Star Trek V: The Final Frontier wrapped production on December 28, 1988... or 30 years ago tomorrow. The film has one of the most unique visual styles of TOS-era films, as it was shot in real-world locations as ecologically diverse as Owens Dry Lake (Nimbus III), the Trona Pinnacles (Sha Ka Ree) and Yosemite National Park. The film also is one of the most direct statements about the closeness and friendship shared between Kirk, Spock and McCoy, with the campfire chat scene between the trio taking on even more of an emotional effect now in the years after the losses of both DeForest Kelley and Leonard Nimoy.
The behind-the-scenes team included familiar names like Harve Bennett, Jerry Goldsmith, Herman Zimmerman and Michael Okuda. To celebrate those who worked during 1988 and 1989 on the film on this “pearl anniversary” of its pre-production and production, here are some of our favorite behind the scenes facts and bits of on-screen trivia.
The good feelings about Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had bolstered the return of Star Trek to television with Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, it was The Final Frontier which has the distinction of being the first Trek feature film produced during the TNG era. In fact, the two productions filmed next to each other at the same time, marking a first of multiple Trek productions occurring simultaneously (a regular occurrence during the DS9 and VOY eras). To help keep costs reasonable, some of the resources from TNG made their way to The Final Frontier. For example, the corridors of the U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-A are the same as those from the Enterprise-D with modification. The sickbay set where Uhura speaks to an injured Scotty is the Enterprise-D sickbay and the LCARS panels that dominate in the 24th Century are clearly visible behind the duo. The Enterprise transporter room is a redress of the TNG transporter set. Of course, some of the TNG sets themselves were redresses from the TOS films to begin with!
Step on It
Speaking of TNG, during the scene in which Kirk and his crew return to the ship from Yosemite, the crew uses steps brought in by yeomen to more easily disembark the shuttle. When filming of this scene was to commence, it was realized that there were no steps to facilitate the actors’ departure from the side of the Galileo. Quick behind-the-scenes thinking resulted in the appropriation of the steps used on Patrick Stewart’s trailer, which were then redecorated.
An Act of Love
William Shatner’s original working title for the film was Star Trek: An Act of Love, which symbolizes the film’s theme of friendship and fraternity.
Bond to Lucy
The planet "Sha Ka Ree" was named in honor of actor Sean Connery, although some sources claim it was riff on the name “Shangri La.” Connery was the first actor thought of for the role of Sybok, but he was busy working on another Paramount Picture 1989 summer film rolling that year, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Laurence Luckinbill, who eventually landed the Sybok role, is married to Lucy Arnaz in real life. That means he was Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s son-in-law. It was Lucy’s production company Desilu that originally green-lit, produced and owned Star Trek.
While on-screen errors are rare in the carefully crafted Trek films, there is a glaring continuity problem as Spock’s rocket boots propel him, Kirk and McCoy away from Sybok’s people – the numbers of the Enterprise’s deck repeat, going from 10, 35, 52, 63, 64, again 63, 64, 65, again 52, 77, 78, and again to 78.
In the Books
J.M. Dillard’s novelization to the film reveals that Klaa’s ship is the Okrona, an inside joke because of its similarity to the name of linguist Marc Okrand. Okrand had adapted the Klingon language originally created by Montgomery Scott actor James Doohan for Star Trek: The Motion Picture by writing the Klingon dictionary and turning it into a living language used in all subsequent Trek adventures.
The DC comic book adaptation by Peter David, James W. Fry and Arne Starr features many deleted scenes, including the infamous Rockman sequence -- which proved too expensive to actually film as Shatner had originally planned.
Product placement is not common because of the nature of Trek’s future settings. Before Nokia and Budweiser’s product placement in Star Trek (2009), The Final Frontier also had product placement. Kirk and company are wearing Levi Jeans, and the Levi Strauss & Company is credited in the film.
There are some great cameo and guest appearances in The Final Frontier. The crew person to whom Kirk gives his jacket when first appearing on the Enterprise is Shatner’s daughter, Melanie. Shatner’s daughter Lisabeth, who had previously appeared in the episode “Miri” with her father, wrote an excellent making-of book, Captain’s Log: William Shatner’s Personal Account of the Making of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The late Harve Bennett, who produced Treks II through V and wrote The Search for Spock and co-wrote The Voyage Home, plays Admiral Robert Bennett; it’s Bennett who gives Kirk his orders during the film. Sci-fi fans may also recognize Bennett’s voice as the person who begins the narration of The Six Million Dollar Man, which he produced… “Steve Austin. Astronaut. A man barely alive…” Veteran actor Bill Quinn would make his last film appearance as McCoy’s father David in the film. Sitcom fans of the 1970s and 1980s recognize Quinn as Mary Tyler Moore’s TV Dad. He was also the real-life father-in-law of comedian Bob Newhart.
To Leonard, With Love
The legacy of The Final Frontier lived on as a publicity photo of the entire original main crew gathered together on the Enterprise taken for the 1989 film made an appearance as an image from Prime Universe Spock's picture box in 2016's Star Trek Beyond. The Star Trek V: The Final Frontier image is viewed by the Kelvin Universe Spock as he sorts through his alternate counterpart's effects. It’s a loving and emotional nod to the 50-year history of the franchise and its original actors, most notably the then-recently deceased Leonard Nimoy.
Maria Jose and John Tenuto are sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in pop culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on Trek's history, and have presented at venues such as Creation conventions and St. Louis Science Center. They've written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio, and in the documentary The Force Among Us. They recently researched all known paperwork from the making of the classic episode "Space Seed" and are excited to share some previously unreported information about Khan's first adventure with fellow fans. Contact the Tenutos at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.