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.
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.
According to George Takei, despite studio pressure to complete the film on time, William Shatner maintained a creative and enthusiastic atmosphere on set. "I have enormous admiration for his ability to block that kind of pressure from seeping on to the set." Moreover, Takei acknowledged, "despite our sometimes strained personal history, I found working with Bill [Shatner] as a director to be surprisingly pleasant."
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.
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.
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.
This film contains the first confirmed appearance of Starfleet Marines, an idea Gene Roddenberry wanted, but was unable, to include in Star Trek (1966). The officers accompanying Kirk and crew down to Nimbus III have since been said to be Marines.
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.
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.
According to the DVD text commentary, 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.
One of the jokes about Star Trek is that the Captain's yeoman rarely has anything important to do. As William Shatner would later admit in an interview, the scene with his real-life daughter (Melanie Shatner) would result in a failed attempt at a joke. After Kirk arrives on the bridge from his R&R, he hands his coat to the yeoman, who then proceeds to spend the rest of the scene wandering around the bridge. The joke here is that on a starship's bridge there is no place to hang a jacket.
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.
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.
William Shatner practised aerobics and strength training daily to prepare for the film. The physical activity and directing duties meant he woke at 4 a.m. every day during filming, no matter what time he fell asleep.
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 Sulu is no longer a member of the Enterprise crew in the next movie, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), being captain of USS Excelsior.
George Takei expected the film as a disappointment because "the script seemed rather a muddle... as if three separately interesting stories force-sealed together into one" which "made for a confusing and ultimately tiresome two hours".
According to "The Q Continuum" novel trilogy, "God" was actually an energy-based being known as "The One" that traveled through the Guardian of Forever into the Milky Way galaxy by another near omnipotent (and equally malevolent) entity only known as 0. After being defeated in a heated battle with the Q continuum, The One was locked away in a prison of the Q's making at the center of the Milky Way behind the Great Barrier after being reduced to a head, until he atoned for his transgressions against the Continuum, or the heat death of the universe, "whichever came first". This same conflict, according to the novel trilogy, also resulted in the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs hitting Earth after being knocked off course and going through a tear in space-time.
DeForest Kelley noted the physicality required for the film and enjoyed doing things that he had not been asked to do in years. "I was very pleased to see that he [Shatner] brought it along in fine style," he said. Kelley noted that his own ambition to direct had deserted him after seeing difficulties Leonard Nimoy faced directing the previous two Star Trek films.
According to William Shatner on the DVD audio commentary, two of his stunt doubles in the movie were his stunt doubles on T.J. Hooker (1982): Don Pulford (credited) and R.A. Rondell (not credited). Rondell also served as stunt coordinator in "Hooker".
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.
Ever since Star Trek (1966), William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy's lawyers drafted what Shatner termed a "favored nations clause", with the result that whatever Shatner received - e.g., a pay raise or script control - Nimoy also got and vice versa. When Shatner signed on for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) following a pay dispute, Shatner was promised he could direct the next film.
William Shatner's cut ran slightly over two hours (not including ending credits or the opticals), which Paramount thought was too long. Their target runtime was one hour forty-five minutes, which would guarantee twice-nightly theatrical screenings. Harve Bennett was handed the task of shortening the film's running time, despite Shatner's view that nothing could possibly be removed. Shatner was horrified by Bennett's edit, and the two haggled over what parts to restore or cut.
Spock makes an uncharacteristic mistake when he calls "marshmallows" by the name "marsh melons". The novelization shows that McCoy, knowing Spock would want to study what the ship had in the library computer about camping out before going out, paid a computer tech to change all references in the Enterprise computer about marshmallows to "marsh melons". The novel also includes characterizations of McCoy's and Kirk's reactions and McCoy having a silent laugh at Spock's error. In the final picture, McCoy simply stumbles over the pronunciation to continue the joke. Later, in the levitation boots scene on the Enterprise (mentioned below), Kirk again mentions "marsh melons", which some have thought to be the mistake, but is evidence he also recognized Spock's error. When they return to the campsite at the ending of the novel, Spock has since then detected McCoy's activity and has had his misinformation corrected.
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.
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: The Year We Make Contact (1984), when Captain Kirbuk (Helen Mirren) launches a space probe to approach Europa, a Jupiter's moon.
EASTER EGG: From the "Deleted Scenes" page on Disk 2 of the DVD Special 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.
Nichelle Nichols, an accomplished singer and dancer, provided an authentic performance of the "fan dance" routine in this film; she was outraged when her vocals in the scene were later overdubbed in editing without her approval.
Harve Bennett was exhausted by his work on the previous three Star Trek films and wanted to move on, feeling that he was not part of the "Star Trek" family and that he had been mistreated by Leonard Nimoy. When William Shatner tried to convince Bennett to reconsider, the producer insisted on a meeting at his home. After several hours of discussion Bennett agreed to return. Bennett disagreed with several elements of Shatner's story, feeling that because no one could assuredly answer the question of God's existence, the ending of the film would never be satisfying. Bennett also told Shatner that the film had the feeling of a tone poem rather than an adventure story. The studio agreed with Bennett, reasoning that the subject matter could be too weighty or offensive to theatergoers.
Shortly before the beginning of location shooting, Hollywood union truck drivers or teamsters went on strike to protest pay cuts and overtime changes. With deadlines looming, the production searched for non-union drivers, aware that the Teamsters might retaliate by sabotaging equipment or flying airplanes above the filming to ruin audio recordings. After one of the production's camera trucks exploded in the studio parking lot, the non-union drivers headed to Yosemite National Park under cover of darkness with a police escort.
In reviewing the dailies of the first two days of shooting, the production realized that a pine tree in the frame during Kirk and Spock's mountain dialogue ruined the illusion of height, while a shot of Shatner clinging to the face of El Capitan appeared muddy due to clouds obscuring the sun and ruining the depth of field. The scenes had to be reshot later
During location shooting, locals were hired to portray Sybok's "army" during his raid on Nimbus III. Because of the severe budget cuts and not enough number of these extras, many of them were reused in different shots, running through the gates over and over again.
William Shatner originally wanted Sybok's horse to be a unicorn, adding a more "mythical" approach to the character, but Gene Roddenberry disapproved of this, saying that this would turn Star Trek into a space fantasy instead of science fiction.
Initially, William Shatner believed that the film would get a positive response. In the morning after the opening night, he woke Leonard Nimoy up to tell him that the Los Angeles Times had given the film a positive review. Soon after, a local television reporter also gave the film a good review, and Shatner recalled that he incorrectly "began sensing a [positive] trend". He later agreed that the film nearly ended the film series, and looking back on the film called it a "failed but glorious attempt" at a thought-provoking film that did not come together.
The visuals required for the climax took weeks before they were ready to be shown after the completion of principal photography. However, when William Shatner saw the effects, he was disappointed with the low quality. Shatner and Harve Bennett attempted to get money to reshoot the ending of the film, but Paramount turned them down.
Some of the special effects in this movie are markedly different than those featured in previous Star Trek films. Among other changes, photon torpedoes have a different design and colour (the torpedo from the Enterprise was a slightly recoloured reuse of V'Ger's "whiplash bolt" from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)), and a slightly different effect was used when going to warp speed. However, the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) marked a return to the effect designs that characterized earlier Trek films.
When Captain Kirk enters the bar during the Federation attack on the outpost, as the cat-like creature is attacking the captain, James Brown's opening shout from his hit song "I Feel Good" is dropped in several times while the two fight.
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.
Todd Bryant was playing ping pong at a beach party when a casting director offered him the role. Bryant performed his audition twice, as William Shatner requested that he repeat his performance speaking in Klingon.
The constrained budget meant that William Shatner could not completely redesign the Starfleet uniforms, but Nilo Rodis-Jamero created new brown field uniforms for the film's location scenes as well as the leisure clothes the crew wears during shore leave.
The Nimbus III city of Paradise was one of the last locations to be designed and created, because its design relied on what exterior location and terrain was used. Herman F. Zimmerman created a sketch of the town's layout over three days, drawing inspiration from a circular Moroccan fortress. Creation of the city cost $500,000 and took five weeks of construction in 100 °F (38 °C) heat.
Long shots of Kirk scaling the mountain were filmed with stunt doubles, while William Shatner's closer shots had him on a fiberglass set positioned in front of the camera, with the real mountains visible in the background. Aided by two trainers, Shatner had spent weeks at the Paramount lot, learning to climb a wooden replica
One of Kirk's famous lines in this film is that he "will die alone". In Star Trek: Generations (1994), Kirk dies after emerging from the Nexus in the 24th century. Although he dies apart from his closest friends (Spock and McCoy), Jean-Luc Picard is with him at his passing.
A Bandai Nintendo Entertainment System action game was slated to be released in 1989 along with the movie. The game was canceled following the failure of the film at the box office. A prototype has surfaced and is circling the net as a ROM. This is notable for its many basic spelling errors (example: at one point Scotty is named "Scotto") and lack of an ending (the game may have been incomplete at the time this was scrapped).
Nimbus III and its town, Paradise City, were recreated in the Mojave. The town was created as a haphazard collection of spaceship parts and futuristic scrap. William Shatner "cracked" during the filming in 110 °F (43 °C) heat, insulting the head electrician and ignoring Andrew Laszlo's request for additional setup time. When a driver failed to appear and stranded Shatner and a skeleton crew, a park ranger came to the rescue and the production managed to film scenes of Sybok's followers before they lost daylight. Shatner called the resulting half-jogging pace of the dehydrated extras "the Sybok shuffle".
ILM delivered the main Enterprise model, which was built by Magicam in 1978 for the first movie, to Associates and Ferren. However, scenes which included the Enterprise in the Earth-orbiting Spacedock platform, as well as the Spacedock itself, were taken directly from ILM's previous work in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). The Enterprise model had been damaged when it was loaned out for touring purposes, meaning the 30,000 panels on the model had to be repainted by hand.
The "God column", in which the false god appeared, was created by a rapidly rotating cylinder through which light was shone; the result appeared on film as a column of light. Bran Ferren used a beam splitter to project actor George Murdock's head into the cylinder, giving the appearance that the false god resided within the column.
The Enterprise-A bridge is mostly a new set, except for the turbolifts, Sulu and Chekov's helm console, the handrails, and some of the platforms on which the portions of the bridge stood. According to the DVD text commentary, a new bridge set was necessary due to the original movie bridge set being mostly damaged by a sudden windstorm while in temporary storage at the Paramount studio parking lot (other sources have the reason for the new bridge set's construction as being because this had been extensively modified for use on TNG to the point that this could not be converted back), and only those few pieces used on the Enterprise-A bridge were salvaged from the original set. Captain Kirk would thus seem to briefly break character when he muses, "I miss my old chair." The decoration from the salvaged set was also used for the Stargazer bridge and for the battle bridge on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987).
Another all-new set was the Forward Observation Lounge where several dramatic scenes take place. According to Michael Okuda, this room was located on the forward-center edge of the saucer section (much like Ten-Forward on the Enterprise-D). However, when looking at the exterior of the Enterprise-A, there are no windows which match the location of this room. The plan was to update the filming miniature with the three larger windows, however time and budget constraints forced the producers to omit this change as it was believed they would be unnoticed due to their small size.
In the scene where Spock watches Kirk's ascent, and saves him when he slips and falls using levitating boots, most of the shots framed Leonard Nimoy from the waist up; in these scenes the actor was supported by a crane that gave the appropriate "float" to achieve the effect. Bluescreen footage of William Shatner falling was shot later at Paramount and composited, while stuntman Ken Bates set a record for the highest American descender fall by plummeting off El Capitan - with a wire support rig - for long shots.
William Shatner's first outline was titled "An Act of Love", and many of its elements - the Yosemite vacation, the abduction of Klingon, human and Romulan hostages on the failed paradise planet - survived to the final film. In Shatner's early draft, Kirk is overwhelmed by Zar (later Sybok)'s superior numbers of followers and Spock, McCoy and the rest of the Enterprise crew come to believe in Zar's divinity. Kirk feigns acceptance of Zar's beliefs to travel with him to the God planet, which to Shatner would be a desolate, fiery waste. When Kirk confronts "God", the image of the being transforms into that of Satan, and Kirk, Spock and McCoy separate in their escape. Kirk eludes capture but goes back to save his friends from being carried away to Hell.
Concerned that the franchise's momentum following Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) had disappeared, Paramount rushed the film into production in late 1988 despite the writers' strike cutting into pre-production.
The sequence of "God" chasing Captain Kirk on the planet Sha-Ka-Ree was originally conceived to be much longer and extensive, but this had to be severely cut as a result of awful-looking special effects.
William Shatner returned to Paramount Studios a few days after principal photography had wrapped to organize the film's post-production schedule. This included showing a rough cut of the film - minus the special effects - to studio personnel. Shatner recalled that the film received praise and left the screening "revelling" in its reception; this turned out to be a "momentary victory" once he saw the special effects.
With Sarek having been married to the Vulcan Princess prior to his marriage to Amanda, Sybok would be older than Spock, perhaps by a number of years. In real life Leonard Nimoy was a couple of years older than Laurence Luckinbill.
As a result of the critical and commercial failure, along with it's unpopularity among the fan base, the film's continuity came to be widely ignored within Star Trek canon. References to the film within non canonical Star Trek stories have been largely noted with derision.
William Shatner had been so impressed with production designer Herman F. Zimmerman's work on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), that he hired Zimmerman to upgrade the Enterprise interiors for the film. Hence, the upgraded bridge from the movie resembles the bright atmosphere portrayed on The Next Generation. Decades later, Zimmerman later jokingly commented after seeing the film, considered so flawed by many, "After the show was over, I was pretty sure I would never do another."
Harve Bennett blamed part of the film's failure on the change from a traditional Thanksgiving-season opening, to the sequel-stuffed summer release period, and the diffusion of fan viewership following the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987).
Ralph Winter felt that they should have recognized the film's plot was too reminiscent of V'Ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and that the search for God was a mistake; while he felt many parts of the film were good, they "smoked [their] own press releases" and nearly killed the franchise.
The scene where Spock sees his inner pain was originally longer. Spock claims that he resolved any tensions with his father. He then has a flashback to his childhood: when he finds out Sybok has been banished from Vulcan, Spock says he wants to go with him.
Days after filming was completed, William Shatner returned to Paramount to supervise the film's edit, soundscape creation and score, and integration of optical effects. Editor Peter E. Berger had already assembled rough cuts of various sequences, and with only weeks before the film's scheduled completion, the production team set about the task of salvaging the film's ending through editing. The false god's screen time was reduced, and Ferren's "god blob" effect was replaced with a close-up of the actor's face, along with shots of lightning and smoke. At the time, Shatner felt that the edits "pulled a rabbit out of a hat", solving many of the film's problems.
Future Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin whom would succeed Walter Koening in the role of Pavel Chekov in Star Trek (2009), was born the same year of this film's release, on March 11th 1989, 3 months before the film's release on 9th June. Anton Yelchin died on June 19th 2016. Star Trek Beyond (2016) is his 3rd and final appearance as Chekov.
Segments of the film were reedited for the theatrical release. Five minutes of footage was excised to improve the film's pacing, and an additional scene was included on the Bird-of-Prey to make the circumstances of Kirk's rescue clearer.
The name of the outpost on Nimbus III was Paradise City. The name may have been inspired by the Guns N Roses song of the same name, which was first becoming popular at the time of the film's production.
Melanie Shatner: 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.
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 into 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 this was too gimmicky and too much like a plotline out of a soap opera.
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.
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.
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.
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 credibility and time constraints. The idea of rock monsters was eventually used in Galaxy Quest (1999), a Star Trek parody.
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).
The two Enterprise's shuttlecraft shown in the movie are called Copernicus and Galileo. It is a reference for Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei. Copernicus (1473-1543) was pioneer of modern astronomy by his investigations about celestial spheres (stars, planets and otherwise), challenging too the medieval beliefs to put the sun in the center of the Solar System instead planet Earth as had been done. Galileo (1564-1642) is considered other father of modern science and one of the most important scientists in history, after discovering mountains on the moon, new stars, Jupiter's satellites, Venus' phases, the origin of terrestrial sea tides and sunspots.
This is not the first Star Trek's movie where existence of God is approached. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), V'Ger traveled planet Earth looking for his creator, resulting that V'Ger was really Voyager 6, a space probe launched in the 20th Century by NASA to explore the universe beyond Solar System, finding that his "creator" was human race.