Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

The great thing is how pretty much everybody has their own separate cool moment.

Sulu gets the “Don’t call me tiny” scene. Scotty tells the Excelsior’s computer (voiced by Nimoy) to screw itself.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)
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Nichelle Nichols gets to turn into Pam Grier for a minute or two with a mouthy young officer, which is always good for a laugh. On a related note, if you really want to have your mind blown, watch any episode of the original series where Uhura is her usual sweet, likable self… and then put in Truck Turner. Let’s just say that Ms. Nichols plays a very, very different character there.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

As for Chekov… Well, the rather hideous pink shirt with huge ‘70s collar makes him stand out, so there’s that.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

The bridge of the Excelsior is pretty cool, to be fair. The way Scotty sabotages it is even more so.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

The bit where Grissom is destroyed by the Klingons is pretty well done, though what really makes the scene is Kruge shooting his gunner for accidentally blowing the ship up in the first place.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

Kruge’s extremely casual fight with a giant worm by Spock’s burial tube is also funny.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

Another cool bit is the sun going down on the planet. It’s neat enough that the characters react to it in the story.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

The stuff with young Spock is interesting, if a little perfunctory, given everything else that happens in the film.

The brief battle between Enterprise and Kruge’s ship is a nicely done bit of business, nothing too fancy, since this is more of an emotional story than an action piece. It works well.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

Equally effective is the exchange between Kirk and Kruge, and the ensuing death of David. It’s been said before and I’ll say it here: Kirk falling backwards is a very effective moment as he’s told of his son’s death. Shatner underplays it quite nicely.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

The self-destruct sequence is oddly emotional, which is understandable if one is a die-hard fan of the franchise attached to the ship, but even I, someone who is casual in his fandom to the point of being lackadaisical, get a little teary-eyed during this bit. That’s a sign that a film is well made.

Either that, or it means I’m a tremendous sap.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

The stuff following on the planet is pretty good too, with the planet tearing itself apart as Kirk and Kruge have a fairly decent fight. I especially like the very Shatner-esque way Kirk kills Kruge. Kruge mentioning how exhilarating the planet falling apart is was also a good bit.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

I dig the little moment McCoy has with the unconscious Spock. It’s a very nicely done bit of emotional acting.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

The last ten minutes or so of the film are interesting, though a bit sluggish, as Spock is put back together mentally and physically. The final scene where Spock recognizes Kirk is a nice emotional moment to end the film on, though.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

What worked:

Apart from the last few sluggish minutes, the film moves like a rocket with good humor, some nice emotion, and one or two fine action beats. Performances are strong across the board for the most part, with Shatner and Christopher Lloyd doing the best work, as Kruge is a fun villain and Kirk has some of his best moments on screen here.

Leonard Nimoy does a fine job for a first-time director, keeping the pace steady for the most part and characterization consistent.

What didn’t work:

Not much, really. Apart from one or two stiff performances and the somewhat obtuse finale, it all comes together pretty damn well. The f/x work is great for 1984, and nothing looks too dated when viewed today.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)

Final thoughts:

The third Trek film is a solid “meat and potatoes” Trek outing, with a good blend of the stuff that the franchise does well, and while it lacks the spectacle some of the later films delivered, it more than makes up for it with the heart some of the later films didn’t bother with.

Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
TV Show: Star Trek

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  • I remember enjoying this immensely when this first came out (my local theatre had an afternoon marathon, reshowing the first and second films again before the third), but repeated viewings had revealed the flaws. So much of it is horribly contrived to put the Enterprise crew into the role of rebellious mavericks, and as Ed Harris pointed out, everyone in Starfleet is disrespectful of Kirk and company given the latters’ experience and reputations, and their immature douchebaggery is designed solely to get the audience cheering when Kirk, Sulu, Scotty and Uhura kick their asses.
    The Enterprise’s destruction is barely a sacrifice, since the ship was scheduled for decommissioning anyway (and after only a few years of service, too, more contrivance), and Kirk hardly knew David Marcus to react the way he did.
    What was the point of going back to Genesis, when as far as anyone knew, there was just Spock’s katra in McCoy’s body, and Spock’s body had burned up on entry into the atmosphere of Genesis? No one would know that the body had returned to life until after they arrived. People might knock Star Trek V (and with good reason) but I think it still plays better than this movie.

    • edharris1178

      Fair enough, I actually sort of dig the fifth one in a “so bad it’s good” way.

  • Thomas Stockel

    This is my third favorite Star Trek film and I remember cringing when Enterprise was destroyed. It was an emotionally moving scene, watching Kirk and co. standing on the surface of the planet, watching her burn up in atmosphere. And when Kirk finds out his son’s been murdered? Anyone who says Shatner can’t act is full of it.

    • edharris1178

      It’s definitely a strong moment.

      • The_Stig

        When someone bashes Shatner’s acting, that’s the scene I show them. As SFDebris put it brilliantly: Yes, he’s the guy who screams “KHAAAAAN!”, but he’s also the guy who screams louder without saying a word.

        • Statalyzer

          KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN wasn’t Shatner overacting, it was *Kirk* overracting to make sure Khan didn’t suspect anything.

  • Spocksbro

    While I agree that STs 2-4 are a very satisfying connected story (for Trek fans, at any rate) and – considered by itself – “The Search for Spock” is one of the better ST films. There are two things that drive me into the plak taw (the blood fever) when I watch it:

    1. Robin Curtis has to be the worst casting choice ever made in a Trek film. She is bland, colorless and simply can’t act. At all. Whoever thought she could replace Kirstie Alley was insane.

    2. Spock should have stayed dead (and I say this as a member of the family). Bringing him back to life made everything that happened in “Wrath of Khan” pointless.

    But I’ll keep watching for all the good things Ed points out. Nice recap.

  • Anon

    Search for Spock is my personal fav of the TOS movies. I think perhaps Wrath of Kahn is objectively a better movie, and Voyage Home is a great bit of fun, but for me Search of Spock is the best. I love how the dynamic between Spock and McCoy is given some highlighting as I always preferred it to the dynamic between Kirk and Spock. This is my one major complaint about the new movies, actually, it is all Kirk + Spock = Space Bros and McCoy is shoved in the back, nevermind that the guy they got playing McCoy is waaay better at his job that Creepypants Spock and Emo Teen Kirk. Granted this make more logical sense because why the hell was McCoy on the bridge all the time anyway, but still…

    The scene with McCoy trying to charter that flight is probably my single favorite TOS-related scene of all time.

    • Muthsarah

      I loved the reveal of McCoy. After the cold opening set up Genesis and the new Klingons (the external plot), we’re re-introduced to the returning cast with a bridge scene, just long enough for us to say “hello” and/or notice their new, dated hairdos. Then we wait a bit. No McCoy yet. Why would McCoy be on the bridge with the others? He’s the doctor, he’d be in Sick Bay. And we haven’t gotten there yet. Then we see some other people we don’t care about, more plot external to the main cast. Then we wait just a little bit more. Then something ominous happens, we move with Kirk down to Spock’s room, we hear Spock’s voice, and then….hello Bones! And with the external plot already set up, they don’t have to cut away for long anymore, so we can follow the far more interesting Kirk and McCoy plot.

      They didn’t rush it. Given the state we’re to believe he was in, there was no other way for the reveal to work other than to have him burst into the bridge and start screaming. And that would have been stupid. They went classy.

      • edharris1178

        Yep, it’s a nicely restrained, almost creepy reveal.

  • Jason Withrow

    Just picked up a two-pack blu-ray of Wrath of Khan and The Journey Home. Kind of disappointing to see them bundled and not, you know, Khan’s direct sequel? Sad that the odd-even “rule” would carry into sales and scuttle any chance of the odds redeeming themselves. (Either way, once I got home I learned that some I-don’t-know-where-but-not-Canada markets recently got a blu-ray bundle of all 10 original films so I feel a little disappointed one way or the other.)

  • Muthsarah

    I hadn’t seen this movie in years, and when I finally got the chance, I thought of this review and dove right at it. I am so happy now. I LOVED this movie. Even the ending (which moves like a religious rite, but hey, I’m a Trekkie and it’s Spock’s Resurrection).

    I am utterly flabbergasted at how simple this movie is. In the good way. Relatively few characters (sad that Uhura was overlooked…), not a lot of high drama, not a lot of high comedy, no pretension anywhere. Just Space Adventure, with people! And it worked. It didn’t waste any time, anywhere, did all it needed to do from scene to scene and moved on. It moved quickly, but never rushed, it was atmospheric, but never tarried, it had scenes of levity, but didn’t overdo it, had some “gee the universe is weird” scenes, but didn’t cross the line. It was a perfect balancing act. And Shatner was magnificent in this. And I’ve never been a huge fan of his.

    It was ALMOST as good as Wrath of Khan. Just didn’t quite have the “importance” or the high drama done right. But in a number of respects, it was actually more solid than WoK, as it probably flowed a little better; the first half, despite being setup, was trimmed perfectly so it never once felt like it could have been shortened. I get that SfS won’t have the same emotional wallop, so it couldn’t possibly compare for a non-Trekkie, but I like that it had all the fundamentals that have made me love the franchise so much. If WoK is a gourmet meal by a world-famous chef, SfS is the single greatest peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever made.

  • Lilgreenman

    I think Into Darkness is actually much closer to Search for Spock than it is to any other Trek movie; A character piece about Kirk and the crew didobrying orders to do what’s right; Starfleet as a restrictive enemy, Klingons being mean for no reason but the coolness factor, and a popular TV actor playing the villain at the expense of continuity, and lots of repetitions of Wrath of Khan.

  • Roddenberry had a rule about Star Trek: other captains were to be portrayed as less cool than Kirk in order to make Kirk look more awesome. No exceptions. No other captains were allowed to steal the show. Hence the weenie captain of the science vessel U.S.S. Grissom and the uptight captain of the Excelsior in this movie.

    Apparently, nobody trusted Shatner to carry things on his own.

    • Graeme Cree

      A rule that he followed to perfection when creating Picard.

  • If you read Mr. Nimoy’s second autobiography (I Am Spock), he says that his experience in “Mission Impossible” contributed to the way that every member of the crew got their moment, which I thought was neat.

  • Graeme Cree

    This is a great movie, no doubt about it, and definitely the best odd-numbered Trek movie. But it has one GARGANTUAN flaw that nobody notices. Namely, there’s no reason for them to have stolen the Enterprise!

    It’s true. Watch it again. They had no reason to believe that they’d find Spock’s body alive on Genesis. The Grissom never reported the find, and neither Kirk nor Sarek mention it. Even when Kirk is making his pitch to Admiral Morrow, he never mentions the possibility. It’s completely unclear why he wants to go there, which is why he’s turned down. It’s also why Morrow never says “Well, if you think Spock is alive on Genesis, how about if I call the Grissom and have them look while you stay here”. All that Kirk knows is that Spock’s Brain (!) is stuck in McCoy’s head. And you don’t need Spock’s dead body to get that out.

    The problem seems to have started in the rewrite process. If you read the comic book and novelization versions, you see that the Grissom finds Spock’s tube very early and reports it back to Starfleet. In what ends up as the opening scene of the movie, Kirk is musing in his log about what the discovery of Spock’s empty tube might mean. But in the final product, the scenes got shuffled everything around so that the scene on the bridge comes first, and Kirk never does learn the things he needs to know that would motivate him to steal the ship. But Kirk being Kirk, he does it anyway.

    • Statalyzer

      It’s the best odd-movie, but it’s not as good as 2, 4, 6, or 8.

  • Graeme Cree

    Another scene that’s always bugged me (in what is admittedly a very good movie overall), is Kruge’s first scene. Movies like this always like to show how bad their Bad Guys are by having them kill their own people. (Kruge does the same thing later on with his errant gunner). But this opening scene has so much wrong with it.

    1) Why is it a death sentence for Valkris to “see” the Genesis Data? Surely the Klingon Empire has no standing rules for how to handle Federation planet making technology. Torg and Maltz also were allowed to know basically what Genesis did. What exactly did Valkris see?

    2) Whatever it was, and knowing that it was a death sentence, as she obviously did, why did she cheerfully volunteer the fact that she’d seen it?

    3) In fact, why did she see it at all? Did she take a “peek”?

    4) Why does Kruge have to blow up the entire freighter when only Valkris saw the forbidden knowledge? He could have beamed her up and dealt with her on his own ship? I know, Klingons are so nasty that they wouldn’t think twice about blowing up a merchant ship? But if they’ll do that pretty much for the heck of it, why would any merchant captain accept such a fare? Captain If-I-Were-Nerdy-Enough-I’d-Remember-His-Name-From-the-Credits-or-Novelization definitely seems surprised when Kruge blows him away. Why is he the only one in the theater that didn’t see that coming from the moment Kruge’s ship de-cloaked?

  • Ryan Ann

    I think that Search For Spock is a very underrated movie. Leonard Nimoy (RIP) did a great job directing and William Shatner had some of his best acting moments in this movie, especially when he found out his son David was murdered. On a side note I heard that Nimoy told Shatner to do whatever he wanted to when Kirk finds out and the effect was awesome. However, the real revelation of Search For Spock was the very, very talented DeForest Kelley. He did such an amazing job balancing McCoy and Spock and DeKelley carried some of the best scenes in the movie (the reveal in the beginning, also known as the “Ghost Scene”; McCoy as himself and Spock trying to charter a spaceflight, the end in the klingon ship as McCoy admits he misses Spock). Nimoy admits in his autobiography “I Am Spock” that this was a hard scene to film but with seasoned veterans as McCoy it was made easier and DeKelley laughed through most of the scene. Deforest Kelley should have been nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this movie. Seriously, he was THAT good. There was no way he would have won (ok, maybe) but he had his best acting ever in this since his days in westerns. McCoy will be my second favorite after Spock but I still love the character and Deforest Kelley’s portrayal of him. A wonderful man and a wonderful character.

  • Ryan Ann

    I wrote a review earlier on this movie concerning the original series cast members and especially DeForest Kelley’s amazing performance in this (Bones AND Spock per say) and Leonard Nimoy’s first time director and William Shatner proving that he can ACTUALLY act. Leonard Nimoy as director gets the rest of the supporting cast (Doohan, Takeii, Nichols, sorry no Koenig this time) there moments in this underated gem as well. However, one can not forget Christopher Lloyd’s (Doc Brown!!!) awesome and kick butt performance as the villanous Klingon Commander Kruge. He virtually own’s the screen anytime he’s on and it is hard to follow in the footsteps of Ricardo Montalban’s legendary Khan. Lloyd made the part of Commander Kruge his own and he was very menacing. This role came right after he left Taxi (there are some moments of Reverend Jim in this performance) and right before Doc Brown. The role of Commander Kruge could have been forgotten between these two legendary performance but due to Mr Lloyd’s incredible acting Kruge is a very memorable villain. The only way I would recongnize him is due to that distinctive voice. (Two distinctive actors for the price of one in one move: Christopher Lloyd and my hero and idol Leonard Nimoy). BTW: I know now I am complety getting off topic here but speaking of Mr Nimoy tommorow will be EIGHT months since Mr Nimoy’s passing and I have STILL not gotten over it and I probably never will. Leonard Nimoy, you will be missed.