For me there is always a slight reservation in the positive things I can say about the The Search For Spock, because for every great thing in it there’s another that I wish they’d done slightly differently.
On the plus side are some excellent effects which peak with the destruction of the Enterprise, something that genuinely shocked me on the first screening. The Klingon Bird of Prey is also quite spectacular from its first chilling de-cloak to meet the smugglers, before dispatching them with ruthless efficiency.
On another level I also enjoyed the humour that surrounds Bones’ mild-meld affliction, and how he takes this as payback for all the arguments that Spock lost with him previously. The characters are the most important aspect of Trek, and Bones gets dealt a better hand in this story than most of the original cast movies.
But there are some things in here which take liberties that I’m not as comfortable with, and I’m not just talking about the Little-Lord-Fauntleroy outfit they stuck poor Walter Koenig (Chekov) with.
I guess the biggest problem I have is how far fetched the basic premise is. That having deposited a dead Spock onto the failed science experiment called Planet Genesis, that his body is regenerated to the perfect age to then have his mind put back in it. All science fiction has elements of the fantastic, but I’ve always found the coincidences in this movie to be excessive in the extreme. There are also some plot devices which seem to contradict just about everything we’ve ever known about the Enterprise. If Scotty can ‘automate’ most of the ship’s functions, then why do they usually need 300+ people when it appears five will do? And why does being shot at damage them so easily?
But by far my biggest dislike is the reappearance, admittedly briefly, of Kirk’s son, David. He’s not the most interesting character in Wrath Of Kahn, and he’s pretty perfunctory in this, until the Klingons kill him! Maybe director Leonard Nimoy fancied the scenery chewing that Shatner would make over the ‘Klingon bastard! You killed my son!’ line. Whatever the reason he was included, I’d forgotten he was dead the moment the Enterprise saucer section exploded, because she was the real star in this production, not a son Kirk didn’t know he had for most of the previous movie.
In retrospect, the narrative forms a reasonable bridge between the Wrath Of Kahn and The Voyage Home, and as it brings Spock back I can’t complain too much. It also has some excellent scenes for some generally underused Trek characters. Nichelle Nichols’ (Uhura) ‘this is fantasy’ scene is quite superb, as are many of the subtle interludes with Scotty including the reversing out of space-dock sequence. It was also great to see some more than token material for Mark Lenard as Spock’s father, Ambassador Sarek. I always thought Christopher Lloyd was an odd choice for Klingon commander Kruge, although he’s fine as a very single minded nemesis who excludes all other concerns to get the Genesis technology to the point that an important one eventually kills him.
Overall, this was an impressive directorial film debut for Nimoy, who took what he’d learned from a handful of TV episodes and delivered a more than competent movie. I guess it helped that he understood this particular franchise so intimately, but many seasoned directors don’t deliver such succinct storytelling.
The Disc So what does Blu-ray do for The Search For Spock? The answer is relatively little, I’m sad to report. Unlike Wrath, this movie wasn’t ‘fully restored’ but ‘digitally remastered’. I’m not sure what interpretation you might put on that, but it looks processed to make it sharper and some of the scenes are excessively grainy. There is obvious print damage and dust in some shots, and it just isn’t good enough to my mind. They’ve also adjusted the colours but in a somewhat haphazard way. In some scenes the colours look muted and pastel and in others excessively garish. I accept the Bird of Prey is green, but the glowing vermillion hue it is given in some shots makes it look like a toy. The end result is much better than the DVD, but hardly a HD example you’d load up to impress people with.
Sound is good but not overly exciting, although the clarity of the haunting James Horner composed theme is noteworthy. It’s in lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1, so unless it’s remixed from source recordings it’s unlikely to get any better.
If the reproduction is a slight letdown, then the balance is restored with an exceptionally good selection of extras. All the documentaries and commentaries that first appeared in the 2002 Collectors Edition are here, and most have been remastered into HD. That’s well over two hours of material, some of which, like an ILM documentary about the effects, is brilliant. The only thing they’ve included which I strongly object to is the ‘Library Computer’ which sits on top of the movie and explains who Kirk is and any other characters or details as they’re mentioned. Frankly, if you’ve bought a Blu-ray collection but have no idea who Kirk is then there is little hope for you!
I’m not entirely happy with how the transfer that The Search For Spock got onto HD, but until Paramount pay for a better one, this is still by far the best reproduction so far for a home experience. That doesn’t leave Trek fans much justification to pass up this disc if they want it in their collection, and few wouldn’t.
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock is available on Blu-ray now.