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TNG Is 1 Reason William Shatner’s Star Trek Movie Failed, Says Executive Producer-TGN

Summary

  • Star Trek V’s failure cannot be solely attributed to Star Trek: The Next Generation, as there were multiple factors involved.
  • While TNG may have divided the attention of the existing Star Trek audience, it was released during the show’s summer hiatus, so there was no direct competition.
  • The release of Star Trek V coincided with a crowded summer blockbuster season, where it was overshadowed by more popular films, contributing to its underperformance.


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Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the reasons Star Trek V: The Final Frontier failed, according to producer Harve Bennett. Directed by William Shatner, Star Trek V was released in June 1989 as the fifth movie starring the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series. Compared to the Leonard Nimoy-directed $109-million-grossing blockbuster Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Shatner’s Final Frontier earned only $63 million at the box office and was met with poor critical and audience reviews.

In William Shatner’s memoir, “Star Trek: Movie Memories,” the actor-director, who also conceived Star Trek V’s story about the crew of the USS Enterprise meeting God, the film’s late producer Harve Bennett believed that one reason The Final Frontier underperformed was Star Trek: The Next Generation. As Bennett explained, the first four Star Trek movies were released to an audience starved for “a Thanksgiving dinner” of new Trek with no competition from within the franchise. TNG then premiered in 1987 and, for the first time, a Star Trek movie hit the big screen while a Star Trek TV show was on the air. Read Bennett’s quote below:

By the time Star Trek V came out… the fans were less hungry. Star Trek: The Next Generation was into its second successful year, airing in most markets on Saturday or Sunday nights, seven or eight P.M., and instead of having to go out to the theaters, the fans were getting served warm turkey without ever having to get off the couch. No one has ever factored that into our performance, and I’ve been told by the more casual fans, “Oh well, we wanted to see Star Trek V, but we didn’t wanna miss an episode of the new show, and by the time we got around to seeing the new feature, it was already gone from the theaters.

Related: Star Trek: The Original Series Cast & Character Guide


Is TNG To Blame For Star Trek V’s Failure?

Lots of factors contributed to Star Trek V underperforming.

There’s something to be said for Harve Bennett’s theory that the existing Star Trek audience’s attention was split between seeing Star Trek V in theaters and staying home to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, Star Trek V was released during the summer of 1989, and TNG was already on its summer hiatus with no new episodes airing until the fall, so there was no direct competition from TNG. It’s more likely that poor word of mouth and the damning reviews from critics are what hurt Star Trek V‘s performance, as did the fact that William Shatner’s film simply had big problems with its overall quality.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was building its audience during season 2, and it hadn’t yet reached the creative highs that would make it one of the greatest sci-fi series ever.

In terms of competition, TNG wasn’t the issue as much as Star Trek V was released in the biggest movie summer of the decade. In the summer of 1989, Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2, Ghostbusters 2, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, License to Kill, and other films overwhelmed moviegoers. Star Trek V, which hardcore Trekkers declared wasn’t nearly as good as Star Trek IV, was lost in the shuffle of all of those summer blockbusters. Star Trek: The Next Generation likely did satisfy many fans’ desire for Star Trek content, but if Star Trek V: The Final Frontier had been a great film that interested both diehard fans and the casual audience as Star Trek IV did, it would have risen above its competition.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: The Next Generation are available to stream on Paramount+.

Source: “Star Trek Movie Memories” by William Shatner and Chris Kreski

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