02:57:08 on July 29
By: Anonymous Coward
Dept: Star Trek
'Star Trek V The Final Frontier' remains to many Trek fans the movie franchise's 'disappointing failure'. But as originnally imagined and filmed by director William Shatner, 'The Final Frontier' was to be one of the most visually exciting Trek movies yet. But the unexpected substandard special effects delivered by the FX company 'Bran Ferren And Associates' and a shrinking budget left many of the most exciting and filmed sequences of the movie unrealized and in the cutting room floor. So this is the case of the original filmed ending, abandoned due to the lack of budget and the unconvicing FX.
Originally, after the discovery that the "Sha Ka Ree alien" is not God, Sybok leaps against him, and both of them dissapear within the shaft of light as fire fills the sky. Kirk orders the Enterprise to fire and the torpedo explodes the 'God Altar' creating a huge crater. As Kirk, Spock and McCoy make a run for it, they begin hearing a horrible shrieking sound, that turns to be numerous living rockmen creatures spewing from the torpedo crater (when the final cost of the rockman costume was calculated, the production was limited to a single creature, and when the single creature did not look convincing on film, it was cut from the film completely - see art director Nilos Rodis Jamero sketches for the Rockman creature below).
Once the trio are inside the Copernicus shuttlecraft, Spock is unable to take off as the rockmen have arrived and torn apart the thruster units. Cut to the Enterprise, as Mr. Scotty beams Spock and McCoy on board, but when he activates the transporter for Kirk, he beams aboard a rockman who has grabbed the captain's communicator. Freaking, Scotty pick ups a hand phaser and destroys the creature, but by doing so, he also accidentally destroys the transporter console - there is no way to bring Kirk up. (When the Rockman was cut from the movie, this scene was later re-shot and re-edit in post production to include the attack of the klingons on the Enterprise and the destruction of the transporter by a photon torperdo. Also, the destruction of the shuttle by the rockman and Kirk fight with him was replaced by a badly edited scene of Kirk running from the 'God-head' beams).
Back on the planet, Kirk is being pursued by the rockmen. He fleeclimbs a small mountain and reaches the top. Armed with a hand phaser, he shoots at many creatures as he can, but their number are legion and the phaser fire only makes them hotter and smoking (see photo below - note the cubersome rockman at the far right).
Then, the Bird-of-Prey decloacks, the machine gun phaser weapon lowers into frame and fires multiple shots at the rockman and blows it apart. Kirk stares at the ship and begins firing the hand phasers at the vessel, but is transported aboard. The rest of the film plays out as did in the final version, but this was certainly a more exciting finale to such an intense build-up.
"I look at Star Trek V with mixed emotions" screenwriter David Loughery told journalist Edward Gross in 1990. "The FX turned to out to be very disappointing, and this was a movie that we really needed them to put us over the top story-wise. Especially at the climax with the horde of rock gargolyes. You don't ever like to say that because you don't want to think that a movie is dependent on special FX. Certainly, Star Trek is the kind of thing where the FX play less of a role than the characters and the story, but I think that the story we were telling this time, at least at the movie's end, very much needed unique and convincing special FX to make those story points work. Those FX don't quite deliver, and in some cases, it looked a little shoddy and ludicrous".
So, though the 'God Altar' set was constructed as planned (below photo and sketch), the visual effects that were to take place whitin it to pay off much of what had been set up in the script remained unrealized, due to Bran Ferren's flawed special effects.
With the sucess of Special Editions on DVD and the popularity of the format, plus the recent announment that the FX company Foundation Imaging (Voyager) is reworking and upgrading the FX for the upcoming 'Star Trek The Motion Picture' DVD (with the supervision of director Robert Wise), perhaps it's time for Paramount and William Shatner to revisit 'Star Trek V The Final Frontier' and restore many of the film's lost sequences with the use of state-of-the-art CGI effects (which can not only create the legion of rock gargolyes and the fire on Sha Ka Ree's sky, but correct the poorly lit and matted FX sequences, especially Kirk's fall from El Capitan and the Enterprise warp effect and battle scenes) thus giving the troubled production the rewarding place its deserves in the Trek franchise. Rumors are running rampant in the FX community that Paramount plans to release upgraded Special Editions of all TOS movies on DVD some time in the near future (with Trek V to be the next in line to get the fix) - let's hope that Paramount will take full advantage of the incredible technology of the DVD format (such as the inclusion of extras and the preservation of the original theatrical release on disc) and that these expanded editions are done with the cooperation and/or involvement of the films's director.
Thanks to Matthew Klahen from MediaTrek.com for scanning those photos and sketches exclusively for TrekWeb, from the 1995 hardcover book 'The Art of Star Trek'.