classictrek: In Star Trek Movie Memories, William Shatner…

William Shatner with daughter Lisabeth, left, and Harve Bennett, right.

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker

Robert Tilton

Jimmy Swaggart


In Star Trek Movie Memories, William Shatner (pictured at top with daughter Lisabeth, left, and Harve Bennett, right) describes the inspiration for Star Trek V’s story:

By the time I’d been officially assigned the Star Trek V director’s chair, I already had a story in mind. I got it from my TV set. See, right around the time I was seeking story inspiration, televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were becoming an absolutely unavoidable national phenomenon. Night after night you’d see them on the news: Jim staring blankly through a shit-eating grin, Tammy weeping uncontrollably through a half-pound of putty-knife-applied, bargain-basement mascara. They were repulsive, strangely horrifying and yet I became absolutely fascinated for two reasons.

First, I was amazed by the idea that the Bakkers, the Robert Tiltons or the Jimmy Swaggarts of the world could actually get up in public and espouse their theory that God, in his infinite wisdom, was now speaking directly into their heavily hairsprayed heads, demanding that they spread his word, demanding that they do his bidding. Was this the ultimate narcissism? A surefire money-grabbing scheme? Psychosis. I was now officially spellbound.

Even more astounding was the fact that these divinity-soaked telemarketing geniuses were almost uniformly getting rich through their wild storytelling, inexplicably convincing large numbers of outwardly sane people to believe in their blatantly transparent message. That ability stuck in my brain for weeks, and when I finally started toying around with some preliminary story ideas for Star Trek V, I couldn’t help myself. Almost immediately, I sort of reengineered, softened and twisted all those TV evangelists into one character. He was Zar (though he’d soon be remonikered as Sybok), a holy man driven by a genuine belief that God was speaking to him, demanding that he accumulate as many followers as possible and provide a suitable vehicle with which the diety might better spread his teaching throughout the universe.