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Star Trek V Hints Kirk’s Enterprise-A Was Really A Punishment

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier sees Captain Kirk take command of the USS Enterprise-A, but why did Starfleet give Kirk a ship riddled with problems?

Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) took command of the USS Enterprise-A in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but it’s possible Kirk’s second Enterprise was really a punishment from Starfleet. Kirk’s Star Trek V mission was to liberate Nimbus III from Sybok (Lawrence Luckinbill), the Vulcan half-brother of Spock (Leonard Nimoy). But Sybok highjacked the Enterprise in order to travel to Sha Ka Ree in his mad quest to find God (George Murdock).


Kirk was assigned the Enterprise-A at the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Admiral Kirk and his crew committed mutiny by stealing the original Starship Enterprise to rescue Spock (Leonard Nimoy) from the Genesis Planet. But Kirk destroyed the Enterprise rather than letting it fall into the hands of Klingons led by Kruge (Christopher Lloyd). Kirk and his crew were to face court-martial in Star Trek IV when they time-traveled to 1986 to find and bring two humpback whales to the 23rd century. Because they saved the Earth from destruction by the whale probe, all charges against the Enterprise crew were dropped, but Kirk was demoted to Captain and given command of the new Enterprise-A.

Related: The Real Meaning Behind Kirk’s Son’s Death In Star Trek III

Was Kirk’s Enterprise-A In Star Trek V Really A Punishment From Starfleet?

Enterprise A Star Trek V

Star Trek IV‘s ending was framed as Kirk getting rewarded with what he truly wanted: his rank as Captain, command of a starship, and his beloved Enterprise back (as well as Spock and his crew by his side). But the Enterprise-A was no prize. Kirk himself called the Enterprise-A “a disaster” at the start of Star Trek V. The ship was lacking key personnel, and it was in a state of disrepair. Systems were malfunctioning, computer panels were exploding, the viewscreen didn’t work, and there were doubts that the Enterprise-A could successfully warp to Nimbus III. It’s odd that Kirk would be given a starship in this state as a thank-you from Starfleet for saving Earth.

Why would Starfleet give a rust bucket like the Enterprise-A to Kirk unless they were secretly punishing him for his insurrection? Kirk and his crew did get off scot-free for their crimes in Star Trek III, including disabling the transwarp drive of the USS Excelsior, rendering “The Great Experiment” of Starfleet a failure. Kirk even technically disobeyed orders by time traveling instead of returning directly to Earth in Star Trek IV. It’s possible that while Kirk was publicly cleared of his crimes, Starfleet still sought to humble hum and teach him a lesson by giving him an obsolete Constitution-class hunk of junk and naming it “Enterprise.”

Starfleet Didn’t Hold Kirk In High Regard In Star Trek V & VI

Kirk Go Climb A Rock

When Fleet Admiral Bob (Harve Bennett) assigned Captain Kirk to Nimbus III in Star Trek V, he noted that Starfleet lacks “experienced commanders,” and he appealed to Kirk’s ego by stating, “I need Jim Kirk.” Yet the Admiral also admitted that he knew the Enterprise-A wasn’t “up to specs,” so Starfleet was well-aware they assigned Captain Kirk a lemon. This isn’t how Starfleet would treat one of their best Captains who just saved Earth. It leads one to suspect that Kirk’s heroism aside, he still wasn’t looked upon too highly by Starfleet Command in Star Trek V.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country also hints that Captain Kirk was hardly Starfleet’s golden boy as he was in his youth. Kirk had no idea that Spock involved in peace negotiations with Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) when the Vulcan “volunteered” Kirk and the Enterprise to host the Klingons. Starfleet was also willing to hang Kirk out to dry when he was arrested for allegedly ordering Gorkon’s death and was sentenced to life in prison on Rura Penthe. The Enterprise-A looked like the refitted Enterprise from the outside, but it was by no means a top-of-the-line starship in Star Trek V, and Starfleet may still have been punishing Captain Kirk all along.

More: Khan Is Actually Right To Hate Kirk In Star Trek II

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