The space probe that was destroyed by the Klingon Bird-of-Prey was the Pioneer 10 space probe, which was launched in March 1972 and became the first space probe to pass by and photograph the planet Jupiter. It is currently heading towards the star of Aldebaran, which it should reach in about 2 million years.
William Shatner's original idea for the climactic battle with the "False God" was for the ground to give away and reveal the ten levels of Hell in a homage to Dante Alighieri's Inferno. The rock monsters were supposed to be apart of this sequence but Paramount refused to increase the film's budget so the idea, along with the already created rock monster, was canceled.
Enterprise-D corridor sets from Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) were used as Enterprise-A corridors in this film. Very few cosmetic alterations were made so as not to interfere with filming of the television series, which was under way at the same time.
Shots of Spock talking to Kirk while he is climbing El Capitan in Yosemite were actually filmed on a set in a parking lot at a vista point overlooking the valley. The actual face of El Capitan is just visible in the background behind Kirk.
One of the blip sound effects on Enterprise-A shuttlecraft Copernicus was from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Another, in the scene where the Galileo makes an emergency landing to avoid a Klingon attack, is from 2010 (1984).
Final film voyage of the complete original crew of the USS Enterprise. Although there would be one more film featuring the original cast, the character of Sulu is no longer a member of the Enterprise crew in the next movie, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
William Shatner, in an interview on E! Entertainment Television, said that David Warner's character was going to have a prop that consisted of a self-lighting cigarette. According to Shatner, they simply forgot to use it in one of the scenes even though the prop actually worked and cost thousands of dollars.
To achieve the shot of the shuttlecraft crashing onto the landing deck of the Enterprise, a scale model was placed on a launching pad connected to garage door springs. A crane was used to move the catapult into place.
Originally, the opening of Kirk's El Capitan ascent would have been a galactic shot of the Milky Way, zooming into the solar system, and finally an aerial view of Yosemite. This was too expensive to film. But a similar tracking shot was done years later at the beginning of Star Trek: First Contact (1996) during Picard's Borg assimilation flashback dream.
The malfunctioning log recorder uttering "Good morning, Captain." was an in-joke for Admiral Kirk and party's sabotage of the USS Excelsior's bridge computer in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) which read the same thing across the helm screen.
EASTER EGG: From the "Deleted Scenes" page on Disk 2 of the Special Collector's Edition, scrolling to "Behold Paradise" and pressing the left arrow highlights a round icon. Selecting this button shows gag reel footage of David Loughery, Ralph Winter and Harve Bennett integrated with material from the turbo shaft sequence.
During pre-production meetings, screenwriter David Loughery jokingly proposed to have Commander Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) appear as an erotic dancer in order to lure away the hostage takers from the Paradise compound. He was surprised to learn that the producers approved of the idea right away.
According to the text commentary on the DVD, Sulu and Chekov were supposed to be seen hiking at Mount Rushmore (even though the scene was filmed at Yosemite along with the scenes of Kirk, Spock and McCoy). Originally, there was supposed to be a tracking shot going up to reveal the Presidents' faces on a matte painting and that the matte would feature an African-American female president. The crew did do a rough matte of the Presidents' faces but the idea was scrapped due to budget constraints.
According to George Takei, he originally turned down this film because he did not want to be directed by William Shatner with whom he has had a long standing feud. But Shatner convinced Takei to reprise his role.
The movie's climax was cut almost entirely out due to the writers strike going on at the time, and a result of that was the budget for the special effects being cut drastically. Otherwise, the film's ending would have been entirely different.
Linda Fetters, a stunt performer, played the "felinoid" exotic dancer. She wore airbrush makeup that covered most of her body, prosthetic claws on her hands and feet, a wig and clip-on tail made of human hair, contacts to make her eyes appear cat-like, and a full face mask. The makeup application took about six hours to complete. She has approximately 53 seconds of screen time.
Harve Bennett blamed the relatively low box office results partly on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987). Bennett believed the series had eased the Trek fanbase's desire for more product. As a result, he felt the fans preferred to stay home weekend evenings for first run TNG episodes rather than going out for multiple viewings of the film.
Made its Network Television debut on CBS as opposed to ABC which initially broadcast the first four Star Trek movies. CBS had bought the rights as part of a package of Paramount movies released in 1989.
One of William Shatner's daughters appears as the yeoman that holds Kirk's malfunctioning Captain's log. She also hands him his jacket when he first boards the bridge of the Enterprise.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The film's special effects were not done by ILM because the members of ILM were already working on Ghostbusters II (1989) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). This hindered the film's ending greatly because the ending was to be much longer than Kirk simply being chased by "God." However, the sequence had to be cut out as a result of awful-looking special effects. The scenes were replaced by more shots of George Murdock's face, except his eyes glowed.
Cut scenes included Kirk being pursued by rock monsters on the God planet. The rock monsters were men in rubber suits, and also included a smoking effect. According to William Shatner, in order to achieve this, cigarette smoke was blown in the suits before cameras rolled. The rock monsters were scrapped due to lack of believability and time constraints.
The on-screen confrontation between William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and George Murdock ("God") is not the first for these two actors. They went head-to-head in Crash (1978), with Shatner as an air-crash investigator and Murdock as his excessively bureaucratic superior. This was the film Shatner made just before returning to the role of Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).
Gene Roddenberry was said to be unhappy with the movie, as the story was too similar to his initial script for the Star Trek revival project which he wrote during the 1970s. Roddenberry's script, which centered around the Enterprise discovering, and eventually killing God, was rejected by Paramount, who felt the subject matter would be too controversial.
During the film's climax, Spock is revealed to have negotiated a peaceful resolution to the conflict with the Klingons. The film's final scenes center around a reception involving the Enterprise crew and their Klingon counterparts to celebrate their newfound cooperation. While not intentional, this would provide something of a lead in to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).
Sybok was originally named Zon, and in early drafts was unrelated to Spock. Harve Bennett came up with the Spock-Sybok family relationship to strengthen Spock's rationale regarding his actions relating to Sybok. William Shatner was opposed to the idea, feeling it was too gimmicky and too much like a plotline out of a soap opera.