Star Trek V: The Final Frontier failed for one very obvious reason.
Art is subjective. There is rarely a definitive “good” or “bad” piece of art, and that idea holds regardless if it’s a painting, a poem, or even a movie. There is rarely, if ever a adefinitive “bad” piece of such a medium. Except for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; that movie sucks.
Now, hey, if you enjoy it, more power to you. You can like or not like whatever you want. That said, The Final Frontier is an unmitigated mess that will haunt you if you let it. It’s one of the few things in Star Trek that ever saw William Shatner have near-complete control over and boy, does it feel like it.
Shatner directed and wrote the film, which saw the crew of the USS Enterprise-A fly off to the center of the universe with Spock’s evil brother in tow, to try and discover God. Whose name is Sha’Ka’Ree.
Named after Sean Connery. Can’t make this up. It’s largely seen as one of the worst films in Trek history and for good reason, well reasons. But beyond the shoddy effects, the limited budget, a campfire scene that seemed to last the entire runtime of “Space Seed”, one person seems to have nailed the reason why the film failed on its head.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier failed on a conceptual level
The late producer of Star Trek V, Harve Bennett, conducted an interview in 1993, talking about the failings of the film. In that interview, that Star Trek Explorers dug up for their 9th issue (via ScreenRant), Bennett talks about how the premise of the film held it back, saying;
"I would say that Star Trek V was the weakest of the pictures, both in terms of coherency and its box office, and I would say without shirking responsibility is that the problem was Bill had story approval. He knows this, so I’m not ratting on my friend, but basically, we got to a point where I said, “Bill, we cannot make a movie about finding God!” I said that from the beginning… “I know that if you say in a TV log line “Tonight on Star Trek, the crew of the USS Enterprise goes to find God,” everybody knows we’re not going to get there, so as a storyteller, it gets to be a shaggy joke!But he wanted to do it, so after much aggravation, I said, “All right, we’re going to go find God, but we’re going to make it the best trip we possibly can!”, and so that’s what we did. I think we achieved a good trip, but it was not a strong Star Trek. It was doomed by its premise. I learned long ago, if it ain’t in the premise, it ain’t there, but Bill felt if we worked hard enough and dazzled them with enough stuff, we could do it, and I don’t think we pulled that off… I think a faulty premise results in a flawed picture."
And honestly, Bennett had a point. Religion aside, trying to make a definitive claim about religion itself is a bad idea. It’s even worse when you just reveal its a giant floating alien head.