The ‘Star Trek’ Movie William Shatner Said Was ‘Doomed’ From the Start

Star Trek is one of the most prolific media franchises ever. After several seasons of television, the franchise made the jump to the silver screen in 1979. Since then, there have been several Star Trek movies – seven of which featured William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk.

Many Trekkies consider the Star Trek film franchise to be a mixed bag. For every universally acclaimed film in the series, there’s another entry which was less warmly received. Shatner actually apologized for one of the Star Trek films.

William Shatner | CBS via Getty Images

The story compromise behind a widely derided ‘Star Trek’ film

Because of his immortal role as Captain Kirk, Shatner will always be one of the actors most associated with Star Trek. In the 1980s, he got the opportunity to be involved with the franchise in a capacity beyond acting. Shatner was offered the chance to direct Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and accepted it.

This seemed like a logical move. Leonard Nimoy directed the previous two films in the series. In addition, who would understand the franchise better than Captain Kirk himself? In retrospect, Shatner felt he made a poor decision when he signed on to direct the film. 

Shatner opened up about his regrets regarding the film in his autobiography Live Long And . . .: What I Learned Along the Way. He wanted the movie to feature the crew of the USS Enterprise trying to find God but instead encountering Satan. He thought it would be fantastic to see the Enterprise’s crew travel into hell. However, Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry felt Shatner’s idea was “potentially too divisive.” 

The trailer for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Roddenberry and Shatner compromised. Instead of meeting Satan, the crew would meet an alien who believed himself to be Satan. Shatner regretted the compromise, saying “I could accept the compromise or refuse to direct the movie. I made a mistake; I accepted the compromise, which doomed the picture from the beginning.”

What William Shatner regrets about the film’s ending

The finished film doesn’t even feature Rodenberry and Shatner’s original story compromise. Instead, its climax involves Captain Kirk and his friends meeting a God-like entity who turns out not to be God. For a Hollywood film, that’s certainly an ambitious idea. Despite this, many fans find Star Trek V: The Final Frontier to be disappointing and silly due to both its plot development and special effects.
Capt. Kirk meets “God”

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According to Entertainment Weekly, Shatner regretted the film’s ending. “I got the chance to direct a several-million-dollar movieand I did not get the help I needed in allocating my budget, so when it came to shooting the ending — needing a good villain and lots of computer graphics — I had run out of money. Sorry about that. [Laughs.]”

Shatner elaborated on the film’s climax. “I had to use footage that I had already shot — and spit on it a lot. I wanted to give [the audience] earth-breaking granite monsters spewing rocks and fire. Instead, I had a few pebbles in my hand that I threw at the camera.”

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier might not be an acclaimed film. Shatner has apologized for its ending. However, it was at least an ambitious film.

Also see: The Real Reason ‘Star Trek’ Is Still So Popular, According to William Shatner