Sybok shows his bedside manner to Bones
The sequence in which Sybok causes McCoy to relive euthanizing his sick and suffering father is arguably one of the heaviest moments in any Star Trek movie. DeForest Kelley carries it off beautifully.
But don’t overlook the brief but intense and intelligent contributions Laurence Luckinbill makes to it. The camera angle and blocking almost completely obscure Sybok’s face as he talks a newly retraumatized McCoy through the reasons Bones made the choice he did, but Luckinbill’s voice lends the moment all the urgency it needs. “Release this pain. Release it!” he barks. As McCoy rests his head on Sybok’s chest, Luckinbill closes his eyes, leans his head back, and almost murmurs, “This pain has poisoned your soul for a long time.” It’s unnervingly tender.
The very next moment belies Sybok’s supposed concern for McCoy, however. “Now you’ve taken the first step,” says Sybok, cradling McCoy’s face. “The other steps—we’ll take together.” But Luckinbill turns away from and turns his back on Bones while speaking those last three words. What kind of “togetherness” is that?
I don’t know whether William Shatner directed Laurence Luckinbill to turn in that instant, or whether Luckinbill made the choice himself. But it’s a subtle and significant way to convey Sybok’s self-centeredness, the egoism that drives him and keeps his “pain sharing” from serving a truly therapeutic function. As Kirk angrily reminds Bones, Dammit, “You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with the wave of a magic wand!”