Fortunately like most big companies, Star Trek (in most cases) is too big to fail. That being said, I need to confess I have become a fan of Star Trek V, and I actually enjoy it more than ST:TVH (The Voyage Home) these days. But 26 years ago on June 9th I saw my first Star Trek film without my pal Sal and much like Kirk, I was alone and I thought I was going to die.
For the uninitiated, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have what is known as a favored nations clause in their Star Trek contracts. Thus, there cannot be a great barrier between what each actor is offered in terms of performance or privilege. So when Leonard Nimoy was hired to direct a Star Trek feature, William Shatner under the terms of the deal, would one day have the conn of the Director's Chair as well as the Captain's Chair. What could go wrong? Plenty. Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) not doing the special effects (they handled the last 3 Trek features), a writer's strike, a cramped production schedule, and a so-so script with more holes in it than ST:TNG's space time continuum, to name a few.
But here's the thing. If you can look past many of the inconsistencies, and much of the forced humor ST: TFF (The Final Frontier) it has a true TOS vibe to it, with an excellent performance from DeForest Kelly during his encounter with Sybok. However, to enjoy the Final Frontier, it does require somewhat of a Vulcan mind meld so you won't "remember" certain aspects. So forget about most of the special effects, especially at Yosemite. Forget that Sybok is Spock's half brother (the novelization explains it much better than the film) Forget that the shuttle craft that returns from Nimbus III is like a clown car as Sybok's followers pile out in the shuttle bay. Forget that Sybok is able to seize control of the Enterprise with the greatest of ease with not even a single phaser shot being fired. Forget that the entire crew is under Sybok's control (or at least content for a joyride to the center of the galaxy) even though he seems to require personal contact with them first. Forget that no other Federation vessels receive Kirks emergency transmission for help. Forget that Sybok visits the ships barber before going down to the "God" planet, and this is where I "pass the butter" on what we need forget.
Yet it should be noted that I do think that Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) from ST:TOS Where No Man Has Gone Before should have been used as the "being" at the end of the film thereby connecting TOS past and present. I would have even accepted someone stranding Charlie X on the "God" planet and having him unleash his wrath on the crew. Still, even after all the shudda, wuuda, cuuda scenarios, we are left with the shell of a decent Trek movie. Exploration of self, the galaxy, other worlds (besides Earth), as well as religious and metaphysical components which Trek is fond of examining. Those scenes with Lawrence Luckinbill as the mystic Sybok play very well, especially when he confronts the holy trinity of Trek Kirk, Spock and McCoy in the observation deck.
So after more than a quarter century, ST:TFF has found a place in my heart. It contains most of what I love about Trek, except for the low brow snubbing of Sulu's character by Shatner which is obvious in the picture. He gives Chekov the conn and not George, and scripts a scene where the expert helmsman gets lost in a forrest. Right. Sulu can warp out of the Mutura Nebula, and read Klingon to escape an exploding Genesis planet, but he's not good enough to mind the store. Props to Nick Meyer for restoring Sulu's glory in ST:TUC. My only wish is that Takei and Shatner can get back to a friendship level before they turn into part of the Star Trek collection and really do grow old. I have a similar hope for me and my pal Sal as we have drifted out of our standard friendship orbit as well.
So look past the critics, look past a budget strapped production, and even give Shatner a pass for his role in all of this. It truly is a great effort at making a film with the classic Trek principles. Who knows, maybe Paramount will one day give TFF the restoration it deserves. Some fans have done so online with some measure of success, making the Final Frontier a Trek worth taking.