Film: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)
The Principals: Director:
Leonard Nimoy. William Shatner, DeForrest Kelley, James
Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Christopher
Lloyd, Merritt Butrick, Robin Curtis, Mark Lenard.
“Goddamn Saavik got fat…”
The Premise: In the aftermath of the events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,
Captain Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew, still in mourning
over the loss of Spock, return to Earth. But the homecoming,
already a somber one, becomes even more so when they discover that the
Enterprise, already a wreck, is to be decommissioned.
Furthermore, Bones is suffering from some kind of weird meltdown and Genesis has become a galactic controversy. As such,
travel has been forbidden to it until the planet can be analyzed by a
Federation science vessel. This immediately presents a problem for Kirk
as he receives a heated (as heated as Vulcans can become anyway) visit
from Spock’s father, Ambassador Sarek. Sarek is upset with Kirk for
leaving Spock back at Genesis per Starfleet burial customs. Sarek
informs Kirk that as the keeper of the katra, Spock’s “soul”, Kirk
should have known to have brought Spock’s body and the katra back to
Vulcan for proper disposition of both so that Spock could properly
be put to rest, per Vulcan custom.
“Okay, Hikaru, just keep it together. Just keep piloting this piece of shit and hopefully no one will notice your Excelsiorboner…”
After discovering that McCoy is the keeper of the katra, and is
undergoing severe mental distress by having two consciousnesses in his
noggin, Kirk realizes that he’s going to have to violate Starfleet
orders and return to Genesis to retrieve Spock’s body. This leads to
the crew hijacking McCoy out of detention, sabotaging the brand new
Excelsior starship, and stealing the Enterprise out of space dock. As
this is developing, a ruthless Klingon commander, Kruge (Lloyd), has
information regarding Genesis and seeks to obtain its secrets for
himself. He sets out for Genesis to seize
the secret at any cost.
“I can’t get an answer.”
“About ILM’s availability…”
creator of Genesis, and Saavik (Curtis) have discovered a lifeform
centered around Spock’s coffin. On the planet, they find that the strange radiation unleashed in the creation of the Genesis planet has
rejuvenated Spock’s body into that of a child. Spock, like the
unexpectedly unstable Genesis planet itself, are both aging at
accelerated rates, and Genesis will destroy itself in a matter of
hours. When the Enterprise arrives at Genesis, they encounter
Kruge’s bird of prey in battle and Kirk has a devastating tragedy. The
question then becomes, how far is Kirk and his crew, who have already
sacrificed so much for the good of their friend, really willing to go to fulfill a promise…and at what cost?
“I am King Douche, am I not?”
“For now, sir, yes. Come ’87 though…”
that this film was put together, while not quite as an afterthought,
but not far from it, it’s great. Yet it’s probably the most overlooked
of the original six Star Trek films, which is a shame. Because of all of the films, save for Wrath of Khan,
it shows to the greatest degree the bond that the Enterprise crew had
developed and touches upon the concept of friendship and sacrifice the
most of any of the films. There is no disputing that Khan is the best of the Star Trek films to be sure. And The Voyage Home
has long been touted as the most fun of the six. But how do you get
from one to the next without this critical bridging film?
“Bill, your limo’s waiting outside. Everyone else, fuck off…”
is not only gone, but Nimoy wants to direct the next one. Great, but
Spock’s dead. So now what…? It’s interesting that Nimoy and Meyer
left themselves a back door for a potential sequel, just in case. One
quickie mind meld with McCoy later, and we have the kernel for Search.
What’s probably most impressive to me is the rather inventive way that Search
handled Spock’s resurrection, when it wasn’t planned beforehand. No
clone, time travel nor alternate reality bullshit. This movie was fed
directly by the themes of its predecessor. That owes its existence in
part to an early change in the plot of Khan,
where Genesis was changed to a life-giving terraforming device rather than an
ultimate weapon. And the needs of the one outweighing the needs of
many? Perfect bookend to Khan’s central theme.
“WTF do you mean I pon farred Scotty last night?!”
Christopher Lloyd as Kruge. Lloyd’s gotten his due as this character
over the years, but I think the true impact of his work in Search
hasn’t been fully appreciated. When you think about it, Kruge was the
the template for the modern Klingon, and for virtually every depiction
of them in every adaptation of Trek
for the last 25 years. With Nimoy’s guidance and Harve Bennett’s
script, he essentially perfected the character. Sure there were
Klingons before Kruge, but to paraphrase Worf, “Yes they are Klingons.
But we don’t talk about it.” On a side note, if you haven’t seen the Star Trek: Enterprise episodes “Affliction” and “Divergence,” you’re missing out on some clever explanation of why Klingons looked human in TOS. And it’s directly related to super men like Khan. Lloyd was a great villain here. Not Khan, but great nonetheless.
“Yes, it’s a countdown you [Klingon expletive] idiots!…”
If you check out that segment, without Horner’s fabulous orchestral
work, it’s about a minute and a half of the Enterprise crawling out of
space dock. But Horner lends a rousing urgency and sense of huge
accomplishment as the Enterprise escapes. His work on Khan was more stirring (especially his pieces Battle in the Mutara Nebula and Genesis Countdown), but this was a nice continuation of the music he did for that film.
“You know what, Jim? Fuck the Kobayashi Maru…”
Finally, the key theme of this film, sacrifice, was nicely delivered by Nimoy and the cast. Kirk’s devastation at his son’s murder and losing the Enterprise in a literal blaze of glory were a double whammy in the span of a few minutes. I think the most grim Kirk has ever looked is when he, Scotty and Chekov are facing the computer giving the order to destroy the ship. The theme of sacrifice is summed up best in this exchange between Kirk and Sarek:
Sarek: “Kirk, I thank you. What you have done -“
Kirk: “What I have done, I had to do.”
Sarek: “But at what cost? Your ship. Your son…”
Kirk: “If I hadn’t tried, the cost would have been my soul.”
Is It Worth A Look: Yep.
Random Anecdotes: It was a lot easier to tie this film to the second after the ending for Khan was altered, over Nicholas Meyer’s objections, to be more upbeat and offer a glimmer of hope. The scene of Spock’s coffin in the second film was shot in Golden Gate Park using smoke machines in one day only.
Cinematic Soulmates: Star Trek II, Star Trek IV, Star Trek VI.