Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

Deep sixing a beloved character in popular fiction has always been fairly complicated. Death threats from outraged basement dwellers with a tenuous grasp of reality aside, terminating a vital fixture of an established franchise needs to carry the appropriate weight otherwise the act feels cheap, manipulative and has the very real danger to lose whatever power it was intended to have. However, what requires an even more delicate touch is if said death is hurriedly backtracked, which beams us directly to the third Star Trek extravaganza unsubtly subtitled The Search For Spock, a movie that interesting chose to publicly make the entire plot about undoing one of the franchise’s most infamous moments.
Bringing Spock back would require a deft hand, a rock solid plot and convincing  Leonard Nimoy to make peace with his pointy-eared alter-ego with a chance to make his directorial debut and give that actor’s ego a damn good stoking…

After absorbing enough radiation to give Godzilla a moderate buzz, Mr Spock expired to give the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise a tick in the win column during their previous adventure and his body was launched onto the surface of Genesis, a previously dead moon revitalized by a controversial Federation experiment. However, it seems that Captain Kirk’s decision may have been somewhat premature as the power of the life giving device seems to have reinvigorated Spock’s body, on top of that, before his heroic sacrifice the science officer handily downloaded his memories into an unwitting Dr. McCoy thanks to a sneaky Vulcan mind meld cause both severe mental distress.
Typically defying orders from Federation high command, Kirk assembles his crew, carjacks a battered, decommissioned Enterprise and sets course for Genesis in order to reunite the mind and body of his friend but to do so means he’ll have to deal with an excessive amount of crap from Kruge, a commander of a Klingon Bird Of Prey who wants the secrets of Genesis for himself in order to turn the terra forming device into a deadly weapon.
Taking a small group hostage on Genesis’ surface that consists of Kirk’s scientist son David, ex-crew mate Saavik and a young, rejuvenated version of Spock who’s Pon-Farring out of control (a sort of puberty/mating period for Vulcans – feel free to “ew” at any time), Kirk embarks on an adventure that may very well cost him everything he holds dear as his crew, his ship, his son and even his dear friend are all in the firing line and the odds are stacked so that even the great James T. Kirk can’t escape unscathed this time…

Search For Spock has a rather weird reputation because even though the previous film heavily implied that the world’s most famous Vulcan may very well return, actually following through with it proves to be a little awkward. The main issue seems to be Spock, or to be more exact, the man behind the most famous pointy ears in sci-fi cinema, Mr Leonard Nimoy, who’s directorial talents simply don’t match up to the efforts of previous helmer Nicholas Meyer and as a result this particular search is quite slow and laboured. Also, and I’m not one to suggest that the main Trek players had sizable egos back in 1984, but despite the fact that Nimoy is barely on the screen for five minutes, he makes damn sure the audience doesn’t forget him by amusingly finding numerous ways to keep replaying Spock’s death scene like a washed up star quarterback reliving his glory days and has his actors constantly bang on about how great he (the character) is as if the entire galaxy couldn’t continue without him if he didn’t have his Christ-like rebirth. Christ, even his name is in the title (no other Trek character has ever managed that feat – would you watch a film subtitled The Check For Chekhov?) and the entire poster is mostly his face staring impassively at you while the tiny figures of the crew look on…
With all that being said and to give Nimoy his directorial due, Star Trek III isn’t as bad as some have made out over the years. Yes, the pace simply doesn’t switch into warp drive and for an adventure that takes in Klingons, ressurections, space battles and a collapsing planet, the film distinctly feels quite small as the stolen Enterprise only has a five man crew that gives the rest of the gang minimal time to make an impact. Sulu beats the shit out of a guard who mocks his height, Uhura locks a preppy dude in a closet and Deforrest Kelly get to put on his best Nimoy impersonation as the addled Bones, but no one is allowed to encroach on the melodramatic nexus that is Bill Shatner.
If you thought trading snarls with Ricardo Montalbahn and morning Spock gave you the pinnacle of big Will’s particular brand of emoting then buckle up, because this movie really puts him through the wringer and delivers pure platinum Shat.
Behold his reaction at his son’s murder as he recites the immortal line “You Klingon bastard, you killed my son!” no less than three times with three completely different line readings as he slumps out of the captain’s chair onto the floor – it’s like they couldn’t (or more likely wouldn’t) decide on which one to use and just let Shatner do ’em all. Later on, after detonating his beloved ship to minimize the Klingon threat (she goes up a beaut, too) he enigmatically whispers “My God, Bones what have I done…?” like he’s just accidently euthanized his grandma by tripping over the power chord of her life support machine – oh, and let’s not forget our hero’s epic kiss-off line to the villainous Kruge before delivering a very Kirk-esque deathblow (“I… have had enough… of YOU!”) which is a moment that stands as none more Shatner. You can’t help feel bad for the rest of the cast, especially Christopher Lloyd considering the regular members must be used to it by now – but witnessing Doc Brown himself portray a Klingon is a blast despite Kruge being a standard, generic, shouty bad guy.

So while not a total loss, the third big screen outing of the Enterprise suffers somewhat in comparison to the towering glory that is Wrath Of Kahn (not to mention The Voyage Home, that came later) but is proficient enough to help Nimoy find his way back into the franchise that helped make him a household name in a way that isn’t completely mercenary by lock, Spock and two smoking phasers…

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One comment

  1. There wasn’t much to love in Search for Spock: Underused characters, milked moments, cheap gags, cheaper effects, and William Shatner. The story had basic potential, but it was lost in a mix of lackluster direction and acting. The Klingons were reduced to mustache-twirling baddies… thank goodness The Next Generation eventually gave life and gravity back to the Klingon race.

    Overall, we all could have done without this movie; we deserved more after the hack job that was Wrath of Khan.

    Like

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