Star Trek III: The Search For Spock retrospective review

Adam looks back on the slightly less-regarded middle entry in the 'Genesis Trilogy'...

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)

Two years after the release of The Wrath Of Khan, the crew of the Enterprise returns and they’re looking for someone. Maybe you’ve seen him? With Star Trek II being another success, Paramount now knew that this Trek film thing was not some flash in the pan. This was a franchise that could be virtually guaranteed to rake it in every few years.

Spock’s death in the previous film meant there was plenty of meat for the next chapter, so here it is, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. Directed by Leonard Nimoy, The Search For Spock serves as the middle act of what is sometimes referred to as the ‘Genesis Trilogy’ and opens with a flashback to the decisive events of the previous film, the Enterprise winding its way wearily home after the events of TWOK.

Kirk is still struggling to come to terms with Spock’s passing, and remarks that with his newfound son transferred to another ship (along with Saavik) the Enterprise feels like ‘a house with all the children gone.’ McCoy, too is not himself, and is found by Kirk in Spock’s quarters, doing what I guess, in Star Trek terms, would be a Spock Tribute act. Sadly, we don’t get a Vulcan rendition of Suspicious Minds or The Wonder Of You.

Meanwhile, we learn that a Klingon agent has stolen the Genesis proposal (although William Shatner is now explaining what’s what, presumably to save giving Bibi Besch a second pay-cheque for playing Carol Marcus) and passed it to a renegade commander, Kruge (played by Christopher Lloyd), who is intent to make the Genesis secrets his own.

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The Enterprise arrives back to Earth to the shock of the assembled onlookers (and a nice little cameo from Grace Lee Whitney) and the crew is informed the Enterprise will not be refitted and Scotty will be transferred to the new USS Excelsior; seems like the crew will be split up.

Gathering to discuss their future, and the health of Dr. McCoy,  they are interrupted by Spock’s father, Sarek, who believes Kirk is carrying his son’s ‘katra’, the Vulcan equivalent of a soul, which at times of near death, a Vulcan may pass to a member of their family, or somebody they consider to be as good as.

After Kirk pops on the DVD of the Wrath Of Khan (although from the numbers on screen, I think it may be a hooky copy, or maybe a screener) it becomes apparent that Spock was unable to pass his Katra to Kirk, but instead passed it to the good Doctor.

We then join Saavik and David aboard the USS Gutless, sorry, USS Grissom, where they are busy surveying the Genesis planet. The ship’s sensors detect a life-form, which they beam down to investigate. McCoy meanwhile, is being driven to find Spock’s body, and like some intergalactic salmon, tries to charter a ship.

Sadly, he finds no trace of Han Solo, or anyone else willing to take him to the restricted sector, and is quickly arrested and after a failed attempted at a Vulcan nerve pinch, sectioned.

Over drinks with Admiral Morrow, Kirk is told there is no way he can return to Genesis, so with the help of his senior officers, rescues McCoy from the hospital and sets about stealing the Enterprise. Thanks to some extra help from Scotty, the USS Excelsior is unable to pursue, and with Chekov ditching the oddest wardrobe choice in the 23rd century, the Enterprise is on her way, to rescue Spock’s body, and save Dr McCoy’s mind.

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A pity then, that the Captain of the Grissom wasn’t quite as canny as old JTK, and failed to notice the Klingons watching under cloak, because before you can say ‘The Trouble With Tribbles‘ the Grissom is little more than space debris, leaving Saavik and Marcus at the mercy of the Klingons.

The Klingons quickly track down Spock, Saavik and David and with the Enterprise nearing Genesis, Kruge returns to the Bird-of-Prey, keen to face the legendary Kirk in battle. gets the upper hand, but with Scotty’s computer bypass system overloaded, Kirk tries to bluff the Klingon into surrender. But it seems Kirk has met his match, and is one of the few people to see though the Captain’s poker face and reveals he holds three prisoners on the planet.

David informs Kirk that Genesis doesn’t work, and that the planet is destroying itself. Kruge orders one of the prisoners killed as a show of his strength, and as the Kilngon moves to kill Saavik, David intervenes, eventually being killed. Kirk is a broken man, and with no way out, orders the destruction of the Enterprise, whilst luring the Klingons onto the doomed ship.

Thankfully, Kirk’s kung-fu is much better than Kruge’s and after dispatching the Klingon to a lava-based death, the Enterprise crew successfully steal the Bird-of-Prey and make their way to Vulcan.

After returning to his home world, the Vulcans are able to reinstall Spock’s katra and after rebooting him, he’s good as new and Kirk has once again cheated death. Kirk 2 – Death nil…

The best thing about SFS has to be DeForest Kelley. He finally gets a decent portion of screen time, and his performance shines. The scene in the bar is brilliant, and it really shows how gifted an actor he was. The pitch and timing is perfect, you really do believe this man has Spock’s soul inside him.

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Christopher Lloyd also deserves credit for his performance as Kruge (Nimoy originally wanted to cast Edward James Olmos, thankfully Paramount said ‘no’, you can’t have a Klingon in command of the Colonial Fleet and the Battlestar Galactica!)

Like his counterpart on TWOK, Nimoy’s direction succeeds in getting another good performance from Shatner; the scene where he learns of David’s death and the loss of the Enterprise is particularly touching, as is his ultimate reunion with Spock as the film concludes.

As usual for a Star Trek film, the special effects are great, the stand-out scenes being Kirk stealing the Enterprise (again, accompanied by some superb music from James Horner) and the destruction of the ship, Industrial Light and Magic underline their excellent work on the previous film and the introductions of the various new ships and starbases work well.

Where the film falls down, however, is with the Genesis planet itself. To be blunt, it looks cheap. TV show cheap. Paramount once again tightened the purse strings and plans to shoot Genesis scenes in Hawaii were deemed too expensive, and in my opinion, it hurts the film.

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock is a good film, certainly not on a par with Khan, but a fine entry in the franchise, and certainly good enough to break the rule that ‘every odd numbered Star Trek film is crap’.

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3 stars

Rating:

3 out of 5