Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)

“That green-blooded son-of-a-bitch!  It’s his revenge for all those arguments he lost!” exclaims Dr. McCoy to Admiral Kirk.

The success of 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ensured that there would be another sequel.  The only uncertainty was Leonard Nimoy’s involvement (since SPOILER ALERT: Spock died at the end of the previous film).  Luckily, Nimoy enjoyed working on the previous film so much that he was willing to come back, but only if he could also direct the film (the film’s storyline would help ease his transition to feature film directing since he himself doesn’t appear until the third act).  I was lucky enough to see this film on the big screen 10 years ago at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  It was the first Star Trek film I saw there as part of their nine-film Star Trek movie retrospective (which I believed was called “Star Trek Saturdays”) in honor of the recent release of 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis (I had already missed out on 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture and 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at the Pioneer Theater).

1984’s Star Trek III: The Search For Spock picks up where the previous film left off.  Spock is dead, the crew still mourns for him (especially Admiral James T. Kirk), and Dr. McCoy seems to be going insane as the battle-worn Enterprise returns to Spacedock to be decommissioned.  Kirk receives a visit from Ambassador Sarek (Spock’s father) one night.  Sarek seeks Spock’s katra (soul), believing Kirk is in possession of it.  After a mind meld reveals that Kirk is not in possession of it, they soon discover that Dr. McCoy is the one who possesses it.  Sarek pleas with Kirk to retrieve Spock’s body so that his katra can be reunited with it and Spock can finally be at peace.  Kirk then hatches a plan Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov to break out the imprisoned Dr. McCoy and steal the Enterprise so that they can return to the Genesis planet (now restricted) to retrieve Spock’s body, which was caught in the Genesis wave and has been resurrected (but is now aging rapidly along with the planet).  Unbeknownst to them, the Klingons have also taken an interest in the Genesis planet, believing it to be a weapon of great power.

The returning cast (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy DeForest Kelly, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig) are in fine form once again with their camaraderie on full display.  The “guest stars” also shined as well: Mark Lenard as Sarek, Merritt Butrick returning as David Marcus, Robin Curtis as Lt. Saavik (taking over for Kirstie Alley), Christopher Lloyd in an underrated performance as Klingon Commander Kruge, and small appearances from James Sikking, Miguel Ferrer, John Larroquette, and Dame Judith Anderson.  Nimoy did a terrific job in his feature directing debut.  Producer Harve Bennett’s screenplay balances the humor and drama as tensions escalate on Genesis (the destruction of the Enterprise as a sacrifice was a bold move).  This film is a story about true friendship and how Kirk saving Spock’s soul can help him save his own, no matter the cost.  The special effects by ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) are first-rate (the destruction of Genesis being one of the main highlights).  Cameron Birnie’s production design was amazing, creating so different sets for Genesis (my favorite set was the one Kirk and Kruge fought on as the area around them broke off into hellfire).  Robert Fletcher’s costume design was excellent once again, designing new civilian clothes for the main Enterprise crew members, new versions of the Japanese-inspired Klingon costumes, and new Vulcan costumes.  Fletcher also had to design the Klingon and Vulcan makeup, which ended up being successful (particularly the re-design for the Klingons).

Charles Correll’s cinematography was spectacular; almost theatrical-like at times but not in a phony-sort of way (I liked how effective it was in emphasizing the changing environments on Genesis as its destruction slowly loomed).  Robert F. Shugrue’s editing keeps the film moving at a good pace (I liked the cross-cutting during the Enterprise-stealing sequence).  James Horner, who scored the previous film, was brought back for musical continuity (since this film immediately picks up where the previous film left off).  He expanded upon the motifs he established in the previous film (particularly the Vulcan music), and added a new percussive theme for the Klingons (that managed to keep the spirit of Jerry Goldsmith’s Klingon theme).  The role of the music becomes very important in the third act (when Spock is back on Vulcan).  The music for the Katra Ritual is not only one of the main highlights of Horner’s score, but it is also the only element of the film that was capable of selling the power of the sequence to the audience.  Overall, the film is a successful directing debut for Leonard Nimoy and another fine Star Trek film.

4 responses to “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)

  1. I always felt STIII was the under appreciated film of the bunch. Good review.

    • Thanks! I was never a believer in the Star Trek odd film-even film theory that fans have had for years. For me, Star Trek V is probably the most under-appreciated of the Star Trek films featuring the original cast.

  2. Victor De Leon

    Great review! STIII was a breezy but satisfying entry. The Katra Ritual by Horner is an astounding track. Good post!

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