Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Star Trek 3, 1Star Trek III: The Search for Spock picks up where Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan left off, after the defeat of Khan and the creation of the Genesis planet. In fact, the film opens by repeating the death of Spock scene. It also recycles the Genesis effect computer graphics from the previous film, mostly because in 1984 this was still an amazing piece of graphics.

The movie proper opens with the Enterprise limping back to Earth after the events of the previous film. On the way, McCoy is caught breaking into Spock’s quarters and acting bizarrely. We cut to a space rendezvous between a merchant ship and a Klingon Bird-of-Prey warship. Valkris, a Klingon woman aboard the merchant ship, transmits data on Genesis to Kruge, the captain of the Bird-of-Prey, who then promptly blows the other ship out of the sky, with a bittersweet adieu to Valkris for her spy work. Kruge decides to go to Genesis to learn the secret of this planet-destroying weapon. Kruge is played by Christopher “one point twenty-one jiggawatts” Lloyd, which adds touches of both coolness and oddity to the character.

On Earth, McCoy continues acting weird, making out-of-context references to Vulcan and collapsing. Spock’s father Sarek visits Kirk and engages in a cross-purposes berating of Kirk for failing Spock. The confusion is only cleared up when Sarek mind melds with Kirk, then explains that Spock would have tried to meld with someone before he died, to transfer his consciousness, or katra, to them so it could live on in their body. Kirk points out Spock was isolated in the radiation chamber, then reviews log tapes of the incident, spotting Spock touching McCoy and whispering the word, “Remember.” Sarek tells Kirk they have to get McCoy and Spock’s body to Vulcan as fast as possible or he will die.

Star Trek 3, 2And here’s the plot hole in the film. Kirk appeals to Admiral Morrow to get back Enterprise, but Morrow refuses because Genesis is a “political hot potato”. It looks like Kirk never explained that McCoy’s life was in danger, and there was no diplomatic word from Sarek to assist in the request. And the USS Grissom is out there surveying Genesis anyway, what’s one more ship going to do?! On board the Grissom are Saavik and David. Saavik is very disappointingly not played by Kirstie Alley, but by wooden newcomer Robin Curtis. Kruge appears and unceremoniously blows the Grissom out of the sky, with only Saavik and David surviving, doing a survey on the planet and its incredibly fake cacti and snow. They find it’s unstable, because David cut corners in the research (remind anyone of his father and the Kobayashi Maru?). They also find Spock’s torpedo tube, distressingly empty except for some giant mutated rubber worm things, which David says must have been mutated by the Genesis effect.

Back on Earth, Kirk decides to screw the rules and do what’s right, arranging with Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and Scotty to steal the Enterprise and take McCoy to Genesis then Vulcan. This is a cool sequence in which they sneak around and outsmart an unlikeable smug captain in charge of the new, faster Excelsior by having Scotty steal the space-spark-plugs. At Genesis, David and Saavik have found Spock’s body, regenerated by the Genesis effect into a mind-blanked young boy, who ages rapidly. He goes thorough pon-farr and Saavik tries to ease this by stroking his fingers in the same way that Sarek and Amanda did to demonstrate their love back in “Journey To Babel”. Hmmm. A Klingon landing party soon find them and take them prisoner.

The Enterprise arrives and there is a brief space battle in which both ships are damaged. Kruge demands Kirk surrender and hand over the Genesis device, or he will kill prisoners. Kirk tries to delay, but Kruge has one of this flunkies kill a prisoner. David interferes and gets the knife himself, sending Kirk into a rage. He says he’s surrendering, sets the Enterprise to self-destruct, and beams down to Genesis. The Klingon boarding party are blown up as the Enterprise destructs. I always figured the Enterprise would self-destruct by breaching the antimatter containment thingy, resulting in an enormous explosion that vapourises the entire ship instantly. But no, the front half of the saucer sort of blows up, leaving the rest of the ship – including the engines and the engineering section – intact. (Supposedly canon says there are two different self-destruct modes: this one, and the full-on antimatter explosion. Kirk happened to choose the milder version, so as not to destroy the Klingon ship and their only potential means of escape.) It then forms a fireball as it falls from orbit, watched by the stunned crew. It’s an emotional moment, and I vividly recall watching this scene in horror in the cinema when the film was first released.

Star Trek 3, 3They find the Klingons and Saavik and Spock. Kruge beams down to engage Kirk in a clifftop fistfight, in which Kirk kicks Kruge off the cliff and he falls into lava as the planet breaks up. Kirk tricks the last Klingon crew member into beaming him up and takes control of the Klingon ship. They fly it to Vulcan, where a ceremony restores Spock’s consciousness from McCoy into the regenerated body of Spock. Spock is naturally a bit shaken by being split in half, killed, regenerated, and recombined, but the film ends in a feel-good scene when he recognises his friends. And the adventure continues…

EDIT: Oh, I suppose I should add my opinions on this film. Well, it’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. The biggest emotional impact comes from the destruction of the Enterprise (by which time it’s pretty clear that Spock would be coming back to life). Lloyd as Kruge is good. The sets and props are not great, particularly the fake looking scenery on the Genesis planet and the rubber worms which Kruge strangles. Curtis as Saavik is disappointing and stiff. The stealing of the Enterprise sequence is very cool. Overall… eh… middling.

Tropes: Face Death With Dignity, Our Souls Are Different, Sharing A Body, Obstructive Bureaucrat, The Other Darrin, Screw the Rules, I’m Doing What’s Right, Smug Snake, Vehicular Sabotage, Stolen MacGufin Reveal, Back From The Dead, Rapid Aging, Heroic Sacrifice, Self-Destruct Mechanism, Disney Villain Death, Lethal Lava Land, And The Adventure Continues.
Body count: Valkris and all on board merchant ship (destroyed by Klingon Bird-of-Prey), All hands on board USS Grissom, Klingon gunner (shot by Kruge), David (stabbed by a Klingon), various Klingon crew (blown up on board Enterprise), Klingon crewman (shot by Kirk), Kruge (falls off cliff), USS Enterprise (self destruct).

2 Responses to “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”

  1. Monica says:

    I’ve heard people say that the odd-numbered Trek movies are bad while the even-numbered ones are good. Personally, I think Search for Spock is a good movie, even though I never understood how Spock’s body could have regenerated into a baby..or how the baby survived before Saavik and David found him. I guess I like it because I’m partial to Spock and was glad to see him recover from death. Not an easy thing to do..

  2. Drachefly says:

    Keep whispering ‘genesis effect’ over and over to yourself.

Leave a Reply