Trekking With Tim, Day Three: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Editor Tim Ryan wishes Spock had been found much earlier in this installment.



Day Three: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Before I get into my assessment of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, allow me a brief moment of indulgence. After my first day of first grade, my parents asked me who was in my class, and to describe them. I dutifully rattled off various names and attributes before noting that one classmate "had spaceman ears." Now, I barely watched television as a kid (much less Star Trek, so I'm still a bit surprised that I would refer to someone with pointy ears in such a way. I barely remember anything else about said classmate (I think he's a techno DJ in New Hampshire these days), but what I'm getting at, I guess, is that somehow Star Trek so deeply permeated the culture that even a little kid with no firsthand knowledge of it knew a Spock lookalike when he saw one.

The casting of Leonard Nimoy as the logical, emotion-impaired Vulcan is one of the most serendipitous in television history. His affect is, for lack of a better word, otherworldly, even without those angular eyebrows and jutting lobes. It's almost impossible to imagine anyone other than Nimoy in the role. And what a difficult role it is: one that requires a tight control over any hint of emotion, while simultaneously exuding the confidence of one who possesses a staggering body of knowledge -- all the while being strangely endearing, and providing an essential counterweight to the more visceral McCoy and passionate Kirk in the Enterprise's hierarchical trinity.

The problem with The Search for Spock is right there in the title: if the crew of the Enterprise is looking for the ol' greenblood, that means he's off-screen for most of the movie.

As ST:TSFS opens, the Enterprise is headed back for Earth after being heavily damaged by Khan; the ship is set to be decommissioned. Of course, the crew's greatest loss was Spock, who was killed by radiation trying to fix the ship's warp drive. But wait! Dr. McCoy is acting awfully funny; could it be that Vulcan mind-meld Spock dropped on him right before entering the reactor room? (Side note: the other major Star Trek memory from my youth was the vigorous playground debates among my third grade classmates as to whether the Vulcan neck pinch really worked.) Meanwhile, Kirk's son David and Lt. Saavik (now played by Robin Curtis) have discovered an unspecified life form on the Genesis planet. They discover that Spock has been reborn, and is growing quickly, but the Genesis planet itself is highly unstable.

Back on Earth, Spock's father Sarek (Mark Lenard) swings by Kirk's quarters to upbraid him for leaving Spock's corpse on the Genesis planet. However, he lightens up a bit (at least, as much as Vulcans can) after mind-melding with Kirk. He discovers that Spock's soul has inhabited Bones' body, which could be detrimental to both of them. Kirk realizes that his only chance to save Spock is to travel to the Genesis planet, which has been declared off limits by Starfleet command. Never one to stand on ceremony, he and the gang utilize some subterfuge in order to commandeer the beat-up Enterprise.

However, trouble awaits them. Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), a Klingon commander, is aching to get his hands on the Genesis device; like Khan, he sees its potential as a weapon. After pilfering some key information about its construction, he heads to the Genesis planet to learn more about the device and its destructive powers. His crew accidentally destroys a Starfleet vessel, and subsequently captures David, Saavik, and a rapidly maturing Spock, who is going through an intensely accelerated puberty.

Let me pause for a moment to address two things that have been bugging me as I watch the Trek movies. Number one is the way the Klingons are handled. As an outsider, I've always admired Star Trek's treatment of race; its vision of the future is one that's refreshingly tolerant, with humans of all races working side-by-side with other life forms. So how do the Klingons fit in? Thus far, they're dirty, devious, vile, and without nuance. I understand that a sci-fi series needs conflict in order to create dramatic tension, and I certainly don't plan on becoming an advocate for Klingon rights. But as a non-initiate, I would like it if the films provided a little more backstory on this warrior race. Their motivations seem pretty murky to me.

My second issue is that it seems to me that they broke the mold after Nimoy when it comes to other actors playing Vulcans. Nimoy so embodies Spock -- and by proxy the Vulcan demeanor -- that virtually anyone else who tries is doomed to come up short. As Sarek, Lenard comes the closest; he looks uncannily like Nimoy and captures many of the mannerisms that he brought to the role. Others don't fare as well; as Lt. Saavik, Kirstie Alley mostly seemed drowsy, and Collins too chipper. It's not simply a matter of acting chops; Alley has been excellent in other roles, and Collins has a number of movie, TV, and theater roles to her credit. Nor do I expect all Vulcans to behave exactly the same. It's just that Nimoy made the character his, and in doing so, defined an entire alien race; everyone else seems to merely mimic his affectations.

Back to the movie. The Enterprise arrives at the Genesis planet, and trades volleys with the Klingon warship. The Enterprise's controls are badly damaged, and Kruge decides to kill one of the captives on Genesis in order to further weaken the crew's resolve (the victim is David, who volunteers in order to save Saavik and Spock). Kirk is obviously upset, but pulls it together long enough to double-cross the Klingons who plan to raid the Enterprise; he orders that the ship be programmed to self destruct, and he and the crew beam down to Genesis (the destruction of the Enterprise is one of the few moments of awe to be found in the film). There, Kirk and Kruge go mano-a-mano to the death as the Genesis planet collapses into chaos (no points for guessing who wins). Ultimately, the Enterprise crew commandeers the Klingon ship and heads to Vulcan, where Spock and Bones are disentangled. The end.

My reaction to The Search for Spock was essentially ho-hum; perhaps the fact that Khan set such a high bar contributed to my general disinterest. It doesn't work as a stand-alone entity; you have to have plenty of familiarity with Trek history (and Khan) to understand what's going on. But I think a larger factor is the emphasis on event over character; I'm becoming enamored with the Enterprise crew, and I find my interest waning when they're not all on board, solving problems together.

Tomorrow I'm going whale-watching in the Bay Area with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. For the sake of the franchise, I'm glad Spock will live long and prosper.

Stardates:

Comments

ZigBallistic

marshall westbrook

This movie was like a part 2 that only exists to bring back Spock, but in a watered down sort of way. I was very bored watching this film, no where near as great as Kahn.
Klingons get plenty of backstory later on in the series, they are realized as being cultured and having more texture than the early series and movies make them out to be. I think it's because it was the 80s and good and evil were sometimes very black and white.

Apr 27 - 04:50 PM

Sputnik99

sputnik 99

I've always kind of liked STIII. It's not as good as II, but if you're a Trekkie nerd like me you can reckognize all of the significance that this movie has. To me, this is where the original series comes to a close, with the destruction of NCC-1701 and the re-birth of Spock. It's also the first time you see a Klingon Bird of Prey, and you'll see hundreds of them in the years ahead.

Big stuff.

Apr 27 - 05:01 PM

BUCK69

JIM GRONEFELD

Granted, it's no classic, but it beats the hell out of the Final Frontier and Insurection. In spite of the fact that you might be reminded of Reverend Jim everytime Kruge utters a line. "What do you do when you come to a yellow light?" "Slow down." "Whhhaaaattt doooo yooouuuu doooo..."

Apr 27 - 05:39 PM

RamALamADingDong

That Guy

This isn't great like Undiscovered Country but it isn't bad like Nemesis. There are some great moments such as stealing the Enterprise and Kirk's response to David's death. But it definitely requires seeing Khan to understand what's going on, not the movie to jump into the series.

I made a YouTube video of my favorite ten Star Trek film moments and people are always asking why I didn't have the original Enterprise's destruction in it. And I always say the same thing, it was predictable. The whole movie they're talking about how it's going to be decommissioned anyways and how damaged it was. It just wasn't that much a surprise, certainly not like Spock's death.

I do love the soundtrack and paid $40 for it. And Lloyd is one of the best villains in the series.

Overall, it's a fun movie for Trekkies but the normies won't care for it too much.

Apr 27 - 05:48 PM

Zaraki

Rick V

This is just an OK one in my book, Christopher Lloyd is awesome in it though.

Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home. Sulu says as they fly in to San Fransisco "San Fransisco... I was born there." And now we find out he's actually been a homosexual all this time. That made me die laughing when I watched this movie recently.

Apr 27 - 05:55 PM

Zaraki

Rick V

No clue why i brought this up on Star Trek 3 and not 4... lack of sleep is bad. Oh well.

Apr 27 - 06:48 PM

reavus4983

Mike Saxton

I've always thought this was a solid movie. The first half is really slow, but the second half beginning with David's death is exciting and dramatic and even poignant. Sure it's contrived, but Nimoy was a pretty good director and made it better than it could've been. My favorite part is when Kirk self-destructs the ship immediately after David is killed. Second favorite part is Kirk kicking Kruge off the cliff, and then his climb back up to Spock's body alongside that awesome Horner score is very good, especially when he stops to look at the planet as it's being destroyed. The finale with Spock is also a good ending. Top 5 Trek for me.

Apr 27 - 06:08 PM

scifimark

scifi mark

This movie is ok. CHRISTOPHER LLOYD is AN AWFUL casting decision for a klingon. This single handily ruined this movie for me. This movie had a few good moments like stealing the enterprise and the self destruction. I just felt there wasnt enough substance in this movie. On of the few decent acting scenes shatner did as kirk was his reaction when the klingons killed his son which sets up st VI quite nicely. Im actually looking forward to the star trek V review !! lol. Im glad they brought spock back but it just seems implausible.

Apr 27 - 06:21 PM

niall1

Niall Cavanagh

i agree with everyone who says that christopher lloyd was a terrible choice to play the villain..but i dont think theres anything WRONG with his performance, its just the fact that he played such a memorable character in back to the future that its hard to take him seriously as a villain when you here that voice..especially a klingon..

overall, this is one of the worst out of them all and its right up there with the final frontier and insurrection..

Apr 27 - 06:31 PM

Zaraki

Rick V

No clue why i brought this up on Star Trek 3 and not 4... lack of sleep is bad. Oh well.

Apr 27 - 06:48 PM

Brad 3000

Brad Arnold

The Klingons became boring when their back story was expanded upon. I liked them much better as bad guys who were just bad.

Apr 27 - 06:52 PM

Daniel L.

Daniel Liebman

Fear not Tim, the Klingons became far more interesting once TNG began to explore their heritige and culture, later further expanded in DS9- although Star Trek VI did begin the process, as has already been mentioned. That being said, it was fun to have the klingons back as villains in ST:3 since they were all but entirely absent in the first two movies, despite being the main enemies throughout the original series...also am I the only one who really enjoyed seeing Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon? I know he's famous and all but still, his fame to me lends the characer gravitas...that and he's a terrific actor to boot! I dunno, it always gives me a bit of a thrill that the great Christopher Lloyd was willing to put on the teeth and ridges and do one of my beloved star trek movies...

Apr 27 - 09:13 PM

Zaraki

Rick V

No, you're not the only one. I liked him too, though i guess most of the guys here don't.

Apr 27 - 09:19 PM

ck100

Chris Kubat

One highlight of this movie everyones like is when Kirk and co. steal the Enterprise. Everything from the music to the pace to the action is all top-notch. People also love it when Kirk destroys the Enterprise. Must have been a very sad moment at the time considering people have watched the ship for 20 years on screen.

One of my favorite moments that nobody mentions enough is at the end when Spock recognizes Kirk and says: "Jim. Your name.....is Jim." I think it's a poignant moment and then I love how Spock raises his eyebrow, the upbeat music comes in, and the sun rises over the Vulcan mountains with "And the adventure continues..........

Apr 27 - 07:49 PM

Jared A.

Jared Abrahamson

You have to wait until VI for the Klingons to become nuanced. III is a decent enough movie, not great but not a punch to the gut like V. Can't wait for the rest of the reviews.

Apr 27 - 08:44 PM

fargo_viper

Stephen Fargo

Crazy Trekkers

Apr 27 - 08:59 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I...HAVE...HAD...ENOUGH...OF YOU!

Apr 27 - 10:12 PM

Daniel L.

Daniel Liebman

Fear not Tim, the Klingons became far more interesting once TNG began to explore their heritige and culture, later further expanded in DS9- although Star Trek VI did begin the process, as has already been mentioned. That being said, it was fun to have the klingons back as villains in ST:3 since they were all but entirely absent in the first two movies, despite being the main enemies throughout the original series...also am I the only one who really enjoyed seeing Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon? I know he's famous and all but still, his fame to me lends the characer gravitas...that and he's a terrific actor to boot! I dunno, it always gives me a bit of a thrill that the great Christopher Lloyd was willing to put on the teeth and ridges and do one of my beloved star trek movies...

Apr 27 - 09:13 PM

Zaraki

Rick V

No, you're not the only one. I liked him too, though i guess most of the guys here don't.

Apr 27 - 09:19 PM

Zaraki

Rick V

No, you're not the only one. I liked him too, though i guess most of the guys here don't.

Apr 27 - 09:19 PM

ostrigal o.

ostrigal ostrigal

I don't know about anyone else, but I was just floored when the NCC-1701 was destroyed... just couldn't believe what I was seeing.

To be an SFS apologist, there was much to enjoy... Nichelle Nichols channeling Pam Grier, Sulu's smack down of the seven-foot federation guard, Scotty sticking it to Doogie Howser's dad, and of course: "I have had enough of YOU!"

If anything, this movie ignites the series-long slow burn that finally concludes in UD.

Apr 27 - 09:22 PM

Accursed A.

AccursedArachnid !

I loved everything about this movie until after they stole the Enterprise. I always find myself bored and disinterested after that. The destruction of the Enterprise and David's death are somewhat interesting. But the whole experience feels rather bland. And once they get the empty headed Spock back to Vulcan I find myself wishing they could do the mind transfer thing a little quicker.
Again, the score by Horner is great but a little redundant when compared to Star Trek II(Though the theft of the Enterprise scene is one of the best musical moments in the entire series). 7/10

Apr 27 - 09:53 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Well, I liked it. Not great, but good. No SPock is strange, and it's a bit straight laced, but I really like the rest of the cast, and Christopher Lloyd had a lot of fun. 8/10. You don't call Sulu tiny!

Apr 27 - 10:01 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I...HAVE...HAD...ENOUGH...OF YOU!

Apr 27 - 10:12 PM

Enigma

Craig Mottram

"Doc" Brown was a bad choice for a Klingon, should have been an actor with more screen presence. Half way through this film I was expecting Marty to turn up in the DeLorean.

The film delivers Spock back into the Trek Universe so it serves its purpose. Now we can enjoy the new film with Spock in it :-)

Apr 28 - 01:45 AM

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