Warning: SPOILER for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2, Episode 9 – “weJ Duj (Three Ships)”.

Captain Kirk’s infamous opening scene in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is parodied by Star Trek: Lower Decks with Ensign D’Vana Tendi and Dr. T’Ana potentially finishing the one mission Kirk never did. In Star Trek: Lower Decks season 2, episode 9, “weJ Duj (Three Ships),” the Lower Deckers aboard the USS Cerritos pair up with a “bridge buddy” for some rest and recreation during a long-haul warp flight. Tendi and T’Ana decide to recreate Kirk’s Yosemite vacation gone wrong in Star Trek 5.

The William Shatner-directed Star Trek V ranks as least-loved of the movies starring the cast of Star Trek: The Orignal Series and scenes like Kirk at Yosemite National Park are partly why. After a prologue introduces Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill), the half-brother of Spock (Leonard Nimoy), the action turns to Kirk climbing El Capitan at Yosemite. The Captain’s ascent is interrupted by Spock, who is wearing a pair of hover boots that allow him to fly. Kirk is so distracted by Spock that he loses his footing and ends up plummeting off the mountain. Of course, Spock saves his best friend. Kirk and Spock later join Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) around the campfire later that night to sing “Row Row Row Your Boat” before they are summoned back aboard the Starship Enterprise.

In Star Trek: Lower Decks, Ensign Tendi (Noël Wells) and Dr. T’Ana (Gillian Vigman) climb El Capitan together in a holodeck simulation of Yosemite National Park and they are interrupted by Ensign Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid), who wears hover boots like Spock and the same “Go climb a rock” sweatshirt that Kirk is wearing aboard the bridge of the Enterprise in Star Trek V. In Lower Decks, Boimler’s flying footwear malfunctions and he plummets hundreds of feet, although Bradward’s life is saved by tree branches. Meanwhile, it’s implied that the Orion Ensign and the Caitian Starfleet doctor finished their climb because they weren’t far from El Capitan’s summit and they weren’t particularly concerned about Boimer since they assumed the holodeck’s safety protocols were on. If Tendi and T’Ana did make it to the top of El Capitan, then they finished the climb Kirk never did.

Star Trek V never made it clear whether Kirk ever actually made it to the top of El Capitan. At the end of Star Trek V, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy returned to Yosemite to resume their shore leave, but the film ends with the Enterprise trio once again singing “Row Row Row Your Boat” around the campfire. It’s possible that Kirk didn’t go back to climb that giant rock, especially since Bones was furious that Kirk nearly died the first time he tried it. Not that Kirk always heeds his doctor’s advice, but the captain of the Enterprise could have just settled for enjoying camping on terra firma with his best friends instead of risking his life ascending El Capitan once again.

Despite Star Trek V‘s less than stellar reputation among Trekkers, William Shatner’s The Final Frontier continues to have an indelible influence on Star Trek and there’s a reason why Lower Decks loves to reference it. Star Trek V has its flaws but at the core of the film is the reaffirmation of the friendship between Kirk, Spock, and Bones. Sybok tests the bond of the Enterprise trio but they emerged from their encounter with “God” as steadfast as ever.

Similarly, Star Trek: Lower Decks is a testament to the friendship of the Cerritos’ junior officers, Ensigns Beckett Mariner (Tawney Newsome), Boimler, Tendi, and Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero). The weird aspects of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier are natural fodder for Star Trek: Lower Decks‘ comedy, which celebrates everything strange but wonderful about being in Starfleet. Star Trek: Lower Decks also reveres Kirk and Spock, and the Captain of the Enterprise might be amused that his climbing El Capitan is now mimicked by others in Starfleet, even if they get to finish the ascent Kirk didn’t.

Star Trek: Lower Decks streams Thursdays on Paramount+.


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