Sybok briefly questions his own sanity
Just before Sybok leaves Kirk, Spock, and McCoy in the observation lounge, he tells Kirk he’s received a vision from God. “He waits for us on the other side,” he says.
Laurence Luckinbill delivers these lines with a chilling matter-of-factness. A lesser actor might have played up this moment of revelation, but Luckinbill simply states it as though its truth is undeniable—which, of course, it is for Sybok at this point. It’s one reason Sybok is so dangerous. (And it’s this uncritical reflection and confidence that “God is on one’s side” can make adherents of any faith dangerous, one of the real-world lessons The Final Frontier offers for our consideration.)
But Luckinbill does not play Sybok as dangerous and deluded, not in this or any other moment. And when Kirk tells Sybok, “You are mad,” Luckinbill allows at least a full five seconds of honest doubt and uncertainty to flicker across his face. And when he asks, “Am I?”, it is not a scoffing, rhetorical question, but a genuine inquiry.
Only for a moment, however. “We’ll see,” says Sybok, and the character’s normal, self-assured smile returns. Luckinbill saves this pivotal scene—the first mention of God (other than in casual swearing) in a movie about a quest for God—from the melodrama it could have become, and uses it to lay groundwork for Sybok’s eventual reversal in the film’s impending climax.