Review – Star Trek III: The Search For Spock |
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Review – Star Trek III: The Search For Spock January 1, 2007

by Jeff Bond , Filed under: Feature Films (TMP-NEM),Review , trackback

part 3 of our series reviewing past Trek movies 

sttsfs.JPGIn the wake of 1982’s enormously successful The Wrath of Khan, and particularly before the universally despised Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Leonard Nimoy’s directorial debut, Star Trek III, was the whipping boy of the burgeoning Star Trek movie franchise. On the face of it the movie was a success—feverishly anticipated, given extra buzz by Nimoy’s presence behind the camera, the mystery of the fate of Spock after his death in Trek II, and the “final mission of the starship Enterprise” tagline that teased the movie’s shocking destruction of the beloved space vessel at the movie’s climax. Reviews were good, if not as glowing as the ones for Nicholas Meyer’s Wrath of Khan (one of the few Trek movies to garner non-condescending raves from the mainstream press), and box office business was brisk.

Maybe the self-explanatory title helped. After the Wrath of Khan, it was time to Search For Spock—the Vulcan’s death had been Trek II’s trump card, there hadn’t been a dry Trekkie eye in the house and devastated fans wondered what they would do on an Enterprise bridge bereft of their favorite first officer. But the title implied hope, when interviewed Nimoy was coy about whether he actually appeared in the film, and suddenly a sequel with a quite logical and emotionally satisfying—if open-ended—wrap-up suddenly became the beginning of a three-movie arc.

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Nimoy gets behind the camera

The Search for Spock indeed picks up almost exactly where The Wrath of Khan left off, with the Enterprise limping home after its battle with the genetic superman and Kirk licking the “open wound” of his Vulcan friend’s death. And the emotional dividends of that bummer of an ending start paying off immediately when a young ensign (actor Greg Morris’ son—and future Seinfeld semi-regular—Phil Morris) asks the grieving Kirk if there’ll be a ceremony when the Enterprise gets home. “A hero’s welcome, Ensign—is that what you’d like?” Kirk asks, and the audience cringes—you wonder if Kirk is going to hit the guy. Just as effective is the eerie scene in Spock’s quarters with McCoy briefly channeling his Vulcan sparring partner’s voice. This is a whiff of classic Trek not seen in the movies up until this point—the old trope of weird “mind controlled” behavior that showed up in so many episodes—and the exercising of these vintage beats from the TV series immediately connects Trek III to its lineage in a way the less conventionoal TMP and Wrath of Khan never quite did.

The effect is redoubled when Mark Lenard shows up as Sarek. Classic Trek’s weekly parade of high-powered guest stars was one of its great pleasures, and one completely unexplored in TMP. Khan’s Ricardo Montalban returns the tradition, but Search for Spock offers not just the beloved Lenard but the oddly—but enjoyably—miscast Christopher Lloyd as Klingon villain Lord Kruge, James Sikking as the Captain of the Excelsior and no less than Dame Judith Anderson as a Vulcan High Preistess, plus Morris and Miguel Ferrer in supporting roles. Of course not all of the casting decisions are so stellar.

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Trek III sports a stellar supporing cast, including Mark Lenard

Trek III is probably the first of the Trek movies to embrace the original show’s strangely charming vices as well as its obvious virtues. It’s a grab bag of mixed greatness and pure cheese, just as the original show was mesmerizing when it was good (your Cities on the Edge of Forever) and deliciously, unforgettably cheesy when bad (your Ways to Eden). Trek III’s weakest element is easily its storyline, a collection of fun sequences haphazardly arranged around the title concept—finding Spock and restoring his “katra” back inside his physical body. They playoff from a throwaway bit in The Wrath of Khan—Spock’s “Remember” line to McCoy—is the story’s most convincing element, probably more due to the performances of Lenard and Deforest Kelley than anything else. As for how Spock is ultimately recovered, it hinges on science worthy of Lost in Space—with a rapidly growing Spock discovered on the now disintegrating Genesis Planet. Seems he’s growing at just the right rate to be exactly the way Kirk left him by the time Kirk and Spock are finally reunited at the end of the film. It seems remotely believable that McCoy might carry some psychic aftershock of Spock’s mentality inside his brain; less believable is the idea that this one-second burst of thought could successfully download a functioining Spock “soul” in McCoy that can be used to restore the empty shell of Spock’s body to consciousness.

The claptrap sequences involving Kirk’s son and Lt. Saavik exploring the Genesis Planet from the U.S.S. Grissom are mostly clumsy and awkward. The Grissom’s smug, fey Captain Esteban might be the most annoying Starfleet captain ever shown in the franchise, and the Genesis “protomatter” technobabble is embarrassingly lame. It doesn’t help that Robin Curtis is impossibly wooden as Saavik, despite looking more convincingly Vulcan than the openly emotional Kirstey Alley (oddly, Curtis was quite good as a Vulcan gone bad in the TNG episode “Gambit”).

The mix of good and bad reaches its zenith in the pre-departure scenes, as McCoy enters the franchise’s attempt at a Star Wars cantina and makes conversation with a weird, big-eared alien. The mise-en-scene is appalling—cartoon animated holographic biplanes, crappy makeups, and a cocktail waitress who looks like she lost a sorority hazing dare. Yet De Kelley makes the scene work by playing out McCoy’s always barely-concealed xenophobia (“How can you be deaf with EARS like that?”). When Bones, cornered by Starfleet security, frantically tries to give the guy a Vulcan neck pinch, it’s the movie franchise’s first dose of laugh-out-loud comedy.

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Cheesy, but Kelly makes it work

Kirk’s hijacking of the Enterprise from spacedock is another immensely satisfying extended sequence, juiced up by James Horner’s derivative but effective score and Nimoy’s simple but evocative use of color (deep steel blues for the spacedock, greens for the Klingon Bird of Prey, oranges and browns for the Genesis Planet and Vulcan). The opening beats with Uhura’s “Mr. Adventure” and Sulu’s bullying security officer (in his ridiculous Jetsons space hat and mustache) are enjoyable just because these poor bit players are finally getting a little something to do, but the throwaway humor (Kirk’s “How many fingers am I holding up?”, McCoy’s “That green-blooded son of a bitch!”, Scotty’s dismissive “Up your shaft.”) still works. And the masterstroke of pitting the outdated Enterprise against the gussied up, gaudy Excelsior and its stuffy, egotistical Captain (the always good James Sikking) beautifully plays on the underdog idea of the aging crew (with her aging, sympathetic fan base).

The same trick works as the Enterprise faces down the beautifully-realized Klingon Bird of Prey, impressively revealed in an early decloaking scene and commanded by the eccentric Lord Kruge. Apparently Christopher Lloyd had little grasp on the conventions of Trek when he played the role, addressing lines to the heavens when he was supposed to be talking on his Klingon communicator, but the effect makes for some priceless reaction shots and line readings. The fact that the Klingons (and their mangy space dog) are played somewhat for laughs makes their easy defeat of the Enterprise that much more pathetic, and Kirk’s reprise of the “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” self destruct code sequence a little more convincing (even though Kirk has gotten out of worse scrapes without destroying his ship before this).

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Sad to see, but beautifully done by ILM

For all the raggedness of the plotting, the set up results in some of the movie series’ greatest moments. Kruge’s casual execution of Kirk’s son (“Kill one of them. I don’t care which.”) leads to a tour de force from Shatner, the once indomitable starship Captain stumbling backward into his chair in shock and grief. We buy the destruction of the Enterprise because Kirk now has nothing left to lose. ILM’s visual effects work on The Search for Spock is arguably their best for the series, from Nilo-Rodis’ distinctive design work (both the Bird of Prey and the new Starfleet ships are huge infliuences on the franchise from this point on) to the choreography of the BOP’s initial appearance, the quick and dirty space battles, the horrific destruction of the beloved Enterprise, and the money shot of the BOP warping out of orbit as chunks of the exploding Genesis Planet fly with it out of frame. And it’s all topped by the juicy confrontation between Kirk and Kruge on the disintegrating Genesis Planet, which even Roger Ebert described as “the last word in fight scenes on the edge of exploding volcanoes”). In interviews Gene Roddenberry always chafed at the “action/adventure” label the original NBC Star Trek had to wear, as if he’d been forced at phaser-point to insert fistfights at the end of every episode. But let’s face it, Shatner loved doing those scenes, and part of the mystique and fun of the Kirk character is his two-fisted, drop-kicking, pro-wrestling action star persona. Kirk was a hero who loved to think his way out of a problem, but he wasn’t above enjoying a damn good fistfight either. His set-to with Kruge might rank as the best Trek fight ever done, beautifully built up to with Nimoy’s camera work and sold with Shatner’s fiery performance (his animal roar as he dives into a pit on the waiting Kruge is pure Shatner magic) and some classic Trek stunt man moves that recall the seminal brawl between Kirk and Gary Mitchell in an equally apocalyptic setting in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Kirk’s “I…have had enough…of YOU!” is a line that only Shatner could make work so well, and the aftermath shot of Kirk looking off onto the fiery horizon of the planet is perfect. So’s the Kirk and Spock beam-out, a fantastically dramatic shot to the tune of a great James Horner music cue, excellent miniature effects and a wind-tossed pair of Trek heroes disappearing in a glowing haze of transporter energy—this is the way movie Trek should always be: pushing all the familiar conventions of the series onto a big, mythic canvas.

The film’s final beats are largely small-scale apart from the spectacular landing on Vulcan: McCoy’s touching private moment with the still inert Spock, the meeting with Sarek and Dame Judith Anderson’s Vulcan High Preistess (it’s Star Trek meets The Ten Commandments!), and Nimoy’s effectively fragile playing of his reunion with Kirk. Only a franchise with Trek’s character-hungry fans could wrap up with this gentle, metaphysical reunion scene instead of more pyrotechnics.

So does the good outweigh the bad? The Search for Spock doesn’t really hang together that well as a movie, yet its high points dwell in the memory better than most and its balance of action, humor and genuine drama makes it highly satisfying to revisit. In retrospect the wildly popular follow-up The Voyage Home is altogether too cutesy, and The Final Frontier clearly pushed the humor envelope into full-on disaster. Trek III takes its characters seriously, but allows humor to break up a potentially depressing storyline. It’s a bridging movie and as such suffers the same way The Empire Strikes Back did—not that there’s any comparison, butTrek III will always depend on Treks II and IV for its set up and resolution. But in its way The Search for Spock digs up the thrills of the original Sixties show superbly—so cut at least half of it a break.

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Nothing like a good Kirk v Alien fight

Lessons for Star Trek XI
Think Big: the reason the original cast produced the most successful Trek movies is that they were inherently larger than life. Abrams shouldn’t be afraid to paint on a big canvas, go for bold emotions and imagery. The TNG films practically drowned in their own classiness, but the best Trek embraces its pulp origins and raises that game to the point of looney brilliance.

Cast Stars: Unknowns have their uses, but Trek has floundered with its budgetary philosophy of finding cheap players who won’t cost too much down the road in further sequels or TV episodes. The original Trek featured established actors, familiar character faces and experienced, reliable thespians who delivered the goods. I still can’t imagine any well-known actor filling the boots of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, but would it kill us to have Matt Damon’s Kirk and Gary Sinise’s Bones?

Make Your Own Look: Unless you’re going to dedicate yourself to promulgating the great design aesthetic of Star Trek Enterprise, the TOS universe is still fairly wide open to interpretation. Take a note from Nilo-Rodis and don’t be afraid to push some groundbreaking reinterpretations of the Trek universe. The BOP and Excelsior looked radical in their day; now they’re the templates for half of the franchise’s ships.

Think Story, then Sequences: Trek III’s parts add up to more than its whole—it’s full of great moments and some superbly sustained sequences, but who gets jazzed by the plot? Yet today’s blockbusters often feature by-the-numbers action set pieces that could work in any movie and often have little bearing on the story itself. Abrams came up with some clever sequences in MI:III and he’s shown himself to be in tune to the possibilities of technology, so how about showing us cool new twists on the standard phaser shoot-outs and transporter trips? And isn’t there something else starships can do other than broadside each other like galleons in the Spanish Armada?

Kirk Kicks Ass: Love him or not, Patrick Stewart was never a very convincing action hero (putting both him and Kathryn Janeway in sweaty tank tops to show how rough and ready they were had to be two of the low points of the franchise). Shatner was, and should you cast someone like, say, Matt Damon, you’ve got a guy who’s clearly no slouch in the butt-kicking department. So forget Paramount’s (and often Roddenberry’s) PC mantra that “Star Trek is not about action”—of course it is! Give us a Kirk who sweats, punches and gets his shirt torn again!

Shake Things Up: Sure, you’re constrained by a future history we’ve already seen—but a real writer/director should be able to shock us, surprise us, make us really worry about our heroes. Trek has been too tame for too long, afraid to confront real conflict and drama, too content to make its fan base feel cozy and comfortable. Yes, we love these characters, but we want an adventure, not a warm family reunion.


JEFF BOND is the Editor-In-Chief of Geek Magazine and author of The Music of Star Trek. His short story, “Fracture,” appears in a 40th anniversary collection of Star Trek fiction, Constellations, from Pocket Books.

Check out Jeff Bond’s fabulous magazine Geek Monthly


images courtesy of…click to see their entire collection of TSFS images 


1. hitch1969© - January 1, 2007

“The word – is NO. I am therefore going anyway.”

Wow, did Shatner SING that line or what? Honestly, I have often heard and read of the odd/even ST movie rule, that being that the even ones are great, and therefore, iii – being the oddball, sucked. I never saw it that way, though I thought it was a great movie. I also liked 5, too, though it wasnt much at all like the previous movies.

Why did they construct 2-4 sort of as “the trilogy”? Perhaps the letdown of 5 not being that was the problem with it. They really milked the Spock death thing for what they could. I was disappointed in Star Trek III only that in the end, we weren’t really given the money shot that we knew that Spock was REALLY back. And then they extended that out in 4 for humor.

By the time you’re midway into 4, the legitimacy of TWOK is kinda gone.

Still… the Trek movies in the 80s were ALL great. Back in the late 70s when there was talk of Trek coming back first as a series, then as A, as in ONE, movie, I was disappointed logistically by the LACK of what the comeback might be. However, in hindsight the movie franchise with TOS crew alone has had a longevity much greater than that which any network TV series could have done. SO good decision there.

Nimoy understands how to make a movie. ATleast a good star trek movie that builds from KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!! Trek three gets an A plus in hitchworld’s book.



2. Adam Cohen - January 1, 2007

Happy Hitch Year!

I think TSFS is sorely underrated by most fans. This movie covers a lot of ground even though you don’t feel like it’s made such an effort. I tell you one thing- they should have filmed on location for the Genesis scenes in exotic places. If Paramount (the cheapest sons of bitches of all time) had decided to spend $5 million more on some choice location shoots, the movie could have sold those scenes a lot better. In the end, we got a dramatic, well-acted epic-scale tv episode instead of an epic scale motion picture. But the model work and FX were awesome.

You may have been overly critical of TSFS for my tastes, but I used to be on the same boat as you when I first saw the movie, Jeff. Years later, I now dig this movie all the way. Either way, thanks for an awesome review.

3. Adam Cohen - January 1, 2007

P.S. I don’t despise ST:V– I understand why a lot of people don’t enjoy it, but I find it charming and silly, like a lot of TOS episodes from back in the day. Learn to love it and you’ll have the gift of another ST movie to enjoy!

4. Darren Baker - January 1, 2007

I’m glad to see The Search For Spock getting some love… It’s not, by any means, a perfect film, but there are precious few of those anyway. It has its own character, this film, and it quietly grows on you when you’re not looking, until one day something triggers a memory of a scene, or a line, in the film, and you feel compelled to seek it out again.

Hands down, by far the best scene in this movie is the destruction of the Enterprise. The way that scene is edited and paced is leagues beyond most other things in the film. Even the fact that the backdrop behind the crew is shoddy and visible doesn’t make a lick of difference when McCoy opens his mouth and utters THE line… “You did what you had to do; What you always do. You turned death into a fighting chance to live.” It’s writing like that which makes or breaks a film.

In the end, it’s really quite unfortunate that the film is so uneven, looking like it was shot with two different crews with no contact between them, but I like it. It’s a good film, and its heart is in the right place.


PS. I’m afraid I must disagree with you on a couple of points… I think the fight scene is not only bad, it’s embarrassingly bad. Painfully obvious stuntmen, terrible cuts to sfx, and cringe-worthy grunts from Shatner make it something to fast-forward past. Also, the cue during the stealing of the Enterprise sequence is only derivative of Horner’s own work, which is absolutely legendary. I still think his entries in the Star Trek franchise are his best complete works, though there are better moments in other films.

5. Josh T. (Thesaurus) Kirk Esquire' - January 1, 2007

The Search for Spock is the LEAST film like entry in the series, yet ironically the most episodic like, literally feeling and appearing personal, in your face, and heartfelt akin to the best moments of the original series showcasing the warmth that is the crews interactions.

I like this film. Alot.

Nimoy’s grandiose tale of personal sacrifice, friendship, honor, and courage is probably the greatest celebration of the human spirit of any Trek film before or since.

This film suffers ANY negative perception merely because it follows Khan and precedes Whales. Taken on it’s own merits, it’s a wonderful little tale of people that genuinely care for each other and the extent to which that care and friendship can drive choices made on an individual level.

This is a very causal film. True to perception that the Original crew has a camaraderie unprecedented, each scene perfectly demonstrates that first and foremost, this gallant crew is a collection of friends, united in a common cause and sharing in a long standing history with each other.
There is a shorthand that the Original crew related to each other with, a visual prose style of unstated understanding and nods to familiarity.

If there was ever a film to contrast the differences in crews of the various series, it would be this film.
The Search for Spock plays exactly as it was intended, we accompany the crew in their quest, and the advertising I recall cleverly played on this receptive, inviting notion, by boldly stating “Join the search….the search for Spock.”

And we did.

6. Josh T. (Thesaurus) Kirk Esquire' - January 1, 2007


My ONLY regret pertaining to this film was that Nimoy wasn’t permitted due to legalities to title the film “In search of Spock,” which I have always felt more adequately represented the epic quest these heroes undertake.

Great series of the 70s, it’s a pity the damn thing isn’t out on DVD.

(Reffering to “In search of.”)

7. Doug - January 1, 2007

TSFS is one of my favorites for the great character moments, and the brilliant scene of the Enterprise burning up in the sky. It was more moving to me than the Death of Spock in TWOK. Beautifully done, and subtlely done, like a comet crossing the early evening sky.

Had a huge impact for me.


8. conscience of the king - January 1, 2007

I recall seeing this in the theater with my family. I must have been 6 or 7 years old at the time. My mother was a fan of TOS, so I became “indoctrinated” at an early age. I recall my mother getting misty-eyed when the Enterprise was blown up.

As for TSFS, it is a good movie. Not quite as good as II, but better than IV in my opinion. Kirk stealing the enterprise is one of the best bits, evocative of Amok Time, where Kirk disobeys satrfleet to help Spock get to Vulcan (“He has saved my life a dozen times over… isn’t that worth a career”).

9. Al - January 1, 2007

Best bit of the “I have had enough of you” climax to the fight scene is that we get to see the lifts/high heels required to bring Shatner up to advertised height.

10. Dom - January 1, 2007

The film has weaknesses, sure. But it still feels more like a movie than Treks 5-10 did!

Christopher Lloyd is so-so and I think Edward James Olmos (who was Nimoy’s choice!) would have been better as Kruge. Robin Curtis was terrible as Saavik, although the screenwriters are the ones who are really responsible for this by removing all of the character’s quirks. Kirsty Alley’s Saavik was emotional and prone to changing her hairstyle – the one intentionally humorous aspect of the TWOK funeral scene was that she’d changed her hair AGAIN. I can only assume that originally Saavik would have been Spock’s replacement had Leonard Nimoy not returned.

Robin Curtis is still a really foxy and bubbly person in the behind-the-scenes featurettes, so I’d almost like to see her appear again at some point. Actually, I wonder if Saavik will appear as a child in one of the TOS redux films!

Deforest Kelley is a standout in this film. People tend to talk about Shatner and Nimoy a lot, but I think McCoy is the most underrated character of the big three and Kelley’s wonderful work is often overlooked. For me he is perhaps the best actor/character of all the Trek casts.

As for the ‘cantina’ scene, I assumed it was meant to be a cheesy, disreputable bar. It was hilarious seeing Tribbles used as a sort of recreational drug. On wonders if they get used as a 23rd century mood enhancer in the bedroom as well!! ;) And McCoy was never terribly PC, so the ears line is hilarious!

The FX are superb and, as I’ve said elsewhere, there’s a good action-to-talk ratio in this film. STIII is perhaps the most unfairly maligned of the films. The ‘odds and evens’ rule is really a myth. STIII is a very good movie based on the television show Star Trek and far more faithful to its tv show roots than either TMP or TWOK. It’s surrounded by bigger films which make it an unloved child, but arguably it’s a better Star Trek film than any that followed it.

At this point, William Shatner is still playing Kirk rather than himself, the humor isn’t force fed into the film, the supporting cast support rather than try to get unnecessary scenes shoehorned in because the minor characters in TNG (a conceptually-different show!) get more of a look-in than they do.

STIII, as the years go by, hopefully will be reappraised. The Voyage Home is dating terribly, TFF is an underfunded, compromised epic that fails on almost every level, TUC is a good send-off film but there’s little else to it than a farewell framed by a weird conspiracy that makes even less sense in the extended cut! The TNG films are an entirely separate entity and, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, fail because TNG is a TV show through and through. TNG couldn’t transfer to movies unless it ceased to be TNG.

STIII is, perhaps, one of the few Treks that is timeless.

11. Magic_Al - January 1, 2007

TMP did too have a guest star: Stephen Collins. Persis Khambatta had been cast as Lieutenant Ilia for the Star Trek: Phase II TV series so she was arguably not a “guest” star even though this would be her only appearance. The character of Decker had not been cast and was the only major casting decision Robert Wise got to make. Stephen Collins’ pre-Trek acting credits are similar in length and fame to Mark Lenard’s.

12. Admiraldeem - January 1, 2007

So sue me–I liked TSFS quite a bit. Little touches like Scottie’s “up your shaft” being directed to the turbolift voice performed by Nimoy make this a great part of the ride for me. The best? No. But bottom line was that I enjoyed myself a lot and I love rewatching it. As often happened to Star Trek, the critics carp but the audience votes differently.

13. CmdrR - January 1, 2007

TSFS is the middle of a trilogy. It suffers number-two-itis in that it doesn’t have as much of a set-up (the opening exposition between Kirk and Sarek takes fuhevuh.) It DOES have the introduction of the space dock, the desctruction of the TOS Enterprise, and some 80’s TV actors who are clearly hating their time on set. John ‘Night Court’ Laroquette (the only surviving Klingon, in case you can’t tell under the make-up) talks about how he thought his career was over.
I also like Trek V. Not love. Too many fart jokes, flyin’ vulcans, and drunken pratfalls for that. But, when it’s on, I’ll watch.

14. JON - January 1, 2007

Trek 2 TWOK had broader audience appeal.Trek 2 had it going on while Trek 3 TSFS went down a rabbit hole to satisfy trekkie outrage at Spock’s death.Definitely more of a fanboy movie.

15. K - January 1, 2007

To the author:

Have you considered a job in marketing for Paramount?

16. StephenMartin - January 1, 2007

This is one of my favorites. It’s a story about relationships; Love, sacrifice, honor, duty, priorities, giving until it hurts… The needs of the one. I love how the entire crew feels about Spock and what they go through to help him. It was so ironic that a person who expressed no emotion could bring out such strong positve emotions of those he touched. Emotions so strong that they were willing to give everything they had or would have, to help him. And what made it more wonderful was how slim the chances were that Spock could’ve been helped. Impressive.

There are so many wonderful moments in this film. Some of my favorites are:

Kirk and McCoy right after the ship docked
Kirk and Sarek
Kirk stealing the Enterprise
The death of Kirks son
The Death of the Enterprise
Kirk seeing his dead son and the crews reaction to that.
McCoy and Spock on the BOP
The merging of Spocks Katra
The final scene.

This is it in a nutshell for me.

Kirk. I thank you. What you have
done is —

What I have done, I had to do.

But at what cost? Your ship…
Your son.

If I hadn’t tried, the cost would
have been my soul.

Wow! Give up everything for your friend. What a concept, eh? I love it!

17. Chris - January 1, 2007

This is one of my favorite Star Trek films. It embraced everything Star Trek was about. It is also something the TNG films never captured.

18. Mark - January 1, 2007

Good review, and many of the criticisms are valid, but there is one thing wrong with this movie that prevented it from being great – Robin Curtis. If Kirstie Alley had been brought back as Saavik, the film would have been 10 times better even if nothing else was changed. Curtis ruined what would have otherwise been a terrific Trek film – even with its shortcomings. In retrospect, giving Alley whatever she wanted salary-wise would have changed the momentum of the films (and the franchise) forever.

19. Picardsucks - January 1, 2007

I agree with Adam. I love this film, own both versions and it’s been running on HBO evry day this past week as well. I feel it’s underrated and I don’t see the level of wrongness in the things people find wrong with it. I also agree that it did feel a bit too much made for tv movie at times do to Paramounts uber cheapness (Glitter-lava lamp props from Spencers in the Cantina scene) with the budgets and a few dollars more could have opened things up much more and made it feel i don’t know grander. I actually thought Christopher LLoyd was great and very menacing (who the hell knows him from his goofey Taxi character in 2007 i’ll bet more people recognize him for Trek and the Adams family)

20. Chris - January 1, 2007

Post 19…

Don’t forget Back to the Future, I bet that is where 99% of the people know him from other than Star Trek.

21. scott - January 1, 2007

I always liked Star Trek 3. Its not the best from the original series’ films, but its far better than 3/4’s of the TNG films, and it makes a lie of the odd/even rule, which was always a crutch for lazy thinkers anyway.

22. Picardsucks - January 1, 2007

point taken but (and I was only 7 at the time ) wasn’t the uproar that they hired the wacky guy from taxi to play the bad guy Klingon. Regardless I think he was a great menacing old school Klingon before the Next Gen ruined them and made them into noble, samurai- navajo- viking, spiritual characters

23. Ralph F - January 1, 2007

“Stealing the ENTERPRISE” is still one of my favorite music/visuals sequence in any of the TREK films.

24. Casey - January 1, 2007

I’m not a movie critic, so I didn’t know that ST 3 doesn’t “hang together” very well. I’ve always just loved it. Period. As part of the 2 thru 4 trilogy. Christopher Lloyd miscast? Huh. I thought he was awesome. The first few hundred times I saw the movie, I -was- just a tad impatient with the longish refusion scene at the end. But I got over that before Reagan left office….

25. Kevin - January 1, 2007

Like the movie, it’s great in portraying the friendship of the crew. Good balance between the heavy and crew story. In 2, had Spock not died, the movie might have been a letdown, as Khan, though wonderfully portrayed by Ricardo Montalban (old line Hollywood gentleman; I dare not use anything less than his full name here!) was an unusual villain for Trek in that he had no redeeming qualities, at least not anymore. They got the bad guy. Whoopee! The bit where Kirk disobeys Starfleet is totally what he would do under the circumstances. I wished they had saved the Enterprise, it was sorely needed in IV. With heavy damage given to NCC-1701, the whale job could have been as difficult as with the BOP. couldn’t agree more with the speciousness of the odd/even rule.

26. Dom - January 1, 2007

Mark (18)

Thing is, had Kirsty Alley played the role, would Saavik have been any more interesting? The character is badly written in STIII and Curtis is given little to work with.

Nimoy and his team clearly decided to exaggerate Saavik’s Vulcan aspects and remove things like Saavik’s smouldering sexuality, her barely in-check emotions, her inexperience.

The ‘unemotional’ Curtis Saavik, unfortunately, set the template for how Vulcans were subsequently portrayed in all other Star Treks.

But the blame for Saavik’s casual dismissal from the series can’t entirely be laid at the door of Robin Curtis. With Leonard Nimoy not leaving the movie series after all, did the producers need another regular character on their wage bill? Did they need another quirky half-Vulcan in the team? Frankly, I think they should have kept her around. An couple of attractive younger castmembers would have made it easier to accept the increasingly aged original cast and maybe allowed for spin-off films when Shatner and co called it a day.

I’d rather Saavik had been played again by Kirsty Alley, but it wasn’t to be. Events as they transpired meant that Saavik became a great missed opportunity!

27. StephenMartin - January 1, 2007

I pretty much agree, but I always thought that Mark Lenard set the standard, followed by those fine actors in Amok Time.

As far as I’m concerned Kirsty blew it.

28. Dom - January 1, 2007

Hi Stephen.

I thought Mark Lenard gave a wonderful performance as Sarek. It was perfectly clear that Sarek had emotions, but controlled them better than his son.

But when you look at subsequent portrayals of Vulcans post-TOS – Tuvok being the most noticeable culprit – they are portrayed as unemotional and deathly dull. Even making them ‘more emotional’ in Enterprise didn’t help much!

Mark Lenard, Kirsty Alley and Leonard Nimoy all played Vulcan/half-Vulcan characters with just the right amount of low-key restraint. Actors like Tim Russ merely played their characters as if they had constipation!

29. StephenMartin - January 1, 2007

Gotta disagree with you there about Mark Lenard. I’ll go along with you on Nimoy and Alley.

30. StephenMartin - January 1, 2007

I’m also basing my opinion on the performances of the Vulcans protrayed in Amok Time.

31. StephenMartin - January 1, 2007

Can’t get much more emotionless then these three. T’Pring, T’Pau and Stonn. Then let us not forget the High Priestess in TMP. :D

32. Old School Trek Nerd - January 1, 2007

Most of the audience didn’t know who Kruge was during his first few appearances but once he started speaking english: “I’ve waited a loooong tiiime for the secret of Genesis…..” the whole damn audience started laughing. I kid you not.

I think Saavik’s delivery of “David.. Is dead” really was too flippant, even for a Vulcan. If nothing else, tact would suggest you correct your tone for the intended audience. I think her callous delivery is what knocked Kirk over his chair in the first place.

It’s funny, but their have been attempts to infuse Trek with new blood and all attempts have ended badly. First Riker and Troi, err, umm, Decker and Ilya, get transmogrophied in TMP, then Saavik and David are brought in in TWOK to change the dynamic. David is subsequently killed, Saavik is rendered persona non grata, and we’re left with nothing but old people on the bridge. Nicholas Meyer, who’s mantra seems to be “never waste a character” had written Saavik as a conspirator in STVI, and TPTB at Paramount supposedly vetoed the idea and thus came Lt Valeris. IMHO it would have been much more interesting to take a dormant Trek character and show how misguided ideals can corrupt those we believe to be the “good guys”. That notion survives a little bit with Brock Peters’ Admiral Cartright, but he was only a bit player in STIV after all. Still, the continuity was a nice bonus, and when you watch STIV, you can say “There’s that traitorous Cartright!”

I despised Robin Curtis as Saavik, but I also agree she was quite good the Vulcan mercenary in TNG’s two-parter “Gambit”.

Still don’t want Matt Damon, but Gary Sinise, THAT’S inspired casting!

33. Dom - January 1, 2007

Yeah, Stephen, but I kinda figured the Vulcan priests would be pretty hardcore. And the likes of T’Pring and Stonn would be a bit stiff in the presence of their elders during a ritual more out of respect than anything else. Plus, of course, T’Pring was a cold-hearted grade-A bee-atch!! ;)

But I always felt Mark Lenard put a lot of warmth into his performance. His anger at Kirk for leaving Spock on Genesis in STIII was spot on, I thought. Indeed, his gratitude for Spock’s return and sadness for what Kirk had lost at the end of TSFS was also palpable.

34. Jeff Bond - January 1, 2007

I guess it’s not so much that the better actors expressed subtle emotion so much as subtle CHARACTER–they brought some actor’s craft to their work that made them memorable, something mostly lacking in later Vulcan characters. But there were exceptions. I thought Tim Russ was effective in the few moments when he was given emotion to play on Voyager. And Fionula Flannagan was a terrific Vulcan matriarch in her one on Enterprise–almost seemed as if she’d studied Mark Lenard’s work.

I feel the same way about Stephen Collins–maybe he had equivalent experience to Lenard’s pre-Star Trek work when he was cast in TMP, but to me he barely registered as a character–he was just dull in the movie. For me the best actors for this kind of work “bring something to the party” as Robert Mitchum once said–you need to do more than just say the lines. Lenard became a cult favorite and was recast in the franchise many times, while I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone clamoring for a return of Will Decker…

35. StephenMartin - January 1, 2007

lol… good point!

36. Trevok - January 1, 2007

Another good review. Like All Trek films III had good and bad moments.
One minor correction 32 it was Roddenberry who insisted Saavik not be the trator in VI as she was part off the Trek ‘family’.

37. Dom - January 1, 2007

Ultimately, though, had Meyer been successful in hiring Kirsty Alley, Saavik would have been the traitor.

Meyer created Saavik and Roddenberry had no actual power over the films. It was a case of Roddenberry creating a fuss, which was the norm for Treks II-VI!!

38. Old School Trek Nerd - January 1, 2007

RE: 36. Well, I got the gist of it right. But that “Trek family” does not allow for much change does it?

Of course, I was pissed at what they did to Phelps in the first Mission: Impossible film, so what do I know?

I don’t think even Kevin Spacey could’ve made Will Decker interesting.

Re: Vulcans and logic. In “Journey to Babel” Amanda tells Kirk that Spock and Sarak haven’t spoken in 18 years, then commences to go on saying the Vulcan way is “a better way”. You telling me there’s no emotion involved when father and son get in a fight and don’t speak for nearly two decades? You can have a logical disagreement, but not a bitter falling out. As a mother, Amanda should’ve set Sarak straight long ago by telling him he was acting like a petulant human.

39. Old School Trek Nerd - January 1, 2007

Re: 37 All he had to do was hire the always-available Robin Curtis.

40. Old School Trek Nerd - January 1, 2007

My apologies at misspelling Sarek more than once. I am a worm.

41. Dom - January 1, 2007

Hi Old School Trek Nerd.

Robin Curtis was never an option for STVI, as far as I know. People hadn’t warmed to her portrayal of Saavik and when the producers couldn’t afford Kirsty Alley, they decided to create a new character rather than recast Saavik a second time!

42. OM - January 1, 2007

…A comment and a correction:

1) Chris Lloyd was *not* miscast as Kruge. If anything, it was quite possibly the most inspired casting of any movie-era Klingon guest star. He played it with more brilliance than even Christopher Plummer did with Chang in ST6 – Plummer, at times, went a bit too campy with his Shakespear quotes. If anyone on that show was miscast, it was Robin Curtis as Saavik. That casting ruined the character, and in retrospect Paranoidmount should have given Kirstie Alley the money she demanded for reprising the role.

Of course, we’d have had the problem with her trying to explain how a Vulcan could get fat with an guest appearance on a later Trek series, but…

2) The Klingon BOP was not designed by Rodis, but by FASA. FASA had the RPG rights – this being before Richard “Melakon” Arnold totally fracked up the merchandising – and had created the base design for their miniatures line. After the original Klingon ship design was rejected – you still get to see it, as it’s the freighter that was blown up by Kruge’s ship! – apparently FASA had come into contact with the STIII SFX team as part of the RPG suppliment development. Designs and ideas were exchanged, and the BOP was the result. Note that some of the designs in the Ship Manuals FASA put out for the Klingons were based on concept designs for that same BOP.

43. Dom - January 1, 2007

I think the issue with the Klingons in STIII is that they get vulgarised at this point. STIII is where the OTT comicbook warrior culture of TNG and so on comes from.

Personally, I can imagine Edward James Olmos being much closer in tone to Mark Lenard’s wily and intelligent Klingon commander in TMP than Christopher Lloyd. The silly muppet that sits at Kruge’s feet doesn’t help either!

44. Old School Trek Nerd - January 1, 2007

Re: 41.

Thanks Dom.

Thanks for correcting me. You guys are very sharp.

45. StephenMartin - January 1, 2007

“Paranoidmount ”

LOL Oh man…did you nail it! LOL

46. Old School Trek Nerd - January 1, 2007

And since Plummer was accused of camping it up, was that much Shakespeare always in the script of did he personally have something to do with that?

If it’s on the page, you can’t blame him anymore than you can blame Khan for endlessly paraphrasing Melville.

47. Old School Trek Nerd - January 1, 2007

I think Parasite-mount would’ve been more appropos over the past few decades.

48. StephenMartin - January 1, 2007

HA HA… That works well too.

46. Old School Trek Nerd
Meyer loves Shakespeare. I’m sure Plummer does too. My guess is it was a little of both, Or is that much of both? lol

49. StephenMartin - January 1, 2007

43. Dom –
” I think the issue with the Klingons in STIII is that they get vulgarised at this point.”
Most definitely. Kruge set the standard.

50. Old School Trek Nerd - January 1, 2007

Re: Vulgarized

There’s certainly no TNG “honor” thing going on.
Despite the cranial ridges, these are stil basically TOS Klingons – sneak-attacking, backstabbing, exploitative, one-note bad guys.

51. Dom - January 1, 2007

No there isn’t the tacky honour bit going on in STIII, Old School Trek Nerd, but this is where the slide began.

The TOS Klingons were never sneak-attacking, backstabbing, exploitative, one-note bad guys, though! They were ruthless, highly intelligent and, in the case of Kor, for example, rather sophisticated!

Kruge was a never shown to be working directly for the Klingon government though! The impression I always got was that he was a corrupt commander out to feather his own nest.

The fact a rogue Starfleet vice-admiral then killed a BoP commander, cold-bloodedly murdered 99 per cent of its crew and stole said ship only made the situation messier.

Kruge and his men never struck me as typical Klingons. Unfortunately, they became the template for future versions!

52. JON - January 1, 2007

#42.Christopher Lloyd played Jim from Taxi in a lobster head mask.Give me a break!

53. Jeff Bond - January 1, 2007

I do agree about the Klingons–I’ve never liked their post-TOS characterisations although there have been a few fun performances (J.G. Hertzler’s Martok on DS9 to me was the best mix of old-Trek grandeur and intelligence and the TNG “Viking” approach).

That’s news to me about the FASA connection–it does make sense and there are definitely BOP-derived FASA designs but I wonder which came first. I would love to see the paper trail on that as this is the first I’ve heard of it, especially for the freighter being an early take on the Romulan BOP. That seems much too simple a design to have been considered for the major “guest star” ship in a Trek film.

54. Matt Wright - January 1, 2007

Excellent review and points for the new team Jeff!!

55. Stanky McFibberich - January 1, 2007

Of the bumpy Klingons, Kruge is my favorite. I just like Lloyd a lot, whatever he is in. Any Klingons who came after him I can do without, especially the ones in Next Generation and of course, Klaa and Chang.
The guy who plays the captain of the ship investigating the Genesis planet was terrible here, though I have seen him in other things and he was O.K. in those. I never like Sikking in anything, so why should I here?
The regulars are all good as usual, and Curtis does not bother me as Saavik. I thought she was more Vulcan-like than Alley. The guy who played David did a decent job, I thought.
As for the story, though kind of far-fetched (hey, it’s science fiction), kept me interested and wondering how they would achieve the obvious outcome of Spock being brought back.
Of the six films, only the first 3 are ones that bear repeat watching for me. I used to enjoy IV, but it has not aged well, so I seldom look at that any more. I think III has held up pretty well.

56. ALLAN ROSE - January 1, 2007

The whole Enterprise theft scene was a let down when they decided to go cheap and not show the Excelsior pursuing the Enterprise at warp. They had to have spent a small fortune on the Excelsior miniature for nothing. But i guess it was a good thing though for the TNG which never could have afforded such an expensive miniature.

57. Jeyl - January 1, 2007

Not only is this film important, it also has the most “TOS” references of all the Trek movies I’ve seen. Here are some.

– They redesigned the phasers to reflect the original series designs
– The Pon Farr symptom from “Amok Time”
– The Self-Destruct code from “Let that be your last battlefield”
– Sarek from “Journey to Babel”
– Janice Rand make an appearence.
– The true Planet Vulcan (TPM doesn’t count since it has 3 moons and no sky)
– The Tricorders are no longer guns and now sport the original lunch box look.
– (Might be a goof) The blue prints to the enterprise are from the original series (Hey, it’s the same ship! I’ll give them this one)
– And most important of all, TRIBBLES!

And as for that “Kirk has gotten out of worse scrapes” bit, I don’t buy it. The Enterprise was disabled, crippled, finished. Just a floating piece of junk that not even Scotty could fix.

58. Mark - January 1, 2007

Dom (#26)

Thanks for your comments. I agree the character Saavik was given poor dialogue, etc. in III. But with absolutely no changes in dialogue, storyline, etc. at all, I still think Alley’s inclusion in the film would have made a tremendous difference.

Also, since so many commented on Vulcans (half and full), I don’t know if this is something else we can blame on Berman, but there hasn’t been a single good full Vulcan since TOS. Bizzare, huh? Mark Lenard did a fine job, but there is no question the best Vulcan portrayal was Nimoy’s as Spock, and yet he was only *half* Vulcan. And they haven’t been able to get it right since. Nimoy’s Spock is still the standard by which we judge all other Vulcans. In most cases (besides the lousy wigs), the actors seem to think Vulcan stoicism means arrogance.

59. Big Bill Cox - January 1, 2007

I think that Search for Spock is sadly overlooked most of the time, being overshadowed by ST II and IV. No, ST III is not a perfect film, but it is enjoyable and it is probably the most like an original series episode. In particular, it echoes “The Menagerie” by showing people willing to risk their lives and their careers to help out a friend. Unfortunately, I tend to agree that the Klingons in this film are the beginning of the Mongolian-esque ones from TNG and beyond.

60. Dom - January 1, 2007

Agreed Mark (58)! Kirsty Alley’s very presence would have made a huge difference to Saavik in STIII. She could have made her scenes work better based on on her background from TWOK.

It was a huge mistake not to keep Saavik around. Imagine they had gradually added more young characters to the team. By STVII or STVIII Saavik could have been the lead character in the films with the original cast making smaller appearances.

61. TomBot2007 - January 1, 2007

Not to bash a dead Kruge pet- but wasn’t Saavik supposed to be half Vulcan/Romulan or somthing? Not Vulcan- or half Vulcan? Anyway, no personal offense to Robin Curtis at all, but “her” Saavik was horrible… and her character almost only there to fill the necessary plotpoints. I really forget why Alley wasn’t available, was it strictly money, or was she actually doing Cheers at that point?
I have loved Christopher Lloyd in most of his work, his Jim in Taxi was classic, but I find Kruge only passing tolerable. I’m not a fan of the ghettoization of the Klingons, here, they seem like trailerpark versions. Oddly, though, I’ve never had much against the TNG Klingons, though… it was just sad, they had to keep recreating the wheel after “befriending” each alien foe! LOL!
The reveiw was good… it helped me see the gold buried under a what was basically a vehicle movie to get Spock back.

62. Captain Pike - January 1, 2007

Though it has it’s moments, I never found tSfS that satisfying. It’s basically going back and trying to plug all the plot holes from TWOK and bring Spock back to life in a convoluted way.
I also found many of the space effects quite distracting. The scaling is all wonked in many of the shots. How close would the moon have to be to appear that large behind space dock? How big must the BOP be to dwarf the freight like it does? How can the Excelsior be that much larger that the Enterprise and still get out the same spacedoors?

63. Big Bill Cox - January 1, 2007

I agree that if Kirstie Alley had stuck around, they could have mined the Saavik character for all its potential. A friend of mine back in the 1980’s, who was less than impressed with TNG when it premiered, came up with the idea of a true ‘next generation’ of Star Trek. He thought it would have been neat if, instead of killing and/or writing them off, they came up with a Star Trek that chronicled the adventures of Saavik (command), Peter Preston (engineering), David Marcus (sciences) along with other crewmembers.

64. Buckaroohawk - January 1, 2007

On the whole, I agree with this review. TSFS has some lopsided moments, Robin Curtis was a big step down from Kirstie Alley as Saavik, and Christopher Lloyd didn’t seem to find his inner Kruge until the Enterprise was blown up with his crew aboard. Still, if TWOK was a big, operatic, space-faring adventure, TSFS was a tightly knit, intimate, character-driven movie that reminded us that Star Trek is not just about action and space battles, it’s about that crew, those people, and that ship.

My favorite moments:

The mind-meld between Kirk and Sarek: Beautifully shot, edited and acted. Sarek’s barely contained anger and grief touches Kirk’s own similar emotions, and as their minds converge, each knows that they feel exactly the same way. The scene is an amazing piece of filmmaking.

Stealing the Enterprise: A hoot from start to finish, perfectly paced with just the right amounts of drama, levity, and action. Scotty’s sabotage of the Excelsior may have been a little too tritely handled, but you had to cheer when the Enterprise roared into warp speed, leaving the Excelsior sputtering in its dust.

Kirk learning of David’s death: Anyone who thinks that Shatner is simply a scenery chewing blowhard has never seen this part of TSFS. Saavik’s line hits him like a runaway truck and our stalwart hero stumbles backward and MISSES HIS CHAIR. Kirk sits on the deck, empty and useless. His crew aches for him and his loss. First Spock, now David.
“You Klingon bastards. You murdered my son.” The impact of the scene is made all the more powerful for being shot in low light with not one note of music. It didn’t need it. Shatner’s performance gave us everything we needed, and we grieved with Kirk for the second time in two films.

The destruction of the Enterprise: Another perfectly paced and photographed sequence, the Grand Lady makes her exit in a blaze of glory, giving her loyal crew a few more moments of life. Shatner and Kelley punctuate the meaning of the death of the Enterprise with their lines, some of the most beautiful and poignant in the history of Trek.

Kirk’s battle with Kruge: Despite it’s flaws, I love this scene for two reasons. One, again, there is not one note of music played during the whole fight scene. There are only the sounds of two men battling while an entire planet disintegrates around them. Two, Kirk is through making nice to his enemies. He’s lost everything of meaning to him, except the will to keep on fighting. When he offers his hand to help Kruge up from the ledge, Kruge uses the opportunity to take Kirk with him. Kirk’s compassion vaporizes. With repeated kicks to Kruge’s head, Kirk screams “I…have had…enough…of YOU!” and sends Kruge to a fiery grave. It’s a stunning moment made all the more real because we don’t begrudge Kirk for such violence. the scene speaks volumes about the character of Kirk and how human he really is.

The final scene: If TSFS didn’t end on a big, climactic note, it certainly ended on an emotional one. Spock’s katra has been restored to his body, but he’s not the man we knew. He’s confused, uncertain, and surrounded by people he thinks he should know, but can’t quite place. His memories are fragmented and cracked, but the last look he gives Kirk, an eyebrow raised with inquisitive incredulity, lets us know that Spock will be okay, as will the rest of the crew.

TSFS may not be a perfect film, but it is vastly underrated, and it’s one of my favorites.

65. StephenMartin - January 1, 2007

Wow! Man…you said it perfectly. You spoke my mind.

66. Anthony Pascale - January 1, 2007

Firstly I wanted to thank Jeff for his extremely well written opinion piece on Trek III…you really nailed it and made me want to watch it again with these thoughts in mind (but I am a few thousand miles away from my DVDs right now)

on my thoughts….well II, III, IV is of course the ‘golden age’ of Trek films. My view on III is that it is a great ‘Trek’ film but not a good general audience film, and that STIV is the other way around. But that ST II is both a great Trek film and a great general audience film. But for these reasons I rank STIII as one of my favorites. lets hope that Abrams can find that right mix as well.

And on Kruge…he is one of my favorite Klingons. He is truly ruthless and he really does kill people instead of just talking about it…he really ramped up the danger factor. And I just love Lloyd in just about anything he does.

And I must say I agree with Jeff on all points with regards to what the lessons are for Trek XI

67. Adam Cohen - January 1, 2007

“We have cleared spacedoors.”

After Sulu gives that line, so tempered and so full of confidence at the same time, the music kicks in with the militaristic Horner Star Trek theme. That one scene has been played countless times on various dvd players and vcrs in my home for the past 20 years.

Star Trek III transcends its limitations several times throughout. I’m happy to see so many of you (Josh T., Picardsucks, Dom, StephenMartin, Hitch, Darren Backer, Buccaroohawk, etc.) showing the love. It may have taken this movie time to find its appreciation from fans (it was such a different movie from TWOK) but looking back, this really was a solid entry into the series.

And how many times have you guys either said outloud or in your heads “The answer is ‘no,’ I am therefore going anyway.” ? Or “May the wind be on our backs?” I love TSFS.

68. Glenn Shaheen - January 1, 2007

I know I’m coming in way late to this discussion, but I wanted to chime in on one note: Horner’s stealing the Enterprise cue begins with a total rip of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. The fast, string parts that begin in the elevator is what I’m talking about. I’m not criticizing; I love Horner’s Trek scores. But I thought I’d mention it anyway.

Trek III, for me, is a great character piece. It’s probably my second favorite, after TWOK, although that fluctuates regularly. It’s the last Trek film I’ve bought on DVD, and although I will go and get the rest of the original six eventually, I just haven’t felt entirely compelled to buy anymore after TSFS. Maybe that’s my brain’s way of saying it’s just moments of greatness in the films that follow, and nothing that adds up to as great a film as II and III.

Or maybe it’s money. Probably money is the reason, after all.

69. SithMenace - January 2, 2007

“It’s a bridging movie and as such suffers the same way The Empire Strikes Back did.” What? The Empire Strikes Back didn’t suffer at all, in fact it was the strongest and most entertaining movie in one of the best trilogies of all time. As far as TSFS, it was a little bit of a letdown after TWOK, but I still think it was a stronger entry than TMP or 5-10. The golden age of Trek movies is correct, because after TVH it all went to hell, including TNG and all of the subsequent reiterations. As far as I’m concerned Trek ended in ’86, and will be brought back 22 years later.

70. Sci-Fi Bri - January 2, 2007

Alley turned down the role of Saavik in Star Trek III because the producers would not meet her salary demands and because she didn’t want to be typecast as a science fiction actress.

Great review. ST:III is one of my favorites ;-D

71. Dom - January 2, 2007

Hi Glenn.

I thought Horner’s Prokofiev steals were wonderful. Most film composers pay homage to the greats (‘talent borrows, genius steals!!’) John Williams being the most noticeable in the modern era!

For me, Horner’s scores are the best Trek scores, capturing exactly what I love in Trek.

72. Jeff Bond - January 2, 2007

Actually, the first bars–the busy string stuff–of Horner’s “Stealing the Enterprise” cue are not used in the film (although his swelling music for the sight of the Enterprise falling through the atmosphere is definitely a nod to a very famous classical music moment I can’t name–it was tracked a lot in “Ren and Stimpy” though!).

As for my remarks about Empire Strikes Back, that refers to the way the Star Wars sequel was initially received by critics–and audiences–on its original release. It was the lowest-grossing Star Wars film and reviews, while positive, compared it unfairly with its “fun” predecessor, making it seem like the movie was something of a letdown. It was only later, after the excitement over Return of the Jedi died down and people began taking a closer look at that film, when Empire began getting reappraised and thought of as probably the best of the Star Wars films.

73. Rick - January 2, 2007

It is fun going over these films again. While STIII was not perfect I still enjoyed it more than the following ST films. Even to this day. I know others posting on this site are of the same mind that the characters still were treated with some respect and the humor was not forced. I think at STIV the films started to really lose balance and the power of what made these stories and characters click got weakened. I can still find scenes in ST IV – VI I can enjoy, but overall they are weaker films to me.

The whole STAR TREK saga is sometimes been about missed opportunities or less than good decisions. I really wished Kirstie Alley had continued with Saavik, although I think Robin Curtis was not bad just not given good direction with her portrayal of the character. I sometimes wish they had made bold story moves like what if the search for Spock had failed in some way? Or the Spock they brought back was flawed in some way? Of course what if they had gone with Phase II instead of the films.Oh well it is all water under the bridge, but it is fun to speculate or pre speculate other STAR TREK storylines that might of happened.

Oh yes as goofy as it seems I did just about get as choked up about the destruction of the good star ship Enterprise as I did with Spock’s death in the previous film. Of course with associate happy memories with objects like ships, cars, homes, etc. To see one lost or destroyed it is like losing a friend or tied to memories associated with that vehicle or home. You just have to say humans we are pyschological/sentimental creatures in the end result.;)

PS sorry for any misspells or bad grammar I am typing at warp speed!;)

74. Nelson - January 2, 2007

I have been viewing the films over the holiday as I have a new HDTV display capable of properly displaying the recent Directors and Collector Editon DVD’s.

I am curious if Daren Doc might see my post and answer a question. I was surprised to see Star Trek The Motion Picture’s video transfer lacking compared to later DVD remasters. Specifically, the film needs restoration, there is dust and white specs. Also, the image is not as dark and displaying good contrast. I compared the space dock scene on TMP and The Wrath of Khan, the same exact shot, the one from TWOK looks great, good contrast and color.

The question for Daren is: If Star Trek The Motion Picture is being remastered for a new release on standard definition DVD or HD-DVD, will the new effects that were done for the 2000 Directors Edtion be up to snuff for a new 1080i or HD DVD?

There was talk at the time that the new elements were not done at a resolution high enough for a theatrical release, only home video.

Thanks for the great work!

75. Xai - January 2, 2007

TSFS had the right Idea, but it was just an extension for TWOK to give it an ending that fans could better accept and allow Nimoy to continue as Spock after he realized he didn’t want to leave the character. It tugs at the emotions alot (Enterprise destroyed, David murdered, etc.) because the story has little depth. It was a good popcorn movie, but hasn’t become a favorite with me .IMO

What can XI learn?
Develop a good, well layered story.
Don’t rely heavily on moments like described above to pull out the audience’s emotions.
Don’t tell us what will happen before we get there. (The Search for Spock?…. like they WEREn’t going to find him?… duh)

PS… Kirstie Alley appearing in this would not have made a dam bit of difference. Minor part, still a minor celebrity.

76. Matt Wright - January 2, 2007

#74, the word I heard a while back is that the answer is no, the CG done for TMP:DE is not HD ready. I think this is pretty clear from just watching the DVD upscaled to HD resolution on a good HD upscaling DVD player. I too recently (a few months back) rewatched TMP and found it to be lacking with the same notes about the filmed content you have. Likwise the otherday I put in TWOK:DE while testing a new DVD player and watched various scenes and noticed it held up pretty well, I can’t wait to see TWOK and TSFS (particularly the Enterprise destruction) in proper HD glory on HD DVD and/or Blu-ray sometime (Paramount has at least announced that the Trek movies boxed set will be on both formats, but no release date is given).

77. Dom - January 3, 2007

It’s a funny thing about the 80s and 90s that third films slipped into parody (STIV is really the third film in the ST:TWOK ‘franchise,’ with ST:TMP being a separate entity altogether!)

Superman went to pot in in Superman III and Superman IV was dire, Return of the Jedi went silly. Lethal Weapon 3 was really dumb and LW 4 a pointless, parodic afterthought. Batman and Robin was the creative brain-death of the 90s Batman series.

And STIV was a comedy, followed by a disaster, only redeemed a little by a better-quality STVI! It’s almost as if the makers fail to keep a straight face. These days, though, I can’t see Sam Raimi or Christopher Nolan betraying their series!!

78. Nelson - January 3, 2007

#76, appreciate the feedback and insights. I posted the question on Daren Dochterman’s site asking how the TMP will make the move to HD.

I have read somewhere there is a possible Star Trek film series Ulitmate Edition box set for one of the HD formats.

79. Rick - January 3, 2007

77 Dom it is interesting you bring that up about all those film series going to bad comedy pot. It is amazing I think some of those properties could last up to almost 10 movies in a series more or less. You should be able to have quality stories without going into bad humor and bad storytelling.

Yes I wonder if the new BATMAN film series can maintain an edge or something like it for at least another 2 or 3 films. SPIDERMAN 3 looks okay with the trailers. Maybe there is a curse that some films series can not make it past 3. The LORD OF THE RINGS series was based on a series of books so it survived it somewhat. Although funny enough I felt there were a few scenes lacking in that 3rd film, even though I liked it in the end result. Of course there are some many film series that I have not mentioned and I believe some do survive beyond three films okay.

You just have to wonder though what happens to the ones that start out so strong and end up so bad in just a few films.

80. Matt Wright - January 3, 2007

# 78, yes that is what I am talking about, the Ultimate Edition boxed set is confirmed by Paramount for an HD DVD and Blu-ray release, just no specific release date is given.

81. King Zooropa - January 4, 2007

RE: Christopher Lloyd “miscast” as Kruge

I know I’m coming in here late to the conversation, but please bear with me. After reading the review and the comments, I went back and watched the DVD with the audio commentary from Leonard Nimoy, Harve Bennett, and Robin Curtis.

If you haven’t watched it with the commentary, I dare say you should go back and do so. Leonard Nimoy talked specifically about the whole “Chris Lloyd miscast” issue. He noted that while he admired his work on “Taxi”, it was his performance as one of the inmates in “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Next” that won him over. Lloyd auditioned for the role, and Nimoy went to bat for him. As he put it (while chuckling over the irony), Nimoy went to the brass saying, “Don’t talk to *me* about being typecast…” This was a case of a director seeing something in an actor that others hadn’t quite seen and were just waiting for a chance to express.

It is somewhat unfair that this happens to actors, probably more often than we care to admit. After all, how many people had Robin Williams pegged as solely a comedian prior to his performances in movies like “Dead Poets Society”, “Awakenings”, “Good Will Hunting”, “Insomnia”, and “One Hour Photo”? Or Robert DeNiro pegged solely as a drama-only actor prior to “Analyze This”?

The point is this: Good actors bring the goods, regardless of prior performances and characterizations. To my (then) 9-year old self, Christopher Lloyd *was* a nasty, ruthless Klingon. When he shot the gunner who destroyed Grissom, I remember being frightened and thrilled at the same time. People love a great bad guy, and Kruge fit the bill to a T.

82. SPOCKBOY - January 4, 2007

Hey Jeff(Bond)
Excellent advice for the new TREK movie.
Especially; ” Abrams shouldn’t be afraid to paint on a big canvas, go for bold emotions and imagery. The TNG films practically drowned in their own classiness, but the best Trek embraces its pulp origins and raises that game to the point of looney brilliance.”

I have always reminded people that original Trek was “pulp” which is far more vital and exciting than other Treks and obviously WHY it has lasted for 40 years. Calling it “looney brilliance” however is brilliant in itself in summoning up the magic of TOS so simply and effectively.

Well done.

83. mike - January 4, 2007

Okay, going out on a limb here and expressing some dissent.

For me, STIII was the film that showed we weren’t going to be going forward in the Star Trek universe, but trying to maintain a very unrealistic status quo. One of the things TMP got right was that things change in the “military” and in life. People don’t keep the same jobs forever and life is fluid. So Spock was on Vulcan, McCoy was retired, Kirk was promoted. Yes, there was a reason to bring them all back that made sense (V’ger) and by the end you had a credible reunion.

TWOK takes place many years later (Kirk’s age was mentioned as 52 I think, while he would have been perhaps 38 0r 40 in TMP). Again, a feasible number of changes have occured, such as Checkov’s new assignment, Spock’s promotion, Kirk at the Academy, etc. Once again, a credible reuinion takes place. Then we are introduced to progress. Kirk has a son. Spock dies. At the end of TWOK I actually was hoping for David Kirk to start being ship’s doctor, with Saavik as Science Officer in the next installment, to make the previous films meaningful and reflect reality a bit.

But no. David is disposed of in a very depressing manner (yes Shatner was great, which made me all the more depressed). Saavik is pushed to the background so Nimoy could return. And then Kirk, for my money, is shown to be far less competent than he has ever been before by losing the Enterprise under circumstances far less drastic than many previous adventures.

I left the theatre shaking my head. David was dead and Kirk did not feel the sacrifice of his only child to have been too great to reanimate a man who had already lived a full, good life. Saavik was reduced to bit part. The “new blood” introduced in TWOK was being eliminated in favor of the status quo, except for the one thing that SHOULD hasve remained, the Enterprise herself.

I hated it. Let the flames commnce.

84. mike - January 4, 2007


And yes, I realize my comments are primarily about the story and direction the franchise took, rather than the quality of the “film-making” of STIII. I actually agree with much of the excellent review. I just hated the story, and could not get past that to enjoy the film.

85. seangh - January 5, 2007

Mike (#83 – #84)

I agree – not my fave film, but I did not dislike it as much as you. On the whole, the film is a 6 out of 10 for me, but when you take moments from the film – they score big, especially the effects.

Like someone mentioned, it’s a great film to watch with a remote in hand, but I’ll never sit and watch the whole film ever again I’m afraid.

86. Marian Ciobanu - February 18, 2008

-This movie is my first contact with ‘trek worlds’…

87. Trekprincess - February 6, 2011

I love this film so much :) it’s great to see Spock resurrected is represented by Gorilla Nation. Please contact Gorilla Nation for ad rates, packages and general advertising information.