Written by: David Loughery
Directed by: William Shatner
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei and David Warner
- Running audio commentary with actor/director Shatner and his daughter, Liz Shatner, author of Captain’s Log
- Running text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda, authors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia
- Original interview with William Shatner
- Production Featurettes: Harve Bennett’s Pitch; Makeup Tests; Pre-Visualization Models; Rock Man in the Raw; Press Conference; Behind-the-Scenes documentary
- The Star Trek Universe: Herman Zimmerman: A Tribute; Cosmic Thoughts; That Klingon Couple; A Green Future?; Original Interviews
- Deleted scenes
- Theatrical trailers
- Production gallery
- TV spots
Released by: Paramount
My Advice: Star Trek completists will need it, all others can pass.
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While it’s tempting to lay the blame at the feet of Shatner–who basically made a bid to direct this installment after having seen Nimoy’s success with earlier flicks–there may well have been a touch of Hollywood ego in the mix, and an attempt not to be upstaged by one of his “supporting cast.” Unfortunately, too many other people went along for this ride to put it all on James Tiberius. Harve Bennett could have stopped this mess at any point, but enthusiastically followed Shatner over the cliff. Likewise, screenwriter Loughery was a nearly untested talent to be given the scripting reins on such a storied and valuable franchise, and doesn’t seem to have been able to correct the excesses of the story’s concept (or he simply got overruled as the “new guy” in the franchise).
Despite the story flaws, the performances are as solid as ever from the crew of the Federation’s most famous starship. The soft spot in the acting comes from Luckinbill, who overplays his part from beginning to end as the psychotic Sybok, which takes a fairly silly character and elevates it to the realm of tragically stupid, pushing the whole “driven demagogue” angle ’til it breaks under the strain. George Murdock as the gibberingly insane God at the end of the universe doesn’t help matters much, either.
The only real saving grace here is the bonus disc, which is loaded with good content, as all the Star Trek special editions have been. In fairness, the features here are a bit weaker than some of the previous installments, several of which featured discussions with NASA scientists about the issues addressed by the film. This may simply be because Paramount couldn’t find any credible religious experts willing to talk about a film that portrays the Creator of the Universe as a petulant child that can be destroyed by a couple of well-placed phaser blasts and proton torpedoes. There are still some solid features here, and taken as a whole along with the commentary track, viewers fascinated by how this train wreck happened can piece together the whole sordid story.
Trek completists will want to add this one to their collection, but more casual fans should probably just stay away entirely. If you happen to be an aficionado of bad sci-fi, this makes a solid rental if only for the special features’ “anatomy of a bad movie” lesson. Given later releases in the franchise, you’ll shudder to think that it actually got worse than this installment.