Star Trek proved that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should with William Shatner directing.
Which film is better, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or Star Trek: First Contact? You can argue for either and there is no right (or correct) answer. You can like Wrath of Khan more, or First Contact more. There is no real edge, as both are the best of an era, a franchise, and a decade. It’s all about personal preference.
There is no debate about the worse of the films, however, as it’s clearly Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Now, you can like films less than this or more than this, but objectively, The Final Frontier is the worst of the films. Part of the reason is the budget was slashed pretty hard for the film, causing there to be some issues with production and how the script played out. The other issue was the involvement of William Shatner as a director.
Shatner directed the film because his contract stated that if Leonard Nimoy got to do something, Shatner got to do something too. Nimoy directed Trek’s III: The Search for Spock and IV: The Voyage Home. So because Nimoy got to direct, Shatner got to direct. And boy, was that a bad idea.
All these years later, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is still the worst
Star Trek V: The Undiscovered Country remains the most atrocious Star Trek ever. It’s not a film that is just bad all over, far from it. Discovery and Picard proved that you can have a flawed concept from the start and every idea be just awful.
The Final Frontier offered up some interesting ideas in theory, like Spock’s more emotionally driven brother, an alien that uses organized religion to try and get his way and an aging crew wondering if they still got it anymore.
But instead of exploring those concepts, we got 30 minutes of three dudes camping. Great storytelling. Now, so many of the issues, at least as we’re told, fell on the budget and so other, cheaper ideas, were created to help pad the run time and resolve dangling questions but that’s no excuse. A better director would have been able to figure out more impressive and satisfying conclusions.
Shatner’s involvement should forever be a reminder that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should and that is a message for the franchise as a whole.