending was inserting a bit of dialouge between Klaa and Korrd, to make it more clear that Korrd exercised his authority to allow Spock to board the Bird-Of-Prey.  This was added after a preview screening.  

William Shatner: "In midsummer, we hit the multiplexes, and on the morning after our official opening night, I
was awakened extremely early by a telephone call. Stumbling to the receiver, I grunted out a 'hullo' only to be immediately greeted by the unusually cheery voice of Leonard Nimoy. 'Did I wake you?' he asked. 'Yes.' 'Good.' 'Why good?' 'That means I'll be the first to give you the news. They love your movie!' 'What do you mean?' 'You got a great review in the LA Times,' he told me, at which point he proceeded to spend the next five minutes reading it to me over the phone. I started to cry. I was so touched by Leonard's call, as well as stunned by the realization that one of my fondest dreams had come true. Later that same day, one of the local TV news reviewers gave me a ten plus, and I began sensing a trend. I sensed wrong. Shortly thereafter, the reviews that came in were decidedly mixed."

David Loughery: "I wondered what the factors were that reduced our impact. One of them, I think, may be the fact that 'The Next Generation' has been on TV the last few years. It made a Star Trek movie seem like a less special event. I think it was Harve Bennett who said that if you eat turkey sandwiches everyday, Thanksgiving doesn't look like such a big deal. I look at Trek V with very mixed emotions. The effects turned out to be very disappointing, and this is a movie where we really needed them to put us over the top storywise, especially at the end. . . .Those effects don't quite deliver, and in some cases, it looked a little shoddy and ludicrous."

George Takei: "Star Trek V will please the fans, unquestionably. It's an exciting film. It's really the Kirk-Spock-McCoy troika. They make up the dramatic triangle, that's where the focus is."

Nichelle Nichols: "Bill was a wonderful director. I was not so much surprised at his ability as his demeanor. He was warm, exciting and creative. He was far more patient than I've ever known him to be. He knew what he wanted, and it was fun to watch him get it."

James Doohan: "Bill treated everybody beautifully. . . .Bill was very pleasant to work with, and I must say I'm very happy with that. I wouldn't mind if he directed number six."

Walter Koenig: "I thought it was an okay film. It was entertaining. I think you could write a thesis paper comparing the problems of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek V. In some ways, they're very similar. I think we had in each case an antagonist that we couldn't make up our minds about. Is he going to be a good guy or a bad guy? How much peril was this guy going to generate for the crew? It started out one way and then became something else. And instead of the conflict that was so necessary for good story structure, it kind of went off in another direction. In Star Trek V, we really ended up with jokes. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture we ended up with awe. . . .I think the problems with the film were in terms of structure. I also think you need good guys and bad guys and we got a little muddy on that point in Star Trek V."

DeForest Kelley: "I feel that, regardless of what is said about this film, Bill is a very energetic kind of man and a good director. I knew going in that he was going to bring energy to the film, I think he did. This was a tough film for him. It was a nightmare in more ways than one. He handled it very well and when he looked around and got his feet on the ground, he went forward in a thoroughly professional manner and I felt Bill did an excellent job. I think if there's anything wrong with the film, it would be the story content itself but certainly not in his direction."

Leonard Nimoy: "[Star Trek V's weak box office] certainly had nothing to do with Bill's abilities as a director, because he shot the film as efficiently and cinematically as any of a number of talented directors might have. He got some interesting footage, such as Sybok riding on horseback out of the mist. With us actors, he was personable, charming, well prepared, and boundlessly enthusiastic."

William Shatner: "I see Star Trek V as a failed but glorious attempt to make a picture full of character growth and a deep philosophical base, delving into man's universal desire to believe." 

I feel the factors of Paramount's pressure to add humor, and the unavailablity of ILM, and the budget contraints, watered down and hurt the film tremendously. But even with the product we have, I suspect that if there were better FX added (such as the gargoyles and Rockmen, etc), that would improve the climax quite a bit.

Imagine if, in "Raiders Of The Lost Ark", instead of the incredible creatures coming out of the Ark and shooting pulses through the Nazi's and melting their faces, etc, during the FX-laden climax, we only saw a flash of light and the Nazi's just disappeared? The film would still have been good, but the climax would have been a letdown.

Trek V, with new FX and trimming of the silly parts, would not be the best of the bunch, but I feel it would turn a descent but flawed film into an above-average one.

  Go to The Captain Kirk Page.

  Go to The Star Trek V Information Page.