Sunday, May 26, 2019

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock - Review

And the Adventure Continues.
With spoilers.

The movie posters are kickass though.

The Search For Spock is a movie entirely about Spock, without any Spock (sort of).
The Search For Spock is a movie entirely about what happens when you paint yourself in a corner, storywise, and have to get yourself out.
The Search For Spock is generally pretty well received, and I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure why.

This movie piggy-backs in its entirety of off the story from The Wrath of Khan. As such you'd easily get the impression that TSFS was already planned and ready when TWOK was released. Apparently that was not the case though. After boldly killing off the arguably most beloved character of all of TOS, the creators realized that there just was no way to make a Star Trek movie without Spock and started working on making him come alive again. Fortunately they had enough tools from TWOK to make what actually is a half-believable story. It's unfortunate that that story is very predictable and not very interesting, even though the creators tried their hardest to avoid that fate. To me, this movie should be seen as a sort of interlude, a travel time, in-between two much better movies - The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home. I modern times I am certain The Search For Spock would've been reduced to a Short Trek equivalent. Even one of the taglines sums it up - And the Adventure Continues. Just continue on here people and we'll get to the good stuff soon.

The movie starts with a flashback to Spock dying from TWOK. Quite necessary since without this information the movie makes little sense or holds little purpose to the viewer. There are a few important scenes from TWOK that we need to remember because the entire plot of TSFS hinges on them. One is that just before Spock goes into the radiation chamber that kills him, he does a mindmeld of sorts with Bones. The second thing is that rather than shooting Spocks coffin randomly into space, they opt to shooting him onto the newly formed Genesis planet.

Then we get to see that the Klingons have found out about the Genesis "weapon" and want it for themselves. It's a bit unclear how much of the Klingon Empire is involved, it's really played out as if only the main antagonist - a Commander Kruge played by Christopher Lloyd - and his crew are part of the scheme. The way the Klingons are portrayed in this movie is frankly a little bit silly, and it's very difficult to see them as a serious threat. Especially after having had A) a much more epic threat in TMP and B) a much better villain in TWOK. I love Christopher Lloyd, but he just has very little to work with here. That the villain doesn't turn in to a complete snooze-fest is all thanks to him. If Kirk could outsmart the super-genius Khan, why would he have any trouble with Kruge who apparently thinks it's a good idea to start wrestling with random worms mid-mission? The Klingons might be aggressive, but they're not supposed to be idiots.

Christopher Lloyd - recognizable under any make up.

Kirk and co get the information that the Enterprise is about to be decommissioned and also Bones is starting to act weirdly. It turns out that Spock transferred his "katra" to Bones before dying and Spocks father Sarek informs Kirk that it and Spocks body needs to be returned to Vulcan or else both Bones and Spock will suffer. Kirk asks for permission from his superiors to go do so but gets turned down, which leads to a hilarious scene;

Sulu: "The word sir?
Kirk: "The word is no. I am therefore going anyway".

Of course he is.

Kirk goes to steal the Enterprise and asks Scotty if they can run it severely undermanned, which leads to another great piece of dialogue;

Scotty: "A chimpanzee and two trainees could run her"
Kirk: "Thank you, I'll try not to take that personally".

Kirks son David and Saavik from TWOK are aboard the Grissom to investigate the development of the Genesis planet created in the previous movie. They find an unexpected lifeform on the planet surface and get permission to beam down to find out what it is. Once down there they find a child Spock and also realize that the planet is quickly destroying itself because of faulty design of the Genesis. Spock is just "an empty vessel" without his "katra" and so can't speak or understand what is being said to him. It seems that the reborn Spock ages with the planet, and so is doomed to die with it in a very near future. Getting Spock off the planet will save him from this fate, for some reason that is never explained, but before they can do so Kruge destroys the Grissom and takes the three of them hostage. Kruge doesn't seem to care one bit when David tells him the Genesis doesn't work, I guess for what he wants to use it for it works just fine.

What had the worm ever done to him?

Enterprise shows up in orbit and has a brief fight with the Klingon Bird of Prey. They end up being evenly matched and Kirk tries to bluff his way out. He yell-asks "who are you?!" and gets the response "who I am is not important!" from Kruge which I am sure no Klingon said ever. The writers just really couldn't be bothered to give this villain an interesting backstory or context. Kruge doesn't buy Kirks bluff but realizes he has the upper hand because he has the hostages on the planet. He swiftly lets one of his underlings kill off David to make Kirk understand he is being serious about wanting the Genesis, and the Enterprise, and Kirk is very upset for a few seconds.

Then Kirk hatches a clever plan, tells Kruge he is giving up the ship but instead sets it on self-destruct and beams his crew down to the planet. The final self-destruct password is Zero Zero Zero Destruct Zero, possibly outshining ABC123 as the worst password ever. Kruge's crew beams over and get blown up with the Enterprise, Enterprise crashes into Genesis (to be reborn again in the next movie… Nah, just kidding). Kirk rescues Spock and Saavik from the two Klingon that are guarding them and lures Kruge down for a one-on-one battle with him, in the hopes of killing him and be able to get to his ship before the planet explodes. All of this of course happens and the movie ends with Spock's body and Spock's "katra" being taken to Vulcan to be reunited. Yay, mission accomplished!

The movie has potential, but almost deliberately avoids to grow into any of it. I really can't find any other way to otherwise explain how it manages to squander all the good ideas that are in here, other than that the creators themselves just wanted this over and done with.

The relationship between Kirk and his son David is revisited again and has the potential to show a completely different side of Kirk. But this is literally killed off when David is murdered before we've ever had a chance to care for him. Neither does Kirk it seems, because he's sad for about thirty movie-seconds.

Hello darkness, my old friend.

The idea of combining the two most different characters of the show - Bones and Spock - who often play on each others different personalities in the TV series, could've been really interesting. But Bones/Spock is basically just Bones who sometimes says a few things that would've ordinarily come out of Spock's mouth. There is no sub-story or even scene that explores how the combination of all-emotion and all-logic could make someone act. The idea is revisited again in the VOY episode "Tuvix" in which Tuvok and Neelix (both as different to each other as Bones and Spock) are combined into a whole new person called Tuvix. It's a great episode that explores the concept much further and I would've loved to see at least some of that in this movie.

Saavik is in this movie again but seems just as pointless as in the previous one. It's as if they're trying to make her an established character by presence alone, without any character building, development or backstory. They could've made her character be anyone else and it wouldn't have changed a thing.

Yet again it's like Enterprise and its crew is completely broken off from the rest of Starfleet. Kirk steals the Enterprise from right under the noses of his superiors, yet for the duration of the movie no one manages to find them? And even if they managed to mask their trail, how long does it take for Starfleet to notice that one of their starships (Grissom) with everyone on board has been completely destroyed?

To me this movie just ends up being pretty boring. There is literally only one thing of interest going on - will they be able to rescue Spock? - and the answer to that is just too obvious. In some movies even when the end result is obvious from the start, they manage to make the journey full of twists and turns enough to keep you guessing. A good writer will make you wonder how they could possibly manage even when you know they will. This just never happens in this movie, and the few mysteries it could linger on (like what is up with Bones? Where did Spock's katra go? What is happening to the Genesis planet? What does Kruge want?) it reveals quickly and without any oomph.

The villains don't stand a chance against the previous two, having neither the depth, epic scope or backstory to fall back on. Not only that, they're being played out as some half-crazy klutzes that don't have any backing from the Klingon Empire, which could've given their actions more weight and thus made them more interesting.

With writing so lacklustre, all the directing power (the movie was directed by Leonard Nimoy himself) and visual effects in the world couldn't save this movie from being more than mid-range interesting. Not that any of those factors are above average either, if you ask me.

Uhura gets a scene that only proves she deserved more screen time.

It has some few redeeming factors, Kirk's crew get slightly more to do and say in this movie and some dialogue is actually really good (like the abovementioned).

Fittingly enough, Spock himself manages to epitomize my feelings towards this movie. It's an empty shell waiting for its katra.

Some random thoughts I had while watching this movie;

  • The Excelsior is set in to stop Kirk from his mission. It is a brand new starship and is said to even have transwarp, something that hilariously fails when it tries to catch the Enterprise. And transwarp turns out to not be a thing in Starfleet for almost another hundred years so it's quite miraculous how wrong the designers of the Excelsior were.
  • The design of the Bird of Prey seems pretty over-elaborate, because unless they often fly around on space bodies they wouldn't need those wings would they? I don't put it past the Klingons to build something entirely based on what looks cool rather than what is practical though.
  • Spock goes through a lot of sh*t throughout his lore in Star Trek. He meets himself from the past/future, he dies and is reborn, he loses his sister to some time travel stuff...
  • Is the Vulcan society patriarchal? It would be interesting to see the logical reasoning behind this if that is the case. When Spock is brought back to Vulcan to perform the uniting of his body and soul through the ceremony of "fal-tor-pan", everyone just speaks about the paternal lineage like no one has had any mothers (which makes it seem mothers don't matter on Vulcan). Spock's mother isn't even present or mentioned in the movie at all? Did I miss that she is dead at this point or something?
  • When Spock is himself again he starts quoting things to Kirk that he said to him while dying. But this was after he mindmelded with Bones, so how would he remember it? The body with those memories died, and Bones was out cold throughout that event.
Images from,,,, 


  1. Amanda isn't dead ... in fact she appears in TNG with Sarek.

    It should be noted also that Robin Curtis (the actor that played Saavik) would reappear in TNG as well, next time as a Romulan spy. ST sure knows how to reuse its talent.

    I'd like to call out the theory of Star Trek movies in that the odd ones all stink and the even ones are pretty good. This kinda feels like, at times, what WoW players go through as the A and B teams change off. (hint: we're on a b-team expansion now). Now I've had some people call out 4 as a baddie as well, but I remember it differently.

    Are you sure they were keeping McCoy on the Excelsior? I thought it was some anonymous Star Fleet brig on the station. I mean, wouldn't surprise me that that escaped me after all these years, but still.

    Nevertheless, there always seems to be a couple of good scenes in these 'odd' movies. This one had the entire Escape sequence, which was by far the best part of the movie ("I intend to recommend you for promotion - in whatever fleet we end up serving.") and the destruction of the Enterprise, just because of the heartbreak it represented to so many fans.

    Overall, this felt like a movie made by someone that never watched an episode of the series. (Spoiler: the next two continue that tradition.)

    But I think your statement best sums this movie up - "The Search For Spock is a movie entirely about what happens when you paint yourself in a corner, storywise, and have to get yourself out."

    1. That's an interesting theory actually, don't think I have heard it before. Now I remember The Voyage Home being good but after that my memory is getting a bit hazy. The Final Frontier is considered one of the worst, and I'll probably agree when I get to it, but I can't remember anything of it. I guess that's not a good sign either though.

      I'll be honest, when I was writing this review my memory of where they were keeping McCoy was already a blur and the whole scene of him talking to someone in a bar about something had basically left my brain, so you're probably right. Most likely he was in detention on the space station, that would make more sense.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!