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  • Audience-Alienating Premise: The Enterprise crew meeting God or what seemed to be, to such a degree that Gene Roddenberry himself had tried to talk to William Shatner in the hopes of convincing him not to go through with it.
  • Awesome Music:
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
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    • The infamous scene where Uhura does a naked fan dance.
    • Klaa destroying Pioneer 10 For the Evulz. It's never even mentioned that he would've had to enter deep into the Earth system to find it.
    • The entire movie could count as this to the franchise, as the "Search for God" plot is almost never referred to again after the fact.
  • Bizarro Episode: The movie is a textbook example; the plot ignores many of the rules and conventions of the setting, the entire premise comes out of nowhere, it has no impact on the ongoing plot of the films which kicks back in for the next one, and the events are never mentioned again. Removing it from continuity entirely would have no effect on anything else in the franchise. It's been noted as feeling a lot like Shatner wrote his own original sci-fi story, then simply changed the names to Star Trek characters.
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  • Contested Sequel: It won a Golden Raspberry Award, is widely considered the shining example of the Star Trek Movie Curse and at the very least the worst movie with the original Enterprise crew, with some going so far as to consider it the worst Star Trek movie overall, or even one of the worst films of all-time. But has some defenders (see Vindicated by History).
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: It's a bit uncomfortable in retrospect watching the scene in which Scotty hits his head on the bulkhead (after saying "I know this ship like the back of me hand!") knowing that James Doohan developed Alzheimer's disease towards the end of his life.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Kirk tells McCoy and Spock "I've always known I'll die alone." It was originally harsher after Star Trek: Generations, in which Kirk died without either one around; but it's heartbreaking now that William Shatner has outlived both DeForest Kelley and Leonard Nimoy. And then, in Star Trek Beyond, it's revealed that Spock has died, with the strong implication that he was the last surviving TOS crewmember.
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    • When Sybok offers to take away his pain, Kirk refuses—emphatically insisting that he needs his pain. The next movie shows that Kirk holding onto his pain (specifically, his son being killed by Klingons) makes him an ample scapegoat for the conspiracy and is a major obstacle that he must overcome.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The plan to fly to the center of the galaxy is even goofier after the franchise created an entire show about how long that kind of trip takes.
    • Nearly three decades after the film's release, Alex Honnold completed the actual first free solo ascent of El Capitan, as seen in the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo.
  • Ho Yay:
    • "Please, Captain. Not in front of the Klingons."
      Q: Who hates Klingons with a fiery passion?
      A: Every Yaoi Fangirl ever.
    • Sulu and Chekov have a few "old married couple" moments such as when they're lost in the woods in the opening. Which is even funnier after George Takei came out in real life years later.
  • Hypocritical Humour: One could view Gene Roddenberry's comments that he considered the film apocryphal to be this, considering that the Enterprise going on "the search for God" was his original pitch for the first movie.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Misblamed: Granted, Shatner can be pointed to as the cause of a lot of the mess that is this movie, but he tends to get all of the blame even though there were several other factors such as Executive Meddling and the WGA strike.
    • It goes the other way sometimes too, with fans placing the blame solely on the studio and vilifying Shatner. This applies in part to the film's money problems as well: while the budget cuts did hurt the film immensely, they seemed to have trouble prioritising what they did have, such as the million-dollar self-lighting cigarette that ended up being cut, the cat-stripper costume (complete with animatronic tail!) and the rock monster costumes that didn't work properly and endangered their wearers.
  • Moment of Awesome: As ridiculous as this movie is overall, there are two shining moments in Spock's conversation with Klaa, which, courtesy of Leonard Nimoy's peerless acting talent, are considered to be two of Spock's best lines in the whole franchise.
    Spock: Explanation  Captain Kirk is not among us.
    Klaa: You lie!
    Spock: (Fascinating Eyebrow) I am a Vulcan. I am incapable of lying.
    • And moments later, when demanding that Korrd tell Klaa, who he technically outranks, to stand down:
      Spock: You are his superior officer.
      Korrd: I am a foolish old man.
      Spock: Damn you, sir. You will try.
  • Narm:
    • Spock's "pain."
    • When "God" chases Kirk near the end, it wails out "Yyyyyyyyyyooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!" It's supposed to be haunting and scary, but sounds like an elderly ghost from Scooby-Doo trying to scare someone, and failing miserably.
    • Kirk's speech about how he needs his pain, when you consider that it's actually Shatner writing a big speech for himself about how the central premise of his own story makes no sense.
    • The tagline "Why are they putting seatbelts in theaters this summer?" was meant to imply that the movie was so suspenseful you'd need a seatbelt to stay in your seat...or something. It was not meant to imply that the film was so boring that the seatbelts were to keep audience members from escaping, an interpretation many reviewers gleefully ran with.
    • The "dying bird squawk" sound effect slapped over the Klingon theme. Cause he's flying a Bird of Prey! Get it? GET IT??
    • Everyone reacting in awe to Sha Ka Ree, when it's just a desert tinged violet. Sybok's entourage just came from a desert planet.
    • As SF Debris noted, "God" makes a bizarre noise that makes him sound like Yosemite Sam.
  • Narm Charm: Sybok's final line before attacking the false God: "I couldn't help but notice your pain!...It runs deep! Share it with me!" Only he could take such a corny line and make it sound badass.
  • Never Live It Down: Sarek's disappointment in his "so human" son from the moment of his birth, despite Spock looking just as Vulcan as you could want.
  • Padding: A whole movie of it. You can easily skip from the fourth film to the sixth and lose nothing, and it actually makes the story flow better.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: Nintendo Entertainment System games based on movies have never had the best of reputations anyway, but it takes a special kind of bad for Paramount to have refused to release the game at all, even if only a limited run to recoup some of the development costs.
  • Retroactive Recognition: By far the best remembered acting role by Lawrence Luckinbill, who's now far better known for being the uncle of The Wachowskisnote  (unless you're gay.)
  • Sequelitis: In keeping with the odd-numbered films of the franchise, it is widely regarded as one of the lesser entries owing to its script, campiness, and poor special effects.
  • So Bad, It's Good: Some consider it to be more enjoyable than Star Trek: Insurrection, but for all of the wrong reasons.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • Nearly every damn special effect in the movie. The phaser and transporter effects (handled by the same team that produced the corresponding effects on Star Trek: The Next Generation) are decent, as is the Stock Footage of the Klingon Bird-of-Prey from the two previous films, but most of the effects would be barely passable for a movie made in the 1950s, never mind 1989.
    • ILM was busy (this was the summer of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II and the pseudopod in The Abyss). Shatner sought out another special effects creator who showed a few amazing demonstrations in person, and then delivered complete and utter crap, to the point that it necessitated further emergency script rewrites to accommodate how completely unusable the shots were.
    • Ironically, the Rock Monsters that were originally going to be chasing Kirk rather than the disembodied head of not-God were tossed out because the one suit they made looked "like crap," according to many. Seen here, we can see that they actually looked far better than the majority of the effects seen in the film, albeit not by much.
    • Most of the effects problems were apparently to do with the motion control photography being done at 16fps instead of the usual 24fps, as a cost-saving measure. Notably, the static shots of the Enterprise and the Klingon Bird-of-Prey are generally okay (if a bit flatly lit), but whenever they move they do it in a stuttery, jerky fashion that looks like something out of an old Ray Harryhausen flick.
    • On the topic of the Enterprise, the model representing it was vandalized during the film's production by employees of Universal Studios Florida. It being a decade old at this point also meant that its internal lighting system also died out while production was underway. Basically, the fact that Bran Ferren (the man behind the effects) has never been allowed near another movie to this day (he currently works for Disney Imagineering) says it all.
    • Sha Ka Ree as seen from space is clearly a star, not a planet. On top of that, the planet's surface is clearly the same location used for Nimbus III, except tinted purple. Not surprisingly, this fails to produce the hoped-for effect of an ethereal paradise. Even the titular planet in the infamous TOS episode "The Search for Eden" looked far more like a tropical paradise than Sha-Ka-Ree does.
    • The Great Barrier is represented using an old-school FX tool called a cloud tank (essentially a large tank of water which other liquids can be injected into, creating surreal swirling patterns), but the results aren't particularly awe-inspiring, especially considering that the nebula from the second film was created using the exact same method 7 years earlier and looked far, far better.
    • The streak effect used when the Enterprise hits warp speed isn't bad per se but it's noticeably different than how the equivalent effect looks in the films handled by ILM, creating a bit of a visual continuity error. The transporter effect is much closer to ILM's but still a little less natural-looking.
  • Strangled by the Red String: When did Uhura ever show romantic interest in Scotty? Granted, it probably wouldn't have been out of place in TOS or one of the earlier films, but the attraction between the two comes out of absolutely nowhere, and is never referenced again.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Sybok could have been used to explore what Vulcans would be like without Surak's teachings without being an slimy-by-default Romulan, question whether Surak's philosophy were necessary. Instead this is barely touched upon, Sybok could have just as easily been any other type of alien with psychic powers and all it would change is his connection to Spock. Speaking of Spock, there's a brief contrasting moment where Sybok is happy to see his brother again and Spock is visibly uncomfortable because he doesn't not want to show emotions and his duty as a Starfleet officer, this could have been another exploration of the Surak's teachings which is never elaborated on.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • The Nimbus III parts could have been amazing. Desert planet filled with rogues and criminals? It easily could have been Star Trek's Tatooine but alas the Shat happened. For comparison, Nimbus was revisited in Star Trek Online for a 5 episode arc which gave it a Fallout: New Vegas feel (a mix of Space Western and Steampunk) for a good story. Imagine if this movie had Kirk in a Space Western setting?
    • You'd think that with Sybok's powers to show people their deepest pains and release them, it'd be a good opportunity to show more of the backstory of the main characters, right? Unfortunately, that only ends up being the case for McCoy. Sybok doesn't get to use his powers on Kirk or Scotty at all, Spock's pain is something we already knew, and the Epiphany Therapy for Chekov, Sulu and Uhura happens off-screen.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously:
    • Lawrence Luckinbill as Sybok, as seen on his official demo reel from the film. He gives a pretty decent performance and one suspects that he would have provided a truly memorable villain, if his character had been given a less ridiculous motivation and plot.
    • DeForest Kelley. Despite the film's generally hokey story and writing, a sizable contingent of fans consider this one of his best performances as Bones.
  • Vindicated by History: To a very slight degree. For about a decade or so after its release it tended to be up there with things like Howard the Duck and Batman & Robin on "Worst Films of All-Time" lists, and wasn't much better regarded among Star Trek fans. Nowadays it tends to be regarded as just a mediocre sci-fi flick (or a good two hour television episode), with the likes of Battlefield Earth attracting more Bile Fascination from casual viewers, and Trek fans turning their ire toward Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek: Insurrection, or Star Trek Into Darkness instead. It has a few heartwarming character moments that elevate it slightly as well.
  • Watch It for the Meme: Sybok's 'I couldn't help but notice your pain' (said when he encounters 'God') found its way into a 2Pac song.

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