Star Trek: The Next Generation is cited as one of the reasons Star Trek V: The Final Frontier failed.
Fans often forget a fun little fact, and that’s the fact that Star Trek the film franchise, led by William Shatner, actually continued into the first four seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There was a time when a fan could watch Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard yelling at Wesley Crusher, and then move on to watching James T. Kirk singing campfire songs with Spock and Bones McCoy.
You’d think that synergy would help boast the profiles of both properties, but in reality, the duality of Star Trek’s film and television franchises caused joint issues. When Star Trek V: The Final Frontier bombed at the box office, there were a host of reasons.
Firstly, the Writer’s Guild of America went on strike. That didn’t help. Paramount wanted another film with a lighter tone, ala Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. A reduced budget and Shatner’s inexperience as a director played into it, as did Industrial Light & Magic not being brought back due to those budgetary restrictions. Coupled all that with a competitive summer that featured Batman film, Lethal Weapon 2, Ghostbusters 2, and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and you have the makings of a flop.
Yet, one reason that often gets overlooked is the fact fans hated The Next Generation.
The Next Generation contributed to The Final Frontier’s financial flop status
According to Harve Bennett in the book “Star Trek Movie Memories, he cites the public dissatisfaction with The Next Generation as a key reason why fans didn’t show up to see The Final Frontier.
That tracks, as The Next Generation, was not that popular, and even Stewart was looking for an out at the time. Heading into the season three finale, The Best of Both Worlds, Stewart was unsure if he’d return to the series, setting up the final shot of the show where William Riker ordered the Enterprise to fire on their former captain-turned-Borg-spokesperson.
Now, the Next Generation didn’t somehow make The Final Frontier a poorly received film. The film was going to have its critics regardless of how good or bad The Next Generation was, and one could argue that many fans and critics were willing to be more forgiving to anything that could be seen as “better” than The Next Generation at the time. So the fact it was so critically panned should highlight just how bad the film was in the eyes of many.
It’s interesting to see how history remembers things, because now over 30 years later, The Next Generation is the benchmark to many Trek fans, but The Final Frontier is still near the bottom of most people’s worst films in franchise history ranking.