Star Trek V: The Final Frontier by J.M. Dillard (1989)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Damian, Jun 10, 2021.

  1. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2017
    Location:
    United States
    I was in a 'discussion' on one of the movie threads about Star Trek V and long story short we were discussing some of the plot holes in the film that were addressed in the novel, and it's been a long time since I read the novelization so I decided to grab it for a quick re-read (the thread was "Why do you rank TFF highly?" and it starts around page 16) . Like other novels I read I figured I'd post some thoughts about the novelization here.

    First, of all the movie novelizations for the 12 films that had novelizations, this is the one I encourage people to read the most. This is one of those cases where I felt the novel was superior to the film. The novel tightens up the story quite a bit. For instance, in the novel it is made more clear why Kirk is risking his life on El Capitan (basically because he is having difficulty accepting the death of David, that Carol wants nothing to do with him and the loss of the Enterprise). Also the novel notes that typically even the hardiest climbers use some sort of safety equipment or at the very least a force field at the base of the mountain in case of a fall. The novel also describes shield modifications Sybok created to protect the ship from the barrier (which the Klingon ship, named Okrona in the novel, was able to obtain by spying on the Enterprise). One major plot hole that the novel doesn't address, however, is how the Enterprise was able to arrive at the center of the galaxy in just a matter of hours. The novel also describes some of the pain experienced by others touched by Sybok, such as J'Onn, the first person we see Sybok 'help' in the movie, Sulu and Scotty (he melds with Scotty after the sickbay scene because he needs Scotty to implement the shield changes before returning to fix the transporter).

    We also get much more back story on Sybok. His mother was a Kolinahr adept who rejected their teachings and she was banished from the adepts, though she was allowed to remain as Sybok was raised by the others. It was she who first became obsessed with Sha-ka-ree and then Sybok decided to carry on her quest after she died. Sybok has his own secret pain he hides as what caused him to be banished was he needed to meld with her katric ark to find out where Sha-ka-ree was and to do so he had to forcibly mind meld with one of the adepts guarding the chamber to find out where she was. That left the other adept in a vegetable state and that has haunted Sybok.

    We also learn Spock has more reasons for not killing Sybok than simply because he was his brother. When Spock was 13 Sybok came to live with them after his mother died. Spock was concerned his full blooded Vulcan brother would reject him like many other had because of his human blood. However, Sybok immediately accepted Spock as a brother and showed him true kindness and respect. Also, it was noted Sybok was part of the reason Spock decided to go a different path than Sarek's when Sybok encourages Spock to do what he wants to do, not just what is expected.

    We also get more information about Talbot, Dar and Korrd, and other details are fleshed out. There is an attempted coup on the Okrona described in the novel after Klaa decides to follow the Enterprise to the Great Barrier that is foiled. The Barrier itself is more ominously presented in the novel as well. One thing that always bugged me about the film is the Barrier is described as being incredibly dangerous, yet the Enterprise passes through with just a bit of shaking and lightning. It was a real let down frankly. The novel does a better job with that part. They also talk about what the Barrier is, basically a large accretion disc surrounding the center of the galaxy. The novel also speculates about the center of the galaxy, whether there is a giant black hole at its center, or even a giant 'white' hole.

    Like all novelizations, this one provides more details and background information. But this one also addresses some of the weaknesses present in the film. I always thought it was a shame more of what is in the novel didn't show up in the film. It probably could have helped. The novel also presents some of the goofy humor in the movie in a different light. For instance when Kirk and Spock are having their back and forth in the brig about having a brother. In the film it almost gets downright childish. In the book the dialogue is altered just a bit where it's not so immature.

    The novel also describes the evolution of how Kirk and Scott feel about this new Enterprise. At the beginning it's falling apart and they feel she is not worthy of the name. But as time goes on they slowly start to accept the ship. The novel also noted that this was indeed a new ship, and not a refit older ship. I know there has been some debate about that. At least in the novel it was made clear (and even the film when Scotty notes 'this new ship must have been put together by monkeys'). It seems the intent was that this was a new ship.

    But overall, I'd recommend this novelization for reading. It definitely enhances the film. I originally read it when it was released (in the US it was released about a week before the film so I actually read it before seeing the film). I thought it was a good book then and now.
     
    DarKush, Leto_II, Cyfa and 2 others like this.
  2. mastadge

    mastadge Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2021
    I have mixed feelings about the Dillard novelizations but I did like them as a kid, and I did appreciate how she carried forward the Carol Marcus stuff through V, VI, and Generations, adding a strand of continuity absent from the movies.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Ah, thanks for confirming that. That was how I remembered it -- that the novel posited the force field to get through the barrier but ignored the travel time issue -- but I've heard conflicting reports about it in recent discussions

    Of course, it's even worse in the movie -- Sulu says it'll take 8 hours or so, but it only takes about twenty minutes of screen time, with continuous action throughout and no room for a time jump.


    Hard to reconcile with what we now know about Burnham. That would've been a couple of years before Burnham started attending the Vulcan Science Academy, so presumably she would've still been living with the family.
     
  4. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2017
    Location:
    United States
    Yeah, that part always bothered me. Granted it was years before Voyager came out, but even back then I think there was enough information in the Star Trek 'canon' to indicate that it should have taken years to get there (decades in fact).

    I'm trying to recall if there was anything in the novel to allow for 8 hours to pass. The only thing I can think of is maybe Kirk, Spock and McCoy were in the brig for several hours before Scott broke them out. Otherwise, once they break out things move pretty much in sequence. You might be able to sneak in a few minutes here or there but not 8 hours worth of time.

    The whole barrier sequence in the movie was a bust though, IMO (frankly the Galactic Barrier was much more dangerous--ironic in a way since in reality the center of the galaxy would be infinitely more dangerous than actually leaving the galaxy). They were building it up as something that could destroy the ship, then they got there and poof....hardly a thing. Talk about anti-climatic :rolleyes:. At least the novel gives us something to explain how they traversed the barrier without a problem and the Barrier is described more ominously and the novel. It also describes the Klingon ship's journey in more detail.

    I also noticed the novel described the malicious entity as being referred to as "the One" (which was not mentioned in the movie). Did Greg Cox refer to the same entity as "the One" in his Q trilogy as well? If so, I wonder if that was a nod to this novelization.
     
  5. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    The God entity was indeed called "the One" in The Q Continuum trilogy. I never caught that that went back to the TFF novel.
     
  6. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2017
    Location:
    United States
    Yeah, that was how Sybok referred to the entity, as opposed to "God."

    It was sort of inferred that was how the entity referred to itself.
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Yes, TNG: "The Price" established that it would take "80 years or so" to cover 70,000 light years, something DS9 and VGR were both roughly consistent with.


    Well, that was the whole point. It was a test of faith, like in many religious-quest stories. Rational thought insists that an obstacle (e.g. walking through fire or stinging scorpions) will destroy you, but if your faith is strong enough, then the divine hand will protect you and guide you safely through. The fact that Sybok was proven right -- that he achieved an evident miracle, or at least proved that conventional science had been wrong about the barrier -- was probably meant to make us wonder if he would turn out to be right about God too. The novel actually undermines that ambiguity by providing an overt, rational explanation ahead of time.

    Think of the part in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where they have to take a leap of faith by stepping out onto the apparent bottomless pit. It looks like they can't possibly survive, but it turns out that the danger was illusory, and they just needed to have the faith to overcome their fear. This is a similar beat. Probably the idea was that the Barrier registered on sensors as impassable and lethal, but that was an illusion to keep people from taking the chance.
     
  8. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2017
    Location:
    United States
    That's true. I just thought it should have been more than a challenge. They got through so easy that it just made you think it was much ado about nothing. Had there been more obstacles to getting through, then they succeeded, the point of it being a quest would have been better executed.

    The novel seems to undermine and support it at the same time. On the one hand, by Sybok creating a shield frequency it can be argued that undermines the point of the Barrier being part of a quest (though it seemed to be inferred that shield frequency was inspired by a higher force). At the same time Sybok argues more forcefully in the novel that the Barrier is part of that religious quest.

    I think part of it was that 'the One' was not God and at the end of the day it was not a real religious quest, so I'd guess Dillard wanted to plant that seed of doubt. So there had to be some alternate explanations for all that occurred.

    Even during their encounter Sybok already has a seed of doubt when 'the One' asks how they got through the Barrier, though he ignores it at first. Then he believed everything he and his mother worked for was for nothing, it was all a fraud.

    One thing I liked about the novelization also is at the end when they are in the forward observation room they reflect on Sybok. Sybok believed his life was meaningless before he died, so he tried to find some meaning in his death by battling the entity. But his friends say that his life was not meaningless. He gave them a great gift by making them face their pain and move past it. A couple of characters still note the loss still exists, but gone is the self-recriminations. So Sybok's life was not meaningless, it's just the meaning he provided was not what he had planned.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Well, like I said, I think the idea was that the only obstacle was lack of faith. In Last Crusade, the danger of the chasm was an illusion, and it was actually perfectly safe to step out onto seeming nothingness. It's symbolically about overcoming fear and doubt -- trusting that you will be safe, and having that trust fulfilled. You're looking at it as a physical quest, but it's more about taking a spiritual leap of faith.

    The problem, perhaps, was that the studio was nervous about the religious elements and insisted on downplaying them. So maybe the idea that this was meant to be a spiritual journey wasn't conveyed as well as it should've been.


    As I said, I think the intended scientific explanation was that whatever advanced entities created the Barrier gave it the illusion of being utterly impassable, when it actually wasn't. Or maybe it actually was impassable except to those beings that sincerely believed it wasn't, as a sort of telepathic filter that would only admit those beings that were in on the secret and keep everyone else out.


    Yes, but that was later in the story. First you have to make the audience and the characters wonder if it might be true after all, so that it carries weight when it's later revealed to be false. So giving away the trick too soon weakens that.
     
  10. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2000
    Location:
    South Pennsyltucky
    Dillard was reusing some of the Vulcan mysticism work she used in The Lost Years (even though it was published after) in her novelization. Read together, or in close proximity, it was neat to see the two novels tie together. :)

    I loved the Sybok-Spock backstory Dillard created for the novelization, so much so I felt there was a Sybok shaped hole in Spock's backstory in Susan Shwarz and Josepha Sherman's Vulcan's Forge. But Vulcan's Forge was written at a time when Sybok was off-limits, and I understand how that goes.

    Christopher is right, this doesn't really gel with what Disco told us, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't love seeing/reading a Burnham-Spock-Sybok story.
     
    Leto_II and TheAlmanac like this.
  11. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2006
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Personally, I find TFF (whether we're talking about the movie or the novelization) difficult to reconcile with TAS: "The Magicks of Megas Tu" (again, whether we're talking about the episode or ADF's adaptation in STL3).
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Oh, I'm certainly not saying that Sybok couldn't be part of the Spock/Burnham backstory -- just that it would have to be different from the version in the novelization, as with so many other things in new screen Trek that have overwritten earlier novels.


    That goes without saying, but then, "Megas-tu" and TFF are both equally impossible to reconcile with "The Price," DS9, and VGR with regard to center-of-the-galaxy travel time. Not to mention that "Megas-tu" is based on the old continuous-creation model of cosmology that's been decisively discredited in favor of the Big Bang, so it's tantamount to a story about the canals of Mars or the dinosaur-laden jungles of Venus.
     
  13. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2017
    Location:
    United States
    Yeah, I think that was certainly the case. In the film Sybok makes a comment about the barrier being a representation of our fear, but then it seems to be left hanging after that. Perhaps because it's print to paper but it just seemed more clear in the novel. Plus Sybok's motivations are much more clear in the novel. This isn't just some quest, he also is on a quest honoring his mother's memory, which was totally left out of the film version. In a way that makes it even more personal to him.

    That's sort of the irony of the novel. It offers up some scientific background that on the one hand lessens the religious elements, yet it also supports the more religious elements of the overall plot at the same time.

    Yeah, that's true. I was jumping to the end I guess ;) .

    I'd love to see something come out in the future that includes Sybok, either perhaps in the upcoming Strange New Worlds show or maybe even in a future novel (though I guess the novels might want to wait to see if SNW gets into that at all first). I'm actually surprised Sybok has not shown up in some novel. Granted TFF doesn't have a great reputation, but I've noticed that a lot of people seem to have a soft spot for that film. Personally I do rank it as 13/13 of the Star Trek films overall, but I still enjoy watching it. I've never disliked it. I mean, I hate the God-awful special effects (at least compared to the other 12 Star Trek films, it really sticks out like a sore thumb)--but story wise it had some potential, and it had some of the best character moments of the first 6 films. I also loved Luckinbill as Sybok. Sybok was not your typical Star Trek movie villain (if he even really was a villain at all). I would love to see some future novel include Sybok, perhaps build some more on his back story, or even his time with Spock (either with Burnham in the picture or not--I guess that would depend on the timing of his living with Spock and how consistent that writer would want to be with the novelization, at least on areas where they can line up).

    Yeah, I don't think there's any real way to reconcile Megas Tu with the rest of the Star Trek canon overall.

    I always wondered if 'the One' had any relationship to the Cytherians, however, from TNG: "The Nth Degree." Certainly the episode didn't specify (I sometimes wonder if the writer's intent was for them to be from the same civilization--I think TFF was still taboo at the time that episode was written). I don't recall any novels connecting the two, including Greg's Q trilogy.
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    I'm not fond of the film as a whole, but Sybok was easily the best part of it and I'd be happy to see more done with the character.
     
  15. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2006
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Sybok has appeared in several alternate timeline ST novels. And maybe in Ann Crispin's Sarek.
     
  16. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2008
    Location:
    Desert City
    I read this novelization ages ago, and I thought it was a great read. I never disliked the movie, and the novelization has many welcome expansions and augmentations that I enjoyed. When I later read The Entropy Effect for my ST novels reading project, it made me think of Sulu's "Share Your Pain" session with Sybok. It was really cool to revisit and compare to see that The Final Frontier novelization cleverly draws inspiration from a broad-strokes outline of Sulu's character backstory from The Entropy Effect to flesh out a heavy-hitting traumatic moment in Sulu's early life.

    I can't remember if it was you that mentioned this somewhere to me, that raised the profile of the Star Trek V novelization for inclusion in my TOS reading list; to get a better overall reading experience out of The Lost Years. I'm looking forward to re-reading The Final Frontier in the context of Dillard's other books, as well as the other TOS books on my list.
     
  17. Bryan Levy

    Bryan Levy Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2020
    This is one of my “complaints” about DSC. It just makes everything so much easier if it takes place post- Nemesis. Michael is Spock’s adopted daughter, and Spock in Season 2 is some son of Spock we’ve never seen, maybe even the alluded to child Spock had with Saavik on Genesis. All the weird Klingon design could be laid on more genetic manipulation after the Dominion War. I just think it works better.

    Anyway, I really like this adaptation. I like all the Kolinahr stuff, and I especially like the added “pain visions”. Sometimes I feel like JM Dillard is one of the forgotten greats.
     
  18. dupersuper

    dupersuper Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2020
    He got a mention in a DC Comics special back up story that showed Spock recovering on Vulcan between ST 3 and ST4.
     
    TheAlmanac likes this.
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    There's no basis for complaint here, because I was talking about the novelization's conjectural extrapolations about Sybok, which have nothing to do with questions of canon consistency.

    I think that DSC episodes like "Lethe" and "Light and Shadows" fleshed out the Sarek-family backstory in marvelous ways that enrich, rather than conflict with, what TOS established. Those parts alone justified its prequel setting, even if other aspects (huge Klingon war, overt Section 31) were harder to reconcile.
     
    Leto_II, Vger23, Jinn and 1 other person like this.
  20. Dr. San Guinary

    Dr. San Guinary Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 10, 2005
    Location:
    Mr. Laser Beam is in the visitor's bullpen
    I've heard talk that "The One" was actually a renegade Cytherian, a la TNG's "The Nth Degree", and that the barrier around the center of the galaxy was created to keep it confined. Is there anything in any novel to support this, or is it just fan speculation?

    (Don't get me wrong, I don't CARE if it's speculation, because it's one I happen to agree with. :techman: )