Star Trek V: Family, God and all that shite

By Gary M. Reynolds

I recall the first time I watched this film. It was a dreary afternoon sometime around 1992 or 1993. I had spotted it in the terrestrial telly listings and thought, “Wow, this one is never on!” Much to my young frustration, on that day I was brought down the town with my mam and sister to do some shopping.

I pestered the hell out of my mother to give me the house key. I desperately needed to get home to watch and tape it. With mere minutes to spare, she gave in and handed me the keys. I bolted home as fast as I could.
At only 7 or 8-years-old, I was, of course, already an avid trekkie, and had by this stage taped from BBC and RTÉ a few of the films so I had a blank VHS put to one side to tape this and add to my growing collection.

Star Trek V on VHS

I think there’s some old Coronation Street on there too

It was time to see this elusive film.
Afterwards, I frankly didn’t think much of it.
Recently, however, I felt that it deserves another look. So time to sit down and find all those things that went over my innocent, youthful head and grasp the greatness of Trekdom that surely follows. I’m sure the Shat knew what he was doing.

Opening the film like Omar Sharif’s entrance in Lawrence of Arabia, Sybok, televangelist of the space ways, is revealed to a lonely settler on the desolate planet of peace, Nimbus III. From here, Vulcan’s holy healer goes on to charm Bedouin-esque aliens of the dunes and the patrons of the saloon/cantina. High Noon at Mos Eisley. Laurence Luckinbell plays this part magnificently, I must say. Such a different Vulcan to anything else that came before or since. Some may gripe that he was too over the top but he’s playing a faith healer in outer space, for crying out loud! How else could one possibly play it?!

Oh, but the glorious return of Jerry Goldsmith does so bring a smile to my face. Although his main theme from Motion Picture was adapted for The Next Generation 2 years previously, this was his first Trek film score in a decade. As someone who grew up with Star Trek in the 90s, Goldsmith was the sound of Star Trek. 5 movie scores and the title themes to TNG and Voyager.

Now we get a new Enterprise! Sort of. It’s still the Constitution class. Oh, and the Excelsior we pass by on the way to this new NCC 1701-A? Oh never mind about that, it’s not like this new class of ship which has already sailed an under a functioning crew for the past year could possibly be in working order. No no no, we’ll use the near-retirement crew of a vessel that failed it’s shakedown cruise. In it’s time of need, all Starfleet ever needs is the experience of Kirk and family.
For this film, family is what it’s all about.
Sitting at that campfire is the family of the show. Three brothers, each with their own issues concerning their relatives.
Even McCoy knows it. At the campfire he says that after all the time in space they have, once shore leave comes up, they spend it together. “Other people have families”, he says. “Not us” Kirk retorts. The loss of family, his older brother during TOS “Operation – Annihilate”, as well as his son in The Search for Spock (1984), is quietly, subtly felt here. The real show is in the observation lounge aboard the Enterprise. Sybok wishes Kirk to share his pain. “I need my pain!” he says, the culmination of a gloriously Shatnerian speech akin to those he made on the Original Series.

 

Star Trek V – We Are Our Pain

Spock’s issues have been noted throughout the history of the franchise, primarily concerning his father, are again shown through a vision in the observation lounge.
But now he must face his exploitative, black sheep of a brother. Spock most certainly sides with his brothers in arms rather than his own blood, much to the sorrow of Sybok. The late Mr. Nimoy knows the character so damned well, and keeps Spock’s own torment just below the surface, as he recoils from Sybok’s embrace on Nimbus III, when he is ordered to shoot in the shuttle bay, and again in that observation lounge aboard the Enterprise. When Sybok finds the truth about God on Sha’Ka’Ree, he redeems himself and these Vulcan brothers finally reconcile. And when Sybok dies, Spock utters his name with the most subtle of quivers. He mourns his brothers loss.

Spock and Sybok Brothers once more Star Trek V

Brothers once more

However , even as a kid, McCoy’s vision was the scene that stuck in my head the most. For anyone who has lost a loved one, there are still things you want to say if you could only see them one last time. Bones is furious that Sybok would make him relive, not only the death of his father, but that he was the one who turned off the life support systems. And to then have a cure found shortly afterwards. What Sybok does for Bones is both terrible and terrific. McCoy is somewhat of a god-fearing man. He has brought up religious moments a number of times and when confronted with this he has that spiritual moment of calm, if only for a while.

Despite the troubled emotions, be they under the skin or boiling over like plomeek soup, there is some wonderful moments of humour. Be it of Bones getting stressed out as he watches Jim climb El Kapitan, the light-hearted farce of Sulu and Chekov trying to avoid returning to the ship, or the slapstick of Scotty‘s jailbreak, there’s some wonderful fun in the film.

Star Trek V Not Infront Of The klingons

Not in front of the Klingons

But then we come to the trouble most trekkies have. What does God need with a starship?
Most will bemoan this whole climax, that it’s ridiculous. Have ye not watched Star Trek?! This is exactly the kind of thing the Original series did! The have met so many deities and god-like beings in that show! And what did they do? They fought against them. They questioned the authority these creatures gave themselves.
You dare question the Almighty?! YES! That’s what we’re here for. And this is what Star Trek continued to do into Next Generation with the judgements of Q and on DS9 with the will of the Prophets.
The issue I have with this as a crescendo for the film, is that it reminds me how much Star Trek belongs on television, so much more so than it does in cinemas. Like with Insurrection (1998), The Final Frontier suffers from the same thing; it’s an episode plot stretched out for a film. The trouble with Final Frontier was the lack of funding The special effects had lost ILM to Indiana Jones, and boy does it show. Shots are re-used from other films and the blue screen and stop-motion work just doesn’t hold up against what had been done before. Once they meet God, the outdoor desert becomes a very, very obvious soundstage. This third act suffers so much because of this and shows that if it were TV, it may have passed, but not to a theatrical audience.
I recall coming away from this as a kid thinking, “Yeah, it was alright, I guess.” Over twenty years later, and now that I have looked through it properly, I still feel the same, but at least I can see the good that is there.
It’s flawed, it’s pacing is odd, the plot doesn’t really get going until nearly an hour in, and there’s little in the way of overall tension building.
But damn it Jim, it’s still some real Star Trek.

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The Trouble With Worf

By Ciarán McNulty

Okay lads, set your drinks down coz I’ve something I wanna say and you’re probably not going to like it.  I hate Worf.

Yeah, I know.  He’s the most popular Klingon of all time and has so many funny/awesome moments but at the heart of it, people, face it…he’s a prick.  An honest-to-Kahless prick.  For every “I’m not a merry man” moment that you chuckle at and love about him, I guarantee you there’s 2 moments of him being an arrogant, self-involved, hypocritical and even sexually-violent arse.

Now, this doesn’t mean I think he’s a badly realised character.  On the contrary.   My reaction to him is a testament to the acting of the wonderful Michael Dorn and to the scribes of Star Trek writing a very effective and astute observation of an intergalactic curmudgeon, particularly in DS9.  Coz, surely having a character who’s that big a pain in the hole all the time, must be intentional, right?

As far back as the early days of TNG, Worf exhibited an attitude and behaviour which has me scratching my head as to how he became so popular.  From the get-go, this miserable bollocks would make one rule for himself and another for all those unfortunate enough to be around him. He defied Klingon tradition to don a Starfleet uniform and yet, once in said uniform, would spend most of the time blathering on about his Klingon traditions instead of working. He would also say that he wouldn’t betray those ideals and beliefs, which occasionally put him in direct conflict with orders and basic Starfleet protocol.

Indeed, in episodes like ‘Rightful Heir’ (an otherwise decent episode for exploring Klingon ritual and intrigue, only let down by it’s centering on old Misery-Ridges himself), Picard gets quite appropriately pissed off with the sheer frequency of Worf’s Klingon junk interfering with his duties. Yet Picard still manages to let the useless lump away on leave in order to…I dunno, find himself or some other Worf-centric nonsense.  If I’m Captain, he gets canned right there.  “G’way and find yourself, lad. And wherever it is ya turn up, feckin’ stay there!”

whoiswithoutsin_230

Pants.

Which brings us to the next problem- everything always has to be about Worf!  This personality vacuum isn’t content to just be rubbish at being a Starfleet officer because of his Klingon baggage, nor to also be rubbish at being a Klingon due to  being a dull, non-committal fence-sitter with one foot in another culture. He must also be the centre of attention in both worlds.  Now this may be where the writing is at fault, with the script-writers perhaps bowing consistently to those fans who so inexplicably wanted more of this eejit on screen.  But I got so fed up of there being major crises in the corridors of Klingon power and then for some weak reason (like an ambassadorial role or something), Worf frowning his way onto centre stage and taking a huge, Empire-defining role in the process.  Think about it- Worf helps establish the new Chancellor, Worf is present at the emergence of a cloned Kahless, Worf becomes leader of the Empire!  Enough!  Why always him?

 

And even when it isn’t about him, he tries to make it as such.  His sense of entitlement when the Klingon female, with links to Quark’s past showed up, he simply assumed that she would want to be with him. He acted as if her very presence on DS9 was to serve as this week’s love interest in the Worf Show.

Similarly, when O’Brien, Bashir and Quark wanted, very kindly, to assist Worf on a mission to supposedly send Jadzia’s soul to the afterlife (and satisfy some religious nonsense which she herself wouldn’t have given a tuppence about), he was an abominable wanker about it, refusing to let anyone share in his grief and accusing them all of being in love with her and, naturally, not worthy of her at the same time.  What. A. Twat.

Then comes my biggest grievance.  Worf’s attitude to women.  Klingon culture be damned, this guy is just a rapey arsehole.  His traditions might say that violently grabbing a woman and forcing yourself on her is all good fun, but the women we see him do that with usually aren’t Klingon!

giphyIt’s pretty convenient that whenever he did lay on the smooth, seductive Worf moves (or sexual assault, to give it another name), the women usually fought in terror for about 5 seconds before deciding they liked it.  Now, this probably is one area where the writers want a stern bloody talking to.  You might be Klingon, Worf, but these women aren’t and I’m sorry but ya can’t be going around Roger Moore-ing it in the 2370s, especially whilst wearing a Starfleet uniform.

In Jadzia, it could be argued, there was a strong woman who somewhat expected it and, as previously demonstrated, could handle the brutish wanker anyway. However when he did it to tiny, little Ezri, was I the only one in the audience who was uncomfortable?  And of course, when she wakes up after the successful rape-seduction, Worf acts like a controlling bastard.  Who knew! I won’t even start on the Troi thing.

Lastly, we come to poor Alexander.  Can you imagine having Worf as a dad?  Considering the account I’ve given of him so far, you might think he’d be a pretty crap father, right?  You’d be spot on.

When an (inconsistently) older Alexander showed up in Klingon garb aboard a warship, we saw a feckless, occasionally incompetent young man who didn’t seem to know his place in the universe.

If, upon your mother’s death, you were left aboard a Starship with a father who claimed to be a good true-blue Starfleet officer, yet insisted on letting archaic space religion and the blood-drenched ideology of the battlefield constantly get in the way of that, you’d be confused too, right?  And then when that dogmatic warrior code was used as an excuse to be an uncaring, over-demanding arse to you before finally shipping you off to live with your granny and granda in Russia, ya might just give up.  Have you been to Russia?  It’s cold!

 

Again, Michael Dorn is awesome.  His performance must’ve been tough for him, and he did it for well over a decade and buried under makeup to boot.  So I really like the actor but not who he plays, which again, is a credit to his and the writers’ work through the years.
In general, I love the Klingons as a Star Trek species and episodes like ‘A Matter of Honour’ and ‘Blood Oath’ are amongst my favourites, so it might seem odd that I have such disdain for a character that is effectively the personification of, even cultural window to, the Klingons in the Star Trek universe.  But hopefully, some of the above rambling might clue some in as to just why someone wouldn’t like Worf.  Or why, in fact, they might bloody well hate the obnoxious, boring shitbag.