Until the arrival of Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was widely considered to be the absolute worst Star Trek film. At the center of its awfulness is William Shatner, who directed the movie and came up with the story. But Shatner claims it wasn’t his fault.
In his autobiography “Live Long And… What I Learned Along The Way” Shatner claims the reason Star Trek V is terrible is largely because he wasn’t allowed to make the movie he wanted to make.
According to Bill his original idea for the movie was to have the crew go looking for god but encounter Satan instead. He says, “Imagine the crew fighting its way out of hell!” However, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t let him do it because he said the idea was “too divisive” and “people might object”.
It’s also worth noting that Roddenberry was anti-religion and had always sent up Star Trek from the beginning to be totally free from religion by design. Making an entire movie which rubber stamps the ideas of heaven and hell is kind of the exact opposite of what Star Trek is supposed to be about. So Roddenberry’s refusal to turn Star Trek V: The Final Frontier into a vehicle for making religious myths real makes sense.
William Shatner’s Final Frontier Compromise
In the end Shatner compromised and made Star Trek V about the crew meeting an alien who believed himself to be Satan. Except even that didn’t end up being the final story of the movie. In Star Trek V they actually go looking for God and meet just, well, an evil alien.
Shatner blames Roddenberry for not letting him make the movie he wanted to make and says, “I could accept the compromise or refuse to direct the movie. I made a mistake; I accepted the compromise, which doomed the picture from the beginning.”
If you’re a Star Trek fan you’ve probably noticed a recent trend of Trek TV directors and filmmakers either blaming Roddenberry for their failures or deriding his ideas as a way of justifying their own mistakes. It’s easy to do that when he’s dead, but the further Star Trek gets away from Roddenberry’s ideas the worse it becomes. The truth is that most of the time, Gene Roddenberry was right. And he was really right here. His biggest mistake was letting Shatner make Star Trek V: The Final Frontier at all.
Star Trek V Ran Out Of Money
Bill Shatner does at least take some of the blame for the failure of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, sort of. Talking to EW Shatner says of the movie’s ending: “I got the chance to direct a several-million-dollar movie…and I did not get the help I needed in allocating my budget, so when it came to shooting the ending — needing a good villain and lots of computer graphics — I had run out of money. Sorry about that.”
Actually, even there Shatner isn’t really taking responsibility for Star Trek V. Though he does admit he doesn’t know what he was doing, he blames others for not giving him the help he needed. He continues, “I had to use footage that I had already shot — and spit on it a lot. I wanted to give [the audience] earth-breaking granite monsters spewing rocks and fire. Instead, I had a few pebbles in my hand that I threw at the camera.”
So what does God need with a starship? Better special effects, apparently.