Star Trek III:
The Search for Spock

directed by Leonard Nimoy
(Paramount, 1984)

The final scene of The Wrath of Khan is the first scene of The Search for Spock. That emotional death and funeral with concluded the second film would resonate throughout the third.

The movie picks up almost immediately where the last left off. The Enterprise is limping home with a skeleton crew, badly damaged in its clash with Khan and Reliant. But when they get there, Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew find their enquiries about the Genesis Project ignored and their request to return to the Genesis planet to retrieve Spock's body denied. To make matters worse, the Enterprise -- brand spankin' new in Star Trek: The Motion Picture -- is to be retired, old and damaged beyond salvage.

Meanwhile, McCoy (DeForest Kelley) -- the victim of a surreptitious mindmeld just before Spock's death -- is developing signs of madness. Kirk's son, David Marcus (Merritt Butrick) and Lt. Saavik (Robin Curtis, replacing Kirstie Alley, who opted for a television career instead of resuming her role) are finding surprises -- including unexpected life -- on Genesis. And an ambitious Klingon (Christopher Lloyd) wants to steal the Genesis technology and turn it to military use.

But Spock's father, Sarek (Mark Lenard), arrives to offer new hope. So Kirk and his loyal crew disobey orders, steal the Enterprise and set out to put things right.

Fans often list Star Trek III as one of the series' low points. Unjustly so. The story is solid -- they managed quite a feat in providing a plausible explanation for an improbable resurrection. And there are a lot of peak moments, including McCoy's bar scene and his abduction from the Star Fleet lockup, Uhura's handling of an overeager rookie, and the classic theft of the Enterprise from spacedock. Plus, we finally get lots of Klingons, and it's great to see Star Trek's classic villains back in the game.

Kirk's solution to another no-win situation is dramatic, to say the least -- a loss almost as devastating to fans as Spock's death in the previous film.

That's not to say there aren't weaknesses. The opening scenes of the movie do drag a bit. So does the very end. Lloyd plays his Klingon captain a little over the top at times, and he has a dumb-looking pet. Conversely, Curtis eschews Alley's interpretation of Saavik and plays the role too flatly, making her into a very different character. And Chekov (Walter Koenig) spends much of the film in a very silly suit.

There's a surprising death, but one that carries very little impact. At the same time, Kirk's response to that death is weighty indeed. And the next action he takes is one of the most powerful in Star Trek history.

Don't sell this one short. It's not the best in the series, but it still fills a vital place in the ongoing story.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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