- Title: Star Trek III The Search for Spock
- Director: Leonard Nimoy
- Date: 1984
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: SF
- Cast: William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Mark Lenard, Robin Curtis (Introducing credit), Christopher Lloyd, Leonard Nimoy, James B. Sikking, John Larroquette
- Format: Color, Widescreen
- DVD Format: R1, NTSC
“Mr. Scott, Have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?” — Kirk
“Certainly, sir. How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?” — Scotty
“Sir, your son meant more to me than you can know. I’d have given my life if it would have saved his. Believe me when I tell you — he made no request of me.” — Kirk (to Sarek)
“The word is no. I am therefore going anyway.” — Kirk
The film opens with a re-cap of the end of Star Trek II, including the death of Spock, his funeral, and the coffin landing on the Genesis Planet. It then moves to the Enterprise bridge, a short time after the incidents in Wrath of Khan. The trainee crew has been off-loaded on a Star Base, Saavik and Dr. David Marcus, are on a science vessel to explore the Genesis Planet, and Kirk and his crew are heading back to space dock at Star Fleet Command to have the ship refitted and repaired. But Kirk feels haunted, and is mourning his friend.
Meanwhile, a Klingon named Kluge has purchased the Genesis data. He destroys the vessel that brought it to him, even though he is in love with the female commander and vice versa.
Enterprise returns to space dock, and stands in awe of Excelsior, the command vessel of the next generation of trans-warp ships. Then there’s a security alert from Spock’s quarters. Kirk hears Spock’s voice, but finds McCoy instead. McCoy is a mess.
When the crew disembarks at the space dock, they find they are all given commendations and extended leave. Enterprise, now twenty years old, is to be de-commissioned. Only Scotty is given an immediate new assignment, Captain of Engineering of the Excelsior. The crew is also told that Genesis has become a political firestorm, so it is Verboten, hush-hush, top secret. They are to tell no one, anything about it.
Kluge watches Kirk’s tape about Genesis — it’s the same as Dr. Carol Marcus’s from the previous film, but shorter and with narration by Kirk. The Klingon then plans to take his ship to the Genesis planet.
Meanwhile, the USS Grissom, a science vessel, begins scanning the Genesis planet. The Commander points out something metallic is on the surface.
On Earth, Kirk, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura drink to absent friends. Sarek arrives and the others leave. Sarek is upset not only by the loss of his son, but that Kirk left him there, on Genesis. Kirk is confused. Sarek explains about the Katra, the Vulcan soul, which can be placed inside another at the time of death. Kirk knows nothing about this – but explains about the glass wall between he and Spock. Sarek and Kirk review (at great pain to Kirk) the video logs of Spock’s death in the engine room. This gives us one alternate take, from Spock’s pov looking out at Kirk, rather than Kirk’s pov looking at Spock in the chamber, and a fast-forward in reverse of the relevant scenes in Star Trek II. Kirk spots Spock mind-melding with McCoy. Sarek agrees that Spock probably placed his Katra in McCoy, which also explains his weird behavior.
Kirk attempts to get permission from Star Fleet to go to the Genesis planet. McCoy, separately, tries to book passage on a civilian freighter or ship bound for Genesis. McCoy is arrested for his trouble and placed in a Star Fleet lunatic asylum. Kirk’s told, “no, absolutely not”, even when he explains he holds Spock’s soul in his hands. Kirk, with help from Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov, rescue McCoy. Then, with Scotty’s help they steal the Enterprise, leaving the sabotaged Excelsior in the dust.
Kirk and his skeleton crew make for the Genesis planet. Meanwhile, Saavik and Dr. Marcus find a Vulcan child on the planet. He screams in pain, and cannot speak in either English (Federation Standard) or Vulcan. Dr. David Marcus quickly realizes the planet is unstable, it’s aging rapidly, and it will soon rip itself apart. Saavik realizes that Spock is aging with the planet.
The Grissom attempts to contact Star Fleet to obtain further instructions about what to do about Spock and the planet. However, the Klingon Bird of Prey spaceship arrives and completely destroys the Grissom. The Klingon Commander, Kluge, wanted the ship disabled not destroyed and he kills the gunner who made the “lucky” shot.
Some Klingons beam to the planet, they find Spock’s coffin with it’s evolved microbes.
Kirk, meanwhile, overhears Star Fleet’s futile attempts to raise the Grissom. He has Chekov attempt to contact the vessel itself but he’s unsuccessful. He arrives at the Genesis Planet, but the Grissom is no longer there (since it was destroyed) and the Bird of Prey is cloaked. The Klingons on the planet’s surface find David, Saavik, and Spock and take them hostage. Kirk again tries to contact Grissom and of course gets nowhere.
Kirk fires as the Bird of Prey decloaks. However, because Enterprise is running with a skeleton crew, largely on automatic control, and has yet to have been fully repaired, it has no shields. Soon, Kirk has no real control over his own ship. Kluge then mentions his prisoners on the planet. Kirk talks to Saavik and David. Saavik lets him know Spock “is not himself but he lives”. A Klingon attacks David (Kirk’s son) and kills him. Kirk collapses in grief.
Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov activate the destruct sequence on Enterprise. Kirk and company beam to the planet, while the Klingon boarding party beams to the Enterprise. The Enterprise is destroyed, while Kirk watches. Kirk and company reach Saavik and Spock. Kirk goes to David’s body. Saavik tells Kirk, David died to save them. Kluge beams down to confront Kirk. Sulu, Chekhov, McCoy, Saavik, and Scotty are beamed up to the Bird of Prey. Only Kirk and Spock are left with the Klingons on the unstable planet’s surface. Kirk fights Kluge as the planet breaks up around them. In the end, Kirk kills Kluge, he goes to Spock and they are beamed up.
Kirk and his crew take the few remaining Klingons on the Bird of Prey prisoner then head to Vulcan. When they arrive, they are met by Sarek and Uhura. Sarek asks that his son’s Katra be re-fused into his body, since Spock lives. McCoy agrees to have this done, despite the danger. McCoy survives the procedure and Sarek more or less tells Kirk that Spock will be alright. Kirk sees Spock, Spock looks questioningly at his crew mates, as if he doesn’t quite recognize them. However, he stops in front of Kirk and says, “Your name is Jim.” It’s implied Spock may have a long recovery ahead of him, but he will be alright.
Despite the loss of Spock at the end of the previous film, The Search for Spock, actually starts much lighter than the previous film did. There’s a certain amount of humor in many of the lines, and the secondary characters actually have things to do (if briefly) and get good lines as well. As it becomes apparent that the Enterprise is to be decommissioned, and that due to Vulcan spiritual beliefs and telepathic abilities, as well as the power of the Genesis Planet, Spock’s new body and his soul can be re-united the tone of the film becomes more serious. However, there are several great character moments after this change in tone. Kirk twice declares his loyalty to Spock and that he would even give his life for his first officer and friend. McCoy also admits that he misses Spock and that he can’t lose Spock for a second time. So, again the film emphasizes the characters and their relationships.
Again, a villain from the original series, the Klingons, is brought back. Christopher Lloyd is a superb as Kluge. John Larroquette, completely unrecognizable under his Klingon make-up, is also excellent as Maltz, Kluge’s right-hand man, even though most of his lines are in Klingon. And, yes, this is the film that introduces Klingon as a functioning spoken language (this would be refined in Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country). Unfortunately, Kristie Alley is replaced with Robin Curtis as Saavik. Nothing against Robin Curtis – but I prefer Kristie Alley in the role. I have no idea why the production crew switched actresses, I’d have to do some research to find out, which I’m not going to do, years after the fact – I wish they had kept Alley. Curtis is very bland, while Alley had a special something in the role.
Overall, I enjoy this film too. It’s the “middle” piece of a trilogy, but I still think it’s really very good. And it’s very much Star Trek, in that it’s about the sacrifices a close-knit group of people are willing to make for each other.