Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

This is the story of a cult that’s wonderfully strange and almost ubiquitous, the cult of the TV con man who bids you to “share your pain” so as to “draw strength from it.”

The construction is terribly rewarding in all its aspects, beginning with a well-filmed climb up El Capitan by Captain Kirk (Spock has rocket shoes, and McCoy observes from the ground). Uhura’s dance reveals a Gaston Lachaise sculpture. Quickly the idea is advanced as a borrowing from Ingmar Bergman, who famously reminisced about overcoming the emotionalism of his early religious experiences.

“Sounds like brainwashing to me,” says Bones. “Be brainwashed by this con man?”, says Kirk, who still must watch the good doctor vanquished by an apparition from his own mind (or Solaris).

They seek God, under duress. The Barrier leans on Cecil B. De Mille, and God does, too. “Don’t just stand there,” says Kirk, “God’s a busy man!” The secret pain of a con man is that he is one, and that’s that.

The ending, which is in no wise deficient, develops the idea of the adversary into a more general concept with a swift quote from Patton.

There is some detailed adaptation from 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Andromeda Strain (the moonbus, the turboshaft). Jerry Goldsmith’s lovely theme for Shaka-Ri is a significant borrowing from Britten’s opera, Peter Grimes.

The critics’ response has been, as Spock would say, “fascinating.”